Matthew 18:17
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

New Living Translation
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

English Standard Version
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Berean Study Bible
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Berean Literal Bible
And if he fails to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he fails to listen to even to the church, let him be to you as the pagan and the tax collector.

New American Standard Bible
"If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

King James Bible
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.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn't pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.

International Standard Version
If, however, he ignores them, tell it to the congregation. If he also ignores the congregation, regard him as an unbeliever and a tax collector.

NET Bible
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.

New Heart English Bible
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
But if he will not hear them, tell the assembly, and if he does not hear the assembly, let him be to you as a tax gatherer and as a heathen.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers. If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector.

New American Standard 1977
“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the congregation {Gr. ekklesia – called out ones}; but if he neglects to hear the congregation, let him be unto thee as a worldly man and a publican.

King James 2000 Bible
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 you as a heathen man and a tax collector.

American King James Version
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican.

American Standard Version
And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

Darby Bible Translation
But if he will not listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if also he will not listen to the assembly, let him be to thee as one of the nations and a tax-gatherer.

English Revised Version
And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.

Webster's Bible Translation
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.

Weymouth New Testament
If he refuses to hear them, appeal to the Church; and if he refuses to hear even the Church, regard him just as you regard a Gentile or a tax-gatherer.

World English Bible
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.

Young's Literal Translation
And if he may not hear them, say it to the assembly, and if also the assembly he may not hear, let him be to thee as the heathen man and the tax-gatherer.
Study Bible
A Brother who Sins
16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, regard him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.…
Cross References
Matthew 10:3
Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

1 Corinthians 6:1
If any of you has a grievance against another, how dare he go to law before the unrighteous instead of before the saints!

2 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who leads an undisciplined life that is not in keeping with the tradition you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14
Take note of anyone who does not obey the instructions we have given in this letter. Do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed.
Treasury of Scripture

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

tell.

Acts 6:1-3 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, …

Acts 15:6,7 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter…

1 Corinthians 5:4,5 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, …

1 Corinthians 6:1-4 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before …

2 Corinthians 2:6,7 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many…

3 John 1:9,10 I wrote to the church: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence …

let.

Romans 16:17,18 Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and …

1 Corinthians 5:3-5,9-13 For I truly, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged …

2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

1 Timothy 6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the …

2 John 1:10,11 If there come any to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him …

an heathen.

Matthew 6:7 But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for …

Ezra 6:21 And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity…

Ezekiel 11:12 And you shall know that I am the LORD: for you have not walked in …

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship …

Ephesians 4:17-19 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you from now …

Ephesians 5:11,12 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but …

a publican.

Matthew 5:46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not …

Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man …

Matthew 21:31,32 Whether of them two did the will of his father? They say to him, …

Luke 15:1 Then drew near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, …

Luke 19:2,3 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief …

(17) If he shall neglect to hear them.--Better, refuse, the word implying something more than mere negligence.

Tell it unto the church.--Here, and here only in our Lord's teaching after the promise to Peter (Matthew 16:18), we have the word Ecclesia repeated. The passage takes its place among the most conspicuous instances of the power of a word. Theories of church authority, as exercised by the priesthood, or bishops, or councils, or the personal infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, have been built upon it. The last clause has been made the groundwork of the system of church discipline which loads the heretic with anathemas, excommunicates the evil-doer, places nations under an interdict. It can scarcely be doubted that the current thoughts and language of Englishmen as to ecclesiastical discipline would have been very different, if instead of "tell it unto the church," "if he neglect to hear the church," we had had the word "congregation." And yet this, or some such word (say "assembly" or "society"), is confessedly the true meaning of the Greek, and was the rendering of all the English versions, from Tyndale onwards, till the Rhemish translators introduced "church," and were followed by the Authorised version.

So understood, the words point to the final measures for the reformation of the offender, and the vindication of the divine law of righteousness. When the two forms of private remonstrance have failed, the case is to be brought before the society at large. The appeal is to be made not to the rulers of the congregation, but to the congregation itself, and the public opinion of the Ecclesia is to be brought to bear upon the offender. Should he defy that opinion and persist in his evil doing, he practically excommunicates himself. All societies are justified in excluding from their communion one who repudiates the very conditions of membership; and his being regarded as "a heathen and a publican" is but the legitimate consequence of his own act. Even here, however, we can hardly think of our Lord as holding up the Pharisees' way of acting towards "the heathen and the publican" as a pattern for imitation. They were to be made to feel that they were no longer within the inner circle of brotherhood, but they were still men, and, as such, entitled to courtesy and all kindly offices. St. Paul's teaching as to the treatment of the incestuous adulterer in 1Corinthians 5:1-5, 2Corinthians 2:6-7, and of fornicators generally in 1Corinthians 6:1-7, may be referred to as a practical illustration of the meaning of our Lord's words.

It is obvious that the rule, as such, presupposes a small society, in the midst of a greater outside world, able to deal thus minutely with the offences of individual members. With the extension of the society, so that the church and the world became conterminous and hardly distinguishable, it was natural, perhaps, that it should follow the course of other human societies, and transfer its jurisdiction from the "congregation," or "assembly," to individual judges as its representatives. And so it was that, in the long-run, the bishops took the place of the congregation, and exercised its functions. So long as they were really in harmony with the mind of the church at large, this might work well enough, but there was the risk of their "lording it over God's heritage" (1Peter 5:3); and, in any case, there was the loss of that activity of the reason and conscience of the society which the original form of polity implied, and of which St. Paul's appeal to its judgment as against the inconsistency of the chief of the Apostles, is a very striking instance (Galatians 2:11). How far that can be revived is one of the hard questions of our own time and, perhaps, of all times. The end may have to be attained by very different means. We cannot inform the Universal or the National Church of the misdeeds of each individual member. Practically, to submit them formally to the judgments even of the smaller society of the town or village to which the offender belonged, would not be workable. Possibly, the solution of the problem may be found in remembering that in a Christian nation the Church and the State, as far as morality is concerned, tend, in spite of doctrinal divisions, to be, as was said, conterminous, and hence that we are fulfilling the spirit of our Lord's commands when, after all private remonstrances have failed to check the evil, we appeal to the public opinion of Christians in the neighbourhood, larger and smaller, which is affected by it. How this is to be done will vary with the varying circumstances of each individual case, but it is no idle paradox to say that as society is now constituted, the most effective way of "telling the church" may sometimes be to appeal to that public opinion as represented by lawful courts, or otherwise impartially expressed.

Verse 17. - Tell it unto the Church (τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ). This is the third step to take. Our Lord is contemplating a visible society, possessed of certain powers of discipline and correction, such as we find in the history of the apostolic Church (see 1 Corinthians 5:1, etc.; 1 Corinthians 6:1, etc.; 1 Timothy 1:20). Christ had already spoken of his Ecclesia in his commendation of Peter's great confession (Matthew 16:18); so the twelve were prepared for this use of the word, and would not confound the body here signified with the Jewish synagogue. To the latter the expressions in vers. 18-20 could not apply. The custom and order of procedure in the synagogue would afford an idea of what the Lord meant; but the congregation intended was to be composed of Christians. the followers of Christ, who were delivered from the narrowness of rabbinical rules and definitions. The institution of ecclesiastical tribunals has been referred to this passage, but, as understood by the apostles, it would denote, not so much ecclesiastical rulers as the particular congregation to which the delinquent belonged; and the offence for which he is denounced is some private scandal or quarrel. The course of proceeding enjoined would be impracticable in a large and widely extended community, and could not be applied under our present circumstances. If he neglect to hear the Church. Now comes the final stage in corrective discipline. An heathen man (ὁ ἐθνικὸς, the Gentile) and a publican (ὁ τελώνης, the publican). The class, not the individual, is meant. If he turns a deaf ear to the authoritative reproof of the Church, let him be regarded no longer as a brother, but as a heathen and an outcast. Christ, without endorsing the Jews' treatment of Gentiles and publicans, acknowledges the fact, and uses it as an illustration. The obdurate offender must be deprived of Church membership, and treated as those without the Jewish pale were commonly treated. The traditional law enjoined that a Hebrew might not associate, eat, or travel with a heathen, and that if any Jew took the office of publicans, he was to be virtually excommunicated. In later times, there naturally arose in the Christian Church the punishment of offenders by means of exclusion from holy communion, and excommunication. But even in this extreme case charity will not regard the sinner as hopelessly lost; it will seek his salvation by prayer and entreaty. And if he shall neglect to hear them,.... The one or two, in conjunction with the offended person that shall hear the ease, and admonish and reprove; if he takes no notice of what they say to him, but remains stiff and impenitent, tell it unto the church: which some understand, of the or "multitude", before whom it was lawful to reprove, after such private methods had been taken: others, the political magistrates, or sanhedrim; who took cognizance of cases between one person and other, either by themselves, or messengers; and gave admonitions and reproofs, as to parents, when they did not provide for their families (x), and to wives that were perverse, and provoked their husbands (y), &c. others, of the presbyters and governors of the Christian church; others, of the church itself, and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "the house of Christians"; to which it is objected, that as yet a Christian church was not formed: but what were the twelve apostles of the Lamb? They were the great congregation and church, in the midst of which Christ sung praise to his Father: and since the whole of this advice, and these excellent rules are given to them, and they are spoken of in the next verse, as having the power of binding and loosing, they may well be thought to be meant here; and that the design of Christ is, to instruct them how to behave, in case of offence to one another; that the reproof should be first private, and if it did not succeed, to be made before one or two more; and if that did not do, the whole body was to be acquainted with it; and which rules hold good, and are to be observed by all Christian men and churches, in all ages: though no doubt but allusion is made to the Jewish customs, in rebuking before the multitude, or carrying of a private case, after all other means used were ineffectual, to the sanhedrim.

But if he neglect to hear the church: the advice they should give unto him, the reproof they should think proper for him, or the censure they should pass upon him,

let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican. This is not a form of excommunication to be used among Christians, nor was there ever any such form among the Jews; nor could Heathens or publicans, especially such publicans as were Gentiles, be excommunicated, when they never were of the Jewish church.

"A religious person indeed, that becomes a collector of taxes, they first said, is to be driven from the society; but they afterwards said, all the time that he is a tax gatherer, they drive him from the society; but when he goes out of his office, lo! he is as a religious person (z).''

But one that never was of a religious society, could not be driven out of it. And besides, this is given, not as a rule to the church, but as advice to the offended person, how to behave towards the offender: after he has come under the cognizance, reproof, and censure of the church, he is to look upon him as the Jews did one that disregarded both private reproof by a man's self, and that which was in the presence of one or two more, , "a worthless friend", or neighbour; as a Gentile, with whom the Jews had neither religious nor civil conversation; and a "publican", or as Munster's Hebrew Gospel reads it, "a notorious sinner", as a publican was accounted: hence such are often joined together, and with whom the Jews might not eat, nor keep any friendly and familiar acquaintance: and so such that have been privately admonished and publicly rebuked, without success, their company is to be shunned, and intimate friendship with them to be avoided.

(x) Maimon Hilehot Ishot, c. 12. sect. 14. (y) Ib. c. 14. sect. 9. & Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 81. (z) T. Hieros. Demai, fol. 23. 1.18:15-20 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.
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