Sharp Rebukes, Delivered Daily

Where you go when an old-fashioned ‘rebuke’ is needed…or not.

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].

Remaining Rebukes

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.’

Other Lessons

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.

Nurturing Dependence or Spiritual Empowerment

Nurturing Dependence or Spiritual Empowerment

This post is a reply to an inquiry from a reader.

Hedging your Flock

IFB pastors assure us that other churches don’t ‘preach it’ as they do. How they know that isn’t 100 % clear since they’re in their own pulpit Sunday mornings. But most fundies aren’t that deep. And why would IBF pastors want it otherwise?

Openly defaming other pastors and churches, reminding us that many other preachers get this wrong, telling us how tricky this passage is, or warning of the importance to be under faithful preaching, IFB pastors have many means to teach hearers to distrust their spiritual and biblical instincts. There are stories of shipwrecked faith and spiritual seduction.

The picture of a dark, scary world freshly impressed on their minds, IFB congregations are now thoroughly prepped to lean heavily on the superior wisdom of the IFB pastor. Ignore the other voices and perspectives. They are the winds and waves Peter ought to have ignored outside the boat.

Things to Note

There is some truth in this. Not all preaching is equal [and some IFB preaching is very unequal]. Christians are well advised to hear better preaching than not. Spiritual dangers do exist [including IFB sects].

If no real, spiritual dangers existed, no credible case could be made for hedging the flock. So how does one distinguish IFB pastoral efforts at manipulation from the call to grow into genuine maturity where our spiritual instincts develop as God would have them?

Nurturing Dependence

Answering this question begins with understanding why IFB pastors do what IFB pastors do.

IFB pastors may speak of ‘guarding the flock of God,’ or of their charge to ‘protect’ sheep entrusted them. And those tasks are mandated. But often, their concern is not to ‘guard’ or ‘protect’ sheep, but to guard and protect their standing in the flock that pays the pastor’s salary. Controlling and insecure pastors isolate and insulate followers from other believers as a means of job security. And the easiest way to do it is to invalidate the faith commitments of other pastors, churches and faith traditions.

Fear is extremely debilitating for believers. But that weakened condition is very empowering for IFB pastors. Why would they want it otherwise?

Nurturing Empowerment

There is a another way to approach this question, and it is this: healthy churches/pastors/faith_traditions develop parishioners’ spiritual and biblical instincts. Instead of keeping members pastor-dependent, every effort is made to liberate and empower the laity for ministry.

When believers want to develop their spiritual instincts, leaders in healthy churches do not tremble. They rejoice. This is not a thing to be avoided. Church leaders delight to assist them in this development.

To be continued…