Vol.VII No.IX Pg.7
November 1970

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

In Matt. 18:17 we are told to treat the one disfellowshipped as a heathen man and a publican, but 2 Thes. 3:15 says, count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. How do you reconcile these verses? HT


The K.J. heathen is Gentile, someone not a Jew (RV), and Jesus was speaking to Jews — hence, someone not in communion or fellowship, not sharing— a common interest in clarifying and correcting the differences that may arise. (The publican had cut himself off from the Jewish com- munity by becoming a tax collector for the occupying force, the Romans.) Jesus was saying, Recognize the man for what he has proven himself to be — a man apart, one not having the same interest in righting wrongs that all true followers of Christ must have.

This does not authorize mistreatment. As Adam Clarke says, To whom thou art, as a Christian, to owe earnest and persevering good will, and acts of kindness. Often the very opposite is observed — and those who were first wronged (to grant a context like that of Jesus illustration) now are vindictive; acting like the devil, but justifying it with the words of Christ.. How ungodly can men become? Two wrongs do not make right.

In 2 Thes. Paul says, count him not as an enemy i.e., hated or perhaps outside (See Vines); but admonish —. The word for admonish is used eight times in the N.T., and four of these times it is translated, warn. (Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 4:14 etc.) Vine says it is the training by word, whether of encouragement, Or, if necessary, by reproof or remonstrance. It would seem that there is not the same sort of rejection under consideration here, as in Titus 3:10, where the same word is used. (A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admoni- tion, reject.) Maybe we are too prone to want everything cut and dried — disfellowship is disfellowship — so we hastily classify all passages that seem to deal with such in a sort of church- doctrine package. Consider, And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude, 22-23)

And something else that deserves attention: brother does not necessarily refer to a faithful follower of Christ. All men are brothers in the flesh (in somewhat the same sense as neighbors, cf. Heb. 2:17) and the fellow -Gentiles were brethren. (KJ says publicans, Matt. 5:47) Vines Dictionary gives multi-uses of the term, and Diessman classes brother as a word having a wide connotation in the first century. (Something like comrade in Russia; or as we address someone as Buddy.)

Paul says. Do not company with the lazy busybody, to feed, condone his ways, etc.; yet continue to train by word, reproving, remonstrating, as could be expected in the relationship of people who still have some things in common. (Be not weary in well doing. Vs.13) Thus viewed, the two passages are not in conflict.