Rebuke, Forgive, Restore
Rebuke, Forgive, Restore
Words of Faith 10-30-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
 He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
What are the struggles "on the way"? The journey with Jesus will involve dealing with our own sin and how it affects others, but we will also be aware of the sins of others who are on the journey. We could just mind our own business but Jesus calls us to rebuke and forgive.
The first caution about this text is to realize that Jesus was talking about a family issue. If your brother, someone in the faith, sins, rebuke him. This was not a license to judge every person we might see committing a sin. But within the family of faith we are to love one another enough to confront sin.
The Greek word here is epitimao, and means to censure or admonish, forbid or charge. Sin should not go without rebuke and correction in the Body of Christ, and restoration should not take place without repentance.
Frankly, we have lost the spiritual discipline of rebuke. It seems that only when there is an employment relationship that requires accountability do we actually come close to this. We often fear confrontation perhaps because of its misuse. But Jesus says we have a duty to rebuke just as much as we have a duty to forgive. He also says that our willingness to forgive should be great.
This kind of relationship is not really possible in larger church settings. A small group setting or accountability relationship is the place where we can grow powerfully in our walk with God.
Jesus does not teach here on how we are to rebuke. But we could surmise that such a teaching would include special care. First we must remove the plank in our own eye before we attempt to rebuke the speck in another person's eye (Luke 6:41-43). We should take caution not to "judge' or condemn a brother or sister for their sin, but only to charge them or confront them with the offense (Luke 6:37). There is a difference.
This should be done with special care. Jesus gave instruction in Matthew's Gospel: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17).
Is the forgiveness extended to be conditional? Jesus said, "And if he repents, forgive him.” What if the brother does not repent? We must remember that Jesus also instructed us to forgive freely. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37). That is how Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors. He forgave them. In this situation Jesus may have been talking about actual restoration to the family of faith. We can freely forgive an unrepentant sinner but we cannot restore such a person to fellowship.
Paul warned that if someone is caught in a sin, they should be restored gently by those who are spiritual. But special care should be given that we do not fall into temptation in this process (Galatians 6:1).
There was a rabbinical standard to forgive a penitent brother up to three times. Jesus gave the number seven but most scholars agree that He did not extend the count so much as He removed the count. Seven was the number of fullness and perfection. We are to forgive in the fullness of God's mercy. Even if a brother asks forgiveness many times we are to forgive and restore.
This probably seemed impossible to the disciples. That is why they responded as they did. The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" That is a hard thing to do! That is more than we can ever do on our own!
Jesus replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.” The mustard seed of faith we often hear about is in the context of forgiveness. Don't miss that.
The mulberry tree was a fairly large tree growing to about 35 feet in height. Clearly this was a difficult thing to uproot. The question concerns sin or bitterness that takes root between people that we feel cannot be removed by God. There are things that we may be certain are quite impossible, but God wants to do them!
There can be roots of bitterness that you are certain can never be mended, but God says we are to plant faith as small as a mustard seed. Our problem is that we often prefer to plant our doubts rather than our faith or sow seeds of doubt rather than standing upon seeds of faith.
Is there a brother or sister that the Lord is leading you to rebuke? Rebuke is never about judging. Rebuke is never about "one upping" or pointing out a fault to show that one is wrong. Rebuke never comes with the glee of "being right.” Sin is always grievous. Rebuke carefully, forgive freely, and restore carefully if possible.
Father God, call us to be more than just another religious gathering. Use us in one another's lives to bring about growth and genuine repentance. Teach us the joy of community that is founded in Your Spirit. In Jesus' name.