Read verses 15-20
Q: How has the focus changed? What term is now used to identify the subject of the discussion?
A: Previously the discussion was focused on “children”, now it is “your brother”.
Point: Christ is dealing, so to speak, with “family matters”. Previously He addressed the responsibility to nurture and protect the children, now He addresses relationships between brethren in order to keep our church family not just intact in Christ but holy.
Q: Why does Jesus steer the discussion to the issue of dealing with sin?
A: This is all a greater teaching about how our personal faithfulness is supposed to engender faithfulness in others around us just as our sin engenders sin in those around us. Just as we are responsible to encourage faithfulness, we are likewise responsible for dealing with sin in others.
Q: So what is the process of dealing with personal sin?
- First a private interview. (v.15)
- Then bring two or three witnesses. (v.16)
- Finally, if necessary, take the issue before the church. (v.17)
Q: What is the goal of the process?
A: “You have won your brother”. (v.15) In other words, the goal of church discipline is reconciliation through love.
Q: Why is an unrepentant brother to be cut off from fellowship?
A: It goes back to the opening teaching of this chapter that allowing unaddressed sin in one person’s life influences others around them to sin. One unaddressed cancer cell eventually spreads and kills the whole body.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
— Galatians 6:1
Application: We are not to take the attitude of a policeman out to arrest a criminal but rather act in the character of a physician seeking to heal a wound in the Body of Christ which, if left unattended, will spread sickness and death.
Q: Is this the same process we should use with false teachers and false prophets?
A: Absolutely not. Whenever Jesus encountered false teachers He always rebuked them openly and directly. This is a process dealing with personal sin; public sin in the form of false teaching, false prophecy, etc. must be dealt with immediately and publicly. It is a completely different matter altogether.
Q: Is “binding” and “loosing” the Christian equivalent of casting a curse or spell on someone?
A: If we examine its usage in the giving of the keys by Christ (Mt. 16:19) and Paul’s dealing with a sinful brother in Corinth (he “bound” the offending brother in 1 Co. 5 and “loosed” him after he confessed in 2 Co. 2), we understand it is the applying of God’s Word in matters of discipline. It is a biblical expression for holding people accountable to God’s Word.
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.
— 2 Thessalonians 3:1
Q: What is suggested by v.19 to be a very important part of the disciplinary process?
A: Not just prayer, but prayer where there is a premium placed on the union of Believers to pray for some definite thing in the spirit of a family concerned for and desiring the same goal.
Q: Why might the distinction “I am there in their midst” be important?
A: It is not just unity in agenda that is important but unity in Christ. He is essential to both sides of the issue, both for those yearning to restore a brother in Christ and for the sinful brother who needs to be personally restored to Christ. Christ is the essential element for both parties.
Application: If all Christians were perfect there would be no need for such instructions. But just we have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable in order to engender faithfulness, so we have a responsibility to hold each other accountable in order to mitigate the effects of faithlessness.