Rebukes — because you need it
‘He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” [Luke 17:1-4].
‘Epitimao’ is Luke’s main word for ‘rebuke.’ Occasionally translated ‘warn,’ epitimao occurs in various contexts [see Lu 4:35, 39, 41; 8:24; 9:21, 42, 55; 17:3; 18:15, 39; 19:39; and 23:40].
What gets Rebuked
In several cases, it is demonic spirits which are rebuked.
‘…Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him’ [Lu 4:35]!
‘Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak…’ [Lu 4:41].
‘… Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father’ [Lu 9:42].
Chaotic conditions [often regarded as demonic] are also rebuked.
‘He rebuked the fever, and it left her’ [Lu 4:39].
‘He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm’ [Lu 8:24].
There are cases of apparent misguided rebuking.
When a Samaritan village refused Jesus, James and John asked Jesus if they should command fire to fall from heaven to consume them [as if they were in position to do so].
‘But he turned and rebuked them — the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them’ [Lu 9:55].
‘…they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them’ [Lu 18:15].
‘Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples”‘ [Lu 19:39].
This leaves Lu 17:3 and 23:40. IFB sects take the penitent malefactor of Lu 23:40 as a ‘death-bed’ conversion. But he may have joined in the mockery. The issue is, ‘with what inflection of tone do we hear his “rebuke.”‘ It may be that the second malefactor merely feigns to rebuke the first.
‘Don’t you fear God since you’re getting the same thing? We deserve this. Ohh but THAT guy — he NEeeever did any wrong’ [as if anyone believes THAT!].
I’ve no final answer as to whether Jesus was isolated from all humanity to die alone FOR all humanity, OR whether a guy beside him rooted for Jesus as many say. And I’m frustrated that Luke records only a cryptic reference to their being together in God’s Garden. But I do know this.
‘Rebuke’ in Lu 17:3
As Luke’s sole remaining ‘epitimao’ passage even remotely like the IFB take on it, I hear Lu 17:3 very differently. Lu 17:3 needs to be heard. But neither can we place more weight on this text than it can bear.
If they want to say that ever plentiful IFB rebukes are ALWAYS weighed justly, we should be able to ask why it is that demonic possession, chaotic conditions, and misguided intentions/actions feature so regularly in IFB sects. That, after all, is Luke’s handling of ‘rebuking.’
While much more can be said about this subject, there are things we can conclude from ‘rebuking’ in Luke’s gospel. Jesus is the Rebuker in chief. He did it more than anyone. But generally, Jesus rebuked spiritual evil or manifestations of chaos. Would-be rebukers seem to get it wrong more often than not. In at least one instance, Jesus countered an act of rebuke by commanding permission and inclusion.
While it isn’t the intention of this post to address the doctrine of hell, Drew Stedman critiques that doctrine with a telling remark that easily extends to IFBdom’s routine use of chastisement/ostracism and the like. As Stedman sees it, we witness:
‘the cruelest kind of fear in order to manipulate people of good faith into accepting harsh doctrines which have empowered institutions of religion with enormous amounts of wealth and power for centuries.’
Regardless of what one does or does not believe concerning hell, the manipulation, institutional empowerment and amassed wealth/power charges have too much truth to be dismissed conveniently as mere unbelief.