Craig Blomberg has some helpful reflections on his blog about church discipline and the interpretation of Matthew 18:15-17. He has five points:
1. Nothing in this passage limits the sin to certain kinds of offenses deemed particularly serious.
2. A lot of minor offenses can easily just be overlooked, for the sake of keeping that same peace.
3. The different meanings of “witnesses” in English cause unnecessary confusion.
4. There really isn’t any way to make “tell it to the church” mean “tell it to the pastor” or “tell it to the elders” or some other subgroup of the church.
5. Treating someone like “a pagan or a tax collector” means treating them like a non-Christian.
Read the rest of Blomberg’s remarks here.
Its amazing how much controversy can arise over some things related to this passage.
I used to attend a church which had some rather esoteric views on this subject and there were a lot of growing pains and misunderstandings related to the topic of reinstatement. They really made this text a foundation passage in their view of the church. From that I took away with me a positive lesson on the value and importance of church discipline. But there were also negatives, especially when it came to certain types of sins–there was an overemphasis of retribution and a deemphasis of remedy/restortion.
So, I like to focus on the remedial aspects of discipline and appreciate Mr. Blomberg’s emphasis in this regard. However, I think Blomberg may be going a bit too far here?
I’m just wondering whether the following statement might be too overstated…..”The only purpose for church discipline anywhere in the New Testament is always remedial”.
Is that really correct? I would agree that remedial aspects are probably the primary purpose, but aren’t there other purposes? It seems to be that there is the purpose of church purity and also even the reputation of the church?
Am I on the right track, or am I just making too much of this statement of his?
Bible.org gives the following purposes:
(1) To bring glory to God and enhance the testimony of the flock.
(2) To restore, heal, and build up sinning believers (Matt. 18:15; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; Heb. 12:10-13; Gal. 6:1-2; Jam. 5:20).
(3) To produce a healthy faith, one sound in doctrine (Tit. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:19-20).
(4) To win a soul to Christ, if the sinning person is only a professing Christian (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
(5) To silence false teachers and their influence in the church (Tit. 1:10-11).
(6) To set an example for the rest of the body and promote godly fear (1 Tim. 5:20).
(7) To protect the church against the destructive consequences that occur when churches fail to carry out church discipline. A church that fails to exercise discipline experiences four losses:
I agree with you about the overstatement in that line. Church discipline serves other purposes besides the potential remediation of the offender.