Matt. 18:15-17 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won’t accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
These verses have been used and abused so often in the church. Because of our sinful nature and often spiritual immaturity, we have used them for our own advantage. Jesus gives us clear instructions on the right way to deal with sin in the church, but most churches either don’t understand them or ignore them altogether. The purpose of Jesus is reconciliation, not alienation.
Notice first of all that this passage deals with private matters of sin between believers. It is about issues that affect personal relationships, not community relationships. We are to deal with personal issues as they come up so that they do not become issues that affect the whole body.
It is so easy to sit in judgment of another. It’s another thing to work with another with the intent of reconciliation. When someone sins against you, you are to go to that person in love and humility and seek peace. If that doesn’t happen, take one or two others with you who are spiritually mature and do so that they may be able to offer wisdom on how to restore peace between you and to God. If that doesn’t work, then the matter needs to be brought before the church so that the church can decide what must be done for the good of the body and individuals involved.
Also, before a person is judged to be in the wrong, the accuser must first be sure that his own sins are dealt with before God. Only the pure in heart should ever try to hold another believer accountable for sin.
Needless to say, everyone involved seeking peace should first of all be much in prayer so that the discernment given will be from God and not man. It is only when all efforts fail that a person is then alienated from the church’s fellowship. As long as a person is stubborn and too proud to listen to wise and godly counsel he cannot be a part of the fellowship of the church. When the will is broken and the offending party humbles himself before God and man, peace can then be restored.
I believe that applying these verses in the life of the church is needed, but it should be done sparingly. It is necessary to hold one another accountable for sinful behavior, but it is a very serious matter to remove someone from the fellowship of the church. We better be right before God before we exercise this step in the peacemaking process of the church.