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Q:

What did Jesus mean when he said to treat an unrepentant sinner as a “pagan or a tax collector” (Mt 18:17)?

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The following quote from the commentary by Craig Keener helps explain the attitude implied in this verse: “Neither outsiders nor the sinner should continue under the delusion that this person is truly a follower of Jesus. One should treat such a person as a tax gatherer (cf. 9:9; 21:32) or a Gentile (cf. 5:47; 6:7; 20:25…)—unclean and to be avoided. Although lesser forms of public discipline existed (e.g….2 Thess 3:6…), the discipline urged here was full excommunication, implying spiritual death (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20; Titus 3:10-11).” Recall that Jesus reached out to the “tax collectors and sinners” specifically because “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Mt 9:10-12). If a church reaches this stage in disciplining a member, it must be asked whether the errant brother or sister really understood the gospel to begin with. He or she is now the target of outreach as much as pastoral ministry. more
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