There is a word that circulates within the evangelical community. For the speaker, it evokes a sense of power and authority. For the listeners, it instills fear and much trembling.


Okay, maybe I’m playing this up a little bit too much, but I am dramatic and excitable. What can you expect?

I’ve heard this word thrown around a lot. It usually goes something like this: “I rebuke (insert anything perceived as evil, undesirable, or unpleasant here) in the name of Jesus!”

This is usually met with some head nods, a few amens, and maybe even a hallelujah. Is it really any mystery that nonbelievers think we’re totally weird?

What is really even happening when we say these things? What does it mean? Why do we feel the urge to say it?

I’ve decided to do some digging to get to the bottom of this rebuking phenomenon. It really irks me to hear it all the time, and I’m pretty sure that the majority of people saying it have no idea what it actually means. I feel like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.

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Now before you go getting your panties in a twist because I called you out (you know who you are, don’t even pretend you don’t do this!), let’s review some grammar basics shall we?

The word rebuke is a transitive verb. That means that it is an action that is done to someone, or something. If you were to kick a ball, the transitive verb would be kick. If you want to be that sort of person, then yes by all means you could go around saying that you are rebuking something all day long and you would not be grammatically incorrect. Congratulations.

Let’s dig a bit deeper though and analyze the rest of your speech. Do you go about your day announcing every action you take in the first person? It would be pretty strange to do that. Imagine your reality from that perspective. You would wake up in the morning and say “I touch the snooze button.” You would eat breakfast and say “I pour the cereal into my bowl.” You would go to work and say “I drive my car.” On and on you would go all day long. It’s ridiculous, yes? I’m glad we’re on the same page.

Now that we’ve established the part of speech this word falls into, let’s discuss the actual definition.

For those of you who don’t know, rebuke is not a magic word. It doesn’t send demons scurrying back to hell. It doesn’t make indigestion disappear. It doesn’t even stop your toddler from throwing a fit in the middle of the produce section at the grocery store (again, you know who you are).
Now that you know everything that rebuke is not, here is the actual definition according to
verb (used with object), rebuked, rebuking.

  1. to express sharp, stern disapproval of; reprove; reprimand.
That’s it. It’s just an archaic way of saying you really really really don’t like something so you are going to strongly express your dislike.
When you have words with your server because you said hold the olives and your order came back covered in them, that’s a rebuke. When you tell your sister that you really don’t like her attitude today and she needs to tone it down a notch, that’s also a rebuke.
Don’t get me wrong here. Rebuking absolutely has it’s place in the church. When something gets out of line with scripture, it is absolutely in line to receive a rebuke. Please just stop announcing it though. It’s really strange and it makes us look like a bunch of nut cases.
Yes, I just rebuked all your rebuking! Have a nice day!

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