Mediation Hope

Preserving Church Unity — Bible Study Notes

Matthew 18:15-18

Resolving Conflict

Note, Jesus is laying down steps to take for peace in the church,
Before the church is even established!
Does he know us humans or what?

Note context:
Matthew 18:6-7

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea.

7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

 

Matthew 18:10-14
10 -11 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

 

Matthew 7:15-23, Watch out for False Prophets
Step 1) Personal Confrontation, verse 15

If your brother or sister sins against you,
go and show them their fault,
just between the two of you.
If they listen to you, you have won them over.

 
One on one: Talk it over.  Do not harbor a grudge.
Deal with it.  Sooner the better

Ephesians 4:26, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

How is it (unfortunately) usually done?

Step 1) Get mad

Step 2) Tell everyone else

Step 3) . . . EXCEPT the person it deals with!

 

FACT: Differences of opinion happen — People are different and disagreements are sure to happen!

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.        John F. Kennedy

 

Acts 15:39, Paul and Barnabas, “sharp disagreement”

Re: Mark joining their missionary trip.

Result, they part company!

 

Galatians 2:11-14, Paul and Peter get into it

Re: Christian Liberty vs. Jewish dietary laws

 

 

Mishnah: Ben Sanhedrin 101a,
The Rabbis taught that reproof must always be private!
Triangling – BIG enemy to church unity

 

I need tell you about Brother X,
a) What a louse he is!
b) Won’t you take my side?
c) So, let’s gang up on mean ol’ Bro’ X

 

Sides are drawn up before resolution has a chance
In fact, resolution is not sought – just to be right!
This is an EGO game!
Using pity and tugging on the heart-strings

 

Whatever it takes to get my way.     Like a spoiled child.

Solution: Elders who will be leaders.

When someone starts to tell you a story about someone else,

1) Stop them

2) Demand they talk to that person first.

Do what Jesus commands, Matthew 18:15

3) Refuse to do anything until they go one-on-one.

If they refuse, then so be it!

 

Proverbs 18:17,

“The first to present their case seems right,
till another comes forward
and questions them.”

 

When people get mad and respond to their anger:

Pouting         Hitting          Tattling         Gathering sides

Playground Politics

We revert right back to a grade-school mentality.

Childish – people won’t play with us anymore

Hiding important documents

Sticking up their noses to each other

Goal #1 – Restoration

Do this whenever possible

Even when we must expel someone from church fellowship

Matthew 18:19-20, in this context, Jesus concludes this difficult teaching with admonishment to strive toward unity.

“Where two or three agree . . .”

Luke 17:3-4,

3 So watch yourselves.  “If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

 

1 Corinthians 5:4-5,

“When you are assembled . . ., and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 2:6-7,

“The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

 

1 Timothy 1:19-20,

“. . . holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”

 

Matthew 18:34-35,

“In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.’”

 

Romans 14:19

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”

 

Romans 12:18,

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.

 

Step 2) Mediation, verse 16

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along,
so that ‘every matter may be established
by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

 

If necessary, get some help.

Esp. with a communication breakdown.

typical problems with relationships.

Seek out your middle ground — where can you agree.

 

Protect against the “SPIN”

When a disagreement gets intense: big casualty is common sense.

Those arguing only want one thing: to be right!

Objective should be simply the truth.

 

Mediator steps in with job #1: Restore common sense.

Usually, both sides have something right, just out of perspective.

 

Goal: 1) Negotiate those elements of truth

2) Affirm partial justification of positions

3) Clarify their common ground – what they both really seek.

 

Multiple Witnesses

Make preparations for proof in case evidence is required at a later date.

Keep a log when the disagreement gets too sharp

1) For your protection

2) To help sort out the situation – your self- assessment

3) for Step 3, when/if the situation needs to be brought out into the light

Deuteronomy 17:6-7,

“On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.  7 The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you.”

 

Deuteronomy 19:15,

One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

 

Leviticus 19:15,

Do not pervert justice; . . . but judge your neighbor fairly.

 

Step 3) Bring it out into the Open, verse 17a

If they refuse to listen to them, tell it to the church;

“Shine the Light”

Get the matter out into the light!

Malicious people thrive in the darkness

 

Steps to a church split:

1) Triangling, people building their “side” against another

2) Magnify the problem     a) “Many people feel this way”

b) “Problem is so serious”

3) Keep it hidden

All the while, nice rationalizations are given.

When people love God and love their church enough to defend it.

They will speak up.  And sometimes the word to be used is “No!”

 

Painful truth:

Sometimes you are not going to find your common ground
There comes a point where you just have to move on.

 

NB: That is not at step 1.   Two decisive steps happen first.

Deal with the Irrational Guilt

Any stressful conflict will often produce it.

 

 

John 3:19-20,

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.


Ephesians 5:11-14,

 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness,

but instead expose them.

12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;

13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’

 

Allow the simplicity of exposure

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy
for social and industrial diseases.
Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants;
electric light the most efficient policeman.”
..                                     Louis D. Brandeis

 

 

Step 4) Establish Emotional Boundaries, verse 17b

and if they refuse to listen even to the church,

treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

 

And how does Jesus treat pagans and tax-collectors?
Never ignores or berates them.
Spends time with them,
has dinner with them
enjoys their company
defends against Pharisees
But they are not part of the “inner community.”
Not considered Disciples.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15,

“Take special note of those who do not obey
 our instruction in this letter.
Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.”
“Yet do not regard them as enemies,
but warn them as fellow believers.”

 

Boundaries
Some people will cause others harm
Or simple personality clashes

 

Do not throw yourself into their company
Limit time with those who drain your energies

 

Don’t be so naïve about the ways of the world.
Jesus never affirmed life as a doormat.

 

 

Step 5) Full Excommunication

2 Thessalonians 3:6,

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”

 

1 Corinthians 5:5,

“. . .  hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

 

1 Timothy 1:19-20

19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.  20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

 

2 Timothy 2:17-18,

Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

 

Titus 3:10-11,

10 Warn divisive people once, and then warn them a second time.
After that, have nothing to do with them.
11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful;
they are self-condemned.

 

Proverbs 6:15,

“on such a one calamity will descend suddenly;
in a moment, damage beyond repair.”

 

Proverbs 29:1,

“One who is often reproved, yet remains stubborn,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.”

 

Hebrews 6:4-6,

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,  6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, WHILE [b] to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  (NIV)

        [b] “repentance, because . . .”

 

The unrepentant person has already abandoned the way of God

Restoration is not possible while they are denying the spiritual power of God for transformation and restoration.

Since God respects one’s free will to choose for themselves – they stand convicted in the rebellion of their own behavior.  Their fault is in their own refusal to repent.

 

John 15:1-2, 6,       The Vine and the Branches

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

 

 

Mathew 18:18, Binding and Loosing

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth

will be [c] bound in heaven,

and whatever you loose on earth

will be [d] loosed in heaven.

c. or will have been

d. or will have been

“Bind and loose refer to the judicial authority of gathered
Christians to decide cases on the basis of God’s law.”
– Craig Keener, Commentary Matthew, IVP

 

The church gathered in unity with the awareness of Christ’s presence achieves significant perspective.  Conscious of Christ’s wisdom and direction their decisions reflect the bearing possessed of heaven itself.  Not that they might manipulate the jurisdiction of God’s realm, but rather to verify what is already determined.

Pharaoh proved this with his hardened heart before Moses, not that he was manipulated into this condition, but by his own volition he placed himself against God.  Once that decision was made God brought it to its fullness and Moses recognized the reality.  Moses did not plan and orchestrate that condition but merely stated what Pharaoh had already decided.  Antagonists have committed the same dilemma.  That their estate would be bound/loosed by the church is not as alluring to power hungry control-freaks as might be supposed but simply to declare what is already evident.

“Binding” someone from church is not exert power over someone, but rightly understand is only to verify what is already true.  The antagonist seeking harm to their choice target will inflict casualties to church members, especially those young in the faith seeking stability and spiritual growth.  That toxic attitude is already there.  No one should be too surprised if the church leadership labels it accordingly.

Is judgment fair?  Hasn’t Jesus warned about passing judgment in Matthew 7:1, “beware when you judge or else you risk judgment yourself?”  Notice first of all that the warning is not a command.  Contrary to biblically illiterate notions a commandment is not here.  Rather, Jesus expresses caution because anyone reaching a decision and discerning a judgment will leave a losing coalition resentful of that conclusion and a backlash is assured.  When you make decisions make very sure about them and do it without a personal agenda.  Objectivity and consensus are your two best strategies for preservation.

 

Matthew 18:19, Care of the Witnesses

I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

 

Jesus’ vision of Christians standing united is his dearest concern.

They are powerful!

When Christians cooperate with same faith and heart – satan is afraid!

“Given the context, the two or three gathered for prayer in verses 19-20 must be the two or three witnesses of 18:16. Whereas in Deuteronomy 17:6-7 the two or three witnesses were to be the first to cast stones, here they are to be the first to pray.

While this could refer to the negative prayer of execration (which may have been more of a curse-compare 1 Cor 5:5), in this context of forgiveness the prayer may represent a prayer for ultimate restoration (though compare 1 Jn 5:16).

Jewish excommunication even in its long-term form was normally reversible if repentance took place (p. Mo`ed Qatan 3:1, 11; though compare the extreme cases in 1QS 7.1-2, 16-17, 24-25).”

                                                            – Craig Keener, Commentary Matthew, IVP

 

Matthew 18:20, Promise of Christ’s Presence

For where two or three come together
in my name, there am I with them.

 

“An ancient Jewish saying promised God’s presence for even two or three gathered to study his law (m. ‘Abot 3:2, 6; Mek. Bahodesh 11.48ff.; compare m. Berakot 7:3). Here Jesus himself fills the role of the Shekinah, God’s presence, in the traditional Jewish saying (compare Smith 1951:152-53; Meier 1980:206; Barth 1963:135; Ziesler 1984).

Jewish teachers often called God “the Place,” that is, “the Omnipresent One” (see Keener 1991a:150 n. 27); Jesus is “God with us” (Mt 1:23; 28:20).”

                                                            – Craig Keener, Commentary Matthew, IVP

 

No room for mavericks!
Christians are called into community, to discover the power of Christ.

 

Point, We are destined to spend eternity together,
May as well start getting used to each other now.

Matthew 18      Context
Discipline is a sometimes necessary course of action, but with due reluctance.  Excommunication is absolutely a last resort only to be done after exhausting every other attempt for resolution.

Painful

Poses tension with the Christian call of Love and Fellowship

Context — Matthew 18

18:1-5           Personal greatness.  When egos get over-inflated

18:6-9           Causing to stumble.  Severity of hurting others

18:10-14       Wandering sheep

aggressive efforts to bring back the wayward and restore unity

18:15-20       Church Discipline steps

18:21-35       Forgiveness  Radical and Excessive!

 

 

Preserving Church Unity

Matthew 18:15-18

 

Step 1) Personal Confrontation                                  verse 15

If your brother or sister sins against you,
go and show them their fault,
just between the two of you.
If they listen to you, you have won them over.

 

 

Step 2) Mediation                                          verse 16

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along,
so that ‘every matter may be established
by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
 

 

Step 3) Bring it out into the Open                               verse 17a

If they refuse to listen to them, tell it to the church;

 

 

Step 4) Establish Emotional Boundaries                 verse 17b

and if they refuse to listen even to the church,
treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

 

 

Step 5) Full Excommunication

 

2 Thessalonians 3:6
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

 

1 Corinthians 5:5
. . .  hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

 

 

Titus 3:9-10
 
10 Warn divisive people once, and then warn them a second time.
After that, have nothing to do with them.
11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful;
they are self-condemned.

 

Proverbs 6:15, “on such a one calamity will descend suddenly;

          in a moment, damage beyond repair.

 

 

Proverbs 29:1, “One who is often reproved, yet remains stubborn,

          will suddenly be broken beyond healing.

 

 

 

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