Matthew 18:16

16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’a

Read Matthew 18:16 Using Other Translations

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.

What does Matthew 18:16 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Matthew 18:16

But if he will not hear thee
. But will either deny the fact, or extenuate and excuse it, or defend it, or at least is obstinate and incorrigible, shows no signs of repentance, but is angry, gives hard words, and ill language:

then take with thee one or two more;
members of the church, and perhaps of weight, reputation, and character, who either know some thing of the matter, and so can confirm, by their testimony, what has been alleged, in order to bring the person to conviction and acknowledgment; or if they do not, and which seems rather to be the sense, they may, by hearing what is said on both sides, judge where the truth lies, and join with the offended person in the admonition, that it may fall with the greater weight, and become more effectual:

that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be
referring to ( Deuteronomy 19:15 ) . So that should the matter be brought before the whole church, these witnesses would be able to testify the truth of the case, and report the steps that had been taken, and what effect they had had; so that things being thus prepared, the case would appear plain and easy, and without difficulty. The whole of this is very agreeable to the rules and customs of the Jews, and is founded on the law, in ( Leviticus 19:17 ) , upon which they form rules very much like to these. They represent God himself taking such a method as this, with the sons of men F13:

``When the holy blessed God reproves a man, he reproves him in love, privately: if he receives it, it is well; if not, he reproves him among his friends: if he receives it, it is well; if not he reproves him openly before the eyes of all; if he receives it is well; if not, he leaves him, and reproves him no more.''

And this is an instruction to men, how they should reprove their friends. They say F14, "he that sees anything in his friend that is not becoming, he ought to reprove him." And which is elsewhere more F15 largely expressed:

``he that seeth his friend walking in a way that is not good, he is bound to reprove him, even a disciple his master; and this he shall do for his good, and in order to bring him to the life of the world to come, or eternal life; and "if he takes it of him, it is well": but if not, he must reprove again, "a second and a third time"; and so he must reprove him many times, if, or until he hears him.''

And this they require to be done, in the most private manner:

``reproof out of love (they F16 say) is secret from the children of men; whoever reproves his friend in love, seeks to secrete his words from the sons of men, that he may not expose him thereby to shame and reproach.''

That is, as the gloss F17 on it observes,

``he seeks to reprove him in secret, so that he may not be put to shame before many.''

If this way does not succeed, they allow of a public reproof, for so it is said F18;

``thou mayest not reprove him with hard words, till his countenance changes; for whoever causes the face of his friend to turn pale publicly, has no portion in the world to come; but thou mayest reprove in the words of heaven, or God; and if he does not return privately, thou mayest make him ashamed publicly, and expose his sin before him; and reproach and curse him, until he returns to do well; so did all the prophets to Israel.''

They plead also for a second reproof, from the text in ( Leviticus 19:17 ) {s}.

``From whence does it appear, that he that sees anything in his friend unbecoming, ought to reprove him? As it is said, "thou shalt in any wise rebuke" if he reproves him, (lbq alw) , "and he does not receive it", (he does not take it kindly, or, as here, he does not hear him,) from whence is it manifest, that he must return and reprove him (or repeat the reproof)? from what is said, reproving thou shall reprove.''

The whole of this is very fully expressed in a few words, by one F20 of their best writers, and in great agreement with these rules of Christ:

``He that sees his friend sinning, or going in a way not good, he is commanded to cause him to return to that which is good; and to let him know, that he sins against himself by his evil works; as it is said, "thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour": he that reproveth his friend, whether for things between him and himself, or whether for things between him and God, "ought to reprove him", (wmue Nybl wnyb) , "between him and himself"; and should speak to him mildly, and in tender language; and let him know that he does not speak to, him, but for his good, and to bring him to everlasting life; "and if he receives it of him, it is well, and if not, he must reprove him", (tyvylvw hyynv Mep) "a second and a third time"; and so a man must continually reprove, until the sinner strikes him and says", I will not hear."''

Buxtorf has produced a passage out of one of their writers F21, in the very language in which Christ here delivers himself:

``The wise man says, if thy friend does thee an injury, reprove him between him and thee alone: if he hears thee, thou hast already gained; if he does not hear thee, speak to him before one or two, who may hear the matter, and if he will not hear reckon him a "worthless friend".''

One would almost be ready to think, that this writer should mean Christ by the wise man, were it not for the implacable enmity they bear unto him. The above author has cited also the following passage out of the same F23 writer, pertinent to the present purpose:

``A friend that declares to thee thy faults, "between him and thee", whenever he meets thee, is better to thee than a friend, that whenever he meets thee, gives thee a golden penny.''


F13 Raya Mehimna in Zohar, in Lev. fol. 35. 4.
F14 T. Bab. Betacot, fol. 31. 1, 2.
F15 Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora pr. Affirm. 11.
F16 Zohar. in Lev. fol. 19. 3.
F17 Imre Binah in ib.
F18 Milzvot Tora, pr. neg. 6.
F19 T. Bab. Erachin, fol. 16. 2.
F20 Maimon. Hilch. Deyot. c. 6. sect. 7.
F21 Mischar happeninim apud Buxtorf. Florileg. Heb. p. 297.
F23 Ibid.
California - Do Not Sell My Personal Information  California - CCPA Notice