Reprove & Rebuke
We live in a strange time. There are two types of Christians—those who like to rebuke and do it often and those who are scared to rebuke and never do it. With email, twittering and Facebook, rebuking has never been easier, but in a generation of hurt feelings and thin skin, rebuking has never been more suspect. The irony is that both types of Christians are prone to sin, because those who enjoy giving a good rebuke are usually the least qualified, and those who would rather wash a cat are often the very people who would do so much good with their correction. Which are we? Are we trigger-happy with our rebuke or are we wet noodles?
In the rallying cry to preachers that the great apostle Paul gave to his protégé, Timothy, he told him to “… reprove, rebuke…”—we do not like these words. They sound so negative. We want to encourage, edify and uplift. We do not like to reprove or rebuke, and we do not like to receive reproof or rebuke. We receive correction in school, from our parents and even from our employers, but in that which matters the most, people rarely tell us that which is hard but life-saving! Nevertheless, such is essential in the divine plan of redemption. Nestled between the instructions to preach the word and to encourage the brethren, Paul told the young man Timothy to reprove and rebuke. The term “reprove” (Greek elegcho) means to “convict” [YLT, DBY] or “convince” [NKJV, RSV, WNT, MNT, TCNT]. It conveys the idea of correcting one who is wrong. With our text, we find this term seventeen (17) times in our New Testament.
* The offended Christian is to reprove the sole offender (Matt. 18:15).
* John the Immerser reproved Herod for his marriage to his sister-in-law, Herodias (Luke 3:19).
* We may even reprove ourselves with a godly conscience, as the crowd with stones in hand did from the oldest to the youngest (John 8:9).
* Through our instruction, we reprove the sins of the non-Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 14:24).
* The apostle Paul declared, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph. 5:11).
* We are even to reprove guilty elders whom the entire congregation knows to be sinful (1 Tim. 5:20).
The term “rebuke” (Greek epitimao) is a compound word that literally means to tax upon. It refers to the action of censuring or admonishing, and by implication, it refers to the action of charging and offering a strong rebuke. It conveys the idea of expressing strong disapproval, to censure someone with a view of preventing wrong or ending it. Counting our text, we find this term twenty-nine (29) times in our New Testament.
* It is this strong censure that Jesus used to rebuke the winds and the waves of the turbulent Sea of Galilee to bring about a great peaceful calm (cf. Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24). It is also this strong censure that Jesus used in exorcising demons who knew His identity (Matt. 17:18; Mark 1:25; 9:25; Luke 4:35, 41; 9:42), and even in rebuking the fever in Peter’s mother-in-law to heal her (Luke 4:38-39).
* It is this type of strong rebuke that Peter himself gave his Lord—“Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you”—that prompted Jesus to respond, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:22; Mark 8:32-33). On another occasion, the disciples showed their ugly side when they rebuked children from approaching Jesus, but Jesus lovingly responded, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:13-14; Mark 10:13-14; Luke 18:15-16). In similar fashion, the multitude rebuked the two blind men from crying out to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David” (Matt. 20:30-31; Luke 18:35- 39), one of whom was blind Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus (Mark 10:46-48), but Jesus heard their cry and healed them.
* Jesus even rebuked James and John (the Sons of Thunder) for their unmerciful attitude towards the Samaritans (Luke 9:55).
* Jesus commanded, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
* The penitent thief rebuked his fellow criminal on the cross in Luke 23:40 prior to his humble request, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Therefore, we see that reproving and rebuking is Biblical. Reproving indicates a slap on the hand—it changes what one believes; rebuking indicates the time to go the woodshed—it changes how one behaves.
Why should we reprove and rebuke? We need to reprove and rebuke because, as the text continues, the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3-4). We need to reprove and rebuke because the time is now that we should be more concerned about the souls of others than we are about our own personal feelings. We need to reprove and rebuke because the time has passed in which we have lost loved ones in that we have failed to see the benefits therein. Reproving and rebuking is biblical, it is protective, it is a loving action and the goal of it is to restore! May God grant us wisdom to be able to know when to do each as is necessary, and may God help us to soften and mold our hearts to accept such for the benefits therein. The psalmist stated, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5).