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15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen to even the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

This has two logical parts to it:

  • Jesus tell us the procedure to follow when our brother sins. The first Anabaptist called this procedure, “The Rule of Christ”. (Anabaptist – Protestant groups that appeared at Zwickau in Switzerland as early as 1521)
  • Jesus broadens this authority of discipline to include the idea of the authority (The Church) to decide right from wrong—discernment.

What sins need to be confronted?

  • Anything that causes offence.
  • Anything that breaks fellowship.
  • Anything that is taking the brother or sister away from God.
  • Anything the community has agreed to hold each accountable for.

In Luke 17:3, a parallel text, Jesus says, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.’ The rebuke is not limited to personal offences. Neither is it restricted to personal offences in the writings of Paul. In Galatians 6:1 we read, ‘Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.’ This can be done gently in five steps:

Step One – Challenge one another

  • The first step is going directly to your brother or sister, avoiding shame and gossip.
  • Don’t go while you’re angry; don’t go to vent your rage. But don’t wait too long before you say something. It will only get harder.

Step Two – Take a witness

The second half of verse 15 tells us the goal of the Rule of Christ – ‘If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.’ The goal is not punishment but restoration, c.f. Galatians 6:1.

  • If you can’t work it out between you or you can’t agree on whether the person is actually in sin. This is why, in the second step, we bring in one or two others – someone with more spiritual wisdom or experience, someone who can listen carefully to both sides.

Step three – Tell it to the Church

  • If the conflict still can’t be resolved with the help of one or two others, the matter is made public before the church. Again, this is to restore the sinner back to faith.

Step four – Treat the Offender as an Unbeliever

  • When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor. 5:4-45)

Paul’s concern is the offender’s reconciliation that he might realize the seriousness of what he has done and repent. So, even at the fourth stage, the purpose is still to win the brother or sister over. If the offender refuses to listen to even the church, we are to treat him or her as a tax collector or a pagan. How did Jesus treat tax collectors and pagans? He ate at the table of tax collectors! He treated them as people in need of good news, in need of conversion.

Step five – Restoration

  • Jesus doesn’t explicitly mention restoration as a separate step, but he says it’s the goal of the process. Sometimes restoration won’t happen. But it is your hope and prayer that it will.
    Restoration should be as public as the discipline process was. It needs to come about as a result of obvious repentance. The church should then forgive the person and welcome them back into the church. Restoration should be full and final, with the person welcomed back into full church membership.

20 Questions for Today’s World:

1)       If you have children, how do you resolve their conflicts? Can you think of an example of a conflict that was resolved and all parties felt good?

2)       Why does Jesus take the time to tell us how to effectively deal with sin and conflict?

3)       What if there was no mention in Scripture on how to deal with conflict; can there be a better plan?

4)       Why is the application of love so important in maintaining growing, healthy relationships, and resolving disputes? What happens when love is absent?

5)       What happens when we, as a church, decide to ignore or fail to remove sin?

6)       How does a sin against God’s precepts affect you?

7)       How do repentance and the refusal to repent affect the church and community?

8)       Why does God call us to exercise mercy and forgiveness when dealing with Sin and Church discipline?

9)       How does mercy and forgiveness affect a person’s sin and his / her repentance? How would it affect you?

10)   What are some of the motivations and reasons why you or any particular person would not repent when confronted with sin or wrong doing?

11)   How would you define the word Church? What does Church mean to you as an expression? What should it mean?

12)   Read James 5:16: Why does God call us to confess our sins to one another and to Him? Why do so few Christians heed this call? How have you practiced this call?

13)   How is confessing sins an essential aspect to forgiveness and resolving conflict?

14)   Do you see in this passage the stages of offering mercy and forgiveness until all options are sought? How does it make you feel that God takes His time to deal with us with love and care?  How can you communicate this to others?

15)   How does it make you feel when someone who is clearly in the wrong refuses to acknowledge his or her sin or admit responsibility? Have you done this to someone else, and how do you think they felt?

16)   What happens to conflict and sin when the church is focused on community and prayer?

17)   Have you ever seen conflict draw people together for a cause, or perhaps create opportunities and communities to bring people together? How so?

18)   What happens in the life of the church when our motives for the restoration of God’s people from sin are skewed? What are some examples of skewing this motive?

19)   We are to take seriously the call to be responsible for one another in love and care. What can your church do to exercise this call better? What would happen in your church if the leaders took this call seriously?

20)   What would your personal life and church life be like if you put greater effort to extol people, that is, to come along side of them with comfort and help? How can you make this so?

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