Matthew 18:15-20 (Part 2)
Jesus on Church Discipline

“Because my daddy said so!” you sometimes hear kids say to one another. Sometimes, kids will take what their fathers say are rules to live by and then twist it to their advantage. They will use their dad’s rules out of context to protect themselves or to gain advantage over another. Sometimes, we as grown-ups misinterpret things and apply them inappropriately.

Take for example the road that we are on in America when it comes to separation of church and state. As a constitutional purist, I really do not think that we should try to make the constitution say what it was never intended to say. We should not make it say what we want it to say. For example, our founding forefathers did not mean for the separation of church and state to become what it has become. Their intention was not to clear Christ out of the public square. Their intention was for the government not to establish a state religion where it was man deciding what we shall believe and restrict or imprison those who did not believe in the official church way. They wanted us to be able to worship God in the manner that He leads us to worship Him. They also wanted God to be front and center in the exercise of government power. What is has become is the very thing that our founding fathers wanted to prevent. We now use separation of church and state to eradicate God and Christian values from society. We no longer can pray at public events under this clause. Do you really think that’s what the founding fathers meant? Do really think that removing the Ten Commandments from public buildings is what they meant? Do you think that forcing people to be non-religious is what they wanted? No. They did not want there to be one government run church. They wanted us to be free to worship God without some government official telling us how to do it or not to do it. It has been twisted into becoming the very thing that this clause of the constitution was intended to prevent. We have drifted used interpretive powers of the courts to cause our country to drift far from the constitution and grant powers to the government that our founding fathers would be and must be flipping in their graves over. Is it possible that we can be the same way in church?

After writing about being Christians of good character and integrity so that we are different from the common way of man and thus become attractive to the word, there was one part of the passage that was bugging me all day long yesterday, because it was the second time here in about three chapters, Jesus talked about binding and loosing (or forbid and permit depending on the translation you read). So, let’s read this passage again with focus on the binding and loosing part. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus says:

 

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

 
In the name of Matthew 18:18, in the church we have taken it to mean that whatever we decide God will back up. It’s the equivalent of the kids making the rules for their parent. It’s the equivalent of a child making a binding contract and their parents having to back up a stupid decision their kid made. It is like making the constitution say what it wasn’t intended to say. Here, in this passage, the binding and the loosing has been mistaken by many to put the cart before the horse. It is often mistaken to be that we as Christian leaders can make our own rules and God will back that up. Nothing could be further from the truth of what Jesus is saying here.

Just look at the Catholic Church. It is the original church. It is the church that the disciples built. It is the church that gave birth to all other denominations. The very reasons that which we call the Protestant churches (in its purest sense any church that is not Catholic is Protestant) churches – the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, any other Christian church – is because the original church got lost along the way. Along the way, they added to Scripture. They added layers of church rules and regulations. Anything the Pope said became law of the church even if it was not based in Scripture. The Catholic Church now has layers and layers of church tradition – some of which is based in Scripture, some of which is surely not. All of this tradition is taken as equal to Scripture. The Protestant revolution was a reaction against that and its intent in each case was to take us back to Scripture. Even today, the very churches that arose from the Reformation must be careful and weary of becoming Catholic in the sense that they create Scripture meanings that do not exist or create traditions that are not biblical. We must be careful not to create church dogma, official denominational positions on issues, that are not based in God’s Word just to avoid conflict with the world around us. To say that something is acceptable when it is surely not in Scripture and believing that God will back you up on is a perversion of Matthew 18:18.

When reading Scripture, we must always remember the context of the passage in which we are studying. The first context we must always pay attention to is to the context of the passage in which a verse or group of verses appears. Here, in this passage, Jesus is talking about church discipline. What we must do as Christian leaders and fellow Christians when a fellow Christian is practicing and openly reveling in sin. Sometimes that sin has a direct impact on us as you and I may get hurt by someone’s sinful acts. Sometimes that sin has a reflection on the body of believers even if we are not directly hurt by another person’s sin. What Jesus is saying here is that we are not to make up stuff that is not in the Bible when we must approach disciplining a fellow Christian. Just because we do not like what another person is doing does not give us the right to seek retribution and wrap Jesus all around it. We are not to discipline fellow Christians out of spite or as a way to seek retribution or revenge. We are not to say something is scriptural just to support what we are doing. It is like Saul Goodman, the lawyer to the drug dealers, on the show, “Breaking Bad” who had the task of making everything bad that the central characters of the show did look good. He was charged with legitimize what was illegal. He was charged with backing up and making look good what was an evil enterprise. It is like the reams of paper that have been piled up over the past few years in writings to legitimize non-traditional marriage (while there is no need to go to such lengths to defend traditional marriage because it is simply the nature of things that God intended). Church discipline should never invent Scripture to suit our needs. We should not make Jesus say what He did not say. We should not expect God to validate and back us up when our church polity is not Scripture-based.

Therefore, in creating church positions on what is sinful and what is not. In dealing with church members who have sinned against us, in dealing with church members who are acting in an unrepentantly sinful manner, in dealing with members who are bringing ill-repute to the character of the body of believers, we must seek God’s guidance in how to deal with them. In the article, Binding and Loosing, at http://www.truthortradition.com, the un-named author says,
“One of the most important lessons we can learn is that God may lead us in a decision that we make. If we pray and look for His guidance, it is usually there. James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)…Jesus’ disciples had looked to him for direction, but what would they do when he was gone? He knew his disciples needed instruction in how to run the fellowships that would spring up all over the globe, so he taught them to be sure to follow God’s lead in what they forbade or permitted. Jesus’ instruction to his disciples made perfect sense in the culture of his day, and still makes perfect sense today. We are always to look for God’s guidance before we make rules that forbid or permit people’s actions.”

Help us to seek God’s wisdom when making church policy. He us to seek God’s Word when making decisions about what we should stand for and against. Help to seek God’s will in prayer when the Bible does not speak specifically to a subject. In those cases, let us seek God’s wisdom and seek to stay in compliance with the nature of our Sovereign Lord when we make such decisions. Let us remember when disciplining one another in the fellowship that our actions must be aligned with Scripture and what is the Scripture about. It is about the consequences of man’s sin but also of God’s desire and intent to reconcile sinful man unto Himself. It begins in Genesis and continues right through Revelation. Yes, there are consequences to sin and there should be. However, everything points to Christ and restoration. We should be the same way when dealing with those in our midst who have sinned against us and we should be the same way in determining when to accept someone back into our fellowship. It’s all about recognition, repentance and restoration. When we do that, God will must certainly back us up. When we do that what we bind or loose will have His stamp of approval. When we display the character of God, he will back that up. When we do not deviate from His Word both in its letter and in its spirit, He will approve of that. When we seek His will always, He will approve of that.

Now that’s the kid using “because my Daddy said so” in the right way.

Amen and Amen.

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