Key Verse: Matt 18:15
I. Remember That You Are Not Sinless and You Cannot Expect Others to Be
A. The word "if " in Matt 18:15 is the Greek eán which is a suppositional conjunction of objective possibility. It is a situation likely to occur, not a subjective supposition which may never be realized (usually indicated by the Greek particle ei). Don’t live in a dream world thinking that your brother in Christ is so perfect that he will never do anything to offend you.
B. The verb "trespass" in Matt 18:15 is in the subjunctive aorist (
hamartês¢) which indicates not a life of sin, but a single act. It basically means to miss the mark. You set the mark for your brother but somehow he misses it. He does not measure up to your expectations. This happens so easily. We meet our own aim, but often miss the goals others set for us.
II. No Indifference Is Allowed in the Life of the Christian Toward Another
A. This does not mean, however, that we have the right to pry into the lives of others in order to find a reason to correct them. Our Lord gave us clear command not to judge others in Matt 7:1,2, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." No one has the right to be a self-appointed judge of others. The commandment, "Judge not," is in the present indicative entailing continuity of action.
B. Christ teaches in Matt 18:15 that if you are offended because your brother fails to meet your standard in something particular, you should go to him. This only involves something personal as indicated by the phrase "against thee." It does not say that you should take up the cause if it is against someone else. It must be something which affects you and you alone.
C. Your brother may be totally unconscious of the thing he has done to disappoint you. If you refuse to see him about it, you may continue to harbor feelings against him, which would be harmful to you.
III. The Injured Person Must Go to the One Who Offended
A. Let it be a private matter. Instead of telling others, go and reprove him. The verb élegxon is the aorist imperative active of
elégchœ, "to rebuke, reprove." This indicates a once and for all action. It implies that the brother is in the wrong for whatever he did against his brother.
B. The purpose of going to him is to win him. If you do not make him aware of the problem, he will continue sinning to his own detriment. The approach of the injured is redemptive ". . . if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
C. The meaning of the verb "hear" (akoúœ) is "to heed or obey" which proves that the injurious person needs to amend his way.
IV. Continuing to Harm a Brother Is Inadmissible in a Church Body
A. If the offending person does not heed the reproof of the injured person, he must be given a second opportunity to "shape up" in the presence of other witnesses (Matt 18:16).
B. If this reproof is also rejected it should be brought before the church or the governing body of the church (Matt 18:17).
C. The church is then given authority to deal with such a person as if he were a heathen, and no more a brother. Others must know that he is no longer part of the church and that he has been properly disciplined.