Confrontation and Forgiveness

There are three directions of the church: look UP in worship, look WITHIN for Edification, and look WITHOUT in Evangelism. If either one of these ceases, the health of the church will be jeopardized, and the life of the church hindered. The church must worship, the church must edify, and the church must evangelize. To neglect even one of these is to hinder the growth of the church.

We looked at the first one last week which is to look UP in worship. Now, let us focus on edification. The topic at hand is a weighty topic but this comes from the mouth of the LORD Himself, so we must give time to heed to this important topic.

At the outset, we must clarify that we are not merely speaking about our interaction together while in the church building, but our interaction together as we walk together through the ups and downs of life. Though fellowship takes place in the LORD’s day, we must also strive to poster fellowship outside the formal gathering of the local church. This is the holistic aspect of church fellowship. It should not be limited to the four corners of the church building. We should seek to have fellowship with brethren and we should pray for one another constantly.

John Owen in highlighting the importance of fellowship states the following,

Affectionate, sincere love in all things, without hypocrisy towards one another, like that which Christ bore to His church.
Love is the fountain of all duties towards God and man (Matthew 22:37), the substance of all rules that concern the saints, the bond of communion, the “fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8–10), the advancement of the honor of the Lord Jesus, and the glory of the gospel.… It is the fountain, rule, scope, aim, and fruit of gospel communion. 

Now, let us consider what might wound or hinder the sweet fellowship of the brethren.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Luke 17:1-4 ESV

An Offense

In verse 3, it says to pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

It is assumed here that other Christians will sin against us. This is the presupposition and reality, that in the church, where sinners saved by grace are joined together, offending one another is inevitable. This occurrence tests our patience and lovingkindness toward another. It reminds us of God’s patience towards us who sin before His presence daily. Jesus is saying that it is impossible that no offenses should come. No church is exempted in this case. It is impossible not to be sinned against—we live in a fallen world filled with sinners. We must accept this with humility and dependence on God.

The context tells us and verses 1-2 predominately refer to those who sin against others with no concern. This world is going to be filled with people who sin against us also tempt us to sin in response. Jesus says, “Temptation to sin is sure to come…” Those who sin against others with no concern prove that they are not in Christ and will be judged on judgment day. As we gather on the Lord’s Day to fellowship, we are the church gathered.

Again in verse 3, Jesus turns to His disciples. He is saying that if the world is filled with those who sin against you, don’t think this will never happen to you in the church. In our spiritual journey, our brethren may sin against us. Thus, we must understand our Savior is here specifically referring to offenses committed against us in the church.

A Loving Rebuke

To “rebuke” means to verbally confront or reprove—to bring the offense to the offending brother (notice when and how we are to rebuke an offending brother). It says, if your brother sins, rebuke him. It does not say, report to another brother. It is consistent with what the Lord commanded us in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”

Do you like being rebuked? The rebuke is a means of grace, and something that preachers should engage in and Christians should take heed to. How often are you rebuked? When was the last time it happened? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? When was the last time you were rebuked by the preaching of the Word from the pulpit as a congregation? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? (Thoughts on Rebuking - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon)

The Timing: When are we to rebuke?

Are all offenses to be confronted?

Two possible responses to an offense—we cover it or we confront it.

There are some offenses that don’t rise to the level of confrontation but should be covered over. Sometimes these are referred to as “petty offenses”—minor offenses that are unintentional or accidental. For example, sometimes people can have a rougher character, and say some things that feel offensive.

How do we know whether or not we need to confront a brother over an offense?

Two reasons:

  1. If we are unable to cover an offense, or
  2. If an offense is clearly sinful.

If we are unable to cover an offense…

We’ve tried to cover it over but it simply won’t go away. The offense lies within our hearts like sour milk—whenever we see that brother the offense comes to mind. For example, someone says something to us that was offensive—we give them the benefit of the doubt and cover it up. As much as possible we cover it up but if it gives you a sleepless night and when you think of that brother, it reminds you of his offense.

Pro 19:11  Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. 

Pro 17:9  Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

If an offense is clearly sinful.

It’s never right or loving to overlook sinful behavior. This doesn’t mean we have to confront every action that’s questionable or uncertain We ought to properly confront a brother or sister when they clearly sin against us. Verse 3 says, “if your brother sins against you”, that is, he transgresses the law of God, he sins with his words or deeds.

The Manner: How are we to rebuke a brother?

Biblical confrontation should be lovingly, privately, and humbly done. 

Loving confrontation

We are to rebuke them as a brother. In other words, we are to confront them with a desire for their good, we want them to repent from their sin.

This is what we mean by confronting someone in love, love desires the good of the object loved. Thus, here I am largely referring to motive or incentive.

Why are we to confront brothers who sin against us? It’s not to get even at them or repay them for their offense. But we must confront them in love. We must confront them for their good. We must seek their prosperity.

Private confrontation

Mat 18:15  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”

This means we are not to spread the offense to others but go directly and quickly to the offending brother.

"Many persons lock the inquiry in their own bosom; and instead of going to their offending brother, dwell upon his conduct in silence, until their imagination has added to it every possible aggravation, and their minds have come to the conclusion to separate themselves forever from his society. this is not religion. Our duty is to go, and to go as speedily as possible, to the offender. The longer we delay, the more serious will the offense appear in our eyes, and the more difficult will it be to persuade ourselves to obtain the interview." ~ John Angell James

Humble confrontation

Gal 6:1  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 

In other words, we have to confront our sinning brother, with a deep sense of our own weakness and vulnerability. We confront each other knowing that we too are men of like passions. We too are prone to sin and we too are in need of correction. So we confront others in a spirit of gentleness.

A Continued Forgiveness

…if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.

The Greek word rendered “forgive” literally means “to send away”. It refers to the removal of an offense.

Psa 103:12  as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

In other words, He has removed the guilt and/or consequences of our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. This is fundamentally what forgiveness entails—the removal of the offense from us, and thus, the consequences of that offense. Our Savior refers to personal offenses.

Forgiveness is both conditional and continual.


Both in v.3 and v.4, our Savior conditions this forgiveness by repentance. To “repent” literally means “to change the mind”—they’ve sinned and now they’ve changed their mind. They come humble and broken—they acknowledge their behavior was injurious to you and dishonorable to God. Implied within this term is the idea of ownership—they own their sin as harmful to you and shameful to God.

Psa 32:5  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Question: Are we only to forgive those who repent? There is a distinction between inward and outward forgiveness.

Inward forgiveness

We are to inwardly forgive all who’ve sinned against us, regardless if they have repented or not. We are to remove the offense so as not to create bitterness and resentment in our hearts. This can be a potential problem for those who say—I am not going to forgive this person because they’ve never repented.

Mark 11:25  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

If there’s no transaction, no seeking of forgiveness, no formal pardon, no words exchanged between the two parties, then what exactly is accomplished by this sort of forgiveness? Its chief effects are wrought in the heart of the forgiver.

John MacArthur

Outward forgiveness

We are to outwardly forgive all who’ve sinned against us, and have actually repented of their sin. We can only actually forgive those who have actually confessed and asked for forgiveness, until a person confesses their offense there can be no restoration or reconciliation. Yes, the offense has been removed so as not to create any bitterness or resentment, but the offense still remains. And it’s not until a person confesses that sin, is it outwardly (or actually) removed and restoration given.

This is the conditional aspect of forgiveness, and it reflects the way in which God forgives (we confess, He forgives).


In verse 4, our Savior is addressing the issue of frequency—how many times should we forgive our brothers? his teaching is very clear! We are to continually forgive them providing they acknowledge their sin.

Matthew 18:21-22 ESV  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”   Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The point is, we should never get tired of forgiving. This is not only not easy but actually difficult.

Three Motivations to Forgive

  1. God commans us to forgive – We must not overlook the obvious. This isn’t a suggestion. It is a clear command from our Savior.
  2. God has and continues to forgive us. That is, we should forgive because we are forgiven. One of the best ways to foster a forgiving spirit is to remain mindful of how much we’ve been forgiven. If God has removed the mountain of my sin, who am I, not to remove a single speck of dust in comparison! But God hasn’t merely forgiven me in the past but continues to forgive me seventy times seven every day (490 times every day).
    • Col 3:13  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 
  3. Few things are more God-like than forgiveness – a forgiving spirit reflects the character of God. It is an amazing truth that man is created in the image of God, which means we dimly reflect His moral character. But since the fall, that image (or character). while not totally erased, has become distorted and inaccurate. And this is nowhere more evident that in man’s unwillingness to forgive—nothing is further from God.
    • Psa 86:5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. 
    • Psa 130:4  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 
    • Mic 7:18  Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 
    • Isa 55:7  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 
Tender and affectionate participation with one another in their several states and conditions,—bearing each other's burdens. (John Owen, Duties of Christian Fellowship, Rule 8)


Note: This blog is based on our pastor’s lecture on Church Membership class part 4.

Owen, John | Duties of Christian Fellowship. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2021, from

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

One thought on “Confrontation and Forgiveness

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