Sermon: Disciples Rebuke, Repent and Forgive (Luke 17:1-10)

Luke 17.1-10 Click For Audio

Disciples, Rebuke, Repent and Forgive!

Luke 17:1-10

Introduction

TT- A disciple must not be the cause of offence and when he is sinned against, he must rebuke and forgive his offender.

It was in these days of Jesus’ ministry that He was gaining more and more true followers.  It was true that some followed Him so they could see signs and wonders and others because they felt He was going to be the answer to their prayers concerning the overthrow of Rome.  However, some were real followers.  They were coming from the down and out who through God’s sovereignty had no where else to turn, they were coming from the empty religion of Judaism who finally saw the futile was of works religion.  These new converts were young and weak in the faith.  Jesus begin to teach His disciples how to care for the souls of a weaker believer.

We too as disciples should pay close attention so we can care for the souls of those whom God send to us here at GCC.

Jesus tells His first disciples how to care for the weaker brother and we as His church must pay close attention and do likewise.

Please hear God’s Word for us today…

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ” [1]

Jesus gives us two warnings as disciples and we must pay close attention to what He says in order to obey His Words.

Father, help us to pay attention and accomplish these words of our Lord for us today.

1. A Disciple Must Not be the Cause of Sin (Luke 17:1-2)

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

In this section, we’re not told specifically what offense or sin is being referred to.  However, in context, it is suggestive to the flow of the text that Jesus is thinking about the sin of indifference or the sin of not caring for those in need.  Being found immediately following the account of Lazarus, we can safely figure that He is at least thinking of the sin of the rich man.  He does intentionally leave it open to take in any sin or offense.

Here is what Jesus is saying: A mature believer must never be the cause of a less mature believer’s sin.  This goes against our 21st century self-centered Christianity.

We are held accountable for our behavior toward others.  If I’m in some way the cause of another Christian’s sin, their guilt will also be my guilt.

Jesus is very clear…

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

Church, pay attention…we are responsible for the spiritual growth of our fellow members.  When we are an encouragement and a help to their growth we are laying treasure up in heaven.  When we are the cause of their temptation to sin we will suffer loss.

Jesus is so adamant about this that He says it would be better to suffer a violent death than to be a part of someone else’ sin.

He uses the title little ones to describe younger Christians.  These are those who are less experienced and perhaps less discerning in the realm of Christianity.  This refers to new converts or anyone with shallower understanding.  The first thing for us who are more mature is to remember a time when we were learning the basics.

The Apostle Paul is a very good example of our Lord’s command here in Luke.  Notice with me what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. [2]

This is a good practical example of what Jesus is talking about.

In the early church, praise the Lord, there were folks being saved out of paganism and the worship of false idols and false gods.  They had spent their whole life believing that the meat sacrificed to a false god was in some way special or in some way set apart for this god.  Rather than Paul saying, Look guys this is stupid, that false god is a chunk of wood and it means nothing and so anything set apart to it means nothing.  Eat up and don’t worry about it.  Instead, because our Lord commands us not to cause a little one to stumble, Paul takes the attitude that he must be careful with the souls of young believers and if it is offensive to them based on their past worship practices to eat meat offer to a false god, then Paul says, I would eat it either.  Someday, when they reach a greater maturity level then we might be able to sit down and eat it together but for now, I won’t eat it either.

Do you see how Paul shows maturity and kindness to these little ones?

I don’t want to get side tracked here but one thing we who love the Doctrines of Grace must be concerned about is blasting young believers with the doctrine of election.  I believe that the doctrine of election is biblical and I adhere to it.  However, Paul speaks of milk of the Word and Meat of the Word and the doctrine of election is meat.  Sometimes, a young believer isn’t quite ready to hear and embrace it yet.  So, we treat them with love and kindness and help them mature.  Someday they will be ready.  Until then we must not try to force feed a babe in Christ who is growing on good wholesome milk, T-bone steak.  They can’t digest it and it might be harmful to their growth.  If we help them along, like Paul and His willingness to refrain for a time, we may be able to sit down and enjoy a steak together.

Our actions and words can be helpful or hurtful and we must pay attention to them.

2. A Disciple Must Rebuke and Forgive Sin (Luke 17:3-4)

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Here is one very important concept in the life of a local church.  Most of the time we just hear about forgiveness as if that’s all there is.   Notice with me the elements that must be in place if forgiveness is to take place:

First, the Christian rebukes the other Christian who has sinned against him or her.  We care for the soul of the sinning brother or sister as we explain to them that their behavior is unacceptable and sinful.  To not rebuke is the way of the coward.  It’s not easy for anyone but you care for him or her as you rebuke them.  We have the responsibility to bring sin to the attention of others as we lovingly and gently rebuke them.  Oh, how many church feuds and arguments and splits would have been avoided if the members would have obeyed Scripture.

Second comes the offender’s repentance.  You’ve shown them their sin and a Christian will repent.  You do the hard work of rebuking because this is our responsibility to encourage their repentance.  If after a time the offender does not repent then they probably have shown their Christianity isn’t real.  A believer will repent.  Non-believers will not.

This is big in the life of the local church.  We don’t sweep things under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.  When we do that, bitterness and resentment always follow and eventually it falls apart anyway.

Third, after the rebuke and repentance, then we forgive.  This is genuine forgiveness.  This is the forgiveness that creates a better relationship than before.  This is sweet forgiveness.  This is the type of forgiveness God grants to us.

Until these steps occur, true forgiveness is not possible.  Someone who refuses to hold people accountable for their sin is not a loving person but a selfish coward.  They might pretend to forgive, but down deep their soul is being spoiled by bitterness toward their offender.  These folks don’t rebuke which leads to repentance and they don’t forgive.  They pretend to forgive by sweeping it under the rug and in time the hurt may lessen, but they have not forgiven.

True forgiveness is impossible without first rebuking the one who sinned against you.  This is true with God.  We are not forgiven until we are rebuked by God in His Word or by a fellow believer, then repentance takes place.  If God has forgiven us then we should extend that same forgiveness to others who also repent.

3. A Disciple Must Seek Grace to Truly Forgive (Luke 17:5-6)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

In Luke’s Gospel, faith is especially seen as faithfulness or a faith that is directly linked to obedient behavior.  The disciples are asking Jesus to make them faithful followers.  They know that if they are going to obey His command to forgive like God does then they need help.  This type of forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to anybody.  We find ourselves in a dilemma.  Jesus commands us to do something that we are incapable of doing without the Holy Spirit’s divine assistance and enablement.

Jesus wants His followers to understand that if they possess true faith, even if that faith seems small amazing things can be accomplished if that faith is a working faith.  Faithfulness to Christ’s commands will produce amazing results.

So, it’s not so much the amount of faith… “Increase our faith!” but is the faith you already posses a working faith.

The idea is that we must put our faith to work.  We don’t necessarily need more of the same, we need to use what we already have.

Why do the disciples ask Jesus for more faith?  What does faith have to do with forgiveness?  Our faith is vital to the process of forgiveness that Jesus lays out before us.  Look with me at how it works:

It can be a hard and even at times a scary act to rebuke someone.  In many ways it’s easier to not say anything.  God isn’t concerned with our ease and comfort so much as our growth and the growth of others.

When we speak to someone about their sin, they grow and you grow.  Both become closer to the Lord and each other.  But this takes faith.  I must believe that God’s Word is true and that what God says about sin and the human condition is true.  I must also rely by faith on God giving me the right words to say and to even set up the right divine appointment etc, etc…it’s all about faith.

As the offender then repents, we must forgive.  Forgiveness takes faith as well.  I forgive by faith not counting the wrongs done to me as something to hold over the person.  I release the other person from any debts they owe me and free them to either treat me as Christ would or to repeat the offense again.  To trust God and His sovereignty in any matter takes faith.  To forgive biblically is to make yourself vulnerable to the other person.  So faith comes in as we don’t seek revenge but trust that whatever happens in the end, God will right all wrongs…so we trust in the care and sovereignty of God ultimately and trust people secondarily.  People fail but God never does.

Application

When everything goes right, the rebuke leads to repentance and that leads to forgiveness and reconciliation.

What happens when these steps break down?  What happens when the offender refuses to repent?  Is the Christian still obligated to forgive?

The process can be moved along toward repentance when a church practices biblical church discipline.

When a believer sins against a believer and they find themselves at a stale mate.  It is the role of the church to begin carrying out what the Bible tells us in other places.  Church discipline is the next step.

The offended party confronts the offender one on one to seek restoration.  If the offender repents, the process stops.  If the offender does not repent then the offended party takes a witness or two and confronts again.  If there is still no repentance then the sin is made public and excommunication is the result.  However, reconciliation is always the goal.

If there is repentance at any stage then the process stops and the offended party must forgive.

So, a healthy church that practices church discipline will be a great help in keeping the process moving toward repentance and forgiveness.

This process of rebuking, repenting, and forgiving is extremely loving and kind.

We live in a day when this seems unloving.  However, to tolerate sin in our personal relationships and in the life of the church is one of the most unloving thing we can do.

Parents who don’t discipline their children do not love their children.  Discipline toward godliness is loving and will result in God blessing your relationships and your church.

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. [3]

We seek God’s grace as we practice biblical principles in our relationships.  We practice what God says and then we are amazed at the relationships being stronger than they ever were before.

We love God more because He’s forgiven us than we ever did before He forgave.  The same can be true with those in and around us everyday.  Love others and care for their souls and encourage their repentance.

We’re not stumbling blocks to others by sinning against them or causing them to sin.  When we are sinned against we’re not roadblocks to their repentance but help them repent by confronting and rebuking for the good of their soul and the glory of God.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:1–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Co 8:1–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Re 2:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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