The Book of Luke, Stumbling Blocks, Rebukers and Forgivers, Part I - Lesson 188
Luke 17:1‑4, Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
From the Amplified Bible
AND [Jesus] said to His disciples, Temptations (snares, traps set to entice to sin) are sure to come, but woe to him by or through whom they come! It would be more profitable for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were hurled into the sea than that he should cause to sin or be a snare to one of these little ones [lowly in rank or influence]. Pay attention and always be on your guard [looking out for one another]. If your brother sins (misses the mark), solemnly tell him so and reprove him, and if he repents (feels sorry for having sinned), forgive him. And even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times and says, I repent [I am sorry], you must forgive him (give up resentment and consider the offense as recalled and annulled).
John Donne (1572-1631), from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII.
"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
This speaks of the influence of one man over another even the influence that the death of a man has over another.
It says that no man is an island in these things and our passage for today tells us the same regarding sin.
No man is an island for each of us influences others for good or for evil.
Each of us have been given life and within that life we are held responsible for what our life brings to another’s life.
How our lives touch others is noticed by God for none of us commit sin totally apart from others.
Remember that which started it all by looking at the actions of Eve, the first woman, in the garden.
She was first influenced to sin by the deception of the serpent and then Adam abdicated his role of leader by following his wife into sin but he was not deceived.
Most people are not creative enough to sin independently and they end up following others like lemmings into all kinds of gross and immoral sin.
In our legal system we have terms like aiding and abetting which means there are accessories to crime and in our passage for today the Lord Jesus Christ tells us that there are accessories to sin.
Eve followed the serpent into sin and Adam followed his wife into sin and then we are told that Cain rose up against his brother Abel and slew him.
Abel’s blood offering was approved of God and Cain’s offering of the fruit of the ground was not accepted.
In this case Abel’s standing with God caused jealousy to sprout in Cain which resulted in the sin of the first murder.
We can see not only from scripture but from our own experience that no man is an island when it comes to sin.
Look at this passage in Proverbs 1:10-14,
10My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. 11If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: 12Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: 13We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: 14Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:
It is of the natural heart to want to get into union with others regarding sin.
Sinners do not want to go at sin alone and naturally look for
others with which to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
The teaching of this lesson by Christ to his disciples is not isolated from the rest of that which Luke has recorded.
For it is as a result of all the opposition that Jesus Christ is receiving from the Pharisees and the scribes.
We have seen throughout the gospel of Luke the building up of opposition to Jesus and His teaching.
It is like the building up of the crescendo in a great orchestra piece for as we have gone from chapter to chapter the hatred of Jesus Christ by the Pharisees has been growing more and more intense.
The Pharisee’s whole being was now devoted to using their influence to expose Jesus as a fraud, a law‑breaker, rather than the One who came to fulfill the Law.
Jesus failed to conform to their concept of Messiah for he associated with sinners, spending much more time with them than with the so called righteous.
The Pharisees refused to get their hands dirty helping the sinner but this man Jesus even went so far as to heal them on the Sabbath day.
Jesus Christ kept nothing back exposing their hypocrisy and self-seeking motivation even in the way they held celebrations and Sabbath dinners in order to increase their standing among their peers.
So this teaching of Jesus in chapter 17 is directly connected with the actions of those around Christ and is used as an example of what the disciples should not do.
The first two verses are a warning concerning the seriousness of influencing others in such a way as to encourage them to sin.
The last two verses deal with the beneficial role which the disciples should play in the lives of those who have sinned.
God asked Cain where Abel was and Cain responded with a questions of his own where he asked: Am I my brother’s keeper?
There was no direct answer to this question by God but the direct answer is here in this passage and the answer is Yes, you are to be your brother’s keeper with regard to sin for each of us need keeping.
Disciples of Christ are to be in the keeping from sin of their brothers and in doing this, rebuke and unending forgiveness are the tools that Christ tells us to use.
So many times we concentrate on the forgiveness part of this command but the first step in this process is rebuke which most of us have trouble giving.
Luke 17:1‑2, Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
The word “offences” in the first verse means a trap stick.
This is the stick that is upended which causes an animal to be yanked into a position where he is trapped.
Jesus is saying that in this world traps will be set which will encourage sin.
It is inevitable and we are to be ready for the inevitable.
That is why we are given armor to fend off the fiery darts of the wicked one.
God does not keep us from these things but he always provides us weapons with which to defend ourselves.
This is what parents must do with their children.
Their children are also not to be an island, isolated from the world, but parents are to prepare their children’s defenses against the weapons of this world by seeing to it that they have the Word of God in them.
We live in a fallen world.
Sin is inevitable in a fallen world, and so are those things which tend to promote it.
In biblical terms “the world, the flesh, and the devil” are all being utilized to promote sin.
The world seeks to “press us into its own mold” to conform us to itself and cause us to adopt its values and to imitate or join in its evil deeds.
We can do little to stop the world’s onslaught but we can prepare ourselves by being armed with the sword of the Lord which is the Word of God.
Without the Word of God you and I are defenseless.
By knowing the scriptures we can avoid being a stumbling block to others as Peter attempted to do with our Lord when he sought to turn Him from the way of the cross.
We do not want to be an agent of Satan as Peter was in this instance when Jesus Christ heard words that came from Peter’s mouth but in reality they were from the mouth of Satan.
For Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Matthew 16:23.
Jesus Christ cared for Peter and did not hesitate in rebuking him for being an agent of Satan.
Peter, in this moment, spoke for Satan; he was not thinking God’s thoughts, but men’s thoughts.
He was not speaking as a disciple, but as the enemy himself.
So Christians can easily become a stumbling block to others, but when they do so they are not speaking for God, and they stop functioning as a Christian.
They simple become a tool of the devil.
At this moment in time, they speak for Satan, they speak as an unbeliever.
Not that they are an unbeliever but that they function as one, they are indistinguishable from one, for the moment.
At the bottom line, being a stumbling block is a satanic thing.
It is a characteristic of unbelievers, unbelievers who are destined to hell.
I cannot cause you to sin but I can be a stumbling block that you fall over because you were not alert and you did not have your eyes open to that which the Lord tells us is inevitable.
You are responsible for your sin but I am also responsible if I place stumbling blocks in your path.
We are a “stumbling block” to others when we influence people in the direction of sin.
This is the exact opposite to what we are to be as told us in Hebrews 10:24: And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
In our passage, Jesus never said what the outcome of a stumbling block would be.
But he does give us a choice as to what would be better for that stumbling block than his final destiny.
Jesus said that being drowned in the sea, with a millstone hung around his neck, would be a better fate than that which could occur.
Two bad things but one better than the other.
But no better choices.
The gospel of Matthews infers that the final destiny of the offender is to join the tares as they are gathered up and cast into the fire.
41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
So we see here that when Jesus Christ is talking about offenders, those that promote sin in others, he is talking about unbelievers.
This does not mean that Christians cannot offend but their ultimate end is not with the tares for other scriptures always support the security of the believer.
But the message that we must take is the seriousness of being a stumbling block for were it not for the grace of God we too as believers would be better off with that millstone around our neck and drowning in the sea.
One thing we also learn from this is God’s intense love of his own.
God so loved the world that he gave us his son that his house would be filled and he will do everything to keep offenders from hurting his little ones.
Mothers and fathers would go to all extremes, even to the point of giving their own life to protect their little ones and God also has this intensity of love toward his little ones.
He is saying to all keep your hands off of mine, for my son died for them and I will not tolerate anyone who intends to hurt them.
So look out Pharisee for the Lord has just declared war upon you.
Go ahead and tie that millstone around your neck and cast yourself into the sea for this result will be far better than what the Lord has planned for you.
We have seen in Luke that the Pharisees have been at the forefront of the attacks against our Lord.
It is this group who has consistently tried to discredit Jesus, and has sought to turn men and women from following Him.
My, how this shows what religion does, for religion binds men and women against the truth.
How hard it is for a man to disentangle himself from the clutches of religion.
Many religions baptize babies.
This is the first binding on that child.
It is a binding which keeps him from truth.
But religion is in for it for God has declared war on religion and religious people will be severely punished for all the hindrance that they have been down though the centuries in keeping people from knowing the truth.
I remember the story that Pastor Hobbs told about the young lady who stood her ground and would not let her boyfriend out of the aisle to respond to an invitation to receive Christ at a revival meeting.
Jesus tells that young lady to attach a millstone and go throw herself into the sea for that young lady’s action to prevent that boy from getting saved will be remembered in the judgment.
For she chose to be an offense.
But the Christian is not to be an offense that separates from Christ but he is to seek and restore the sinner when he or she has fallen.
We have not liberty to influence others to sin but we have unrestricted liberty to seek to restore the sinner for this is the example set for us by Jesus Christ.
3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
I am afraid that we do not take sin as seriously as we should for we are not very good at what is directed in this passage.
But the command is clear and when we learn of sin in the life of a brother, and I suppose that means both brothers in Christ and brothers outside of Christ, like the prodigal and his brother, we are obligated to do our part in that which will bring that brother to repentance.
This begins with rebuke.
Rebuke seeks to bring that wayward brother to a realization of the sinful nature of his actions.
Rebuke seeks to bring him to an awareness of the seriousness of sin, and therefore to repent which means to turn from his sin and not do it anymore.
And if this brother repents, he is to be forgiven.
So this is a two part action, the first being rebuke.
We have to get past this first part in order to get to the second part.
Don’t you, as a child of God, want to forgive your brother?
In order to do so you must first confront him with his sin in order to give him opportunity to repent and seek your forgiveness.