“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. 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. 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. 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. 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.”
Matthew 18, Part 2: “When Your Brother Sins Against You”
Matthew chapter 18, and verse 15. We’re going to be looking at some verses today, you know, we just go simple on Sunday mornings, we’re not going to be too complicated. Right? And these are some things that a lot of us know, maybe you’ve heard, maybe you haven’t. But I tell you, these verses, I was intending to go right to the end of the chapter, we’re not going to make that this week. We’ll pick up, not next week we’ve got the Men’s Retreat, so Chuck from San Diego will be with us from San Diego, and I’ll be here too, but he’ll be doing the message, so we’ll be back in Matthew 18 the week after. And then we get into chapter 19. But you know, Jesus, you remember the disciples just going to the beginning of chapter 18, they were probably debating it seems as you put the Gospels together, about Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?. And it’s a good chance Peter, James and John were probably putting the vote in for themselves, because of some of the experiences they’ve had with the Lord. And Jesus gets involved with that, and this question is posed, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And then Jesus comes back with some teaching. And he’s depicting, he takes a child and very powerfully, in an illustrative way, shows them that what the world considers to be greatness is not greatness in the kingdom of God. But he holds this child, we learn in the other Gospels, he has the child before them, and then he picks up the child, and he says to them, ‘Here’s greatness right here.’ And that is ‘That this child in your eyes, as a Jew, has such a low status in this culture, and greatness in the kingdom of heaven is for you to become like a child, I mean, you being willing to take on that kind of status, insignificant, not being anybody great in your eyes, but to be whatever God has for you, and not care what people think. For you to be like that, that attitude, that’s greatness, that’s true greatness.’ And then he went on to talk about what great faith is, and the faith of true greatness is a child-like faith. In fact, you can’t even get into the kingdom of heaven, he says, unless you have like the faith of a child. And he went a little bit further too, and talked about the heart of greatness, and used ‘the least of these,’ our attitude, our heart toward the least of these, whether they’re children or somebody else that might seem insignificant to us. He went on with that and said, ‘Here’s the heart of true greatness, it is a heart where the least of these are seen to us as being very important. It’s also a heart where the least are given protection, my heart, I want to protect them. It’s also the heart where the least are given prominence. Of course their angels, these children, their angels have this special presence and place with God, as he said. And it’s also the heart where the salvation of the least of these, he says, is so important to us, they’re given a great priority. [Why are the least of us so important? cf. 1st Corinthians 1:26-29, because that is who the Lord is calling to salvation right now. You never thought of that, now did you? Look up and read those verses in 1st Corinthians.] And so he says, ‘This is the heart of true greatness.’ Of course the world is very different when it thinks about true greatness. He continues. Now Matthew arranges the teaching, maybe the verses that are here were said right after, it’s possible with Matthew. Sometimes he takes different teachings and he puts them together. I’ll leave that up to Matthew. I don’t mind if he’s rearranged things a little bit. At times it seems he has. That’s just fine. But the Lord’s led him. Here’s the point, you’ve got this theme of true greatness, and now he goes on to talk about our relationships one with another, and the way we handle those relationships. And, you know, I used to teach that, you’ve heard me say this before if you’ve been here for awhile, that when it comes to my present counseling, somebody comes into the office, and I counsel them. And I used to think, looking at the Scripture, God just says, ‘Here’s the standard, go live it.’ And I used to say, ‘Hey, here’s the standard, you go do this, you have no reason not to.’ Forget the past, others in the world would like to take you back to the past, but God just says ‘Here’s the Christian walk, go live it.’ But then I began to learn through the Scripture and through just the Lord that there are things in our past that can effect us in some cases, and they can be very debilitating. And it ultimately comes down to there’s two really big hooks from the past that can be in my life today and really hinder my life. One is this issue of forgiveness, I’ve been offended, I’ve been hurt by a brother, or maybe multiple times by people, and where I am today living with that. Or, or it’s also how I’ve repented of my own sin. Those two elements are huge, as we look at reconciliation. [Comment: Now I made a remark in one of the last sermons which carries weight in this one as well, about two friends experiences in a divorce, where both were married for a long period of time to their wives, and these two wives then disserted and divorced them, splitting up two families with children into pieces. In both instances, one worse than the other, both men went into clinical depression, some of which is not over with in their lives yet. What the wives did, in essence, was a spiritual offense to their respective husbands. And their actions have colored those two men’s lives in ways that are hard to comprehend by those who haven’t “been there.” It’s not simply ‘pick up where you left off and move on.’ The emotional scarring runs deep, and is not easily overcome. Maybe in the resurrection to immortality healing will occur more thoroughly, but for them this is hard to imagine. But because these wives were not believers, the following verses don’t apply, there’s no real reconciliation possible. But the past can affect the present for an individual, just like he says.] And that’s what we’ll look at from this point on. Now these are simple verses, simple teaching. But it is very possible that for some of us here, these verses can be transforming. Because forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation, can radically change a life. I’ve watched it change lives. Some people who are struggling from things way in the past, or even present, that are just effecting and are debilitating to you, if you would do what the Lord says here, for many of us, it can set you absolutely free. It can cause you to soar today, where you’re just crawling, and yet God wants you to soar. That’s what’s here in these verses. [Now this is where the people involved are within the same Holy Spirit indwelt church. It can’t be applied, say with those men’s wives, who subsequently left those churches along with their husbands, leaving no accountability for their actions. Those are wounds these Scriptures can’t heal. God may heal them later, but not through the application of these Scriptures now, maybe later, but not now. So, first, one must realize whether these Scriptures can or cannot be readily applied. In some cases, it’s a cantankerous and evil boss whose hurt us, and they are not believers. These situations I’ve addressed are ones where the best we can do is leave it in God’s hands, and trust, even through the continuing pain. What else can one do?] Our relationships one with another is a big deal. When there is disharmony between you and I as individuals, as Christians, or within this church, it grieves the Holy Spirit. And that is a big deal. But true greatness, the heart of greatness, the heart of love, says ‘Wait a minute, there’s disunity, there’s disharmony, that can’t be. I’m going to do whatever I can do about that.’ And that’s basically what we’re going to follow from here. And Jesus gives us a pretty clear pattern. You know, there will be times when folks will come to this church, and they’ll be checking out the church, and I’ll get to know them. And we’ll get talking, and then I find that they’ve come from another church, and then I find the reason why they’ve come from another church is they were hurt at the last church, somebody hurt them, maybe it was a group of people, maybe it was a family or leadership in the church. And they’ve left that church for that reason, and here they are today. Well then I learned, it’s not even reconciled, they’ve just been hurt, and they’ve left. And so I say to them, generally, I say to them, “Listen, you should go back, and reconcile. You should go back and make that right, seek to make that right, at least to the best of your ability. It’s imperative for you and also for the Body of Christ, and for those other people. And that’s what we see in these verses today. It’s interesting, the angle that Jesus takes with these verses. And then I’ll continue to share with this person, too, though, but I’ll then tell them, ‘Listen, you get your feet planted here, it’s just a matter of time until somebody bumps into you around here too. That’s just the reality of being people. We’ve got people in this church, that’s what the church is made of, whether or not you like it, and you come here, it’s just a matter of time until we bump into each other. Because we are human, and that’s the reality of being real.’ And yet God can use that.
The Fruit of Reconciliation
The interesting thing about having a situation with another individual, is it may be painful, it may hurt my life, but what can come out of that, actually, when I let God work through the whole situation, I can actually become a greater person later, because of what happened. That actually can lead to great good, what I just went through with that person or that season. Maybe it was a very significant thing that happened to me, and I had this real significant, significant issue with this person. But you know what the Lord can do through that later, I can even be thankful later that that happened to me, because of the strength that comes into my life, the power of the healing that happens through it can be quite radical. Well, true greatness, we’ve seen it so far in this text, now we get to pick it up and consider it in context of our relationships one to another, and how we react to one another, and what we do when things go wrong. That’s where greatness is seen. Let’s say a word of prayer, because these things, man, it makes us stand out very differently than those in the world. ‘Lord, we thank you that we can look at your Word, we thank you that we can study what you said a long time ago, these disciples of yours, wondering what greatness was all about. And you began to share the heart of God, and the great life. And Lord, in your grace, help us to hear your voice. I know, Lord, it’s very possible that there are people in this room that if they would just consider what is being said here and follow the guideline that is here for them, what it could do because of what’s gone on in their lives, because of roads they’ve gone down and things that they’ve encountered with others. This could be so liberating for them, if they would just take it to heart and do it. And Lord in a congregation, it’s so important that this is a pattern in all our lives, where there’s unity and love abounding, it’s a powerful work of God going on. So Holy Spirit please light up these words for us, make them just burn in our hearts and minds, help us to hear your voice. Holy Spirit be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, amen.’
First, go to your brother who has offended you
Chapter 18, verse 15, you know an interesting thing about this, as we talk about situations one to another in chapter 18, it goes from you know you’ve got an offense against you, and then you need to reconcile and forgive, and then it gets to marriage. I find that a very interesting progression. Because chapter 19 is marriage. These things are so important. Verses 15-20, “Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he’ll not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Verse 15, so he says ‘If your brother sins against you’, always a real difficult situation. We have it happen in our lives, sometimes in the context of the church, sometimes in the context of our personal family, sometimes in just the world that we live in. And what he says here is so valuable when these things happen. So, offended says specifically a brother, so somebody within the church, somebody’s hurt you within the church. [Very interestingly, most large companies have conflict resolution guidelines and programs in place now, realizing the value of what’s in these verses!] What do you do? Now, the truth is, sometimes a brother can or sister can hurt you and not even realize that he did it. We can be hurt by what somebody said, or what we discern to be their intentions, or maybe what they didn’t do that we expected them to do, and then we’re hurt. And the person that hurt us doesn’t even know they hurt us. That can happen too. And that’s another reason why I’m sure Jesus says what he says here. There have been times that I’ve had people come to me that have said, ‘You know, you hurt me.’ And then they’ve gone on to say ‘This is what you’ve done.’ And I’m like, ‘Well I didn’t even know that I did that.’ ‘Boy, it wasn’t in my mind or my heart, I didn’t intend it to be that way. And so please forgive me, because I’ve hurt you, and I’ll acknowledge that you’ve said that, and I accept that, I didn’t know that I did, I’m sorry.’ I’ve even had people at times come to me, where they’ve been really hurt. I’ve had times where, not many, but I’ve had instances where somebody’s said, ‘You hurt me so much.’ And then they explain what I did, and even after I go, ‘What did I do? I still don’t even know what I did.’ But they’re saying I really, really hurt them. It’s the funny thing about being human, and the way we’re designed, and communication and just the way that we are, and our expectations. We can get hurt, the truth is, real easily just because we’re human. I’ve mentioned to you, I was at a conference a little while back in San Diego, and my pastor during one of the sessions got up, and was sharing, and there’s four or five hundred people there, and he says, “Listen,”, he says this, “If I in any way have hurt any of you guys, I’d really like to know. I just love you guys, and if you’re here by chance and there is something that I’ve done or whatever, please come talk to me, let’s work it out.” And he was just teaching, and he went into that. And I’ll say the same to you this morning, if there’s anybody here, and I’ve done something to you, and I don’t realize it, or maybe I do, at this point I’d have to say I don’t realize it. But if there’s anything I’ve done with anybody here and you’re hurt, and you’re sitting there going, ‘Man.’ You’ve got this thing in your heart, you can’t even listen, you know. But if I’ve done anything, please come talk to me, I’d love to work it out with you. But it’s just the truth, it can happen, and I’ve learned that. And I’ve learned too if somebody comes and says ‘You’ve hurt me’, that’s good enough. Alright, there, I need to repent. I may not even have meant to do it, or maybe you even misunderstood me, or whatever. But hey, you’re hurt, and that’s just enough, let’s work it out, and I certainly didn’t mean to do that. Sometimes it happens, somebody doesn’t even know. And you might be sitting here, going, ‘You know, I’ve been coming for three weeks now, and I know that Joe goes to the first service, and I’ve purposely switched to the second service. You know what I mean? Because last, three weeks ago, this is what he did.’ And you know, poor Joe’s wondering where you are, you know, he came to the first service, ‘Where are you.’ He doesn’t even know he hurt you, and you’re just as mad as can be, here you are sitting, you know, in the second service. That’s the way we can be. Sometimes, he says your brother sins against you, let’ face it, sometimes it’s deliberate. We’re just people, and hey sometimes you or I, we can just do things that aren’t nice to people, and so you’ve had maybe potentially somebody come to you, and do something, and they knew they did it, it was deliberate. They just spoke to you that way, and they just had that edge, they just called you whatever they called you, or they purposely forgot your birthday, and they just wrote it off their calendar, and whatever, and they did it completely deliberately, and you’re hurt. Well what happens when that happens? Well, when that happens, notice the way this works here. You are the one that’s been offended, the other person is the offender. And what are you to do? Now there’s the thought that, ‘Well, they did it to me, I don’t have to do anything at this point. They did it.’ No, no, no, no. Here’s the heart of true greatness, here’s the heart of love. This is what happens. He says the first thing you do is you deal with it, and you deal with it personally [BLAM!!! No, just kidding folks, really.]. He says, if your brother sins against you, you go, go, that means you go, personally. You’re the offended, they’re the offender, you go. Now, let’s go to the other side, just in case. That doesn’t mean if I did something bad to somebody else, that I’m just to sit back and wait for them to come to me some day. [And here’s an interesting example. During WWII Pearl Harbor memorials, it is the Japanese that came, seeking reconciliation and forgiveness from the sailors they attacked in the raid, who were still living. Now they’re best of friends, all but one lonely survivor of the Arizona, would could not bring himself to forgive his Japanese counterpart in the battle.] Sometimes we reason funny, ‘Oh ok, that’s what the pastor said, so I know I said that, but I don’t have to go to them until they come to me, because I offended them, they need to come to me.’ You know, it doesn’t work that way. Also, if I hurt somebody, I need to go to them, I mean, that’s the heart of love. Just, I hurt ‘em. But if you’ve been hurt, you are actually responsible. The love of God in you should move you. He says, ‘Go, you’ve been offended, you’re brother [or sister] has done something wrong, he’s sinned against you, you go, you personally, personally you need to do something about that. Now, that isn’t necessarily easy, you know. That can be a challenge for us to be like that, some of us especially you know the fears come into your mind, and uncertainties, and we deal with a lot of things emotionally, ‘And ah, that’s just hard to do, I don’t know if I can do that. And I don’t know how they’re going to respond.’ Well, you know, Jesus says, ‘This is the deal, trust me, you go.’ And you know, I can have fears, but if the love of God is there, that love is going to help me overcome the fear. See, the Holy Spirit is grieved. Two people now that are at odds in the family of God, two of God’s children, Holy Spirit’s grieved. So, if the love of God is in me, and that’s greatness, I’m going to go, ‘I’m really bothered, it just bothers me, I’m hurt by this, but it bothers me that there’s just not closeness anymore, that in our relationship, I can’t look at them the same way anymore, I can’t just be freely around them, that really bothers me.’ And it grieves the Holy Spirit. That’s the love of God, and the love of God is going to move you, it’s going to move you to go personally. So, step number one, maybe you’ve never done that, maybe you’re here, and there are people that have hurt you in your life, especially somebody in the church, maybe it’s a past church experience, and you’ve never dealt with it. Well this is what Jesus says, greatness is this. And you know, if you’ve never dealt with it, it’s effecting you today. And you’re loosing because you’ve never dealt with it. But if you want to be healed, if you want to experience just the greatest sweetness and the peace of God in your life, and the power of God in your life, then you must go deal with the situation. Go to the person, do the best that you can do. And God will honor that. Of course, it takes two, right, it takes two to tango and it takes two to get it right. And you know, Romans, Paul says ‘Go, you, as best as depends upon you, be at peace with your brother.’
Secondly, go tell him his fault alone
So, first we go personally, secondly, he says, “Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” So, alone. So we got personally, next we’ve got to go privately. You’re to go, alone. That means, you’re not to go and tell others. ‘Ah, somebody’s hurt me, Joe hurt me a few weeks ago’, and if there’s anybody named Joe, I’m just using the name. Joe brother hurt me a few weeks ago. And I shouldn’t be telling other people about it. I shouldn’t be going to you and going, ‘Hey, man, this is what Joe did, can you believe that, that’s what Joe did, man, I’m really hurt, that was really hurtful, don’t you think.’ That is wrong, actually, and that is to dishonor Joe, and it’s actually sin. That is not greatness, and that’s not the love of God. The way we are to do it, if I’ve been hurt by somebody, the first person that I’m to tell is that person. I’m to go to them, personally, I’m to go to them privately. I’m to sit down with them alone, and begin to just reason. Yet, the amazing thing is, when you go to that individual---I don’t know what the statistics are, but they’re really high---it’s so often that it’s worked out right there in that little private meeting. You share with them, and they go, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know I did it.’ And you realize they didn’t even know they did it. Or they’re like, ‘Yea, ok, please forgive me, it’s been just eating at me, I’m sorry, I know I did that’, and you work it out, and you have this wonderful experience after, when you go and do that. So it’s very powerful, and it’s so effective. But, if you’re sitting here, and you haven’t done it, boy, I tell you, you’re just loosing out in your life, and that’s so unfortunate. So it’s so effective when we do it, when we go and actually sit alone with that other person. But if you are with them, you know, consider if you have told other people, say you get hurt by ‘Joe’ and now you’ve told ‘Betty’ and ‘Mary’ and ‘Sarah’ and ‘Sally’, and you’ve got it on the little phone-thing list, and people all know you’ve been hurt by ‘Joe’, and now you go and sit with Joe, and you work through it with Joe, and Joe is very humble, and Joe goes ‘Oh I’m really sorry about that, I didn’t mean to do that.’ You just told like 12 people, and you know how you feel going ‘I hope Joe doesn’t know I told Sally’, you know what I mean? And then you’ve got to go call Sally and everybody else, ‘Don’t tell Joe that I told you.’ Because you feel bad because he’s going to get hurt because you told all these people. [And before you know it the whole church knows poor old Joe hurt you!] Go personally, go privately, that’s what Jesus says, that is greatness. That’s the context here, he’s talking about greatness, the love of God. And if you really have the love of God in your heart [obviously via the Holy Spirit indwelling you], it’s hard to just sit there and be at odds with another brother and sister, because it’s grievous to the Spirit, and it’s naturally grievous to us.
Go personally, go privately---but go compassionately
Verse 15, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Next thing, personally, privately. But of course it doesn’t say it here directly, but it’s certainly between the lines, and there are comments that make it clear, and as we go on we’ll see this in another text, we’re to go compassionately. Some may read this and go, ‘Ok, Joe has sinned against me, and this is what the Bible says, I’m to go to them, point A, point B, here’s the steps, and this is what I’m going to do. And they go like with the Law, ‘You hurt me! I’m coming to you!’, ‘And here’s the deal, you are a little rotten scoundrel, this is what you did, you need to just really make it right, I mean, God is so angry.’ And you go like that, right. And we laugh, but we can do that, can’t we? That is not fulfilling what Jesus said to do, and people can be like that and think they’re fulfilling what Christ said in these verses, ‘I’m going and I’m making this right, like the Bible says.’ And you’re not fulfilling it at all, because we’re to go compassionately. That’s so clear in the rest of the Scripture. Notice he says, “Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone, and if hears you, you have gained your brother.” Notice the heart right there, the heart is to gain your brother. The heart is not to win an argument, the heart is to win your brother [or sister in Christ]. The desire here is to get back to where you were before, where you can sit down and enjoy fellowship with one another and enjoy the coffee and all the times you’ve had again, and be back to that place. The goal is to win that relationship back. Paul told the church in Ephesus in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 15, he says, “But speaking the truth in love.” And that’s the heart here, it’s going to your brother and speaking the truth, but in love. You know, you don’t have love if you don’t have truth. So if you have somebody offend you, and this happens a lot in the Body of Christ, somebody hurts us, and because of our personalities and our fears and the type of people we are, we just let it roll. And they’ve done this thing, and we just let it roll. And we know its there, and it’s effected the way we are with them, but we just let it roll. And that’s not loving that person, that is actually sinning against that person. That’s hypocritical, that’s not real love. Somebody put it this way, “If we practice love without truth, it’s hypocrisy. But if we try to have truth without love, it may be brutality.” And so if you are being truthful, but you’re not loving, it’s brutal. But if thinking you’re loving, and you’re not being truthful, that’s hypocritical. So, he says ‘Go, go privately, go personally, but also it’s so important to go compassionately.’ Solomon said in Proverbs chapter 27, verse 6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Of a friend, you know, a friend that comes to you, he’s your friend, and he says, ‘Man, listen, this is what’s happened, and that was hurtful, man, and we need to make this right.’ It’s to go as a friend, and that’s to go as Christ. Again, our intention isn’t to win an argument, our intention is to win them. And when we do, it’s so wonderful, because you have gained, if he hears, you’ve gained your brother, man. And you’ve been there. It happens within a marriage too. It’s interesting, we actually get to the marriage part in a couple weeks. But when there’s been, you know, you’ve got a husband and wife at odds, brother and sister in Christ at odds in the church, and we know that feeling. But when there’s resolution, when the other person says, ‘Oh, forgive me’, and I say, ‘You’re forgiven’, and ‘Oh forgive me too’, and they say ‘You’re forgiven’, boy there’s something that happens that’s very wonderful. It seems sometimes the relationship is even better than it ever had been, even better than it was before. You’ve gained your brother, something happens in that process. It’s a wonderful experience. And again, most of the time, if you go alone to your brother or sister, you’d be amazed. You might be thinking ‘They’re so evil, they’re so awful, man if I go to them they’ll just, I’m sure they’ll just put me down and say all these terrible things.’ And they’re not like that at all, they’ll probably go, ‘Hey, forgive me, I’m sorry.’
Next Step: “But if he will not hear”
Verse 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’ [Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15]” Now, what happens if you go, God says this is greatness, this is the standard of God. But some people want to say “Forget it, I’m not taking this any further.” That’s not the love of God. You don’t just move on, just give up on your brother, going, ‘I tried, forget that soul, know what I mean.’ You don’t just give up on him either. No, what you do, the love of God is a holy thing, is a pure thing [naturally, because it comes from the Holy Spirit]. And when I’ve got the love of God in my heart, and my brothers and sisters have the love of God, and there is something that’s happened between us, that holy love isn’t there anymore, there’s something that’s offended it, it’s grieved. And I can’t just go, if I really have the love of God, I can’t go ‘Oh well, I tried’, and move on, because it’s the love of God. It’s grieved. I need to go further, I can’t just give up there, and that’s what he says. Well, what do you do? You go personally, go privately, you go compassionately. And then, if necessary, and to be honest with you, verse 16 is generally a rarity. Usually it’s all squared away in verse 15. But if necessary, verse 16, you go patiently, and that’s the way I put it because you’re showing longsuffering with your brethren, verse 16, you’re not giving up, you’re going further. You know, the Bible says the love of God is ‘patient, longsuffering, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ (cf. 1st Corinthians 13:4-8). And so verse 16 he says, what do you do? You go and now tell a couple people, you go to somebody whose mature in the faith, a brother and sister in Christ, and you say, ‘Listen, I’d like to talk to you about something, can we be alone for a moment?’ And you say, ‘Here’s what’s happened, this brother of mine, this sister of mine, this is what they’ve done, I’ve tried, I’ve talked to them, I’ve tried to work it out with them, and they won’t work it out. We can’t get this right. Will you help me?’ And so, that’s what you do. And they go with you, and you sit down now with that person whose the offender, and you sit down with the one or two or three of you, and you sit down, and you begin to just reason. Your intent isn’t to gang up on him or her, it isn’t like to overwhelm---‘You did that, and you didn’t listen to me, you wait, man, I’ve got friends and I’m coming back.’ It isn’t like you come back, ‘We’re ready, man! Let me show you my friends.’ It’s not like that at all. It’s a thing of love, and you’re being patient. You’re like, ‘I’m not giving up here. And now I’ve got more friends, and we’re all going to reason with you, we’re going to talk through this with you, we’re going to try to make this right.’ So, patient, you know Paul exhorted the church in Galatians chapter 6, verse 1, he said, if a believer’s been caught up, that I know of a Christian that’s caught up in a sin, he says this, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself unless you also be tempted.” So, situation with a brother, you who are spiritual go to him. And he says “restore”, the word “restore” is interesting, because it’s a medical word in the Greek, and it means “to set a broken bone.” And if you think about the manner in which a broken bone is set, it is done very gently, and very delicately, and very patiently. That thing doesn’t work until it’s right in the right place, until things are set right. And so the heart of that patience, ‘I’ve got a brother that has offended me, I’m going to show that same restoration as far as setting it right, as far as patience. Now I should note here, the pattern he says here specifically, this is specific to when I’ve been offended, he’s done something against me, or she has. But the process here, reading Galatians 6 and other Scriptures, we find too in the Bible, that if I am in this congregation for instance, believer in Christ, and I have another friend, sister or brother in Christ, who I know suddenly has taken a corner in their faith, and are suddenly living in sin, this pattern applies there too. I’m not just to ignore my brother or sister if I really love, if I’m really showing true greatness. I don’t just go ‘Well I know Sally just suddenly decided to do that, that’s not right, Biblically wrong’…I don’t as a Christian, if I truly love, I don’t just go ‘OK, well I’ll just pray about it and just ignore it from that point on, but I’m not going to say anything.’ No way, the same sort of pattern applies, remember Galatians, Paul says ‘If any man is overtaken, if any man is stumbling in sin, believers specifically, you need to go to him.’ And you need to gently go to him, and seek in love, compassionately to restore him. “Also with discernment, lest you be tempted.” And so as we go on with this, this same pattern applies. So maybe you’re here today and you’re going, ‘Well, nobody’s offended me, and I’m in harmony with my brother and sister.’ But maybe you’re sitting here thinking, ‘I know there’s even a person in this church for instance, that I know very well, nobody else knows, and they have decided to really get into a lifestyle of sin, and they’re still coming, acting like nothing is wrong.’ Well then, if you love, if you’re truly a great person and you really love God, the Holy Spirit is grieved, if you care for that person and the destructive path they’re on, you are going to go to them, and you’re going to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you know, listen, I love you enough to tell you this, this is love and this is truth, this is just the love of God, what you’re doing you know is wrong. You need to turn around, you need to repent, that is wrong as a Christian.’ And then if they don’t respond, you go through the same pattern, you then go and get a couple other friends, and you very discretely get godly people that are mature, you say, ‘Listen, this believer, this is what he’s doing.’ And then you go with those believers and sit down with this one person, and you in love do the same thing, and just reason with them. That’s the love of God.
Next Step: “If he refuses to hear the one or two witnesses, tell it to the church”
Verse 17, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” And then if they don’t respond, you can then go to what we have here, which is the next step, you go to the church leadership. And then if there’s discipline that needs to happen, you go to that stage, that’s what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 5. Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 5, he rebukes the church of God at Corinth, because in the church at Corinth is a man whose living in sexual sin. And the church is aware of it. It’s one thing when nobody knows, but the church is aware of it, and nobody’s doing anything about it. And so Paul says, ‘Wait a minute here, do you guys really love, hold on church, this is destructive for that person. And it’s also a little leaven, which leavens the whole lump. So that lifestyle is going to effect the whole church. So this is what you are to do. Deal with the situation. And so what you do in those situations is one person goes to him, and then maybe a few, then the leadership, and then they try to reason with him. And Paul says in the church in Corinth, because this person was unrepentant, he says, I mean if he’s going to be like that, turn him over to Satan. Which is essentially what we get here, treat him differently, break fellowship with him, and not allow him to attend the church. And I will say to you, that that is a principle we do our best to hold. And I tell you, in our politically correct world, that is like, you know, we’ve got liability insurance here just in case. We’re in a weird world, and who knows, I mean, you could just apply Biblical principles and who knows, just get yourself in trouble today. But if we don’t do it, we will not have the Spirit of God in this place. And I have absolutely no interest in pastoring a church where the Spirit of God is not working. This isn’t a little socially intelligent, let’s have a good time thing here in this church. We want to do the work of God. So I by the grace of God want to follow the Word of God whether it’s popular or not. So people come out of the world, and they come into a church, and are like, ‘Wait a minute, you can’t tell me to do this, this is my life.’ Now, if you’re a non-believer, and you’re not a Christian, you can live any way you want to live in this church. You really can. I mean, if you hurt people we’re going to have to hold you accountable on that. But the point is, as a Christian, it is poison when you’ve got a Christian, a child of God, who says ‘I’m going to go live in sin.’ That is destructive, that is poison in the Body of Christ, that is cancer in the church. And if we love, it’s also cancer for them, we don’t want them to destroy their life. We’re going to lovingly take them through a process, seeking to persuade them to do the right thing, and follow these steps that are here. Same things apply now.
Confronting a brother over a sin
When Paul says it related to somebody whose caught up in a sin (this passage we’re in is specifically about somebody’s whose offended you) but Paul says now, same kind of thing, somebody’s caught up in a sin, he throws in this aspect of being discerning. He says, you know, go to them, but consider, lest you also be tempted. And that does add a little bit of a different light onto this, and that is, you know, here I’ve been offended, I go personally first, and I go privately, and then eventually I may need to bring witnesses. But in the case when somebody’s in sin, there are times when you might be a young believer, and you may not go personally, privately initially, because you’re discerning ‘What they’re in, I mean, I struggle in that, I can’t really go deal with that situation.’ I mean, you need to go to somebody whose more mature in the Lord and go to them first, and say, ‘Listen, would you come with me. This person’s in sin, and I can’t deal with it alone because that’s just too much of a temptation for me, can you come with me?’ Well, so, powerful stuff. Some of us may be going, ‘Man, do we have to talk about this? I wanted to come and be encouraged.’ Man, the Word of God is always encouraging. If you feel uncomfortable, maybe the Lord is saying something to you because he loves you enough, and wants to work in your life. Well we come patiently, and we bring these witnesses. And the point too, “that by the mouth of two or three witnesses that every word may be established.” It is important, I learned this early on, early on there might be a situation where somebody is maybe being divisive, and I met with them alone. And boy, you know, initially you go alone. But there might be times though with what’s going down, I might actually even bring a witness, I’ve learned in certain instances. Only for this reason, and that’s if the Lord shows me, because especially the second time, because there are times when you can meet with somebody, and because of what’s in their heart, you talk with them, and they go out and they completely misrepresent you, and they say things that aren’t even true about you what you said. I’ve had that happen multiple times where we met with somebody, and now people are angry because I supposedly said that, and I never said that. When you’re in the situation, initially it’s privately, but now I go with witnesses. And it’s established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. One thing that means is of course, they’re getting the sense that there’s unity here, ‘This is the deal, you’ve offended this brother, and this is established, you need to make it right.’ But also it sets the record straight in the future too, in case that brother or sister really has an issue in their heart, and wants to just in bitterness make a mess, they can’t, they can’t misrepresent you at that point, because there’s witnesses. I’ve had to do that before, and I’ve had cases where I’ve had witnesses, and then lies come out after the meeting. But then I had witnesses, and I can say ‘Hold on, you can go talk to that person over there with me, and they’ll tell you exactly what I said and what I meant, and that’s just not true what they’re saying.’ [I’ve had that happen before, even went before the pastor with this person, but nothing was resolved. There was a real problem in this person’s heart, which surfaced much later after many years. Sometimes you can do the best you can to resolve a problem and it just won’t resolve. Then it’s in God’s hands. But the pastoral confrontation protected me from further outbursts and slander from this individual, as his actions were out in the open, so he had to desist.] Well, so you go privately, personally, compassionately, patiently. Then, if they refuse that, verse 17. And it doesn’t get there very often, it is rare that you get there, but at times it does. It’s happened a few times in this church. “If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church, but if he refuses to even hear the church,” then you are to treat him differently, as it says in the second part of the verse. Verse 17b, “But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
Back to “tell is to the church”
‘So tell it to the church.’ Now does that mean, Sunday morning, you ask for some time (up at the microphone)? You know, you’ve been Biblically addressing this issue, so this person has done this thing against you, and you’ve tried to make it right, and you’ve taken witnesses, and they refuse to reconcile. And now you’re thinking, ‘Now I need second service, you know, I need a little bit of pulpit-time, I’m going to tell the whole church here, and we’re just going to present it to you folks…’ That’s not what it means. I see this, and I believe it’s seen that way too, when it says “the church”, it means the leadership of the church. When you go to the government, you don’t necessarily go to everybody in the government. You go to a government leader, and that represents the government. So when it says “go to the church” you can go to just leadership, and you’ve gone to the church. So that’s the pattern---I go alone, I bring now witnesses, still unresolved, they still won’t make peace with me, they still won’t get this thing right, now, unfortunately, but I love them enough, I’m going to do it, we go and we get church leadership. And so all of you sit down. Now this is to persuade, it’s a loving persuasive thing, it’s a patient thing, and it’s a persuasive thing. Now this person’s been hard-hearted about it, now you’ve even got a couple church leaders maybe sitting there. And they’re getting a sense here, unless they’re really hard-hearted, they’re getting a sense here, that they should just start softening their heart, just to make it right, so that the Holy Spirit is no longer grieved. It’s a loving thing, it’s a persuasive thing. This isn’t running down to the principle’s office kind of thing, this is ‘Alright, man, we’ll get some leadership, and they can sit down and reason with you. And we’ll go through this.’ This is demonstrating the love of the Lord, seeking to not make it a bigger deal, but yet seeking to persuade them lovingly and encourage them to do the right thing.
Next Step: “If he refuses even to hear the church”
Well, if they don’t respond to that, “if he refuses to hear even the church, let him be to you a heathen and a tax collector.” Now, I mean, you look at that, are you to treat him badly? You’ve gone to them, you’ve brought in witnesses, you’ve now got church leadership involved and they’re still not listening, are you just to treat them like a heathen---and just not to say nice things about him, or are you to hate him? What is he saying when he says that? The point there, it’s still a loving thing. So you’re saying to this person, in essence: “The point there is I’m not going to fellowship with you as a believer anymore. I’m not going to just say our relationship is this great sweet wonderful relationship---no the Holy Spirit is grieved here, the love of God is a holy thing, and you refuse, you’re refusing to help us to make this right and heal this thing. For that reason, because of your choice, I’m going to basically break fellowship with you. But I’m going to do it in a loving way, and let you know I love you, that’s why I’m doing it. And I’m going to continue, it’s a persevering thing now, I’m going to continue to stay that way, even though I may long not to be that way, long to just hang out with you again, but because you’re not going to make this right, I’m going to do that, because I love you enough that you have to see that what you’ve done is wrong in the eyes of God, and God is grieved. And so I’m going to break fellowship with you, and I’m going to remain in that state as long as it takes, and pray for you like crazy.” That’s the next step. So it’s a persevering thing. We’ve got the patience, and persuasiveness, and we’ve got this persevering thing. And again, the deal is, they’ve forfeited, they’re not being a spiritual brother, and everybody’s trying here, they’re not being the spiritual sister, so they’ve forfeited the deal. ‘And so the love of God is a holy thing, I’m going to stick to the standard of the love of God, and love you with that love, because that’s what’s best for you.’ [tough love, at that point, these verses are sort of outlining tough love.]
The meaning of verse 18 explained in context with these verses
He says in verse 18, “Assuredly whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Now you remember Jesus said that to Peter. He said to Peter, ‘Here, I give you the keys to the kingdom,’ and he went on in Matthew chapter 16 to say ‘Whatever you bind will be bound, whatever you loose will be loosed in heaven’, he went through that. Now Jesus is saying it to the church, because the word for “you” in that verse where it says “whatever you bind”, “whatever you loose” is actually in the plural. So he’s speaking to the church in it’s entirety. Now, too, the tense of the Greek, when he says “whatever you bind will be bound”, the tense of the Greek literally is “Whatever you bind is already bound” and “Whatever you have loosed is already loosed”, that’s really the tense of the Greek. And the thought is this way, again look at the context, we’re dealing with a brother, two brothers who are trying to get reconciled here. One is unwilling, witnesses, church has gotten involved, the church has now made a decision, leadership saying ‘OK man, we’re going to have to break fellowship with you because of this situation.’ [another term used in some churches is “disfellowship you”, same thing] And so then you have the binding and loosing, the point being, is when the church, being led by God, says ‘Listen, this is what we have to do. Frankly, we love you a lot, but this is not right, either you’re living in sin, or you’ve offended a brother and you’re not making it right, we’re going to have to ask you not to fellowship here at this church any longer.’ When we do that, we’re actually just recognizing the will of God. We’re making a binding agreement, but it was already determined in heaven. That is the will of God, that’s the sense of that context. You’re doing the will of God. You’re not doing this independently of God, as you’re following God’s plan here, you’re doing this according to the will and plan of God. This is a God-thing. Whatever you loose will be loosed. So if things get reconciled, ‘Hey, listen, we worked through it, he’s repented, hey we love you, this is great, forgiveness, repentance, we can move on.’ Well that’s also just been recognized in heaven.
The Awesome Power of Group or Corporate Prayer
Verses 19-20, “Again I say to you that if two or three of you agree on earth concerning anything that they may ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Then he says, you know, we’ve got to be private, and personal, compassionate, and patient, persuasive and persevering---but we need to be prayerful. And that’s a big part of this formula, verse 19, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Prayer, man. From the very moment you get offended by somebody, from that very moment, prayer is so key, that you begin to pray through this situation---that you pray through everything you do, you pray when you meet with them, when you have others with you, you’re praying about this situation. When the church gets involved, everybody’s praying about this situation. Prayer is so key, it’s so powerful, because there is a spiritual battle. The Devil knows that like at this church, if he wants to bring this church to an end, the way he’ll do it is bring division. He just knows, that’s what he does. ‘If I can get Joe against John, and get them stirring long enough, I can get some people to join up against John, and I can get some people to join up with John, and I’ll get to this church, and I’ll end this church. And I’ll get God grieved, and the Holy Spirit will move out. And that church I won’t have to worry about anymore.’ [One denomination I know of has actually been divided by Satan into many smaller ones, who often bicker amongst themselves.] There is a spiritual battle too. And so prayer, man, is my spiritual weapon. I need to be praying about it, realizing the Devil is trying to divide me and my brother, me and my sister. So prayer. But look how powerful prayer is. He says ‘Whenever two’ he says ‘if two of you agree,’ that word agree in the Greek is the word sumphoneo, sumphoneo, and that word is where we get our word symphony. [Strongs # 4856 Greek: sumphoneo, to be harmonious…agree (together, with)] So the point is, where there’s agreement, where there’s like this harmony, you know, the chorus, you’ve got the symphony playing perfect harmony, singing in perfect harmony, harmony. When you’ve got believers praying in harmony, symphony, agreeing, you’ve got power, because he says where you’ve got that, it’ll be done, whatever they ask. “It will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” The Spirit of God is at work, he’s leading this prayer, people are in the Spirit, we’re being led together, we’re praying and crying out, man it is radical and it is powerful. That’s an incredible statement, man. It obviously just doesn’t apply to this offended brother situation, those sorts of statements Jesus repeats at different times, but prayer, man. Sunday night prayer, I tell you guys, what’s happening Sunday nights at this church, what happens in our prayer-meetings, you want to know where this church is going to be in the future, you come on Sunday night now. Because that’s determining where this church is going to be in the future. [I’ve seen the same thing, witnessed it in a tiny once-a-month Sabbath Bible study & potluck dinner, where they get together for group-prayer. Two of these people had been out of work for over a year, and each person landed the perfect job for themselves, in this bad economy, other people’s problems were solved as well. Group prayer-meetings are powerful. Look into it, don’t delay. Together in prayer a church can be unstoppable. For related articles on prayer, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/prayer-teamessentials.htmand http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/mueller.htmand
http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/bibleway.htm.] There’s something about God’s people coming together and praying, two or three, doesn’t take a lot. That’s the good thing. Because sometimes prayer-meetings in churches, there’s only two. And you go, ‘Hey, there’s two of us, alright!’ But there’s power when we’re together, and we are agreeing in prayer. It’s radical what happens. God is leading, God is moving. So when this church is together corporately in praying, I often encourage you guys, if you can make one Sunday night a month, you know, our lives are incredibly busy, but I tell you what happens on Sunday nights determines the future of this church. You want to know where we’ll be next year, come now. It’s going to determine what’s happening, there’s a correlation. This prayer-thing for this radio, I wish I could give you the details, to give you the magnitude of what’s going on right now. But prayer is the deal, man, prayer. God, protect, God make these things work out, God keep back the Devil and darkness, and Lord get these stations going, provide all that is needed and get them on the air [most of them are now] at such a time as this. If we pray that in agreement, fasting and prayer November 7th through 11th, I’ll tell you. I don’t know about you, I want to be part of a church where the Spirit of God is. Man, I hope that’s you’re heart, because why even come, really. Go find another church, man, if the Spirit of God ain’t here, don’t come here, man. Go somewhere, find a church where the Spirit of God is at if it’s not here, truly. Well, he then says, look at this, that last point, that last verse, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Sometimes we think, cartoon in our mind, you know, we think of two or three people and a little cartoon of Jesus being there, but that’s really radical what he says. Of course as a Christian I have the Holy Spirit in me [cf. John 14, read it], Christ is in me in that sense. But there’s this dynamic that happens when brothers and sisters come together. You know, when a believer, this is common, when Christians are not in fellowship, they don’t go to church---maybe you haven’t been to a church in a long time and you’re here this morning, I thank God that you’re here---but I tell you, there’s a powerful thing that happens when we come together, because it says right here “When two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” There is something happening when we come together, Christ is in the midst, in a beautiful way. So that’s why it’s so powerful. If you’re here today, you have an issue in your life, we haven’t even talked about it. I mean, you just got a call from the doctor, you’ve got this weird thing going on, or your spouse left you last week, or you just lost your job, or you got this knarly sin that you’re struggling with, or you’re battling with depression [been there, done that], it is powerful when we’re here together. Because Jesus Christ is right here in our midst. And he doesn’t just show up to hang out, be part of the party, you know. He’s here to work in our lives. He’s here to minister to us, and he is here as we’re here together, in a special way as a corporate setting. So, man, be plugged into the Body of Christ, man, but also be plugged into a church. You’re welcome here, if you’ve been coming here, keep that in your minds, so you stay plugged-in in the future. Well there’s a little pattern, this is greatness, man. This is the life of greatness. If you’re here and there’s a brother that’s offended you or a sister, what do you do? Well it’s so clear, it’s so clear, this is greatness, this is the love of God. What do you do? 1) You go personally, and you go privately, you go compassionately, and you have a talk with your brother or sister, and you seek to work it out. I tell you, it’ll be pretty powerful, as it probably will work out. 2) But if it doesn’t, then you show patience, man, the love of God is patient, you get some other friends, mature believers, you talk to them and you go and have a meeting with that person whose offended you. 3) And if that doesn’t work you get the leadership of the church, and you’re extra-persuasive in love, trying to help this brother or sister. 4) But if it goes that far and they’re still really hard-hearted, then the church will have to make a stand, and be led by the Lord. And at times we have to break fellowship, 5) but through the whole thing we’re praying like crazy, even when we’ve broken fellowship, even when we’ve said, ‘Listen, if you’re going to live that way, you can’t come here, we’ve asked you, we’ve reasoned with you, we’ve loved you, we’ve encouraged you, yet you refuse to do what’s right. If that’s your decision then we’re going to ask you not to fellowship here, but we’re going to be praying for you like crazy because we love you.’ Let’s close in prayer…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Matthew 18:15-20 somewhere in New England]
The Power of Prayer:
Awesome marriage resource for men whose wives tell them ‘they don’t have a clue’: