The Offending Brother
Matthew 18:15-18
Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you…

The wise advice which our Lord here gives is rarely followed, and yet it is not at all impracticable, and if obeyed it would prevent an immense amount of distress and ill feeling. Let us consider, first the general principles of his advice, and then its special details.


1. The fact of the brother's offence is admitted. This is very important. Too often men quarrel and accuse one another without justly apportioning the faults. The innocent man is blamed by his guilty brother. We must not put in force the process indicated by Christ until we have discovered that our brother is really in the wrong.

2. The aim must be to recover the offending brother. It is not to crush and humiliate him. It is not to have our revenge on him. It is to restore him to a better condition of mind, and to bring about a reconciliation.

3. The method must be kind and generous. The slowly advancing stages show a reluctance to proceed to extreme measures. Inasmuch as our end is not to vindicate our own rights, but to recover our brother, our method must be tender and considerate.

II. SPECIAL DETAILS. It is important to observe that Christ is treating of the relation of true Christian people to one another. If either party does not recognize the claims of Christian brotherhood, the process must be different, although the generous spirit of Christ's method must be observed with all men. Let us now note the successive steps.

1. We are to see the offending brother alone. This is just the very last thing some people will do. In pride or fear they shun the very person they should seek. They refuse to speak to him, when it is their duty to be frank with him. Yet too often they spread the tale of their wrong among their neighbours. Thus a train of idle gossip is started, and vast mischief originated. He who so behaves reveals himself in an unchristian light; he becomes an offending brother, and gives the man who has offended him a just cause of complaint. Immense mischief would be stayed if Christ's method were pursued. We have to seek out the person who has wronged us, and be simple and frank with him; then very often a little quiet talk will bring us to a mutual understanding and end the quarrel.

2. If the first step fails, we are to call in the help of two or three other Christians. This is also to be private. The calm impartiality of outsiders may settle the dispute. The gravity of their advice may convince the offending brother that he is in the wrong.

3. If this process fails, we are to appeal to the Church. Christ assumes the exercise of Church discipline. With us this has fallen very much into abeyance. It can only be restored in a Christ-like spirit.

4. Finally, if all these processes fail, we must cease to regard the offender as a Christian brother. He has excommunicated himself. God does not forgive the impenitent, and he does not expect us to do so. Yet we should never hate the offender, but always desire to restore him - as we should desire to convert "the Gentile and the publican." - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: "If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother.

The Necessity of Ecclesiastical Discipline
Top of Page
Top of Page