141005 Matthew 18:15-20

Last Updated on Monday, 06 October 2014 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Text: MATTHEW 18:15-20
Theme: AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him His fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

This is the Word of the Lord.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" For 1,000's of years, people have used this phrase as an excuse to say that they are not responsible for someone else. In fact, we are able to trace this excuse all the way back to the very first family. Remember Adam and Eve's sons, Cain and Abel? Both of them brought sacrifices to the Lord. The Lord was pleased with the sacrifice of Abel, but not Cain. This made Cain angry; so angry, that he killed his brother Abel. The Lord then asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain snapped back to God himself and answered, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?' The Lord knew what Cain had done. He wanted Cain to take responsibility, yet Cain refused. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Perhaps you have used this phrase yourself from time to time. "Am I my brother's keeper?" God's Word before us this morning will help us answer this age old question.

In our adult Bible class this past month, we spent time talking about how the Bible teaches us that the Lord of the Church sends you and me out as his messengers of his Word. We are to share the message of God's Law and Gospel with those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior. But in these verses before us, it is important to see that we are not dealing with strangers, but rather we are dealing with our spiritual "brother"; that is a fellow believer.

Who is it that sends you and me out? Jesus himself says in the verses before us, "'Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.'" With the Lord of the Church as our unseen partner, we go to a brother or sister in Christ who is caught by the trap of sin.

Before we look at the steps you and I are to take to try and win back fellow believer from the sin they are committing, it is important to keep in mind what our motive is and what it is not. Our motive is not simply to "clean up the Church books"; our motive is not to get rid of someone who may be causing troubles in the Church. As one author has written about these verses, "Our Lord is not showing us the quickest way to get rid of a sinner, but the lengths to which love will go in order to gain him." That is our motive in carrying out the task the Lord of the Church has given to us. A fellow believer is spiritually lost. Unless they repent, he or she is headed for hell! So, with the great, same love that our Savior has shown to us in rescuing you and me from hell, we reach out to a fellow believer.

How do we go about this part of the ministry the Lord has given to his Church? Jesus himself gives us very clear instructions on what to do: "'If your brother sins against you, go and show him His fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." First, notice that you and I are to keep the matter private. We aren't to tell our friends and neighbors. At this point we don't even tell anyone else in the Church. One-on-one we share God's Word with the goal of leading our fellow believer to repent of his or her sin.

But what do we do if our efforts don't lead to repentance? Then the Lord of the Church tells us, "If he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'" Still keeping the matter private, you and I take one or two other spiritual leaders along with us. The prayer is that the one or two others are able to bring about repentance. But if there is no repentance shown, then the one or two others serve as witnesses of the individual's refusal to repent.

And the final step is to bring the matter to the entire Church family. As Jesus says, "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." If the individual refuses to listen to the entire Church Family, then the Family of God has the sad duty to proclaim the person to be an unbeliever.

These words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 18 are often referred to by many as "The Formula for Excommunication." But it is important to see these instructions from our Lord in the light of the rest of Scripture. In the verses just before these, Jesus tells the parable about a lost sheep. In this parable, the Savior told about the efforts made to rescue one lost sheep, and the joy that there is when that one lost sheep is found. In the same way, we are to search out those lost in sin. We are to make every effort to rescue them from the pit of sin that they have fallen in to. And just as there is great joy when something that is lost is finally found, so there is joy when someone who is lost in sin is brought to repentance. Moved by Christ's love for us and a Christ-like love for others, you and I do not look to "run somebody out of the Church", but rather to lead a person caught in sin to repent of that sin. The love of Jesus is the motive in carrying out these words of our Lord. In James chapter 5, we read why this is so important. "If one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." And as we read earlier from our First Lesson, "'As surely as I live', declares the Sovereign LORD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.'"

"Am I my brother's keeper?" We have seen from God's Word this morning that all believers have a responsibility toward their fellow believers. It is a responsibility given to us by the Lord of the Church himself. We are to confront those fellow believers caught in sin. While we may be intimated or nervous to do this, we know that we act on our Savior's behalf. Our comfort is that we don't go alone. Our Savior himself is with us. The Lord God gives us his powerful Word to use; the powerful message of the Law and the Gospel. Empowered by God the Holy Spirit, we won't shy away from the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" For this morning, God's Word has given us a very simple and very clear answer to this question. The answer is "Yes, I am my brother's keeper." As we carry out the work the Lord of the Church has given us, we give him thanks for his promise, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Amen.

 

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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Sunday
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9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

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818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
262-912-6060

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