Matthew 18:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 18:16, NIV: "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.'"

Matthew 18:16, ESV: "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."

Matthew 18:16, KJV: "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."

Matthew 18:16, NASB: "'But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED."

Matthew 18:16, NLT: "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."

Matthew 18:16, CSB: "But if he won't listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established."

What does Matthew 18:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This is the second step in a process Jesus taught His disciples for confronting believers who have sinned or are continuing to sin. The beginning of the process involves only the person who is wronged and the one who has sinned. Or, perhaps, it involves the person who has witnessed another person sinning in some specific way. In either case, one person approaches another about the sin. The goal is confession and repentance in order to restore the relationship (Matthew 18:15).

More often than we realize, a simple conversation between two people is all that is needed for someone to admit wrongdoing and to begin to make different choices. Sometimes, though, the sinful person refuses to see their sin. He or she may deny it. They may refuse to stop.

If that is the case, Jesus now describes the next step in the process. The person who initiated the complaint should return, this time with a small group, such as one or two other people. Jesus is confirming here the principle established in the law in Deuteronomy 19:15, "A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established."

There are clear advantages to making this the next step in conflict resolution. The addition of one or two other people still keeps the matter fairly private. The goal remains repentance and restoration, not public shaming. However, adding more witnesses ensures that the issue is not merely about differing opinions or perspectives. Both the accuser and the accused have the opportunity to make their case to a third party. It may even be decided by those new participants that it's the accuser, not the accused, who is in the wrong.

If the additional witnesses agree that the accused is participating in sin, he or she has the opportunity to repent. Otherwise, the witnesses can confirm to the larger body in the next step of the process the refusal to repent (Matthew 18:17).