Sin and the local church, part 3

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us some steps which we must follow as church members when we personally know another member of the church is disobeying God’s Word and isn’t doing anything about it.

In this post, we’ll just look at step number one.

You go to him, and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

The whole verse,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Now you can see obviously the goal is to gain your brother.  If we think back to the story of the sheep who wanders, the goal is not to go find that sheep, and then make fun of it for leaving the flock, or just to like beat it up, and leave it there, lost.

The goal is to get the sheep back where it’s supposed to be.

And that’s got be driving us, to even talk to other believers about their sin.

Before we go, we’ve got to be, why do I want to even do this? What am I hoping to get out of this? Because honestly sometimes what we want to get out of it for that other person to acknowledge that we are awesome and they are not.

We want humiliation.

We want pay back.

And given the way God loves that other believer, we don’t have a right to that.

At all.

It’s got to be a sincere desire for that person’s good that drives us. And really, that’s why we do it the way Jesus says here and go alone.

In other words, if someone sins you don’t go and talk to a million different people about it. Did you see what he did? Let me tell you about what kind of sinner he is. Instead, you want to keep the knowledge of that person’s sin as small as possible.

You don’t want everybody knowing about it.

Because you love them, you want to actually protect his reputation, not damage it.

And maybe I can say, so you can get a feel for how important this is, if you have ever been confronted about your sin, you know how hard it is to believe that the person who is confronting you, loves you.

It is weird.

But when someone comes and tells you you are sinning against them, there’s something in most of us, that’s like, hey, this person must really hate me.

And that’s crazy.

Can I say that’s crazy?

If someone confronts you and you automatically say they told me this because they hate me, that’s crazy, because confronting someone like this, is a demonstration of love.

But still, that’s the way we are.

So often.

Which means if you are going to someone and you know they are most likely going to be tempted to think you don’t love them, because you are talking to them about their sin, you want to do whatever you can to prove to them that it has nothing to do with you not liking them, or anything silly like that and it’s going to be very hard for you to prove that if they know that before you came to them to talk to them about their sin, you told all kinds of other people about what they did.


You know your brother’s sinned.

And you’ve examined your own heart, you are clear on what the Scripture teaches, then it’s your responsibility to pray, and to go.

To them.


And tell him his fault.

Not talking about with all kinds of other people first.

Jesus says.

Now you’ll notice, Jesus doesn’t add a lot of commentary about how you do that. He just says do that.

Open your mouth and show them what they have done wrong.

That’s what he says.

But maybe we can throw in some other passages of Scripture to help us know how you do that. The big one from Galatians 6, again, which says, you have to go and tell him his fault in a spirit of gentleness.

And another, Ephesians 4, says speak the truth in love.

Which means.

It’s more than just going and saying the right thing, you also need to say it with the right attitude, and that can be hard when you are talking to someone else about their sin. So don’t just go in there, with your fingers pointing and your mouth rolling, instead, you know, make it your goal to talk to this person about their sin in a way that makes it clear.

A couple things.



You don’t think you are better than them.

The way you speak.

They should know you know you are a sinner.

Saved by grace.



That your authority is not you and your preferences but the Word of God.

This is not you trying to impose your will on them.

This is about what God wants.

You should almost be able to just read a verse and show them your concern, and they should be able to understand how it connects to their lives, from a simple explanation of what the text means.


It should be clear.

You love them.

And if they are going to know that.

You actually have to tell them.

Even with Paul when he was talking to people who he knew were a mess, if they were believers, he would find a million different ways to encourage them, and when your confronting someone about their sin, you need to find specific ways to express with your mouth how for them, you actually are.

It’s not just about their sin.

It’s that.

You really truly want their best.

And then four.


You understand it’s hard for sin to be pointed out.


I think sometimes we are unrealistic. You know how it is when someone confronts you and you are sinning. If you are not expecting it. It usually hits you by surprise and your first instinct is to defend yourself.

Now, that’s not a good instinct.

We shouldn’t do that.

If someone confronts us, we should want to listen and learn. But, that’s incredibly hard for most of us, and so if you go in there and you talk to someone about their sin, and the first time you do that they don’t seem to be listening, they are mostly defending themselves, while that’s disappointing, you should be careful not to give up on them, right away.


Be patient and give them some time to process. And then, maybe go back and hear how they think.

A great way to go about it.


Is to begin by laying out your concerns and asking if you are understanding things correctly, like, is this right, what do you think, because you might actually be misunderstanding what is going on and since you are talking to another believer, who has the Holy Spirit, you want to at least give them the opportunity to help you understand a little better how they are thinking.



No matter how sure you are about the problem you think you are seeing in that other person’s life.

You still could be wrong, and you are going to make it hard for them to listen, if they don’t see that you are at least aware of that.

And I mean.

That’s the goal.

Not just for you to say what you want to say.


For them to actually listen.

And if it’s clear they have sinned, I think listen means, that they actually repent. That’s why you are talking to them.


They see it as sin, they recognize that it is serious, and they acknowledge with their mouths that they have sinned, they ask for forgiveness from you and from God, and from anyone else they’ve sinned against, and that you help them, think about how they can change their behavior.

That’s what it means to have gained your brother.

And at that point.

If they respond like that.

It’s pretty much done.

I guess, if it’s a life-dominating kind of sin, and it seems like one that would be difficult to overcome without some help, you might encourage them to get some counseling or something, but besides, that, it’s over, the process ends.

But if they don’t listen to you.

Jesus goes on.

The process continues.

You are not done, if they are defending themselves and making excuses.

Sometimes, obviously, you’ll go and speak to someone about a sin, and they’ll flat out deny that it ever happened.


That’s honestly.


But I think if someone’s unwilling to admit they even done what you are talking about, your responsibility is to warn them and to wait, because there is not much more you can do than that.

If you think they are lying.

It’s hard to do much more than talk to them, pray, continue to love them, and trust that the truth will come out.

But, the person, though, who acknowledges they’ve done what you said, and yet, they are minimizing it, and making excuses, and getting angry at you, and maybe even threatening you because you brought it up.

That is the person you have to continue to pursue.



One thought on “Sin and the local church, part 3

  1. Could this series be continued sometime? One can also use the principles in personal family relations. I struggle with confrontation as others probably too.

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