The Matthew 18 Principle: How to Deal with a Sinning Brother

Here’s a blog that discusses Matthew 18:15-17 and how to use its principle to deal with a sinning brother. When applied, it can help you repair relationships and keep the church from corruption. Read on to learn more!

How to Deal with a Sinning Brother (Matthew 18:15-17)
How do you deal with a sinning brother?

When someone sins against you, how do you deal with it? The answer is by following the Matthew 18 Principle.

In Matthew 18:15-17, we see the step by step procedure of how we must deal with a sinning brother or sister. It shows us how we can win our brother or if not, deal with someone who constantly sins.

The problem is that a lot of Christians today don’t follow the Matthew 18 principle. Putting aside this principle led to greater problems and conflict. Instead of mending broken relationships, things can easily get worse when you ignore Matthew 18.

Thus, in this post, let me share with you the three steps on how to deal with a sinning brother straight from the mouth of our Savior and Master, Yahshua (also known as Jesus Christ).

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What is Matthew 18:15-17?

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Those are the words of Yahshua. Those are not my words.

It is important, right on the onset of this blog, to set the authority of the Matthew 18 principle. This is not something that I or anyone has invented. It is recorded by Matthew for us to practice. They are biblically sound and since it is Yahshua (Jesus) Himself, who gave this instruction, we can have the confidence that they are the best way to deal with a sinning brother.

The main goal of applying Matthew 18 principle is to preserve the peace and unity within the church. It is there to improve relationships, remove hard feelings, and most importantly, promote the godly love that we must exhibit for one another.

Let’s go ahead and discover the three steps of handling offenses and sins of someone in the church.

Step 1: Speak to your brother alone

Matthew 18:15 tells us:

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

The Matthew 18 principle tells us the first step when someone sins against you or has offended you.

We must “go and tell him his fault BETWEEN you and him alone.”

Now, we are talking here about a sinning brother. Matthew 18 is a principle especially directed to the Christians. If a fellow Christian injures, offends, or sins against you, then you must use the Matthew 18 principle.

Verse 15 continues that you should “go and tell him.” Don’t wait until he/she says sorry to you. There are times that people hurt each other without knowing it.

Thus, you need to take the first step to actually put in the effort to reach out and go to him.

What’s the next step? You must tell him of the offense or sin. You must remind him/her, in a loving way, what he/she has done, the evil of the sin, and how it can lead to greater destruction if not repented of.

Sometimes, it only needs someone to point out a sin. Sin can be deceiving and you might just as well be the person who can help your brother to change by pointing out the problem.

Now, this can be a very difficult confrontation. Some people who continually sin may be in the stage of denial. So, wisdom should be applied here.

Here’s where most Christians fail. Matthew 18 principle tells us to “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”

The keyword here is ‘alone’.

If someone has hurt or offended you, you don’t go around and tell every person you meet. You don’t tell your friends. You don’t tell the brethren. Certainly, you don’t tell anyone who doesn’t concern the problem directly!

Let me repeat: the first step of Matthew 18 principle is to go and tell him his fault between you and him ALONE.

Why is it important for you to first discuss the problem with the person concerned? The Apostle Peter wrote:

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8).

If you love your brother, the very first thing you want to happen is for him to repent of his sins and not to condemn and shame him or destroy his reputation. That’s exactly how you will not be able to win your brother.

Ideally, at this level, your brother should be able to hear you. In fact, if Matthew 18 principle is applied, most conflict, offenses, and sins should already be resolved in the first step alone.

As Christ mentioned, “If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”

Now, what if he doesn’t?

Then, proceed to step no. 2.

 Step 2: Speak to your brother with a small group

Verse 16 tells us:

But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’

Sadly, sometimes, step 1 is not enough. For this reason, you need to proceed with step 2. That is to bring 2-3 witnesses to discuss the matter with your sinning brother.

The aim here is not to invite people to condemn the sinning brother but to ask more help. If the person sees that more people think that he is in the wrong and more people care about him, he would more likely be humbled and repent.

Having two to three witnesses also gives the opportunity to review the matter and establish what needs to be done and what should not be done.

Hopefully, by having a small group helping out the sinning brother, things would get better.

However, a contingency plan is put here. Just in case he still doesn’t hear your admonition, then we need to use step 3.

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Step 3: Tell the matter to the church

Now, the principle of step 1 still applies here, meaning you only involve as little people as possible. Even if you have to tell it to the church, don’t be quick in spreading a brother’s sin.

Matthew 18:17 tells us:

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.

The aim here is to let the leaders, elders, deacons, ministers, pastors, and if needed, members to examine the issue. If they see that it is true and the sinning brother does not heed correction, then something should be done.

Now that more people know about the sin and more people are caring for that sinning brother, hopefully, this would lead to a change of heart.

However, there is still a possibility that this won’t happen. There will be some who will not be ashamed of their faults nor would take the necessary actions to change them.

As a result, Matthew 18:17 continues:

But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

If worse comes to the worst, the sinning brother would be stopped from attending church. If necessary, members are advised not to get in touch with him especially if that brother is causing division among the brethren.

It is worth noting that Yahshua said that the sinning brother will be like a heathen and a tax collector. He didn’t say, “like the devil or damned person.” Rather, Yahshua still gives the person a chance to change like the heathens and tax collectors who also have the opportunity to make a 180-degree turn in their life.

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Final words

The Matthew 18 principle is the best way to deal with a sinning brother. It is designed to help a brother to repent of his sins and change his ways. Moreover, if all else fail, Matthew 18 principle also prevents the church from getting corrupted or become infected by the sinning brother’s sin. Thus Yahshua advised separating that brother from the rest of the group.

If someone has offended you, apply Matthew 18 as well. Don’t go around and gossip about how you are mistreated or offended. Be sure to always start with your brother.

With this in mind, I hope everyone would have a better idea of how to handle conflict and ultimately keep the peace and unity within the congregation of Yahweh (God).

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