"If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

But if he won't listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.

If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

It must be noted that the word Church is used in the singular form - not a church, and not one of the churches.

In light of this verse, what happens in a situation where there are two "brothers" from two different denominations, (baptist, presbyterian, pentacostal, etc.) and one of the brothers commits a very scandalous, heinous sin against the other.

Who's church would the sinful brother be taken to?

Either church would have no jurisdictional rights over the other.

As a Catholic I know that there is a canonical process for one to follow...but the RCC is the most centralized religious body in the world.

Have any Protestant pastors here ever had to deal with a situation like this?

  • 2
    These are Jesus' words in Mt 18. There was no "church" (as we think of it today) yet. When Paul applied this principle in 1 Co 5:1-11, he was (seemingly) speaking of a local congregation, even though there was a singular church. He didn't urge that they send letters out to other assemblies and shun the brother. Had the man moved, perhaps that would have been a reasonable course of action, but the context suggests to me that he's speaking to a subset of the global church.
    – mojo
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:35

3 Answers 3


If appealing to authority is necessary, then you would have to appeal to authority that the brother in the wrong is submitting himself to. In this case, it would need to be someone in his congregation (or its hierarchy of authority).

The entire goal of the church discipline described in Mt 18 is to win him over to the truth. He ought to have close ties to the people in the congregation he's a part of, and so if those people must cut him off, the hope is that he will care about those lost/damaged relationships enough to reconsider what he's doing and repent.

  • Seems very logical :)
    – user5286
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 18:28

Short answer: Baptists would qualify as a "decentralized" denomination, and from a baptist perceptive, the answer is "we wouldn't deal with brothers from another church/denomination in that manner".

More details:

Baptists (in general) and other decentralized denominations tend to hold to the autonomy of the local Church. This means a single local congregation, typically a group that meets in one building under the care of one pastor. It precludes the very possibility of being accountable to anything other than the local Church that you are a member of.

References: 1 2 3

The membership of a particular local congregation is a voluntary thing. Nobody forces anyone to recognize a Church authority, we choose to join with like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ in a local Church. We voluntarily place ourselves under the authority of the Pastor of said Church, and discipline is typically handled through the deacons/Pastor/members that we have voluntarily chosen to bind ourselves to.

With that in mind, we recognize that if any brother or sister in Christ is in need of discipline, it is not our place to do so. We will speak to them, try to point out the error of their ways, and perhaps bring more than one brother in to try to talk sense into them, but the very idea of us having authority over anyone who has not willingly chosen to subject themselves to the authority of our particular Church is simply unthinkable. It makes no sense.

If subjecting ourselves to a Church's authority is voluntary, how can we possibly claim any authority over anyone that has not voluntarily chosen to align themselves with us?

It's not a matter of not recognizing that this person is a brother in Christ, it's just that we don't claim any sort of authority over that brother.

  • From what I understand from this answer, which is very informative, is that if a brother decides not to commit to a church fully then it is ultimately up to that person to hold his/her self accountable?
    – user5286
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 2:08
  • Pretty much. He is ultimately accountable to God, of course, but here on earth, he's not accountable to any Church from a perspective of those who come from a decentralized denominational background Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 2:16
  • And if he is taken to whatever church he sins against and decides not listen to that church even though he doesn't consider himself submissive...is the church suppose to shun he as if he were a tax collector?
    – user5286
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 2:26
  • Unless you hold that all non-Baptists are non-Christians, it would seem that any Christian has a responsibility (not authority) to every other Christian, as described in Mt 18. Seeking out people, to whom he's submitting, for help seems like the approach Jesus would prescribe. If he's submissive to no human authority, well, then he's some different kind of Christian. If such people exist, I suppose the best you can do is appeal to them personally.
    – mojo
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 13:07
  • 1
    That's what I'm saying This verse applies to Church discipline only. For non-members, we treat them like anyone else who sins against us , Christian or not... Talk to them, try to resolve it. But taking them before an authority they don't recognize would be pointless. Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 15:24

I remember when Dr. Walter Martin, the "Bible Answer Man", met with a man regarding false doctrine and asked another member of that man's church to accompany him in accordance with this passage. That's how one man handled it.

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