Why Don't You Follow Matthew 18?
Enlarged March 8, 2010 (first published July 2, 2000) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
From time to time I am asked if I follow the guidelines of Matthew 18 before I publish a report.
For example, when I published an open challenge to Clarence Sexton about the Friendship Conferences, I received the following:
“I am deeply upset at the private letter you posted on your website to Dr Sexton. Thanks for shooting your own and not calling Pastor Sexton personally to get all of the facts. I guess you don't read Matthew 18 all that often.”
The fact is that I did contact Pastor Sexton personally months before the publication of the article. As for Matthew 18, as we will see, it has nothing to do with the issue.
When I published a gentle warning about some of the newer Patch the Pirate music tapes years ago, I received some notes from people asking if I had first approached Majesty Music. Following is one of these:
“I am writing to ask if you follow the principles of Matthew 18 when writing about a brother in Christ? Have you gone to Brother Hamilton about your concerns alone, before writing your critique? Did you find no satisfaction and take another brother in Christ with you? I recognize these are steps to be followed in a local church context, but it seems prudent and wise and God honoring to follow similar steps when dealing with brothers and sisters from other churches.”
Another man gave the same sort of challenge in regard to my warnings about Chuck Swindoll:
“I have read your article on Chuck Swindoll. It is not our job to judge our fellow man. If you have concerns with Swindoll and his teachings then your job is to confront him personally, speak to and with him, find out where he is coming from. If you still believe he is wrong then bring it before your eldership and let them confront. Then, and only then, if there is still no change, you bring it before the congregation, and then you leave it and him in God’s hands.”
In reality, Matthew 18 gives instructions for dealing with personal problems between Christians. It does not address how to deal with public teachings and actions by Christian leaders. The apostle Paul, in the Pastoral Epistles, mentioned the names of compromisers and false teachers TEN times, warning Timothy about them. Those letters were not intended merely for Timothy and Titus. They were a part of the canon of Scripture and were a public record. Paul’s motive was not to injure those men. There was nothing malicious in his warnings. His motive was to protect godly preachers and sound churches.
Matthew 18 deals with personal trespasses between members of an assembly. Consider exactly what the passage says:
“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. 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. 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 a heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17).
Majesty Music has not trespassed against me personally. Chuck Swindoll has not trespassed against me. That is not the issue, and it would be impossible to follow Matthew 18 in this situation. Even if I were to attempt to follow the first part of the passage in such a context, it would be impossible to follow the last part. I have no way to take this issue “unto the church.” I am not a member of these men’s churches. Their churches have no authority over me, and I have no business with them (and I am sure they would ignore any attempt I might make to charge these men with error). Similarly, these men are not members of my church, so they have no business with it and it has no authority over him.
To attempt to follow Matthew 18 in such matters would be confusion.
Men such as Chuck Swindoll have published materials and distributed them widely to individuals and churches across the land. I am merely analyzing their published works in obedience to the Word of God. Material that is distributed publicly should be analyzed publicly.
Following are some of the Scriptures that give me authority for this practice:
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15).
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
By the way, my personal correspondence with Majesty Music was completely ignored, even though I approached them humbly as a friend who has advertised their music for many years (and continues to do so) without charge. Human nature does not like to be corrected, and the bigger the ministry the more inured it thinks itself to be from criticism.
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