Opening Prayer

Loving Lord, you are generous beyond measure. If I were to spend all my day praising you, it would not be enough.

Read MATTHEW 18:15-20

Dealing With Sin in the Church

15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

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  1. Matthew 18:15 The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) refers here to a fellow disciple, whether man or woman; also in verses 21 and 35.
  2. Matthew 18:15 Some manuscripts sins against you
  3. Matthew 18:16 Deut. 19:15
  4. Matthew 18:18 Or will have been
  5. Matthew 18:18 Or will have been

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


When differences occur between you and a fellow believer, what do you do?

Think Further

Reconciliation is very important, Jesus says, as he recognizes that differences will occur between believers. All-important is how these differences are dealt with, so he outlines some key principles, while allowing that, sadly, restoration of fellowship may not always be possible. Holding discipline and grace in tension is not easy, but Jesus calls his church to practice tough love.

The notion of going directly to a believer who has offended you was similar to Jewish teaching at that time. The key aim is that the offender should respond properly. Yet if this initial meeting is not successful, then it is necessary to gather evidence carefully in case later evidence is needed of what happened. Synagogues often evaluated local disputes and Christians transferred this function to the local church.1 The requirement of two witnesses fulfills the command of Deuteronomy2 and remained the procedure among first-century believers.3 However, if the offender still will not acknowledge they are in the wrong, then the Christian community should be made aware of the offense and then disassociate itself from that person.

The phrase ‘a pagan or a tax collector’ (v 17), suggests a hope that, despite the barrier at that time, there remains a possibility of forgiveness and a new start, as there was with Jesus’ relationship with such people. Matthew probably remembered that, because he had been a tax collector. So care and a loving attitude should go hand in hand with such discipline. Paul’s aim was also restoration.4 This is all very challenging, but Jesus promises his blessing on action properly taken to try to reconcile believers to one another (v 20 – a verse that sadly is often taken out of context).


Applying these verses appropriately needs a local church that is marked by trust and integrity, as well as love for one another. Is your church like this?

Closing prayer

Merciful One, I pray for church leaders who deal with difficult situations. Grant wisdom to them as they seek to follow your teaching, and work for reconciliation.

1 Cor 5:4,5; 6:1–5 Deut 19:15 2 Cor 13:1,2; 1 Tim 5:19,20 1 Cor 5:5

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Last Updated on November 28, 2022 by kingstar


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