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.
Thnak you for clarifying 18:18. I am trying to understand the concept of binding and loosing. Although it is in the context of church displine, can we make application to other situations? If I look at the dispute or sin as being caused by Satan…can one bind and loose the enemy in peoples lives as some suggest? Binding Satan, loosing the Holy Spirit into ones’ life, etc? Does one imply the other withour so being stated?
Laura, thanks for your comments.
I believe binding and loosing has to do with special authority given to Jesus’ disciples and that it is not for us today. The disciples of Jesus’ day needed special recognition for their authority before the New Testament was completed.
My question is concerning answering my Catholic friends on Jn 20:23. They say that this gives the priest power to forgive sins
Dennis, I have not done an exposition online of John 20:23 but go to Mt 16:19 http://versebyversecommentary.com/2009/01/05/matthew-1618f/
John 20:23 does not give authority to leaders to forgive sins. It is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility (context). Jesus said that the believer can declare the certainty of a sinner’s forgiveness by the Father because of the work of His Son if that sinner has believed the gospel (which is the argument of the gospel of John, verse 31). We can also tell those who do not respond to the message of God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ that they are not forgiven.
My question is regarding if the offendee does not want to talk to the offender because he is afraid then what he did he went to our Pastor & our Pastor told the offender that he offended the said bretheren do you think this is right Sir?
i am in Africa and will respond when I get back.
Ghie, I don't think it is proper to go outside biblical procedures.
I have always heard verse 20 quoted in reference to the gathering of God's People in more of a respect to fellowship. I believe this passage to be one that deals with discipline among believers. Can it be applied to fellowship as well?
Rick, It appears to me that if people use the right process of restoration there would be better fellowship among believers.
How would Matthew 18:17 be applied to a christian who is addicted to porn? He knows and admits porn is a sin against the Lord and a sin against his wife and he confesses it to the Lord as sin against God (repents) and admits it as wrong and wants to be free from it but keeps failing to get victory over it. He confesses it as sin but still is battling to get free from the addiction? Thank you
Scott, this passage does not apply to an individual believer whose sin does not become public. The context is dealing with a known sin in the believing community that is in danger of becoming accepted as normative. Definitely private sin is to be kept private. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pe 4:8).