“Out of Context” is a series dedicated to verses of scripture, often used in today’s conversations, that have little to do with the context by which it was written.
Context | (1) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed; (2) the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.
Matthew 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.”
This is a signature verse used by many churches to enforce “church discipline” on people that have public sin in their lives, have been confronted by the “church,” and have been excommunicated (cast out) because of their lack of repentance. However, that’s NOT what the context of this verse implies – after all, these are Jesus’ words written by a “tax collector.” Anytime you want to know what Jesus meant by what He said, you simply need to look at the way He lived.
NOTE: I do support the doctrine of church discipline, and there are many great scriptures written in the New Testament to support biblical leadership and the call for Christians to confront other Christians on clear violations of sin in their lives. Paul makes this case very clear in his 1st letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 5). However, Paul is very specific about who to judge and how to judge. I don’t believe Matthew should be included in the case of church discipline.
First, we need to go back and see the context of what Matthew is recording when it comes to Jesus’ teaching. Chapter 17 tells us they are in Capernum, and Chapter 18 begins with “about that time” they asked Jesus a question. This question started a time of teaching from Jesus to his disciples and others gathered.