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How To Clear Up Misunderstandings, Work Out Differences and Recover Our Brother Out of Sin – Matthew 18:15-17

conflict1Especially as we enter the Memorial season, our hearts and minds reflect on our relationship with Jehovah, Jesus and our brethren.  Have we been faithful?  Have we grown in the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Have we been able to work out our differences with our brethren or do we harbor bitterness or anger.  Have we been able to forgive or do we hold a grudge against our brother or sister and has damaged our fellowship relationship to the point where we can’t look them in the eye and we won’t talk with them any more?

Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV) “ 23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

If we have wronged or offended our brother, we should not presume that our loving sacrifice and service to be accepted by the Lord until we have made due apology and recompense in full.

Matthew 18:15-17 (NKJV) “ 15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

The focus of this passage is not punitive, but rather it is rehabilitative.

Verse 15 says, “If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”   long the same line, Galatians 6:1 (NASV) says “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…”

If we could summarize Matthew 18:15-17 in one word, it would be “communication.”  This passage is not about getting justice for yourself. It is not about proving to everyone that you are right and your brother is wrong. This passage is about the loving communication steps to save your brother. These three steps are only to be followed through to completion when the brother’s eternal welfare is in danger or when the ecclesia is in danger from the brother’s sin.

As Paul says, 1 Corinthians 5:5-6 (NASV) “5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?”

Notice two important point:

1) The purpose of withdrawal of fellowship is “so that his spirit may be saved.”

2) “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” If the brother’s sin is not dealt with, the whole congregations will be in danger of becoming corrupted by the permissive attitude regarding the sin.

All too often the problem is simply a misunderstanding which can hopefully be cleared up at the first step. Sometimes both parties are at fault, in which case honesty and humility will guide them to a solution.

To summarize, the focus of Matthew 18 is saving both our brother and congregations from sin which would break their fellowship with the Lord. It is not about getting justice for ourselves.

Find audio discussions on Matthew 18:15-17 below.  These audios cover how to deal with differences and resolve problems with our brethren, family and anyone.

Allen Springer

Panel Discussion: George Tabac, Joe Megacz, Tom Rugirello, Kris Knapczinski and Peter Karavas

Panel Discussion: Ken Rawson, Giesinger, Gaunt, Tryna

Rodney Hugleman

9 comments to How To Clear Up Misunderstandings, Work Out Differences and Recover Our Brother Out of Sin – Matthew 18:15-17

  • Gasa

    Chris how do you apply Mth 18 in practice we disfellowship and shun ?

  • Marjo

    Lets make an example. What if you have solved the argument, but your brother is spreading it to others. Isn’t that worst sin than the argument was about which was forgiven? If it has been forgiven, then why to spread it for everyone? Doesn’t that tell alot about persons spiritual condition?

    • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

      Hi Marjo, this article was written to explain Matt 18 that is often used by the witness organization to show why they have judicial committees. To show it is to help a brother that is having a hard time with a sin. This is a personal matter first and should be cleared up there. It is not taking the sins of someone and bringing it to their attention, it is sins between each other.
      You can go straight to Jehovah thru Jesus to get forgiveness for sins as we all sin daily. We just sin differently also.
      Witnesses go to the elders mostly to punish another person. If someone is spreading information sometimes it is best to ignore it as you can never track down the originator. You are right Mature Christian and those in tune more with their spirituality very seldom get involved in pettiness. Maybe someone else has a thought just my observation.

      • Marjo

        There was a sister (pioneer) in congregation where I was, who had this kind of “need” to know things what happened between of everyone who had disfellowshipped. This sister also asked the reason from my mother’s husband why I left the congregation, and he had to reply to that. This same sister also told me things which weren’t true at all of my mother’s husband. That has bothered me since.

        • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

          Marjo that is the petty stuff that was a hallmark of the witnesses. I stayed away from groups and cliches because they were many.
          Now I don’t even remember some of the issues there. I had been a witness longer than most in my congregation so I was viewed differently. I would always be the little peacemaker between sisters and brothers.
          All of that occurred because there was no focus on Christ or the Bible itself. When you get into Christ your whole perspective on life changes and you change. We recognize there is a need to talk it out however, these issues that have bothered us. That is what testimony meeting is about. We were laughing instead of crying after hearing a few of the stories. But it is cleansing to talk. Take Care.

          • Marjo

            I’ll look forward the next meeting 🙂

            I noticed the same thing especially in younger witness groups age 13 to 30. No matter how much there were speeches about how to be a good person or how to treat your brother. I felt they were just theater on the stage. I think actions showed huge role in that society. But there also were some lovely persons. From older age group.

      • John

        Dear Jacqueline,

        How is life ? Are you baptized yet ?

        I read the bible and study on my own what makes me very happy.

        Before I also visited congregation halls of Jehovah,s witnesses.

        Believing that God created the world and wants us happy it makes me very sad to see preferences among JW and I flew even to NY to solve differences but unfortunately JW I met do not seem interessted in making peace

        Within the congregation they support the bible but sone do not apply te divine wisdom in their livesand have unchristian advices.

        Do you know someone who really loves Johovah to dissolve conflicts ?


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