In order to get the context of Matthew 18:18 let us read Matthew 18:15-20, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 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. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

These are very helpful verses whenever a problem arises between two people. If someone has done something wrong against you, then go directly to the person and tell him what he has done wrong. Many of us prefer to complain to other people about the wrong that we have suffered, which only makes matters worse. If you go to the offending person, tell him what he has done wrong, and he repents of his sin, then reconciliation can occur. However, if he refuses to repent, then you are instructed in these verses to take one or two others with you. If he refuses to listen to this small group, then tell your local church or assembly about the situation. If he refuses to listen to the church, then “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” This means that he should be denied the privileges of fellowship in the local church until he repents.

Now let us consider verse 18. When the local church binds discipline on an unrepentant person, that decision is honored by the Lord in heaven. Likewise, when the person repents and is loosed from church discipline, then that decision is also honored by the Lord in heaven. In this verse the Lord Jesus gives authority for making church decisions to the entire local church. This is a very humbling responsibility and is not one to be taken lightly. Each one of us needs to keep our eyes on the Lord so that we will have His mind as we give input into difficult church decisions.

A vital part of making proper church decisions is prayer. In verse 19 the Lord encourages His people to pray. He promises that when as few as two people agree about what they are asking of the Lord, that it will be done for them. Problems in the local church can be very discouraging, but the Lord wants to encourage us that He will give us wisdom if we ask for it.

How large of a group of believers is necessary to make up a local church? Verse 20 says that only two or three are necessary. Even in small churches, problems can arise that require church discipline. The Lord has given those two or three people the authority to bind and loose discipline on an unrepentant brother or sister. Let us keep in mind that the purpose of church discipline is that the person will repent and then be received back into full fellowship with the local church. Let us also be encouraged that as we gather unto His precious name, and all that His name stands for, that Christ Himself is in our midst. What a marvelous promise and reality! (171.8) (DJ)