11.02.07 Mt. 18:15-17
DISCIPLINE OF A BROTHER
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.
“If he pays no attention.” Here Jesus spoke to his disciples about a sinful brother who refuses to correct his life. The brother obviously had been warned repeatedly and then it was time for a final three-step solution:
- To show him his fault privately.
- If he refuses to listen and accept this counsel, repeat the conversation with two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6).
- Finally, if he still refuses to obey commands of our Lord, he is to be presented to the corporate body and, hopefully, he will correct his ways. However, if he remains steadfast in his pagan lifestyle, he is to be removed from the fellowship. At this point, he has crossed the line for compassionate love and moved toward a more hardened attitude that will be required from the church as a disciplinary measure (cf. Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:14). This was the directive for appropriate judgment and discipline in the church.
A similar warning of discipline to a sinful brother was given twice by Ezekiel (3:16-21; 33:1-9) and the Essenes had already incorporated the same three-step procedure recorded by Matthew.
“An unbeliever and a tax collector.” In essence, Jesus said that a defiant brother is to be treated as a social outcast, as one of the untouchable unbelievers and tax collector. For a more serious violation, there was excommunication (explained in 1 Cor. 5:1-7).
. Wisdom always needs to be applied to situations as this. In today’s world of law suits, the three-step process is still essential although the latter part of the third step may need to be private for legal reasons.
. See the Dead Sea Scrolls 1QS 5:25-6:1; CD 9:23.