Matthew 18 as Church Discipline?

family[10] “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. [12] What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? [13] And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. [14] So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
[15] “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [19] Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. [20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
(Matthew 18:10-20 ESV)

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to teach on this passage as we make our way through the gospel of Matthew.  In studying for this passage I realized that what I’d been taught about these verses and what I’ve heard them used for seems to be different that what it seems the context actually was.

Throughout chapters 17-19 Jesus is teaching his disciples how to do life with one another.  He knows that his time on earth is coming to and end, and by chapter 17, Jesus and his disciples begin making their journey to Jerusalem where Jesus will ultimately be crucified.

Right before this passage the disciples ask Jesus who among them will be greater when Jesus is no longer with them.  Jesus then uses a child as a metaphor, points to the child and says, if you want to understand greatness look at this child.  He is completely dependent on someone else.  He has little to offer society and has no ability to give himself status.  Everything he has and everything he is comes from someone else.  Recognize how dependent you are on the Father.

In verse 10-14 Jesus talks about the one disciple who is wondering off.  In his pastoral compassion, Jesus leaves the ninety-nine… the one’s who are safe, together, protecting one another, and he goes after the one who has wandered so that he may bring him back to the rest of the fold.  This is a metaphor to the disciples of how they should care for one another.  Jesus gives great value to even the one who has wandered and cares deeply for the one’s return.

He then moves to verses 15-20, how to deal with one another’s sin.  This passage is often sited in church discipline cases as a means to excommunicate someone from the congregation.  But a closer look would suggest something else may be intended.  (NOTE: Paul does discuss the actions of Church discipline in the context of the church’s structure).

First of all, in our earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew, verse 15 does not include the words “against you”.  These words were probably added later to provide a helpful bridge to verse 21.  So, we should understand this passage as it speaks to sin in general, not just sins done against us, or personal grievances, if you will.

This is also speaking in the context of relationship.  Jesus uses the familial language (“brother”) to emphasize his point.  In other words, we are not seeking random strangers out at the grocery store with a “know Jesus, know peace” shirt and pointing out their sins to them.  This is people whom we have developed a relationship with, a bond together through Christ.

Also, Jesus uses the word “church” (ecclesia).  The simple definition of this in Greek understanding is an assembly.  The Church has not been structured at the time Jesus spoke this.  There are not yet officers and leadership roles.  There is only the assembling of the followers of Christ.  So when Jesus is saying this, he’s not referring to any kind of church leadership, offices, or structure, he’s simply talking to his followers, people just like you and me who bear the name of Christ.

So what does this mean?

Jesus is giving us a lesson in what it means to do life together.  He’s given us a reference point of holding one another accountable with the goal of glorifying Christ and shaping one another to become more like him.

The instruction here is to those who first notice the sin.  Go to that person in private.  Let them know your concerns and call them to repentance.  If they repent, you have gained your brother back!   If they do not repent, go get another witness or two.  The goal of these two witnesses is to hear your concern and then to get the other side of the story.  Remember, there are always two sides to every story.  The goal of these other witnesses is not to immediately condemn the other person as guilty, rather they are to observe for themselves and see if there really is any offense.  If there is, then those witnesses should agree and call for the offender’s repentance.  If at this point there is no repentance then Jesus says you take it before the rest of the assembly to call for repentance (remember, this is in the context of relationship.  If the entire expression of the church does not have relationship with this person, it should be done in the context of those who do actually have a relationship with this person).

Here’s my favorite part.  Verse 17 has done a lot of damage to people in the church because of a lack of understanding.  The end of verse 17 has been used as a means to excommunicate someone from a church body, or at least ostracize them until they have repented.  Here’s the verse:
[17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Jesus says to treat them as a “Gentile and a Tax collector”.  How did Jesus treat the Gentiles and tax collectors?  Did he remove them from his presence?  Did he avoid them?  Did he ignore them?  No.  He pursued them!  He preached the gospel to them.  He called them to be his disciple.  Jesus is not telling us to remove the Gentile and Tax Collector from our fellowship, he is telling us that the relationship may need to change.  Maybe they don’t know Christ.  Maybe they aren’t truly one of his disciples.  Keep preaching the gospel to them.  Allow them to understand the person and work of Christ.

Jesus goes on to tell us that our goal should be the standard of heaven.  We should make the reality of heaven the reality for us.  That’s done through sanctification, accountability, and humility.  He should strive for holiness and spur one another on to holiness, our goal should be restoration, not destruction.

Again, Jesus mentions no church officers in this passage.  I think that too many people have hid behind the authority of the church leadership rather than take responsibility to be their brother’s keeper.  We “correct” one another in the wrong order.  Instead of privately rebuking one another, we often go straight to the church leadership, make a public spectacle of it, and end up doing more damage to our brothers and sisters.  The Church should seek to restore one another, to build one another up.  Far too often we seek to destroy one another and entertain ourselves with the tragedies of others.

May we stop losing our influence with sinners.  May we not forget our own capacity to sin.  May we learn to deal with one another humbly, with the only goal to restore one another and glorify our Jesus.

My Friend Kathy…

I want to tell you about my friend Kathy.  Kathy came in to my life at a time when I was more scared than I ever had been.  In July of 2014, my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child.  I can’t tell you how many thoughts went through my mind in the span of about 10 seconds (what felt like 20 minutes).  So much joy, so much fear.  For about 8 months I had moments of excitement, anticipation, and tremendous fear.  When the moment comes, and I have to be the rock that my wife needs to lean on, what will I do?

A close friend told us about someone who helped her deliver her fourth child.  She told us, “you MUST CALL KATHY!  After three difficult births our fourth was the greatest experience, and it was all because of Kathy.”  So we called Kathy.

About 2 days before our son was born, we finally were able to coordinate our busy schedules and Kathy came over to our house to spend a few hours with us.  Most of her time was spent with me.  She taught me how to make sure Rachel kept a good breathing pace, relaxation techniques, good birth coaching, and so much more.  Mostly, she reminded me that God is good and only he is in control.

Two days later, Rachel and I went to what would be her final doctor’s appointment before the birth of our son (his due date was one week later).  Due to Rachel’s blood pressure and other medical issues, the doctor felt it wise to admit Rachel and begin inducing labor the next morning.  She also informed us that she would not be on-call that weekend and that another doctor would be delivering our son.  WHAT?!  I just spent the last nine months attending every doctor’s appointment with Rachel, learning to trust this woman whose hands I would be putting my wife and my son’s life… and she tells me a complete stranger is going to take over?

FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!  I didn’t let Rachel know… but I was scared to death!  Scared that I had to trust my family’s life in a strangers hands.  Scared that I knew that for the first time in eight years I was going to watch my wife go through unbearable pain and there was nothing I could do to make it go away.

Rachel and I checked in to the hospital at 10:00 that Friday night.  Saturday morning at 8:00 they began inducing.  Once the labor started, I began to remember everything that Kathy taught me.  I was brave.  I was the rock Rachel needed.  When the pain started… we danced in the hospital room… I’d rub her legs… I’d breathe with her… inhale… exhale… we’d dance some more… we’d talk about the things we would do with our son… anything to keep her mind off the pain.  I was calm.  Because Kathy told me I could be calm.  She told me I could be brave.  She told me I could be the rock Rachel needed to lean on.  When Kathy showed up, on her Saturday, no less, all she had to do was sit back and watch me do the things she taught me to do.

About 1:30 that Friday afternoon, Rachel was ready to deliver.  Kathy prayed with us and then Rachel and I took a quick 10 minute nap before they wheeled us into the delivery room.

Most of those nurses knew Kathy, and those that didn’t know her had heard of her.  I watched those nurses get behind Kathy, even though she was no longer a Labor and Delivery nurse, she stepped up, took the lead, and the nurses followed behind.  Not because they needed to… because they wanted to.  They weren’t threatened by Kathy, they weren’t intimidated by Kathy… they respected Kathy.

Kathy taught me so many things when it comes to bringing a precious life into the world. She reminded me that I could be calm, brave, courageous, and strong, because my source is Christ.  But, the most important thing she reminded me was that the only person in control in the delivery room is Christ.  She reminded me that I can trust Christ, no matter the outcome, no matter the circumstances or the results… because He is good, trustworthy, faithful, and completely in control.

Kathy went to be with Jesus on September 3, 2016.  She will always be a part of my son’s story.  When I think of Kathy, I think of someone who loved Jesus, and she demonstrated it in the way she served others.  She loved to watch life come into the world and she loved being a part of the miracle.  I look forward to seeing Kathy again.

Kathy with our Son, Noble.

Romans 5:1-2 Discussion Questions

Romans 5:1-2  Discussion Questions


Because of the gospel, we have obtained peace and access to God. Yet, too often, we neglect to exercise these wonderful gifts. Let us use them to boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Discussion Questions

  • Can we be at risk of knowing the gospel without experiencing it in our daily lives? How so? If so, how do we fight against this risk?
  • Discuss the following phrase: “No Christ, no peace. Know Christ, know peace.”
  • How does the story of Mephibosheth and David illustrate Paul’s point that we have peace with God? How does this story affect the understanding you have of your peace with God in Christ?
  • Paul notes that we have “obtained access by faith” to God. What does he mean by this? How do we practice this access?
  • What does it mean to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God?

What Does This Say About God?

  • God transforms his enemies into his sons and daughters.
  • God brings about peace through our justification.
  • God is accessible to us through faith in Christ.

What Does This Say About Humanity?

  • Outside Christ, we are enemies of God. In Christ, we are his sons and daughters.
  • Without Christ, the Prince of Peace, we cannot know true, everlasting peace.
  • We have obtained access to God through the atonement and mediation of Christ.

What Will You Do About It?

For more insight to this passage listen to One More Thing – where our teaching pastors discuss the passage in greater detail using these discussion questions.

Romans 4:18-25 Discussion Questions

Romans 4:18-25  Discussion Questions

Paul looks to Abraham’s unwavering obedience in the face of difficulty to remind us that God uses life’s curve-balls and circumstances to grow us stronger in faith.

Discussion Questions
•    Discuss the following: “Faith is not the enemy of reason; faith is the foundation of reason.”
•    Discuss why you believe (or do not believe) that God’s Word is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary for our faith.
•    Why doesn’t God simply give us all the faith and strength we need up front? Why go through all the trials and tribulation?
•    How do you read yourself into the stories of the Bible?

What Does This Say About God?
•    God is a covenant-making God who keeps his promises
•    God desires that his covenant children would grow strong in their faith
•    God provides a way through difficulty for our benefit and his glory

What Does This Say About Humanity?
•    Through hope against hope, we may maintain obedience to God
•    Our faith is strengthened through trials and tribulation
•    The stories of the Bible were written in part for our sake

What Will You Do About It?

For more insight to this passage listen to One More Thing – where our teaching pastors discuss the passage in greater detail using these discussion questions.

Romans 4:13-17 Discussion Questions

Romans 4:13-17 Discussion Questions


Paul expands our horizon of God’s work of restoration by proclaiming that we are heirs of the world. The promise that God has made does not come by faithful obedience to the law; rather, it comes by faith in God’s promise.

Discussion Questions

  • Paul notes that Abraham and his offspring are heirs of the world. What do you believe this means (see Heb 1:2, Rom 8:16-17)?
  • How is the nation of Israel in the Bible a small picture of God’s cosmic renewal?
  • Why does Paul say that “where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom 4:15)?”
  • If the law brings God’s wrath, why not just jettison the law?
  • What does it mean that we are all like Eliezer?

What Does This Say About God?

  • God is a covenant-making God who keeps his promises
  • God revealed himself to us through his law
  • Our Heavenly Father adopts us into his family to make us fellow heirs with Christ

What Does This Say About Humanity?

  • When we contribute to our justification, we only bring sin to the table
  • Our good works are not done to maintain covenant relationship with God; rather, they are done as part of our relationship with him
  • The law was not intended to fix us; rather, it was intended to reveal our hearts

What Will You Do About It?

For more insight to this passage listen to One More Thing – where our teaching pastors discuss the passage in greater detail using these discussion questions.

Romans 4:6-12 Discussion Questions

Romans 4:6-12 Discussion Questions

Like the patriarch Abraham, King David was also a man blessed by God’s grace not by works of the law but by faith alone. The chief blessing of a believer’s life is the forgiveness of their iniquities through faith and repentance.

Discussion Questions

  • Read through Psalm 32. Share your thoughts on the psalm with the group.
  • When you think of being blessed by God, what comes to mind? What do you consider the chief blessing in your life?
  • Discuss the Puritan saying, “The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay.”
  • David “did not cover [his] iniquity” before God. He was raw and honest with God. Why is it sometimes a struggle for us to do the same?
  • If sola fide is true, then not even repentance is a work of justification. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
  • Discuss the following quote from Martin Luther, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.

What Does This Say About God?

  • God is willing and ready to forgive our iniquity through Christ.
  • God desires to bless us both temporally and eternally.
  • God sees all our sin—past, present, and future—yet still desires to forgive.

What Does This Say About Humanity?

  • We are sinners, yet we have the ability to have our hearts of ice melted by God’s gracious conviction.
  • We have a proclivity to misprioritize God’s blessings on our life.
  • Good, sanctifying works should always accompany our justification.

What Will You Do About It?

For more insight to this passage listen to One More Thing – where our teaching pastors discuss the passage in greater detail using these discussion questions.