Addressing Stumbling Blocks Seriously (18:15-20)

Compare Luke 17:3. We must pursue the straying sheep (Mt 18:10-14), but certain very exceptional circumstances demand expulsion of wolves in sheep's clothing who may not wish to leave (vv. 15-20; compare 7:15-23). In this context of forgiveness to the greatest possible extent (18:21-27), however, our ultimate goal must be restoration whenever possible, even when we must expel someone from the church (compare vv. 19-20; 1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 2:5-11; 1 Tim 1:20). The greatest sin of this context is being a continuing stumbling block to others (18:6-7, 15), which must include unwillingness to accept them back (vv. 28-33; compare vv. 1-14)-a sin that results in damnation (vv. 34-35). The principle would apply to many kinds of sin, but in this context such a sin, whether committed by those expelled or by those expelling others, is most probably an unrepented and continuing sin against the community or its members.

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