Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 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. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 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.
Chapter 17:1-4 (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
I. Some particular discourses which Christ had with his disciples, in which he teaches them to take heed of giving offence, and to forgive the injuries done them (v. 1-4)
We are here taught,
- I. That the giving of offences is a great sin, and that which we should every one of us avoid and carefully watch against, v. 1, 2. We can expect no other than that offences will come, considering the perverseness and frowardness that are in the nature of man, and the wise purpose and counsel of God, who will carry on his work even by those offences, and bring good out of evil. It is almost impossible but that offences will come, and therefore we are concerned to provide accordingly; but woe to him through whom they come, his doom will be heavy (v. 2), more terrible than that of the worst of the malefactors who are condemned to be thrown into the sea, for they perish under a load of guilt more ponderous than that ofmillstones. This includes a woe,
- 1. To persecutors, who offer any injury to the least of Christ’s little ones, in word or deed, by which they are discouraged in serving Christ, and doing their duty, or in danger of being driven off from it.
- 2. To seducers, who corrupt the truths of Christ and his ordinances, and so trouble the minds of the disciples; for they are those by whom offences come.
- 3. To those who, under the profession of the Christian name, live scandalously, and thereby weaken the bands and sadden the hearts of God’s people; for by them the offence comes, and it is no abatement of their guilt, nor will be any of their punishment, that it is impossible but offences will come.
- II. That the forgiving of offences is a great duty, and that which we should every one of us make conscience of (v. 3): Take heed to yourselves. This may refer either to what goes before, or to what follows: Take heed that you offend not one of these little ones. Ministers must be very careful not to say or do any thing that may be a discouragement to weak Christians; there is need of great caution, and they ought to speak and act very considerately, for fear of this: or, “When your brother trespasses against you, does you any injury, puts any slight or affront upon you, if he be accessary to any damage done you in your property or reputation, take heed toyourselves at such a time, lest you be put into a passion; lest, when your spirits are provoked, you speak unadvisedly, and rashly vow to revenge (Prov. 24:29): I will do so to him as he hathdone to me. Take heed what you say at such a time, lest you say amiss.’
- 1. If you are permitted to rebuke him, you are advised to do so. Smother not the resentment, but give it vent. Tell him his faults; show him wherein he has not done well nor fairly by you, and, it may be, you will perceive (and you must be very willing to perceive it) that you mistook him, that it was not a trespass against you, or not designed, but anoversight, and then you will beg his pardon for misunderstanding him; as Jos. 22:30, 31.
- 2. You are commanded, upon his repentance, to forgive him, and to be perfectly reconciled to him: If he repent, forgive him; forget the injury, never think of it again, much less upbraid him with it. Though he do not repent, you must not therefore bear malice to him, nor meditate revenge; but, it he do not at least say that he repents, you are not bound to be so free and familiar with him as you have been. If he be guilty of gross sin, to the offence of the Christian community he is a member of, let him be gravely and mildly reproved for his sin, and, upon his repentance, received into friendship and communion again. This the apostle calls forgiveness, 2 Co. 2:7.
- 3. You are to repeat this every time he repeats his trespass, v. 4. “If he could be supposed to be either so negligent, or so impudent, as to trespass against thee seven times in a day,and as often profess himself sorry for his fault, and promise not again to offend in like manner, continue to forgive him.’ Humanum est errare-To ere is human. Note, Christians should be of a forgiving spirit, willing to make the best of every body, and to make all about them easy; forward to extenuate faults, and not to aggravate them; and they should contrive as much to show that they have forgiven an injury as others to show that they resent it.