When do we get to stop trying? | Matthew 18:15-17

How do I, as a Christian, play a part in the redemption of the Lost Sheep? What can I do to help bring them back to the fold?

Mat 18:15  
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
Mat 18:16  
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
Mat 18:17  
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.

As a recap, let's quickly refresh on the beginning of Step 1.

Jesus had just finished telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, a parable which finished with this statement:

In the same way, it is not My heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.

Remembering that this whole teaching, from Matthew 18:3-35, is in response to the question that the disciples asked Jesus; “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”, let’s move on.

Usually when there is a parable being used to teach a concept it is followed with the explanation of the concept. In this case Jesus does that very thing. He now explains the process for dealing with “a lost sheep“, or, as we see it explained, a fellow believer.

What are the steps in the process?

The steps escalate as time goes on and they are all contingent upon the “sheep” remaining lost. At any point in the process if the believer realizes his lost state (confession) and seeks to return to the fold, he or she does not need the next step. So let’s look at each step individually, and then as a whole process.

Step 1:“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. ” Matthew 18:15

If you have not read Part 1 of this 3 part series you should do that first. START HERE ____________________________________

Step 2: "But if you are unsuccessful..." We are now entering Step two of this three step process. Notice that is starts with the word "but". So, we must, from the start, remember that this step is only started if the first step was unsuccessful.

What does this protect us from doing?

This is basically a warning to not enter into Step 2 unless Step 1 has been completely explored and has been unsuccessful. Too often we want to do a quick drive by with step one, claim that it didn't work and then jump to step 2 so that we can "get people on our side" before the whole mess spreads. Notice that the onus is on YOU. If you were unsuccessful. This means that you had entered step 1 fully trying to succeed in bringing back a brother. I also think that it implies that the people you might bring in with you during step 2 should ask you if you have fully explored step 1 before they try to help you with step 2.

Like step one we notice that most of the movement at this point is being done by the offended and not the one that did the offending.

"...take one or two others with you and go back again..." Assuming we were unsuccessful with step one we now must seek out 2 or 3 witnesses (other people) to take with us and go back to the lost sheep. The numbers mentioned here are significant. We are not asked to go back with just 1 person because that person may not be an impartial party. They may be a friend to you and might tend to want to lean in your direction. Jesus seems to be at this point recognizing that the truth needs to come out. Also notice that this says nothing about bringing church leadership into the mix. There is nowhere implied that the 2 or 3 need to be elders or deacons. In fact, I would submit that it might not be a good idea to involve them in step 2. This is about making sure that truth comes out and that both sides of the story are witnessed. The witnesses should be peers. You could even say that our judicial system by its' use of a jury understands this principle. 

"...so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses." The word confirmed implies that we are in the business at this step of finding out the truth. Making sure that both sides are heard by multiple people so that the "he said, she said" problem does not enter into the equation. This is really a mediation step. Many misunderstandings can be solved through mediation. It is common practice today for a judge to order mediation to take place before allowing a divorce. 


Are you starting to see the wisdom in what Jesus is asking us to do here. All of this work is intended to keep His sheep safe. Nothing is more important to Him than bringing back a lost sheep and He wants us to play our part in the process.

Are you starting also to notice that the "lost sheep" very well could be you? Remember, this whole thing starts with TWO people and a mediation never starts out assuming that one side only is in the wrong.

I hope that you have been learning a lot in our study of this wonderful counsel from Jesus; I know that I have been. Watch for the finishing of this passage study in Part 3, and thank you for reading!


Dear Lord,

Thank you so much for this amazing wisdom. Whole judicial systems have been built from this endless knowledge. I love knowing that You are my King and that I can come to You for help and understanding in confusing times. Thank You for what You accomplished on the cross. I want to be open to Your good counsel.

Please be with my friend, You know him well Lord. He is seeking Your guidance. Give me the wisdom to share with Him those things that You want him to know. Help Him to wait on You Lord. Help me to learn from this situation and to also grow. Lord, most of all I pray that You are glorified by whatever takes place. Be with his son. Protect him from the enemy. Protect my family and my children as well, dear Lord. Please be with the young girl and help her also to experience Your love.

Thank you for all that you provide. Help this blog to be a blessing to someone. I ask all of these things in Jesus name. Amen.