Have you ever been wronged by someone in the church? Would you like answers to what you should do if a Christian has wronged you? On today’s podcast, we discuss the notorious passage of Matthew 18:15-20 and see the right approach and process Jesus gives to restore the offender and the offended.




MATTHEW 18:15-35


FIRST EVENT: Dealing with a Sinful Brother or Sister (18:15-20)

 “In 18:15–17 Jesus outlined four steps for dealing with a believing brother who is embroiled in sin: (1) Personal confrontation of the sinner (18:15); (2) Private conference with witnesses in order to verify both sides of the argument (18:16); (3) Public announcement to the church (18:17); and (4) Exclusion from fellowship (18:17). At each step, even after step four, opportunity was provided for repentance and restoration. This section on judgment and discipline is followed by one of the great passages on forgiveness (18:21–35). The ultimate purpose of church discipline was restoration and forgiveness.”[1]

  1. If your brother sins against you, go and tell (test; to search out)him his fault (cross examine; prove his error; rebuke),between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained (earn a profit from investment)your brother (v. 15)—This directive on forgiveness is connected to the initial question that started this whole discussion, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (18:1)?” When you have that kind of pride, you will offend and hurt people. But it is also linked to 18:12-14 about the lost sheep. Go and tell him his fault—The first step the offended person must take is PERSONAL CONFRONTATION. It’s better to address a problem privately to resolve a matter and avoid gossip, rumors and quarrels. You have gained your brother—This is the ultimate objective and investment that Jesus tells His disciples to make. The word gained implies a beautiful achievement.
    1. “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.” Proverbs 25:9-10
    2. Keep the matter private. Approach the person who sinned and speak with him alone. It is possible that he does not even realize what he has done. Or, even if he did it deliberately, your own attitude of submission and love will help him to repent and apologize. Above all else, go to him with the idea of winning your brother, not winning an argument. It is possible to win the argument and lose your brother. We must have a spirit of meekness and gentleness when we seek to restore a brother or sister (Gal. 6:1). We must not go about condemning the offender, or spreading gossip. We must lovingly seek to help him in the same way we would want him to help us if the situation were reversed. The word restorein Galatians 6:1 is a Greek medical word that means “to set a broken bone.” Think of the patience and tenderness that requires!”[2]
    3. 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. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established (validated; set forth to make way to get right with God)by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (v. 16)—The second step is IMPARTIAL ARBITRATION. If the two individuals (offender and offended) are unable to reconcile, then bringing in one or two honorable Christians is the next step. These witnesses play the role of validating or invalidating the accusation (that hopefully leads to restoration).
    1. Jewish law required at least two witnesses to confirm one’s testimony (see. Deut. 17:6; 19:15).
  3. If he refuses to listen (not willing to hear; to disobey)to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church (congregation; interacting membership), let him be to you as a Gentile (a pagan)and a tax collector. (v. 17)—If the offender still remains unrepented, then the third step is CHURCH ADMONITION. If after all of this, the offender refuses to repent, then the fourth and final step is CORPORATE EXCLUSION. The offender is no longer welcomed to fellowship in the church until he or she admits and seeks for forgiveness to the offended person; and makes things right with the church. A Gentile and a tax collector—A metaphor/Jewish expression often used by Jews for unbelievers; and ostracism.
    1. “The aim must be to win your brother over, restoration, not punishment. To that end, the minimum of publicity must be used. The erring brother must be approached alone or at most with one or two others. Only if that fails is it necessary to involve the church(the local congregation); it is to be expected that the offender will listento the united conviction of his fellow-disciples. If he does not, the only course open remains a severing of fellowship, though presumably still with the hope that this will jolt him into repentance and restoration.”[3]
    2. It’s interesting to note that the term church doesn’t imply pastors or elders. The organism of the church did not exist as of yet. Being Jewish, the disciples grew up in their local synagogues; and were very familiar with congregational discipline.
    3. Titus 3:10-11,As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
    4. 2 Timothy 2:23-26,“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
  4. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind (exercise authority over something)on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose (permit; allow to exercise authority)on earth shall be loosed in heaven (v. 18)—Jesus gave the disciples authority from heaven to resolve disciplinary issues (see Matt. 16:19).
    1. “The power to “prohibit” and “allow” (18:18) was granted by Jesus in connection with decisions concerning community purity and discipline. Notice that the power to “prohibit” and “allow” in the similar verse of Matthew 16:19 (“lock” and “open”) was given with respect to entrance into the community of Christ.”[4]
  5. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (vss. 19-20)—The context has to do with church discipline. As a church seeks to discipline one of its own; the church must be sensitive to seek God’s help on the matter. Whatever a church allows inside its walls must first be permitted by God in heaven. Church authority comes from God; not man.


[1]Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 414.

[2]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 65.

[3]Richard T. France, “Matthew,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 928.

[4]Robert B. Hughes and J. Carl Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, The Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 414.