Matthew 18:15

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.

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee.
Observe the method Christ has laid down —

I. THE TRESPASS SUPPOSED, whether accidental or designed. Whether it regards reputation, or property, or feelings, etc. Then, the direction given —

II. SEEK A PRIVATE INTERVIEW. That he may explain, if possible. Better adapted for him to confess. More faithfully and affectionately admonished.

III. IF THIS FAIL, TAKE ONE OR TWO MORE. Let them be unobjectionable, peaceable, prudent persons. These are to witness and aid by their counsel and influence. If this fail —

IV. BRING IT TO THE CHURCH. DO SO for these reasons:

1. For the offender's sake. He may hear the Church.

2. For Christianity's sake.

3. For the world's sake, that they may see we are neither indifferent or malevolent. If he refuse to hear the Church, then he must —

V. BE REMOVED FROM CHRISTIAN COMMUNION. This is the last act, and if this is rightly done, it is ratified in heaven (verse 18). Do not let us neglect this order. You object "He is not worthy of all this," etc.; " This is troublesome," etc. But it is your duty; Christ demands it.

(J. Burns, LL. D.)

A person came one day to see Mr. Longdon, of Sheffield, and said, "I have something against you, and I am come to tell you of it." "Do walk in, sir," he replied; "you are my best friend. If I could but engage my friends to be faithful with me, I shall be sure to prosper. But, if you please, we will both pray in the first place, and ask the blessing of God upon our interview." After they rose from their knees, and had been much blessed together, he said, "Now I will thank you, my brother, to tell me what it is you have against me." "Oh," said the man, "I really don't know what it is; it is all gone, and I believe I was in the wrong!"


A reprover is like one that is taking a mote out of his brother's eye — now this must be done very tenderly. For this purpose it would be convenient, where it may be, that reproofs be given privately. "If thy brother offend thee, tell him his fault between him and thee." The presence of many make him take up an unjust defence, who in private would have taken upon him a just shame. The open air makes sores to rankle — other's crimes are not to be cried at the market. Private reproof is the best grave to bury private faults in.


I. WHOM are we to reprove? Our brother. This term, in general, comprehends all mankind.

II. FOR WHAT are we to reprove our brother? It is for trespassing against us.

III. How we are to reprove.

1. Be sure that the person whom you are about to reprove is really guilty of the sin.

2. See that the sin, which you are about to reprove, be that heinous sin which you have taken it to be. We are not for every trifle to fly in the face of our brother, and to hale him before our tribunal.

3. When you are about to reprove a brother, you should consider whether there is any probability of your doing him any good by your reproofs. If the goldsmith were persuaded that his toil and sweat at the refining pot would answer no good but to injure his health, and perhaps to shorten his days, he would sooner break his utensils in pieces, and burst his bellows apart than engage in such unprofitable and unhealthy employment. Equally fruitless ii is to reprove some men. To reprove successfully requires no small degree of dexterity and penetration. It must be the combined work of a cool head, and a gracious compassionate heart.

4. When you are about to reprove a brother, go to him yourselves. Do not wait until he comes of his own accord to you.

5. He who would reprove with success, should be as unblemished as possible in his own conduct.

IV. FOR WHAT END we are to reprove him. Not to please ourselves, or to gratify our private resentments — not to triumph over his infirmities or to display our superiority to him; not to insult him, or to make ourselves merry with his faults; but that we may win him over from the camp of the aliens, and restore him to his rightful owner.

(Daniel Rowland.)

I. The gospel cannot be preserved without salt; nor —

II. Fraternal love without frankness; nor —

III. A particular Church without discipline; nor —

IV. The Church in general without a spirit of discipline.

(J. P. Lange.)

He who sees his brother commit a sin and keeps silence, is equally in fault with him who does not forgive him who repents. The very elements teach us the benefit of this correction. For so fire chastises, and by burning purifies the air. The air by the blasts of winds chastises and purifies the water. In like manner, so does the water the earth. There can be no Christian charity in any one unless he afford the medicine of correction to an erring brother.


It is true open sinners deserve open censures; but private admonitions will best suit private offences. While we seek to heal a wound in our brother's actions, we should be careful not to leave a scar upon his person. We give grains of allowance in all current coin. That is a choice friend who conceals our faults from the view of others, and yet discovers them to our own. That medicine which rouses the evil burnouts of the body, and does not carry them off, only leaves it in a worse condition than it found it.

(Archbishop Secker.)

They are fittest to find fault in whom there is no fault to be found. There is no removing blots from the paper by laying upon them a blurred finger. What do you get by throwing stones at your enemy's windows while your own children look out at the casements? He that blows into a heap of dust is in danger of putting out his own eyes.

(Archbishop Secker.)

It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend of his faults. If you are angry with a man, or hate him, it is not hard to go to him and stab him with words; but so to love a man that you cannot bear to see the stain of sin upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words — that is friendship. But few have such friends. Our enemies usually teach us what we are at the point of the sword.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Jesus, Peter
Acts, Alone, Brother, Clear, Ear, Error, Fault, Gain, Gained, Gives, Got, Hast, Listens, Moreover, Point, Private, Reprove, Sin, Sins, Towards, Trespass, Won, Wrong, Wrongly
1. Jesus warns his disciples to be humble and harmless,
7. to avoid offenses,
10. and not to despise the little ones;
15. teaches how we are to deal with our brothers when they offend us,
21. and how often to forgive them;
23. which he sets forth by a parable of the king who took account of his servants,
32. and punished him who showed no mercy to his fellow servant.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 18:15

     5734   relationships
     5814   confrontation
     5821   criticism, among believers
     5926   rebuke
     6115   blame

Matthew 18:12-17

     6040   sinners

Matthew 18:15-16

     8231   discipline, divine

Matthew 18:15-17

     5165   listening
     5623   witnesses, legal
     5834   disagreement
     6030   sin, avoidance
     6163   faults
     6245   stubbornness
     6718   reconciliation, believers
     7622   disciples, characteristics
     8341   separation

Matthew 18:15-18

     5217   authority, in church
     7918   excommunication

Matthew 18:15-20

     5201   accusation
     7026   church, leadership

May 31. "Whosoever Therefore Shall Humble Himself as this Little Child" (Matt. xviii. 4).
"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child" (Matt. xviii. 4). You will never get a humble heart until it is born from above, from the heart of Christ. For man has lost his own humanity and alas, too often has a demon heart. God wants us, as Christians, to be simple, human, approachable and childlike. The Christians that we know and love best, and that are nearest to the Lord, are the most simple. Whenever we grow stilted we are only fit for a picture gallery, and we are only good
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

The Lost Sheep and the Seeking Shepherd
If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth Into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray!--MATT. xviii. 12. We find this simple parable, or germ of a parable, in a somewhat more expanded form, as the first of the incomparable three in the fifteenth chapter of Luke's Gospel. Perhaps our Lord repeated the parable more than once. It is an unveiling of His inmost heart, and therein a revelation of the very heart of God.
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Persistence of Thwarted Love
'If so be that he find it.'--MATT. xviii. 13. 'Until he find it.'--LUKE xv. 4. Like other teachers, Jesus seems to have had favourite points of view and utterances which came naturally to His lips. There are several instances in the gospels of His repeating the same sayings in entirely different connections and with different applications. One of these habitual points of view seems to have been the thought of men as wandering sheep, and of Himself as the Shepherd. The metaphor has become so familiar
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Forgiven and Unforgiving
'Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.' --MATT. xviii. 22. The disciples had been squabbling about pre-eminence in the kingdom which they thought was presently to appear. They had ventured to refer their selfish and ambitious dispute to Christ's arbitrament. He answered by telling them the qualifications of 'the greatest in the kingdom'--that they are to be humble like little children; that they are to be placable; that they are to use all means
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Law of Precedence in the Kingdom
'At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2. And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, 3. And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Six Sweeping Statements.
Jesus' own words make this very clear. There are two groups of teachings on prayer in those three and a half years as given by the gospel records. The first of these groups is in the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus preached about half-way through the second year of His ministry. The second group comes sheer at the end. All of it is in the last six months, and most of it in the last ten days, and much of that on the very eve of that last tragic day. It is after the sharp rupture with the leaders that
S. D. (Samuel Dickey) Gordon—Quiet Talks on Prayer

On the Words of the Gospel, Matt. xviii. 15, "If Thy Brother Sin against Thee, Go, Shew Him his Fault Between Thee and Him Alone;" And
1. Our Lord warns us not to neglect one another's sins, not by searching out what to find fault with, but by looking out for what to amend. For He said that his eye is sharp to cast out a mote out of his brother's eye, who has not a beam in his own eye. Now what this means, I will briefly convey to you, Beloved. A mote in the eye is anger; a beam in the eye is hatred. When therefore one who has hatred finds fault with one who is angry, he wishes to take a mote out of his brother's eye, but is hindered
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

On the Words of the Gospel, Matt. xviii. 7, Where we are Admonished to Beware of the Offences of the World.
1. The divine lessons, which we have just heard as they were being read, warn us to gather in a stock of virtues, to fortify a Christian heart, against the offences which were predicted to come, and this from the mercy of the Lord. "For what is man," saith Scripture, "saving that Thou art mindful of him?" [2694] "Woe unto the world because of offences," [2695] saith the Lord; the Truth says so; He alarmeth and warneth us, He would not have us to be off our guard; for surely He would not make us desperate.
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

The Forgiveness of Sins.
(Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity.) S. MATTHEW xviii. 28, "Pay me that thou owest." The Gospel shows us in a parable a picture of a king who called his servants to a reckoning. That King is the Lord God Almighty. We are His servants, and He calls us to account every day. All we possess we owe as a debt to God. Day by day He gives us our food, and supplies our wants by His good Providence. On every hour of our existence is written, Jehovah-Jireh--The Lord will provide. Day by day God takes
H. J. Wilmot-Buxton—The Life of Duty, a Year's Plain Sermons, v. 2

Fourth Day. Forgiveness of Injuries.
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."--Luke, xxiii. 34. Many a death-struggle has been made to save a friend. A dying Saviour gathers up His expiring breath to plead for His foes! At the climax of His own woe, and of human ingratitude--man-forsaken, and God-deserted--His faltering voice mingles with the shout of His murderers,--"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!" Had the faithless Peter been there, could he have wondered at the reply to a former
John R. Macduff—The Mind of Jesus

Lix. The Preacher and his Hearers.
22nd Sunday after Trinity. S. Matthew xviii. 23. "The kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants." INTRODUCTION.--I have been a good deal abroad, over the Continent of Europe, and whenever I am in a little country inn, I make a point of going into the room where the men are smoking and drinking wine or beer, and hearing their opinions on the politics of the day, and of their country. Now, my experience tells me that in country taverns in France, and
S. Baring-Gould—The Village Pulpit, Volume II. Trinity to Advent

The Wicked Servant
ST. MATTHEW xviii. 23. The kingdom of heaven is likened to a certain king, which would take account of his servants. This parable, which you heard in the Gospel for this day, you all know. And I doubt not that all you who know it, understand it well enough. It is so human and so humane; it is told with such simplicity, and yet with such force and brilliancy that--if one dare praise our Lord's words as we praise the words of men--all must see its meaning at once, though it speaks of a state of
Charles Kingsley—The Water of Life and Other Sermons

Meetings for Prayer.
Text.--"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."--Matthew xviii. 19. HITHERTO, in treating of the subject of Prayer, I have confined my remarks to secret prayer. I am now to speak of social prayer, or prayer offered in company, where two or more are united in praying. Such meetings have been common from the time of Christ, and even hundreds of years before. And it is probable
Charles Grandison Finney—Lectures on Revivals of Religion

The Necessity and Effect of Union.
Text.--Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.--Matthew xviii. 19. SOME weeks since, I used this text, in preaching on the subject of prayer meetings. At present I design to enter more into the spirit and meaning of the text. The evident design of our Lord in this text was to teach the importance and influence of union in prayer and effort to promote religion. He states the
Charles Grandison Finney—Lectures on Revivals of Religion

The Mission of Little Children
"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them." Matthew xviii.2. Everything has its mission. I speak not now of the office which each part of the great universe discharges. I speak not of the relation between these parts,--that beautiful ordinance by which the whole is linked together in one common life, by which the greatest is dependent upon the least, and the least shares in the benefactions of the greatest. In this sense, everything has, strictly, its mission.
E. H. Chapin—The Crown of Thorns

False Ambition Versus Childlikeness.
(Capernaum, Autumn, a.d. 29.) ^A Matt. XVIII. 1-14; ^B Mark IX. 33-50; ^C Luke IX. 46-50. ^c 46 And there arose a reasoning among them, which of them was the greatest. ^b 33 And he came to Capernaum: ^c 47 But when Jesus saw the reasoning of their heart, ^b and when he was in the house [probably Simon Peter's house] he asked them, What were ye reasoning on the way? 34 But they held their peace: for they had disputed one with another on the way, who was the greatest. [The Lord with his disciples was
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Sin and Forgiveness Between Brethren.
(Autumn, a.d. 29.) ^A Matt. XVIII. 15-35. ^a 15 And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. [Having warned against giving offense, Jesus now shows how to act when offense is received. The fault is to be pointed out to the offender, but for the purpose of gaining him--not from a desire to humiliate him. The offended is to seek the offender, and the offender is likewise to seek the offended (Matt. xv. 23, 24),
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Unmerciful Servant.
"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved
William Arnot—The Parables of Our Lord

Jesus Christ, the Divine Teacher of Prayer
A friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him! He knocks again. "Friend! lend me three loaves?" He waits a while and then knocks again. "Friend! I must have three loaves!" "Trouble me not: the door is now shut; I cannot rise and give thee!" He stands still. He turns to go home. He comes back. He knocks again. "Friend!" he cries. He puts his ear to the door. There is a sound inside, and then the light of a candle shines through the hole of the door. The bars of
Edward M. Bounds—The Reality of Prayer

Fifteenth Lesson. If Two Agree
If two agree;' Or, The Power of United Prayer Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.--Matt. xviii. 19, 20. ONE of the first lessons of our Lord in His school of prayer was: Not to be seen of men. Enter thy inner chamber; be alone with the Father. When He has thus taught us that the
Andrew Murray—With Christ in the School of Prayer

The Third Wall.
The third wall falls of itself, as soon as the first two have fallen; for if the Pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, we are bound to stand by the Scriptures, to punish and to constrain him, according to Christ's commandment; "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. 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
Martin Luther—First Principles of the Reformation

Gerhard Ter Steegen Matt. xviii. 12 O God, through Christ the living way, My Father and my God, So near, and I so far astray, Brought nigh Thee by His Blood. Myself, and this, and that, I sought Behind, around, before-- And yet the nearest found I not, Until I sought no more. O Love, Thou deep eternal tide, How dear are men to Thee! The Father's heart is opened wide By Jesus' Blood to me. It was Thyself, O God, who sought, With tender yearnings deep, The loveless sould who sought Thee not, The
Frances Bevan—Hymns of Ter Steegen, Suso, and Others

The School
Gerhard Ter Steegen Matt. xviii. 3 Where is the school for each and all, Where men become as children small, And little ones are great? Where love is all the task and rule, The fee our all, and all at school, Small, poor, of low estate? Where to unlearn all things I learn, From self and from all others turn, One Master hear and see? I learn and do one thing alone, And wholly give myself to One Who gives Himself to me. My task, possessing nought, to give; No life to have, yet ever live-- And ever
Frances Bevan—Hymns of Ter Steegen, Suso, and Others

Commentary on Matthew. Introduction.
According to Eusebius (H. E. vi. 36) the Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew were written about the same time as the Contra Celsum, when Origen was over sixty years of age, and may therefore be probably assigned to the period 246-248. This statement is confirmed by internal evidence. In the portion here translated, books x.-xiv., he passes by the verses Matt. xviii. 12, 13, and refers for the exposition of them to his Homilies on Luke (book xiii. 29). Elsewhere, he refers his readers for a fuller
Origen—Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

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