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Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 1
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 2
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 3
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 4
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 5
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 6

 

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Ministry of Reconciliation

 

Part VI

 

In Review

 

“We’ve been going through a series of sermons, this will be number six, the final sermon, and when we get done with it you’ll know that we had lots more to cover.  But the final sermon is on the series of reconciliation.  As we’ve gone through this, the study of this, and we have not by any means exhausted it.  In fact when we end today, we will have many, many more questions of how this applies, not just in our personal sense, but in our communal sense.  But we realize that without being reconciled to God personally, if each of us is not reconciled to God personally, then nothing else really matters, that of personally being reconciled to God through Christ.  And so that was the first two in the sermon series, how that happens, how that takes place.  And we talked about how we must do that with each other, personally, as members of the family of God.  We must see each other as brothers and sisters, and that we have a command to reconcile.  And we went through what that means to be the person who is offended, and how there’s actually more in the Bible about the person whose offended or instructions because, more people have been destroyed spiritually by being offended by something [someone] and becoming bitter, than even just going out and committing a sin.  And so there’s a lot of instructions to people who have been offended or sinned against.  Now there’s two different things, you can be offended, you can be sinned against, they can be two totally different things.  Sometimes we can be offended, and it’s our own fault.  Sometimes we’re actually sinning against a person who did something terrible against us or to us.  Then we went through what it is to repent, and how we must repent when we have sinned against someone, and how we are required to repent before God, and we are required to repent and confess to that other person.  This is one of the most ignored aspects of marriage, of a good marriage---is a willingness to confess when we’ve hurt the other person, or somehow mistreated the other person.  We actually don’t confess, ‘I did this wrong, I hurt you, and what I did was wrong, and here’s what I did that was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.’  Well these are the fundamental keys to marriage that we don’t understand.  You know, reconciliation goes into marriage, we didn’t even go into that part, how reconciliation between a husband and wife as Christians is a primary command in the Scripture.  Especially when we realize in the very beginning, marriage was one of the first things created by God when it comes to human beings.  And so this whole concept of reconciliation, how this takes place, enters into every aspect of our lives.  Now what we talked about last time, is we began to look at Matthew 18.  And then we began to look at the communal aspects of reconciliation.  Now, when I say the communal aspects, we have to understand now that reconciliation becomes part of what a church is, what a community is, what a group of called-out people, what they are.  Because anytime you put a group of people together, even with God’s Spirit, they will offend each other, they will hurt each other, they will be offended, they will even sin against each other.  Because unless you have perfect people, it’s going to happen.  So since that’s a reality, then we get down into, OK, let’s talk about the communal aspects of reconciliation.  How does a community, how do members of a community reconcile with each other?  And we went through that there were three stages that are mentioned in the Scripture.  So let’s go to Matthew 18, where we left off last time, Matthew 18.  So we have to understand that offenses will happen.  Remember Matthew 18 has to do with Christians in relationship with each other.  Because he picks up a little child, and he said, ‘Unless you become like this little child,’ and the rest of Matthew 18 talks about ‘when children offend children, when children misuse children,’ he’s talking about his family, God’s family.  When this happens, how do they deal with it?  And so we went through all the instructions that talk about the offender, and the gravity of what it is to sin against a fellow Christian, and God’s viewpoint of protecting and looking out for each other, and going after the one lost sheep.  And then we got to this verse 15, where Jesus now explains, here’s the three stages of reconciliation.  He says, “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 they brother.”  First step.  Now this is huge, because to really do that, we have to go through all that we talked about in the first four other sermons.  Before you go to your brother you have to go and make sure you are reconciled to God personally, through Christ.  You have to understand your own corrupted human nature.  You have to understand that you are a sinner, which puts the other person in a totally different light.  You know, if I am the righteous, and you are the sinner, you approach the person one way.  If you don’t understand, and don’t come to grips with your own corrupt human nature, you approach the other person with a totally different viewpoint.  And so we have to do all four of those, and since we have to study what that means, we are supposed to pray for the other person, we’re supposed to make sure our attitude is right, we’re supposed to approach the other person with an attitude of wanting to reconcile, not an attitude of wanting to punish.  We have to pick the time and place carefully, we must listen to the person that we’re going to, to understand their viewpoint.  That’s hard when you’re hurt, isn’t it?---to go listen and say, ‘Let me hear your viewpoint.  Let me understand where you’re coming from.’  We must go to that person with a desire to restore relationship, not just a desire for justice, but a desire to restore relationship.  Now as I said, when we get to this first step, he didn’t say we just have to do it once and never have to do it again and again and again.  Many times you keep going back to that person.  You keep going back to this person who has sinned against you, and say ‘Look, we need to talk,’ until the person says, ‘That’s it, you’re wrong, I’m right.’  Then you have a couple of choices.  One is to say, ‘OK, I will pray about this, intercede for you, and I will just let it go.’  We talk about there’s time to just let sin go.  If another person sinned, if they won’t listen to you, there’s a time to say, ‘OK, that’s between you and God.’  There’s a time to do that.  We showed in the Scripture there’s a time to do that.  I mean, even when the apostles or the disciples talked to Jesus about certain people.  He said, ‘Look, there’s always going to be tares among the wheat.’  So even Jesus said, ‘Look, even in the Church there’s going to be people who don’t get it.’  And sometimes you leave them alone, that’s what he said.  Sometimes you leave the tares there, you leave it alone.  Because you damage wheat if you tear them out.  He will sort it out.  [Comment:  Here’s a situation I learned of, where God actually called a person by means of a person who held real heretical beliefs, and this person also attended the same church.  To root out this tare God actually used to call this other person would uproot this other person and their entire family as well from the church where they attend.  It was best to leave that situation alone, and walk away.]  There are times you say ‘OK, God, you will have to sort this out,’ and you step back.  There’s other times you say, ‘No, this can’t be fixed that way.  This sin did mean something else,’ so then you take it to step number two.  Now we’re into community.  We’ve moved beyond personal.  We’ve moved into community.  So now reconciliation becomes an issue of how the community interacts with itself.  Verse 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 remember verse 15, I went to the Old Testament and showed that that was a law in the Old Testament.  Verse 16, I went to the Old Testament and showed that’s a law in the Old Testament, Jesus pulling right out of the teachings of the Old Testament to make his point, but expounding it into the Church.  Whereas he’s taking these communal ways of dealing with things that existed in Israel, and saying ‘OK, these now, how do we apply these same principles in the Church?’  And remember I said, witnesses are very important.  Now a witness can be someone who also witnessed what happened.  The witness can’t be your best friend who is mad and says ‘Let’s go talk to that person so we can both beat them up,’  OK?  That’s not a witness.  A witness has to be somebody that either saw what happened, or with the one example I gave, OK, you have a young woman, she dates a Christian young man, and he makes wrong advances towards her.  In other words, there’s nobody there to witness that.  But she thinks about it and says, ‘You know, as my brother I need to go and tell him that was wrong.’  Well in that case she can go to see an older man in the Church that she respects, and talk to him.  And then the older man with her, sits down and says, ‘This is what she says.  I want to hear your side of the story.’  See, there are cases in this second step that any one of us can be the three parties involved.  We can the person who is offended, we can be the person who committed sin, and we can be the witness.  So in a community, and we probably in life can be all three of them.  If we do this properly, sometime in life, if you’re in a church long enough, a community long enough, you’re going to be all three of these things.  You’re going to be the person that’s saying, ‘I need to go to you, you’ve sinned against me, and I’ve brought a witness,’ or you’re going to be the witness, or you’re going to be the person who committed the sin.  This is messy stuff, and it’s easier not to do this, by the way.  It’s easier when you’re offended to simply leave the community.  [I’ve had to do that several times, so that wheat would not be uprooted.]  Or, to stay in the community, and despise the other person, because we don’t like the work that is involved, it’s a bit of a long one, it’s a hard one, and it destroys us, it literally destroys us [by not taking action, and just letting that offense fester in your mind].  But it is, in the short run, the easy way to do it.  It won’t work, because it’s not godly, it’s not God’s way.  And so you go and take the witness.  You have to pick those witnesses very carefully, because remember, under the Law of God you could not convict somebody on the word of one person, it had to be two or three.  So that happens.  Now, the great majority of the time, the great majority of the time, if we do this right, it’ll never go beyond that point.  The overall majority of the time it will never go beyond that point.  Because it’s either fixed the first time.  But this gets real messy too.  I’ve seen people go, get an apology and confession from somebody, and it seems fine.  And then, later they think about it and get mad again.  So they want to go back in and get a second confession, and a third confession, and a fourth confession.  And then pretty soon, the person who originally did wrong is now the person whose being wronged, because they’re constantly being attacked, so that person says, ‘I’ve got to come to you because you’re sinning against me, because you keep driving confessions out of me, I’ve already given you forty-eight, what more do you want?’  This is how messy this gets. [That situation more than likely will occur when a person who is unconverted within the congregation tries to apply these principles, a tare within the wheat.  And realize, a tare does not realize he or she is a tare.  At that point, it may be time to consult the pastor over the situation.]  But if we have the right attitude, we repent, we confess, we repent, and we forgive. When all those things come together [properly], what happens?  We’re restored, the relationship is restored.  Over time trust is built up again, and the people continue to act as brothers and sisters.  Now I grew up with two little sisters, and there were times we fought all the time.  But we were still brother and sisters.  Right?  You couldn’t separate that.  We must come in the Church to a point where the spiritual bonds between us are so strong that we cannot be separated.  And we will try constantly to reconcile, until we cannot, the person will not let us.

 

Ministry of Reconciliation: Stage III

 

Now when we do those first two then, we come to number three.  And that is, verse 17, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto church:  but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”  Now you can do the second step numerous times also.  Just like you can do the first step numerous times.  But if it reaches a point where the sin continues, ok, the girl, she took this young man, he took her out, he made wrong advances.  She says, as a brother in the church, he shouldn’t do that.  She goes to him, he won’t listen.  She goes a second time, he won’t listen.  She prays about it, she worries about it, so she finally gets an older man.  He goes.  He won’t listen to her or the older man.  So she goes and gets one of the women in the church whose been through a similar thing.  She goes and gets the man’s father, maybe.  And they all sit down, and he won’t listen.  And then you find out he’s starting to do that with other women in the church.  At that point something’s happened.  The private sin between these two individuals has now become a community sin.  Once you start involving other people, this is the great problem by the way with gossip.  When we gossip about other people’s sins, we now begin to make the sins community sins.  We’ve gone beyond the point of a private matter between brother and sister, and we move it into the realm of “take it to the Church.”  So he says, ‘If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church, but if he refuses to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.’  In other words, when the sin has become so grievous between these two individuals, and now it’s involved other people, it’s now become a community matter.  Because once you take witnesses, you’ve now involved the community.  Right?  When it’s between you and your brother, you haven’t involved the community.  Once you start bringing witnesses in, you’ve involved the [church] community.  If the person keeps perpetrating the sin over and over again, or the person now does it to other people, now we’re required to take it to the Church.  But what does it mean to take it to the Church?  Actually, when see how the Bible tells us to do this, just like all other aspects of reconciliation, we have not done this very well.  We have not done it the way we’re supposed to.  Now as we’ve been going through the reconciliation series, we posted it on the Internet, I’m amazed how many emails I get from all over the country, well, all over the world, I’ve been getting them from different countries, saying, ‘I somehow knew this, but I didn’t know.  And so I really didn’t do it.’  Over and over we read, ‘I somehow got it, but I didn’t get all of it, so we really didn’t live as if we were reconciled to God, which means we didn’t know the depths of reconciliation with God.  So we haven’t lived like we were reconciled to God.’  When we go through this today, and we’re just going to scratch the surface of it, you’re going to see we haven’t done this very well either. 

 

How Was Stage III Handled In The Old Testament?

 

Now, just like the first two of these stages that Jesus says, we found that they come right out of the Old Testament.  What was the third stage, how is that handled in the Old Testament?  Let’s go to Exodus 18, we could actually begin before this.  But I find this interesting, because of a short-sightedness that Moses had.  And because of that, what happened?  Exodus 18, now Moses was an incredibly wise man, but you also see, like every other human being, he had his times where he was short-sighted, made a bad decision, didn’t understand something, lost his temper [which was one of his over-all spiritual weaknesses from the beginning].  Exodus 18, verse 12, “And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God:  and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God.”  Now the elders of Israel, they had a tribal system, and there were two sets of elders, or two types of elders.  At this point there’s only one, there will eventually be two.  There are these tribal elders, tribal elders were the leaders of the tribe.  You know, elder means older, because to be a tribal elder you had to have lived long enough to earn the right to be a tribal elder.  It’s not something you just generally brought a lot of teenage boys or young men into.  [Comment: That’s why the qualifications for what the King James calls a bishop, which really meant

a pastor, in 1st Timothy 3:1-7 said in verse 6, “not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride…”.  Not a novice means not being young in the faith, having spent some “time in service”, which meant you had to be a bit older to be considered for the position of being a pastor.  That was the standard for choosing pastors in the early NT churches of God, spelled out by Paul in 1st Timothy.  We haven’t always done that in the past, in the selection or training of our ministers, pastors, and we’ve paid dearly as a direct result.]  They had to have lived long enough to be a tribal elder.  And the tribe had elders, and they came from the prominent families of the tribe, and when we get into Gideon this afternoon, you’ll see one of his arguments with God was, ‘You can’t pick me to lead, I’m not of a prominent family.  My family aren’t from the elders of the tribe, you can’t pick me to do this.’  So, you had these tribal elders. But Moses had been given the Law.  So what did Moses conclude?  It was his job to judge from the Law, which was true.  But he came to the conclusion, it was only his job to judge the Law.  Can you imagine being the only judge for an estimated anywhere from one and a half to three million people?  So he figures, ‘I’m the judge.  God gave me the Law.’  The elders were used for judging tribal matters in accordance with what they understood of the Law of God, and what they understood as tribal traditions.  But Moses had the Law.  So notice what it says in verses 13-19, “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people:  and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.  And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people?  why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?”  All day long, that’s all he did, long lines of people, hundreds, maybe thousands.  And the next day guess what it was like?  And the next day, guess what it was like?  “And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:  when they have a matter they come to me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.” (verses 15-16)  So in other words,  ‘When there’s conflict, they come, and I judge between their conflicts.  And I make known the statures of God and his laws.  So I look at their conflicts, and I say, here’s how you apply the law to the conflicts.’  And that’s what he was doing, from morning to night, every day but the Sabbath.  That’s all he did. 

 

Jethro Gives Moses Three Essential Keys For Reconciliation, 1) You Be Reconciled To God For The People 2) Teach The People God’s Laws, 3) Set Up A Judicial System of Elders and Judges

 

“And Moses father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.  Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.  Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee:” and he gives him three things to do.  And what you find is from this point on, this is central to how, in the Old Testament, issues are dealt with in a communal sense.  Not an individual sense, because we’re told individually, if you have something against your brother you go to him [Leviticus 19:17].  Right?  We can’t make an accusation without two or three witnesses. 1.) He says, ‘Stand before God for the people, that you may bring the difficulties to God.’  He said, ‘The first thing, Moses, is you’ve got to be spending more time before God asking for God’s help.’  Now remember we’ve already talked about intercession as part of what it is to reconcile.  So the first thing he tells him is ‘You need to be spending more time being reconciled to God, interceding for these people before God, bringing the problems before God, and getting God’s help.  That’s the first thing you should do.’  This is great advice. 2.) ‘Then the second thing you should do,’ is verse 20, and this seems so obvious, you would have thought Moses would have thought of it.  OK?  “And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.”  So he says, ‘Secondly, why don’t you just teach everybody the laws?  Then they’ll do it, the work they must do.   If you teach them the laws, then you don’t have to be making all these judgments all the time, they will judge by the Law, ‘Oh I can’t do this, I can’t move my neighbours marker, because the Law says I can’t move my neighbour’s marker, on his land.’  So he said, ‘Teach it to them, so they learn how to apply the Law.  And you know what?  They won’t be coming to you that often.  They’ll be doing it themselves.’  Now that seems so obvious, you wonder why Moses didn’t get it.  But somehow he thought, ‘OK, I have the Law, I can judge everything.’  Jethro said, ‘No, teach them to do them.  Go to God, intercede with God, get God’s direction, then spend more of your time teaching them God’s way so that they live it, so they apply it themselves.’  3.) And then verse 21 he says, “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.  And let them judge the people at all seasons:  and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge:  so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.” (verses 21-22)  He said, ‘What you need is a court system to handle all the lesser issues.’  Because it says, ‘they judge the people at all times.’  He said, ‘You can’t do it this way, all by yourself.’  And you know, it goes on, and that’s exactly how Moses set it up.  And so what he did, was he said, ‘OK, I have to spend more time with God, interceding, learning, standing before God, getting his answers.  And then I have to spend my time teaching, so the people will learn God’s way, apply it themselves,’ instead of having him as their judge over them all the time, ‘And third, I have to have judges that handle all these littler matters that come along.’  And so what you see in the course of Israel, is that when they got into the Promised Land, you had three different court systems in the Promised Land.  You had what are called “elders in the city.”  Sometimes they’re called “elders at the gates.”  And these elders, and you look, there’s a lot of things they did, some were administrators, occasionally there’s one or two of them in the mix who would be military men.  But they ruled over the city.  They also comprised judges.  So there’s elders in the cities, and they are to judge issues.  Then there’s the tribal elders.  And they’re to judge issues.  And then there was the Levitical Priesthood that was supposed to assist in all this.  And when a matter couldn’t get resolved, it was like an appellate court system, it eventually got to the Levitical Priesthood, and, during the time of Judges, the Judge.  Now remember as we’re going through the Book of Judges, what’s so interesting about the government that God gave Israel in the time of Judges, is that there is no legislature.  They already have all the laws they need.  They made no more laws.  What you have is a judicial system, you have a judicial system of which people, everybody, you know, this was so different than ancient times where the king was the law.  OK, the monarch was the law.  Everybody [in Israel] was supposed to learn the Law, everybody was supposed to learn it and apply it.  When there was a problem, you went to the nearest city.  It’s very interesting, there’s one place in the Bible where, say someone is killed in the country.  Who investigates the murder?  You actually had to measure off to where the nearest city was, so you could go to the elders of that city to have them investigate the murder.  If they couldn’t figure it out, it went up, in the time of Judges it eventually came to The Judge.  OK?  Finally there was this one last appeal.  And at this level the Judge looked at the Law of God, and said, ‘this is what we’re supposed to do.’  And you had good judges and bad judges.  Now I’m not sure I would have wanted Samson making a final decision, he wasn’t necessarily the most, you know, wisest.  But he was a judge, for a long time, for decades he was the Judge.  Look at Deuteronomy 17.  So what we look at in the Old Testament, before there was a king, what we have basically is a judicial system.  God is their King, and you have a system by which God’s Law is learned by everybody, and a system of courts. 

 

When Conflict Resolution Reached Stage III In The Old Testament

 

Verse 8 of Deuteronomy 17 says, “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates:  then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; and thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:”  and he says, ‘You’ve got a legal matter you can’t fix with the Law of God, you can’t figure out how to apply it, or you’ve got a controversy you can’t fix.’  You’ve got two people in conflict, and you can’t figure out the law that fixes that.  “then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose; and thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:”, and this is how we established what became known as the time of the Judges.  “…and  enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment…”  Now he also says, basically he gives them a warning about doing that.  Because he says when you do that, you must do what they tell you.  If you work up to that level, you have to do what they tell you.  And if you don’t, you could be put to death.  So it’s a whole lot better to learn the Law and solve it with your neighbour.  Or a whole lot better to solve it at the gates of the city with the elders.  Or a whole lot better to solve it with tribal elders.  It was a whole lot better to work it out, before you ever got to this point.  But he said, if you can’t, then that’s where you go, and that’s how you solve it.  Deuteronomy 19, I’ll just show you a couple places of the instructions that were given.  Because in Deuteronomy 19 the elders were actually the ones who would initiate the death penalty.  Deuteronomy 19, verse 11, “But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities [of refuge]: then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.”  Now you have to understand something about this level of judicial sentencing.  Judicial sentencing at this level, or even at the level of the local city, involved the entire community.  The elders would sit in judgment.  But when they pronounced the death penalty, the witnesses had to throw the first stones.  And then everybody in the city, every adult male threw a stone.  It was bloody, and ugly, and everybody participated.  You wanted to be real careful about dragging your neighbour before the judges when it had to do with a death penalty issue.  Because you had to help kill your neighbour.  So, the whole point is, everybody better be real careful about what you accuse somebody of.  Because you see, that’s why throughout, throughout the Torah, bearing false witness is condemned over and over and over and over again.  Slander, publicly slandering somebody is condemned as a grave sin against society.  Why?  Because if it’s brought before the judges, and you’ve condemned somebody to death, and only to find out that they didn’t do it, or that you were lying.  Guess what happened to you?  So this is very serious, this communal aspect of a certain level of judgment.  Now remember, this was only the very most serious things that ever got there.  But there was something else that got to the gates of the city.  Not just the serious sins, that were communal.  If you committed a sin against God that was not communal, you went and offered a sacrifice.  Right?  There’s no need for the judges to condemn you.  If you committed a private sin, and you offered a sacrifice between you and God, that’s all there was.  When community sins had taken place, someone killed somebody, someone just stole against somebody in the community, someone kidnapped somebody, these were community-level sins in which the community was involved.  Then they went to the elders of the city.  And the elders of the city would judge, in accordance with the Law of God, in which everybody was supposed to know.  Once again, that’s what makes it so different than any ancient system of law.  We owe a lot in our system of law to this, the way this was.  Deuteronomy 21, Deuteronomy 21, verse 1, well I won’t read this.  This is where if someone was murdered outside in the country, and they’d measure off and find out where the nearest city was, and then they had to bring in the priest.  Because the priests were always the highest court.  So the priests had to figure out which set of elders they had to go to, notice verses 5-6, “And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:  and all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer,,,”  In other words, if the leaders of the city said ‘There’s no way we can figure out who committed this murder,’ the Levites had to come, do a sacrifice to God, and sanctify the elders, that they couldn’t make a judgment.  That’s how serious it was not to be able to make a judgment in this issue.  Of course we’re talking about murder.  The Levites had to come and sanctify those elders from not being able to make a judgment.  So it’s a fascinating system that much of the U.S. system of courts, as inefficient as it is, there’s a lot of elements that come from it, there’s a lot.  [As well as English jurisprudence]  There’s a lot that don’t, but there are a lot of elements that do.  You know, the difference is they had 613 laws, most of them were laws that no one was ever brought before an elder for, or the council of elders, as they were called.  But in our country, we have literally hundreds of thousands of laws, conflicting laws, stupid laws.  Right?  But the idea that the system was rigged to try to make sure a person who was not guilty wasn’t punished, that decisions were made in a communal sense.  It’s where we get the idea, part of the idea for a jury. 

 

An Example Of How This Communal Elder-Judge System Worked

 

Now, we actually have a case where we can see in the Bible where this is done.  In Deuteronomy chapter 25, and I won’t read it.  But there’s a law that states, now this is a communal law, this is the law, there’s plenty of laws in the Old Testament that say when you do something wrong, here’s what you’re supposed to do.  You’re supposed to take a sacrifice and go to the Tabernacle.  It’s between you and God.  Most of the laws are that way.  But in these communal laws, it says, ‘OK, here’s what you must do,’ and there are times when it says, ‘You must go to the elders of the gate, the elders of the city, and they must decide this,’ or, at times it said, ‘You now make a contract with each other.’  And one of the laws states, ‘that if a man dies, and his widow has no children, that then his brother has to marry her, and give her a child.’  Because the property stays with her.  All of the wealth and everything of that man’s stays with her, and that son.  Now what’s interesting of course, is if the brother didn’t want to do it, she got to spit in his face publicly.  If the brother said ‘No I don’t want to do this,’ she got to spit in his face, because ‘You’re not doing what the law says you’re to do.’  It’s actually part of the instructions.  All the elders gather around, and she’s to spit in the man’s face.  Then what happened was, ‘OK, whose the next of kin that will marry her?’  So that you finally got a man who would marry her, give her a child, and so the wealth of her husband would stay with her and her family, and she would have an heir.  She would have someone to pass it on to.  She’d become sort of a matriarch of that family until she could pass it on to her son.  Now, once again that seems strange to us, but we don’t come from patriarchal society.  We always assume what we do is better.  Don’t we?  We always assume what we do is better.  Well.  So what happens, is we have Boaz.  Boaz wants to marry Ruth, and he’s really excited when he finds out, of course you know, she’s a widow with no child.  And she’s a very young woman, very beautiful, very smart, very loyal, a woman of character, and he says ‘Wow!  I’ve been waiting all my life for a woman like this,’ because he’s an older man.  And, he finds out, that they’re actually distant relatives, so that by the law he has to marry her.  Man, this gets better all the time.  Right?  And then he finds out there’s another person between them, there’s another relative that’s closer to her.  So let’s go to Ruth chapter 4, and I’ll show you how he fixes it.  Did he just fix it himself?  No, because this was a communal issue.  The passing on of the land was a community issue, was a tribal issue.  And because it was a community issue, it had to be handled in the community sense, in the communal sense.  Ruth 4:1, “Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there:  and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one!  turn aside, sit down here.  And he turned aside, and sat down. So he sets this all up.  Now they would hold court at the gate of the city.  Which means anybody could come watch what was going on.  And verse 2 now, “And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here.  And they sat down.”  So Boaz went, there’s the elders of the city.  And he said, ‘I’m gong to need a jury here, a judge and jury.’  And ten elders say, ‘OK, we’ll be your judge and jury.’  And he waits until the relative comes by.  And the other guy says, ‘This is the law, you’ve got to marry her.’  And he says, ‘I don’t want to marry her.’  He says, ‘It’ll mess up my inheritance.’  He says to Boaz, ‘Well you’ll have to redeem her,’ and Boaz says, ‘Well, OK, I’ll marry her.’  But it’s interesting, because then you get down to verse 11, and it says, “And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel:  and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem.”  And so all the elders, and there’s actually people watching this ceremony take place.  And they all say ‘Wow!  You are a very wonderful man, and you’re obeying the law, you’re doing what’s right, she’s a wonderful girl, you’re going to have a great life, and we hope you have a blessing, that you’ll live a blessed life.’  But he’s applying the law, he goes to the city gates, just like he’s told, there’s this communal thing, and the law is applied.  Now, it’s interesting in the Book of Ezra when he calls all the elders of the city together, he says, all the elders and the judges.  Not every elder was a judge, you’ll find that, but that’s where the judges came from, they came from among the elders of the city, and they would judge these matters.  Boaz had to know the Law for this to happen.  They had to be educated.  That’s what Moses learned from Jethro.  ‘You’re supposed to stand between them and God, then you’re supposed to teach them what God says.  Then you set up other judges,’ and so the system worked.  Well, it worked as good as any system does with imperfect human beings.  I have to tell you something, something we all have to come to grips with.  God’s way, on earth, has never worked since Adam and Eve.  And what we come to the conclusion is, ‘God’s way doesn’t work.’  No, we don’t work.  God’s way works just fine.  We’re the ones who are messed up.  So God’s way has never worked perfectly, ever.  And until Christ comes back, well even then, it doesn’t work perfectly.  At the end of the 1,000 years what happens?  Gog and Magog revolt against Jesus Christ.  That’s hard to believe.  No, that’s what happens with human nature.  It only works perfectly when everybody’s changed, when everybody’s changed and the Kingdom is given to the Father, where it says Christ gives the Kingdom to the Father, here’s the family, then it works perfectly.  But as long as there’s human beings, it never works perfectly.  Judges never worked perfectly, the whole system began to fall apart.  Not because there was something wrong with it, it was because there was something wrong with the people, which it even says in the Book of Judges.  By the time of the New Testament all the synagogues had a council of elders.  And guess what their job was?  To administrate the organization of the synagogue to teach the people, and to judge matters of sin, but also issues between the people, the conflicts between the people.  They were to reconcile the people when there was conflict. 

 

 

The Early New Testament Church Follows The Old Testament Judicial Pattern

 

That was part of what they were supposed to do.  But when we go and find in the New Testament, we find something that immediately happens.  And here’s where in our culture, we have failed in some ways.  We have not done certain things.  We did this, but we didn’t do entirely what we were supposed to do.  What they did, was from the minute they moved out from Jerusalem, well no, actually in Jerusalem, you see that from the very beginning, they were getting elders.  Every place they set up a church they ordained elders.  It was the same pattern that we find [cf. 1st Timothy 3:1-7].  And what did they do?  They administered the church there, they taught the people God’s way, and they were supposed to reconcile people.  And that’s what we haven’t done.  As elders we haven’t always reconciled people.  It’s a whole lot easier to administrate, and it’s a whole lot easier to teach.  Reconciling people, that’s tough.  And we haven’t always done that.  Now they didn’t always in the New Testament either.  The reason I say that, read 1st and 2nd Corinthians.  In fact, the elders aren’t even mentioned.  That church is in such a mess it’s amazing, elders are not even mentioned.  But we [as elders] were supposed to, we are supposed to be reconciled to God, help you become reconciled to God, be reconciled to you, and help you reconcile to each other.  That’s part of what we’re supposed to do.  It’s what the Old Testament elders did, it’s what the New Testament elders did, it’s why they ordained them every place they went.  They ordained them to do those things.  And we haven’t always been good at doing that last one.  I mean, I’ve received lots of training as a minister in administration.  I have received all kinds of training in counseling people with sins.  I have received all kinds of training on how to teach.  I have received all kinds of training on how to preach.  I have never yet received one class on how to reconcile people.  And that is part of what we are supposed to do.  That’s what Matthew 18 is all about.  It’s a communal event. 

 

Stage III of Matthew 18

 

Now when we go back to Matthew 18, let’s go there.  Matthew 18:17,  “And if he 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.”  Now, the first step of that would be in going to the elders.  But there are times when that goes beyond the elders.  Because it says here, ‘but if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.’  Now I want you to remember something about Matthew 18.  This is dealing with conflict between two people, in the church, in which one has sinned against the other.  The reason I say that, you know, if someone comes to me as a pastor or one of the other elders and says ‘I need to talk to you,’ and the person sits down and says, ‘You know, I’ve never told anybody this, but I have a drinking problem.’  We’re not going to get up and tell the entire congregation.  It’s a private sin.  What we’re going to do is help you be reconciled to God, and overcome the sin.  But that’s a private sin, just like in the Old Testament.  Those were private sins.  So private sins aren’t brought before the [church] community.  The problem we have is, what are we supposed to do with community sins?  And we’ve never, ever, done this right.  In fact, I’m not even sure how to do it, if you want to know the truth.  Because community sins are in some cases to be dealt with in a community sense, at least if we follow what the Scripture says.  And how are we supposed to do that?  If we think of Boaz and Ruth there, it was a community issue, it was involved in a community sense.  Is there a time when an issue would be brought to the entire church?  Yes.  What would those things involve?  There’s only two cases that it’s directly mentioned in the New Testament, and neither of them have to do with a conflict between people.  But remember, if someone comes and says, ‘Hey, so and so are having an argument over this,’ you know, and most the time it’s two minutes or five minutes of instructions and they go fix it themselves.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about conflict that affects the [church] community, that actually begins to damage people.  I’ve seen husbands and wives do that, I’ve seen husbands and wives damage a congregation, by involving all their friends back and forth, until there’s two sides of the congregation, half sitting over here because they support the husband, and half sitting over there because they support the wife.  Now that’s become a communal problem.  There are communal problems, and we’re not very good at dealing with communal problems.  Now, when someone comes to me with many issues, I do not, most of you know this, and maybe you’ve come with me over the years, where I do not deal with that situation without talking to other elders.  Many times I bring another elder with me.  Many times I’ll say, ‘I want you to go talk to this elder or that elder too.’  I’ve had some of you talk to elders that aren’t even elders in this church, because I’ve needed that person’s expertise, before ever making some kind of group decision over the issue.  But even that’s not exactly how it was done, as we see in the Old Testament, when there were certain things that were just brought before the elders of the community, and everybody came and watched it.  Now remember, there had to be very specific issues, OK.  It’s not everything.  But they are very specific issues.  We only have a couple instances in the New Testament where that’s talked about.  One is in 1st Timothy chapter 5.  And I’ve started to wonder why, as I think through this, like I said, I don’t even, I wouldn’t even pretend how to do some of these things.  But I do realize why it’s important.  A community sin, remember, reconciliation requires something.  What does reconciliation require on the part of the person who committed the sin?  They were required to confess.  Right?  Repent and confess.  Without confession, relationship just, unless the person is just totally forgiving and says ‘I don’t need a confession,’ but even God requires confession.  So confession.  If we have a community sin, and Matthew 18 is put in place, and the person is removed from the [church] community until they repent, and they come back, how do they repent to the community?  You know, a person can be put out of the church for a legitimate reason, but never really accepted back, Well, I don’t accept that person back.’   Of course if they made a confession, and you didn’t accept them back, then you would be the person sinning.  You see what happens now? 

 

Why Don’t We Understand Stage III Of Matthew 18?

 

We don’t think this way because we come from a Protestant world that has two issues, one, we don’t believe in giving elders authority, and two, we don’t believe in community.  What we believe in is individual faith.  With the Bible it’s both.  It’s individual worship, and it’s community worship, and the two things come together.  It’s both.  One of the reasons why the Protestant Reformation happened is because they said the Catholic Church was nothing but a controlling community.  So what did they create?  ‘My personal faith alone.’  Right?  ‘That’s all this is.’  No it’s not.  They were both wrong.  The truth is, we all have a personal relationship with God, our salvation is dependent on that.  But if he’s creating a group of called out ones to become his family, then we come together in the communal sense, and there’s all these instructions on what to do communally also.  And those are the parts we don’t necessarily do. 

 

When Elders Sin, A Church Communal Issue

 

Look at 1st Timothy 5, here we have a place where a public issue is to be made public.  Verses 17-20, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.  And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.  Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”  We’re back to basic Old Testament law.  “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”  He’s talking about the elders here.  Now, that isn’t the private sins of elders we drag before the congregation, I thank God for that, OK.  I really do.  But, there are certain public sins by elders that are to be rebuked, publicly, if we’re going to follow the Scripture.  That’s what it says.  Why?  Here’s the reason to remember why.  Because we want reconciliation.  Confession, repentance, forgiveness, restores people.  Right?  Restores people.  If you had an elder that had somehow stolen some money.  Right?  Then to follow this what we would have to do, is that the elders would have to announce to you that the man had stolen money, and then that he has been removed from his office and from the church. So this shows you how this should work.  At which place, when the man repents, he must come before the entire [church] community and confess, and ask for forgiveness.  And then you would be required to give him forgiveness.  I’m not saying he’s reinstated as an elder.  OK?  Because we have a trust issue.  But he would have to be at least reinstated into the [church] community.  That’s how reconciliation takes place.  That’s how it applies personally.  We’ve already gone through how it does personally.  So how does it apply collectively?  It must follow the same example.  It must follow just the same example.  And we don’t do that, do we? 

 

Stage III Of Matthew 18, When A Sin Moves Into The Church Community Level

 

We have a real problem, because we don’t understand reconciliation from the very beginning of it, let alone at this far end of it.  I mean, we’re working through this whole concept.  And you actually get into church discipline, because it’s a means of reconciliation, a person has to repent to God, then the person has to repent to the community.  And then the community is required to forgive.  Now here’s another example that’s in the Scripture.  This has nothing to do with conflict between individuals, but it has to do with a public sin.  OK?  Let’s go to 1st Corinthians 5, you know, a person can come to an elder, and say, ‘I have committed a sexual sin,’ you know, a person comes and says, ‘I have committed fornication.’  And what we do is we work with that person, we help that person repent, help turn that person’s life around.  And many times, no one ever knows, except that person and God.  Why?  Because nobody knew.  But now we have a communal sin.  Here’s a perfect example.  Let’ go back to the elder part, so I’ll beat up on elders.  OK?  Say you have an elder that you find out has an alcohol problem.  And that elder got up from here and said, ‘I have an alcohol problem, and I’m stepping down from the ministry for six months, I’m going through all kinds of counseling, other ministers are working with me, I’m getting my life straightened out,’ and six months later he had gone six months without a drink, he’d gone six months right with God, he’d gone six months with coming to church every week, and just being part of the community, and six months later got up and said, ‘I’ve made progress, that sin’s behind me, I’ve moved forward.’  And everybody can see it.  And he says, ‘I ask forgiveness of the congregation.’  Not only would you give him the congregation, but most of the time the congregation would actually accept him back as an elder.  Because his sin was private, and he took responsibility, he repented, he confessed, he did all he was supposed to do.  In fact, everybody would be saying, ‘Oh, there’s an example I can follow.’   But what if that same elder with a drinking problem, on Saturday nights, had some of the young men come over to his house, and got them to drinking too?  Because of that communal problem, even if he repented, even if he changed, you’d have a hard time accepting him back.  In fact, the congregation probably couldn’t.  So we have to realize what happens when a sin moves into the community level.  Does it make it into a worse sin?  No.  What it makes it though, is it has different consequences, has different consequences.  So here we have a problem.  1st Corinthians, chapter 5, it has become communal.  Now I want you to remember, this letter comes from Paul, and the leader of the church [in Corinth] reads this probably at Sabbath services.  So Paul says what to them?  ‘It is actually reported that there’s a sexual immorality among you, it’s such a sexual immorality that’s not even named among the Gentiles, that a man is having his father’s wife,’ it would be his step-mother.  It doesn’t mean literally his mother, it’s his step-mother.  ‘And you are puffed up and have not rather mourned that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.’  Now he corrects the entire congregation.  ‘You are wrong,’ Paul says, ‘because you should be mourning, because the man has been taken from you.’  He didn’t say you should be celebrating because the man has been taken from you, ‘you should be mourning.  The next Sabbath when he’s not there, you should mourn because he’s not there, and say, we wish he was here, but because of his sin he has been removed.  For I indeed am absent in the body, but present in spirit, have already judged.’  Paul says, ‘Look, I’m the appellate court here.  OK?  You did not handle it at your local elder’s level, but I as an apostle, I’m going to tell you something.  I’ve already judged this matter, here’s my judgment, you do it.’  This fits exactly into the Old Testament model.  They just reproduced it with some modifications obviously, because Christ had magnified the Law.  He says, ‘As though I were present, he who has done this deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  And your glorying is not good.’  He corrects the entire congregation, for their laxity in this matter.  And then says, ‘Next time you come together, you are to have him ushered out in front of everybody.’  Whoa, could we do that?  Now there’s a reason that he’s doing this.  We think, ‘Good, we’ve got the sin out from among us!’  Now that’s called self-righteousness.  ‘Good, there’s some justice!’  That’s called self-righteousness.  What is the reason for this?  Well he said it in verse 5, ‘That his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.’  That he may be reconciled to God.  That’s why you do this, and it is a communal effort.  Whew!  I didn’t even know how to get there until we get all these others dealt with first.  You say, ‘Well, what would happen to the person?  It would destroy the person.’  It might.  Of course, having an affair with your step-mother would destroy you.  Correct?  And the fact that the entire congregation knows about it?  That’s going to destroy the congregation.  But you know, that’s not what happened in this situation.  Go to 2nd Corinthians 2, 2nd Corinthians 2, verse 5.  You know it’s sort of hard, you don’t get where Paul’s going right away, because he’s just sort of writing through here, and he’s talking about himself, and he suddenly changes the subject a little bit.  Verse 5, “But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part:  that I may not overcharge you all.”  Now remember, he’s responding to letters they wrote him.  So he says, ‘I know there’s someone whose grieved your church, but I want you to understand something, he didn’t grieve me.’  He said, ‘the man never sinned against me, he never caused me any harm, but all of you to some extent.  Don’t be too severe.’  He says, ‘I know he hurt all of you with his sin, because his sin became public, and then you all just sort of ignored his sin,’ in fact,’ the way he talked about it in 1st Corinthians, they actually took pride in themselves that they, you know, were pretty merciful people here.  Now remember, this isn’t personal sin, this has become a public sin.  It was the entire congregation now participating in one way or another.  Not literally, but by not doing something about it.  He says, ‘But don’t be too severe. This punishment which has been inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man.’  He said, ‘When you gather together, you all had’ whoever it was, deacons, whatever, ‘ushered him out.’  He said, ‘What more do you want?’  The whole congregation said, ‘This is offensive to God, and it is offensive to us, and because it’s public, you’ve not only sinned against God, you’ve now sinned against us.  And you won’t, you won’t stop, and so this is what we’re doing.’  The overwhelming majority of situations where someone is asked not to come back to church, is done in private, because it does not have a public impact.  People are surprised when I say this, but I know no minister in the last 15 years whose talked more people out of coming to church than I have, because of their sins.  They finally convinced themselves.  They said, ‘Well, I don’t think I’m coming back,’ and I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I want you to repent.’  I didn’t even have to do it, they did it to themselves, because they were committing adultery or different things where I tried to get them to repent and they wouldn’t.  But it hadn’t effected the [church] community.  You know, love covers a multitude of sins.  How many people have I sent to Mr. F. and said, ‘I can’t help this person,’ sent them to Mr. C., or had Mr. C. go with me or Mr. T, go with me, sit and talk to somebody…I realize now, there are cases when I should have the entire group of elders in the room, every one of them.  There’s cases when I should have everyone.  And there’s cases when we should bring this to the [church] community.  Now these will be very, very rare, like I said, I’m not even sure how to do it.  But according to the Scripture we’re supposed to.  Now I don’t know of anybody committing a community sin, like I said.  And us elders, if we commit a grave community sin, it’s to be brought before all of you, and our confession should be to all of you.  Reconciliation is hard stuff.  It’s between husband and wife, it’s between each of us, it’s between parents and children, it’s between us and Christ, us and God.  Eventually it’s the whole world.  But we have not done this very well, and we as the elders have not done this very well.  But we’re going to have to learn it, we’re going to have to learn it.  Verses 7-8 says, “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.  Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.”  It doesn’t just say forgive the man.  Now remember what this man had done, he’s having an affair with his step-mother.  We say, ‘That’s pretty sick.’  Right?  He said, ‘Not only are you to forgive him, but you are to comfort him.  You are to let this person know that they are forgiven, you are to let this person know that you love them.  When that person shows back up, they should be getting sore from getting hugged.’  That’s what it means.  You say, ‘Well, how could I do that to such a rotten sinner?’  You’d better go back to the very first sermon on reconciliation, because every one of us are rotten sinners, every one of us.  Of course he says, ‘Lest perhaps,’ the end of verse 7, such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.’  Have there been people who would have been part of our congregation today, but aren’t here, because we wouldn’t forgive them of their sins or covered them because of their sins?  Now there’s people that are not here anymore because they wouldn’t repent of their sins.  We had a man a number of years ago that told all the women that they were born with God’s Spirit, and all the men were demons.  Some of you might remember that.  I remember sitting down with him and talking with him, and saying, ‘OK,’  He said, “All men are demons, given a second chance.’  I remember looking at him and saying, ‘OK, well let me explain this to you, so you know where we are.  You may be a demon, but I am not.’ He said, ‘I don’t think I’m coming back to church anymore.’  I said, ‘I think that’s a good idea.’  We shook hands, smiled and walked away.  Now, I don’t know how to comfort that person, but if he repented and came back I would.  That’s not sin though, that’s just heresy, that’s heresy, that’s a whole different subject.  So that really doesn’t apply to what we’re talking about.  You comfort the person.  Galatians 6:1, Galatians 6:1, see we’re not even going to get into the fact that we are forbidden to take each other to court.  Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  He says, we’re to be very careful how we restore people who have sinned in the [church] community, how we restore them back as far as part of the community, ‘lest God allows us to be tempted in some way, that the same thing happens to us.’  Like I said, we’re not even getting into why we shouldn’t take each other into court, as an aspect of reconciliation. [And Paul was merely adding proper guidance to the Corinthians in their fulfillment of Stage III toward the man whom they had put out of their congregation.] 

 

A Promise From Jesus, God, To Be In Our Midst When We Come Together For Reconciliation---Also For Intercessory Prayer

 

But let’s go back to Matthew 18, Matthew 18 now and just look at the last verses, there’s only a couple verses we haven’t covered here.  So we’ll have covered all of Matthew 18 in the course of these sermons.  You see how we’ve just scratched the surface?  Verse 18 says, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven:  and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Now people have made that to come up with, ‘Well that means that priests, in one church, have the power to actually make decrees, to actually sort of make laws.’  And that’s not what it’s talking about, remember the context.  The context is, “Once you have gone through this, now what is bound is bound.  It sort of reminds me of back in the Old Testament, you know, solve it before you get to the priesthood level.  Solve it before you get to there.  But this applies to all three of these stages.  When two people solve it themselves, and say ‘I am sorry, I forgive you,’ that is bound in heaven, that forgiveness.  That when you say you forgive somebody, God loosens that burden off of them in heaven.  God, we all have God’s Spirit.  When we do these three stages, God is involved in all three stages. What is happening, and what he is doing is very important.  He says in verses 19-20, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  But I’ve seen people pull verse 20 out and say, see, there is no need for a communal church, as long as you have two people together, that constitutes a church.  So every Sabbath as long as two people meet together.  Verse 20 has nothing to do with the Sabbath, nothing to do with the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is a completely different subject.  And that’s just a total twisting of the Scripture.  He’s talking about ‘When you people solve these things, when you reconcile, in your conflicts, because you’re reconciled to God through Christ, when you reconcile, he says, when you get together, two or three of you and fix this mess between you,’ he says, ‘I’m there.’  That’s God’s work, right there.  That’s God’s work, right there. [Comment:  Matthew 18:19-20 has often been thought to refer to intercessory prayer (as evidenced in the very wording of verse 19, “as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father in heaven.”), and in the context of the rest of Matthew 18 and the ministry of reconciliation and conflict resolution, this makes perfect sense.  Especially when two or three come together and pray intercessory prayer for someone who has been unwilling to reconcile in Stage II.  These two verses can also be “stand-alone” verses applying to intercessory prayer and small-group prayer in general.  How do I know this?  By direct experiencing of the spiritual evidence.  I helped prototype just such a small prayer group with another member of a Sabbath-keeping house-church, and soon we had added a few other members to the group.  Of 17 serious prayer requests we had over the period of one year, almost all of them were answered almost immediately, very quickly and powerfully.  And the few that had not been answered yet, they are in the process of being answered, some are still being answered as I write this.  I sincerely believe we, in the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, have ignored a most powerful prayer-tool that Lord has placed at our disposal.  I would sincerely say, the proof of all those answered prayers show those two verses, 19-20 of Matthew 18, can also be properly interpreted as referring to intercessory small-group prayer as well.  For an article about this proto-type prayer-group we started, see:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Prayer-groupGuidelines.htm ] So I say, it’s just, unless it’s a gross issue, most issues never come before the [church] community, but they should, they should.  And there’s been times if we would have brought certain things to the [church] community, the community would have been more protected throughout the years.  So we have to learn how to do that.  I read of a church, a Protestant church, where there was conflict within the church, and they brought the entire church together, and the, I think it was the pastor, he had a conflict between him and the deacons and the elders.  The deacons and elders were fighting, and the pastors was fighting with them, so they had three groups fighting each other.  And the pastor was going to get up and apologize to the whole church.  And one of the deacons said, ‘Can I speak?’ and he said, ‘Yes,’ and so he got up and said, ‘You know us deacons have been acting real carnal, and we’re so sorry, and all of us want to confess our sins before you,’ and every deacon got up, and then every elder got up and said, ‘You know, we decided we wanted to apologize to you and to our pastor, and to our deacons, because we have been fighting with the pastor and deacons, and we’re so sorry,’ and the pastor was standing there thinking ‘I was about to do that.’  So he did.  But it was amazing, they all did it together.  They’d all come to the same conclusion together.  If Protestants can do that, cannot we do that?  Cannot we do that?  It starts one person at a time, it starts one person at a time.  That’s the way anything starts.  So let it start with us.  Let is start with me.  That’s how I view things, if something’s going to happen, let is start with me, except anything that involves martyrdom, then let it start with somebody else.  [laughter]  If we as individuals are truly reconciled to God through Christ, then on that rare occasion, where stage III would be invoked, that rare occasion where it would, we would handle it properly.  Those reconciled to God are careful to try not to sin against others, and very quick, very quick to confess, and try to change, and repent when they have sinned.  Those who are reconciled to God, because of their faith in God, sometimes just take the wrong.  We just trust in God to work things out.  Those who have a strong enough faith in God don’t always have to fix a wrong.  They trust in God to fix certain wrongs, and they find peace with that.  We seek the reconciliation through stages I, II and III, and if two people are truly reconciled to God, they’ll never have to go past stage II, ever.  If two people are truly reconciled to God, they’ll never have to go past stage II.  It will never go beyond it.  It will be involved between those two people, and maybe a few other people in the congregation who come together and deal with it as witnesses.  Let’s pray for that time.  Remember, how we started this series.  Let’s go back to 2nd Corinthians 5, I wasn’t going to read this, but let’s finish where we started, and realize that, I’m going to be studying this for the next few years, so, we may have some other details that go in here as time goes on.  But we will be taking a break from it now.  Here’s where we started, Paul says, verses 18-19, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”  We are to tell the world, ‘Your sins can be forgiven.’  What we want to tell them is, ‘You are sinners, and God’s gonna fry you!’, and what we’re supposed to tell them is, ‘Your sins are going to destroy you, but God WILL forgive you.’  “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us:  be ye reconciled to God.”  ‘We implore you,’ Paul writes to the Church, ‘on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.’  “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in him.” (verse 21)  [Transcript of the sixth sermon in the six part series on the Ministry of Reconciliation, given by Gary Petty, Pastor the United Church of God, San Antonio, Texas.  Copyright © The United Church of God.  Source UCG site: http://san-antonio.ucg.org/sermons]

 

related links:

 

To access the entire mp3 series for “The Ministry of Reconciliation”, see:

http://mediafire.com/?dm82ak6v1c82m

 

To access that article about how to form intercessory prayer-groups, see:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Prayer-groupGuidelines.htm  

 

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