These words from Jesus Christ: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 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.’ 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.” Matthew 18:15, NIV
Later, these words from Saint Paul: “For what business is it of mine to judge the non-Christians?; God judges them. But should you not judge those people who are inside the church. So remove the offending person from your fellowship.” (I Corinthians 5:13 Paraphrased)
Okay, this is a delicate subject, but only because we don’t agree with or like some things that Jesus said… and that Paul reiterated. This is one of those things we loathe, but let me testify to you that the churches and demonizations that hold to and practice church disciple are growing and those that do not are dying. The Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran churches, and of late, the Baptists, are witnessing a staggering net loss of membership, while non-denominational, conservative, evangelical churches that practice disciple within their churches are growing.
Sadly, cults, like the the Mormons, known for strict adherence to moral standards and clear cut expectations on membership, are also thriving, Quick and certain consequences of breaking their religious rules has resulted in the Mormon church now boasting more membership than the Episcopal, Presbyterian or Methodist Church in the USA—-combined!
Today’s devotion is focused upon church discipline, about being gentle and discreet when we must discipline, and pride and the need for humility within the fellowship, where to place our first love and priority and how to respond to those that won’t.
IF you read the preceding chapters in Matthew, it looks like there might have been dispute with the twelve disciples and that feelings had been hurt. It looks like each of the disciples thought himself, in some sense, offended by the others. Sharp words, perhaps, had been spoken among these young disciples, and the breach had to be healed.
Probably Jesus was referencing the late dispute, “Who should be the greatest?” After the rebuke—so gentle and captivating, yet so dignified and divine—under which they would doubtless be smarting, perhaps each would be saying, “It was not I that began it, it was not I that threw out unworthy and irritating insinuations against my brethren.” But Jesus was telling them how to proceed….Jesus knew what to do.
He told them to confront those that were in sin—those that caused the offense. But how can we avoid hurting those that have sinned, even when they are quite wrong? Suppose they are deliberately sinning and see no issue with their sin? Our Lord here teaches us how: He laid down a sure method of avoiding doing it wrong. Whosoever closely observes this three-fold rule will seldom offend others, and help the church grow and maintain it’s first love.
So listen to what we’re to do when someone hurts or feelings, or sins against us, or is living in sin:
1st, Go and tell him the truth—but alone and in person. Go and tell him his fault. The Greek is somewhat stronger, convict him of his fault, carefully, gently lay out what is wrong in such a way as to reach his reason and his conscience. (See John 16:8.) But again, this is to be done gently “between you and him alone.” Angry words spoken in the presence of others would fail to help and might even destroy the relationship or any hope of repentance. There might be times to openly rebuke, as Jesus did and as Paul did, but those times should be rare.
And, if you are wronged by another, you ought not to complain of it to others, that’s called gossip, but rather go to the offender privately, state the matter kindly, and show him why his conduct was either offensive to you or contrary to Christian living. But how few of us really try the method which Christ expressly taught to all his disciples!
Don’t hold a grudge against the one that has sinned and don’t humiliate him/her in front of others; but take him aside, show him his fault, and if he owns up and wants to make it right, you have done the right thing and set the example and standard for how you want to be confronted when it’s your turn. Expect to be confronted with the same meekness or meanness when you are confronted one day.
Again, this must be done in private, gently, mercifully. Such treatment may win the heart, while public rebuke, open denunciation, might only incense and harden. Plainly, the Lord primarily contemplates quarrels between individual Christians; though, indeed, the advice here and in the sequel is applicable to a wider sphere and to more important occasions. You hast gained thy brother. If he shall own his fault, and ask for pardon, you have won him for God and yourself. A quarrel is a loss to both parties; a reconciliation is a gain for both.
If we are prayerful and careful, one of four things might happen:
a. He may have an opportunity of explaining his conduct. In nine cases out of ten, where one supposes that he has been injured, a little friendly conversation would set the matter right and prevent difficulty. Look before you leap! Listen to him as he explains himself. You might have it all wrong.
b. He may have an opportunity of acknowledging his offense or making reparation, if he has done wrong. Your words could help him get back on track.
c. The work of Christ is often wounded more in churches than outside the church. This is your chance to stand of for Jesus and not deny Him.
d. You might gain a brother - To gain means, sometimes, to preserve or to save, 1 Corinthians 9:19. Here it means you have restored him or have gained him as a Christian brother.
2. But, if this does not work… Take with one or two more friends with you and confront the sin — Men whom he esteems or loves, who may then confirm and enforce what you say. Let them witness how you are confronting your sister or brother and to witness their response.
3. If that still fails….Tell it to the elders of the church — Lay the whole matter open before those who watch over your and his soul. If all this does not help, have no further intercourse with him, only such as you would a member of a cult. Can any thing be plainer? Christ does here as expressly command all Christians who see a brother do evil, to take this way, not another, and to take these steps, in this order.
4 And if that fails… Regard him as no longer a brother Christian, but as one "without"—as the Jews did Gentiles and publicans. No you can hate these words, but they came from the mouth of Jesus Christ and they mean a lot more than your or my opinion.
Up to this point Christ’s teaches a warning against offending the young and or the weak; He now teaches how to behave when someone sins against you or is doing something that is “sin”.
But look at how Jesus does not allow sins within a church to fester. He’s clear: Do not wait for him to come to you; make the first advances yourself. This, as being the more difficult course: Tell him his fault. Put the fault plainly before him, what is wrong and how he has offended God.
Okay, so why this message today? We are showing an utter disregard for the purpose of Jesus Christ and our love for others when we turn a blind eye to what we know is wrong and is clearly sin. We can candy-coat it or try to create spiritual excuses for ignoring the obvious, but there’s right and wrong and there is a fight going on, spiritually speaking, to bring this church and our witnesses into compromise with immorality as within the Episcopal Church. And I mean by that a desperate attempt for our churches to be politically correct, well spoken of and admired. Please show me any scripture that suggests that this is the purpose of the church or any redeemed life!!!
Our moral lives are supposed to be an example and a light to others.
Here are the big deals within Christian fellowship and things we’re supposed to address:
-Sexual immorality—we fail here miserably.
-Laziness—don’t work and don’t eat is the church’s teaching
-Eating or drinking in an offensive manner (blood, too much wine, gluttony). Do not eat, drink, or even dress in a manner that offends a weaker brother or sister.
-Any form or idolatry.
-Dabbling with superstitious, cultish or deviant metaphysical religious expressions.
We’re not supposed to go out looking for sin, but when it is blatantly exposed or brought to our attention it should break our hearts and cause us to hurt for the offender. If you love him/her, and they are living in sin, you know that they are brining insult to Jesus Christ, impeding the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of the loss and are in danger of God’s heavy hand! To ignore blatant sin is to show a total lack of love for the one that has stumbled!
Having the courage to confront sin opens the door for these things:
It promotes repentance. The goal of church discipline is to bring the one that is living wrong to repentance and restore them to the church again. The aim is not to kick people out of the church but to try and keep them in. Sin does not keep me out of the church; it is only unrepentant sin that will see me excluded. Church discipline exists to help a wayward brother or sister repent and bring them back into right fellowship with the church. The church is only and always full of sinners, but it is unrepentant sinners that will destroy the church. The whole aim of discipline is to provide opportunities to repent .
It encourages faithfulness. The aim is to see sinners restored to fellowship through repentance. But where there is no repentance, eventually that person is put out of the church. The rest of the church watching to see exactly what Christ and His gospel demand of faithful believers.
It protects the church
Throughout the Bible, there are examples of believers and churches being drawn away from the faith by those who bring in destructive heresies and false teaching. There are several examples among the churches in the Book of Revelation of those who tolerate false teaching and those who propagate it within their churches. The warnings always remain the same. If they do not deal with these things through church discipline, the whole church may well be led astray and die. It is, simply put, that serious. A failure to enact proper church discipline will, in the end, mean that your church gets overrun by those who deny the gospel and whose lifestyles make clear they do not believe it. They will, in effect, simply be people in a room together. Or worse than that, they will be people in a room together oblivious to their impending destruction at the hands of a God they have evidently rejected. Church discipline is our means of stopping that from happening. It is God’s appointed way of removing at root what will ultimately grow and destroy our church if left unaddressed.
It honors Christ At the end of the day, if we love Jesus, we will also care about his honor. We do not honor Jesus by calling acceptable what he deems utterly unacceptable. In fact, we demean everything he did on our behalf when we simply wave away sin as some trifling thing that doesn’t really matter. We’re essentially saying that Jesus died for nothing. It degrades all that he did. But worse, the watching world look to Christians to know what Jesus said. If Christians do it, they assume Jesus is good with it. If Christians don’t do it, they assume he’s not fine with it. To leave flagrant sin unchecked says to the watching world that Jesus is actually okay with behavior that required his death on a cross to sort out. Not only does the sin itself dishonor Jesus, but our failure to address it dishonors him too. When we enact proper church discipline, we honor Jesus by making clear what he values and aligning ourselves with him.