Conflicts in a Church

Matthew 18:15-17
15
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
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17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Again, like a previous entry, this is for those who are part of a local church (assembly), a local body of believers. If you are part of a universal/invisible church and body, this will not apply to you. You can go on and read another article that would be more appropriate. But for those who belong to a local body of believers, you realise, even if you have been there a short time that people can offend you. The reality is that Christians are not perfect. They may be saved and have the Holy Spirit, but it does not mean they are always walking with God. Nor does it mean they are not struggling with their flesh (Galatians 5:17). Jesus gave His disciples instructions on how to deal with conflicts in a local church.

1. Deal with the Offence One-to-One
Matthew 18:15

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee,
go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

This verse explains that the offended person should go to the one who has offended him and try to work things out to make the relationship right. An immaturity in many Christians is when they spread a relational problem with gossip; this only provokes and escalates the problem. Jesus said that if an issue is to resolve between you and another person, you should address it just between the two of you.

We must approach the offender in love.
Ephesians 4:15
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Initially, we shouldn't also mention the situation to anyone else. Jesus says that we should go directly to the one who has offended us and work for the right relationship.

If someone has done something truly offensive, God's plan is not for us to hide the problem, allow bitterness to build in our heart, or spread the issue throughout the church, but that you go directly to the other person. Having a spirit of love, humility and having an end goal of the restored fellowship is vital in this. Restoring the relationship is why Jesus said in
v.15, "…if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." God's process for dealing with offences allows us to regain fellowship through restoration.

James 5:16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Unlike the modern corrupted Bibles, the 1611 translators correctly used the word "faults". We are supposed to confess our faults to one another, especially in a church, or assembly of believers. We should confess our sins to God, not to other people.

We need to learn to deal with offences as quickly as possible and to keep them as small as possible. Most can be dealt with by a quick and simple meeting of two spiritual Christians—one acknowledging the offence, and the other asking for forgiveness.

Some offences are not quite so simple. So what if it is more complicated?
2. Go To Them With Witnesses
If the offender refuses to admit his wrong-doing or to settle the matter, the offended one then goes with witnesses.

Matthew 18:16
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

In some cases of sinful behaviour or compromise, which you have already personally addressed with the right spirit, you may need to move to this step. Perhaps you need to talk to the pastor or a godly leader in the church to ask for help.

If this fails, the final recourse is to…
3. Take The Matter To The Church.

Matthew 18:17
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

The last and final step that Jesus gives in dealing with an offence is that the matter's brought before the church.

This instruction that Jesus gave would be impossible if the word "church" referred to a universal, invisible body of believers. Imagine trying to bring an issue before the universal body of believers. This instruction could only be done in an ekklesia, a "called-out assembly of believers", a local assembly. Perhaps those who believe in a universal church, need to rethink their position. Since they have moved onto another article, I am preaching to the choir.

Most of the time, a conflict never gets to this point. Either sin has caused someone to leave the church, or it was settled in the first two steps. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church how they should deal with a brother who was walking and living in open sin, refusing to repent, and expecting everyone at church to condone his behaviour.

1 Corinthians 5:11–13
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But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Sometimes this is what it takes for someone to turn from sins in their lives and make things right in a church family, church body. In every step of this process, the Lord lays out, and we need to remember that the purpose of all of this is restoration—not condemnation. When a brother or sister wilfully offends, we need to first begin by going to them one-on-one, in love, looking to reconcile.



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(At An Carraig Baptist Church, we take a literal, fundamental approach to the Bible (AV 1611). We are also a local, independent body of believers, which means we are not subject to any religious hierarchy. Being "Baptist" means, we hold to the Bible-based, Baptist Distinctives, that has been the hallmark of true Baptist churches through the centuries. You are welcome to join us at any of our weekly meetings, or schedule to meet for tea/coffee.)