Author: Ron Graham
A Disciple’s Rebuke
—Correcting a Wayward Disciple
Occasionally the need arises for a disciple to be corrected because of unrepented wrongdoing. Although a rebuke is in order, it is unpleasant. For this reason some people regard rebuking as an unloving act. They will say it is judging and pressuring the disciple rather than loving the disciple. Well, let's think about that.
1 Our Mandate for Rebuking.
Jesus says, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4). Jesus also said, If your brother sins, go and rebuke him in private” (Matthew 18:15).
There is also a place for public rebuke. Paul says, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest may also fear” (1Timothy 5:20).
Paul also says, “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2Timothy 4:2).
This rebuke must be from scripture, God’s word, not some human standard. “All scripture is breathed by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness...” (2Timothy 3:16).
So disciples have not only the authority to rebuke, but they are required to exercise that mandate.
Of course, disciples should not be rebuking each other constantly, and rebuke needs to be kept in its proper place. There is no mandate for fanatical harrassment, 'naming and shaming', and troublesome meddling.
It should also be needless to say that disciples who are already aware of their sin and are penitent, need of encouragement. They are not in need of rebuke.
As we shall now see, rebuking is part of a loving and caring environment. A disciple’s rebuke is like parents rebuking their children. The rebuke is done because parents love their children.
2 The Milieu for Rebuking
When a disciple’s rebuke is necessary, it must occur in a loving and caring environment.
Some folk will perceive a rebuke as an unloving act. They will say that to rebuke a disciple is judging and pressuring that disciple. But their idea of love is according to human sentiment rather than God’s word. Anything done according to God’s word is an act of love.
We've already seen that God has given a mandate for rebuke. God does not command us to do something that is unloving. As John says, “This is love, that we walk according to his commandments” (2John 1:6).
There is, of course, a place for hate in rebuking, but this is to “hate even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23). John says, ”Do not love the world” (1John 2:15). In that sense we are unloving. We hate the sin, whilst we love the sinner.
So although there will be occasion for rebuke, it must be done with humility in love. As Paul says, “We must restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness lest we too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
For example, Jesus tells us to rebuke in private. Rebuking in the assembly is a last resort (Matthew 18:15-17). Even then, there is a "first and second warning" allowed before the person being rebuked is 'disfellowshipped' (Titus 3:10).
Love suffers long and is kind” (1Corinthians 13:4). That's the atmosphere of a disciple’s rebuke.
3 The Motive for Rebuking
Jesus gives us the motive for rebuking: If your brother hears you, you have won your brother” (Matthew 18:15). The motive of rebuke is to win the sinner back to the right way.
James says, If anyone among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
So the rebuke is a loving and noble act aimed at saving souls.