Matthew 18:15-20 How to Discipline


All of the passages we have been studying in Matthew 18 tie in together and are all part of the original question about who is the greatest. All of those things have to do with humbleness because it is not about us being the greatest, about us earning our way into Heaven, about us accepting what God calls sin. It is about us loving our brother despite how they fell into a pit. This passage deals with another aspect of humbleness and that is being the bigger person and going to the one who offended you.

Immediately: If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault

Brother is referring to other Christians so these principles do not apply to those who do not belong to the local church. Although they might be able to be used the passage is dealing with people who have similar standards and especially the commandment to love which comes from God.

Since this passage is tied in with the passage of the lost sheep it can also be that when your brother is sinning in general even though it does not directly affect you or is against you. There is no such thing in the Christian world as it not being part of my business. What affects my brother affects me. Sins by any Christian affect all Christians. (1 Corinthians 5:6)

The sin in mind is a sin that is blatant and noticeable by all. The sin would not be something we would call a slip up or mistake that all of us do from time to time as we struggle with stopping old sin patterns in our lives.

Church discipline is not just for the Church leadership to carry out but all Christians who care for their brother and sisters in Christ.

It is a sign of arrogance to expect others to come to you if you have been offended.

Privately: Between you and him

It is also wrong to go and start telling others how you have been offended so that they go and spread it back to the one who did the offending. What people do is tell others how they were hurt and then those friends come back and try to reconcile the relationship. They mean well but they should have told the person who was offended to go and talk about it with the one who offended them.

If you have a problem with another Christian because they hurt you it is your responsibility to go to them and not discuss it with others until you do.

Many issues would be solved if people would just humble themselves and talk. This has to be done humbly realizing you are not perfect yourself and in love.

Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Purpose: Gain your brother back

When we see sin the way God sees sin then we will care enough to make sure that our brothers and sisters are living correctly. Again, we cannot say that it is not our business how they live or what they are doing. Our goal is to either make sure our brothers and sisters do not continue down a path ruining their lives before it is too late.

Leviticus 19:16-17 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life[a] of your neighbor: I am the Lord.17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

We need to sometimes tell people frankly what you see in their life even though the conversation is uncomfortable. Paul opposed Peter to his face over an issue (Galatians 2:11)

To not correct a brother who is in sin means you do not love them.

Just like a loving Father disciplines his children out of love for the child so we should also talk to our brother who is in sin before they totally destroy their lives. If they are lost and have fallen into a pit then they will be destroyed by other things that are looking to destroy them. To be in a pit was a dangerous thought that we sometimes do not fully understand. If you can imagine being trapped in a hole with a broken leg in a wolf infested area, that is a good indicator of what the passage is talking about.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

An easy prey is the Christian who no longer is in the herd who is in a pit because of bad choices. Alone is the worse place to be because when you are isolated you will easily be destroyed.

The Law of the Harvest is you  reap what you sow. The small sins we allow our brother to walk in now will eventually lead to something bigger.  Your brothers sin has consequences for everyone and it is a lie that you are only hurting yourself.  

Ask a mother if her child’s bad choices only affected the child. Ask a sibling whose home was turned upside down and never the same.  Sin never just hurts the person who is sinning and always has consequences for others.

When you go after your brother you do not only win them back, but you help them to be in a right relationship with God.

Determination: take one or two along with you then the church

Notice the job is not done because they would not listen to you the first time. The two or three witnesses was the established rule that if all three agreed then it was true (Deuteronomy 19:15) And if two or three will not suffice then we get the whole church involved.

Church: a group of Christians who choose to assemble together

Church today has lost some of its purpose because we have forgotten why God called us together.

“From the earliest times, local Christian churches were congregations of specific, identifiable people. Certain people would be known to make up (or belong to) a particular assembly, while everyone else would be known to be outside of (or not belonging to) the assembly.” (A Theology for the Church, pg 792)

Being a part of a local church meant you were accountable to the church and they had the right to step into your life to help you and correct you.  You had responsibilities to the church and its members.

As brothers and sisters in Christ we should do what we can to try and rescue those who are throwing their lives away. The church meant a local body of believers and it should stay between the individual and that local church. Not even Christian outsiders should be brought in. We are to go privately, then with a few and then get the whole church involved.

Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

1 Timothy 5:20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

That would be a fun church service watching as the church called someone out publicly. We have to remember this is sin that everyone would know they were doing. Not our sins that we mess up every once in a while but a clear denial of the word of God.

Unfortunately, there is a point that we are to stop trying when someone will not listen.

Painfully: sever some of your ties with them

Excommunication from the Church is not a popular thing to do but it is what the Bible teaches.

1 Corinthians 5:2,4-5 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

1 Timothy 1:19b-20 By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

 Just like a parent has to practice tough love and cut a child off from their funds so sometimes the church must practice tough love and keep a person from the relationships they have inside the church. You still may have contact with the child but you cut off certain aspects of the relationships.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15   If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

2 Corinthians 2:5-8   Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.

This is not a mean spirited kicking out of the church but a painful, heartbreaking process because of their lack of acknowledgement for their sin

People that blatantly sin do more harm to Christianity than all the Atheist in the world. I hear it all the time about how inconsistent Christians are in what they say they believe and how they live. Yes we are sinners, the difference is are you sorry for it or do you not care about the areas in your life God calls sin? Are you trying to live a life of Holiness or do you not care?

Gentile: a person that was never a follower of Christ

Tax Collector: a traitor who chooses to abandon Christianity

Sometimes by addressing sin so seriously we find out that the person, although a church attender, was not a follower of Christ. Church discipline is to never to be done lightly or with an attitude of legalism or self-righteousness.

Our hearts should be broken and many tears should be shed before we even think about having to do this to another believer in Christ.

Just as painful as kicking a child of age out of the house it should be that painful to tell another believer they cannot worship here anymore. That is the love we should have for each other.

Read 18-20

Whatever you bind and whatever you loose on earth.

These verses have been abused and misused by Christians. There are several things I want to clear up about these passages of scripture because we have a tendency to use them incorrectly.

These passages of Scripture are referring to Church Discipline and the authority the Church has been given by Christ.

In regard to church discipline the decision the Church makes about a person who is falling away has their decision approved by Christ.

Loosed: Forgiven / Bound: Not Forgiven

Forgiveness of sins is received when you change your ways not just because you said you were sorry. (See Matthew 21:28-31)

Some people are sorry they got caught not because they have a problem with what they were doing. These verses are not saying if you get together with a bunch of Christians and pray a certain way God will do what you say. That is Arrogance on our part to believe God has to do what we say.  By claiming that God will move in this way is either making God a genie or we are saying we can do magic.

These verses are saying that what God has already established as a pattern and we are conforming to Gods pattern. This is a sign of Humbleness.

Agree: from the Greek word where we get the word symphony

If the members of the church are in agreement that the sinning brother has repented or not repented then the actions the church carries out God is in agreement with. We are in agreement about the church discipline or reconciliation that needs to take place.

The 2 or 3 witnesses goes back to the idea of establishing a testimony. It means that one person in the church cannot decide to kick someone out of the church.

This also does not mean that if you are a Christian, and you are alone, that Christ is not there with you.

We say that where two or three are gathered God is there but He is always with us.  This is what happens when we take verses of scripture out of the passage they were intended to be in. Those verses are not stand alone verses but are put there in the discussion of church discipline.

Ask in my name: To ask according to Jesus name is not just to say His name but to do things that are in accordance with His will.

Just because you say “in the name of Jesus I pray” does not make it in the name of Jesus. Saying the name of Jesus is not a magical formula for your will to be done. If I pray for a building in the name of Jesus, that does not mean it is His will for us to have a building. When I pray in the name of Jesus I am praying for God to make His will my will so that I do His will.


Privately go to your brother

Immediately: so that they do not throw their lives away.

Purpose: To gain your brother back

Determination: Do not give up on them by taking others

Painfully: It should hurt

Are you taking your sin seriously?

Who do you know that is throwing their life away because of sin?

Do you care enough about them to say something to them?

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