Iron Sharpens Iron

I am going to be examining a particularly common passage of scripture over the next few days and I wanted to show that progression. The reason why I want to do this exercise is to ensure that we are reading the text faithfully and properly. I am ever leery about bringing meaning and application to a text that doesn’t substantiate my reasoning, even if my reasoning is biblical. This leads to a poor hermeneutic (bible study methodology) and often leads to misrepresenting other texts, and finally, misunderstanding theologies and doctrines.

This text is not inherently problematic to find the meaning of, so this may seem futile to some. However, the method behind looking at this text is simply what I wish to convey over the course of these posts. The overarching principle behind all of this is context. Context, context, context! There are numerous people who operate under poor theology simply through ignoring context, separating the previous chapters of scripture from the next (say they look at the beginning of Romans 9 without addressing Romans 8 – or for that matter, we miss that Romans 8 is a pinnacle point driving chapters 1-7 and connecting the remaining chapters of the book).

This series will involve 3-4 posts, two of which dealing specifically with two different interpretations, the latter, with application of the correct interpretation. What I hope you do is create a hypothetical application to the second interpretation, which I believe to be a false one from the context, so that you may see what a poor hermeneutic can do.


“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NASB).

The gloss of the Hebrew רעהו renders the word “friend, companion, fellow, another person, neighbor”. Spanning several different translations, the two most common are “friend” or “another”. Once we look to commentaries on this verse though, there are two different camps one finds on interpretation.

In either case of interpretation, the nature of “iron sharpening iron” is not a process without pain.

If we were to take it on the position of the more common axiom in modern Evangelicalism, the argument goes something along the lines of the following:

The procedure places precedence upon the final state of the blade, rather than it’s immediate or intermediate. This is similar to Spurgeon’s note in the refining fire, burning away the dross from the precious metal so that purity is beheld.

The final product is worth beholding, while the current is but a mere piece of metal – no different from any other. Through refinement, striking with heat and hammer, the blade is forged – then ground down on the whetstone, so as to procure a blade fit for use.

It is in this that we rest – for the innate desire is to be capable of wielding the razor sharp scalpel of God’s Word in order to make clean incisions. Let us wish to cut deep and wide within our fellow man, yet with the skill and audacity of the workman who is unashamed in handling such precious tools, lest we knick the vital arteries and veins supplying life.

It seems it is far easier to maim than to perform skilled surgery upon the soul of man – yet with precision, the Christian man must work so as to ensure the division takes place at the cancer so as to remove it. The aim is to remove all that marks the believer unhealthy.

So it is with treasured sin in the hearts of those whom would claim they are called. Wield the blade; cut your brother with skill. Remove the cancer. It is only at this point that one can tell upon which soil the seed has fallen. If it is anything less than good soil, the scourge of discipline shall uproot it and show whether the gospel was effectual to redemption.

Note: these are all perfectly biblical assumptions, but can we assess all of this from Proverbs 27:17 as an added basis to our reasoning – or – should we presume to take this from other texts that are seemingly more applicable (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:15; Pro. 27:5; Matt. 18:15-20; Heb. 4:12; etc.)?


Tomorrow I will post the second interpretation. Again, formulate a hypothetical application from it to see how different that application is from the former.