The Gospel for Christians

Matthew 18:26 Can we “rebuke” like Jesus did?

Posted on by Bryan Jay

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

In the English Standard Version, the greek word “epitimao” translated here, “rebuked” is variously translated, “rebuked (25x), ordered (2x), or charged (2x).” 

Interestingly, although we see Jesus rebuking this storm, demons, and a fever, the verb’s use in relation to other people is always rebuking of a person, usually in a negative sense, as in Peter rebuking Jesus in Mark 8:32, or the disciples rebuking those who bring children to Jesus in Mark 10:13. 

When we come to Acts, there is not a single occasion where the word is used of the apostles or any believer in the same sense that it is used of Jesus in the gospels. We do not see the apostles rebuking storms, demons, or sicknesses.

Unfortunately, it is quite common to hear people today “rebuking” or “ordering” all manner of things that they think need to be rebuked in Jesus’ name. But the NT clearly shows us that this is an unbiblical practice and comes from presumption rather than faith. 

It is true that we see the apostles doing something that looks like “rebuking,” but it is interesting that an entirely different word is used there. In Acts 16.18, for example, when Paul becomes greatly annoyed, he “commands” (greek word “parangelo”) the demon to come out of the slave girl. This word, while still being quite strong (it is often translated, “command”, “order”, “charge”), nevertheless has the idea of “instruct.” It is often used in reference to instructing others in some obligation that they are to fulfill. So Paul is not commanding the demon in the sense of exercising his own authority over it, but rather he is directing the demon “in the name of Jesus.”

Even when one has a gift of faith and is able to know with certainty how he should proceed in a given situation, it is not our place to be ordering as if the authority that is Christ’s alone were given to us. Even in the great commission, Jesus reserves this authority to himself (Matt. 28:18).

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