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.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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