In this study, we will examine the question, "What is rebuke?" by digging into the meaning behind the words used.
How Can We Determine What Is Rebuke?
Defining the Term
Let's first start by looking at the Websters 1828 Dictionary which tells us that rebuke is both a verb and a noun. It starts out by saying that rebuke as a verb means :
"1. To chide; to reprove; to reprehend for a fault; to check by reproof."
"2. To check or restrain."
"3. To chasten; to punish; to afflict for correction."
So the act of rebuking is a way of punishing or reprimanding, but it also has a restraining element, which we will touch on more a bit later.
And now let's examine rebuke as a noun, again from Websters 1828 Dictionary. It is defined in one way as:
"2. In Scripture, chastisement; punishment; affliction for the purpose of restraint and correction."
This definition, in a way, summarizes the three previous verb definitions, highlighting the purpose for rebuke that is often overlooked by those who do not understand it.
Understanding the Translation
Now we'll take a look at the scripture and examine the Greek and Hebrew meanings behind the translation. We'll start first with the Hebrew from the Old Testament, using Strong's Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries.
The first Latinized Hebrew word behind rebuke is yâkach, H3198, and it contains a list of definitions, each with a different nuance of meaning. Though correction, or rebuke, is the main meaning of this word, there is an element of meaning that indicates not only correcting the person who has adopted an incorrect belief but also arguing in favor of the keeping of truth. Reasoning in favor of the truth seems to be behind this word as much as correction itself. H8433 and H4045 are connected to or stem from this word and its accompanying meanings.
The next word is gâ'ar, H1605, and this word's primary meaning is reproof or the changing of the mind. This reinforces the idea that we must reason with someone when we are rebuking them. We must present the truth in its most logical and compelling way that our opponent has no other option but to concede to the truth or deny it outright. H1606 and H4045 come from this word.
Our final Hebrew word is cherpâh, H2781, and it comes from H2778, which references a stripping bare or revealing, and it makes the meaning of this word indicate that, when rebuking, we are revealing or laying bare the shame of sin. Rebuking has a shaming element to it.
Now we'll move on to the New Testament and have a look at the Latinized words from the Greek.
First for the Greek is epitimaō, G2008, which speaks about a censure of sin, telling us that rebuke is a forbidding or silencing of the sinful acts of man. This touches more on the restraining and preventative nature of rebuke.
Next is epiplēssō, G1969, which talks about rebuke as an upbraiding or chastising. This shows us that the act of rebuking is done with a firm and chiding tone to properly portray the seriousness of the sin that is being rebuked.
Our final word is elegchō, G1651, and it confirms to us that there should be a convincing aspect to rebuke, using evidence from the scriptures to disprove the validity of a sinful act.
Conclusion: What is Rebuke?
It is meant for the good of the sinner to draw them away from the hurtful misery of the deep and dark pit of sin, that they may not be able to see that they are in or are sliding into, It is done from a position of the love of God outpouring from the heart, mind, and lips of those who believe in the righteousness of God's judgment.
It is meant to be used publicly, as in I Timothy 5:20, to prevent the advance of Satan's kingdom in the lives of men, by forbidding the works of the devil from reaching out from the sinner to all those around him. The sinner through his actions in serving Satan, is evangelizing all those he touches socially, mentally, and emotionally to come to the worldview of the devil, and is most likely totally ignorant of this fact.
Though rebuke may bring a feeling of shame or humiliation to the sinner, it is a Godly shame meant to humble the sinner and soften his heart toward God. This, by no means, makes honest and Godly rebuke an unloving or hateful act, as many would claim.
It is clear that rebuke is an important part of serving in the church of God, and in fulfilling the commands given to us in the New Covenant.