Over the past 50 years America has lost much of its moral consensus. Weve become a multicultural society desperately trying to keep everybody living together happily
or at least without hostility. To accomplish this some have attempted to reduce the influence of the Bible until it is seen as merely one more sectarian opinion among many. The problem of course, is that the Bible itself wont allow that to happen. From beginning to end it teaches spiritual realities that arent negotiable. And in no passage are these realities more glaring than the one we read today. In Matthew 18:1-20 Jesus commands His disciples to discipline one another if someone stumbles in their faith. Powerful spiritual absolutes lie behind His warning and the heart of God shines through His urging to restore those who have wandered away.
1) Child: young in age; one who humbles himself or herself to become teachable.
2) Stumble, stumbling block: anything that prevents us from going to heaven.
3) Sin: to do something or believe something that causes a person to stumble.
4) Gentile and tax collector: someone who is unsaved and therefore not part of the family of God.
B. Jesus Teaching (vs 1-20)
- (v 3) To come to God people must cease to be cynical and trust those God sends. We have to let down our guard which leaves us vulnerable.
- (v 4) We are to prioritize the needs of others ahead of our own (Php 2:3-8).
- (v 5) God views every believer as a representative of Jesus Christ.
- (v 6, 7) God will severely punish anyone who abuses the vulnerability of those who become childlike. It would be better to have died first.
- (v 8, 9) Take responsibility for yourself. Realize the severe danger of allowing any action or belief to jeopardize your salvation.
- (vs 10-14) Every person matters to God so we should seek to restore each one who stumbles.
- (vs 12-20) Take responsibility for each other. If you see a believer involved in something that will cause them to stumble, take the following steps:
1) Private appeal (v 15); 2) Collective appeal (v 16); 3) Community appeal (v 17) (the whole group who knows him or her); 4) Prophetic separation (v 17); 5) Authoritative prayer (vs 18-20) (God empowers you to pray as the situation demands)
C. Eternal truths upon which this passage is based
1) God will judge those who destroy another persons faith (vs 6, 7).
2) Heaven and hell exist so we must allow nothing to prevent us from going to heaven (vs 8, 9).
3) Every believer is of equal significance to God. He will not allow one to be lost without making every effort to rescue him/her (vs10-14).
4) It is possible for a believer to do or believe things that prevent them from going to heaven.
5) Disciples are responsible to warn and pray for each other (vs 15-18).
6) God grants disciples great authority to pray for those who stumble (vs 18-20).
D. What discipline is not and what it is
- Discipline is not a form of punishment. All punishment belongs to God.
- Discipline is a way of rescuing people who have put their salvation in jeopardy, and of protecting other believers from being enticed to commit the same sin.
- It is necessary because sin has a deceptive effect on the sinner and a corrupting effect on others (1Co 5:6).
E. Guidelines for discipline
1. What sins are serious enough to discipline?
- Sins that can cause us to stumble
- Examples: 1Co 6:9, 10; Ga 5:19-21; Eph 5:5-7
- Definition: inherit the kingdom (see: 1Co 15:50, to be resurrected so you can live with God forever)
2. Who is responsible to do this?
- A sinners brothers and sisters (v15)
- You who are spiritual (Gal 6:1)
3. What are the goals of discipline?
- Confront the person with the danger of their sin and encourage repentance.
- Offer help to those who are out of control.
- Enlist more prayer.
- Strengthen the resolve of the church to live holy lives and believe sound teaching.
4. What warning do we give the person?
a) Grace does not mean you can practice serious moral sin or abandon the essentials of the faith and still go to heaven.
- It promises forgiveness if we repent
- It allows the Holy Spirit to remain in us while we struggle
b) Grace doesnt mean your sin wont produce death (Ro 6:23)
- Sin always produces death even when its forgiven
c) Grace doesnt mean God wont discipline you until it hurts (Heb 12:1, 5-11)
- In fact, His love means He will act quickly so you can learn to hate sin.
5. How does God discipline a believer?
a) We read the Word (Pro 17:10; 2Tim 3:16).
b) We grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30)
c) He sends a prophetic warning and offers help through individuals (Mt 18:15, 16).
d) He gives a prophetic warning by exclusion from the community of the saved (Mt 18:17)
e) He partially withdraws His protection (1Co 5:3-5)
6. What attitudes must we avoid when confronting another?
a) Judgmentalism: harsh, self-righteousness. Inspecting others failures as if I had been appointed their judge. (Mt 7:1)
b) Slander: talking about people to those who dont need to know (Eph 4:31, 32; 1Pe 4:8)
c) Self-confident: assuming I am too good to ever sin like that (Ga 6:1)
d) Passivity: refusing to warn or help someone who is walking away from Christ.
7. What attitudes does God want us to have?
a) A humble heart that quickly repents when reading the Word or at the Spirits grieving.
b) A loving heart that is willing to confront a brother or sister who has put him/herself in danger.
c) A patient heart that is committed to walk along side someone who needs help to change.
- Ga 6:1 restore, not rebuke
d) A pure heart that reveres the holiness of God and longs to be like Him.
- Not trying to change His standards or negotiate a compromise.
1. Describe what it feels like when the Spirit is grieved (Eph 4:30)
2. Has God ever sent a prophet to warn you? (Some subjects may be too private to share with the group.)
3. Has God ever used you to warn someone? Did they listen and change?