This week we have been reading Christ's admonition to His disciples to beware of offending one of His "little ones" or believers. He has instructed them how to act toward those who are new in the faith with the same patience and love He has shown them. Today He tells them how they should act when they are the ones who are offended. Christ lays out the order that should be followed in hopes of bringing peace between fellow members of the church. As with all of the Lord's teachings, this is the formula that is to be applied in our churches today.
Matthew 18:15 "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
Jesus' last statement in yesterday's blog was verse 14 "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Now or "moreover" and above the desire of God to save little ones, He also is concerned with the spiritual wellbeing of all those within the church. We know here that He is speaking of those within the church because he calls the man that has offended "thy brother". We are not told the scope of the "trespass" or offense, nor does it really matter. The point is that there is friction within the church body that must be mended before it festers and grows into an irreparable split. Nothing gives Satan more pleasure than the body of Christ, His church, being torn apart.
Clear instruction is given to the one who feels they have been wronged in some way. He is to go to the brother who has done him wrong and talk to him face to face, just the two of them. If the problem can be worked out, then that should be the end of it. The split has been mended, and the man has "gained" back his friend.
How often could we today benefit from this simple instruction! The tendency of the flesh is to talk behind the offenders back to anyone that will listen. Facebook has become a great place to do this! It amazes me that this tool of the devil is called "face" book when no one has to show their face when insults and lies are flung about for the entire world to see. It is easy to be brave when we are locked within our own homes. Facebook can be an incredible witnessing tool, but it is more often the mouthpiece of Satan.
Matthew 18:16 "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
If we try our best to work out the problem between ourselves, but "he will not hear thee" or admit his role in the issue, then we are to take 2 or 3 more believers with us and visit him again. Jesus repeats the principle of 2 or 3 witnesses for a fact-finding mission over and over in the Scriptures. If the brother is obstinate and still will not admit his wrong if front of more witnesses, then the entire church is to become involved. If the elders and the church cannot bring the offender to repentance then drastic measures must be taken. The offender is then to be treated as if he were "an heathen man" or a "publican" or wickedly dishonest tax collector. This meant to be expelled from special gatherings of the church. He could not participate in any church function, or hold any office in the church until he would become repentant. This was tough love meant to bring the man to shame about his offense.
Matthew 18:18 "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Jesus tells us "verily" or truly what His response from Heaven will be when the proper procedures are followed by the church in this matter. If the offender is "bound" on the earth by the church, then he shall also be bound in heaven by the churches decision. They will receive a spiritual Amen for their actions.
Can this principle be abused by the self-righteous? Unfortunately, yes. John's Gospel gives us an example of this, and how our Lord corrected the situation. Jesus had just healed a man blind from his birth. The Pharisees brought the man before their council to berate him about his healing. They tried to insinuate that the man was lying about the power of Jesus to heal. For his testimony the man was expelled from the synagogue. John 9:35 "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him."
Being expelled from the synagogue was not like being expelled from a church today. They were not 10 more synagogues of every name down the street. There was only one place for the Jewish people to worship. Jesus would not allow him to be an outcast for the testimony he held. He made a point of going back to the man, and making him aware that he was now a child of the Living God.
Verse 19 packs a spiritual punch! If there is "anything" the body of believers agrees on in earth, it "shall be done" in Heaven! What all is included in "anything"? The mind boggles at the possibilities. If we act in accordance with the Word of God there is nothing that the body of believers cannot accomplish. If at least 2 or 3 of us are gathered ANYWHERE in His name, then it is as if Jesus Himself were standing with us in agreement.
If God be for us, who can be against us? Amen!!!