All too often those around us in the church are tempted to fall into sin. It is the duty of those closest to them to approach them so as to help them see their sinful ways. If we as obedient Christians refuse to do this, the one in sin will feel no sin is committed because the ones they trust to be brethren aren’t saying anything.
The reason this happens so often in the church is because Satan knows who to tempt and who is closest to the one he tempts. Just as Satan keeps weak ones around the sinners he knows he can use to help them stay in sin, Christ also places stronger ones nearby as well. But if all of them refuse to do their Ezekiel 3 duty, and instead choose rather to stroke the sinners spiritual ego to make them feel all is well and they don’t have to worry about their sin being a problem at all. A soul is tempted to delve into deeper sin making repentance that much harder to attain.
This has been witnessed as the absolute worse thing that can happen many times in the church of Christ and must be avoided at all costs. It is a cancer that must be cut away quickly. Had those closest to those in sin done their duty back when the sin first reared its ugly head, the sinner may have repented and the soul brought back into the fold without having to stand before the entire church. Better yet, the one that leads them back to Christ is amply blessed in doing so. For it is written in James 5:20, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
Praise the Lord that some do repent and those helping them are blessed. But sometimes the obedient Christian cannot convince the sinner of their need to repent. Verse 15 in Matthew 18 dictates the best possible way to begin the process that leads them back to Jesus Christ. The obedient Christians does all they can to show in the Word how the sinner is in need or repentance. A back and forth of discussion ensues, and sadly, if the sinner still refuses the counsel of the obedient Christian who does not shirk the duty at hand, then verse 16 comes in to play wherein that obedient Christian seeks out another trusted and obedient Christian to show the sinner their dangerous plight, and more discussion ensures. If the two or more witnesses open the eyes of the sinner as Christ intends, then a soul is saved and blessings abound. But, if in the rare chance the sinner is still refusing to see the truth after much dicussion and Bible study, then the instruction in verse 17 is to be followed. And this is the most difficult process of all in that the sinner often fears the embarrassment of standing before the entire church to answer for their sins.
When it gets to this point, the one in sin has shown that all discussion is useless and so the drastic measure of showing them the entire chruch agrees they are in sin, it is then that no discussion is needed. All discussion has to be done before verse 17 is followed. The sinner stands before the church, and the pastor asks the sinner if they have repented of the actions their entire church family has declared in one accord to be in fact sin. No opportunity is offered for the sinner to speak or “explain” their actions because all this was done beforehand by those that tried their best to help them via intsructions in verses 15 and 16.
Still.. some “sympathizers” may have issues with refusing them to speak, so, let me ask you this. When a sin is revealed before the entire church, and everyone in attendance has voted that it is indeed sin, when the person refuses to declare “yes they have repented” when asked, what do you think the sinner would have said had they had the chance to speak before the church family? They will most assuredly seek to vindicate their sinful ways which will then endanger the spiritual lives of the babes in Christ.
This is why most churches today refuse to do Matthew 18 in the first place. Most churches are filled with weak Christians who fear confrontation or the possibility of losing a friend and so Satan will tempt them to ignore sin in their brethren so as to keep the peace. The shocking and sad reality here is, the main reason some seek to vindicate their sin or even believe they are sinless is because those closest to them refused to do as Ezekiel chapter three says is their duty.
- Ezekiel 3:20-21, “Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.”
The reason it says the one warning the sinner “hast delivered thy soul” is because the Lord will test each and every one of us in this manner. We are all watched by God and the angel with the inkorn by his side who records whether or not we were obedient to the Lord’s requirement regarding someone close to us in sin.
If it comes to verse 17 wherein the sins of the sinner must be declared before all, that too is a difficult task. But this task is a must because Jesus Himself spoke it and we must obey. All efforts performed by the obedient Christians that performed the tasks outlined in verses 15 and 16 to help the soul see their danger were ignored by the one in sin. Therefore it is now necessary to declare the sins openly because it would be impossible to do as Jesus commands in Matthew 18 without telling the sinner where their sin is. After all, did not Jesus do that with the Pharisees in Matthew 23? Read that chapter and you will see it starts off in verse one saying, “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,” In other words, Jesus let everyone standing in attendance hear each and every sin those Pharisees did that day. And He listed quite a few. So, how does this apply to Matthew 18:15-17?
First we go to the sinner one on one to tell them of their plight. (verse 15) If they refuse to hear us, we are to bring two or three witnesses to make them aware that others see their sin to be in fact sinful. (verse 16) This is not to be done before the entire church. Still, does Jesus show He used this method? After all, we just saw He used the method outlined in verse 17 by how He exposed the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Where do we see verses 15 and 16 illustrated by Jesus in the Word?
- John 8:6-8, “This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”
What many are unaware of is that when Jesus stooped down to write in the sand He actually listed the sins of everyone present that day who were holding stones ready to toss. He did not name names, but he did list their sins and He did in fact keep it all private. This means the instruction as Christ gave us in Matthew 18:15,16 is when the sins are written in the sand. With the exception of the Pharisees, those standing by were ‘privately’ convicted of their sin and dropped those stones and walked away. Therefore we too must privately approach the brother or sister in sin first. Sadly, in today’s world, most Christians are weak people and they never do tell them about their sins. They fear hurting their feelings or losing a friend and that is why Satan makes sure those sinners steer clear of people that have no “guile” who tell it like it is because he knows they will alert the sinner of his or her plight immediately.
As we saw earlier, it says in Ezekiel 3:20 that “When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”
There is no way on God’s green earth that an obedient Christian will shirk his or her duty to warn people of their sin when it is made known to them because they take their calling very serious and they don’t want their blood on their hands. Matthew 18:15 and 16 is to be done first and that is why Jesus wrote those sins in the sand that day ‘privately’ without mentioning any one’s name.
But as is obvious with the Pharisees in Matthew 23, the sins Jesus showed them in John chapter 8 when He wrote in the sand did not convict them at all. Therefore, when the people ignore the gentle approach as per Matthew 18:15,16, then as Jesus also illustrated when He outed the Pharisees as hypocrites by listing their many sins before everyone, we too must declare to all in the church that the one in sin has refused all attempts to repent of the sin privately. So, Matthew 18:17 is then followed to the letter. Once the truth is drawn in the sand and they ignore it, drastic measures are most assuredly required. Still.. NONE OF THIS would have happened if those closest Christians to the sinner would have done their duty in the first place.
There are some very bold Christians in the church, and Satan knows it. So he keeps the sinful members away from the bold and obedient Christians because Satan knows very well how the obedient ones among us will step up and tell it like it is. This is why when it gets close to the Matthew 18:17 jurisprudence, those in sin refuse to speak to the pastor or other bold Christians in the church because Satan fears if they do so they will be convicted and repent of their sins. He can’t have that and so those in sin will avoid the pastor and the bold Christians at every turn.
As Jesus said about Nathaniel 2000 years ago, the bold ones in this church have no guile in their mouths. They will say it like it is when the time is right to say it. So Satan sends the sinful people to befriend the weaker Christains in the church so that when their sin gets way out of hand, those that are too weak to do their Ezekiel 3, will naturally fail and a sinner is lost. Worse yet, those that should have stepped up to help that sinner now have their blood on their hands and Satan has a just won another soul into his camp if they too refuse to repent. He gets two souls with one sin.
When the sinner is not properly approached and the sin becomes so embraced and vindicated and open to all church members, these weak Christians that should have helped the sinner now choose to back off knowing their lack of duty has caused the uproar. Sadly, and this happens more often than most realize, some of these weak Christians may even go so far as to do all they can to guild the lilly to make it appear to the pastor or other bold Christians that their friend is not really that bad. They will defend them and even lash out at the obedient Christians stepping up to do the job they refused to do all along. That’s why in some churches, only the bold and obedient get stuck playing the part of the heavy each time the need arises. It’s all because the weak ones dump their duties on them.
Sadly, those that do this are in for a major spanking from on high. No getting around that now. Our Lord is not to be mocked. This weakened and worldly approach to their very own brethren is not what the remnant of her seed is prophesied to be known for. The Gideon band is hated because we WILL speak the truth no matter how many feathers are ruffled.
Truth is, those of us that are bold know a blessing will be ours for doing so. Not only does Ezekiel declare “thou hast delivered thy soul” and James 5:20 says our obedient actions “shall hide a multitude of sins” we also know as 1Peter 2:20 says, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”
If it makes our Father smile, then all can rest assured that those bold enough to be obedient will be those that will do exactly as He has written we shall do in His Word.
- Proverbs 27:5-6, “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
- Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
- Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”