Matthew 18:15-20 Part 3

You must be changed and become as the babes – newborns.  And the old “self” must be humiliated and mortified with Christ.  This, and only this, is the entrance into the Kingdom.  And each one of these “little ones” is so valued by our Father in the Heavens that if we are received, Christ is received.  Also, terrible warnings are given to the “entrapments” and the lawless; for a joint-heir with Christ to the blessings of the Father is not to be enticed to sin against God by persecution, suffering, human wisdom, lust, etc.

Neither is even one of these newborns to be in any way reduced in significance, for each one belongs to the Father and is judged by Him.  Each one is an adopted son and is paid for with a very high price.  And each one suffers the shame and humiliation of having sinned against the Father and, thereby, requiring the murder of the Father’s Son in order to be redeemed!  So all of them, individually and as a group, are very specially graced.  And no one has a right to “think down” on one of them.

“But if your brother should sin….”  If your brother should turn away, in rebellion, from God and revert to his former self; if your brother should emulate his former deadness; if your brother should return to the filth of his old nature; if your brother should “void” his former repentance and bring shame to the spilt blood of Christ; if your brother should sin against God and incur guilt and culpability, go and put him to the proof one on one!  Go and convict him of his sin.  If he will hear, you have won your brother – you have “gained” your brother.

But if he will not hear, bring another brother or two to speak to him, that on the speaking of two or three witnesses every truth of God might be set firm.

Now, we’ve already noted that the relationship between the Begotten Son of God and the “adopted” sons is very unique.  So much so that if one of God’s newborns is received, then Christ is received!  So if the brother in sin “receives” two or three who witness God’s Truth to him – that is, should he “hear” them – then he receives Jesus Christ as Witness to God’s Truth!  That’s what Jesus means, here in verse sixteen, when He says that every “word”, every Rhema, every Truth of God, is made firm.

Jesus reiterates that, as recorded by Matthew, in verse twenty, as He says:


“for where there are two or three having been brought together in My Name (or under My Power and Authority), there I Am amidst them!” 


In other words, when two or three of God’s adopted newborns gather under the Power and Authority of Jesus Christ to witness the Truth of God to a brother in sin, then every word – every Truth of God – is confirmed (established) by the Witness of Christ Who is the Fullness of the Word of God!

When we are received, He is received.  When we speak the Truth of God (Rhema), then He speaks the Truth of God!  When we, under His Authority, witness the Truth of God, it is “confirmed” by the witness of Christ.

This is very similar, indeed, to the emphasis and importance that God gives to preaching, isn’t it?  Not in every respect; but in this one it is – that the witness of Christ is “sounded’ when two or three are gathered under His Authority to witness the Truth to one in sin.  In Romans chapter ten, Paul makes it very clear that it is the Voice of Christ in the preaching of God’s Word.  So, in the “proclamation” of the Gospel, and in the witness of two or three to a brother in sin, Christ Himself speaks!  Next Lord’s Day, when we come to verse eighteen, that will be very important for us to remember.

But for now let’s consider the gravity of the position in which the brother in sin finds himself.  It is very serious.  Having reverted to his depraved and abominable self-interest by some “entrapment” of the world order, he is approached by another brother who is desirous of “gaining” him.  And, apparently, the other brother was well-prepared and thoroughly capable of using the Bible to expose the sin!

He is self-conscious of his own weaknesses and cogent in his arguments.  But the brother in sin will not hear him!  He either denies the sin or becomes angry about the criticism – whatever his reaction, he wants to remain in his sin!  He will not hear, and he will not be convicted; he rebels against God’s Word and against his brother’s interference in his life!  He has rejected God’s command for him to repent!  In effect, he is desirous of his own self-interest, and he is antagonistic to the sovereignty of God.

So the brother who approached him, rebuffed but undaunted, goes to get another brother or two.  He recognizes his responsibility to love his brother and not despise him.  He also knows what Christ said in Matthew eighteen, twenty:  “…where there are two or three brought together in My Name, there I Am amidst them.”  He knows that Christ is received when they are received; and he knows that Christ witnesses the Truth of God when multiple witnesses speak the Truth of God under His authority!

So, now, the brother in sin is faced with two or three who are exposing him and his sin to what God said!  And since Christ is Witness to the Truth of God when two or three are come together under His Power, the Truth is confirmed against Him.  And he has no options, because the “Rhema” (the Truth of God witnessed by Christ) convicts people of sin.

Now, in his desire to continue to sin he may rebel against the Word of Truth; or, on the other hand, he may be humbled before God and repent.  Either way, he has no options with regard to the Truth being established against him!  If two or three came to him to argue with him or to reason with him or to threaten him with social reprisals, then he has some options.  But Jesus said that at the speaking of two or three brothers, every Truth of God is confirmed – Jesus Christ as Witness!  That leaves a brother no options!  It’s established!

And should he be so consumed and tormented in his sin that he sets himself in defiance of the Word established against him (i.e., he will not hear), then he has put himself in a very dreadful and appalling position.  To sin against God, and to mutiny from the Body of Christ, to prove himself ungovernable, to revolt against the witness of Christ to the Truth of God – all for the desire to sin – is grim and frightening.

And this is certainly true, to a lesser extent, with respect to those secret sins which the brothers don’t know about!  Although the confrontation with the Truth of God from the mouths of witnesses exacerbates and potentiates the distress of rebellion, the concealed, the shrouded, the disguised sin that so few know about is grievous and excruciating.  It’s heavy and sickening.  It deceives and defrauds and robs and consumes and habituates.  It’s ugly and monstrous – and insidious.  The desire for it is agonizing.  And it destroys everything.

But the witness of the Truth of God from the mouths of multiple witnesses confirms and establishes and aggravates and heightens and provokes!  And the position of the one in sin becomes very acute.  The apostle Paul says, in Romans seven, that sin becomes exceedingly sinful by means of the Commandment of God.  And that the desire for sin works in our members to bring forth the fruit of death.

Paul said that he knew the sin of covetousness because of the Law of God – “Thou shalt not covet.”  In other words, he came to know his own sin nature; he was brought to awareness of his “self” in all its depravity by the Law of God.  And even though his sin nature desires its own self-interest, he gives thanks to God that, through Jesus Christ, he has been freed from the curse of the Law.  And he walks under the Authority of the Spirit of Christ rather than under the authority of his own depraved self!  And he delights in God’s Law and wills to walk in obedience – even though his own sin nature works all manner of self-deceit and self-assertion (covetousness).  Paul is describing the mortification of self and newness of life in Christ!  This is a graphic account of the humiliation and death of “self” in all its covetousness, and the obedience of “rebirth” by the Spirit of Christ.

So the Word of Truth, from multiple witnesses, brings about a very acute situation for the one is sin.  And if he should fail to hear?  Verse seventeen:


“and if he should fail to hear them, speak to the Church; and if he should fail to hear the Church, let him be to you as the heathen and the publican (tax collector).”


If your brother should harden his heart against the Word of Truth, witnessed by Jesus Christ, spoken by multiple witnesses; if he should deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ; if he should seek his own covetous self-interest; if he should desire his own satisfaction in place of the Law of God and instead of walking under the Authority of the Spirit of Christ; if he should lust after the flesh rather than humbling himself before God, then speak to the Church.

After being faced by a brother desirous of his gain; and after being confronted by two or three who speak the Word of Truth, if there is failure to hear, then the sin is to be made public to the entire community of believers.  And Jesus’ words are very clear that this is not to be a situation of gossip and rumor in which people delight in talking and whispering.  That is forbidden by God’s Law.

The sole purpose of speaking to the Church is that the entire body corporately speak to the brother in sin!  Jesus says, “and if he should fail to hear the Church….”  That indicates that the Church speaks the Word of Truth, in unity, for the “gain” of this brother!  In order to win him from his rebellion.

It is not to be an occasion of shame where all the information is “covered up” or “in the closet” or talked about in low tones by curious tongue-waggers!  It is to be an open and unified, concerted effort by the Church to gain this brother by bringing God’s Truth against him by the entire body of believers!  It is an ecclesiastical battle with sin; it is a war against rebellion in the body of Christ!  It is a corporate desire for righteousness and holiness; and that the body of Christ not sin against the Father!

The Church is the visible and public representation of the Kingdom of Christ.  It is God’s covenant people assembled for worship.  And the characteristics of that assembly are very plainspoken in God’s Own Word.  The Church is built on the Rock which is Christ – that very same Rock upon which Israel was crushed, and which was torn from that nation and given to the Gentiles.  It’s Head and Supreme Authority, Who was humiliated and murdered for it, is Jesus Christ the Resurrected Lord.  Having been resurrected from the realm of the dead, He ascended to the right hand of the Father and received power and glory and a Kingdom.  By His Spirit the Glory Cloud now tabernacles with us; and we who are in Him now have bold access to the Holy of Holies and the “Seat” of God’s tender mercies.

We are an adopted brotherhood with union in His New Humanity; and one of our many purposes is to grow up into the fullness of the body of Christ – being likeminded and mature, and bringing honor and respect to God Who has graced us with His salvation – undeserved as we are!

And our “Assembling” of ourselves together is a visible manifestation of our submission to our Creator and Savior.  And He has said what is to be concerning His Church!  He has conspicuously indicated how He wishes to be worshipped and what “order” is to be observed in His Church.

He wishes His people to be delighted in Him in singing and in prayer.  We are to preach God’s Words boldly and clearly; and we are to “hear” that preaching.  We are to tithe what He gives us.  And we are to administer His covenantal signs faithfully.

And, as Jesus indicates in our text, and as the prophets and apostles write (by inspiration of the Spirit), there is to be order and discipline in the Body!  And of the many places in the Scriptures where mourning and vexation occur because of sin in the body, the fifth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is the most explicit.

Without reading the chapter, let me just say that Paul’s instructions to the Church include the excommunication of an incestuous man.  Because of the sacrifice of God the Son, and with deep sorrow and mourning, one who calls himself a brother – and yet continues in his sin – is to be “purged out like old leaven.”  Paul writes, in verse eleven,


“But now I wrote to you not to keep company, if any man who is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or a thief; with such a one, no, not to eat.”… “Therefore, put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”


In other words, one who has sinned against God and will not be humbled before God in repentance, is to be judged by the whole Church, separated from the communion of believers, delivered over to Satan, and to be judged on the outside by God!  And the basis for it all is the crucified and resurrected Christ.

Jesus, in our text, says that if the man in sin will not hear the Church, let him be to you as the heathen and the publican.  Not “like” – but “as” the heathen and the publican.  In other words they are to be viewed and treated as idolatrous Gentiles and thieves who buy and sell the taxes of the people – they are to be “outsiders” and non-participants in the body of Christ.

Now let me give you, once more, the “order” of discipline required by Christ; and then the two-fold purpose of that discipline.  The first line of discipline is the preaching of God’s Word.  And it is the primary means by which God dispenses His grace and mercy to men; and it is also the primary means by which the Church is ordered and disciplined into the “fullness” and maturity of the body of Christ.

Secondly, if a brother should sin against God, another brother is to go and convict him of his sin – one on one.  If he should harden his heart, then two or three should speak the Word of Truth to him.  Fourthly, should he not hear them, the Church in unison must convict him of his sin.  And, fifthly, should he fail to hear the Church, then excommunication is commanded.  It is not an option.  And I think that it’s very evident that there is no room here for Freudian, self-worth counseling.

Now, we have to see a two-fold purpose (at least) in the order which is required of the Church.  The immediate purpose is to gain a brother from his sin against God.  The entire process must be seen in that light.  And, therefore, should a man or a woman or a child, who has been “sent out” from among us, see the wrath and judgment of God in being separated out from the body of Christ, and humbles himself in repentance before God, then the whole body, again in unison, must rejoice with him in the forbearance and mercy of God.

The second purpose for the order that is required in the Church is based on the fact that there is no “concord” between Christ and Belial (Second Corinthians six, fifteen).  In that place Paul says,


“What part has he who believes with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”


In sorrow, and with the absence of revenge, the unrepentant sinner is to be separated out of the body – for the purity of the Church!  For the believer has no concord, no part, no agreement with an infidel.  The purity of the Body of Christ requires it.

We as Christians have failed miserably in warning people of their final and irrevocable destiny should they not be “changed” and become “as the babes.”  Death and eternal destruction is not an illusion – it is a certainty.  In laying down His life for sin and as sin, Jesus revealed the destiny of man-who-dies-in-sin and is raised to face the judgment of God – where the sentence is final.  Such would be the sentence for every person were it not for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The sin for which He died was not His Own, but He became sin for us.  It was ours and not His.  But God raised Him up, “having loosed the pangs of death:  because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”  So God’s purposes will not be thwarted by the depravity of men.  But He will “set loose” to eternal destruction any creature who denies the resurrection of Christ Jesus the Lord, by living under the authority of his own flesh.