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Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 5


Studies in Matthew 18 – Study 5

When a Brother Sins Against You

Text: Matthew 18:15-17

More practical teaching is to come, for we must seriously consider:-

  • The Possibility of Christian Discord. Moreover if your brother sins against you,

This is further to the previous teaching. ‘Moreover’.  Jesus has been warning his disciples about the danger, the serious consequences of leading other believers into temptation to sin.  But what if you are the believer who has been sinned against?

  • The sinning brother. ‘If your brother sins…’.   It’s not much doubt there.  Your brother will sin.  He’s a sinner, like you are yourself.  He WILL sin.  It’s just a question of when and how.  You will sin too.  BUT
  • The subject of his sin. ‘Against you…’. This is a very specific type of sin a sin deliberately directed against YOU.  It may be malice, it may be thoughtlessness, or envy, ruthlessness, ambition, – some people may even think that their sins are actually not sins at all, that they are quite justified in their actions.    Whatever the motive, whatever the sin, it is specifically directed to offend another believer, to cause them to stumble.

Some principles to remember when this happens:

  1. a) Who is the greatest sinner? Yes, my brother in this case has sinned against me, but haven’t I sinned too? Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners, an example for us all, yet Christ died for us so that all our sins would be forgiven.  When our brother sins against us our first thought us that we too are sinners!
  2. b) All sin is primarily against God.Psalm 51:3

So the overriding principle here is very simple.  When discord happens in the church, we must recognise it and do something about it, and try to put things right.

The Procedure for Christian Discipline.

In this particular issue, we have Jesus giving us a very direct set of instructions.  If you brother sins against you…

  • Go to Him.
    • Take the initiative. go don’t wait for him to come to you – that’s not how Christ dealt with us as sinners. He took the imitative, – he sought for us.
    • Explain the problem. and tell him his fault. Talk to him, put the matter into words, instead of just letting it fester in your mind. Maybe he doesn’t even know!  Alison and the year long offence.   Incidentally, there is no command to send your brother a text or post on Facebook, – those communications can be so easily misinterpreted!
    • Keep it confidential. between you and him alone. There’s no embarrassment here, no need to involve others at this stage, no need to gossip, or gloat, so make this a face to face conversation.
    • Hope for reconciliation. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. You have won his for the kingdom, and spared him from the awful dangers that Jesus describes earlier in the chapter
  • Go to Witnesses. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 19:15.  
  • Go to the Church. 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. Come and share the problem among the family of God, pray about it, love one another, take discipline seriously.
    • Proper church discipline. There are times the whole church needs to be involved. Other times the elders, acting in behalf of the whole church
    • Improper Church Discipline. The early church was not fragmented by denominations and separation as we are today.  The church in Antioch was one church, as in Jerusalem etc.  We need to be careful about this.  When exercising this kind of discipline it must remain WITHIN THE LOCAL ASSEMBLY (or synod etc if you are a Presbyterian).

Do NOT go to court. 1st Corinthians 6:  To Think about: How do I deal with that as a Christian businessman, if a fellow Christian wont pay?  Are Christians taking advantage of our reluctance to take another brother before secular courts?

  • The Practice and Purpose of Christian Dismissal. let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Now here’s where this text gets really interesting.  When a brother has sinned against you, and all the avenues for reconciliation has failed, what do you do?  Jesus tells us right here; we are to regard that person as a heathen and a tax collector.  Now what does that mean?  Well:-

  • All discipline is to be protective. There comes a time when reconciliation is impossible and our first priority becomes the protection of the flock.  Paul applies this form of discipline in 1 Corinthians 5.
  • All discipline is to be restorative. RC Sproul: “The purpose of church censure in all its forms is not to punish for punishment’s sake but to call forth repentance and so recover the straying sheep.”  How did Jesus relate to heathens and tax collectors?
    • Heathens. Like that woman at the well in Samaria, where he told her that he had come to bring her life.
    • Tax collectors. Like Matthew the tax collector and Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who were both forgiven and saved and called to repentance and discipleship by Christ.

How did Jesus regard heathens and tax collectors, the despised people of this world?  He PREACHED THE GOOD NEWS TO THEM, He mingled and mixed with them, and he called them to repent of their sins and follow him.  Luke 19:5

When a brother has sinned against you, and has not been reconciled, not repented of his sin, what he needs is for us to regard him as a sinner who needs to hear the gospel.

© Bob McEvoy Feb 2017

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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