Matthew 18:15–20 (NKJV)
15 “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. 16 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.’ 17 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.
In the passage before us Jesus lays out the general pattern for church discipline. Private, individual confrontation is to be followed by increasing levels of accountability culminating, if necessary, in exclusion from the covenant community.
There are a variety of purposes served by such accountability but one of them is to make clear that Jesus really is Lord. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he was correctly acknowledged as king and His kingship had ramifications in time and space – Jesus entered the Temple and cleaned out the corruption. We cannot spurn God’s law, reject His authority, and continue to comfort ourselves with the assurance that all is well. “Do you not know,” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:8-10). Jesus really is Lord.
Approximately two months ago the elders, in obedience to Jesus’ command, informed the church that —-, a member of this church, was living in sin. Despite repeated admonitions and encouragements, accompanied with fasting and prayer on —- behalf, —- still obstinately refuses to hear the Church, and has manifested no evidence of repentance: Therefore, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, the Session of Trinity Church do pronounce —— to be excluded from the Sacraments, and cut off from the fellowship of the Church.
Such action reminds all of us how susceptible we all are to the deceptions of the Evil One, the corruptions of our own flesh, and the allurements of the world. But for the grace of God we too would turn from Him. And so Paul warns us, “Beware brethren lest there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the Living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:12-13)
Paul insists that we need one another – we need our brothers and sisters who will encourage us, pray for us, exhort us, rebuke us, comfort us, console us. And one of the ways that we help one another is by coming here every Lord’s Day and acknowledging together how much we need the grace of God. We gather together, bow the knee to God and confess our sins, pleading the cleansing blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for our sins. And so reminded of this, let us kneel and confess our own sins to the Lord.