Given the severity of the final solution, it seems to me that Jesus is here discussing sins that can harm the entire fellowship of Christians. We have already learned about the severity of sin. Now Jesus talks about what to do about serious sin in the church. (And it does seem that Matthew has the church in mind in this paragraph.)
In our individualistic times, we are reluctant to get involved with what other people are doing. But professing Christians who sin without inhibition have caused great problems in the church and in the world, and it ought not be. I guess there is a time to get in somebody else’s business.
Jesus and Matthew provide something of an SOP for how to handle this sin and this sinner. I suppose there would have to be variations based on circumstances; I’d be reluctant to insist that things must always be done in exactly this way.
After the procedure in vv. 15-17, Matthew follows up with sayings of Jesus that seem to apply to the situation.
- The binding and loosing speech of Jesus to Peter is repeated here and applied to the church. This is a responsibility, not a power to be wielded. Pastors who wield such authority are usually abusive and they usually don’t follow anything like the given procedure. They forget about the “two or three” part.
- When Christians come together to try to manage situations like this, they can be assured that they are not alone. Emmanuel is with them. They stand in solidarity with one another and with Jesus if they are truly gathered in Jesus and are listening to him through one another. It takes a (small) village.
- This is how a group of Christians can determine God’s will for their immediate ticklish situation. Agreement with one another and with God. Like a small jury. I guess it needs to proceed to unanimity.
The end result may be putting people out of the fellowship. Obviously, this should not be done lightly. And it is not to be done by the pastor alone. (Rulers of the gentile Lord it over their people; it shall not be so with you.)
Still, Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. So the missionary work goes on.