Scripture would lead us to believe that it is the wise, not fools, who are worth rebuking. When God places us in the position of being rebuked, He is announcing to us that He loves us.
We expect God to minister love to us the same way another person would--because we don't have a true concept of His divine nature. But God doesn't just express His love to us through presents, houses, cars or goose bumps. He confirms His love when He corrects and rebukes us: "'As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent'" (Rev. 3:19).
The Lord was speaking to the church of Laodicea--lukewarm believers who had prospered and felt as if they had "arrived." But God told them otherwise, compelling them to embrace correction.
The right and responsibility of rebuke is placed in the hands of those who have themselves undergone the scrutiny of God's standards and whose character and integrity have been proven. Paul's qualifications for the office of bishop highlight these traits:
"... If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled" (Titus 1:6-8).
Many times, when leaders are rude and insensitive in how they rebuke, it is because their own sword is not sharp. In other words, there are things in their own lives that have not been cut away. And when your sword is dull, you have to apply more strength and force. This is spiritual abuse.
In fact, Paul emphasizes this gentleness in his instructions to Timothy on leadership qualifications--especially in regard to rebuke:
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Blamelessness becomes a foundation of credibility upon which godly rebuke may be carried out. We know that as long as we live in a human body, we are apt to make mistakes; no one is perfect. But those who rebuke must be those whose lives cannot be spotted and who the congregation knows and believes to be persons who are giving all diligence to walk in righteousness.
In these times, when people are rebuked, they often use it as an opportunity to say, "I think it's time for me to leave this church." This is never the correct time to leave a ministry. Instead it is time for them to pray that God will reveal to them, even more, His will for their lives.
Rebuke is painful, but it is intended to shave the flesh and mature the spirit. So, though my flesh may be hurting, my spirit man is being matured. Through open rebuke, one person may be pained, but the flock will be saved.
When a person is openly rebuked, it should be because his or her actions, which have provoked the rebuke, have openly affected the congregation. Therefore, this rebuke cannot be given in private. This is why, when speaking of correcting elders, Paul instructs Timothy, "Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear" (1 Tim. 5:20).
Many times I have experienced incorrect rebuke. But I have always attempted to "eat the meat and throw away the bones." I have witnessed many receive the same type of incorrect rebuke and end up back in the world. What do I mean by incorrect rebuke?
If the leadership believes that it is the right timing to rebuke an individual openly, then he must be prepared to be a skilled surgeon--cutting away the cancer, but saving the life. In other words, a proper rebuke should not be characterized by innuendo, hinting about subject matter or beating around the bush.
Throwing out an innuendo may ignite the spirit of gossip in the church. People will leave the services after you preach saying: "Who is he talking about? That sounds like this one. ... No, it sounds like that one." This ignites factions in the church--the same behavior for which Paul rebuked the believers in the church of Corinth:
"I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Cor. 3:2-3).
Leadership must never use innuendo as an opportunity to divulge any weaknesses of the flock who have once confided in them. For example, say a member of the congregation has expressed to you that they are having financial problems and his or her actions have brought it to the point of an open rebuke.
It must not be said by the leader on the tail end of the open rebuke to that person, "Now, Son, that's why you don't have any money." This is divulging a confidential conversation in the context of an open rebuke.
Instead, a rebuke must be direct. The individual should first be told:
1. about your love for him or her
2. about your respect for their ministry
3. about what you see as the success of his or her future.
Then, that person must be told what he or she has done incorrectly. In this fashion, not only do you save that person, but you also save those who look up to and respect him or her. Any leader, after rebuking his or her spiritual children, who does not feel compassion for where the children have missed it is not a father or mother, but a dictator.
People submit to godly leaders when they are being rebuked because someone with a pure heart and motives has confronted them. Literally, they have been confronted with righteousness, because this leader is submitted under God, saying what would be pleasing to Him.
I believe the reason some people are not growing to the magnitude that God desires is that they have rejected correction. This contributes to a lack of instruction in the house of God. Those who are supposed to receive instruction are resisting the message. And as I pointed out earlier, when we resist with our spirits, then in silence we begin to disagree with what is being preached.
We must be submissive to the power of correction because it sends our spirits into training to learn how to recognize and renounce all ungodliness. This recognition of ungodliness is found through discernment, which can only be brought to maturity when rebuke is in operation.
God's children aren't supposed to be without direction. When you belong to the Lord, He is obligated to lead you wherever He wants you to go (see Prov. 3:6). Why would He throw you into confusion? The journey we are on is leading us into the mysteries of God.
The Father is saying: "If I can't get you to submit to the pastor, and I can't get you to submit to correction, then I can't take you any further. If you don't submit, I cannot reveal My mysteries to you because you will operate as a 'loose cannon.'" God's process is to correct, train and bless you while you are on ground level, so when you come into divine purpose you can stand the test of time.
The order of God is for the body of Christ to function in unity--from the top down. This is how the fullness of His wisdom can be revealed. First Thessalonians 5:21 instructs us: "Test all things; hold fast what is good." That's why we have qualifications for leadership, and that's why a novice should not serve in the ministry and have the capacity to watch over a person's soul.
If you stay submitted to spiritual authority, you can rise to a level in which you are walking in the blessings of God because you understand His principles. Therefore, you don't offend God, because you hear His voice and obey.
Are you ready to experience the fullness of His divine presence? Then let Him try your spirit through submission. Embrace the power of rebuke. As a result, prayer will be restored, hearts will be healed and relationships will be mended. Oh, yes. There is power in rebuke.
To Lead and Be Led
Juanita Bynum uncovers the secret of spiritual authority: submission to the Father.
The anointing is not earned, bought or stolen, best-selling author Juanita Bynum says. It is imparted to us by spiritual parents.
"No ministry, no gift, none of these things that happen in our lives are our own personal anointing," she explains. "These things are passed on from generation to generation."
In her new book, My Spiritual Inheritance, Bynum discusses the importance of authority and submission, describing it in terms of family relationships.
The blessings many Christians seek can only be found through having a relationship with someone who can pass on this "spiritual inheritance."
Pastors, teachers, mentors--their names and titles are diverse, but their role is crucial: to guide, rebuke, love and lead those God has placed in their care. In a transparent and conversational writing style, Bynum discusses her own struggles with applying the biblical principles she advocates in the book.
"It is not me screaming to people in the pews: 'Submit, submit!'" she explains. "I encourage people of the benefits of submission. And I explain the criteria that the Lord has required of leaders before they can declare themselves as those in authority."
There's no shortcut to becoming a spiritual parent, Bynum contends. And the church is facing a dearth of leaders who have been properly "fathered" and "mothered."
"Submission and authority have become dirty words, because many people who are walking in that authority have not been broken themselves," she explains. "That person will walk in authority with abuse, not compassion."
Spiritual authority is something that must be recognized and acknowledged by those who follow. It cannot be enforced on the unwilling, but is accepted by those who see a leader who has been where they have been.
"The reason the relationship between us and the heavenly Father is so divine, is because He became the example in all things," Bynum explains. "In everything that Jesus went through He passed the test, making Him qualified to be the authority, qualfied to rule, qualified to make demons submit."