Matthew 18:15-20

Talks for Growing Christians

The Procedure to Follow if a Fellow Believer Sins Against You

Matthew 18:15-20

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Lesson Number 48

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. The Lord gives Christians the authority to confront believers who sin.
  2. The Lord gives the church the authority to discipline believers who sin.

Practical Application

  1. Go to church, not to court.


  1. What is significant about Matthew 18:17?
  2. What is the difference between the universal Church and the local church?
  3. Is the universal Church or the local church in view in Matthew 16:18? In Matthew 18:17?
  4. What is the proper procedure to follow when a fellow believer sins against you?
  5. What does it mean to view someone as “a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17)?
  6. What is the highest form of discipline in the church?
  7. What issue is involved in Matthew 18:18-20?


  1. It is the second mention of the Church in the Bible. The first mention was in Matthew 16:18.
  2. The universal Church is composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus. A local church is any group of Christians who meet together in the name of Christ for worship, teaching, prayer, accountability, and discipline.
  3. The universal Church is in view in Matthew 16:18. Matthew 18:17 applies to local churches.
  4. a. Go to the believer who has wronged you and talk to him in private. b. Take one or two other believers with you and talk to him. c. Take the matter to the leadership of the local church.
  5. This means to put them out of the fellowship of the church. Heathens and tax collectors were outside the fellowship of the church.
  6. Excommunication, putting a believer out of fellowship
  7. Church discipline


  1. If a fellow believer has sinned against you, you should take the initiative to go to them. Discuss the potential problems this would avoid.
  2. The goal of church discipline is always restoration. Refer to I Corinthians 5. Excommunication can have the good effect of moving a sinning believer to repentance. We should never rejoice when church discipline is carried out. Church discipline is not punitive, it is restorative.


  1. Are you involved in a conflict with a fellow believer? Apply the principles in Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 6. Go to your church where wise fellow believers can help mediate between you. If your conflict is resolved in this matter you will have gained a brother and spared your testimony before unbelievers.

Key Verses

  • “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.” Matthew 18:15
  • “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

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