Steps For Spiritual Surgery

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
–Matthew 18:15

How do you engage in church discipline–what I call “spiritual surgery”? Paul said if you see somebody caught in a sin, “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). “Restore” in Greek is “katartizo,” a word that means “to mend a broken bone.” You have to do this operation very carefully so you do not lose the patient or the congregation in the process. Jesus outlined the steps for doing spiritual surgery in Matthew 18.

Step number one: if a person is involved in sin that threatens the health of the church, talk with the person privately. Here is the difference between condemnation and restoration: If you really just want to condemn a person and make yourself feel better, you will deal as publicly as possible with that person. But if your goal is restoration, then you will deal as privately as possible with them. That is why Jesus said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother” (v. 15). That is the best outcome.

I want to stop here and address a common fallacy. People say, “What about Matthew 7:1, ‘Do not judge so that you will not be judged’?” Jesus was not saying you should never judge anybody for any reason at all. He was talking about the pharisaical kind of judgment. The Pharisees loved to condemn people and say, “This person is beyond redemption.” We are never to say that. Only God can perform that kind of judgment.

Let me prove to you that Jesus said we are to judge. Look at Matthew 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus did not say you should never take the speck out of somebody’s eye; He was saying, “Take the log out of your own eye before you try to do surgery on somebody else.” Let me illustrate that for you. Imagine you get a contact lens stuck in your eye and you cannot get it out. So you go to the ophthalmologist. He comes in, and sticking out of his eye is a two-by-four. Would you want that doctor working on your eye right then? I do not think so. You would want to be sure he got that two-by-four out of his eye so he could see clearly to operate on your eye.

That is exactly what Jesus was saying in Matthew 7. It is a merciful thing to help somebody remove the speck from their eye. But we have to deal with the sin in our own lives before we can see clearly to help somebody else.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Spiritual Surgery” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2021.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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