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A few years ago I realized something(praise the Lord), but I haven’t yet seen an open door to share it, until now.  Yesterday’s response on this site, by DaveW, was the open door I have been waiting for.

What I am referring to is the Scripture..........
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Proverbs 27:17)

What the Lord pointed out to me, is the fact that most people do not know how to “sharpen” an axe!  If you do not know how to make an axe’s edge SHARP, you will not know how this Scripture works!
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Let me start, at where I learned to “make an edge SHARP”!  I was just a young married man with a young family to support and had a job at a shop that built air conditioning ducts(the old fashioned way, by hand), This construction required thousands of 1/8" holes to be drilled in sheet metal.

All of this drilling, caused these 1/8" drill bits to become dull.  But instead of throwing them away, my boss would have us “re-sharpen them”, and they would be LIKE NEW.  So as I was being instructed on how to do this, I leaned that the way that my mind thought, would make these bits sharper, actually made them duller!  I quickly learned the right way to do it and the same principal works with any iron, that needs to be sharpened.

Occasionally, over the years I would see on a television show or movie, an actor’s  depiction of an old farmer, sharpening an axe and I would be reminded of the way that I thought it should be done and how that most people think that it is done that way.

Then, a few years ago, I applied this fact, of “how to truly sharpen an axe”, to this Scripture; And realized God’s method, of truly making my self sharper!
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Picture in your mind, a grinding wheel, in front of you; and your ready to sharpen your axe.  Now, as your lowering the axe toward the wheel, with it’s edge away from you, is the wheel turning toward you or away from you.  The way that seems to be more “logical” and “safe”, is for the wheel to be turning away from you.

That is, with the wheel going in the same direction as the blade’s edge.  This will make the blade duller and duller(building up more and more metal on the edge).  But, if the wheel is turning against the sharp edge of the blade, it will be removing more and more metal, making the blade sharper and sharper.
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The way this applies to this scripture, is: If we only debate and discuss the Bible with people that we totally agree with, than we will get more and more assured, that we are right.  But, if we discuss the Bible with Christians, that hold an apposing view of that subject or Doctrine, than it will give the Holy Spirit a chance to chip away at some of the wrong ideas that we have.

I can somewhat understand, why some people would want to avoid these kinds of heated discussions, because it is not always fun, to be told that your opinion is wrong.  But if it’s wrong, you(we), should be anxious to be corrected, so that we can be “rightly dividing the Word of truth”!
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I have yet to find an individual in my area, who is willing to have these kinds of discussions with me.  Local pastors and friends that I know, do not want to get into the weeds, of any of those subjects, we are not in total agreement on.

But, praise the Lord for the internet, where people feel more free to be truthful with you, when they think that you are wrong.  And for forums like this, where you are able to say “almost” anything.  I recall a few years ago, there was a site called “The fighting fundamentalists”.  Where you could go and discuss ANY SUBJECT OR ISSUE.  It was kind of like the old west.  Sure, there may have been a lot of “un-Christlike responses”, but you had to be tough and stand your ground with Scripture.

Nothing was ever said or done, to PROTECT anybodies feelings!  Those were the good old days.

I recall a “Reformed site”(Calvinist), that did not allow any statements or even questions, that would call into question the “Calvinist view of things”.  I was kicked off almost immediately.  But the problem with that was, it HURT the Spiritual Walk, of every true Christian that was on that site, because they are being PROTECTED from opposing views.
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Facing OPPOSING VIEWS, is good for us.  Because it forces us to take a closer look at what we believe.  
There is another site, called “the Baptist Board”.  I spent a lot of years there and it did some wonderful things in my life, because it is ran by and filled with, people who believe that being King James Only, is some incurable disease.

All the years that I spent “defending the Bible” on that site, increased my faith in God’s
Word a hundred fold.  BUT, on a few occasions, I had to back off.  On times when the onslaught of attacks became too pointed or when attacks started coming from people that I respected on that site, I would have to back off and stay away from that site.


There were times that I felt like David, when he penned....
"But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped." (Psalms 73:2)

When there were times, when I would start to even consider the possibility, that God’s Word could have any mistakes!!!!  I knew that I needed to back off from these lies and get back into God’s Word and allow the LORD, to restore my faith!

Yes, these were dangerous times; But they worked together for good, in my life.  And who knows how many souls, were encouraged by my stand, to take a stand of their own.

 

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Well, I obviously wasn't clear, because it seems you have misunderstood me.

I will try to do better in the future.

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Brother Donald,

I do not express dispute necessarily with your understanding concerning how iron sharpens iron.  However, I do wish to express somewhat of a dispute with your application for the Biblical application of that illustration -- "So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."  Above your application appears primarily to be about engaging with doctrinal OPPONENTS, such that a man might be doctrinally sharpened by engaging with his doctrinal OPPONENTS.  However, the verse itself does NOT indicate any such thing.  First, the verse does not speak about sharpening one's doctrine, but about sharpening one's COUNTENANCE (a figure of speech that represents the spirit of one's ATTITUDE).  Second, the verse does not speak about being sharpened by one's OPPONENT, but about sharpening the countenance of one's FRIEND.  As such, if the relationship of Biblical friendship does not actually exist between two individuals, then the principle of this verse does not actually apply in that case.  Furthermore, God's Holy Word does present doctrinal principles concerning the matter of righteous friendship, such that we are to pursue after certain types of individuals as our friends and to separate from certain other types of individuals as our friends.

Indeed, I consider certain individuals on this forum as Biblical friends.  Even so, it would be possible, according to the principle of Proverbs 27:17, for me to sharpen their countenance and for them to sharpen my countenance.  However, in the past I was a member of a forum wherein I was in a doctrinal minority on various significant doctrines.  On that forum I had very few actual friends.  The rest were simply doctrinal opponents.  Although my doctrinal positioning was certainly "sharpened" through my "battles" on that sight, my COUNTENANCE most certainly was NOT sharpened, especially not by my doctrinal opponents. 

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I believe the Lord led me here today (in large part) for this very post, Pastor Markle. As you know, I just posted this very phrase ("iron sharpens iron") on another topic, in reference to Prov.27:17 (without first having read this above statement from you, which you posted 2 hours prior).

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

And while, in the past, we have come to blows (so to speak) when wielding the word of God; I cannot say I ever sharpened your countenance. 

For that, I sincerely apologize. Not just to you, but to the Lord also. I was not acting in the Biblical manner with which we (as believers) are to speak to each other, in a manner pleasing Him. 

" Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. " (Col.4:6)

Rather than give excuses, I admit the sin was mine. For which I am taking to the Lord. I am also thankful for your answer to the man above, pertaining to this verse of scripture (which I believe the Lord led me here to see today). As it has edified me. 

God Bless. Maranatha!

 


 

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I agree with Pastor Markle that the direct interpretation of the passage has nothing to do with arguing Scripture. This is an area that I have heard many preachers use this passage to explain exactly what Donald is saying in his OP. I can't tell you how many times I have heard from the pulpit that "Iron sharpeneth Iron" when two people disagree doctrinally.

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Hello pastor Scott
When I read the words...."Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.", I see the result of when a Christian’s sound Doctrinal view is defended using Scripture, his countenance is sharpened, like in Isaiah 50:7 “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”   As I faced other Christians, in defense of God’s Word, I came away with a sharpened countenance and set my chin like a flint, unaffected by the fact that the vast majority of Christendom holds an opposing opinion. Your interpretation of the word countenance may differ from mine, but we may be looking at two sides of the same coin.
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Next you said,
“Second, the verse does not speak about being sharpened by one's OPPONENT, but about sharpening the countenance of one's FRIEND.  As such, if the relationship of Biblical friendship does not actually exist between two individuals, then the principle of this verse does not actually apply in that case.”

The people that I made it clear were talking to each other are fellow Christians; Among Christians, we should not have any OPPONENTS, even those who see things(Doctrine), from another point of view.  As for the fact that a “grinding wheel” in not mentioned in Pro.27:17, it doesn’t have to, because God’s Word is the stone that we all use to make our point.
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Then you said.........
Furthermore, God's Holy Word does present doctrinal principles concerning the matter of righteous friendship, such that we are to pursue after certain types of individuals as our friends and to separate from certain other types of individuals as our friends.

As to the “friend” talked about in Proverbs, is referring to “righteous friendship”, I am not sure.  I have some friends in Church, that I would consider righteous friends, but there are other Brothers in Church, that I might just call them friends.  But a passage over in 2 Timothy, seems to be talking about the friends I am talking about.  "V.20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.  V.21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, [and] prepared unto every good work."
The “great house” is the local Church, and in it are some Christians(within our local Church), that are less  honorable than others and we are told to “purge ourselves from them”.  The kind of plain pointed Biblical discussion, that I propose Proverbs 27:17 is talking about, could very well be used, to “purge” them.
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Lastly you said.......
“Indeed, I consider certain individuals on this forum as Biblical friends.  Even so, it would be possible, according to the principle of Proverbs 27:17, for me to sharpen their countenance and for them to sharpen my countenance.  However, in the past I was a member of a forum wherein I was in a doctrinal minority on various significant doctrines.  On that forum I had very few actual friends.  The rest were simply doctrinal opponents.  Although my doctrinal positioning was certainly "sharpened" through my "battles" on that sight, my COUNTENANCE most certainly was NOT sharpened, especially not by my doctrinal opponents.”

With this paragraph, I better understand your point.  It comes down to “who’s countenance” we are talking about.  For instance, the very first time we find this word in the Bible, it was talking about the face of an unsaved killer Genesis 4:6.  When I read Proverbs 27:17, I picture a Christian, getting to the bottom Biblical truth, to the point that it makes them more sure of the Biblical ground they are standing on, like in Ezekiel 3:9 “As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.”
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Sure enough, I may have gone a little too far in linking the art of sharpening an edge, with this verse in Proverbs.  But extending this example out, shows the truly bad results of only giving our ear to those who agree with us.  We already have our flesh, we don’t need any other “yes men”.  I come here for responses just like yours, so please if you find any “T” that I have not crossed or “I” that I have not dotted, than please let me know.

Have a great day

 

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3 hours ago, Ronda said:

I believe the Lord led me here today (in large part) for this very post, Pastor Markle. As you know, I just posted this very phrase ("iron sharpens iron") on another topic, in reference to Prov.27:17 (without first having read this above statement from you, which you posted 2 hours prior).

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

And while, in the past, we have come to blows (so to speak) when wielding the word of God; I cannot say I ever sharpened your countenance. 

For that, I sincerely apologize. Not just to you, but to the Lord also. I was not acting in the Biblical manner with which we (as believers) are to speak to each other, in a manner pleasing Him. 

" Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. " (Col.4:6)

Rather than give excuses, I admit the sin was mine. For which I am taking to the Lord. I am also thankful for your answer to the man above, pertaining to this verse of scripture (which I believe the Lord led me here to see today). As it has edified me. 

God Bless. Maranatha!

Sister Ronda,

I appreciate the righteous humility in your above posting, and do grant forgiveness unto you for any sinful offense that you committed against me in our past engagements.  I also desire to pursue righteous reconciliation in our future relationship upon the forum as our Lord will permit.

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The Book of the Proverbs, wherein our verse is found, employs the word "countenance" in the following manner:

Proverbs 15:13 -- "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken."

Proverbs 16:15 -- "In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain."

Proverbs 25:23 -- "The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue."

Proverbs 27:17 -- "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

In each of these cases, attitude appears to be the intention of the word, not doctrinal positioning.

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The illustration of a "face like flint" does not communicate the idea of sharpness, but the idea of hardness.

Ezekiel 3:9 -- "As an adamant harder than flint have made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house."

Furthermore, in the cases of Isaiah 50:7 and Ezekiel 3:9, the other individuals were NOT in the relationship of friends.

Isaiah 50:6-9 -- "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.  For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.  He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me?  Let us stand together: who is mine adversary?  Let him come near to me.  Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?  Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up."

In the case of Isaiah 50:6-9, the "audience" is presented as smiters, contenders, adversaries, condemners, not in any fashion as friends.

Ezekiel 3:7-9 -- "But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.  Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.  As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house."

In the case of Ezekiel 3:7-9, the "audience" is presented as those who will not listen unto God's Word, impudent, hardhearted, rebellious, not in any fashion as friends.

Therefore, I would contend that there is no relationship between the principle of Proverbs 27:17 and the above passages.

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