Matthew 18:1 – 20:28
- Humility and Gentleness to Characterize Disciples in the Kingdom (18:1-14)
- Brotherly Restoration: the Assembly as a Resource (18:15-20)
- The Importance of Personal Forgiveness (18:21-35)
Humility and Gentleness to Characterize Disciples in the Kingdom (18:1-14)
Child-like Humility to Characterize all Believers in the Kingdom (vv.1-5)
Carefulness about Stumbling Young Believers (vv.6-9)
- Conventional angels are created intelligences that serve God, as in Heb. 1:13
- A disembodied spirit, as in Acts 12:15, Heb. 12:23
- Men set in a place of authority & responsibility on earth, as in Ecc. 5:6, Mal. 2:7, Rev. 1-3.
Brotherly Restoration: the Assembly as a Resource (18:15-20)
- This procedure is not a mechanism to cope with bitterness. Often these scriptures are applied to those who have been offended and can’t forgive their brother. This procedure will be brought up as if it was a coping mechanism for hard feelings. That is not what it is. It is not an outlet to “get something off your chest”. The coping mechanism for hard feelings is forgiveness. This is found in the similitude of the unforgiving servant; i.e. think about how much God has forgiven us, and it will make our brother’s sin against us seem small indeed and easy to forgive. The second half of the chapter teaches that we are to forgive our brother from our hearts the moment we are offended by him.
- This procedure is not a mechanism to cover up impenitence. These verses are not a shield to hide behind, as if a condition could be placed on one we have knowingly offended, saying “you should come to me if you have a problem with me”. Matt. 5:24 makes it clear that, if we know we have offended someone, we are to go to them and be reconciled. When it comes to personal trespass, whether we are the offending or the offended party, the onus is always on us. The “ball” is always in “our court”.
- This procedure is not a mechanism to nag about irritation. There are other principles which bear on the subject of personal trespass. “It is [a man’s] glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov. 19:11). Our brother may have habits that are offensive to us, but we are not to be overly sensitive. If the offense was unconscious, it is to our credit if we simply overlook the transgression. Of course, there are limits to this: such as in the case where the behavior is detrimental to the assembly, or to the brother’s own walk with the Lord (the case in Matt. 18).
- This procedure is not a mechanism to lobby for self-vindication. When someone has offended us, we know they have taken advantage of us in some way. The immediate response of the flesh is to see the injustice rectified, to restore a sense of self-dignity. Sometimes this is the motivation for following the procedure in these verses; to vindicate self. “I want an apology and I will take you to the assembly ‘court’ if necessary to get it.” This is the very opposite of the spirit of lowliness that is to characterize disciples of the kingdom (vv.1-5).
- This procedure is a mechanism for brotherly restoration. These verses come into play when we discern that the offending brother is on a downward course, and we have a pastoral desire to see him restored to the Lord. Just as that man in the previous parable went out after the one sheep going astray, so we are to seek to restore our brother to the Lord when they have offended us. Love is to be active in seeking to restore one’s brother.
1st Step: Individual Reproof (18:15)
2nd Step: Reproof By Two or Three (18:16)
3rd Step: Reproof By the Assembly (18:17)
- v.18… The character of the authority: assembly actions are ratified by heaven.
- v.19… The scope of the authority: is unlimited in matters of administration.
- v.20… The source for the authority: the presence of Christ in the local assembly.
The local assembly has been invested with authority to "bind" or "loose" a person's sin (Matt. 18:18); which means to "retain" or "remit" their sin (John 20:23). Binding and loosing are two administrative actions that are done "in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" and are backed by His authority (1 Cor. 5:4). The authority to "bind" and "loose" with heaven's ratification was given first to Peter (Matt. 16:19), then extended to the local assembly (Matt. 18:18).
To "bind" a person's sin upon them is to associate them with that sin in an official sense. Morally, they were associated with it the moment the sin was committed, but this is a special association of an official character. Paul does this in 1 Cor. 5:4 with the words "being such"; that is, he formally connected that man with his sin. Excommunication of the wicked person follows binding of the sin (v.5). In 1 Cor. 5 we have an example of "binding", and in 2 Cor. 2 we have the "loosing". Once a person has turned from their sin, and their repentance is manifest, the assembly ought to "loose" the sin, or formally disassociate the person from it. The whole assembly, wherever it may be found "on earth" is required to acknowledge an administrative action once taken, because it is bound or loosed in heaven. To continue fellowship with a person that is put away is to ignore the action taken, and to rebel against the authority of heaven. The binding or loosing would occur in a solemn meeting for judicial action; "when ye are gathered together" (v.4). It is only when the assembly is formally gathered together that the presence and "power of our Lord Jesus Christ" is there to give weight to the action.read more…
- The Name of Christ is the attractive center for Christians meeting together as a local assembly (Matt. 18:20).
- The Body of Christ is expressed by Christians meeting together as a local assembly (1 Cor. 12:12; 27; Eph. 4:4).