Christian Judgment
Matthew 18:15-20
Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you…

From dealing with the offended, our Lord here passes on to the offending, and he shows us how we should deal with a guilty brother, for our own sake, for his sake, for the sake of the Church, and ultimately for the sake of the world. Christian judgment should be faithful, loving, spiritual.


1. The Christian will tell his brother his fault.

(1) "If thy brother sin against thee." By fraud, defamation, affront, contempt (see Leviticus 6:1-7).

(2) "If thy brother sin." Some ancient authorities omit "against thee" (see New Version margin; see also Leviticus 19:17).

(3) "Tell him his fault." This is fidelity to thyself, also to thy brother. How salutary to David was the reproof of Nathan!

2. He will tell it him before witnesses.

(1) Not in the first case. But he will not consider his soul clear it the offending brother be not gained by the private reproof without proceeding further.

(2) The witnesses chosen should be persons of credit and reputation. True men will not refuse to serve as witnesses in the interests of justice.

(3) This precaution is due to the Church. The courts of the Church should not be trifled with by moving them with cases which are not ripe.

3. He will tell it to the Church. This when the minor means have been tried and failed.

(1) But what is the Church? Amongst the Jews ten men were deemed sufficient to constitute a synagogue. Any number of persons met in the name or by the authority of Christ will constitute a Christian Church (see ver. 20). Tell it to the wise among the Church. Paul speaks ironically when he says, "Set them to judge who are]east esteemed in the Church."

(2) Tell it to the Church in justice to the Church, that its purity may be preserved. Scandalous persons must be separated from the Church on earth, which is the type of the purer Church in heaven.

(3) Tell it to the Church in justice to the obstinate offender, that he may be reproved before many and repent.

(4) That if he be excommunicated he may be treated as a heathen and publican. Those cast out of the kingdom of Christ belong to the kingdom of Satan. Church discipline is for Church members. The Christian is not forbidden to use civil courts against outsiders.


1. Love's reason for telling a brother his fault is to gain him.

(1) This is love's reason for going to the offender rather than waiting for him to come. "Go and tell him." It will give him opportunity for explanation. The sense of injury is often the result of sensitive self-love.

(2) This is love's reason for going to him privately. It will save him the exasperation of an unnecessary public reproach.

(3) The manner will accord with the object. The truth is told in love. The fault is not unduly magnified. There is no resentment.

2. Love's reason for calling witnesses is still to gain the brother.

(1) "Take with thee one or two more." To avoid unnecessary publicity, the smallest number required to attest evidence is called in (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1).

(2) The witnesses may add persuasion. The offender may listen to the pleadings of disinterested persons.

(3) The witnesses have the double function of seeing that the reproof is administered without malignity, and that, in rejecting it, the reproved is incorrigible.

3. Love also has reasons for then telling it to the Church.

(1) The offender may hear the Church and be gained.

(2) Church courts are preferred to those of the world, as more competent to deal with offences against Christian law. The more so when civil rulers were notoriously enemies of the saints.

(3) The purity of the Christian brotherhood must be preserved, The Church that condones things scandalous transgresses the reason for its existence.

(4) A scandalous Church can be of little service to the world.


1. It recognizes the presence of God.

(1) The sanctuary of God is the assembly of his saints (cf. Exodus 40:24; 2 Chronicles 5:14; Psalm 132:14; Matthew 28:20; Revelation 2:1).

(2) That presence is here promised in relation to maintenance of discipline. God is with his Church to quicken prayer, to answer petition, to guide in counsel.

(3) "If two of you shall agree," etc. "God sometimes stands upon a number of voices for the carrying of some public mercy, because he delighteth in the harmony of many praying souls, and also because he loves to gratify and oblige many in the answer" (Flavel).

2. It recognizes his ratification.

(1) "Binding and loosing." When the Jews set apart any to be a preacher, they said, "Take thou liberty to teach what is bound and what is loose," i.e. what is binding or obligatory and what is not.

(2) Here the question has relation to discipline rather than to doctrine. It is concerned also with things rather than persons. "Whatsoever," etc. "In the primitive Church absolution meant no more than a discharge from Church censure" (Wesley, in loc.).

(3) The ratification in heaven of the decisions of the Church, in the strict sense, applied to apostolic times when plenary inspiration was with it (see John 16:24-26; Acts 9:29-31).

(4) In a qualified sense it still holds good, viz. when the rules laid down in Scripture are observed.

(5) If through error or envy any be east out of the Church, Christ will find that soul in mercy (cf. John 9:34, 35). The instructions of the text come to us with the force of law. We have no option to pursue any different course with an offender, or any different order to that here prescribed. In the whole compass of pagan ethics there is no rule at once so manly, so benevolent, so wise, so practical. - J.A.M.

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.

Brotherly Reproof
Top of Page
Top of Page