The Book of Luke, Stumbling Blocks, Rebukers, Repenters, and Forgivers, Part III - Lesson 190
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.
Jesus Christ has instructed his disciples to rebuke brothers who trespass against them.
They are to repent in order for forgiveness to be exercised in their behalf.
Rebuke, given in faith, is a wonderful thing for it is the foregoer of repentance and forgiveness.
The Christian's attitude toward rebuke, which will honor the Lord, is that it is to be received with meekness.
Rebuke is not easy to accept but if we receive it with humility and a desire to grow in the Lord, it is a must in this life.
Only a fool does not profit when he is rebuked for his mistakes.
The first thing you should do when you are rebuked is to ask yourself whether the rebuke contains any truth.
If it does, you should learn from it, even when it is not given with the right motivation or in the right spirit.
So many do not receive rebuke if it is not given in accordance with certain standards which are very hard to meet and in fact are designed by the natural man to be very hard to meet.
Instead of concentrating on the truth of the rebuke we concentrate on how the rebuke was given.
I've heard it said many times, I admit that I did wrong but it should have been handled differently and I would have responded differently!
To have that spirit is foolish for that man or woman will never learn a thing or improve for God from that rebuke.
But the matter should be committed instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or criticism on your part and teach you the needed lessons.
Remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has criticized us does not begin to know the worst about us.
Most of our wrongs go un-rebuked!
If you have made a mistake or committed a sin, confess it frankly to God with a humble spirit and to anyone you may have injured.
Be willing to learn that you are not infallible and that you need God’s grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path.
When you are criticized, accept what is true and act upon it, and you therefore will become a stronger Christian and one who can be used of God.
It is said, He who profits from rebuke is the wise person.
So the beginning step in gaining profit from rebuke is to repent of the sin for which the rebuke was given.
Then newness can begin for forgiveness brings newness.
Forgiveness means that old things are passed away and that all things become new with that person who forgave and with that person who was forgiven.
Without forgiveness future remembrances of that sin will cloud the relationship and cause further sin.
So Jesus Christ tells us in this passage that our forgiveness is to be unending.
We are to constantly be looking for opportunities to forgive.
Not opportunities to harbor grudges and hatred for those who have sinned against us or others.
Notice the pattern that Jesus gives here in this instruction.
Rebuke, repentance, forgiveness.
Rebuke does not stand alone, repentance does not stand alone, forgiveness does not stand alone.
All of these are related but the main point here is forgiveness.
We are not to rebuke for rebuke's sake.
The offender is not to repent for repentance's sake.
There will be people at church altars across the country today who outwardly repent but do not receive God's forgiveness.
They repent for repentance sake alone.
The aim of rebuke and repentance is forgiveness.
Some of us will not rebuke for fear.
Some of us are more comfortable in harboring the offense than bringing things to a head so that repentance is given an opportunity to be exercised with the ultimate result of forgiveness.
Jonah opposed God's desire to forgive the Ninevites by not going to Niveveh and bringing them God’s rebuke.
Jonah knew that his God was a gracious God and a merciful God, slow to anger and of great kindness and that forgiveness would result if he went.
Jonah was not interested in seeing God forgive such people as the Ninevites.
Jonah would have been glad to go simply to rebuke but he knew that God did not simply rebuke but always rebuked with the purpose of extending forgiveness.
That “Jonah” attitude is still true in our day where we do not wish to see those who offended us be forgiven.
So therefore we do not rebuke but allow those offenses to embitter us and never be forgotten.
So those offenses are allowed to live in our hearts and find a place of permanence which I suppose the wicked heart finds comfortable.
A wicked heart loves to focus on offenses and I suppose that in a way those offenses are its food which sustain it.
It has no interest in disposing of that which provides for its living.
And some of us simply rebuke for rebuke’s sake.
I need to get this off my chest or I'll explode, you say.
And when you get it off your chest you say, I feel so good.
But that benefits only you.
This rebuke is selfish rebuke totally without any benefit to the offender.
It is vengeance rebuke toward that one who offended instead of reconciliation with the offender.
This is not godly rebuke but the rebuke of the flesh.
How do you rebuke your children?
Do you simply lash out at the offending child without thinking that the child needs to be forgiven?
Is it rebuke given without giving the child an opportunity to repent and to say he or she is sorry?
You should always seek the “I'm sorry Momma”or I'm sorry Daddy” from your children after they have been rebuked for an offense.
It may not be a sincere “I'm sorry” but you are teaching the pattern, rebuke, repentance and forgiveness.
Godly rebuke is always given with the ultimate purpose of forgiveness.
So Jesus gives us this three step process.
Rebuke, repent, forgiveness.
None of the steps are isolated from the others and if they are, then that step is simply done in the flesh.
But if rebuke is given with the aim toward forgiveness then that rebuke is given in the Spirit.
This idea changes everything when it comes to rebuke.
It will bring a humble spirit into the rebuke for the rebuke is given for the benefit of another and with forgiveness as the ultimate purpose and desire.
What if the offender does not repent?
That is God's business.
Your business is to do your duty toward that offender and to give opportunity for repentance and if repentance comes you are to forgive.
Forgiveness is to be granted, Jesus said, even to those who sin against us repeatedly and habitually.
For this is the heart of God with us, is it not?
Does not God forgive us of our repeated and habitually committed sin?
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32, And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
What if God turned off forgiveness when you reached a certain prescribed number of confessions and repentances.
What if He kept a tally of your offenses and when it reached a certain prescribed number he stopped forgiving you?
Are we not to be conformed to the image of Christ in this?
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.
Forgiveness is not to be hoarded and kept for special occasions but it is to be free and granted at all times of repentance.
Forgiveness is to be granted, Jesus taught, to those who have committed personal offenses against us.
And forgiveness is to be granted, on the basis of a verbal confession alone.
We are not to question the genuineness or sincerity of the confession, we are not to demand some proof or make the offender jump through hoops in order to receive our forgiveness.
We are not to attach strings to our forgiveness but Jesus teaches that forgiveness must be immediately granted, when we receive a verbal confession alone.
Forgiveness is also to be granted, Jesus said, even to those who sin against us repeatedly and habitually.
It is an habitual sinner who is most difficult to forgive —repeatedly, and on the basis of a confession alone.
To forgive is to pardon, to remit, as an offense or debt; to overlook an offense and treat the offender as not guilty.
It is to forgive the offense and to send it away.
It is to reject it; that is to not impute it to the offender.
So if true forgiveness is given it is as if the current offense is the only offense that ever happened for all former offenses have been put away and are to be forgotten.
You may say I’ve forgiven that scoundrel too many times to forgive him again.
That conclusion reveals that you never did forgive him those offenses in the first place for to truly forgive is to send the offense away and to remember it no more.
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident.
“Don't you remember it?” her friend asked.
“No,” came Barton's reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting it.”
General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.”
Jesus teaches that forgiveness is granted by faith, not by the works of the offending party.
It is no wonder, then, that the apostles will ask the Lord to increase their faith in the very next verse for this instruction requires much faith to carry out.
So the requirements of this passage, to not cause others to stumble and to be ready to forgive at all times requires strength from above.
The ability to forgive on the basis of these requirements is only possible by faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The just shall live by faith not by the flesh.
The flesh will rebuke for rebuke’s sake, but the Spirit will only rebuke for the offender’s sake, with the ultimate purpose of extending forgiveness in Jesus name.
This passage of Luke 17 convinces us that we are to take sin in the life of a brother seriously, and to do everything possible to turn that brother from his sin when he falls.
The Pharisees prided themselves for taking sin seriously.
They, however, looked for sin in others, and then withdrew from those whose sins they found personally offensive.
By these actions they rebuked sinners and turned from them without the call for repentance, with the ultimate objective of forgiveness.
Yes, we are to take sin seriously but we are to seek out our sinning brother and do all we can to turn him from that sin to God by repentance and forgiveness.
Jesus’ disciples are instructed in this passage to act as he does, to seek to bring sinners to repentance and forgiveness.
His disciples are to be as eager to forgive those who have sinned against them as Jesus is to forgive those who have sinned against Him.
This is why it was so easy for sinners to come to Jesus, but so hard for the righteous to come to Him for Jesus loves to forgive sinners.
If you have never experienced His forgiveness, it is freely available today for Jesus has suffered and died on the cross of Calvary in order for him to forgive.
He has suffered God’s condemnation for your sins.
All you must do is to repent and to receive that forgiveness for today is the day of salvation.
A Prayer by Andrew Murray,
To forgive like thee, blessed Son of God! I take this as the law of my life. Thou who hast given the command, givest also the power. Thou who hadst love enough to forgive me, wilt also fill me with love and teach me to forgive others. Thou who didst give me the first blessings, in the joy of having my sins forgiven, wilt surly give me the second blessing, and deeper joy of forgiving others as thou hast forgiven me. Oh, fill me with the faith in the power of thy love in me, to make me like Thyself, to enable me to forgive the seventy times seven, and so to love and bless all around me.
O My Jesus, Thy example is my law: I must be like Thee. And Thy example is my gospel too. I can be as thou art. Thou art at once my law and my life. What Thou demandest of me by Thy example, Thou workest in me by Thy life. I shall forgive like Thee.
Lord, only lead me deeper into my dependence on Thee, into all sufficiency of Thy grace and the blessed keeping which comes from Thy indwelling. Then shall I believe and prove the all-prevailing power of love. I shall forgive even as Christ has forgiven me. Amen.