So often in this movement we hear people speak about the Matthew 18 process, yet so few really understand how this process works.
The process involved is outlined in Matthew 18:15-20 and is suggested by Matt. 18:6f.
The Matthew 18 process is nothing new, it was a restatement and a clarification of the Deut. 19:15 process (as Mt. 18:16 quotes Deut. 19:15). It is a description of how a Beit Din functions.
STEP 1 “And if your brother sins against you, go and reprove him between you and him alone, and if he will hear you, you have won your brother.” (Mt. 18:15).
Two important elements here. First in order to bring a case, you yourself must be a victim of the offense yourself. Secondly you must approach him PRIVATELY about the matter, and finally, if he repents the case is dropped there. Also the matter must be an actual “sin” i.e. a violation of Torah, not just something that they did that you did not like.
STEP 2 “But if he will not hear you, take to yourself one witness or two that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” (Mt. 18:16)
The next step is to approach him privately with the witnesses. Torah requires that a matter must be verified by two or more witnesses (Deut. 19:15). In this step you are establishing to the “brother who sins against you” that you have the Torah required witnesses to bring the matter to a Beit Din. These must be valid “witnesses” according to Torah. They must be upstanding Torah observant individuals themselves in good standing with the community, and they must have ACTUALLY WITNESSED all elements of the sin take place.
This does not mean, as some practice it, to bring two more people that agree with the first person that something the “target” did was a sin, they must be witnesses of all elements of the sin itself as it transpired.
It is not always possible to escalate a case to STEP 2 because oftentimes there are not two or more Torah observant witnesses.
STEP 3 “And if he will not hear them, speak to him in the assembly” (Mt. 18:17a)
This is NOT a license to commit Lashon HaRa. The Assembly here is NOT the Assembly of Israel. In context the “Assembly” here is the Beit Din “the judges who serve in those days” (Deut. 19:17) who have the power to “bind” and “loose” (Mt. 18:18) which are terms used in Hebrew and Aramaic to refer to halachic ruling allowing or forbidding activities.
STEP 4 “but if he neglects to hear in the Assembly, let him be to you as a Goy or a transgressor” (Mt. 18:17)
The Assembly/Beit Din does not immediately disfellowship even if they find a man guilty. The Beit Din passes a judgment, and if the alleged sinner refuses to accept that judgment then he is to be disfellowshipped.
Verse 19-20 is poorly understood, notice it says “again…” meaning it is repeating and elaborating, not adding a whole new idea. “if two of you [witnesses] will agree on earth as touching any thing that they [the Assembly] will ask, it will be for them [the Assembly] of my Father which is in heaven. For in any place where two or three [witnesses] will assemble [come before the Beit Din] in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
This tells us the two witnesses must agree.