15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Jesus continued to deal with His coterminous kingdom in this section. He anticipated the coming church in 16:18. The church did not begin until Acts 2 (Eph 3:1-10) but the coterminous kingdom had parallels to the church.
The remainder of chapter 18 deals with the subject of discipline in the family of God (18:15-35). Verses 15-20 deal with the proper procedure in dealing with those who wrong us.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault [bring to light] between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
The first principle is to deal with the issue privately if possible. If the offender responds to reproof, then there is success in reconciliation.
But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
If, however, the offender will not deal with the problem, then take one or two others to confront him with the issue (Dt 19:15). The principle is to keep the group as small as possible in the sequence of discipline.
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.
If the reprobate persists in his belligerence, then take the issue before the entire assembly.
But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you [singular, each member of the assembly] like a heathen and a tax collector.
If he stubbornly refuses to deal with the issue before the assembly, then the assembly should treat him as a lost individual. Excommunication is the last step.
“Assuredly [emphatic], I say to you [plural—disciples], whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven [Greek—will have been bound], and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven [will have been loosed].
The context of binding and loosing has to do with church discipline. Binding and loosing have to do with judicial authority in dealing with discipline. Paul bound the believer living in sin with his stepmother (1 Co 5). Paul’s counsel was to treat him as an unbeliever. When he repented (2 Co 2) Paul loosed him from that status (loosing).
The Greek structure indicates not that God is compelled to accept the assembly’s decision but that when the assembly follows God’s sequence of discipline, He ratifies the decision. John used this same Greek structure (future perfect passive periphrastic plus perfect indicative) in John 20:23 regarding forgiving or retaining sin.
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree [act in symphony or accord] on earth concerning anything [in God’s will that the two agree upon] that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
Prayer in this context has to do with discipline in the believing community. This is not a general prayer promise. To treat this verse in such a way is to rip it out of its context.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name [praying under Jesus’ authority as a group to resolve a broken relationship], I am there in the midst of them.”
Jesus promised His presence with those who seek reconciliation by prayer.
The purpose of church discipline is restoration.
The purpose for church discipline is restoration, not punishment. The idea is to “gain” (v.15) the brother. If a church excommunicates a believer, he should be restored to fellowship as soon as he repents.
Ga 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
The purpose of first starting one-on-one with the offender alone and then proceeding to larger groups is to protect the reputation of the offender. The more people involved in a crisis, the greater is the possibility of distortion. There is a possibility for gossip as well.