Jesus addressed several topics in these two chapters. Today I’d like to focus on chapter 18 verse 15 because there are a lot of people who seem to be unaware of what Jesus said in regards to judging others. Let me read it to you again. Jesus said, ““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.”
Now, I can hear some of you saying, “But Steve, in my translation it says, ‘If your brother or sister sins against you…’” And you would be right. Many translations do include the words “against you”. When those words are added, the meaning of this passage changes, doesn’t it? After all, if you sin against me in some way, it’s only logical that I would have the right to bring it to your attention.
So why do some translations leave out those two words and why do some include them?
I did some digging in my library and found that in the original Greek, the words “against you” are not included. So that would seem to indicate that Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”
But, being the careful sort when it comes to Bible study, I looked up some similar passages. For example, Luke 17:3 says, “So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” I looked up the Greek for this verse, and guess what? “Against you” is not there.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
Looks like we have a trend here, doesn’t it? But again, being careful, I called my pastor to ask his opinion. Together we looked at the language, and found that “against you” is not in the original Greek. Some translators do include the words in parentheses, which means that they are implied or perhaps added later.
I can almost see why these translators see that the words are implied if we continue in the chapter to verse 21 when Peter asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” But when we look at the Greek here, the words “against me” are included! So in my opinion, if Jesus had meant to say “against you” in verse 15, He would have said it.
So where does that leave us? Here in Matthew and in several other verses of the New Testament, we are taught that when we become aware of fellow believers’ sin, we must first go to them privately and gently, with humility point it out to them. Why? Because unrepented sin keeps us from having the kind of relationship with God that He wants. The motivation is not to say, “Hey! I saw you do that, and you’re busted!”, but to point out their error so that they can confess their sin and be restored to God. If they refuse, then we are to take two or three others to meet with the one in error. If they still refuse, the church should be made aware. If they still refuse correction, then Jesus said to treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector.
Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But wait! It’s not harsh at all. How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? With love! My goodness, Matthew, the writer of this book was a tax collector before Jesus came into his life. Believers are to treat pagans and tax collectors as people who sorely need the redemption provided by the shed blood of Jesus.
When a brother or sister refuses to deal with their sin by confessing it, we are to treat them as if they are at square one, as someone who does not know the love of Christ. Do we reject that type of person? Heaven forbid!