Rob Ventura recently delivered a message at the Church Discipline Conference entitled, “Dealing With the Unrepentant.” Here are some notes from his message on Matthew 18:15-17, which tells Christians how they ought to deal with personal offenses.
He started off by saying that most Christians, when confronted with the biblical passages on church discipline, declare that they have never encountered the idea of church discipline before. Most of us would prefer to downplay sin rather than deal with it, but we are commanded to deal with it. If we desire to obey God, then there is no other option.
Matthew 18:15-17 focuses specifically on relational issues within the church. In this passage, our Lord Jesus Christ lays out three successive stages on how to deal with personal offenses:
Personally confront the brother. If your brother sins against you and you cannot overlook it, then go and confront him. Here are four things that you should keep in mind when you go to confront your brother:
- Go humbly.
- Go reluctantly.
- Go graciously.
- Go prayerfully.
Bring two or three witnesses. This is to be done only if your brother refuses to repent. The aim is still to convince the offending brother to repent of his sin. The primary goal of restoring the relationship is still in view.
Tell it to the church. This is the last dramatic step in this whole interpersonal scenario. Since the individual refuses to hear the witnesses, it is to be told to the whole church. If he does not hear the church, then he is to be treated as a heathen and a tax collector. To many of us this is known as excommunication.
Some will say that church discipline is legalistic and unloving. But that is not true. Proverbs 13:24 tells us that “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” This same principle applies to the church. Church discipline is a loving discipline, with the primary goal in view of bringing the sinning brother to repentance and restoration.
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