To rebuke someone is to scold and, or reprimand even to do it sharply. To rebuke is also to take a “dogmatic” position on a subject. Again, to rebuke is not to tolerate. Can or should a Christian ever rebuke someone else regarding their teachings and practices? Do Christians have the right to scold or reprimand other Christians and, or outsiders on religious matters? Can they take a confident position in doing so? Should not Christians act more with tolerance? What do the Scriptures say?
The epistle to the Hebrews presents the necessary action of rebuking for a father to his children and in such God rebukes Christians, and Paul urged Christians not to become weary from rebuking from God (Heb 12:5). Jesus put it nicely, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:19). Evidently, rebuking can be an act of love especially from the Lord toward those whom He loves. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to rebuke the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8–11). By the revealing of the Word, the Law of Christ rebukes people because of their sin (Jas 2:9). Rebuking in itself is not bad and even necessary. God’s rebuking is also upon the ungodly as a just wrath. Jude 14b–15 reveals,
“Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to rebuke all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
On the last day, God will come rebuking. When facing the accusations of the Pharisees, Jesus asked, “Which one of you rebukes me of sin” (John 8:46)? Jesus proved Himself by asking who rebuked Him and for what, and this forced the Pharisees to expose their perception and accusations of Jesus as being a Samaritan and as having a demon. Rebuking in itself is not bad and even necessary. God’s rebuking is also upon the ungodly as a just wrath. The question is: “Do Christians have the right and responsibility to rebuke others?”
Looking to the Scriptures, Christians do have the responsibility to rebuke. Jesus commanded, “And if your brother sin against you, go, rebuke him between you and him alone: if he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15). This rebuking could progress to go before the congregation (Matt 18:16–17). The Holy Spirit revealed in Ephesians that Christians are to rebuke evil deeds, which in doing this, those who sin are rebuked will become exposed by the light (Eph 5:11–13). Such rebuking is not always direct and private. In the assembly, the speaking revelation rebukes the non-believing and ignorant, so that the secrets of their hearts would be manifest and he will confess that God is truly among them (1 Cor 14:24–25). Rebuking is not the cause for most non-believers do not accept the Faith. They do not want their evil deeds to come to light and those works to be rebuked (John 3:20). As 1 Corinthians 14 affirmed, rebuking was to be done in public and open teaching (2 Tim 4:2). Now at the same time, the Spirit commanded direct and public rebuking “in the presence of all” of those who continue in sin (1 Tim 5:20). Because of what the grace of God teaches, one is to rebuke with all authority (Titus 2:15). In some instances, Christians are to sharply rebuke those who are false teachers and are divisive (Titus 1:13). The harshest word for “rebuking,” which appears only once in Scripture, means to rebuke in such a way as to strike someone with words, which it is in 1 Timothy 5:1 that teaches that one is not to harshly rebuke one’s elders.
Now, rebuking is often a necessary and rebuking is a responsibility of Christians. For many Christians this is a hard thing. Christians must remain very careful in rebuking others since erring in this action can cause much strife. Rebuking is not an act of tolerance, but tolerance is not a virtue when one tolerates evil and abuse. Like John the Baptist, the rebuked may persecute even unto death (Luke 3:19). Rebuking does not always produce a positive outcome for the one rebuked, but according to Scripture, this is a necessary part of spiritual welfare of those rebuked and for the spiritual welfare of the church as a whole.