Matthew 18 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Ban Careless Applications ...
Before applying this passage from Matthew 18 as the rule for church discipline, we must investigate the other passages that are usually lumped with it. Matthew 18 deals with a personal affair between two brethren. This might be a business deal gone sour, gossip repercussions or family friction. Since it is not—or should not be—general knowledge we must deal with it quietly if possible.
Also, before applying the Matthew 18 passage as punishment, we must decide what sort of treatment Yeshua meant when saying, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. How did Yeshua treat Gentiles and tax collectors? They were, after all, the very people to whom he was sent; Mar 2:17 ESV And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Two passages that bear on differently church discipline are: Titus 3:9-10, But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning ..., and 2 Thess 3:6, Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. Here we read of offenses where a brother or sister is either chronically unruly, or argumentative, especially about genealogical entitlements and legalistic hair-splitting. These verses do not speak to the same situation as Matthew 18, where the offense was a private issue, and best kept confidential until we see the offender blatantly has no regard for appearances.
First Corinthians chapter five reflects the Apostle Paul's most acute concern. It deals with an offense that, while initially private, risks public scandal when exposed. And it will be exposed. Sexual sin often persists despite any corrective measure the church might take, because the offenders have so thoroughly rationalized their relationship's "rightness." Yet, for justice sake, the church must follow Scripture more diligently than in other situations. The key verses are, 1Co 5:1 NASB It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. 1Co 5:5 NASB I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1Co 5:9-11 NASB I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; (10) I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. (11) But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.
Verses ten and eleven above should speak loudly to those in the news media who stereotype evangelical Christians as, "The Religious Right," or legalists, trying to force our strict, sectarian moral code on society as a whole. Here, Scripture instructs us to deal with our own problems, but always in view of the Apostle John's many "love one another" passages. This way, we would treat all offenders without rancor, demonstrating God's love even in the difficult situations.
... and Harsh Reactions
Yes, this even applies when dealing with public issues, such as the entertainment media and government schools who try to make gross immorality a "viable, alternative lifestyle." We must not fuel the world's stereotyping by confronting its establishments with the strong emotions we feel at witnessing our society's moral standards being publicly trashed. Though Scripture tells us, For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, we must ensure that we do not cause the offense through our abrasive manor. Glaring the light of truth on those walking in darkness won't make them less blind. Rather than thumping the Bible at them, or on them, we serve God far more effectively by simply reflecting His glory to them; Mat 5:16 LITV So let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father in Heaven.
"But that's hard to do," some brethren might complain, "much harder than just telling people what to do." Well, isn't that the point of living Christ's life in this world?
So we must move our whipping posts back to the junk room and deal with sin in the church exactly in the way, and by the Spirit, of Yeshua our Anointed One.