|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:15-20 If a professed Christian is wronged by another, he ought not to complain of it to others, as is often done merely upon report, but to go to the offender privately, state the matter kindly, and show him his conduct. This would generally have all the desired effect with a true Christian, and the parties would be reconciled. The principles of these rules may be practised every where, and under all circumstances, though they are too much neglected by all. But how few try the method which Christ has expressly enjoined to all his disciples! In all our proceedings we should seek direction in prayer; we cannot too highly prize the promises of God. Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us.
Verse 16. - This gives the second step or stage in discipline. Take with thee one or two more. If the offender is obdurate to secret remonstrance, do not yet resort to public measures, but make a fresh effort accompanied by a friend or two, who will support your view and confirm your expostulation, which might otherwise be considered partial or self-interested. In the mouth of two or three witnesses. The idea is derived from the requirement of the Jewish Law in a case of litigation (see Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1). By the testimony of these witnesses, every word that has passed between you may be fully certified. There will be forthcoming, if necessary, the regular legal evidence, should the matter come to other ears.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But if he will not hear thee,..... But will either deny the fact, or extenuate and excuse it, or defend it, or at least is obstinate and incorrigible, shows no signs of repentance, but is angry, gives hard words, and ill language:
then take with thee one or two more; members of the church, and perhaps of weight, reputation, and character, who either know some thing of the matter, and so can confirm, by their testimony, what has been alleged, in order to bring the person to conviction and acknowledgment; or if they do not, and which seems rather to be the sense, they may, by hearing what is said on both sides, judge where the truth lies, and join with the offended person in the admonition, that it may fall with the greater weight, and become more effectual:
that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established, referring to Deuteronomy 19:15. So that should the matter be brought before the whole church, these witnesses would be able to testify the truth of the case, and report the steps that had been taken, and what effect they had had; so that things being thus prepared, the case would appear plain and easy, and without difficulty. The whole of this is very agreeable to the rules and customs of the Jews, and is founded on the law, in Leviticus 19:17, upon which they form rules very much like to these. They represent God himself taking such a method as this, with the sons of men (m):
"When the holy blessed God reproves a man, he reproves him in love, privately: if he receives it, it is well; if not, he reproves him among his friends: if he receives it, it is well; if not he reproves him openly before the eyes of all; if he receives it is well; if not, he leaves him, and reproves him no more.''
And this is an instruction to men, how they should reprove their friends. They say (n), "he that sees anything in his friend that is not becoming, he ought to reprove him." And which is elsewhere more (o) largely expressed:
"he that seeth his friend walking in a way that is not good, he is bound to reprove him, even a disciple his master; and this he shall do for his good, and in order to bring him to the life of the world to come, or eternal life; and "if he takes it of him, it is well": but if not, he must reprove again, "a second and a third time"; and so he must reprove him many times, if, or until he hears him.''
And this they require to be done, in the most private manner:
"reproof out of love (they (p) say) is secret from the children of men; whoever reproves his friend in love, seeks to secrete his words from the sons of men, that he may not expose him thereby to shame and reproach.''
That is, as the gloss (q) on it observes,
"he seeks to reprove him in secret, so that he may not be put to shame before many.''
If this way does not succeed, they allow of a public reproof, for so it is said (r);
"thou mayest not reprove him with hard words, till his countenance changes; for whoever causes the face of his friend to turn pale publicly, has no portion in the world to come; but thou mayest reprove in the words of heaven, or God; and if he does not return privately, thou mayest make him ashamed publicly, and expose his sin before him; and reproach and curse him, until he returns to do well; so did all the prophets to Israel.''
They plead also for a second reproof, from the text in Leviticus 19:17 (s).
"From whence does it appear, that he that sees anything in his friend unbecoming, ought to reprove him? As it is said, "thou shalt in any wise rebuke", &c. if he reproves him, , "and he does not receive it", (he does not take it kindly, or, as here, he does not hear him,) from whence is it manifest, that he must return and reprove him (or repeat the reproof)? from what is said, reproving thou shall reprove.''
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