If we look very closely and carefully to the events recorded in Matthew 18:15-35 I think we will see what I am trying to say.
Jesus and the disciples have returned to Capernaum. Although we don’t know for sure, Jesus is probably staying and working out of Peter’s home. While they were relaxing in this house the disciples had asked Jesus who would be or who would hold the greatest position in the coming Kingdom of God?
Jesus chose at that time to teach his disciples about humility and servanthood. He used a child for an illustration, possibly Peter’s own child. Jesus’s conclusion was that to be or to expect exaltation one had to become humble and a servant to others.
Then Jesus took advantage of a statement that John had made to further teach humility in view of sectarianism. Jesus taught that extreme measures should not be avoided in order to prevent pride or sin in one’s life.
Jesus seems to take another example to further teach on humility. He gives the disciples some instruction on forgiveness. Let’s look this example very carefully.
First of all, Jesus tells the disciples if your brother sins against you, you are to go to that person and tell them what they have done. Presumably you would be asking them to correct the fault and ask for forgiveness. He tells the disciples that they are to do this alone. It is a matter between the person who has sinned against you and yourself.
It is not to be complained about or to be gossiped about the fellowship or assembly or community. It is a private matter. It is to remain private if at all possible. You are to tell the person the sin or fault, upon being asked to forgive them, grant forgiveness, accept whatever restitution is required or necessary and then forget it.
But if your brother refuses to correct the fault and refuses to seek your forgiveness, Jesus gives another step designed to rectify the situation. Now you are to take one or two other people, presumably fellow Christians and go to the individual and confront the sinning brother again. The two or three people are now witnesses to the meeting. The purpose is to rectify the situation and reconcile your brother to you.
What happens if this person who has sinned against you refuses to acknowledge their sin or to ask for forgiveness? The third step is to tell the matter to the assembly. At the time of Jesus this assembly, the ekklhsia was either the assembly that gathered in the Temple or the assembly that gathered in the synagogue.
The purpose is to the tell the assembly that this individual has sinned against you, you went to them in private in order to rectify the problem, he refused to repent, and you then took two or three other individuals as witnesses to the process. But the sinning brother refused the two or three witnesses and so now the assembly is being requested to help you in lovingly and humbly pursuing the sinning brother’s reconciliation.
Now, what does the assembly or the group of gathered believers do? First, they do not punish the offender. Second, they prevent him/her from attending the meetings of the assembling in order to prevent any detrimental influence. Third, they treat the offender as someone who needs to be evangelized with the gospel.
Why? It seems in Christ’s economy a genuine believer will respond to the loving pursuit of reconciliation. A genuine believer will repent and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Typically it is an unredeemed, non- Spirit-indwelt individual who will not relent, repent, and be reconciled.
My original point is that it isn’t to be left up to the congregation to discover someone who has sinned against you and to confront that person. It is your duty and privilege. This is not a process for the church to discipline a sinning individual.
This is a process whereby you can seek the reconciliation of someone who has sinned against you. And if you are unsuccessful then you can enlist the assembly of believers to assist you.
We see Peter wanting to know how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. He has missed the ongoing lesson of humility. Christ corrects his thinking and confronts his pride and states that there is no limit to how many times we are to forgive someone who sins against us. Only the proud keep score and hold a grudge.
This is a very serious matter. Lord, willing, in part three we will examine just how serious this matter really is.