Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. – Luke 17:1-3
Is your faith offensive or is your faith on the offensive? What’s the difference? That’s what we will look at in these opening verses of Luke 17.
Don’t Be Offensive
17 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves.
An absolute impossibility. This is the only place in the New Testament where the word anendekton, which is translated “impossible,” occurs. Anendekton is a verbal adjective which is unique to the Koine Greek. The sense of what Jesus is saying here is “it is impossible to avoid occasions of stumbling, it is impossible that it should be otherwise.” The emphasis conveys the thought that what Jesus is now stating is an absolute impossibility.
What does Jesus say is impossible? He says it is absolutely impossible that “offenses should come.” “Offenses” is translated from the Greek term skandala, (skandalon) which means offenses, stumbling block, snare, cause of ruin (cf. Septuagint of Leviticus 19:14; Psalm 141:9). The connotation carried here by “offenses” is to cause to reject God. 
In the New Testament this word is used to describe something that would entice one from the faith (Matthew 16:23). It is also used to describe something that causes revulsion or anger (Romans 9:33; Galatians 5:11; 1 Peter 2:8). John said we can overcome such offense with love (1 John 2:10).
Have a good defense. Don’t be offensive. Sinful offenses are inevitable, but don’t ever be the cause of them. Defend against being offensive. Control yourself. Guard against being the instigator or initiator of that which is offensive. Don’t cause offenses.
Jesus is saying, it is inevitable that snares or traps come that lead people away from the faith. We should serve understanding this reality. We should serve with this insight of reality. We should be aware and beware of such offenses. But Jesus also says, though such offenses are inevitable, the one who is instrumental in bringing such offenses is in a woeful position. Therefore, it’s inevitable that offenses should come, but don’t ever be the cause of them. Defend against being the offender.
Woe to the causer of offenses. The word “woe” (Greek ouai) means alas! Or woe! It is an interjection by Jesus. It is used to convey the idea to howl, intense sorrow, despair, lamentation, physical pain. While offenses are inevitable, and they are bad, the worse part of offense is with the person who is responsible for bringing them.
The person who brings offenses should howl in despair. Jesus says basically, it would be better to die than to be the instigator or cause of offenses. Jesus says it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the sea than to be the cause of such offenses. The Jew feared the sea as dark and deadly.
Little ones. Jesus amplifies such a situation even further by mentioning the possibility of such offenses “should offend one of these little ones.” “Little ones” (Greek mikron) refers to someone of diminutive height, age, or influence. Jesus is not necessarily speaking of actual children here. He may be speaking of children of God in an endearing way of those he saw as precious. He may be speaking of those who are babes in Christ or new believers, those who are early or young in their walk with the Lord.
Take heed. Jesus then says, “Take heed to yourselves.” “Take heed” (Greek prosechete – Present/Active/Imperative of prosecho) means here that it is absolutely necessary to be attentive to, be devoted to, be concerned that you are not the one through who these inevitable offenses come. Remember that folks.
Go on the Offensive!
In sports there is a defense, and there is an offense. The defense prevents scoring. The offense does the scoring. Some say, a good defense is the best offense, and there’s truth to that. If you keep the opponent or enemy from scoring against you, you have a good chance of winning and being victorious. But if you don’t score, if you don’t at some point go on the offensive, the best you will be able to do is tie. There’s another saying that “A tie is like kissing your sister,” it’s a kiss, but not a KISS.
The flip side of “a good defense is the best offense,” is “a good offense can be the best defense.” When offenses occur, we should seek to limit their damage. We should go on the offensive to nip the problem in the bud.
Go on the offensive to nip the problems caused by offenses in the bud. It’s very important to not ignore or let fester the effects of offenses. Why is this? The reason for this is Scripture instructs us:
- Hebrews 12:14–15 (NKJV) – 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
The word “pursue” (Greek diokete – Present/Active/Imperative of dioko) which means it is imperative that you pursue and keep on pursuing, it is imperative that you follow and keep on following, it is imperative that you press forward and keeping on pressing forward, it is imperative that you run after and achieve and keep on running after and achieving. This is a word of offense. This is a word of taking the initiative.
What is imperative that we pursue and keep on pursuing? “Peace” (Greek eirenen of eirene) or peace, harmony, tranquility, health. It’s imperative that we seek peace “with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” “Holiness” (Greek hagiasmon noun of hagiasmos) meaning holiness, sanctification, purification. Holiness is loving God supremely and others sacrificially (Matthew 22:37-40).
Why is pursuing peace and holiness with all people so important? Peace and holy living enable us to “see” (Greek opsetai – Future/Middle/Indicative of horao) which means to see, look upon and contemplate, perceive. In other words, when we follow the imperative to pursue peace and holiness, we will see the Lord and perceive Him more clearly.
Then the passage continues, “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” This tells us that answering and obeying this call to pursue peace and holiness, is not in our strength, but in God’s “grace,” or God’s resources at Christ’s expense. All of this is possible only when we tap into the grace of God.
Then the passage says, “lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” If we don’t heed to imperative to live at peace with people and live holy, then “bitterness” (Greek pikras) or a bitter taste like animosity, anger, harshness will spring up in our life like a weed. But even worse, such bitterness will spread and cause “trouble” (Greek enochle – Present/Active/Subjunctive of enochleo) or its possible there will be constant annoyance, constant harassment, constant disturbances, constant trouble will be ever present like weeds in our relationships. The consequence will be that many are “defiled” (Greek mianthosin – Aorist/Passive/Subjunctive of miaino) or there will be a distinct possibility many will be stained, defiled, polluted or soiled.
Therefore, when Jesus speaks of offenses, He tells his disciples a best offense against offenses is the best defense against further problems being caused by offenses.
If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
There was a saying among the rabbis of Jesus day that if you forgave someone three times for doing the same offense you were perfect. Here Jesus says, “if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” To that the apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”
Sins. “Sins” (Greek hamarte – Aorist/ Active/Subjunctive of hamartano) speaks of the possibility of someone sinning or erring, missing the mark against you. Jesus is speaking of the nature of the offenses He mentioned above.
Rebuke. The word “rebuke” (Greek epitimeson Aorist/Active/Imperative of epitamao) means rebuke, censure, warn, admonish. The idea is to address or confront the one who sins against you. Don’t just let it go and allow bitterness to fester or a rift to develop. Speak up and address the offensive sin the person does against you.
Repents. “Repents” (Greek metanoese – Aorist/Active/Subjunctive of Metanoeo) means to repent, change one’s mind, be converted. It means to not only confess one’s sins, but to forsake or commit to not repeat them again. But here Jesus speaks specifically of repeat offenders. What do we do if a person repeatedly offends or sins against us? Jesus says, address the issue, when they repent, forgive them. He doesn’t say forgive without repentance. The rebuke followed by repentance implies there is a conversation about the sin committed. When that happens, forgiveness necessarily follows.
Warning. Now, beware of your attitude. Don’t use Jesus’ mention of repentance as an instrument to bludgeon the offender or punish them. Don’t demand that they satisfy your standard of repentance. All that is necessary is the biblical standard for repentance and then we should repent. Sometimes people will use repentance as a weapon against offenders. Instead, we should have a fervent love for one another that covers or forgives sins (1 Peter 4:8). We should forgive others as we have been forgiven (cf. Ephesians 4:32).
Forgiveness. The word “forgive” (Greek apheseis Active/Future/Indicative of aphiemi) means to let go, leave, to disregard, leave behind, dismiss, divorce, cancel, pardon, remit, forgive, abandon. If someone sins against us and then says, “I repent,” we need to let it go, pardon them, abandon the sin, cancel it, divorce the sin from the person and situation. And that Jesus says we are to do this even if a person sins against us seven times in a day, with repentance, tell us that we are to be forgiving servants.
Faith. It’s not easy to forgive repeat offenders. That’s why the apostles respond, “increase our faith.” “Faith” (Greek pistin – Singular, Feminine, Accusative of pistis) is trust, trustworthiness, reliability, confidence, assurance, conviction, belief, doctrine, faith. The apostles were right in realizing forgiveness for repeat offenders was not something they could do without the help of Jesus. That should be our cry too. When we encounter repeat offenders in life, cry out to Jesus to increase your faith to forgive the repentant person.
The Devil’s Revival. A word from Pastor Tim Brown of Calvary Chapel Fremont (blog of July 12, 2021) on True Revival v. The Devil’s Revival:
“There’s going to be a tent revival at a church in Bedfordshire, England, from July 31st to August 7th, 2021. A revival is where people expect God to show up and heal their bodies and save their souls. Sometimes He does and sometimes He doesn’t. But when God does show up and people are converted to Jesus Christ, God separates their sin from them as far as the east is from the west and He buries their sin in the deepest ocean. May the church in Bedfordshire, England, have a wonderful revival and may God show up in power!
A bit ago I wrote about the Devil’s Revival. The Devil’s Revival is just the opposite of God’s Revival. Instead of having your sins buried and put behind you, in the Devil’s Revival your sins are dug up and shoved in your face. Instead of cleansing there is condemnation. Instead of being included in God’s family you are canceled and excluded from the family of humankind. Just this week the Devil’s Revival came to Japan.
The Olympics are set to kick off this Friday, but with less than 48 hours before the Opening Ceremony, the organizing committee dismissed its Opening Ceremony director citing comedic comments that the director made over two decades ago about the Holocaust. Kentaro Kobayashi, a former Japanese comedian, had been in charge of the Opening Ceremony’s program since 2019. In recent days, as the Tokyo Olympics get set to begin, news media called attention to a 1998 comedic act in which Kobayashi made light of Nazi Germany’s mass murder of millions of Jews. Kobayashi was canceled.
The Opening Ceremony has already been riddled with upheaval and controversy. On Monday, the musician responsible for the ceremony’s musical interlude, Keigo Oyamada, resigned from his post after admitting that he bullied children with disabilities years ago. The organizing committee’s core has also previously been rocked by scandal. In February, Yoshiro Mori stepped down as president after saying that women talked too much in meetings. A month later, the organizing committee’s creative chief resigned after suggesting that a popular plus-size entertainer wear pig ears at the Opening Ceremony and take on the role of “Olympig.” https://www.aol.com/sports/tokyo-olympics-opening-ceremony-director-035331139.html
A lot of people are getting canceled. God separates you from your sin as far as east is from the west and buries them in the deepest sea. Today’s Social Justice Warriors scour the east and the west to discover your sins and they rake the ocean bottom and send down divers to discover whatever stupid, foolish, hateful things you’ve done and bring them to the surface. At God’s Revival, there is rejoicing when someone is converted, cleansed, and filled with the Spirit. At the Devil’s Revival, there is rejoicing when someone is clobbered, canceled, and filled with shame.
This is not meant to justify or trivialize the racist jokes, sexist remarks, bullying behavior, or the cruel comments noted above by those involved in the Tokyo Olympics. It’s meant to point out what the brother of Jesus wrote. James wrote that mercy triumphs over judgment – James 2:13. In the cases cited above, there was no mercy offered. There was no inquiry if there had been repentance on the part of the offender, or if there was a confession of wrongdoing. You are defined by what you did 20 or 30 years ago – there’s no coming back. You can never overcome your past – you are locked into yesterday.
Yet with this standard of judgment, everybody on the Olympic Committee and every athlete competing in the Olympics would be canceled. For who hasn’t made a racist joke, or a sexist remark, or bullied someone in one way or another, or made cruel comments at someone’s expense? If we dig deep enough, if we scour east and west long enough, if we search back far enough, we will find something that will disqualify you according to Social Justice Warrior standards.
The Social Justice Warrior Club is more holier-than-thou than the strictest Holiness Pentecostal Church across town. It is more judgmental than the “I Don’t Smoke, I Don’t Chew, I Don’t Go with Girls Who Do” Church down the street. It is more puritanical than the “Lips That Touch Wine Won’t Touch Mine” Church on the corner.
Yet in all the hypocrisy and double standards I see a hunger for purity. Yes, it is sorely misguided – but the thirst is real enough. Yet a striving after purity that is not grounded in an ethic of forgiveness can only lead to Cancel Culture. A striving after purity that is grounded in an ethic of forgiveness results in a Cleansed Culture. Jesus doesn’t want to cancel you; He wants to forgive you. He doesn’t want to expose and shame you, His desire is to cancel your sin, not you. His desire is to visit mercy on your life. The Social Justice Warriors are trying to establish the Kingdom of Man – a pure society where no one offends and a safe society where no one gets hurt. Yet impure methods are used to purge those considered unclean and dangerous. They would cancel you to achieve their social vision. Jesus offered Himself to achieve His vision of what a society should look like. And now He extends mercy to those who will accept His invitation to repent of their sins and put their faith in Him. Put your faith in Jesus. Jesus will cleanse those the world would cancel.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim
Jesus came to reconcile us to God and each other. That’s not always easy. We can’t do that on our own. But with the faith God provides us, we can do we He calls and commands us to do.
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
When the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, Jesus assures them by telling them if they have “faith as a mustard seed.” Jesus used the mustard seed to illustrate only a small amount of faith was needed. The point isn’t that the mustard seed is the smallest seed among plants. The point is if we just trust Jesus a little bit, we will be able to uproot and throw into the sea things that have taken root in our life garden. Serve the Lord, trusting in Him. Whatever might take root in your life because of offenses, that needs to be removed and thrown into the sea, Jesus says, “you can say, . . . ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
“Increase our faith,” or activate your faith? Notice something here. Pay attention. The disciples asked that Jesus increase their faith. Jesus’ response was that they should release the faith they already had from God. The Bible says we should do all that we do in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). We are to be compelled by the love of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). Love motivates, it’s true, but faith activates. Faith is the means God provides to move forward and do. Just as sure as love is poured out in us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), faith comes from God and the instrument He uses to infuse it in us is, His word.
I like what Jon Courson comments here on this passage saying:
The disciples said, “Increase our faith.”
Jesus said, “Unleash your faith.”
The disciples said, “Expand our faith.”
Jesus said, “Express your faith. Say to those about whom you feel a root of bitterness, a tree of unforgiveness, a hedge of hostility, I forgive you. I no longer hold a grudge against you.”
Jesus said the same thing regarding any obstacle before us. He didn’t say, “Pray that the mountain might be removed. He said, “Speak to the mountain itself,” (Mark 11:23). Why were the disciples told to speak? Because while faith is implanted by the Word, it is unleashed through the lips.…
Now, I want to say emphatically here that I am not a proponent of the doctrines of the Word of Faith movement. I do not believe we are “little gods,” and can speak things into existence. But having said that, there is power in the word spoken in faith. And Jesus very clearly here instructs His disciples to “speak to the mountain.” And there is evidence in scripture about the power of the spoken word and what that entails.
Confession of our faith in word is closely connected with the beginning of our salvation. In the letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is inspired to write:
- Romans 10:8–9 (NKJV) – 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
The word “saved” (Greek sothese – Future/Passive/Indicative of sodzo) is a word that encompasses not only salvation and forgiveness of sins, but also to be saved generally, keep safe, preserve, rescue, make well or healed. Salvation begins with the forgiveness of our sins, but it entails everything that follows in our life that is the result of that saved-from-sin-eternal-life relationship with God in Christ. And look at how the word “saved” is couched. “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” The instruction to involve verbal expression here is undeniable.
God used the spoken word, so should we. In Ephesians 5:1 it states, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” The Bible states, God created “by the word of the LORD” (Psalm 33: 6 and 9). God’s plan for us is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). We are to follow in the steps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21). We are to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). And when we look to Jesus we see, He still the storm with a simple exclamation, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39). Jesus raised Lazarus who had been dead four days with another exclamation, “Lazarus, come forth!” ‘(John 11:43). And on the cross, to establish the sufficiency and power of His redemptive work, Jesus said clearly, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). All of these occurrences of words spoken in powerful ways is not by accident. We must avoid the aberrations of the Word of Faith movement, but we should just as surely not throw the baby out with the bath water!
Speaking God’s word is connected with taking the Promised Land of blessing. When the mantel of Moses was passed to Joshua, Joshua was likely intimidated by the large shoes he had to fill. But in the opening chapter of the Book of Joshua, God assures Joshua that “as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). God repeatedly reassures Joshua telling him “Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6, 7, and 9). Joshua was evidently intimidated by the task and fearful. God reassured him, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:5).
And then God instructs Joshua with a key to taking the Promised Land of blessing. This is a verse we should all take to heart and apply verbally in our lives. God told Joshua:
- Joshua 1:8 (NKJV) – 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
The Book of the Law. The first thing to notice here is that it is, “This Book of the Law,” that God says, “shall not depart from your mouth.” It’s not so much our words that are endued with power, it is the word of God that has the power (e.g., Hebrews 4:12). That’s important. God exalts His word above His own name (Psalm 138:2). The “word’ we should be saying is His word. God’s word edifies and invigorates our faith:
- Romans 10:17 (NKJV) – 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
God’s word is the fuel of our faith. Remember that. Because with that in mind, God’s word should be constantly on our lips.
Meditate on God’s word day and night. The word “meditate” (Hebrew wehagita from haghah) means literally coo, growl, murmur, speak, mutter over and over again. The idea of Biblical meditation is not like eastern mysticism or eastern meditation where you empty your mind of everything. Biblical meditation nis just the opposite, you fill your mind with God’s word! But more than that, Biblical meditation means to murmur, or to recite under the breath. It means exactly what God says it means in Joshua 1:8. It means that God’s word, “shall not depart from your mouth.” That doesn’t mean God sword should never be spoken or come out of your mouth! It means you should have God’s word on your lips constantly.
God’s word on our lips leads to blessing. The reason God instructs Joshua and us to meditate constantly on His word is first, “that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” When we have God’s word constantly on our lips, we will be mindful of it and more inclined to obey it. But secondly, “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” “Prosperous” (Hebrew tasliah from tsalfiach) means to succeed, to go through, to push forward, to break out, come mightily, go over, be profitable, prosper. The word “success” (Hebrew taskil from sakhal) means to succeed, to understand. Prosperity and success are God’s promises to Joshua and to us when we keep God’s word on our lips.
John Courson further states here:
With his back to the Red Sea and the armies of Egypt barreling down upon him, Moses cried to the Lord. [Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward,”] the Lord answered (Exodus 14:15).
You might be a great student of Scripture. You might even be a prayer warrior. But if you wonder why the Sea isn’t parting, could it be that the Lord is whispering to you, “Why are you asking Me? Speak to the mountain that looms large before you”? Examples abound in the Word of men who understood the absolutely essential principle that the Word in them had to be spoken by them if they were to see results around them.…
It was when Joshua spoke to the sun that it stood still, giving him time to accomplish a great victory (Joshua 10:12).
It was when Elisha spoke to king Ahab on the basis of Deuteronomy 11:16–17 that there was no rain (1 Kings 17:1).
It was when Zerubbabel spoke to the cornerstone of the temple that the Lord began moving and the project came to completion (Zechariah 4:7).
So too . . .
Tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off, you will either say, “Oh no, it’s Monday morning.” Or you will say, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” (see Psalm 118:24)—and the choice you make will alter the course of your day. And when you get to work and discover your co-worker presented one of your ideas as his own, you will either say, “I can’t forgive him,” or you will say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13). As the day progresses, you will either say, “I’m grumpy because I’m sick and tired and weak,” or you will say, “I am strong in the strength of the Lord,” (Joel 3:10). As you walk in your front door and are met by your family’s problems, you will either say, “Everything is falling apart,” or you will say, “The Word of God declares that all things are working together for good,” (Romans 8:28). And as you sort out your finances late at night as your family sleeps, you will either say, “We’re not going to make it,” or you will say, “The Word declares that our God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).
Of God, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me,’” (see Hebrews 13:5, 6). God hath said that we may say—not that we may know, not that we may write, not even that we may pray—but that we may say.
- Happy is the people whose God is the Lord (Psalm 144:15).
- The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).
- The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
- The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him (Lamentations 3:25).
I challenge you to write down four or five such promises from the Word on three-by-five cards, put them on your dashboard or on your windowsill, and mutter them over and over again. Frame your world and your day with the Word as you speak it forth—and watch what happens.
In the Old Testament, when David had just been anointed king, the perennial enemies of Israel, the Philistines, came up and searched David out looking for trouble and to defeat the young king. David, the man after God’s own heart, responded by going to the Lord in prayer asking, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” The LORD responded, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.” Then it states:
- 2 Samuel 5:20 (NKJV) – So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim.
It isn’t that we should forsake prayer. We should pray and get direction. Pray and ask God for the scripture He would want on your lips for your situation. But then we need to declare something like David who “said, ‘The LORD has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim.” “Baal Perazim” means literally the Lord of Breakthroughs.
Like David, when we encounter trials in life, we need to remember and declare victory by faith. The victories found in God’s word should bolster our faith to victory. And I pray, that for you, whether it is to forgive and reconcile with someone or some situation, or some other mountain or tree trunk problem, I pray, no I say to you, “God is going to break through for you!”
 Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Alpha-Gamma