What About “Ought” Against a Brother?
Ought against another is commonly misunderstood and misapplied. Some have the mistaken idea that at any time and in any way where there may be a difference between brethren, that it constitutes an “ought” against him and you must personally go to him and straighten it out. This is not what the Bible says!
Matthew 18:15-17 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” In the King James version of the Bible the word Trespass is used where the English Standard version uses sins. The word “trespass” means “to err, to sin”. This would be a true sin, not just a difference of opinion. It is obvious enough that the whole church would recognize it as a sin. It is far better to go to him and make things right than brood over it and gender hatred toward him (John 3:15). The word “you” makes it personal. This may be done by injuring one’s character, person or property. Personal offenses should be taken care of privately if the offending party is willing to do so. If he is not willing to be reconciled, then two or three more are to be taken along as witnesses (v.16). If he still refuses to repent, then it is to be made public before the church (v. 17).
Matthew 18:15-17 is not speaking about an error (false doctrine) taught in public. Such is not a sin against one’s person. It is a public sin, and when one has committed a public sin either by teaching or practice, he is to be exposed publicly. 1 Timothy 5:20 says “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” Romans 16:17, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” Titus 3:10, “ As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” Paul warned of several in his preaching work: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20), Demas (II Timothy 4:10), Hymenaeus and Philters (II Timothy 2:17). He also exposed Peter’s error at Antioch in Galatians 2:11.
Both parties in a personal offense have the obligation to go to the other, not sit back and say “it’s his problem, let him come to me.” “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24)