“If your brother sins against you, go and show him ...” (Matthew 18:15-17)

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

What does this mean?

Here Jesus is discussing a situation that might occur between two fellow disciples or students. Otherwise, there would be no purpose for him saying that if the other did not accommodate or correct the transgression, then treat the situation as one would treat a tax collector or unbeliever ("pagan").

The translation here is obviously not correct in its word choice because at the time of Jesus' teaching, there was no "church." "Church" is being translated from the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) which simply means an assembly or group of some sort. Thus a more appropriate translation would be "assembly" rather than "church."

In this case, "assembly" would aptly describe the addition of "take one or two others along."

We must remember that Jesus was speaking directly to his students. And since Jesus was disregarded and largely dismissed by temple rabbis and temple organizers (pharisees and sadducees), the only group that Jesus could be referring to was his circle of disciples.

Jesus is also speaking to his students at a particular time and circumstance - not to the entire world some two thousand years from the time he spoke those words.

These are specific instructions, and yes they can be applied in a broader sense, but finding two or three people to help settle a disagreement between ourselves and someone else may prove difficult in many circumstances.

Today, two people might employ a mediator or arbitrator to help work out a difference. Courts are also sometimes used but these can get nasty because lawyers charge big dollars for their services.

Gettig through disputes

The bottom line of Jesus' point is to try to focus our lives upon the Supreme Being, and get through our petty disputes as simply and quickly as possible.

What about the disputes between the various sectarian institutions?

Today various sects that claim to follow Jesus disagree about what Jesus was teaching. But the disputes are with Jesus, not between the various sects. Because Jesus taught simple truths that can be easily applied.

The problem is the election and appointment of the teachers by the various sects. This contradicts Jesus' teachings.

The process given by the Supreme Being and practiced by Jesus is that scripture should be translated and interpreted by those who have been empowered by the Supreme Being rather than by those chosen or appointed by other people.

In the case of the sectarian organizations that have delivered the Bible and its various translations, those translators have largely been chosen and employed by committees of politically oriented members whose purpose was to sustain their respective organizations. In other words, they were not chosen by God. They were politically appointed. Their appointment was made with an intent to support the institution.

This is illustrated by the various appointments of the Nicene Council bishops made by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century AD as he sought to secure a single institution that would support the Roman government's objective to dominate the Middle East and Europe. This facilitated the Roman Catholic Church's domination of the region for over a thousand years.

Emperor Constantine organized the first Synod of Nicaea. Constantine hand-picked prominent officials of some of the organized assemblies from around Europe at that time, and enforced the selection of a single doctrine among this council - defining Jesus and his teachings.

The problem is not that Jesus was defined and his teachings interpreted. The problem is that this was done through a political process. An election of sorts, where the council had to come to an agreement. As such, there were differing opinions regarding who Jesus was and the emphasis of his teachings. But Constantine forced the council to come up with one interpretation.

This is a political process defined by men.

While an assembly of people might help us settle a dispute with someone, the Supreme Being nor His representative cannot be defined by a political process. His teachings cannot be interpreted correctly by a political process.

The Supreme Being is who He is, and His teachings are what they are. Only the Supreme Being and His representative can define them and interpret them.

From the Nicene Synods and Nicene Creed forward we find practically the entire state of affairs of the various sectarian institutions have followed this process of electing leaders including popes, bishops, cardinals, priests and ministers through political assembly and/or political councils.

This makes each of these leaders invalid and without authority. Why? Because they were elected by men. They are being chosen by men within these institutions. And as a result, those popes, bishops, priests and ministers are representing the councils and institutions that elected them. They are not representing the Supreme Being.

Oh, but can't these councils be representing God? No. Only a loving servant of the Supreme Being can represent Him. Groups of people do not represent Him. By their very nature - being a group - they cannot represent the Supreme Being.

Our personal relationship with God

Our relationship with the Supreme Being is a personal one. This is how the Supreme Being operates. He has personal relationships with each person.

As such, we can only receive the Supreme Being through His representative - who enjoys a close personal loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

Jesus illustrated this. He accepted John the Baptist as his personal teacher - accepting his baptism. Then he went out and taught people, and accepted each student on an individual basis.

Then he asked each of them to go out and pass on those teachings. He did not appoint any single person. He asked all of his students to pass his teachings on.

But those who were able to do so were those who had heard and followed those teachings and were thus empowered by the Supreme Being to pass them on.

There was no council or appointed group. Yes, Jesus had twelve "close" disciples who assisted him in his preaching affairs. But he also sent out 72 disciples (Luke 10:1) to go out and preach for him. So he wasn't appointing only twelve people or even appointing 72. Rather, there were 72 individuals who had each heard Jesus' teachings and applied them to their life.

This is God's system. One individual learns from an individual spiritual teacher who learned from another individual spiritual teacher and so on. This is a succession of individual students and individual teachers, who each learned from a spiritual teacher, then followed those instructions, and were eventually empowered by God to teach to others. It is an individual process. It is not a political process.

This is because love for God is deeply personal and takes place between each individual and the Supreme Being, who is the Greatest Person:

“But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen. by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)