Focus on Jesus Series
Biblical Confrontation and Matthew 18:15-19
by Ed Vasicek
Matthew 18 presents us with a pattern for confronting those who have fallen into blatant sin. Although this passage does not include all the Bible’s teaching about this subject, it is the most detailed. It addresses typical situations, and should not be viewed as applicable to all. Although not stated, both sense and numerous Scriptures make it clear that we are not necessarily to confront others about every sin, but rather the sins that “jump out” and are beyond the realm of mere human weakness.
The procedure for confronting others is simple and logical. First, we begin by bringing up the matter privately. If it is resolved at that level, the matter is generally closed (though not always). If the confronted party refuses to address the wrongdoing, then we are to bring others with us—usually one or two more. They serve a triple-purpose:
This procedure is used for gross sins, described for us by Paul:
1 Corinthians 5:9-11 “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”
Although not stated here, there are other forms of church discipline that are less severe (or, in the case of leaders, more severe!). In some instances, a person might be asked to leave rather than be completely excommunicated, particularly if family is involved. In other instances, discipline might include surrendering a position or personal ministry, or even being restrained from participating in communion for a time. Some forms of discipline follow forgiveness in a strategy to reestablish the credibility of the offender.
In most churches, including ours, the first step (talking to the person privately) clears up the majority of problems. In those rare instances when we do have to practice discipline, it is best if all of us know and accept the rules beforehand. (It is too late to learn this when a crisis is in progress!) When we do have to go all the way and either ask someone to leave or completely excommunicate them, does the person usually repent? In my experience, no. But if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we must obey Him—even when it gets messy or our emotions are high. We have no choice. We simply must believe that He knows best. Such times test whether we have convictions or just warm wigglies!
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA