Words of Warning


The Greek word noutheteo is variously translated in English as "admonish", "warn", or "instruct". Admonish isn't a common word in contemporary English: the American Heritage Dictionary defines it as following:

To reprove gently but earnestly. To counsel (another) against something to be avoided; caution.

Admonishment is inherently relational: rather than standing apart and abandoning others to their choices, admonishing a friend means you care enough about them to warn them about the consequences their choices may produce. It requires enough bravery about your own beliefs to be willing to share them with someone else.

Doubtless many have had an experience where another believer was convinced he knew God's plan for our life, though there was no concurring witness within our own spirits. Admonishment can only go so far: we don't control other people's lives, so we can't force them to follow our counsel. But it's an equally false extreme, and one that our individualistic culture is more prone to, to fail to share with those within our circle of influence the benefit of experience and counsel that God has given us. Provided it's done in a spirit of humility, understanding the limits of our own (and others') understanding, God calls us to admonish one another.

Paul's Example

"Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears." (Acts.20.31)

Paul's life was an example of admonition. During his extended stay in Ephesus (Acts.20.31), where the entire province was affected by the Gospel, he describes his primary activity there as admonishing the believers.

"Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ." (Col.1.28)

Paul's proclamation of Christ was not a matter of philosophical speculation: it was both personal and practical, challenging his hearers to live Christ-honoring lives, and to advance to maturity.

"I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children." (1Cor.4.14)

Here Paul puts the ministry of admonishment in its proper compassionate perspective. His motivation in admonishing the Corinthian Christians was not to be domineering or controlling. To admonish another is to love them enough to care about the state of their souls.

Admonition Within the Church

"I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another." (Rom.15.14)

We're accustomed to the notion that the words of Scripture (the instruction of Jesus, Paul, and others) are for our benefit and speak to us with authority. We're also

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col.3.16)

"We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." (1The.5.12-14)

"Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." (2The.3.15)

Other Passages

See the Hyper-concordance entries for admonish, warn, and instruct.