Matthew 18: Live together in harmony and peace with Christ - Author: Evert Jan Hempenius

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1 Matthew 18: Live tgether in harmny and peace with Christ - Authr: Evert Jan Hempenius Fr any questins abut this Scripture passage r the ntes, please cntact us thrugh the Cntact Us tab n the website. Intrductin Wh desn t want t live in harmny with his r her brthers and sisters? Is this utpia, fantasyland? Is it a dream? First f all: say thanks t the Lrd Gd when yu are a member f a harmnius Christ-fllwing family, cmmunity, rganisatin r church. It is a precius gift. It is grace in actin. But: There are s many brken families and relatinships, due t sin. There are prblems within Christian rganisatins amng its members, due t sin and persnal strive t be the greatest. There are churches wh split up, due t leadership, and leaders wh want t be the greatest, the mst admired ne. There are peple lsing their faith in Christ, due t disappintments, frustratins, bitterness. Wh desn t want t live in harmny with his r her brthers and sisters? Within the Christian marriage, family, cmmunity, rganisatin r lcal church? When Jesus Christ cmmissined his disciples t g and make disciples f all natins (Mt 28:19), He didn t give them a blueprint f a church rder nr a set f regulatins fr rganizing the church. Only Matthew 18:15-20 has the character f law: if this happens, d the fllwing. It is tempting t take the fllwing verses (Mt 18:19,20) ut f cntext and apply them: Again, I tell yu that if tw f yu n earth agree abut anything yu ask fr, it will be dne fr yu by my Father in heaven. And: Fr where tw r three cme tgether in my name, there am I with them. Bth verses are intricately cnnected with the previus nes and illuminating fr a sund Christian life in harmny with brthers and sisters and with heaven.

2 The difference between a spiritual and an unspiritual cmmunity is nt whether a cnflict exists, but is rather in ur attitude tward it and ur apprach t handling it. When cnflict is seen as an pprtunity t draw mre fully n spiritual resurces, we have the makings f a spiritual cmmunity (Larry Crabb). The cntext, frm and structure, thelgical, technical and hermeneutical ntes given in this sermn utline verlap with ther sermn utlines taken frm the Gspel f Matthew. This makes it pssible t use this sermn utline as a stand-alne. Yu can als fit this utline int a series f sermns. Cntext Matthew 18:15 is part f larger sectin in which Jesus taught abut the little nes, sin, salvatin and frgiveness, being the greatest in the kingdm f heaven. A shrt summary: the greatest is he wh humbles himself and takes care f the little nes and wh frgives his brther seventy-seven times. The disciples were discussing the greatest accrding t wrldly standards. But if yu are the greatest, it will be fairly impssible t lk after the little nes. Instead, Jesus said: humble yurself. Intrductry scene / questin Matthew 18:1-4 Wh is the greatest in the kingdm f heaven?... Therefre, whever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdm f heaven. Prtect the little nes Matthew 18:5-9 Matthew 18:10-14 Dn t cause ne f these little nes wh believe in me t sin. Dn t lk dwn n ne f these little nes, Yur Father in heaven is nt willing that any f these little nes shuld be lst. T win yur brther ver (= nt be lst) Matthew 18:15-20 If yur brther sins against yu If he listens t yu, yu have wn yur brther ver. Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came t Jesus and asked, Lrd, hw many times shall I frgive my brther when he sins against me? Up t seven times? Jesus answered, I tell yu, nt seven times, but seventy-seven times.

3 Frm and structure Matthew 18:15-20 is the first and nly example f cann (church) law fund in the New Testament. 1 This type f text, which is als fund in the Old Testament, is characterized by if - clauses: If this happens, then yu shuld act like this. Examples fund in the Old Testament: Deuternmy 24:1-4, which is referred t in Matthew 19:3-9; Exdus 21:7-11, which is part f the Bk f the Cvenant. Jesus made clear that cann law is nt just a bdy f laws r a set f regulatins, but a law that must be gverned by heaven (verse 18) and be applied in his presence (verse 19-20). The italic texts belw are nt fund in Scripture but are implied by the cntext. If smebdy listens, the case will be settled. Cann Law r Church Law Case (1): Reslutin (1): Settlement (1): Case (2): Reslutin (2): Settlement (2) (implied) If yur brther sins against yu, g and shw him his fault, just between the tw f yu. If he listens t yu, yu have wn yur brther ver. But if he will nt listen, take ne r tw thers alng, s that every matter may be established by the testimny f tw r three witnesses. If he listens t them, yu have wn yur brther ver. 1 Cann law is the bdy f laws and regulatins made by the leadership f the Church, fr the gvernment f a Christian rganizatin r church and its members. Cann law. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2016, frm Cann Law. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2016, frm

4 Case (3): Reslutin (3): Settlement (3): (implied) Case (4): Reslutin (4): If he refuses t listen t them, tell it t the church; If he listens t them, yu have wn yur brther ver. and if he refuses t listen even t the church, treat him as yu wuld a pagan r a tax cllectr. In his presence Gverned by heaven: I tell yu the truth, whatever yu bind n earth will be bund in heaven, and whatever yu lse n earth will be lsed in heaven. Guided by prayer: Again, I tell yu that if tw f yu n earth agree abut anything yu ask fr, it will be dne fr yu by my Father in heaven. Fr where tw r three cme tgether in my name, there am I with them. Sme cmmentatrs state that Matthew 18:15-20 is a cllectin f separate utterances, withut internal chesin: (1) Matthew 18:15-17; (2) Matthew 18:18; (3) Matthew 18:19-20.

5 But this shrt summary shws a different pattern: Matthew 18:15-16: tw r three brthers gather t settle a case f sin; (A) Matthew 18:17: the case has (nt) been settled; (B) Matthew 18:18: the case has (nt) been settled (bind and lse) n earth as it is in heaven; (B) Matthew 18:9-20: prmise: where (tw r three) are united in prayer, the Father will act and Christ will be in their midst. (A) On earth On earth as it is in heaven There is an imprtant develpment f thught. In verse 15-17, the fcus is n earth. But in verse 18-20, the fcus is n heaven and earth. Heaven and earth are the realms f the Kingdm f Gd: bth are united under the lrdship f Jesus Christ: Then Jesus came t them and said, All authrity in heaven and n earth has been given t me (Mt 28:18). Technical, hermeneutical and histrical ntes Verse 15 t sin = ἁμαρτάνω : t cmmit a wrng, t sin (in the sense transgress ) against divinity, custm, r law. 2 t shw (him his) fault = ἐλέγχω : 2. t bring a persn t the pint f recgnizing wrngding, cnvict, cnvince smene f smething; 3. t express strng disapprval f smene s actin, reprve, crrect. 3 t listen = ἀκούω : 4. t give careful attentin t, listen t, heed smene. 4 2 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 49). 3 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 315). 4 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 38).

6 t win ver = κερδαίνω : 1. t acquire by effrt r investment, t gain. b. smene fr the Reign f Gd. 5 Verse 16 the testimny = ῥῆμα : 1. that which is said, wrd, saying, expressin, r statement f any kind. 6 Verse 17 church = ἐκκλησία : a. f a specific Christian grup assembly, gathering rdinarily invlving wrship and discussin f matters f cncern t the cmmunity. 7 This is the secnd f the tw instances in the gspels where this wrd is used. The first ne is fund in Matthew 16:18. Within the immediate cntext f Matthew 18:17 and 16:18 similar expressins are fund: I tell yu the truth, whatever yu bind n earth will be bund in heaven, and whatever yu lse n earth will be lsed in heaven (Mt 18:18); I will give yu the keys f the kingdm f heaven; whatever yu bind n earth will be bund in heaven, and whatever yu lse n earth will be lsed in heaven (Mt 16:19). This indicates that the wrd church means, the legal and authritative gathering f the peple f the cvenant. Christ gave the Christian gathering the legal (spiritual) authrity t settle cases f dctrine and f cnduct (sin) between members f his disciples. (See als verse 18.) An example f the leaders f the church exercising their legal authrity n behalf f Christ is fund in Acts 15:1-21. There, an imprtant decisin was taken by the leaders f the church in Jerusalem: It seemed gd t the Hly Spirit (= heaven) and t us (= earth) (Acts 15:27). The wrd ἐκκλησία, here translated with church, is a reference t the Old Testament hly assembly 8 - the fficial gathering f the peple f the cvenant: Deuternmy 18:16 and many mre instances. 9 5 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 541). 6 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 303). 8 The Greek Old Testament translates assembly with ἐκκλησία (Dt 4.10; 9.10; a..) 9 Fr mre infrmatin: E. Matthew 16:18 and 18:17 (Heb. ל ה ק Aram. נ כ,א ת שי Syr. k nuštā, ἐκκλησία). In: Kittel, G., Brmiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Red.). (1964 ). Thelgical dictinary f the New Testament (electrnic ed., Vl. 3, p. 518). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

7 Verse 18 T bind = δέω : 3. t cnstrain by law and duty, bind. 10 This binding is illustrated by the parable f the unmerciful servant (Mt 18:23-35): In anger his master turned him ver t the jailers t be trtured, until he shuld pay back all he wed. The unmerciful servant was literally bund t pay everything back. T lse = λύω : 2. t set free smething tied r similarly cnstrained, set free, lse, untie. 11 Bth wrds are als used t dente a legal bnd between tw persns, such as a marriage, the bnd between man and wife: are yu free frm a wife, i.e. nt bund t a wife? (Rm 7:2; 1 Cr 7:27). This legal aspect f t bind and t lse is needed fr the right understanding f this passage. Verse Agree abut = συμφωνέω : 3. t have cme t an agreement abut smething, be f ne mind, agree, with a fcus n the specific result f negtiatins. 12 Anything = πρᾶγμα : 2. that which is t be dne, undertaking, ccupatin, task; 4. a matter f cntentin, dispute, lawsuit. 13 Summary The wrds sin, t shw, witness, testimny, t bind, and t lse all have a legal aspect. This sectin frms the basis fr cann law r church law. Expsitin Verse 15 If yur brther 14 sins against yu. One f the main questins is: when des a brther sin against yu? Sme clear examples are fund in Leviticus 6:2-7. And verse 2 equates sin with being unfaithful t the LORD. This is an imprtant explanatin! 1 Crinthians 8:12 is a gd illustratin f this pint. I can becme annyed, irritated, angry, cnfused by wrds and deeds f my brther but that desn t mean that he has sinned against me. 10 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p.222). 11 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p ). 12 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 961). 13 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000, p. 859). 14 Sme lder Bible manuscripts read: if yur brther sins.

8 g and shw him his fault. D nt hate yur brther in yur heart. Rebuke yur neighbur frankly s yu will nt share in his guilt. D nt seek revenge r bear a grudge against ne f yur peple, but lve yur neighbur as yurself. I am the LORD (Lev 19:17-18). Hw imprtant it is t live at peace with anther within the Christian fellwship and in harmny with heaven, is shwn by Matthew 5:23-24: Therefre, if yu are ffering yur gift at the altar and there remember that yur brther has smething against yu, leave yur gift there in frnt f the altar. First, g and be recnciled t yur brther; then cme and ffer yur gift. Smetimes it is nt bvius t yur brther that he has sinned against yu. Therefre, it is necessary t shw and explain t him what he has said r what he has dne, and hw he has been unfaithful t the LORD. There is a discussin amng cmmentatrs abut the questin whether Jesus was talking nly abut privately cmmitted sins r f all sins, privately and publicly cmmitted. In the latter case, these are sins cmmitted against and knwn by the (whle) cngregatin. The wrds if yur brther sins against yu tend t imply that nly privately cmmitted sins are meant here. The ensuing passage (Mt 18:21-35) als pints in the same directin: Then Peter came t Jesus and asked, Lrd, hw many times shall I frgive my brther when he sins against me? Up t seven times? (Mt 18:21). S watch yurselves. If yur brther sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, frgive him. If he sins against yu seven times in a day, and seven times cmes back t yu and says, I repent, frgive him. (Lk 17:3 4). It is nt necessary t distinguish between private and public. just between the tw f yu. Nbdy else is invlved at this mment. It is meant t prtect the brther against the judgment f thers. And especially in a culture dminated by hnur and shame, this apprach is wise. yu have wn yur brther ver. This will acquire effrt, time, and patience! In the previus passage, Jesus used the image f the lst sheep: And if he finds it, I tell yu the truth, he is happier abut that ne sheep (Mt 18:13). The purpse is t restre relatinships, recnciliatin, repentance, change f behavir, and frgiveness. Verse 16 take ne r tw thers alng, s that every matter may be established by the testimny f tw r three witnesses.

9 This a legal rule based n Deuternmy 19:15 15 : One witness is nt enugh t cnvict a man accused f any crime r ffense he may have cmmitted. A matter must be established by the testimny f tw r three witnesses. This shuld be undertaken with great care and sincerity because: Yu shall nt give false testimny against yur neighbr (Ex 20:16). Verse 17 If he refuses ( ), treat him as yu wuld a pagan r a tax cllectr. There are fur steps t be taken: 1. Brther >< brther; 2. Brther >< brther and witness(es); 3. Brther >< brther, witness(es) and the church; 4. (Brther) the church In the first three steps, there is the pssibility f recnciliatin and frgiveness. But if the brther des nt listen, treat him as yu wuld a pagan r a tax cllectr. This final instructin needs t be taken with care. What des it mean: Verse 18 The brther is nt any lnger a member f the cngregatin. By his wn behavir and his refusal t listen, t repent, t recncile and t restre the unity in Christ, he has placed himself utside the cngregatin. His behavir is like the behavir f the unrepentant pagan r tax cllectr. This brther cannt have any respnsibility within the cngregatin. He cannt partake in the Lrd s Supper, instituted by the Lrd himself, as a meal f frgiveness and recnciliatin with the crucified and resurrected Lrd and the brthers and sisters. He is still welcme t visit the wrship services and t listen t the Gspel f repentance and recnciliatin. It des nt mean that the members f the cngregatin shuld avid all cntact. If pssible, they must apprach him r her with the gspel f grace and the ffer f recnciliatin and peace with Gd. I tell yu the truth. The authrity f Jesus is a gdly authrity (Mt 7:28-29). whatever. This refers t the cases f sin, the unfaithfulness t the Lrd Gd. yu bind n earth will be bund in heaven, and whatever yu lse n earth will be lsed in heaven. This t bind and t lse is a based n the testimny f the witnesses and f the church. 15 Deuternmy is an imprtant Old Testament bk fr the study f the backgrunds f the gspel f Matthew.

10 T bind: the case has nt been settled, neither between the tw brthers, nr in the presence f the witnesses, nr in frnt f the church (as a witness). The brthers haven t been recnciled. There was n repentance and frgiveness. T lse: the case has been settled. There was repentance, recnciliatin, and frgiveness. Peace and harmny have been restred, between tw brthers and in the cmmunity f the church. Cmpare Matthew 18:18 with 6:14,15: Matthew 18:18 Matthew 6:14,15 Whatever yu bind n earth will be bund in heaven. Whatever yu lse n earth will be lsed in heaven. Fr if yu frgive men when they sin against yu, yur heavenly Father will als frgive yu. But if yu d nt frgive men their sins, yur Father will nt frgive yur sins. T bind is related t nt frgive. And t lse is related t frgive. The church can nly cme t a cnclusin t bind, r t lse a case f sin after sincere prayer (see verse 19). Verse Again, I tell yu that : this underscres the imprtance f the previus sectin; Jesus is assuring his audience. if tw f yu n earth agree abut anything yu ask fr : these are the tw mentined in verse 15. A brther has sinned against anther brther. This brther is summned t shw the first ne his fault. Jesus stressed the pint that they shuld embed their meeting in prayer. It is a prmise that prblems between tw Christians will be slved when they unite in prayer and ask fr: wisdm, mutual lve, patience, peace, gdness, gentleness, self-cntrl, the fruit f the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Anything desn t mean everything. The extent f anything is determined by the cntext, which speaks f sin, listen, frgiveness, recnciliatin and als the glry f Gd, his righteusness. Asking is t be dne in a harmnius way Hendriksen, W. (1973, p. 702).

11 it will be dne fr yu by my Father in heaven : because f the glry f Christ and the glry f the Father, when unity f the church will be preserved and a sinner saved. There will be jy in heaven (Mt 18:10-14; Lk 15:10). The Father will give peace, gdness, mutual lve thrugh his Hly Spirit. Fr where tw r three cme tgether in my name, there am I with them. These are the tw frm verse 15 and the three frm verse 16. When the tw cme tgether in their wn name, the lure f self-righteusness is apparent. Where Christ is in the midst f tw r three, heaven and earth are united! He has prmised his disciples and his church: And surely I am with yu always, t the very end f the age (Mt 28:20). In my Name is anther way f saying under my rule. 17 Christ rules. Matthew 18:18, 19 must be read in the light f these final verses f this Gspel and applied by the disciples while acknwledging the authrity f Christ. Applicatin First sme preliminary remarks: Remark (1) The church is the bdy f Christ and is part f the Kingdm f heaven. The apstle Paul wrte abut the church and the glry f Gd: Nw t him wh is able t d immeasurably mre than all we ask r imagine, accrding t his pwer that is at wrk within us, t him be glry in the church and in Christ Jesus thrughut all generatins, frever and ever! Amen (Eph 3:20-21). Remark (2) Befre applying these wrds within the cntext f a Christian family, friendship, cmmunity, rganisatin r church, ne shuld ask neself if it is a case f sin. The disciples asked the questin abut the greatest. This is nt the right attitude with which t evaluate the behaviur f a brther. Smene with the attitude being the greatest is at risk f manipulating and abusing f pwer. Sadly, this has ccurred quite ften in churches. The main questin is: was my brther/sister unfaithful t the LORD (Lev 6:2)? See belw. 17 Hagner, D. A. (1995, p. 533).

12 Remark (3) It is ften verlked that sins cmmitted within the cntext f the Christian family can be apprached accrding t this law f Christ. It is wise t apply these wrds with wisdm within all cntexts where Christians live (and wrk) tgether and stress the imprtance f prayer and gathering in the name f Jesus. Remark (4) Matthew 18:19-20 is nt a prmise regarding sme kind f miracle prayer. The whle cntext is abut saving a sinner and abut frgiveness! Remark (5) Distinctins between privately and publicly cmmitted sins are nt always easy t make. Often mre than tw peple are invlved, while their sins are nt publicly knwn. Hw t cpe with these situatins? Casuistic law, characterized by the if -clauses, is nt meant t apply strictly accrding t the rules, but shuld be applied with wisdm (Ps 1:2) in all kinds f situatins where the brther (r sister) cmmitted a sin against anther member f the church. Remark (6) If prblems are nt slved, they can becme like ulcers, eventually causing the whle bdy (f the church) t becme sick. Verse Jesus Christ did nt give us this law t fllw the rules strictly, but t use it in sincerity, wisdm and lve. Rebuking a brther must be dne with an attitude f humbleness (Mt 18:1-4) and in the spirit f: lve, (jy), peace, patience, kindness, gdness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcntrl (Gal 5:22 23). Jy has been placed between brackets, because shwing a brther his fault is nt a jyful ccasin. But when he is wn ver, there will be jy! Therefre, as Gd s chsen peple, hly and dearly lved, clthe yurselves with cmpassin, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each ther and frgive whatever grievances yu may have against ne anther. Frgive as the Lrd frgave yu. And ver all these virtues put n lve, which binds them all tgether in perfect unity (Cl 3:12-14). And James wrte: Therefre, cnfess yur sins t each ther and pray fr each ther s that yu may be healed. The prayer f a righteus man is pwerful and effective. ( ) My brthers, if ne f yu shuld wander frm the truth and smene shuld bring him back, remember this: Whever turns a sinner frm the errr f his way will save him frm death and cver ver a multitude f sins (James 5:16 20).

13 Rebuking a brther and shwing him his fault must be dne in a spirit f sincerity: Jesus taught the fllwing in his sermn n the munt: D nt judge, r yu t will be judged. Fr in the same way yu judge thers, yu will be judged, and with the measure yu use, it will be measured t yu. Why d yu lk at the speck f sawdust in yur brther s eye and pay n attentin t the plank in yur wn eye? Hw can yu say t yur brther, Let me take the speck ut f yur eye, when all the time there is a plank in yur wn eye? Yu hypcrite, first take the plank ut f yur wn eye, and then yu will see clearly t remve the speck frm yur brther s eye (Mt 7:1-5). If there is n sign f remrse, repentance and recnciliatin, the brther cannt take any respnsibility in the cngregatin. He cannt partake in the Lrd s Supper, instituted by the Lrd himself, as a meal f frgiveness and recnciliatin with the crucified and resurrected Jesus and the brthers and sisters. He is still welcme t visit the wrship services and t listen t the Gspel f repentance and recnciliatin. Verse As is shwn abve, these verses are the cunterpart f verse What we d n earth must be in accrdance with heaven. Seek therefre first the unity in the Lrd, while gathering in the name f the Lrd Jesus Christ under his rule! The Lrd s prayer is the guide that Jesus gave t his church: Matthew 6:9-12 Matthew 18:18-20 Our Father in heaven, hallwed be yur name yur kingdm cme, my Father in heaven (19) cme tgether in my name, there am I with them (20) yur will be dne n earth as it is in heaven. Frgive us ur debts, as we als have frgiven ur debtrs. whatever yu bind n earth will be bund in heaven, and whatever yu lse n earth will be lsed in heaven (18) Especially yur will be dne needs t be meditated upn with regard t t bind and t lse when the church takes a final decisin.

14 But what happens when the brther, the witnesses r the church are mistaken and cme t a far-reaching decisin, which is unjust and nt accrding t the will f the heavenly Father? He will still be the ultimate Judge wh knws hearts and thughts. He will d justice! Qutes The difference between spiritual and unspiritual cmmunity is nt whether a cnflict exists, but is rather in ur attitude tward it and ur apprach t handling it. When cnflict is seen as an pprtunity t draw mre fully n spiritual resurces, we have the makings f spiritual cmmunity. (Larry Crabb) 18 Bibligraphy Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicn f the New Testament and ther early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicag: University f Chicag Press. Hagner, D. A. (1995). Matthew. (WBC 33.B) Dallas: Wrd Bks. Hendriksen, W. (1984). Expsitin f the Gspel accrding t Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Bk Huse. Kittel, G., Brmiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Red.). (1964 ). Thelgical dictinary f the New Testament (electrnic ed., Vl. 3). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek grammar beynd the basics: An exegetical syntax f the New Testament with scripture, subject, and Greek wrd indexes. Grand Rapids: Zndervan. 18 Crabb, L. (2007). Becming a true spiritual cmmunity: A prfund visin f what the church can be. Nashville: T. Nelsn.

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