From the book, What People Ask About The Church, by Dale A. Robbins
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus established a procedure to be followed in
the event that a brother would commit a sin or offense against another Christian. Many
Christian scholars believe that this is one of the most neglected teachings of the entire
Bible. It's been said that if all believers would simply obey scripture, to go and
confront their offenders in the manner Jesus gave, it would solve over half of all
problems which exist in the church.
It is important to confront those brethren who have trespassed
against us for the following five reasons:
(1) To resolve misunderstandings. Most offenses in
the church result from misunderstandings and many could be quickly resolved if offended
parties would just go to the source and find out the facts. Unfortunately, some offended
people will just absorb the offense silently, while growing bitter and resentful. It is
important to God, and a matter of obedience to His Word, that such issues are confronted.
(2) To maintain peace in the body of Christ (Eph.
4:1-3). Whenever there is friction and turmoil between believers it affects the whole
body. It hinders people from entering into worship and receiving from God's Word. It
creates an uninviting atmosphere for visitors in the church, it may hinder people from
coming to Christ, and can even grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-32).
(3) So Satan cannot gain advantage over us (2 Cor.
2:10-11). For our own spiritual well-being, we must be quick to resolve our differences
with brethren and forgive. Satan can hinder our spiritual life, and even deceive us into
apostasy, through harbored bitterness or unforgiveness (Matt. 18:35).
(4) So that the offender is held accountable
to not repeat his actions to harm the faith of others (Matt. 18:6). Persons who bring
offense against you are likely to repeat similar acts against others. Confronting their
offensive behavior may cause them to restrain their actions from causing further offenses.
(5) To restore a fallen brother (Gal. 6:1).
Christians must make every attempt to restore brethren who fall into sin. Especially when
the transgression has been committed against us, our love for our brother's spiritual
well-being demands that we confront the brother so that he might be reconciled to God.
Matthew 18:15 "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
First, Go to your brother privately (Matt. 18:15).
If a fellow Christian has sinned or brought an offense against you, Jesus said for you to
first go to the offending party, confront him with the offense, and keep the matter
private between yourselves. Remember, the objective is to not merely to seek justice for a
violation against us, but to seek "reconciliation" with our brother, and his
restoration to a right relationship with God.
Why is the matter to be first kept private between you two? Because
our love for our brother requires it. If we are sincerely committed to love for our
brethren as Jesus commands (John 13:34), then even if a brother has sinned against us or
has done us wrong, we will not want to maliciously injure that brother's credibility
within the body that might hinder his restoration. If this person's transgression
against you is circulated within the body, but later he repents, many in the body will
have already judged this brother and the accusations will have damaged their opinion of
him. By spreading our accusation against an offending party, it builds a consensus against
them and makes it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to restore that person to the body
should they repent and desire to make things right.
Also, many alleged trespasses between brethren are a result of
"misunderstandings." We need to first investigate the facts and find out for
sure whether a trespass has really occurred. This is another reason why you are to first
go privately to the brother or sister in question to confront them with the alleged
offense and hear their side of the story. If we disclose the offense to friends in the
body, we may later discover that the matter was only a misunderstanding. But by then,
their reputation will have been damaged by our allegations.
Many people foolishly allow themselves to become offended by
misinterpreting other's intentions, or listening to rumors and secondhand information
which always contain distortions or exaggerations. Many offenses could be immediately
resolved by confronting the offending party and hearing their explanation. You'd be
surprised how many people are so immature that they don't even bother to investigate the
facts or hear the other side of the story. Don't ever forget, "There are always two
sides to a story," and never assume you know the truth of a matter until you've heard
I can guarantee that there would be far fewer misunderstandings in
the body of Christ if people would be firmly devoted to love for their brethren. Love for
the brethren gives us a desire to believe the best in our brother, giving him the
"benefit of the doubt," instead of jumping to conclusions and always expecting
the worst. The Bible says "If you love someone... you will always believe in him,
always expect the best of him" (1 Cor. 13:7 TLB).
If the trespass is proven valid, and he or she repent's for their
misdeed, you are to express your forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4). Let the matter be forever
ended, and carry no resentment toward them. Remember, if they repent, but you continue to
harbor bitterness, you too become a perpetrator of sin (Matt. 6:14-15, Acts 8:23, Eph.
Second, take another brother (Matt. 18:16). If your
private attempt fails to resolve the issue, you are then to take one other Christian and
again confront the offending party. The presence of another Christian is as a witness to
strengthen the serious effect of confrontation, to collaborate the exhortation of
scripture, to amplify the Lord's presence in the meeting, and to verify the exchange of
Third, tell Church leadership (Matt. 18:17). If the
first and second attempts fail, Jesus said then to "tell it to the church." This
doesn't mean the "entire" church body, as this could cause unrest or damage the
faith of young believers. The meaning is that the church pastors or elders are then to
bear responsibility in dealing with the offending party.
Finally, if these three prescribed attempts fail, we are no longer
required to entreat them with the courtesies shown to brethren. They may be dealt with in
the same fashion as we would a heathen or publican (Matt. 18:17).
What to do if you trespass: If you are aware of any
trespass you have committed against your brother, you have a responsibility to go to him
and seek his forgiveness. Should you not attempt reconciliation, this will hinder your
relationship with God. Your worship, your prayers and service to the Lord will not be
acceptable. "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that
your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go
your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift"
Note that the scripture says "if your brother has something against you." In other words, you might not feel that you have legitimately violated your brother or sister. But if you are aware that "they" harbor an offense against you, you still are obligated to go and try to resolve the issue. Be willing to be humble and submissive to others, even when you don't consider yourself to be at fault. Don't be so rigid and self-righteous that you stand in the way of a brother or sister's reconciliation with you or with God (Rom. 15:1-3). Offer your unpretentious, sincere apology for any unintentional offense and make every effort to reconcile, so that your relationship with God will not be hindered. Whether or not they pardon you, you have done your part and released your soul from blame.
This article is copyrighted © by Dale A. Robbins, 1995, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.You may download for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain published quantities of this title, .
If you liked this article, youll really love the whole book!