Mo 7/8Tu 7/9We 7/10Th 7/11Fr 7/12Sa 7/13Su 7/14
Jer. 4
Matt. 18
Jer. 5
Matt. 19
Jer. 6
Matt. 20
Jer. 7
Matt. 21
Jer. 8
Matt. 22
Jer. 9
Matt. 23
Jer. 10
Matt. 24

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Matthew 18:15–17 outlines Jesus Christ’s own process for dealing with sin in His church. First, let us learn a very simple lesson from His instructions: Christians sin. This is very important for us to acknowledge. It does us no good to pretend that we do not sin, nor to pretend that other believers do not sin. Jesus plainly says, “If your brother sins…”

The acknowledgment of sin creates opportunities for repentance and reconciliation. And that should be our goal when confronting our brother about his sin: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” The winning Jesus is talking about here is not necessarily winning our brother over to our side of an argument (though our confrontation may involve arguing with him), but rather reclaiming our brother who has wandered away from the safety of God’s flock (see the preceding verses, Matt. 18:12–14). We are to show our brother his fault for his own benefit. It is certainly very easy to show your brother his fault for selfish reasons, but don’t let that keep you from humbly seeking the Lord’s help in restoring an ensnared brother in a spirit of gentleness (see Gal. 6:1). (And when your brother confronts you about your sin, assume he’s doing it for your good!)

Jesus goes on to say that if our brother does not repent after a personal confrontation, we should take others along with us. If we are continuing to seek our brother’s good, taking others along will serve two purposes. First, it should make the offending brother more likely to listen. But also, the involvement of more brothers should help ensure a better judgment. Other brothers may even be able to help you see if you are judging your brother wrongly.

If a brother does not repent even when confronted by two or three brothers, his sin is to be taken to the church, i.e., the assembly of believers. Scripture does not give detailed instructions for exactly how a brother’s sin is to be taken to the entire assembly, so different churches manage the details of church discipline in different ways. Churches in Evangel Presbytery call pastors and elect elders whom we trust to make sound judgments regarding the discipline of a member caught in sin. We’ve agreed on rules that help church officers do their job faithfully, and that also help protect those accused of sin from being treated unfairly.

If a brother still does not repent after being judged by the church, he is to be treated “as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). This means he is to be treated as one not belonging to the fellowship of God’s people. The clearest way to accomplish this is through excommunication, which means cutting someone off from participation in the Lord’s Supper. To participate in that gracious meal while willfully continuing in sin is to profane the communion God’s people share through the death of Christ. When the church refuses to have fellowship with an unrepentant brother, it brings glory to God by maintaining the purity of His church.

But even excommunication is to be done for the good of the one who is sinning. When judging an immoral man in the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). He understood that the church’s discipline would be painful, and perhaps even destructive to that man’s body; but he had hope that that very pain would bring that man to his senses and lead to his restoration. Amazingly, it did! (See 2 Cor. 2:5–11.)

As you read Matthew 18, notice that the church’s judgment carries with it real spiritual authority: “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). This should cause the church to fear and tremble as it makes judgments in the name of Christ, and it should cause us to fear and tremble when we find ourselves at odds with Christ’s church.

VERSES TO MEDITATE ON

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
—Matthew 18:8–9

HOW TO PRAY

  • Adoration – Praise Jesus Christ for His perfect judgments.
  • Confession – Confess times you have been harsh in your judgments of your brother; or times that you have been hard-hearted when your brother has shown you your fault.
  • Thanksgiving – Thank God for sending His Spirit to help His church in making righteous judgments.
  • Supplication – Ask God to give wisdom to your pastors and elders in leading the church faithfully.

Click HERE to ask the pastors a question about anything in your Bible reading.

This post by Alex McNeilly

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.

Recent Ask the Pastors answers . . .

Old Testament Prosperity vs. New Testament Suffering

QUESTION In the Old Testament, obeying God seems so clearly tied to physical prosperity. God even promises no miscarriages and long life in Exodus 23:26. But in the New Testament, we are actually promised suffering if we follow Christ. Why the switch in expectations...

What’s up with Ecclesiastes?

QUESTION There seem to be some pretty troubling statements in Ecclesiastes about how we are supposed to think and live. For example, Ecclesiastes 8:15, which was read in church this past Sunday, says, "There is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to...

What does it mean that love “believes all things”?

QUESTION In 1 Corinthians 13:7, what does it mean that love "believes all things, hopes all things"? It kinda sounds like that means we're supposed to just believe everything, but that doesn't seem right… ANSWER Whenever we interpret Scripture, we must use Scripture...