Restoration Through Confrontation

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Confronting sin requires humility and honesty.

Matthew(18) (Part of the Liturgical Calendar(9) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on September 10, 2017 (Sunday Morning(343))

Confrontation(3), Discipline(4), Sin(6)

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Restoration Through Confrontation

(Matthew 18:15-20)



“Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins, was talking to a reporter about a player's mistake in practice. He said, "We never let an error go unchallenged. Uncorrected errors multiply." Then the reporter said, "Isn't there benefit in overlooking one small flaw?" Shula said, "What is a small flaw?" I think about that all day long. What is a small flaw? I see that with my children. I've let a lot of things slide by because I was too tired. I didn't want another confrontation. But uncorrected errors do multiply. You've got to face them some day. You might as well face them on the spot. If I could do it over again with my children, I'd face the errors on the spot. It's easier on them and on you. That works in relationships with anyone. If there's something under the surface, something you sense, you might as well just bring it right out. Face it right then. Success lies in the details. Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.”


(Marabel Morgan in Homemade, February 1987).





  • ME

    • Leadership requires confrontation

        • Our culture has marginalized some sins to the point that even Christians are able to justify certain sins

        • These sins don’t keep some Christians awake at night, because it has become culturally acceptable

        • As a pastor, I’m concerned about those sins and many times I need to confront those sins

        • I’m not always certain that I’ve taken a strong enough stand or position on certain sins

        • I question whether or not I have communicated clearly my expectations and God’s standards to those who are actively pursuing sin, because these individuals have continued to pursue that same sin

        • This has happened over the past eight years and even before I became a pastor

        • Confronting sin is not easy, but it’s necessary


  • WE

    • Conflict avoidance – sin

        • How many of us would agree today that we try to avoid conflict at all costs?

        • There is no way we’re going to confront someone about something, especially if it’s a sin

        • We may commit to pray for them, but talking to them about it doesn’t cross our mind, and if it does, we get this weird, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomach

        • We are much more comfortable talking to someone else about the sin we’ve seen in other’s live, in hope’s that they will confront them

        • We even go to our superior at work or our pastor, expecting them to deal with the sin

    • Conflict avoidance – in general

        • We try to avoid conflict even when it doesn’t pertain to sin in a person’s life

        • If we don’t like how something is being handled at work or in our family or at the church, we attempt to find someone else to confront the problem for us instead of going directly to the individual that we have a concern with


What Jesus is teaching His disciples in Matthew 18:15-20 is concerning a fellow Christian who has sinned against us, but the principle He shares is universal for all kinds of conflict, whether there is active sin or not. ​​ Matthew wants his readers and us to understand that . . .


BIG IDEA – Confronting sin requires humility and honesty.


Real love encompasses both humility and honesty. ​​ Separating those two character qualities creates problems. ​​ “Love without truth is hypocrisy. ​​ But truth without love is brutality.” ​​ [Courson, 145]


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Matthew 18:15-20)

    • Repentance (vv. 15-17)

        • Jesus outlines a progression towards repentance

        • There are three key points that we need to understand from this passage of scripture so that we don’t interpret it incorrectly and take it out of context. ​​ These guidelines were meant for:

          • Christians, not unbelievers

          • Sins committed against you and not others

          • Conflict resolution in the context of the church, not the community at large

          • There are some universal principles from this passage that are applicable to resolving conflict in any situation

          • We’ll look at those in just a little bit, but first we need to focus on the context at hand – a fellow Christian, in my church/community, who has sinned against me personally

        • One-on-one

          • “Against you”

            • Most early manuscripts do not have “against you” in the text – only the later manuscripts have it

            • Most modern translations include “against you”

            • France does an excellent job of handling this in his commentary when he says, “The scenario begins with one disciple aware that another disciple has sinned . . . I understand this verse to refer to sin in general, not injury specifically to the person concerned, so that to speak of ‘grievance’ or of ‘conflict resolution’ here is inappropriate.” ​​ [France, 692]

            • Whether or not the sin was against us or we are the first to become aware of the sin in a fellow believers life, the same first step applies

          • We should go to the person privately and show them their fault

            • PRINCIPLE – Upright conduct matters; sin must be dealt with.

              • The verb, “show,” in the Greek means, “to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation.”

              • The verb is in the imperative form, which means that it’s not a gentle verb

              • Calling this individual to account is explicit and robust

              • This means that if we’re the person confronting the fellow believer who has sinned, we had better make sure the “sin” is not simply a matter of personal preference on our part

              • Fortunately if that happens, the following steps will help to flesh that out – with as much privacy as possible

            • Since most people are scared of confrontation they avoid this first step

            • Instead they go and talk with someone else in the church about the sin they found out about in this other person’s life

            • They may go to the pastor, elders, or board members, hoping and sometimes asking them to deal with it, instead of going directly to the individual

            • Many times the Church is guilty of skipping this first step, outlined by Jesus

            • PRINCIPLE – Discipline is to be kept as private as possible, involving as few people as possible.

            • We want to immediately involve other people, but that inevitably creates more conflict and disunity, that could have been avoided, if we had followed Jesus’ steps

            • “How often personal confrontation is the last stage rather than the first in Christian complaints! ​​ It frequently seems as if the whole world knows of someone’s grievances against us before we are personally approached. ​​ Hopefully, following Jesus’ guidelines will win over Christian brothers and sisters before anyone else ever has to know about the problem.” ​​ [Blomberg, 278]

            • Judy attended Dr. Sherilyn Emberton’s (President of Huntington University) workshop at National Conference concerning leadership

              • She shared that she is normally the last person to hear anything

              • I can relate to that here (I feel the same way)

              • When she does finally hear a complaint or concern from one of her staff or faculty, she schedules a meal together with them to discuss the complaint or concern

              • She is proactive in meeting with the individual who has the original concern

              • This is how she has developed a culture of coming to her first

              • That’s the kind of culture I want us to have here at Idaville UB Church and it may require me to have some meals together with some of you when I finally hear your concerns from others

              • That’s not easy, because I don’t like confrontation and conflict either

              • The ideal scenario is for each person to come directly to me, first

            • James 5:19-20, My brothers, 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 way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

          • The goal is to restore the fellow believer who has sinned

            • Before we ever confront someone, we should make sure that we have prayed thoroughly for them and for the impending conversation we will have to have with them

            • Our attitude should be to win our brother or sister over and not to win an argument

            • Confronting sin requires humility and honesty.

          • Jesus was not naïve to the human condition of selfishness and sinfulness, and so He provided a second step in the progression towards repentance

        • Small group

          • If we have gone privately to our brother or sister and shown them their sin, but they refuse to listen, then we begin to involve one or two others in the process

          • Jesus quotes the second ​​ half of Deuteronomy 19:15 to describe the purpose for taking one or two others with us, when a straying fellow believer does not repent of their sin during the one-on-one meeting

            • In OT times, it was required to have two or three witnesses in order to convict a person accused of a crime

            • They were ensuring that when the matter came to the judges that it would never be a “he said, she said” ​​ type of argument

            • Having one or two other Christians involved in the process helps in several ways:

              • They can confirm the validity of the concern of the initiator

              • They can provide additional loving persuasion for the straying fellow believer in helping that individual realize the seriousness of their sin

              • They will be a help if the individual still refuses to repent of their sin and has to be brought before the church

          • Jesus knew there would be individuals who would not recognize their sin even if confronted by two or three individuals, so He provides a third step in the progression towards repentance

        • Larger group

          • Again the purpose in bringing the sin before the entire church is not retribution, but restoration

          • In the 1st Century the local churches were small house gatherings where everyone would naturally be aware of what was happening

          • Idaville Church is perhaps larger than the local church of the 1st Century, but we are also a close-knit group like they were (there are many family connections here)

          • Stuart Weber [page 293] gives some insightful guidelines concerning which church members should be included when the church must be involved in discipline:

            • Anyone who is likely to be harmed or misled by not knowing about the sin or by failing to recognize its sinfulness and seriousness (this could potentially include everyone)

            • Anyone who should be warned by the sinning brother’s negative example

            • Anyone who can be instrumental in bringing the straying brother back to righteousness

          • Sin has a way of hardening our hearts toward the things of God, so Jesus provides one final step in the progress toward repentance

        • Treat as a pagan or tax collector

          • If the individual has refused to listen to the counsel of one person, a small group, and the whole church, then the community of believers are to treat them as a pagan or tax collector

          • “Anyone who is not willing to accept such united testimony may then properly be regarded as no longer a fit member of the community.” ​​ [France, 693]

          • It basically means that we don’t allow them to participate in public, corporate fellowship with the church [Blomberg, 279]

          • When we read this final step, we interpret it as alienating the person for good, but that’s not the purpose of this discipline

          • The purpose is to bring the person to repentance so that eventually they can be restored to the fellowship of believers

          • PRINCIPLE – Church discipline is intended for the restoration of the sinner and not for his or her condemnation.

          • Applying this type of church discipline in our culture today is extremely difficult, because church members who are disciplined simply begin attending another church where the members there do ​​ not question them or know anything about them

          • “Only as we create intimate community within the local church and networks of accountability among different churches can we hope to apply these verses effectively.” ​​ [Blomberg, 280]

          • In other countries where there is only one Catholic church and one Protestant church these verse are more easily applied, because individuals either work out their differences and/or repent of their sins or they leave the church completely

        • Jesus continues to address the discipline of fellow believers who are sinning when He talks with the disciples about unity on community discipline and life

    • Unity (vv. 18-20)

        • Unity in discipline – bound and loosed

          • This phrase is nearly identical to the phrase Jesus used concerning Peter’s role in the foundation of the church

          • There is one significant difference between the two phrases

            • In Matthew 16:19 the two “you” statements are singular

            • In Matthew 18:18 the two “you” statements are plural

            • Jesus is now extending the foundational authority, He gave to Peter, to the entire disciple community

          • The NASB again has the better translation of the meaning of the original Greek

            • “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (NASB)

            • The phrase does not give human beings some authority over what happens in heaven

            • Rather, the decisions of human beings are to be in line with what God has already permitted or prohibited in heaven

          • “. . . the church discipline decisions the church makes – when it follows Jesus’ guidelines carefully and maintains a right attitude – are in keeping with what has already been decided by God in heaven.” ​​ [Weber, 294]

          • When the church becomes aware of a sinning brother or sister, they have the authority to shut the door to the community of faith until repentance is achieved, at which time, they also have the authority to open up the community of faith once again

          • The authority that Jesus is talking about here pertains to the discipline of a straying believer

        • Unity in praying for God’s will in the community

          • Jesus uses the word “again,” which helps us understand that He is restating what He just said in v. 18

            • Reading this verse literally in the English language makes it sound like if two Christians agree in prayer about anything that God will do it for us

            • God is not a genie in a bottle to be called upon at our desire to do for us what we want

          • In context the individuals praying should be praying for repentance and restoration of the straying fellow believer

            • The word “agree” is from sumphoneo, which is where we get our English word “symphony”

            • The literal meaning of sumphoneo is “sound out together”

            • It means to harmonize, which is what a symphony does when they are all playing together

            • “The church must agree in prayer as it seeks to discipline the erring member. ​​ It is through prayer and the Word that we ascertain the will of the Father in the matter.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 66]

            • Jesus gives an incredible promise to the disciples and to us

              • When we seek God’s guidance and wisdom, through prayer, in confronting a straying believer, He will provide that for us and will be with us

              • Whether it’s one person going privately, a small group of two or three, or the entire church

              • God’s desire is for the sinning Christian to repent and follow Him and He uses other Christians to confront the sinner

        • Confronting sin requires humility and honesty


  • YOU

    • Confronting sin

        • Most of us are averse to confrontation – it’s something we do not like to do

        • Yet when it comes to confronting a fellow believer, who is sinning, it is necessary and Biblical

        • Perhaps you know of a fellow believer who is currently entrapped by sin

        • It’s your responsibility as a brother or sister in Christ to humbly and honestly confront that individual about their sin

        • It won’t be easy, but it is necessary

        • Maybe you know of someone like that today

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Humbly and honestly confront a fellow believer who is entrapped by sin.

          • Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance before you go to meet with them

          • Then meet with them one-on-one

          • Based on their response determine whether or not to move to the next step

    • Praying for repentance and restoration

        • In our humanness we fail to follow the steps that Jesus has outlined for us today

        • Perhaps you’ve been made aware of a situation where a fellow believer is currently living a life of sin

        • You were made aware of this because the first step that Jesus outlined for us was not followed, but others began to share it within the church

        • Your first step is to encourage the individual who told you to privately confront the straying believer

        • Your second step is to pray fervently for repentance and restoration in the situation

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Pray for repentance and restoration of a fellow believer who is currently dealing with sin in their lives.


  • WE

    • In this passage of scripture, Jesus was dealing specifically with a fellow believer who is trapped in sin and our responsibility as a fellow believer to confront them and hold them accountable

    • The principles learned today are valuable for any situation where there is conflict, disunity, or disagreement

        • If we have an issue with someone else, our first step is to go to them privately, one-on-one and discuss it with them (many hard feelings, misunderstandings, gossip sessions, and factions can be avoided by following this first step)

        • If the issue is not resolved through that first step then invite one or two others to join you for a second conversation with the individual

        • If the issue is still unresolved then it may require the involvement of a larger number of people

        • These steps and principles are valuable in resolving conflict at home, in our family, with our neighbors, at work, and at church



John Burke – Biblical Conflict Resolution [].