Rebuke. That’s a word that gets tossed around at Theology Today as well as various other sites quite a bit. Some say we should rebuke people privately while others say we should do it publicly. Let’s look at what Scripture says to see how we are supposed to go about this and who is the one supposed to be doing this.
God sent Nathan the prophet to David. David didn’t go looking for Nathan. In fact David seemed very comfortable with what he had done. In case you don’t know the story read 2 Samuel Chapter 11.
2 Samuel 12:1-4 NIV
The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
Nathan shares a story in hopes that David will understand what he had done. At this point Nathan was sharing a story demonstrating sin. This wasn’t a rebuke just yet.
2 Samuel 12:5-6 NIV
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
David didn’t get it did he? He still at this point failed to see that he was the one who had sinned. Nathan tried the kind approach and it fell on deaf ears so Nathan stepped it up a notch.
2 Samuel 12: 7-12 NIV
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more, Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'”
There’s a couple of things I want you to get from this. Nathan actually knew David. David knew Nathan was a prophet sent by God. There was a relationship there based on credibility. This is important to note.
Another example of a rebuke is Paul’s rebuke of Peter;
Galatians 2:14 NIV
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
This rebuke was from Paul to Peter. Paul was known by Peter. Peter knew Paul was sent by God. They had a relationship based on credibility. Do you see the similarities?
I learned this valuable lesson recently. There was open sin and I pointed this out publicly. This was biblical and necessary however the call to repentance should not have come from me. I don’t know the person and this person doesn’t know me either. The call to repentance in the form of rebuke should have come from someone he knew that knew him.
Please don’t get rebuking confused with exposing sin and false doctrine. There is a difference here. We are all called to expose sin and false doctrine (Ephesians 5:11) however we aren’t all called to rebuke especially personal rebukes of people we don’t know and who don’t know us.
I hope I understand this correctly. If you think I’ve missed something here, which is entirely possible, please feel free to correct this. Iron sharpening iron is my call here brethren.