Rethinking Matthew 18 Conflict Resolution: 'The Importance of Context and Culture'

I like to joke that I would view my life worthwhile if my tombstone read:

“He got them to pay attention to context and culture!”

Matthew 18 conflict resolution

Rethinking Matthew 18 Conflict Resolution

Working a crowd into an “amen-ing” frenzy with a proof–text having no biblically legitimate application is a widely practiced and learnable skill. A shoe salesman’s persuasion, with Tony Robbins’ charm, and a breathy evangelist’s passion can entrench a good bit of doctrinal and methodological nonsense into the Body of Christ. Accuracy sometimes suffers in direct proportion to heart rate and goose bumps: an adrenaline rush being equivalent to “the anointing” or “the Spirit moving!”  Mmmmmm . . . maybe . . . maybe not . . .

If a thumping heart has no essential spiritual significance, neither does intellectualism. The danger in any study of the Scriptures is that an idea or a theory of God can easily become a substitute for God: impressive to the mind when God as a living reality is absent from the soul. [1]  A.W. Tozer decried the substitution of the voice of the parrot for the voice of the turtledove in the Church: [2] that is, the uncritical repetition of what we have been taught or experienced, assuming that what is, must be; or that assent to Paul’s doctrine is the same as possessing Paul’s life.

None of us are totally free from the imperceptible influence of our experiences, assumptions, and culture upon our understanding of Scripture. If the Scripture is alive, and it is, the ever-present challenge is to allow its Voice to speak to us, not to project our voice onto it, thus hearing only what we have been conditioned to hear. [3] The Word of God does not present itself to us. We present our selves to it. Familiarity deadens the hearing and numbs the conscience. The curse of modern Christian leadership is the pattern of looking around and taking our spiritual bearing from what we see, [or what we desire!] [4] rather than from what the Lord has said. [5]

By neglecting culture and context, Matthew 18 (Mt.18) has suffered from careless interpretation and questionable application. It is commonly used as a procedural template for gossip control, resolving interpersonal offences, and local church issues. It’s also frequently applied to the believer’s authority in spiritual warfare to: bind and loose principalities, bind satan, bind the strong man, “bind people to the will of God,” and “loose” angels, etc.

I believe we have seen what we wanted to see and heard what we wanted to hear.

The Rescue of Matthew 18

The Rescue of Matthew 18

This blog is an excerpt from our booklet: The Rescue of Matthew 18, available in print and electronic formats at


Copyright 2014,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

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[1] Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets, New York: Harper-Collins, 1962.

[2] Tozer, A. W. Keys to the Deeper Life. The Sunday Magazine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957.

[3] Acts 13:27. The essence of religiosity is to be committed to the Scriptures but not hear the Voice in the Scriptures.

[4] My addition. Some “faith” theologies concerning church growth are no more than unbridled human desire for success, energized by Madison Avenue sales techniques, with the window dressing of a few Proverbs thrown in to provide  “biblical” cover . . . if it gets the results we want, it must be God. A well-known TV prophet (so-called) said: “Faith is imagination, imagination is creative power.” In other words, any thing you can imagine, you can create, and slap God’s endorsement on it. It’s yours. That’s not Biblical faith. It’s paganism which saturates American  “Christian” TV. God is not “utilized.” Human imagination is the root of idolatry!

[5] Tozer, A. W. Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts. CampHill: Christian Publications, 1984.

5 comments on “Rethinking Matthew 18 Conflict Resolution: 'The Importance of Context and Culture'

  1. I think of a couple things as a result of reading your post;

    Prov 25:2 – It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
    But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

    This speaks to the point about us presenting ourselves to the Word – about needing to “get into” it, like digging for gold

    the other point is the dulling of the ears that comes from the multitudes who go to church each week to attend an event as a spectator – where the reality is that we are the church, it is so much more than just going to church.

  2. Sent from my iPhone

    Begin forwarded message:

    > From: Sword of the Kingdom
    > Date: March 27, 2014 at 4:39:21 PM EDT
    > To:
    > Subject: [New post] “None Dared Join Them for Fear” – Why did Pagans Join the Early Ekklesia?
    > Reply-To: “Sword of the Kingdom”

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