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Humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, disapprove of one another, run one another's lives, confess one another's sins, intensify one another’s sufferings, point out one another’s failings . . . .

In a soft environment, where we settle for a false peace with present evils, we turn on one another.  In a realistic environment, where we are suffering to advance the gospel, our thoughts turn to how we can stick up for one another.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”  John 15:12-13

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25 thoughts on ““One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament”

  1. NFQ says:

    I’m surprised. What about John 7:24, or 1 Corinthians 2:15, 1 Cor 5:3, or 1 Cor 6:2-3? And that’s to say nothing about things like Leviticus 19:15 and the plenty of other Old Testament directives from God himself, to punish or kill those who are deemed to have sinned.

    1. NFQ says:

      I realize I may be misunderstood, so let me clarify preemptively. The reason I cite Leviticus here is not because I missed the fact that you claim not to have found any passages in the NT along these lines, but rather that God directly ordered such things many times in the OT and it’s hard to justify why those don’t count. The commandment to love your neighbor is just a few lines away from the one I cited, and that one’s still good.

      1. Laura says:

        Really? Those passages you cite encourage Christians to embarrass, scrutinize, corner, interrupt, and defeat each other?

      2. Ray Ortlund says:

        Thanks, NFQ. I’d like to limit my response to your thoughtful points with a short answer plus a not-as-short answer.

        Short answer: In a church the only morally legitimate judgments of people are those exercised by the elders in formal church discipline, a process strictly defined/limited by the Bible. What we don’t need are vigilante church factions asserting whatever judgments they feel are right.

        Not-as-short answer: Jonathan Edwards helps us locate ourselves where we all need to be when he clarifies spiritual humility, slightly edited here:

        “Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.

        Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt. But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity. Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies. But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He is apt to esteem others better than himself.

        Some who have pride mixed in with a heightened awareness of God’s glory and intense experiences of spiritual joy are apt to rebuke other Christians around them for being so cold and lifeless. But the humble, in their joys, are also wounded with a sense of their own vileness. When they have high visions of God’s glory, they also see their own sinfulness. And though they speak to others earnestly, it is in confession of their own sins. And if they exhort other Christians, they do so in a charitable manner. Pure Christian humility disposes a person to take notice of everything that is good in others and to make the best of it and to diminish their failings.”

        1. NFQ says:

          Interesting. I didn’t realize that the Bible strictly defined the intricacies of formal church discipline, while also instructing individuals never to make their own moral judgments. Where in the Bible can I find that? Does every Christian denomination run its internal disciplinary procedures the same way, then? (Or, which denominations have a Biblical disciplinary procedure, and which denominations are disobeying the Bible?)

          I’m not saying it’s easy to figure out how to follow Jesus when in one place he commands, “Judge not,” and in another place he instructs that we “judge righteous judgment.” I’m just saying you can’t pretend that there aren’t any contradictory messages.

          I’m not so interested in Jonathan Edwards’ personal opinions on this matter; unless you’re trying to argue that he’s a prophet or in some other way infallible on matters of theology, he’s just another guy with his own interpretation. Nevertheless, I’d say that in this passage you quote he endorses “speak[ing] of [others’ problems] with grief and pity.” Do you think that would not still be embarrassing, or disapproving? Would that not constitute pointing out another’s failings?

          1. Rob Harrison says:

            NFQ, it seems to me that you have significantly missed the point here. Nowhere on the Rev. Ortlund’s list are such things as “exhort one another” or “challenge one another”; nowhere is he saying we should make no moral judgments about actions. But there is a profound difference between judging *actions* so as to *build up* people in the body of Christ by helping them identify and deal with sin in their lives, and *judging people*. Go back and look at the actual list in this post, and look at the actual items in it and what they actually have in common: to wit, a spirit that says, “You have a problem and I don’t, and I’m going to beat you up for it.” That’s profoundly un-Christian; that’s an assertion of spiritual pride. A truly Christian approach says, “You have a problem and so do I, and Jesus came to save both of us–let’s help each other.”

          2. TimW says:

            NFQ, I would also point you to the list given in the blog which defines what Dr. Ortlund is talking about.

            Also, one certainly can say there is not contradictory messages in this text or all of Scripture! You took the John 7:24 text out of context. The text says:

            “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”

            So the right kind of judgement is one that does not judge based on appearances. The Pharisees (Note the “Jews” referenced in John are religious leaders contextually) judged many people to be sinners and themselves righteous, yet the Pharisees were deserving of greater condemnation(Mark 12:40). Therefore we judge rightly when we recognized we are all in the same hell-bound boat apart from Christ. We need divine mercy! See Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Tax Collector walked away justified even though he was judged by the Pharisee to be a sinner, yet the Pharisee if he judged rightly would know that he needed the same chest-pounding repentant grief over his sin (Luke 18:1-8).

        2. Matti says:

          Oh, how would I want to be a person described by Edwards here. He sounds like Paul and has an air of Jesus about him.

        3. EJH says:

          “scrutinize one another”
          PS- I loved this post so much I used it on my own blog today.

  2. Arthur Sido says:

    Excellent thoughts. I love this line “In a soft environment, where we settle for a false peace with present evils, we turn on one another.”. Our comfort has led to complacency and boredom and that is why we spend so much time fighting with each other because the world doesn’t see us as a threat.

  3. Erin says:

    “I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I have ever met.” Dwight Moody

  4. Jeremy W. says:

    How about “Watch-blog” one another… I think that’s in the Bible somewhere. Of course if it’s not someone on the outside of the church might be prone to think that it is since that goes on so much. But then again, I don’t have the special “spiritual gift” of discernment. Just the regular one.

  5. John Thomson says:


    Rom 12:10
    as to brotherly love, kindly affectioned towards one another: as to honour, each taking the lead in paying it to the other:

    Rom 12:16
    Have the same respect one for another, not minding high things, but going along with the lowly: be not wise in your own eyes:

    Rom 14:13 (ESV)
    Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

    Rom 15:5 (ESV)
    May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,

    Rom 15:14 (ESV)
    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.

    1Cor 12:25 (ESV)
    that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

    1Thess 4:18 (ESV)
    Therefore encourage one another with these words.

    1Thess 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. ESV

    1Thess 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone

    1Pet 1:22 (ESV)
    Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

    Jas 4:11 (ESV)
    Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

    Jas 5:9 (ESV)
    Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

    Jas 5:16 (ESV)
    Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

    and so on…

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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