In the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus gave instructions to his disciples regarding disciplining someone who has committed a sin.
First of all, the matter should be handled privately, and if this succeeds then there is a restored relationship with God and the friends of the sinner. But if this step fails one ought to seek the presence and witness of one or two persons who will help to resolve the situation.
Then, if this step were to fail the problem should be brought to the whole group or the congregation. When all proves futile the guilty person must be regarded as unrepentant and unwilling to be part of the community.
It is never easy to correct a bad relationship or to admonish someone who is involved in an immoral, dishonest or any situation that is causing hurt and anxiety to others. The closer one is to the offending person the more difficult the challenge.
Note that Jesus bids his disciples to handle the matter privately at first. This is a warning against the tendency to publicise someone’s wrong-doing or to discredit someone’s character because of our feeling of self-righteousness.
The purpose of admonition is always to heal, to rebuild bonds, to lead people to a better and brighter way. It is never to magnify yourself in the sight of others. We are all sinful creatures and none of us escapes God’s judgment, though we may often escape or avoid the rebuke and notice of others. We are all in need of God’s forgiving grace.
There are times when we may wonder whether or not we should admonish someone. Our motives and attitudes must be carefully examined. When we admonish, whether it is our own child or a colleague or a fellow-employer, what we are doing is trying to prevent the person from falling further down sin’s slippery slope.
Paul had the unenviable duty of writing several admonitions to congregations. He heard of false teaching, of those who were boasting of their spiritual superiority, of those who were being disobedient to the word of God.
Paul reminded them his aim was to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. He gave stern warnings to Jews and Gentiles alike, “that they should turn from their sins to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:21.) After his warnings recorded in Acts he added, “So I solemnly declare to you this very day if any of should be lost, I am not responsible.” (Acts 20:27)
We are responsible for one another and therefore as Paul did, we should do our best. He warned the Corinthians not to pass judgment on anyone before the right time. (1 Cor 4:5) He instructed Titus to remind the people to be peaceful and friendly for “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient and wrong.” (Titus 3:2, 3)
All of us agree with Paul when he wrote that “stupid arguments, quarrels and fights about the Law” are “useless and worthless” We have had experiences with quarrels over matters that now seem unimportant. Church history has many good examples which can warn us of disruptions and dissentions over Biblical verses and traditions which now appear in this century not significant enough to condemn others as heretics and blasphemers.
Paul says to the Corinthians, “we speak as Christ would wish us to speak in the presence of God and everything we do, dear friends is done to help you.” (2 Cor 12 :19) Jesus admonished his disciples. But he knew the subtle power of temptation. Being raised a Jew he knew of the overbalanced interpretations of the Pharisees and teachers. But while he did not withhold his admonitions he reminded his disciples to learn from him for he was “gentle and humble in heart.”