“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
“It’s none of my business.” “I’m afraid it will damage our friendship.” “Who am I to point out the sin of another since I am a sinner myself?”
When a fellow Christian is caught in a sin, these are the excuses that so often find their way into our vocabulary. On the surface, they all seem legitimate. Why would we ever want to be considered meddlers, or controversy starters, or self-righteous hypocrites?
But when we trace such excuses to their roots, they get exposed for what they are: tricks and schemes of the devil. After all, Satan will do everything in his power to make sure we do not view sin for what it truly is—a poison that doesn’t just wound or hurt, but a poison that kills. And Satan desires nothing more than for people caught in deliberate sin to continue down that road of sin unrepentant—refusing to recognize their sin and refusing to recognize their desperate need for the forgiveness of our Savior. This is always Satan’s desire, because the road of unrepentance leads to hell.
That’s also why Jesus commands what he does in these words from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18. Jesus desires the salvation of souls. And so, Jesus commands Christians to call those caught in sin to repentance, that they may recognize their sin and then turn to him for forgiveness.
The steps Jesus calls Christians to follow are clear concerning a brother or sister in Christ. First, approach the fallen sinner privately, that your careful warning may lead him to the repentance God desires. If the person does not repent, involve two or three others, that the seriousness of the matter may be underscored while its privacy maintained. If the sinner still does not repent, take the matter to the church, that the entire body of believers may demonstrate just how seriously the Lord desires repentance and just how greatly the Lord desires to forgive. Finally, if the unrepentant sinner refuses to listen even to the church, exclude him from the church, that he may be continually reminded that impenitence kills saving faith.
Because our Savior has issued us this command solely out of love for sinners, we carry it out with that same spirit of love. We approach it with a single-minded desire to lead sinners to repentance, that they may experience the joy of his forgiveness once again. And we approach it with a humble heart, recognizing that it is only by God’s grace that our own sins have been forgiven. May God grant all of us such love and humility as we carry out this important work!
Lord Jesus, in your unlimited love for souls, you have commanded your believers to call sinners to repentance. Move us to carry out this command with that same spirit of love. Amen.
This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.
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