In an earlier post we addressed the communication style we need to follow when trying to spread the Gospel to others. We highlighted the need to be gentle, act in love and stay composed during the conversation. We mentioned the case studies in Scripture where Y’Shua was spreading the Gospel. In these instances, Y’Shua treated the other party with love and respect. But this was not always the case. He even called people a brood of vipers! So now we ask: “When are we allowed to raise our voices and discipline others?”
This is a sensitive topic and can easily go counter to the commandment to love your neighbor. We have seen many instances where people verbally abuse other brethren, or bully people new to this walk. They then justify their actions with Scripture. From the fruit of their actions, we know that what they do is not right. Yet, they cite valid Scripture. So what is wrong? Let us investigate this topic to see what is the correct place of discipline in a set apart community.
Before we jump into the details, it is always a good idea to start by defining the terms. This specific topic is wide, with lots of words being used interchangeably. It is, however, good to get specific with our definitions of the words. We need to check if there is different requirements and or conditions for disciplining, judging and reproving. In order to do this we need to be sure what each of these verbs mean. We will look at each of the words and then see if we can articulate the specifics of every word.
This word appears approximately 50 times in Scripture. In most of the cases it refers either to YHVH disciplining His people, or a father disciplining his children. Let us see how it is defined in the dictionary1.
[Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin disciplina teaching, learning, from discipulus pupil] 13th century
2 obsolete: INSTRUCTION
3: a field of study
4: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
5 a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order
b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
6: a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity—dis•ci•plin•al \-plə-nəl\ adjective
A number of Hebrew words are used when the English word appears in our text.
In the Greek text of the Apostolic Scriptures we see an even wider selection of Greek words.
We can see that in both cases the context of the word is referring to some form of training that is ongoing. It is generally a senior person acting as an instructor towards another person that has to be taught the way.
The next term that comes to mind would be `judge`. What is the difference between disciplining and judging? From the definition it is clear that judging is an “after the fact” event that needs to determine, based on evidence, to render an opinion. Thus, unlike disciplining that is an ongoing event, this happens at specific points in time in order to form an opinion. Let us look at the definition form the dictionary1.
judged; judg•ing [Middle English juggen, from Anglo-French juger, from Latin judicare, from judic-, judex judge, from jus right, law + dicere to decide, say—more at JUST, DICTION] verb transitive 13th century
1: to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises
2: to sit in judgment on: TRY
3: to determine or pronounce after inquiry and deliberation
4: GOVERN, RULE—used of a Hebrew tribal leader
5: to form an estimate or evaluation of especially: to form a negative opinion about 〈shouldn’t judge him because of his accent〉
6: to hold as an opinion: GUESS, THINK 〈I judge she knew what she was doing〉 verb intransitive
As can be seen from the last part of the definition, judging can sometimes be an opinion. In these cases it is not tied to the facts, but the interpretation.
As discipline is in Scripture, mainly used in the context of education, so judging is used in the context of a legal decision. In the Hebrew text we find the following word being used as the verb: שׁפט – šā·pǎṭ. The Dictionary of Sematical languages2, gives the definition as:
(qal) judge, decide, i.e., adjudicate a matter between two parties in a court or a less formal setting, implying both the authority to punish and finality of the decision
We can see that the context in which the word is used typically indicates some form of rulership or legal authority over the person based on an action that has already taken place.
In a similar way the Greek word κρίνω – krinō is used in the context of a decision that is made. The “Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christina Literature“3 (BDAG) defines the word as:
- to make a selection, select, prefer
- to pass judgment upon (and thereby seek to influence) the lives and actions of other people
- to make a judgment based on taking various factors into account, judge, think, consider, look upon
- to come to a conclusion after a cognitive process, reach a decision, decide, propose, intend
- to engage in a judicial process, judge, decide, hale before a court, condemn, also hand over for judicial punishment
- to ensure justice for someone, see to it that justice is done
The last verb we need to look at is “reprove.” Let us start off with the definition1.
re•proved; re•prov•ing [Middle English repreven, reproven, from Anglo-French reprover, from Late Latin reprobare to disapprove, condemn, from Latin re- + probare to test, approve—more at PROVE] verb transitive 14th century
1: to scold or correct usually gently or with kindly intent
2: to express disapproval of: CENSURE
For the verb we find the Hebrew word יָכַח (yā·ǎḥ)being used. This word is also used in different context.
In a large percentage of the cases (24 out of 57) the agent that is performing the reproval is YHVH.
The Greek word λέγχω (elegchō) is also used in different senses.
The definition of BDAG3 is as follows:
- to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, set forth
- to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince someone of something
- to express strong disapproval of someone’s action, reprove, correct
- to penalize for wrongdoing, punish, discipline
In the English language we have several synonyms that are often used. These include:
- REPROVE implies an often kindly intent to correct a fault
- REBUKE suggests a sharp or stern reproof
- REPRIMAND implies a severe, formal, often public or official rebuke
- ADMONISH suggests earnest or friendly warning and counsel
- REPROACH and CHIDE suggest displeasure or disappointment expressed in mild reproof or scolding
We see that in this case, there is no decision about right and wrong. No verdict is being passed. The intent of this action is not to punish, but to correct a fault.
From all these definitions and word studies, we have seen that:
- Discipline is a process that educates. It is done by a person in a superior position. It is an ongoing activity with the intent of forming the student.
- Judgment is an after-the fact event where a person makes a decision based on the facts provided. The result of this activity is a verdict that determines right and wrong.
- Reproving is an action with the intent to correct an action. Here is no decision required about what is wrong. It is not done with the intent to punish.
The role of the Prophet and the Judge
In the Tanakh we see two roles that have direct relevance on our study. We see the role of the prophet throughout the Tanakh. The prophets were usually sent by YHVH to call His people back. Thus, the prophet was sent to rebuke the nation for either what they had done or what they were still doing. In the case of Jonah, YHVH even sent a prophet to a foreign nation to warn them of their potential destruction.
In most cases the people did not appreciate what the prophets were telling them. Y’Shua was very familiar with this during His own ministry.
Y’Shua said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”
Y’Shua also mentioned that the people had killed some of the prophets in the past and would most likely continue doing so.
34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
Here Y’Shua is making reference to most likely one of the darkest parts of Israel’s history.
2 Chronicles 24:20–22
20 Then the Spirit of Elohim came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus YHVH has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of YHVH and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken YHVH, He has also forsaken you.’ ” 21 So they conspired against him and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of YHVH. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, “May YHVH see and avenge!”
We also see that after Israel was allowed to have a king, the prophet still had the right and the duty to rebuke the king. Whenever it was needed, YHVH would send His prophet to rebuke the king. We all remember the story of David and Bathseba as told in 2 Samuel 12. David was rebuked by Nathan for the sins he had committed. Nathan does not judge David, he simply brings the judgment of YHVH to David. He is the messenger that YHVH uses to explain to David what the result of his sin would be.
Before the days of the kings of Israel we had a period where the nation of Israel was led by a group of people referred to as “judges.” (Hebrew: shofet שופט, plural Shoftim שופטים) Their lives are recorded for us in the book of Judges. The Book of Judges mentions judges such as Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. These people would be called by YHVH at specific points in time to free the people from the hands of their enemies. These judges would then also rule over the nation for a specific period of time. These judges would then restore the nation to a right standing with YHVH. They had to do this by judging between the right and wrong things that the people were doing. These people were specifically called by YHVH to perform this task for a specific period of time.
How did Y’Shua do it?
Most of the rebuking that Y’Shua did was not aimed at people. We find a lot of Scripture where Y’Shua would rebuke non-human objects like demons, the wind or even an illness. Here are some of the cases where the actions of Y’Shua were specifically called a rebuke by the author.
- Rebuking haSatan and demons – Matt 17:18, Mark 1:25 Luke 9:42
- Rebuking illness in the case of Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law – Luke 4:38, Mark 1:29
- Rebuking the wind and waves during the storm – Matt 8:26, Mark 4:39, Luke 8:24
In one case, Y’Shua even went as far as to curse a specific fig tree that was not producing fruit as it should have been. The fig tree already had its leaves, but yet did not produce any fruit. The result of this was that the tree died that same day and never produced fruit again.
13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.
The reason that Y’Shua may have expected fruit on the tree is based on the fact that figs trees produce two crops per year.
Fig trees produce two crops every year, but only one of them may be edible. The first crop, called the breba crop, occurs relatively early in the year on the previous year’s growth. These fruits are frequently small, acidic and inferior in texture, but may be useful for preservation. The second crop occurs later in the year on the current year’s growth and these figs should be edible. 4
Y’Shua would have expected some of the fruits of the first crop to be on the tree as the tree had already formed its new growth.
The group of people that received the most of Y’Shua’s rebukes were actually His own disciplines. As we discussed in our article discussing discipleship, He had them with Him in order to teach them His ways. Thus, they were with Him in order that He could show them the way. This of course would need to include the required correction every now and again. We see the following cases where Y’Shua rebuked one or more of His disciples:
- Rebuking James and John for offering to call down fire – Luke 9:54-56
- Rebuking Peter after Peter rebuked Him for saying that He will be killed – Matt 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-33
He also spoke to His disciples about their lack of faith during the storms on the sea of Galilee. However, none of the gospel writers never referred to this as a rebuke. (Matt 8:27, Mark 4:40, Luke 8:25 and also Matt 14:31)
When thinking about Y’Shua and rebuking, the term that jumps into most people’s minds is the famous “brood of vipers” phrase. It was actually John the Baptist that first used this phrase to refer to the Pharisees and Sadducees.
4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
In this case John was rebuking the group of Pharisees and Sadducees that came to be baptized by him, although they most likely did not believe what John was teaching. They were simply covering all the bases. They were being false to themselves.
Y’Shua used the same term to refer to people who taught one thing but did another. When a group of Pharisees doubted that Y’Shua was acting in the power of YHVH, He gave them the following lesson.
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Later on, Y’Shua used this phrase again against the Scribes and Pharisees. Again, He was rebuking them for being hypocrites. On the one hand, they were building monuments for the prophets, but on the other, they were the ones killing prophets. Y’Shua also knew that they would be killing Him.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? 34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
The next incident that will come to mind is most likely the cleansing of the temple. This is one of the incidents that is described in all four the Gospels. Let us look at some of these accounts.
12 And Y’Shua entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.”
14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Y’Shua answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
Although we do not see specific mention of Y’Shua rebuking a person or group of people, it is clear that Y’Shua is correcting them. However, it is important to note that Y’Shua did not cause harm to anybody. It clearly states that all He did was:
- Drive the sheep and oxen from the temple using a scourge of cords
- Overturn the tables and pour out the money of the money changers
- Overturn the seats and tables of those who were selling doves
Nobody suffered any loss or was inflicted any personal harm. He simply stopped them from performing an action that would dishonor the house of His Father. He simply quoted the prophets to make them see what they were doing. He corrected their actions, but did not judge them.
In the book of Revelation we get a clear message as to why Y’Shua would rebuke a person. After the section regarding the seven assemblies, we find the following text as a wrap up to the section.
19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.’ ”
He reproves and disciplines those He loves. Like a parent reproves and disciplines his beloved children, Y’Shua reproves us because He loves us. Our task is to repent once He has reproved or disciplined us.
What did the Apostles do and teach?
It is interesting to see how the people that learned from Y’Shua acted after He had left them. The best indication is in the writings of the brother of Y’Shua.
11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?
James makes it clear that it is not our task to judge our brother. YHVH is the only lawgiver and judge. Please note that James does not mention the word “reprove” or “discipline” here. He is specifically talking about the act of judging. This means forming an opinion or decision about the actions of your brother. You are not to decide if the actions of your brother is good. If your brother has committed a sin, it will be clear and then you need to call him back tot he ways of YHVH. This is something different that being a judge.
The next person we could look at is Paul. What did Paul do and what did he teach his disciples? Let us first start with his own actions. We have two cases recorded in the letters that Paul wrote. The first case is recorded in the letter to the Galatians. Here Paul makes reference to the way he acted when he felt that Cephas was not acting correctly.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
He opposes Cephas to his face and calls him to explain his actions. He does not tell him that he had sinned. He does not reprove or rebuke. Their is no proof of sin, but the fruits of the action is not that of a righteous person. Thus, Paul sees the need to correct the situation, but he does not feel the need to reprove. Also note, that Paul did not see himself as an authority over Cephas. He had a relationship with Cephas.
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Master’s brother.
He also had reverence for the task that was entrusted to Cephas. He saw him as one of the pillars, together with James and John.
7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
It is clear that he felt different when later he was speaking to Philemon. Paul felt that he had the right to order Philemon what to do.
8 Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Messiah to order you to do what is proper, 9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Messiah Y’Shua—
Even though he believed he had the authority over Philemon to make him do what is proper, he chose to rather appeal. Once again, the love of the brother is more important to Paul than the right to exert his authority. What is also interesting is what did Paul then teach his followers.
The two disciples of Paul that we have the written instruction for are Titus and Timothy. In his letters to them , Paul touches on these topics frequently. He provides them with clear instruction for when they should discipline, reprove or rebuke.
12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
11 For the grace of YHVH has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great Elohim and Savior, Messiah Y’Shua 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. 15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
1 Timothy 5:20
Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
2 Timothy 2:24–26
24 YHVH’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps YHVH may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
From these instructions we see that Paul instructed them to reprove the people that sinned. Those that were in opposition to their teaching they were to correct with gentleness. The people that continued in sin were the ones that Timothy had to rebuke. It is clear to me that people that did not sin, but were at risk, were to be corrected with gentleness. Those sinning were to be reproved. And if they kept sinning, they were to be rebuked in the presence of all.
From all of these we can see that we need to be careful not to judge, but that we should rather focus on correcting and keeping sin from becoming a part of our community. The purpose is not to decide about right or wrong, but to bring our sinning brother back to YHVH. So who exactly, are we supposed to discipline?
Whom may we discipline?
The first task that we are given is to discipline our children. We have the obligation to ensure that our children know the ways of YHVH. Our children are required to honor their parents. In Proverbs we see quite often what this means.
20 My son, observe the commandment of your father And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; 21 Bind them continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
The father has to discipline his children and the children must observe the commandments and reproofs of the father. This will be a light to them that keeps them from darkness. Paul is also in agreement with this, but he has an additional piece of advice. Do not provoke your children to anger.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of YHVH.
We also find several Scriptures where we are called to reprove or rebuke members of our community. Here are some examples form the Tanakh, prophets and Apostolic writings.
‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.
3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
All of these instructions are mentioned in the context of sin. We are to reprove and rebuke in order to ensure that sin does become part of our lives. In Luke Y’Shua states that once we have rebuked and our brother repents, we must forgive. Even if he sins seven times.
In his letter to the assembly in Corinth, Paul also touches on the topic of judging those within as well as the people on the outside. He is clear that we have no task or responsibility to judge the others. YHVH will judge them. Our responsibility is to remove wickedness from our own midst.
1 Corinthians 5:12–13
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within? 13 But those who are outside, YHVH judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
What Paul is stating here is a confirmation of what the prophets had already mentioned.
4 And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
3 And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war.
We also see that the prophet Amos also confirmed this by taking the positive side. We are to ensure justice within our own gates. There is no commandment for us to take justice to the other nations.
15 Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps YHVH, Elohim of hosts, May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
David confirms this. We are to focus on our own justice and see how YHVH will cut the wicked off.
Wait for YHVH and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
It is clear that we have the task to keep our families and our communities righteous. We do this by reproving and rebuking the sin within these establishments. As for the rest, we can simply leave it to YHVH to judge.
Should we all be judging and rebuking one another?
Now the next question we need to investigate is to who exactly it is that should be doing this rebuking. It is clear from the actions of Paul, that he only felt he had the right to demand discipline from people he had authority over. He did not rebuke Cephas or James for their view on the Gentiles. We also see this in the other instructions that he gives to Titus. Older women need to teach younger women. Not the other way around.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
He also tells Titus to reprove with authority.
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Yet, these people in authority also have a duty to towards those the oversee.
7 For the overseer must be above reproach as YHVH’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Here it is important to look at the definition of the word “pugnacious.”
pugnacious \ˌpəg-ˈnā-shəs\ adjective
[Latin pugnac-, pugnax, from pugnare to fight—more at PUNGENT] 1642: having a quarrelsome or combative nature: TRUCULENT synonym see BELLIGERENT 1
The person in authority should not have a quarrelsome nature. Paul also instructs Titus to keep these quarrelsome people out of the community to ensure that they do not spread sin in the community.
10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
Once again the here the word refers to people that want to cause division.
fac•tious \ˈfak-shəs\ adjective
[Middle French or Latin; Middle French factieux, from Latin factiosus, from factio] 1532: of or relating to faction: as
a: caused by faction 〈factious disputes>
b: inclined to faction or the formation of factions
c: SEDITIOUS—fac•tious•ly adverb—fac•tious•ness noun1
Paul is exactly teaching the opposite to the assemblies in Ephesus and Galatia. He is instructing them to only let good words of edification come from their mouths. He instructs them to be kind to one another and to deal in a spirit of gentleness. For him the purpose of this discipline is to restore the person. We should look after ourselves to ensure we are not tempted.
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the set apart Ruach of YHVH, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as YHVH in Messiah also has forgiven you.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted
What does restoring others have to do with us being tempted? We need to act in the spirit of gentleness to ensure that we do not act in anger. James also has some sound advise on this topic.
19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of YHVH.
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
These words from James we must keep in mind when we decide to reprove or rebuke. What else do we need to do when we feel we have the right or obligation to discipline another? We have wriiten extensively on this topic in a previous article titled “How to correct in love.” Please read this article again before embarking on this.
Always ask the question: “What will happen if I do nothing?” Then compare it with the worst case scenario which could be a split in relationships, disunity or long drawn out quarrels. Then decide if it is really worth it. Remember, you do not always need to be right. Sometimes it is better to simply preserve the peace and unity. However, if there is sin involved, do not let it slip! If we create an environment for sin, it will spread like yeast in dough!
What is the purpose of reproval?
The purpose must be to correct and to restore the person(s) to a righteous living. This correction can only come from Scripture as Paul has told us that we must use the Scripture for reproof and correction. Thus, we should not be reproving people based on our own doctrine, but purely upon what is written in Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16–17
16 All Scripture is inspired by YHVH and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of YHVH may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
The other purpose is to set good examples in the community. Make sure that all members of your community knows what is not acceptable according to Scripture.
1 Timothy 5:20
Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
The outcome of this activity must be that the person in sin will repent. Once this is done, there must be forgiveness by all involved. This way unity will be restored in the community and peace and righteousness will reign.
3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
Always ensure that that the outcome leads to a restoration of love between the brethren. If the outcome leads to hatred between brethren, we will allow sin into the community. We have been warned.
1 John 2:9–11
9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
What should we do if we are being rebuked?
What happens if the shoe is on the other foot? How should we react if we are the receiving party in the reproval? If the reproval is done with gentleness it can only be a blessing. David also sees the reproval in kindness as a blessing.
4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness With men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies. 5 Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
In Proverbs we are also shown the benefits of discipline. It leads us to knowledge and understanding while keeping us away from despising ourselves.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.
32 He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. 33 The fear of YHVH is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.
The author of Hebrews warns us that it may not initially seem to be a joyful blessing, but it will yield the right fruit in our lives.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Keep these things in mind when you prepare yourself for a reproval. Will the other person eventually see the peaceful fruit in their life? Will the other person receive this with kindness or will I come across as harsh and disrespectful? At the same time, be willing to receive the love and blessing that comes from a kind and gentle correction.
It is clear that there exists a need for discipline. There is a time to reprove and rebuke. But this must be done with the right intention and with the right attitude.
The process to follow should be something like this:
- Check that what you want to rebuke is sin. This needs to be supported clearly by Scripture.
- Make sure that you do not have this same sin in your life.
- Ensure that your intentions is pure. The action must restore the person to a righteous living.
- Check if you really have authority to discipline or rebuke.
- Pray on their behalf
- Speak to the person alone. Do this with kindness at first. The purpose is to restore, not alienate.
- If this does not lead the person to repentance, seek another person to take with you.
- If all of this does not succeed, rebuke the person in public to ensure that sin does not enter the community.
- As the last step, disassociate with the person in order to preserve righteousness in the community
Most importantly, make sure that through all of this the love for one another is not lost. We must keep on loving one another. If we do not act in mercy, we will not receive mercy when we are judged.
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of YHVH, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Peter also left the elders with a clear instruction as to how they should look after the flock of YHVH. They needed to shepherd the flock by exercising voluntary oversight. The way this was to be done is by setting an example. Once again, do not be a shofar, but be a light!
1 Peter 5:1–4
1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Messiah, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of YHVH among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of YHVH; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Thus, once again we come back to the basic truth – actions speak louder than words.
1 John 3:18
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Let us teach first by setting an example. If we need to discipline or rebuke, let us do that in love.
- Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 567). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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