Matthew 18 Part Two

by Sisterlisa

Many people believe that the most prominent portion of scripture in Matthew 18 is verses 15-17, yet that is so far from the whole reason Christ spoke these words which were penned by our brother Matthew. The entire chapter must be read as an entire teaching, not just a portion of it. As you read from the beginning all the way through to the end, you can see the heart of Christ our Lord in what He is teaching. In the first part of this series I shared with you how I felt about what Jesus was showing us in regards to his little ones.

The teaching is not simply a teaching about protecting children, but he was using children as an example of who we are to the Father, His little children. As you read through verses 1-14 you see that Jesus was looking for the lost sheep. Keep in mind that the sheep are a flock and when one gets lost He seeks to bring them back to the fold. He wasn't talking about going out to find the wolves and converting them into sheep. Now that we see that His heart is seeking the lost sheep, those members of the fold(family) that have gone astray, he then speaks to us about the one who is in error. Beginning in verse 15 we see him explaining to us how to reconcile with our brethren. He says to go to the person on your own first then, if he doesn't listen to you, take one or two more with you.

Matthew 18:15, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."

Here is where I would like to stop and explain what I have seen over the years. I have seen people in anguish over broken relationships seeking one or two more to go with them, only to be told by those people that the individual is gossiping and they would have no part in that. Where does that leave us if we can't find someone to simply follow these steps instructed to us by Christ our Lord? He is very clear that when two people aren't coming to a sincere reconciliation that they are to seek help. As Christians we are commanded by God to assist them. He says in verse 16 that everything is to be established. We are to seek help in establishing what has occurred and come to a conclusion of reconciliation to Him first, and in doing so we are then reconciled to one another.

Matthew 18:16, "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."

Now if after all these things take place and the matter is still not established, he then tells us to go to the assembly of believers. But here is the part that we must understand, Jesus did not give us these steps to bring people into submission to us, to make them 'take our side'. This isn't about taking sides, it's about Christ our Lord. You see, when the individuals come into subjection to Christ, as it says in Ephesians 5:24, then, and only then, will they be at peace with one another. However, if one refuses to come into subjection to Christ, then he shows us verse 17 and how it applies.

Matthew 18:17, "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."

I have seen in several situations where Matthew 18 was abused and nothing was accomplished except more hard feelings and more bitterness. Yet I have also seen where it is used properly, guided by His Holy Spirit, and saw humility take shape in the hearts of the people. The thing that is most difficult for people who refuse to allow a proper use of Matthew 18 is that it will reveal their sin and, as a result, they are faced with the fact that they must repent. People who avoid the proper use of Matthew 18 are not seeking reconciliation with Christ our Lord, they are seeking to abuse the teaching in order to further their agenda to make people come into subjection to them. They don't want that rug swept clean, they just want to sweep all the junk under the rug and keep it hidden. They position themselves over the rug and stand firm upon it, refusing to let anyone look under it, and they demand that others simply trust them to handle it alone. Yet they are not handling it properly, that is why the brethren come to seek reconciliation.

Two things may occur from the proper use of Matthew 18. Either the person will humble themselves and come into subjection to Christ, or they will let pride empower them to keep refusing that humility. If they come into the humble place where Christ is calling them, they can receive forgiveness and get help, then reconciliation will take place. Keep in mind however, that there may be consequences which must take place in order for the person to make amends. Those who don't want to suffer consequences for their sin will keep hiding and eventually walk away on their own. I really don't believe the brethren will need to tell the person to leave. If our hearts are supposed to seek reconciliation with Christ our Lord then whoever is opposing Him will walk away because they will be refusing to submit to Christ.

Make sure you understand that this teaching is NOT about forcing man to come into subjection to man. When you abuse this teaching from Christ our Lord to bring about that kind of agenda, you have made yourself into a god. The ultimate purpose is to have us all in subjection to Christ our Lord.

I will give you two examples of what I have seen dealing with Matthew 18. I have seen it abused when a Believer comes to a leader to speak to them about the leader's error. The leader tells them to stay out of it and they refuse to submit to Christ. The Believer loves the person and sees the person continually leading wrongly and they keep trying to show him his error. He continues to refuse. So the Believer tries to find someone to go with them. (verse 16)

It is practically impossible to find someone willing to do that, but if they do manage to find someone who will listen and, together, they try to show the leader his error, he tries to convince them both that it is not their place to confront him and that only God can tell a leader he is wrong and they should just trust him, as the leader, to make the right decisions. He'll then stand before the congregation and teach the people that there are gossipers in the midst causing division with the leadership. He'll tell them that those who do so are cursed and will suffer consequences if they partake in their efforts to "divide leadership". He has now made it next to impossible for them to now follow verse 17 in bringing it to the church, but they must. Christ has told us we must come before the entire assembly.

Here is where Believers would be wise to fast and pray about when to do this. They must stand firm and speak up. They must blow the trumpet and warn the people. If they do not, then they have missed their opportunity to free the sheep. Even if the leader still refuses to repent and submit to Christ, you have at least warned the people. They are then free to make their own choices. Sometimes an entire group can see a miracle take place and the entire fold submit to Christ and everyone repent, but most times you will see church splits over this. If the majority of the church is loyal to a man instead of loyal to Christ then you will need to decide whether you want to remain in that kind of situation or walk away and find safety in Christ. Either way, there are consequences to sin. A person who has been leading God's people astray and teaching them to submit to them rather than to Christ, must be removed from their position of leadership. (I'm not talking about a nation's government, but rather a spiritual assembly)

Just as in a situation where a husband is abusing his wife and children, there must be consequences. Someone needs to remove that man from that home in order for the family to be safe until he gets help. Not all spiritual leaders will be restored to leading God's people. For example, a leader who molests children or cheats on his wife with another lady in the church. It's difficult to list all the reasons why a leader should never be a leader again, but the local assembly needs to make that decision. Even though this shows you the aspect of Matthew 18 in regards to a person in leadership, it is applicable to anyone who is a Believer.

I personally feel that any religious organization that has its assembly set up with one prominent leader is twisted and that's why applying Matthew 18 is so difficult. When we are all equal, as a team, functioning as Christ intended for us to, then applying Matthew 18 will not be so difficult and the strongholds would not be able to grab so tight of those in leadership positions.

The best example of the correct use of Matthew 18 was when I saw it happen in a local ministry. A person was in error and one believer went to the them with their concern. The person said they were sorry, but continued in error. So the one believer got two more to go with her. Through much prayer, they agreed that they needed to see the person in error  submit to Christ. They went to her together, but she refused to listen. It was then taken to the larger assembly, where several people showed her love and acceptance of her, but not her sin. She submitted to Christ. The entire group prayed over her and embraced her. It wasn't about getting her to submit to them personally, but all together in Christ. She later came into error again and the group kept applying Matthew 18 each time. Each time she submitted and forgiveness was given. Consequences did accompany discipline, but it was done in love.

The last time she was in error, the group came to her again, seeking for all to be subject to Christ our Lord and she decided on her own that she wanted to depart. She did not want to submit to Christ. She is now in jail. The group did what they could to help her come to Christ, but she refused. No one had to tell her to depart from them, because their ultimate goal was to seek reconciliation to Christ. Christ's way is never to cast away a believer who is in error. It is always to reconcile. He is always interceding on our behalf to bring us unto Himself. In the final day there will be judgment for those who continually rejected Him, but while we are still here on earth, I believe it is always His heart's desire to see reconciliation among His children. But reconciliation must be under Christ our Lord. He is the Head of the Body. He is the Bridegroom for the Bride. It is never about making the Bride submit to the hand, or the arm.

In the next portion of this series we will look at what He teaches us to do if the person continues to sin over and over again. Peter asked, "How many times should we keep forgiving a person?"

Sisterlisa is a homeschooling mom of four children and married to a ministry leader of a Rescue mission. She is the owner of Growing in Grace Magazine and AGMinistries.


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{ Provender } at: October 29, 2009 at 4:23 AM said...

Much wisdom here. Our church was brought to nothing when our pastor ran from the elders trying to gently apply Matt. 18. At one point, he literally ran out the door in order to avoid meeting. And, yes, there was the preaching against "gossip" to avoid any possibility of dealing with sin. After 2 years, only two regularly attending families there when the man came were left. Very sad.

{ Sisterlisa } at: October 29, 2009 at 7:27 AM said...

Each time I see a group of members approach a pastor in our town, he refuses. He always loses church members over it, but he never allows the rest of the church to know about it. The church has lost some of the greatest Believers from that congregation.

{ Dana } at: October 29, 2009 at 7:50 AM said...

As a ministry leader in my church, I have had to apply Matt.18 several times. It is always hard to do, but required & the ministry always benefits from it.

However, my in-laws are dealing with a pastor right now that refuses to listen to counsel. All elders & deacons have left, only a few of the members are left including my in-laws and not because they want to be there, but the Lord has not told them to leave yet. It is so sad.

{ Sisterlisa } at: October 29, 2009 at 7:54 AM said...

Dana, I understand about them staying. God may have a purpose for them yet.

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