When Your Brother Does Not Repent

When Your Brother Does Not Repent

If he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
–Matthew 18:16

In Matthew 18, Jesus gave us four steps for correcting a sinning Christian in the church. Step one is to talk to the person privately.

What if they do not respond? Then go to step two, Jesus said: “If he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed” (v. 16). Taking a few people with you will convince the sinner how serious their sin is. But it also means that there are two or three witnesses who can report to the church on the sinner’s attitude if necessary: Were they repentant or not repentant?

Remember, the goal is restoration. When doing spiritual surgery, you want to use a scalpel, not a pickax. It needs to be done carefully with thought, always remembering the goal is to bring the person to the point of repentance.

What if they still do not respond? Step three: report the situation to the congregation. Look at verse 17: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” We do not know exactly what Jesus meant by “tell it to the church.” I doubt we would usually want to announce somebody’s sin to the whole church. But I think telling it to the church could mean taking that situation to a group of leaders in the church. This is not to humiliate the sinner; it is to let them know how serious this sin is. And it is also to gather more people to pray for this sinner, to restore them to a right relationship with God.

What if even after that a person does not repent? Then and only then do you go to the most drastic step: if necessary, remove the person from the congregation. Look at verse 17: “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” That was an idiom for “turn him out of the congregation.” The purpose of turning somebody out of the church is not out of hatred for the person; it is out of love. It is with the hope that such a drastic action will cause that person to realize what they are doing and repent. But it is also to protect the moral and spiritual health of the congregation. When we engage in church discipline, it keeps the whole body from being infected by sin.

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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. www.lockman.org