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.
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(16) Take with thee one or two more.—The principle of action is the same as before. The first point aimed at is the reformation of the offender without the scandal (here we may take the word both in its earlier and later senses) of publicity. If personal expostulation failed, then the one or two” were to be called in. (Comp. 1Corinthians 6:5.) It is, of course, implied that they are not partisans, but disinterested representatives of what is likely to be the common estimate of the fault committed. If the end is attained through them, well; if not, then they are in reserve for the final stage as witnesses that every effort has been made in the spirit of a righteous friendship. As the previous verse implied a reference to Leviticus 19:17, so does this to Deuteronomy 19:15. This selection of all that was highest and most spiritual in the ethical teaching of the Law is one of the features of our Lord’s method, for the most part insufficiently recognised. (See John 8:17.)

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.But if he will not hear thee ... - That is, if he spurns or abuses you, or will not be entreated by you, and will not reform.

Take with thee one or two more - The design of taking them seems to be,

1. That he might be induced to listen to them, Matthew 18:17. They should be persons of influence or authority; his personal friends, or those in whom he could put confidence.

2. That they might be witnesses of his conduct before the church, Matthew 18:17. The law of Moses required two or three witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; John 8:17.

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, &c.—Probably our Lord had reference still to the late dispute, Who should be the greatest? After the rebuke—so gentle and captivating, yet so dignified and divine—under which they would doubtless be smarting, perhaps each would be saying, It was not I that began it, it was not I that threw out unworthy and irritating insinuations against my brethren. Be it so, says our Lord; but as such things will often arise, I will direct you how to proceed. First, Neither harbor a grudge against your offending brother, nor break forth upon him in presence of the unbelieving; but take him aside, show him his fault, and if he own and make reparation for it, you have done more service to him than even justice to yourself. Next, If this fail, take two or three to witness how just your complaint is, and how brotherly your spirit in dealing with him. Again, If this fail, bring him before the Church or congregation to which both belong. Lastly, If even this fail, regard him as no longer a brother Christian, but as one "without"—as the Jews did Gentiles and publicans. See Poole on "Matthew 18:17".

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.''


But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the {f} mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be {g} established.

(f) That is, by the word and witness; the mouth is sometimes taken for the word of speech, Nu 3:16, and also for a still witness, namely, when the matter speaks for itself, as below in Mt 21:16.

(g) Sure and certain.

Matthew 18:16. Second gradus admonitionis. The one or the two who accompany him are likewise intended to take part in the ἐλέγχειν (see αὐτῶν, Matthew 18:17).

ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος, κ.τ.λ.] in order that, in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be duly attested; i.e. in order that every declaration which he makes in answer to your united ἐλέγχειν may be heard by two or three persons (according as one or two may happen to be present besides thyself), and, on the strength of their testimony (ἐπὶ στόματος, על פי), may be duly authenticated, so that in the event of his submitting to the ἐλέγχειν the possibility of evading or denying anything afterwards will be precluded; or else, should he prove so refractory that the matter must be brought before the church, then, in the interests of this further disciplinary process, it will be of consequence to have the declaration made by him in the previous attempt to deal with him in an authentic and unquestionable shape.

In order to convey His idea, Jesus has used, though somewhat freely (otherwise in 2 Corinthians 13:1), the words of the law, Deuteronomy 19:15, and made them His own. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:19.

Matthew 18:16-17 have something answering to them in Luke 17:3, oming in there after the group of parables in chaps. 15 and 16, in which that of the Shepherd has its place; whence Wendt recognises these verses as an authentic logion probably closely connected with the parable in the common source. Matthew 18:17 he regards as an addition by the evangelist or a later hand. Holtzmann (H. C.) regards the whole section (Matthew 18:15-17) as a piece of Church order in the form of a logion of the Lord.

Matthew 18:16. Ἕνα ἤ δύο, one or two) so that, reckoning thyself the complainant, there may be two or three witnesses. The evidence of the complainant is of greater weight.—ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος, κ.τ.λ., that in the mouth, etc.) referring to Deuteronomy 19:15, the latter part of which the LXX. render: ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων καὶ ἐπὶ στοματος τριῶν μαρτύρων σταθήσεται πᾶν ῥῆμαat the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, every word shall be established.—σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα, every word may be established) sc. both against the sinner and afterwards to the Church. This passage is one of those which prove that the principles and rules of the forensic law of Moses are not entirely excluded from the polity of the Church of Christ.

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. Matthew 18:16In the mouth (ἐπὶ στόματος)

Better Rev., "at the mouth," or on the testimony of.

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