August 7, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We looked in our last blog at the first step of the Four-Step Plan that the Lord gave us in Matthew 18:15 through 17 to solve conflicts and offenses, especially among believers:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault be-
tween you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that by
the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And
if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to
hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax collector.
• In review, here again is Step One (Matthew 18:15) – “…go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This one thing will solve most conflicts in the church and among Christians! Because the desired result is, “If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” So before the issue is spread around as gossip and blown all out of proportion – whether you are the offended one or the offender – “…go [to] him alone…”!
• Step Two (Matthew 18:16) – “But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” The one or two you include in this second confrontation need to be godly people who are interested in settling any differences and restoring fellowship between brothers and/or sisters. From my own experience, I think it is a good idea to spend time in prayer with the one or two before you go on to this second step, beseeching God to pave the way for restoration of fellowship.
Jesus said to “…take with you one or two more…,” because “…by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” This was a legal necessity under the Jewish law. In Deuteronomy 19:15 it is written: “One witness shall not rise up against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” Why? Because it is more difficult to coerce two or three people into falsely testifying and railroading an innocent person into criminal conviction than it is to talk one into it!
• Step Three (Matthew 18:17) – “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.” Now remember of whom the early church consisted. What did Jesus have in mind for the church when He gave this prophecy? I think the best picture of that is in Acts 2:42, 44-47:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in
the breaking of bread, and in prayers….Now all that believed were together,
and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and
divided them among all, as everyone had need. So continuing daily with
one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they
ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and hav-
ing favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those
who were being saved.
I don’t see many gossips or shallow Christians in this description! Do you? The purpose of telling the matter to the church was so the members could get involved in encouraging this stubborn one to be reconciled to his brother or sister!
• Step Four (Matthew 18:17) – “But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax collector.” This is not ostracism or shunning (like that which is more common among the Amish). Obviously, if this offended one, or the one who has offended another, has resisted the first three steps toward reconciliation, then that one must not be a true Christian! What do you then do with one who is not a Christian? You try to win him or her to the Lord Jesus Christ!
That’s what Jesus did for us. He clearly stated His purpose in Luke 19:10: “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He was criticized for hanging around with tax collectors and heathen.
▸ Tax collectors were considered the worst of the worst! They were Jews employed by Rome to collect the hated Roman taxes. They were assigned the amount of money they were to turn in, but whatever they could extort from their fellow Jews above and beyond that amount, they could keep!
▸ Sinners were common Jewish folk who, in the minds of the religious elite, did not keep the law – and all the man-made interpretations of the Jewish law – that the Pharisees loaded upon the people (see Matthew 23:1-33).
This Four-Step Plan is designed in each step to facilitate reconciliation among Christians! And This Four-Step Plan Works! Read it, study it, think about it, and practice it!