Matthew 18:15-20 and Waldenström's Commentary
Dr. Paul Peter Waldenström based his comments on a Greek New Testament text which he translated into Swedish. Tommy Carlson has translated both the Biblical text and Waldenström’s comments from the Swedish text, 2nd Edition, 1902. — Ed.
Verse 15 — But if your brother has sinned,1 then go to him and correct him between you and him alone.2 If he hears you, then you have won your brother.3 (Leviticus 19:17, Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1, James 5:19ff.)
1. "Toward you" found in most Bibles is missing in the oldest and best documents. The Saviour goes beyond that to show how the disciples should conduct themselves toward brothers who have fallen into sin and who were, therefore, in danger of going away from the faith. He instructs them on conducting themselves in order to prevent giving offence where that was about to happen.
2. The Lord does not permit you to leave your brother to his fall (Galatians 6:1) nor to gossip to others about his deed.
3. The intention is not to insult (injure, offend) your brother, nor to gain satisfaction, in case it is toward you that he has sinned. Rather the purpose is to win your brother to the Lord and his kingdom, from which he otherwise may be lost.
Verse 16 — But if he does not hear you, take with you one or two1 so that every word may be placed in the mouths of two or three witnesses.2 (Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17; II Corinthians)
1. In other words, do not gossip and do not leave your brother lost, because he can yet be saved. Further, if you do not try, perhaps you will be the reason for his eternal ruin.
2. So that every word he says in his explanation may, if it has to go further, be affirmed with certainty by the statements of two or three witnesses. Compare Deuteronomy 19:15 and I Timothy 5:19.
Verse 17 — But if he does not obey them, tell that to the congregation.1 But if he does not obey the congregation,2 then he is before you as a pagan and a tax collector.3 (Romans 16:17, I Corinthians 5:11; II Thessalonians 3:14; and I John 1:10)
1. Therefore, the sinner is not yet lost because there are still means to use for his salvation. The congregation is the fellowship of the believers, about which the Lord spoke in Matthew 16:18. This can not mean the local congregation because that did not yet exist. As to "congregation" see Matthew 16:18 (Congregation in the original text is ecclesia, which means called out). When the local congregations formed, this commandment was applied by taking things to the local congregation. The local congregation represented the congregation in a higher and a truer way.
2. If he does not obey the congregation’s admonition and demand.
3. Then you may give up all Christian brotherly relationship with him, and no longer consider him a believer. When the local congregations were established, expulsion from the congregation was based on this principle from the Lord.
Verse 18 — Truly I say to you: Everything you have bound1 on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and everything you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)
1. The Lord previously said "You" thereby meaning each individual believer. Now he talks to the apostles as apostles. He does not say: everything that the congregation has bound or loosed, but rather everything that you have bound or loosed. For the meaning of the words bind and loose, see Matthew 16:19. (To loose and bind was a common Jewish expression meaning to allow and to forbid). In each case, the apostles decided what was right and wrong. A decision made by the congregation can only have the same validity when it is totally based on what the apostles have bound or loosed. Should a Christian congregation, for example, decide something forbidden or divisive regarding the faithful that the apostles had not bound, it cannot be put into practice. Mistakes are possible in congregational decisions. Not so with the apostles. When, therefore, the Catholic Church takes what the Lord says to the apostles and applies them to church regulations, she is going astray.
Verse 19 — Again I say to you1 if two of you agree on this earth, whatever it may be that they pray about, it shall be granted to them by my father who is in the heavens.2 (Matthew 21:22; I John 3:22, 5:14; James 4:3)
1. In the oldest documents the verse begins: "Again truly I say to you."
2. These words, too, are said to the apostles and apply immediately to them. Through prayer together, the apostles receive from God’s spirit an infallible and, for all times, decisive revelation. Regarding the same wide-ranging promise as it applies to the rest of the believers, see I John 5:14. (All real prayer is naturally in agreement with God’s will. A prayer in conflict with God’s will cannot be prayer.) Among believers, mistakes are still possible; the rules for their thoughts and actions must always be the words of the apostles as long as by God’s grace they understand them. If therefore, two believers have agreed and prayed to God about illumination regarding something, it is not given that the decision to which they came is infallible. Two others could, even after a lot of prayer together, come to a completely opposite result. It was not so with the apostles.
Verse 20 — For wherever two or three are gathered in my name,1 there I am among them.
1. That is to say, it is my name (my things, my honor, etc.) which matters.