Am I Understanding This Correctly?

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.

18 thoughts on “Am I Understanding This Correctly?

  1. Phil,

    A good example of what you are saying is in 1Cor.5 where Paul is rebuking the congregation for not rebuking the individual( Paul had standing with the church but probably didn’t know the individual). If a person has no standing with someone else, the rebuke is probably a waste of time. However in the case to which I think you are referring, you like Paul, called on the community that this person was a member of to correct this problem, which is what we all do in regard to the pimps we write about.

    • Hi Boyd,

      Great example!

      I’m actually referring to something that happened where I live but very similar circumstances to what I think you are referring to. Why does this always happen to me:-)



  2. Interesting question. For me, it hasn’t mattered who issued the rebuke. It’s always cause for introspection and examination.

    Sometimes I think our friends can be more willing to overlook things than they should be. When that happens then sin multiplies and then when a rebuke is issued the receiver may be so far into sin they rebel.

    I do believe there are times when the harsh words of a stranger have more sting than that of a friend. Where I get angry is when my friends have not rebuked me when I should have been and THEN a stranger steps in to do what they should have done. From my point of view, then the rebuke should not just be issued to the one committing the sin, but to those who saw and and said nothing.

    That’s my 2 cents worth….

  3. Phil Naessens

    I think I may safely summarize the argument below:
    1 God sent Nathan to David
    2 Nathan tells David of his sin(in parables/stages)
    3 Nathan rebuked David,and he was entitled to do this because there was a pre-existing relationship of credibility.
    4 You need to have a pre-existing relationship with the subject,in order to rebuke.

    I am not sure this is a correct position,Phil.There is an important hermeneutic principle involved here and I think we should examine it closer.But I am ready to be corrected if my understanding is wrong.

    We may need to consider what we mean by rebuke and relationship.These are the crucial words here.Without going into definitions of relationship,can we consider for example this internet community as relationship?Is it of the type of ‘neighbor’ highlighted in the parable of the Good Samaritan?Do we need for example to have face to face relationships,or long contact,or mentoring type associations?

    As to rebuke you seem to be saying that relationship must precede rebuke.In other words,if there had been no relationship,Nathan should simply have delivered the message from God,without rebuke.But,God might well have sent someone unknown to David.

    I really think this is a narrow interpretation of scripture,and concerns how we may or may not generalize from a specific circumstance.I think it would not have been out of place for Nathan to rebuke the King even if there had been no relationship,provided he was truly sent by God,or the matter concerned a breach of God’s Word.

    If we narrowly look for ‘exact’ replications of the Biblical incidents and circumstances,that may be impossible,as the times of the Bible are gone forever.But what we can glean are the principles,to apply to today.To use a simplistic example the NT warns against certain types of lifestyle.May we then consider that cocaine use is acceptable in the Christian community,because it is not mentioned?Cocaine of course was not known in the time of the Bible.

    Like I said earlier,I am working this out.I would like to be put aright,if I am not correct.

  4. Tunji,

    I’m all for looking into this deeper. That’s the reason I posted this in the first place:-)

    The Good Samaritan didn’t rebuke anyone he offered a stranger a helping hand. I think there’s a difference here.

    What I’m saying is there WAS a relationship prior to these rebukes. It’s doubtful Nathan would have gotten near the King if he wasn’t known by the king.

    The bible doesn’t say not to rape someone so does that mean we can go out and rape someone? Your “cocaine” example is a strawman Tunji.

    Do you believe, based on your post, you are free to rebuke anyone at anytime Tunji?


  5. Phil

    1 I was trying to see if the ‘neighbor’ principle contained in the Good Samaritan incident could be equated to ‘relationship’.Afterall,the Samaritan aided an unfortunate man,previously unknown to him.

    2 I don’t think we are free to rebuke anyone,at any time.But I do think that we may rebuke persons,especially within the body of Christ,who sin in their private lives,whether or not there is a pre-existing relationship of the Nathan-David type.


  6. Tunji,

    How would you know someone had sin in their private lives if you don’t know the person?

    I think you have public open sin confused with private personal sin.


  7. Phil

    1 As far as David knew the adultery,as well as the set-up murder were private,secret sins.At the time he took Bathsheba as wife,he truly believed nobody knew what he had done.It was God that revealed his sin to the prophet,and instructed him to go to David.

    2 Things have changed a bit since the time of the Bible.Like I was alluding to,what are we to make of the new-fangled internet ‘relationships’.What if God revealed my private sin to you(hypothetical!) and instructed you to bring this sin to my attention?Would you consider that you had a pre-existing relationship with me,as one of your bloggers,and that you therefore could rebuke me.

    3 Interpreted even more closely,if we are to run exact parallels,can we say that God must always specifically send us to the sinner,since this is what happened in the Nathan-David case?What of sin that comes to our attention,but about which we have no clear,direct leading from God,other than Biblical prescription and directive?

    4 What exactly do we understand by relationship,in this day and age?I believe you are my internet brother!

  8. Tunji,

    2Samuel 11:4 says David had messengers send for Bathsheba.

    2Samuel 11:17 says David instructed Joab to send Uriah in battle…..

    I suggest this was anything but private Tunji.


    Yes I would but that is an exception but I don’t believe it to be the rule do you?


    I never said God “must” do anything. I’m talking about rebuking people we don’t know.

    If you are a Christian then I’m your brother in Christ Tunji.


  9. Peter harshly rebuked Simon the sorcerer when he perceived that his heart was not right with God. There is nothing to suggest that they knew each other prior to this incident. So it is evident that when a believer comes in contact with someone whose heart is not right with God, it is OKAY for him to rebuke that so called believer.
    This also applies very much to a predicament when a person who claims to be a Christian keeps uttering and keeps posting stupid articles on the internet, any concerned believer who comes in contact with that person’s article has every right to rebuke that person and refute his article whether there was a pre-existing relationship or not.

    • Hi Jazz,

      Peter was an Apostle, a man sent by God and well known. You are a man sent by Nicky, a hypocrite and a heretic sent from Satan. Big difference Jazz.

      Take care and tell Nicky I said hi!


  10. Hey Jazz,

    I deleted your comment. The next time you decide to post here calling me a “pimp” and a “false teacher” sign your full name and produce evidence.


  11. LOL.. you think I care if my comments are published or not. I’m just here to let you know you don’t fool anybody except a few you manage to seduce. Unlike you I don’t care what men think of me.. see ? I don’t try to impress folks with my knowledge and try proving my case by twisting Scripture. You should really wake up and realize people are laughing at you.
    Almost every major points of your theology are nothing but assumptions which can only fool the unwary.
    ….I deleted your comment. The next time you decide to post here calling me a “pimp” and a “false teacher” sign your full name and produce evidence…. Hahahahha. you are soooooooooo funny. Just how important is what you want people to think of you. Trying to make em feel so sorry for you ’cause I called you a pimp? I should have called you a male prostitute coz you are one.
    Instead of attacking people like Nicky behind their backs all the time why don’t you attack me ? Lets see what you really are or me for that matter. Lets discuss the topic at hand and let people see what really is your motive behind the article.. you think we don’t see it ? No I think you will baCK down with your tails between your legs again.

    Again I don’t care if you publish this or not and I don’t think you have any guts to do it. Anything that exposes you for what you are and anything that refutes your stupid theology is poison for your insignificant reputation.
    You can attack me from behind all you like.. like deleting and making comments like you did. I don’t expect anything more from a coward like you.
    Maybe I’ll post this in some nice 4/5 Christian blogs and give you the link and we could start something there since you are so chicken to do it here. Even a coward can be forced to fight. We’ll let the world know what a dirty little man you really are. YUCKK
    BTW did you read the exodus account of Moses rebuking an unknown brother ? maybe he an apostle too eh.. You should rip off the book off acts if it has no meaning to your practical life.
    Also what happened to your new comment policy.. ROFL
    You are such a hypocrite and a duplicate. What are your readers gonna think now.. just blame it on me.. no problems.

  12. I was kidding about posting on other blogs. Unlike you I don’t post on blogs about other people to gossip and slander and then justify my actions by saying “I’m exposing false teachings” I confront em and I do it hard. Don’t take it too personal. You’re not the only one . I make it my responsibility to expose their sins to their faces and leave it for God to judge em if they don’t repent.
    You say you expose false teachings but what you do is make fun of people who have been misguided while you exalt yourself. You enjoy it when people say ‘well done for exposing’ but you get very angry when they say you are wrong because the wicked don’t like their faults being exposed. You should learn from Aquila and Priscilla. When they learnt that Apollos was not preaching the Word accurately they didn’t go all guns blazing and screamed ‘false teacher’. Instead they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
    Ofcourse if you have done this and they refuse to repent that changes things. This is what was done to you but you refused to repent. Your judgment is at the door. You still have a very very short time.. consider your ways.

    • Hi Jazz,

      You call me a coward, insult my biblical knowledge, my readers etc… yet you don’t have the courage to sign your name?

      Moses was KNOWN you hypocrite. He was their LEADER like little Nicky is your leader. The difference is Moses was called by God and Nicky isn’t. Of course you aren’t smart enough to see that.

      Did you attempt to contact me privately? My email and telephone are easy to find just Google my name. I would have emailed you but the email you gave me was bogus…..go figure.

      I titled this post in the form of a question. That means I want to get it right and asked one and all worldwide. Sorry you missed it. Guess reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit eh “Jazz”?

      I’ll be in India in October for a tennis tournament. I’ll post the hotel info for all to see. You can come and rebuke me to my face if you have the courage. I can’t wait to meet the folks that threaten me, insult me, threaten to hack my site etc…

      Where’s your blog “Jazz”? I think you don’t have one because you are afraid people like you will come along and “rebuke” you. Why don’t you sign your name and tell one and all who you really are? My guess is you don’t want folks that know you to find out how asinine and hypocritical you are but perhaps they already know eh “Jazz”?

      Goodbye Jazz!!!


  13. Instead of coming to India for just tennis tournaments, why don’t you give up everything and come to India as a missionary ? There are LOTSSSS of work to be done here. There are millions and millions of tribals in the jungle who have not heard the gospel. There is open physical persecutions of Christians and missionaries. Maybe we could arrange for you to go to one of our jungles and preach. Translators are plentiful. But I assure you, its hell. Have you ever spend a night in a jungle infested with insects and mosquitoes without a net, where the temperature rises above 45 degree Celsius and the people don’t appreciate you for your efforts but are trying to do you harm ?
    Phil: Why would you want a false teaching hypocrite to be a missionary in India? Dude, you don’t know me so stop pretending you do. You have NO idea what I do on a daily basis outside of what you mis-read on this blog so stop pretending you do

    This maybe your first call to be a missionary and prove your faith in Him who calls all to deny self and take up our cross to follow him.
    But I think you will find excuses like you are so good at doing and look around you and say this person or that person is not a missionary either or God doesn’t call everyone to be one … blah blah..

    Phil: My first call to be a missionary? Like I said before you know NOTHING about me and the fact you think you do makes you look like a fool. I do DAILY missionary work here and have for the past 7 years. Tell ya what? Where God calls me I go and you ain’t God.

    Every post you and your friends makes goes straight to my spam filter. So don’t bother posting here. See you in October “Jazz”….

  14. Hi All,

    Since this last posting “Jazz” has posted 7 more times using different tags hoping one of these comments would go through. He is part of a group from India. This little group has been “rebuking” me and attempting to get me to stop exposing heretics and heresy for a while now.

    Why they seem so persistant is beyond me. They claim the men and women highlighted on this site are “small time preachers” and almost beg me to write articles about the Roman Catholic Church. I’m about as “small time” as one gets so why they keep harassing me is a mystery.

    They complain I use harsh language yet continually call me names. They accuse me of being a coward yet never sign their real names or give valid email addresses. One member from their group, a man from Malaysia threatened to have his friends hack this site.

    Is this godly behavior?

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