Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Thursday, April 8, 2021

2021.04.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 17:1–10

Read Luke 17:1–10

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is Jesus speaking (Luke 17:1)? What does He say is impossible? Upon whom does He pronounce woe? What would be better than causing a little one to stumble (Luke 17:2)? What does He say to do to themselves (Luke 17:3)? What should they do if a brother sins against them? And what if the response to this rebuke is repentance? How many times might this happen in a day (Luke 17:4)? And if he returns saying “I repent”? What do the apostles ask for, from Whom, when they hear this instruction (Luke 17:5)? What size faith does the Lord talk about in response (Luke 17:6)? With that much faith, what could they tell to do what, and be obeyed? What might one of their servants be doing before coming in from the field (Luke 17:7)? What wouldn’t the say to this servant? What does Jesus say that they would say instead (Luke 17:8)? When could the servant think of himself? What wouldn’t they do to the servant (Luke 17:9)? How much of what we are commanded should we do (Luke 17:10)? What should we say when we have done this? Why—what have we done, when we have obeyed all his commands?

In this section, the Lord turns from warning the Pharisees that they are missing out on the kingdom altogether (Luke 16:14–31) to instructing His disciples around some of the hazards of kingdom living. For believers, we’re reminded that even after God has done that saving work of bringing us to faith in Christ, there is a long way to go as we grow in grace.

We must take heed to our brothers’ soul, Luke 17:1-2. “Offenses”/”offend” here is translating a word that refers to when someone falls into sin, or error, or even rejects the Christianity to which they once claimed to hold. Jesus knows that, since this will inevitably happen, we might think that lets us off the hook a little bit if it was our hypocrisy or sin or loose doctrine that became the occasion by which someone else did so. But that’s a great mistake. Even if it was bound to happen, and even though they are to blame for their own stumbling (and will pay for it themselves), this doesn’t reduce our responsibility. 

Being the occasion for someone else falling into sin and error is worse than being dragged down headfirst, through more water than we can easily picture, with our helpless feet pointing toward the surface, because a several thousand pound stone keeps pulling, pulling, pulling on our neck so that struggling chokes us more, until all struggling ultimately fails and the water fills our lungs as we suffocate on the way down, buried alive in a watery grave. 

A little graphic for a warm fuzzy devotional? Sure. But Jesus meant to be graphic, and wrestling with the Word of our holy God often isn’t warm and fuzzy. We should be scared to death of helping people stumble. And Jesus sets the example, not willing to cause us to stumble by soft-peddling how dreadful such sin is.

Therefore, we must take heed to our own soul, Luke 17:3-6. “Take heed to yourselves,” Jesus says at the beginning of Luke 17:3. And we need the reminder, because we rarely obey the command, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him.” It’s a rebuke that seeks the fruit of repentance rather than the moment of confrontation through which it comes, but while a few perverted hearts enjoy the confrontation, many more are willing to deny their brother the opportunity to repent, rather than go through the discomfort of confronting.

It’s important that we learn to enjoy the sweetness of reconciliation, because we might have to eat that cookie seven times in a day (Luke 17:4). If we’re just going through the motions, the bitterness of counting how many times we have had to do something will leave an increasingly bad taste in our mouths. The disciples immediately confirm the anticipated difficulty, asking for the increased faith that they will need to obey such instruction (Luke 17:5). Rather than suggest that it’s not as hard as it seems, Jesus proceeds to underline just how impossible it is to do what He is commanding—and that the faith that He is working in them is sufficient to the task (Luke 17:6)!

And we mustn’t be impressed with ourselves for either one, Luke 17:7-10. Because God grants us to do the impossible by His grace, our remaining sin puts us in danger of being self-impressed. God indeed will reward us for the good works that His grace produces in us, and Jesus even says that He will serve us in the kingdom (cf. Luke 12:37)! But this just underlines the astonishing generosity and grace of our Master. 

If we allow ourselves to feel like we deserve God’s notice and gratitude, we will actually hinder ourselves from amazement at His grace. Jesus says to neutralize such wrongheaded spiritual pride or self-satisfaction by remembering that God gains nothing from us, and that the best that we ever do is only what was already our duty.

What have you been doing out of care for others’ souls? And for your own? How do you respond to doing your duty?

Suggested Songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH408 “For All the Saints”


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