Sermon: Jesus’ Strategy for You to Win Back Your Brother Matthew 18:15-17

Truth Taught- If another Christian sins against you, go to them seeking restoration.


Jesus continues His teaching on the care of the Little ones.  Last time we learned that disciples are to care for one another.  When someone is struggling, we must go to them and care for them and show that we really do love them.  Jesus warned us about despising one of His Little ones.

Again we are talking about disciples caring for disciples.  We all need to give and in time, probably we all will receive it.

We saw last time that Jesus told a parable about the Shepherd who had 100 sheep and 1 went astray and how the Shepherd left the 99 and went searching for the 1.  Jesus compared that to how we are to go and seek to bring back the fellow disciple who may have gone astray.  In love we seek after them, care for them and welcome them.  

Our text today is one that the modern church for the most part has not done very well following.  When we don’t, we are not loving and caring for the lost sheep nor for the 99 who remain.

Many times, when a disciple goes astray there is sin involved and many times, he may sin against us.  So, Jesus gives us a wonderful plan of action to use should a disciple sin against us.

Matthew 18:15–17 (ESV) 

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. 

1.  If a Brother or Sister Sins Against You, Go to Them

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.

What is the goal when you go to them?  The goal is to seek restoration between you and them and to bring them back.  The goal is not to prove you’re right or to somehow make them pay.

Galatians 6:1 (ESV) 

6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 

First, we must see that Jesus is speaking to and about other believers.   15 “If your brother sins against you

When our Lord uses the title, brother or sister in this sense, He is speaking about other believers/Christians.  So, our Lord is speaking about two believers, two disciples and one has sinned against another.  What else is He telling us?  Second, the person who has been sinned against is commanded to go to the one who has committed the sin and speak to them about it. 

If you are a Christian, you will love other believers and of course you will love God.  You are concerned that you obey God in this command and you are concerned for your brother who has sinned against you.  So, because these are both true, the resulting behavior from you is that you go to them out of love for them and out of love for God.  You show your love for them by going to them and speaking with them about their sin.

We must also realize that Jesus is talking specifically about a fellow believer sinning against you.  Someone might say something you don’t like but you must determine if they have sinned against you.  When you are sinned against, deceived, lied to, slandered, abused, whatever the sin is, and this is a brother, we’re talking about in the family now, you go and tell him the sin, and seek to have him confess and repent that you may gain him back as a brother or gain them back as a sister in Jesus Christ. 
In other words, you are showing the heart attitude that says, “You have sinned against me, but that is not the issue.  The issue is I’ve lost you as my brother, and I’ve lost you as my sister, and my heart longs to restore you back to that.”  Your responsibility is to go to them because the relationship has been severed.

Let’s say someone says to you they don’t like the cookies you made.  They disagree with you on some issue.  These are things you just live with and let go.  They are not sins they have committed against you.

The qualifiers are…
A.  They are fellow believers in the church
B.  They have actually sinned against you
Jesus goes on to tell us that if our brother or sister in Christ has sinned against us that we are to go to them privately, one on one and speak to them about the specific sin.  

go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

Here is our responsibility.  As the one sinned against, you must go and tell them what they’ve done and how the Bible calls it sin and ask them to repent.  

You have lied to me or about me and here is what the Bible says about lying and I’d like you to confess and repent before God so that our relationship will not be hindered any longer.
That’s what a believer does. 
Here is where we all must be careful.  Jesus clearly says go to them one on one and speak to them about the matter.  He does not say to tell everyone else about their sin.  Gossip is the sinful opposite of what God wants us to do.  When you go and tell others now you are involved in a sin against the person who sinned against you…on it goes.

Will you be the one to stop the cycle of sin within the Church?
Here too, you can’t hide behind the authority structure of the Church.  In other words, you cannot go tell the pastor or elders and expect them to do what God has called you to do.
So, you go to them and they agree with you and say they’re sorry and repent and ask your forgiveness then Jesus says,

 If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

The sin is forgiven and you have in a very real sense brought your brother back.  

In a perfect world, there would never be a need for this.  We live in a sinful world and therefore must deal with sin as it comes.

In the Church, however, the reality is that if a believer sins against a believer, they would meet on their way to each other…

Matthew 5:22–24 (ESV) 

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

Here, Jesus is addressing the one who has committed the sin and tells them they are to go to the other and seek to be reconciled with them.  

Luke 17:3–4 (ESV) 

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 

If the sinner is obedient, they will go to the brother and if the one sinned against is obedient he will go to the brother.  What happens most often is neither goes.
Why is it so hard to go to another brother and talk to them?

2.  If a Brother or Sister Sins Against You and Will Not Listen

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.

Now the one who has committed the sin has been made aware of their offense.  After this, they refuse to listen.
It could have been that the sinner was not aware they offended the other it could have been a sin they were unaware of.  Now they know and won’t listen.  Now if you are to bring back your brother biblically things must escalate.

The initial one to one approach has not been successful.  Now things move up the ladder.

What Jesus tells us is that at this point the one sinned against brings a person or two who understands the situation and agrees that it is in fact a sin that was committed.  Their role, then is to affirm and endorse that a sin has been committed against the one seeking reconciliation.  

The purpose is so that the one who has committed the sin will see that it’s not just a person with hurt feelings pursuing this but that real sin has been committed.  There is a level of authority that comes when two or three are in agreement.

Deuteronomy 19:15 (ESV) 

15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 

This principle of multiple witnesses is found in the NT as well.

John 8:17 (ESV) 

17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.

2 Corinthians 13:1–2 (ESV) 

13 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

1 Timothy 5:19–20 (ESV) 

19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 

Jesus does not tell us who these two witnesses need to be.  Perhaps they would be believers who are aware of the situation.  They may be involved but they don’t have to be.  Here our Lord does not specify. 
All along we must remember this was a real sin committed and the purpose is to bring the brother who has committed the offense back into the fold through reconciliation.  The right thing to do is to follow what Jesus tells us to do. 

3.  If a Brother or Sister Sins Against You and Will Not Listen, Tell the Church

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.

Now we come to the last resort.  When the other two means of reconciliation fail.  When the one-on-one approach did not work.  When the one or two witnesses approach didn’t work now it’s time to tell in to the church.
What our Lord has in mind here is a public statement to the gathered Church.  This in done publicly, out in the open not in whispers. 
Here, as with the other steps reconciliation is the desired outcome.  To bring them back through repentance is the goal.
The logic of Jesus’ strategy goes like this: Start with the least amount of people possible…you and the offender.  If that does not work expand the realm of influence to the offender, you and one or two witnesses.  If that does not work expand the realm to the entire Church.  The offender facing the disapproval of the entire Christian Community ought to surely recognize that this is not just a personal issue between them and the one who initiated the first meeting but now it involves the entire Church.

If this does not work then there is a judgment made…the sinner is probably not a believer because a true believer would have confessed their sin and repented by now. 
How we interact with them now changes…

And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

The terms Gentile and tax collector have already been used in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Matthew 5:46–47 (ESV) 

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 

These two titles are used to represent those lost people who are outside of God’s Family.  One writer says, these terms stand for a person who has no place among the holy people of God and who is to be avoided, in particular by refusing to eat with them.  Normal fellowship is suspended.
Now, the dynamic changes from pursuing a brother who has sinned to perusing a lost person with the Gospel.


What is the purpose of all this?

1.  Restore the sinning brother or sister…to seek them and bring them back
2.  By their response to your plea for repentance their own heart is revealed.  Are they really a Christian?  A true Christ will repent when shown their sin especially by multiple Christians.  After the three steps without repentance, they show themselves to be outside of Christ.
3.  As we obey our Lord’s teaching here, others within the Church will see how serious sin is and this will be a help to them in their struggle against sin.

4.  The lost world will not be able to point their fingers as readily to highlight the sins of those within the Church.

Jonathan Edwards once wrote, “If you tolerate visible wickedness in your members, you will greatly dishonor God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the religion which you profess, the church in general, and yourselves in particular.  As those members of the church who practice wickedness bring dishonor upon the whole body, so do those who tolerate them in it.”

Resources Used:

The Gospel of Matthew by R T France
John MacArthur Matthew 18:15-17
The Gospel of Matthew by Leon Morris

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