Sermon #123                                                 Luke Sermons


     Title:          Strong Doctrine

     Text:          Luke 17:1-5

     Subject:     Offence, Forgiveness, and Faith

     Date:         Sunday Evening—May 2, 2004

     Tape #       Y-17b

     Readings:   Bob Poncer and James Jordan



The title of my message tonight is “Strong Doctrine.” Our text contains the strongest doctrine set forth in Holy Scripture. Tonight, we will be looking into the deep things of God. Our text has nothing but strong meat. By comparison, the things taught in our text will make predestination, election, reprobation, limited atonement, and efficacious grace appear to be mere milk for newborn babies in the kingdom of God.


You will find my text in Luke 17:1-5. Find your place and follow along with the Word of God open before you.


Verse 1 ― “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!”


Then said he unto the disciples” ― The Master is addressing his disciples, those who trust him, who believe his doctrine, follow his Word, serve him and seek to honor him. Our Lord’s words, then, are to you and me, who profess to be his disciples, who claim to be washed in his blood, robed in his righteousness, and saved by his grace. Now, watch what he says…


It is impossible but that offences will come” ― What offenses is he talking about? How is it that these offenses must come? Let me answer the second question first.


Offenses must come because God has purposed them and has purposed to use them or overrule them for the salvation and everlasting good of his elect and the glory of his own great name. Multitudes are of the opinion expressed by Charles Finney in his sermon on this text. Finney said, “The doctrine of this text is that sin, under the government of God, can not be prevented.” Of course, Finney’s assertion is utter blasphemy. To suggest that there is something, anything beyond the absolute control of God is to deny Godhood altogether.


(Psa 76:10)  “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”


(Isa 45:7)  “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”


Offenses must come because by these things the Lord God distinguishes true believers from false professors.


(1 Cor 11:19)  “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”


(Acts 20:30)  “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”


(1 Tim 4:1)  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”


(2 Pet 2:1-2)  “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2) And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”


What are the offenses our Lord has in mind in this passage? What are these offenses that must come? The word that is translated offenses means “stumbling blocks,” “things that calls people to fall.” It is a word that we would use to refer to the trigger device that makes the trap door of a snare catch its victim.


We must read these words in their context. They immediately follow the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Our Lord is talking about offenses that deceive the soul, offenses that carry eternity bound men and women to hell. The offenses our Lord is talking about are here are not mere hurt feelings or injured pride, but

·       Damning Heresies ― The Judaizers at Galatia and the will-worshippers at Colosse!

·       And Behavior that leads others to ruin. ― The Sins of One Generation visited upon Another in Divine Judgment!


The whole world is a stumbling-block. There is not one thing in it which is not calculated to turn the heart from God. Take the merest trifles: dress, the vanities in the street, the flatteries of man, the fame and riches it offers, and its religion, all tend to elevate the flesh, as in the case of the rich man in the parable.


Verses 1-2 ― “But woe unto him, through whom they come! It 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.”


Our Lord here refers to an ancient form of capital punishment reserved for only the most reprehensible criminals. He is saying, “It would be better for a man to be guilty of any horrid crime for which men are justly executed than to be guilty of causing another to perish in hell!”


Who are “these little ones?” Again, the answer must be determined by the context. The little ones of whom our Lord is speaking here are those poor, despised publicans and sinners who were sitting before him. Our Savior, has been talking to the Scribes and Pharisees, who despised these little ones and would by their religion shut them out of heaven. Now, as he addresses his disciples, he waves his hand over the sinners sitting before him and says, “Woe unto him, through whom they come! It 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.”


Let us ever beware of our Lord’s warning and take care never to be the cause of offense, the instrument of destruction for another.


When do men cause “offenses” to come? Certainly this is done any time they persecute believers, or endeavor to deter others from serving Christ. And offenses come by heretical doctrine, which subverts the souls of men.


But offenses are not limited to such actions. We lay snares by which Satan traps the souls of many whenever bring reproach upon the gospel by our behavior.


·       This was the result of David’s sin when he took Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Nathan said to him…


(2 Sam 12:14)  “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.”


·       This was the crime Paul laid against the Jews, when he said, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (Rom. 2:24).


Let us take care that we give no offense to eternity bound sinners, that we lay no snare before them, that we destroy none.


(1 Cor 10:31-32)  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (32) Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”


Verse 3 ― “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”


Here our Lord moves on to another of the deep things of God. He warns us to carefully avoid giving offense to eternity bound men and women in verses 1 and 2. Now, in verses 3 and 4, he tells us (his disciples, you and I who believe the gospel) not to take offense at the actions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.


Take heed to yourselves” ― It is ever our proud tendency to take heed to others, to guard others, and to correct others. The Scriptures constantly teach us to take heed to, to guard, to discipline, and to correct ourselves.


If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him” ― If your brother or sister in Christ says, or does something by which he wrongs you, graciously, kindly speak to him about it and no one else, make him aware of it and no one else, always presuming that there was no intention on his part to hurt, injure, or offend you.


The word rebuke does not mean, “ream him out,” but show him what he has done. He may be shocked to discover it. In fact, the word carries with it the idea of showing honor! Yes, when I have been hurt, injured, or offended by my brother, it is my responsibility to show him honor.


And if he repent, forgive him” ― As soon as he says, “I’m sorry. “I’m so sorry. I would not intentionally hurt you for the world,” forgive him. Drop all resentment and anger, and show him nothing but sweetness of temper, the kindness of love, and the respect of one who has done no wrong ― And do it immediately!


Perhaps you think, “Lord, that’s tough.” Oh, no. That’s not tough. The next line is – tough on our proud flesh!


Verse 4 ― “And 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.”


Our brothers and sisters are just exactly like us. Like us, they do the same, dumb things over and over again.


(Prov 24:16)  “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”


Nothing is more constantly urged in the New Testament than the practice of forgiveness. Why? Because there is nothing to which we are more naturally disinclined.

·       Our flesh wants vengeance. Grace teaches forgiveness.

·       Pride wants to punish. Mercy teaches forgiveness.

·       Self-righteousness demands retribution. Love demands forgiveness.


If I cannot forgive my brother the few trifling offences he may have committed against me, I know nothing experimentally of that free and full forgiveness that sinners have by the grace of God in Christ.


(Mat 6:9-15)  “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (10) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (14) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: (15) But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”


(Mat 18:35)  “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”


Our Lord warns, “Take heed to yourselves,” because nothing is so harmful to your soul, nothing makes you so miserable and useless as a proud, hard, unforgiving heart. Nothing makes a person more utterly wretched on the inside as nursing hurt feelings and feeding malice with the manure of resentment.


Our Lord’s word to us here is, “Do yourself no harm.” The least degree of malice, hatred, or revenge, is altogether contrary to the gospel we believe and totally inconsistent with the character of our blessed Lord.


But he knows what is in us. He remembers that we dust, ever encumbered by our flesh. He knows how very prone we are to offend one another, how quick we are to hurt and injure each other, how repeatedly we say and do things to quench the Spirit, disrupt the peace, and injure the fellowship of his body.


Therefore, he tenderly teaches us how to correct the evil. When your brother does something against you, do not resent him for it, but pity him, pray for him. Call his name before your heavenly Father, his heavenly Father. If he aggravates his offence by frequent repetition, still, do not resent him, but pity him, pray for him, and do whatever you can to help him.


(Gal 6:1-3)  “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (3) For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”


As often as he offends, that often, forgive. If he repents, forgive him. If he does not repent, let that be his problem. Forgive him any way.


William Mason wrote, “We must not, at our peril, entertain anger, or let the sun go down on our wrath, but in our hearts freely and fully forgive an offending brother. But what if he remains stubborn and persists in a spirit of bitterness? Even then we are to forgive him in our hearts, and be desirous of embracing him in love.”


·       As God's thoughts of love are toward us before we turn to him, so our thoughts of love should be to our offending brethren before they turn to us.

·       Does the Son of God require us to forgive every repeated offence, even until seventy times seven, 490 times a day? I find something wonderfully glorious in that. ― Surely he will magnify his love and display his mercy in pardoning the innumerable offences of all who turn to him!


Our Lord has been addressing his disciples in general. When the apostles, the preachers among them, heard his strong doctrine, this was their response


Verse 5 ― “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.”


They understood that this was strong doctrine, far too for flesh to embrace. Flesh can grasp eternal justification, distinguishing grace, sovereign predestination, reprobation, and limited atonement. By comparison, those things are a piece of cake. Flesh can understand and promote the most rigidly orthodox dogma. Flesh loves and revels in church doctrine and the mysteries of prophecy.


But forgives requires a continual supply of grace, grace experienced deep in our souls, by which the Lord God continually increases our faith. And the more our faith in Christ increases, the more fully we learn that our only hope before God is free, constant, absolute forgiveness by the blood of his cross, flowing to our souls from the ever-springing fountain of his everlasting love, the more ready and able we will be to forgive one another.


(Eph 4:29-32)  “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”


(Eph 5:1-2)  “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”