Matt 18 and Church Discipline

One of the least understood and most misunderstood passages in the New Testament is in Matthew Chapter 18. This passage is misapplied to church disciple of sinners and has nothing to do with that.

The passage is:

Mat 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

The context of the passage itself should dispell any thoughts that the passage is referring to church discipline. The context is about how people are to behave themselves with respect to each other. The proper approach if you have something against another person is to take it to that person directly. If that person does not listen then take a couple of witnesses. If that person does not listen to you and the witnesses take the matter before the church. If you can't get satisfaction at that point, then simply avoid the person.

This is not a passage on excommunication by the church. The person that is sinned against, is the only one that is instructed to avoid the other person.

Greek Exegesis of the Passage

The greek word used in the passage that is translated as thee, is "soi", which is a personal pronoun, common gender, singular and dative, and is translated as "to you [singular]". If the meaning was that the person should be excommunicated by the entire church, then the word would have been "umin", which would be translated as "you (all)", and be plural.

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Last Updated 12/04/98

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