Sermon #49                                         Series: Matthew

            Title:       THE MATTER OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE

Text:         Matthew 18:15-35

Subject:    Christ’s Rules for the Regulation of His Church

Reading:   Office: Rex Bartley Auditorium: Lindsey Campbell

Date:        Tuesday Evening- June 27, 1995

Tape:        #51




            I want to talk to you this evening about The Matter of Church Discipline. My text is Matthew 18:15-35. Before we begin let me state emphatically that I am far more concerned about getting sinners converted and into the kingdom of God than I am about getting sinners out of it. Most pastors, elders, and churches run to one of too extremes:



Proposition: In the passage of Scripture, our Savior gives us a direct command for the discipline of his house and lays down general guidelines that are to be followed.


Divisions: As we go through this passage of Scripture together, give me your attention, as I endeavor to show you what is taught in this portion of God’s Word.



As we go through these verses, I am sure you will be surprised, and I hope delighted, to see how our Lord enforces his doctrine in The Matter of Church Discipline. There are things in this text to which I will direct your attention.


1.       The Discipline of God’s Saints (vv. 15-18).

2.       The Delight of God’s Saints (vv. 19-20).

3.       The Difficulty for God’s Saints (vv. 21-22).

4.       The Debt of God’s Saints (vv. 23-35).

5.       The Duty of God’s Saints (vv. 23-35).


I.  First, our Savior gives us a word of instruction about The Discipline of Saints (vv. 15-18).


            Without question there are many difficulties surrounding the whole issue of church discipline. I know that I am not going to settle these difficulties in this message. That is not my intention. I only want to show you that which is obvious in the passage. I will say no more than the text says and no less. But I must show you what is taught in this passage of Scripture. In these verses, our Lord Jesus gives us three admirable, simple rules for the healing of differences among brethren. And the rules are accompanied with a blessed promise.


A.  The Rules of Discipline – (vv. 15-17).


            Sinners in this world, though washed in the blood of Christ and sanctified by his spirit are sure to offend one another from time to time.


NOTE: The offences spoken of in our text are not petty gripes, personality clashes, and silly spats, about which it is utterly ridiculous and totally unchristian for grown men and women to be divided. The offences spoken of here are radical and, if left unsettled, destructive.


NOTE: All matters of insignificance are to be treated as such (Matt. 5:38-42).


            Because our Lord does not name the offences, we must look elsewhere in the N.T. where discipline was practiced or exercised to see what disciplinary offences are.


1.  The Disciplinary Offences set forth in the N.T. may be summarized in four ways.


a.       Financial, Business Offences (I Cor. 6:1-8).

b.       Divisive, Bickering Offences (I Cor. 3:17; Eph. 4:29-5:1).

c.       Clearly Established, Publicly Known Moral Offences – The Incestuous Man (I Cor. 5:1-5).

d.       Heretical, Doctrinal Offences. (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Tit. 3:10).


NOTE: The reason these issues must be dealt with is they offset the welfare of the whole church and the cause of Christ.


2.  The steps to be taken in discipline are clearly established, so that those who have offended may be most easily won, with the least public scandal.


            The object is to win your brother, not to punish him, reproach him, or destroy him.


NOTE: “Tell it unto the church” does not necessitate a public hearing! It forbids discipline by a church council. It is a matter for each local church to be handled by the appointed pastors and elders of that local assembly.


B.  The Promise of Verse 18 must be understood properly.


            This does not mean that men can bend the will of God to their own will, but that God has a clearly revealed principle to which the church must conform.


            The text would be better translated – “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall have been bound, etc.” In other words, when the church of God follows Christ’s instruction in this matte, it conforms in its decisions to that which God has already done. This kind of discipline may be laughed at or ignored by men, but it is done with God’s authority and God’s approval.


II. Secondly, our Lord deals with that which is The Delight of Saints in verses 19-20).


            In verse 19, he shows us the blessedness of public prayer. In verse 20, he shows us the blessedness of public worship.


A.  Verse 19 gives particular encouragement to united, public prayer.


            Remember, the whole context is talking about the local church. This verse is not calling for the confusion of many voices in prayer, but the union of believing hearts in prayer. “Besides the general regard God has to the prayers of the saints, he is particularly pleased with their union and communion in these prayers.” (M. Henry).



B.  The Lord Jesus promises his presence with his people whenever they come together for worship in his name (v. 2).


            This promise is…



III.  Thirdly, Peter’s question and our Lord’s answer shows us The Difficulty of Saints in the matter of forgiveness – (vv. 21-22).


            These two verses have nothing to do with civil law or civil government. The welfare of society demands law and order, which cannot be maintained without the punishment of crime.


            Neither does our Lord mean that we are to tolerate thefts, assaults, or injuries to property with impunity.


            “All that he means is that, we are to study a general spirit of mercy and forgiveness towards our brethren. We are to learn much and put up with much rather than quarrel. We are to look over much and submit to much, rather than have any strife.” (J.C. Ryle).


            Such a spirit of mercy, forgiveness, and longsuffering is contrary to the flesh. So we struggle with it. But it is absolutely essential to Christianity. (Matt. 6:15).


IV. Fourthly, the parable given in verses 23-35 compares our sins to a debt owed to God and the forgiveness of our sins by the blood of Christ to the cancellation of The Debt of Sin.


A.   Sin is A Debt.

B.   Sin is A Debt we Cannot Pay.

C.  God Almighty is Ready, Willing, and Able to Forgive Guilty Sinners of Their Debt!


1.       The Basis of Forgiveness is Justice Satisfied.

2.       The Cause of Forgiveness is God’s Mercy and Compassion toward Sinners.

3.       All who sue for mercy receive forgiveness!


V.  Fifthly, this parable declares it to be The Deity of Saved Sinners to forgive the offences of their brethren, even as we have been forgiven by our God. (vv. 23-35).


            There are few duties practiced so little as the duty of forgiveness. Yet, there are none so strongly and constantly enforced in the N.T. And this is the one deity which, if neglected, shuts men and women out of the kingdom of heaven! You cannot be saved if you refuse to practice forgiveness!


·        Free Forgiveness.

·        Sincere Forgiveness – “From your heart.”

·        Relentless Forgiveness.




1.      Would you win a fallen brother! – Show him forgiveness!

2.      Would you prove your faith? – Forgive Offenders!

3.      Would you grow in grace? – Practice Forgiveness!

4.      Would you be like God? – Forgive  - (Eph. 4:32- 5:1).


Illus: Bishop Crammer – “If you ever did him an injury, he was sure to be your friend.”


5.  The best discipline in all the world is the discipline of forgiveness – (II Cor. 2:7-8).