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Matthew 18:15-17 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Three Steps to Gaining a Brother

Matthew 18:15-17 – Three Steps to Gaining a Brother

|| Luke 17:3

MT18:15 “However, if your brother[1] should sin[2] go to him privately and offer reproof.[3] You gain your brother if he listens to you. MT18:16 But, if he does not listen to you,[4] return with one or two others[5] so that at the mouth of two or three witnesses[6] [Deuteronomy 19:15] anything said may be confirmed.[7] MT18:17 Now if he refuses to respond[8] to the witnesses, speak to the congregation.[9] But, if he refuses to listen to the congregation,[10] let him become to you as a foreigner or a tax-collector.[11]

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[1] Your brother: The “your” is singular. The word “brother” indicates a spiritual or religious relationship. The subject or theme is still that of stumbling a little one. Jesus now deals with how to handle such a matter personally.

[2] Should sin: What the “sin” is we are not told. We do not know whether this is a personal offense or one observed by another. If the theme and subject continue this may be something scandalous or offensive done to a little one so as to cause stumbling. Such a person – in danger of Gehenna – needs to be cautioned and corrected so that no further harm come to others. The KJV adds the words “sin against thee” but it is now recognized they are not adequately supported by older manuscripts. Note the responsibility under the Law to reprove a fellow worshipper (Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 25:9).

[3] Go to him privately and offer reproof: Or, ASV: show him his fault; RIEU: go and have it out with him in private; RHM: withdraw, convince him betwixt thee and him alone; BAS: make clear to him his error between you and him in private. The original question from the disciples was, “Who is greatest?” This is a subject that has been discussed among the disciples. Is it possible this kind of thinking which is called a sin here? Is there a need among the disciples for one of them to go to another and offer reproof regarding this political ambition? We suspect Judas Iscariot right in the middle of such a concern. The Greek for “reprove” here is ELEGZON. Strong’s provides the following: “AV – reprove 6, rebuke 5, convince 4, tell (one’s) fault 1, convict 1; 17 1) to convict, refute, confute 1a) generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted 1b) by conviction to bring to the light, to expose 2) to find fault with, correct 2a) by word 2a1) to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove 2a2) to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation 2b) by deed 2b1) to chasten, to punish.”

[4] Does not listen to you: Or, KJV: if he will not hear thee; RIEU: if he refuses to listen. The reproof has not worked in the first instance. Perhaps the person insists he does not have this problem despite the rebuke.

[5] Return with one or two others: Or, RIEU: call in one or two other people. Ideally these would have been witnesses to the “sin.” As observers they can confirm to the erring one that he is indeed guilty. Also, they become witnesses to the whole conversation and the effort to gain the brother. This would be the first time the correcting brother discussed the matter with others.

[6] Mouth of two or three witnesses: This is a reference to Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus also quotes it at John 8:17 and Paul alludes to it at 2 Corinthians 13:1.

[7] Anything said may be confirmed: Or, KJV: every word may be established; RSV: every word may be confirmed. The two or three witnesses confirm the attitude and the denial of sin.

[8] Now if he refuses to respond: Or, KJV: if he shall neglect to hear them; RHM: hear them amiss; RIEU: if he pays no attention to these.

[9] Speak to the congregation: There are a variety of views here. To these Jews the “congregation” would be the members of the synagogue. The “congregation” may also be that one Jesus said he would build (see notes at Matthew 16:18). Also, some hold “congregation” here means the elders who represent it; others, see the entire congregation. There are good reasons for the later. Paul indicates that the sinner in the Corinthian congregation was judged so by “the majority.” (2 Corinthians 2:6 NW, CON) This would indicate a vote of some kind. Paul also counsels that elders who sin should be rebuked before the entire congregation (1 Timothy 5:20). Others render this phrase: KJV: tell it unto the church; RHM: tell it to the assembly; RIEU: report the matter to the church.

[10] If he refuses to listen to the congregation: This is his last chance. He was reproved by a single brother, then two more tried, and now the congregation has tried, but he still refuses to recognize his sin, repent and turn around. Every opportunity has been given the sinner.

[11] Let him become to you as a foreigner or a tax-collector: Again there are a variety of views on the meaning. Others render this: KJV: as an heathen man and a publican; RSV: as a Gentile and a tax-collector; NEB: a pagan or a tax-gatherer. If the “you” be viewed as a Jew then the sinning brother is no longer welcome in social association though business dealings may continue. If the “you” is a disciple of the Nazarene then the commands of Jesus must be considered. Jesus taught his disciples to “love their enemies” by praying for them, doing good to them, and even giving them money without interest (See notes on Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:30-35).

Three times Paul uses the word SYNANAMIGNYSTHAI (quit mixing yourselves with) (1 Corinthians 5:9, 11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15). The later verse clarifies the whole matter when it says: “But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.”

We may also ask how our Lord treated Non-Jews and tax-collectors? See notes on Matthew 9:10, 11; 11:19; 15:21-27.

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Preceding

Matthew 18:1-6 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Children and Stumbling

Matthew 18:1-6 Reborn and pliable as a child

Matthew 18:7-11 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Danger of Stumbling-blocks

Matthew 18:12-14 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Searching for Lost Sheep

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Related

  1. His Compassion
  2. Great Verses of the Bible: Matt 18:15
  3. “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” ~Religious elites to Jesus disciples
  4. Correction And Discipline Of Other Believers
  5. When Christians Foolishly Speak For Others
  6. About organized religion
  7. The Spiritual Warfare Error
  8. The Error of Not Confronting Error
  9. Be Reconciled

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