By Bruce Blakey on May 29, 2022
By Bruce Blakey on May 29, 2022
We'll invite you to take your Bibles and open up to Matthew chapter 18. Matthew chapter 18. Like Bobby said, actually, this Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of when I came to start serving here. So, I don't know if they asked me to preach this weekend like this is the final test before I get off probation. So, if you could say nice things to the other pastors afterwards, that would help me keep my job. So, Matthew chapter 18. As you know, this last week, in our scripture of the day, we read the two times that Jesus talked about the church. One is in Matthew 16:18, where he said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” And now here in our passage, we're going to see him talking about the life within his church. And so, if you're there, let's stand in respect for God's word as I read the passage for us. Matthew 18:15-20. These are the words of the Lord Jesus, and he says,
“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. 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. 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. 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. 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. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
This is God's word. You may be seated. I want to just read you some words that were written by a friend of mine in Texas, these were written this last week. He said, “We are living in increasingly dark days of great upheaval, moral debauchery and confusion, days of tremendous uncertainty and desperation. Never has the time been more urgent than for churches, pastors and believers, to get their affairs in order, to prioritize an unwavering commitment to the truth of God's word, to flee ungodliness and worldly systems of thought, to make the church a haven of God honoring worship, preaching, and loving fellowship. Trust me,” he said, “we have always needed this, but we will especially need this in the days ahead.” Now he wrote that in light of the events that took place at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, this week, and it's really a plead for the church to walk worthy of its calling in the days in which we live. And you can see in the passage that we just read that Jesus cares about the spiritual condition of his church. He cares about the purity of His Church. The Lord wants holiness to characterize the life of his people. And that was a common theme that you see throughout the New Testament.
Let me just read you a few references that highlight the importance of holiness amongst God's people. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” That's a call to holy living, to pursuing holiness in our lives. And in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul put it like this: “for this is the will of God, your sanctification,” or he could say, “your Holiness, that's God's will.” And then later in verse 7 of that same chapter, he says, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” That's what he's called us to. In Christ, we stand holy before God, and we are called to live out that holiness in our own lives. And in 1 Peter 1:14-16 Peter says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” Holiness matters. It matters to the Lord, and it must matter to us as well. And, unfortunately, holiness isn't something that gets talked much about these days, but there has never been a spiritual awakening, there has never been a revival apart from a renewed commitment to holiness within the church. In fact, that's where revivals always start. They start within the church, with a renewed commitment to holy living, and then it affects the world around us. And I would say that true revival is the biggest need of our hour. And God is totally committed to the holiness of his people.
Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 12 and let me just show you God's commitment to the holiness of his people. Hebrews 12:5, where the writer says, “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons,” and now he's going to quote from Proverbs 3:11-12, where it says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:7: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” If you are left without discipline in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children, and not sons. That's making a point that God distinguishes between his children and those who are not his children. He loves his children and disciplines them because he cares for them. If you've never experienced discipline from God, then that tells you you're not one of his children. Hebrews 12:9-10 it says, “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
So, God is a loving father who disciplines his children, and the purpose is holiness, holiness in their life. That's God's goal. And God takes that very seriously. And there were times in the history of the church where that was made obvious. For example, in Acts chapter 5, you can read about Ananias and Sapphira going to church and dying at church, right in front of Peter, because they lied to God. And we're told that everybody took note of that. And it had an impact on the whole church. You can read in 1 Corinthians 11, where the apostle Paul is addressing issues in the church there, and he's telling them that some of them have been taking communion in an unworthy manner. And in the context there, it's like they weren't being loving with each other. And so, they're not being loving with each other, but yet they're sharing in communion together. And he said, because some of you have taken it in an unworthy manner, some of you are sick, and some of you have died. That's how serious God takes this issue of holiness in the church. God loves his people, and He disciplines them for the purpose of holiness. He is totally committed to the purity and holiness of the church. And in our passages today, we're going to see how every believer in the church has an important role in upholding the highest standard that God has for His people. Now, I know that this text has created a lot of confusion and misunderstanding, because it's been misinterpreted or badly practiced in some churches. So, in fact, so much so that many churches never practice what's talked about in this passage here that our Lord teaches, but because holiness matters, it matters to the Lord. It needs to matter to us. We want to look carefully at exactly what does the Lord have to say to the church in this passage. So, look with me again at Matthew 18:15, and just look at the very first phrase there in that verse, where Jesus says, if your brother sins against you, here's the issue. The issue is sin within the church.
So, you can put this down for number one if you're taking notes: You need to realize sin is the issue. This is talking about a brother, a fellow believer, who has sinned. And it's a sin that you've witnessed. Some of your texts say, “if your brother sins against you”; some of your texts just say, “if your brother sins.” The “against you” is not in all of the manuscripts. So, we're not sure if that was part of the original or not. But the issue is clear. The issue is sin. And that's the thing we want to take note of. It's talking about sin. It's not talking about somebody, something somebody did that you don't like, or something that they did that you disagree with, or something that they did that you didn't think was really very wise, or something that they did that you didn't think was very kind, or something that they didn't do enough of, they didn't love you enough. Now, this is talking about actual sin. It's something that's a clear violation of God's Word, and it's been unconfessed, or was the sin has been committed, and it's never been addressed or dealt with. And this isn't the only place that talks about this. Just to give you a couple of other references, in Luke chapter 17 Jesus says similar words, in verses 3 and 4. He says, “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.” I'll let you chew on that one over lunch today. There's a lot there that you could think about. But the point is, sin has been committed since being addressed.
In Galatians 6:1, the apostle Paul talks about this. He says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” So, again, there's a sin that's been committed, you're aware of it, and that's what the issue is all about. So, talking about actual sin, actual transgressions, or use other words, iniquity, trespass, it's a clear violation of God's Word. If somebody offends you, or somebody disagrees with you, or they do something that you don't like, then that's a great opportunity for you to demonstrate patience and forbearance and long suffering and enduring and kindness towards them. You can overlook an offense. In fact, Proverbs 19:11, you want to take note of what this verse says. Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger.” And it is a glory, it is His glory to overlook an offense. But if it's sin, then what are we to do? Well, Jesus tells us what to do in our text in Matthew 18. And this section that we're going to look at next here, it’s absolutely critical that we understand it and practice it faithfully, if we're going to truly pursue holiness together as a church. So, look at what Jesus says going back to Matthew 18:15-17. He says, “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. 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. 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.” So, here's the instruction that Jesus gives to his Church, his people, on what to do when there is a sin that's been committed, a sin that you're aware of, a sin that hasn't been confessed or dealt with, and you're going to go to the person. Here, he tells us what to do.
And you can put this down for number two, this would summarize what he's talking about here: We want to pursue Biblical restoration. We want to see restoration take place between the one who is in sin and you or others that they may have sinned against, but mostly we want to see a restoration between them and the Lord. And the point of this instruction here is not to chase people out of the church, but to sanctify the people in the church. This passage is not so much about excommunication as it is about sanctification. And Jesus tells us what to do. There are four clear steps involved in the process. The first step there is in the second part of verse 15, where he says, “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” So, letter A on your outline there would be: Go personally. You go personally, and you must go. That's the command Jesus is giving. You must go, you must take the initiative, and you must do this because you love your brother, and holiness matters. That's not always what happens though. Some people think they shouldn't do that. Because they misinterpret or misapply Matthew 7:1, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” But if you read the rest of the verses there, it's talking about hypocritical judgment. It's talking about going to people about the speck in their eye, why you’ve got to log in your own eye. So, it's talking about a wrong kind of judgment in that case, but in this case, Jesus is telling us to go, and it is unloving and disobedient not to go. You’ve got to put aside your excuses, put aside your rationalizations, you know, for not going; and you must go.
And just as a footnote for that as you think about this, as you think about going to talk to somebody else, you should also think about welcoming others who come to you. You should welcome those who come to you to show you your faults. You should see that as a good gift from God that they have come out of love; they love you enough to come and talk to you about something in your life. You should accept that as a good thing. You should welcome that. But when you go, what are you supposed to do? Well, Jesus tells us what to do. He says, go and tell him his fault, or show him his fault. That phrase there that we have, “tell him his fault” is a translation of one word in the Greek, and it's a word that means to convince or convict or reprove. So, you go not in a vindictive way, but you go carefully and you go in brotherly love, and you're trying to bring their sin to the light of Scripture. That's another word you could use, “expose”; you're exposing their behavior, their sin, to what the Scriptures say. And by the way, it is their actions that you're talking about. You can't judge people's motives. Okay? But we're bringing their action, like maybe they lied, or maybe they demonstrated sinful anger, or maybe they've committed an act of immorality, some kind of immorality, it's those kinds of things. You're going to show them from the Scripture the sin in their life. And you're going to do this, as it says there, between you and him alone. You're going to do it in private. You do not talk to other people about the person's sin. You go and talk to them. between you and him alone. You go quietly, you go lovingly, you go personally, you talk face to face with them, and you're patient and gentle with them. They recognize that they might not respond to enthusiastically the first time you talk to them. And it says that you go and you do this, and if he listens to you, you have gained your brother, that's the goal. That is the goal. True restoration. If they listen implies that they hear what you're saying. They see what the Scripture says, they recognize their sin, they take responsibility for their sin. They confess their sin, repent of their sin, they've listened to you. You have gained your brother; you have restored them to yourself and to God. That's the purpose. Holiness matters.
Holiness matters. We avoid this kind of confrontation out of cowardice. We care more about ourselves than we care about the holiness of God's people. Is it okay to talk honestly on a Sunday morning at church and say we care more about what might happen to us than we care about the brother and the holiness of their life? But if you do this, if you do what Jesus commands his people in his church to do, if you do this, and you do it right, and you do it in a God-honoring way, you will be a rare person in the church. And you will be a tremendous blessing to the church because you're doing what Jesus wants, and you're doing it for the reasons Jesus wants it done. But what if they don't listen? What if I go, and we do all this, and they're not listening, they're not responding? Well, Jesus tells us what to do. Go back to the text here in verse 16. He says, “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.”
So that's letter B: Take others. That's a really critical step. In fact, you may want to even consider this step before you go personally. Because if I go personally, and they don't listen to me, am I really going to go get somebody else and bring them back to talk more with them? You used to think about that going into this. But you know, even when you go personally, you're going to be patient. It's not like you have these two people waiting outside the door. And oh, you're not going to respond, okay, I got two people outside. No, you're not going to do that. But you must, at some point, do this, because it's important to when your brother’s holiness matters. So don't give up. I think that's what we do. I went and talked to them, it didn't go well, I'm done. You're not done. Because Jesus tells you more that you need to do. And the witnesses are important, because they can confirm all the facts, they can confirm was real sin committed here was the one in sin, correctly, appropriately corrected. Has the one who sinned failed to repent? They're there to verify the whole thing. And so, when you ask somebody to come with you, you don't tell them the whole story. You just tell them enough so that they come with you. And then the whole story is laid out in front of them. So that then they can confirm what's really happened. And if this is what has happened, there has been sin, they have been corrected, they're not responding to it, then those witnesses can add in to the encouragement to repentance. And this is key that you have these people who can verify everything that happened.
When Jesus talks about two or three witnesses, no doubt, he's thinking about the law. And in Deuteronomy, 17:6 and 19:15, Moses wrote about the importance of having two or three witnesses to confirm a matter. And that's what you're doing here. But again, just bringing one or two others helps to keep the matter quiet, as quiet as possible. And if the person repents, it all ends right there, and nobody else ever needs to know. This is what love does. Love doesn't overlook sin, but love covers sin. In 1 Peter 4:8, Peter said, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Yeah, it covers it, it keeps it quiet. The idea there of covering it is like it builds a roof over it. And we're just going to deal with it inside of this group right here. Love covers sin. So, if you're to that point where you're wanting to ask somebody or a couple of somebodies to come with you, you should pick those people carefully. In fact, you might want to include a deacon in there, like your fellowship group leader, or maybe a pastor to come with you, somebody who's mature, somebody who's loving somebody who would actually be a help in this whole situation. So, in other words, don't bring your best friend who's just going to stand up for you, unless it's me. No. So, this is what we do, we go first we go personally, we go quietly, we go privately, we show our brother their sin from the Scripture, and if they acknowledge that and turn from it, hallelujah, praise the Lord, you should go out to dinner together on this guy right over here. But if they don't, then you take others with you. And you again are encouraging them to turn from their sin. But what if they won't listen when you come with one or two others? What if they've dug in their heels? They're not going to budge, despite the fact that you've been patient with them, you've been gentle with them, they're just not moving. Well, what do we do next? Well, Jesus tells us what to do next, in verse 17. He says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.”
So that's letter C: Tell it to the church. There is a word that basically means the assembly. So, it's talking about the local church. So now this has moved from a private matter to an official action. And at this point, if an elder isn't already involved, this matter would be brought to the elders, because we're not going to just have people popping up in a service and saying things that we want to do things decently, in an order. So, the elders would need to be brought into it. The facts would be confirmed, that's why the witnesses are so important. And then this would be told to the church. Here, we would do it at one of our assemblies. Remember, when we had an assembly a couple of months ago, we all met out in the parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. That's what we plan to do on a regular basis. And if there is ever a need to tell it to the church, that's where we would do it. And, just in case you're wondering, the person who's in sin, the person whose name might get told to the church, they will know ahead of time that their name is going to be told to the church. So don't worry, don't think, well, I'm not sure I want to go to the assembly because they might say my name there, and I'm not too excited about that. That would never happen. That will never happen. If your name is going to get told to the church, believe me, you will know. You will know. In fact, you will be informed that that's going to happen. And we would tell you that we don't want to do this, we would rather not do this, it breaks our heart to have to do this. There would be one more appeal to repent before we have to do it. But if there is no repentance, then this is what we must do. Because this is what the Lord says to do. And it's his church. We don't get to decide what we want to do. He's telling us what to do. He purchased the church, it's his church, he tells us what to do. And we're going to follow him. This isn't something that some theologian came up with centuries ago, this isn't somebody that wrote a book recently, we thought, oh, that's a good idea, or something that the pastors all kind of got together and said, you know, I think we ought to do it like this. No. This is Jesus telling us what to do. And my experience, being in church long time, is that the person whose name is going to be told to the church, by that point has stopped attending the church, because they recognize they're going in a different direction from the church. So that would raise the question, then if they've already stopped attending the church. Why would we tell the church? I'm glad you asked that question. Because Jesus said to. I love giving that answer. Why would we do it? Because Jesus says to do it, he's the head of the church. He's commanding us to do it. You say, well, what's the point? What's the point of telling it to the church? That is so that everybody in the church can now pray for this brother, and maybe even reach out to this one who is in sin in order to bring them back? You see, the point is restoration. The thing is, we care and we care about everybody in the church. And this may sound harsh to some people, but it is what the Lord commands. And if it's presented in the right way, with the goal of restoration, and with a broken heart, it can have a powerful impact in the church. I pastored in San Antonio for 24 years, and I had to do this five times in those 24 years. You might think that that sounds like a lot. Yeah, it was a lot; five more times than I wanted to have to do it. But in 24 years, that's really not very many times, just five times. And that's because we worked really hard on the front end of this, going to people personally, and then taking somebody else with you if you need to. We worked really hard at dealing with things early and quietly, and resolving them so that it didn't have to go any further. But there were five times when I needed to do this. And I saw some powerful effects from doing that. I saw people get saved as a result of making that announcement.
I remember one lady, in particular. She was fairly new to the church. She wasn't a Christian, but she had started visiting our church and she was there on that day. And she heard this announcement. And she told me afterwards, she says, my first reaction was, and these people were really mean, intolerant telling the whole church about somebody and what they're doing. And then she thought about it some more. And she thought, you know, it seems like these people take sin seriously. Maybe I should, too. And that's when she got saved. Maybe there's somebody here today, that's your case. Maybe you need to take sin seriously and turn to Christ for salvation. I've also seen it be an encouragement, in a sense, because one time we announced a situation that adultery was involved. And some of the younger couples in the church heard that announcement. And they thought, well, if this could happen in that marriage, it could happen in our marriage. And so, we need to take our marriages seriously. We need to strengthen our marriages, protect our marriages. And they started doing things like, hey, we're going to watch your kids on a certain weekend so you guys can go away and devote time to your marriage. And then you're going to watch our kids on a certain weekend. We're going to start doing stuff like that. And I knew some young men that were meeting regularly for breakfast. And they would get in each other's face. And they'd say, hey, how's your marriage going? And what would your wife say about your marriage? Because we might call her right now. When I heard about that, I said, hey, I appreciate the concern you guys have for one another, but you might want to just cool your jets here, just pump the brakes just a little bit here, buddy. But the point is that they started taking this serious like they should. It was good for them. It was an encouragement to them. And you know, when you get up, and the announcement has to do with somebody who's in adultery, well, there's a spouse sitting there in the church, and kids sitting there. And so along with encouraging the church to pray for the one who's in the adultery, you ask them to pray for the spouse, and the kids, and you encourage them to reach out to them and minister to them and help them. And we saw that happen big time.
Why tell it to the church? Well, the simple answer is, Jesus says so. But the effects that I've seen makes it sound like he knows what he's talking about. What do you think? Does he know what he's talking about? I think we ought to do what he says. But if you do that, and it says, if he refuses to listen, even to the church, like what, uh, that's like, why would anybody do that? But if they do, if he refuses, and again, this implies time has been given. If he doesn't listen to the church, that implies people have been talking to him, encouraging him, reaching out to him, but he won't listen. Even though you've been patient, and he's given opportunity to repent, and restoration has been sought, but if the person will not listen, then they have cut themselves off from the church, haven't they? So, what are we to do? Well, Jesus tells us what to do, there in the second half of verse 17. “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
So, there's letter D: You put them out of the fellowship? That might sound strange, treat him like a Gentile and a tax collector. I am a Gentile. What are we what are we talking about here? But you have to understand he's talking to a Jewish audience. Matthew is writing his gospel primarily to a Jewish audience, and what that would have represented to them. Treat him like a gentile or a tax collector, that those are groups that represented unconverted outsiders who you would have no communion with or spiritual fellowship with. That's the idea there and to a primarily Gentile church in Corinth, Paul put it like this. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 whether he's dealing with a sin situation in the church there, he says, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” That's the idea. And going back to what Jesus says here, he says, let him be; that's a command, He's given us a command. You have to accept that this is the reality of the situation, this is where we have gotten to, and you must treat him as an outsider, because that's what he's chosen to be. And he says, “let him be to you,” that's a singular, each member of the Church has got to abide by, hey, this is what we got to do. That emphasizes your individual responsibility for all of this. And the bottom line here, the message that's coming through really clearly is that holiness matters. For the purpose of the purity of the church, we must obey the head of the church and put out those who choose to live in unconfessed, unrepentant sin. And by the way, that is the issue. You're not going to get your name told to the church because you sinned. If that was the case, none of us would be here today. All right? But the issue is the sin has been confronted, and there's been no confession, no repentance, and they have not moved off of that. That's what gets them to this point. That's the issue. It's not even necessarily whatever the sin was; that's not the issue. It's like we put people out for some sins, but other sins, although they're okay with that that it's not the sin that is so much the issue. It's their failure to repent, their refusal to repent of the sin.
The New Testament is clear on this. Romans 16:17. Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” And 1 Corinthians 5, just to read that whole passage there starting in verse 1, Paul says, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” So, there's a lot there. In that passage it’s talking about removing them from your midst. It's also talking about when you do that you do this when you're assembled, when you have come together in the assembly. And again, the idea here is restoration. You know that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. You're turning him, putting him out of the church with the hope that that will bring them to their senses, and they'll come back. That's what we want. And the purity of the church, the idea there is brought out at verse 6 where he says “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” See, to a lot of people that's such a big deal, but it is a big deal, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. And the bottom line is, if we don't practice what Jesus said, and we don't ever address sin, then it doesn't matter what we preach. Because if you can live any which way you want, and it's not going to make any difference, and it doesn't matter what we preach. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, Paul talks more about this. He says, “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” Verse 14, he says more; he says, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” And again, the idea is not, oh yeah, we want people to get ashamed. No, we want them to feel ashamed because they're now outside of the church. They're now back in the world and they would feel ashamed for what they've done, and they'd want to come back. In fact, verse 15 he says, “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” That's the goal. The goal is restoration. Even putting people out still has the goal of restoration.
In 1 Timothy 1:19, Paul's talking about “holding faith and a good conscience.” And then he says, “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” See, they've been removed from the church, they've been removed from all the blessings that come from being in the church, they've been removed from that; they're back in the world, they're back in Satan's domain. And the goal is that they'll be so miserable out there that they'll repent of their sin and want to come back. The goal is restoration. And if they repent, we welcome them back. And fortunately, one of those five that I had to tell it to the church in San Antonio, one of those did come back. What a day of rejoicing that was.
And this is a whole another sermon. But if you want to just take a note of 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, Paul's giving instruction on how to welcome them back. Apparently, the Corinthians were having a hard time welcoming back someone that they had put out. And so, he's instructing them about how important it is for them to love this person and affirm this person and receive this person. But if there is no repentance, then we must be faithful to the Lord's instruction. Because holiness matters. Holiness matters.
Now, you're probably thinking that you know all of this, it sounds really hard to do. And I'm here to show you that yes, it is. It is really hard to do, but we must come to it with a commitment to holiness, and a genuine love for one another. And the Lord understands that it's hard. And so, he provides encouragement. Go back to our text and Matthew 18. And look at verses 18-20 where Jesus says, “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. 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. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This is a really a great promise from the Lord.
And so, this would be number three: Embrace Jesus' promise. Embrace Jesus’ promise. Sadly, these verses have been misunderstood and abused; they frequently get ripped out of their context, the context here is clearly dealing with sin in the church. That's what we just saw in verses 15 through 17. And then the next verse after this section, verse 21, Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” So, it is all the same, the subject hasn't changed. It's still the same subject. But rightly understood, these verses provide a great promise for those who share God's commitment to holiness in the church. And Jesus starts off by saying, truly I say to you, that's kind of a solemn introduction there. He's got something important to say here. And basically, what he's saying in these verses is that when the church does what God says, it operates with God's authority. In essence, the church then is declaring what God declares. In fact, it's what He's already revealed to us in His Word. In fact, when you look at the verse there, verse 18, says, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. It should be translated, “shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” In other words, what you're doing is you're declaring what has already been decided in heaven. And the words “bound and loosed,” that bound could be translated for bid or loose permit. And in this case, it's you're not forgiven. And those same phrases are used in Matthew 16:19. And when Jesus is talking about the church and building his church, there's a clear statement in John 20:23, where Jesus is talking to his disciples, and He says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” That's a similar context. Unfortunately, like I said, this is often misunderstood. What is he really saying? Because the Catholic Church has taken this to mean that the church has the authority to forgive people. Does the church have the authority to forgive people? No, not so, but the church has the authority to declare what God says, what God has to say about forgiveness. And when the church declares what God says about forgiveness, it comes with God's authority. So that encourages the church to enforce God's standards in the church, knowing that God's standing with us in this. And then verses 19 and 20, add on to this. Unfortunately, those two verses in particular, they've been hijacked. They've been hijacked by people to think, you know, if I just get two or three people to agree with me in prayer, then God is obligated to give me what I'm asking for. Or also, you may have heard these verses used to encourage small prayer meetings. So okay, brothers, that there's only three of us here on this night to pray, because wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He's there with him. I'm pretty sure he's with me all the time. I don't need two or three other people to show up for the Lord to come. He's promised to be with me forever. That's not what this is talking about. In this context, what is the two or three? What's it referring to? The witnesses that were mentioned back in verse 16. These witnesses, they're there. They're confirming all the facts, and they're trying to sort all this through. And if they're agreeing about anything, they're asking where we need wisdom to sort this out. Lord, we need love to deal with this brother; Lord, we need strength to endure through this,. The Lord says, I'll give it to you. I'll give it to you. These are often very difficult situations and help is needed. And the Lord says, I'll give you the help that you need. He'll provide the needed help as we seek to do His will, in these difficult situations, because of His commitment to holiness. The Lord will provide assurance and confidence that you are doing his will, which is really important when you're having to do these hard things. Notice in verse 20, Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name,” that's an important statement right there. In his name means that you're there acting in accordance with his will. His name represents all that he is. So, what we're doing is consistent with who Jesus is, it's consistent with him. It's consistent with his will, it's consistent with his teaching, we're doing it in reliance on him. We're not doing this on our own. We're acting consistent with his desire, with his desires. We want to please him; we want to advance his cause. We want to rightly represent him. And that's a huge qualification to the whole process. We're not trying to do what we want to do we want him to rightly represent the Lord. Just imagine though, if the two people you invited to join with you and talking to your brother imagine, one of them was Jesus. What would that look like? That's the way you should approach this. But if we act according to his will, he says, he's there. That brings divine authority to the whole thing. And you saw that in 1 Corinthians 5, he says, “when you're assembled in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, he's there.” His authority is there. Not only is his authority and his power there, but he's there to comfort those who are actually doing his will.
So, when God's word is followed, you have the assurance that God is in it. And God is into holiness. God wants a pure church. So, as you think this through and you sift through all of this information, and you think about what the Lord is getting at here, and what he wants from his church, just be sure that you understand this is not a call for you to become a sin sniffer. We're not enrolling people in the sin police where there's not a call for you to be zealously obnoxiously judgmentally going after one another as a call to holiness. It's called the love of God and to love one another. That commitment needs to be held by every single believer. And first of all, it means I need to pay attention to my own life. I have to realize that my life affects the testimony of the whole church. And when I think about that I'm reminded of a story. It’s a true story about a man who was an attorney, a Christian man, he was an attorney. And he was very involved in a church. And he invited another attorney to come to church with him. And this other attorney says, well, what church do you go to? And he tells hi.. And he says, “I would never go to that church because I know another attorney that goes to that church, he's the most crooked attorney I know.” So, the Christian attorney goes to church on Sunday, he tells the pastor ahead of time about this conversation that he had. The pastor gets up and tells that story in church. And then he says, I don't know who you are, but whoever you are, you need to repent and get your life in order. And eight attorneys repented that day. I might have made that last part up.
But the point is, the testimony of one person affects the testimony of the whole church. That needs to matter to me personally. I’ve got to love God and love my fellow believers enough to do God's will no matter how difficult it might be. And remember, we read the statement that God said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” If you know God as your Father, in other words, you've come to the point where you recognize your own unholiness, you recognize the depth of your own sin, and you recognize that you're trapped in your sin, and you've got no way out, and you reach the point of desperation, where you need a savior and you want to turn from your sin, and you turn to Jesus Christ as your Savior, as the one who sets you free from your sin, then you are one of God's children. And according to 2 Peter 1:4, “you may become partakers of the divine nature.” You've been born again, you've been given a new heart, a new spirit, a new direction in your life, a new energy in your life, and the Holy Spirit abides in you. So, you can be holy, because he is holy, so be holy. And that's something that we all need to pursue. We have a book that called the pursuit of holiness, you might consider checking into that as it's something just to encourage you to pursue holiness in your own life. The Lord is committed to your holiness. And you must be too, because holiness matters. If we want to have a maximum impact for the Lord in these dark days that we live in, we all as individuals, and as a church have to be committed to the pursuit of holiness. So let me pray for us to that end.
We are so thankful that we can come here today, we can open up your Word and we can hear the words of our Lord, we can hear the words of the Holy Son of God, who willingly came as a man, gave up his life on our behalf, so that we might stand before you holy and without blemish. And we hear his call for us to pursue that holiness in our own lives, to work it out in our own lives. And we've even seen how we are to be involved in helping and encouraging one another in that way. We are to encourage each other in many ways, praying for one another, instructing one another, and even correcting, admonishing one another when necessary. Well, I pray for each one of us that we'd be so committed to the pursuit of holiness that we would welcome others who would come to us to talk to us about a fault in our own life. And we'd be quick to hear and quick to confess and turn from sin. And that we would love one another, that we wouldn't just overlook their sin, but that we would care about them, and their walk with you. And that we would seek restoration in the way that you have instructed us to do. So, where we are thankful for this time, and we're reminded that we believe in a holy God, there's no one like you. You are, holy, holy, holy. And we need to look at the church, your church, from your perspective, and not think about what we want in the church. But what does our Holy Lord want in the church? And what has he given us in terms of instruction and provision to fulfill His will in the church? So Lord, I thank you for this time today. I thank you for your goodness and your grace to us. I pray, Lord, that we might encourage one another in the pursuit of holiness, for your honor, and your glory. And we pray this in our Savior’s name. Amen.
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