Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 17:3

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” –  Luke 17:3 

This verse deals with people, specifically in these verses (1-4), who sin against us.  Starting in verse 1 we read, “And He said to His disciples, It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come!” Luke 17:1. As we see at the beginning of this verse, He is not speaking to the Pharisees but to His disciples.  And what He is saying here is that temptation, here referred to as ‘stumbling blocks’ are inevitable.  From the Greek word ‘skandalon’ which refers to the trap-spring,  the item on a trap that causes it to spring shut. The idea is that whatever tempts us to sin is a trap, and if we fall into sin due to the temptation, then we sprung the trap and are caught in it. But notice the end of this verse.  Yes, we sin and that is wrong.  Jesus knew that due to the world, the flesh, and the devil such temptations would continue. But Jesus says woe to those who cause the temptation.

Then in the next verse, Jesus shows how He feels about this. “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 cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2. Drowning a person with a stone tied about the neck was an ancient mode of punishment. What this is saying is that it would be better for them to endure the temporary drowning death by men then to cause a young brother or sister in Christ to sin, which is a serious offense to God.

Now we come to our focus verse. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. So, based on what we see in the first two verses, He is not speaking of sins in general, but particularly of sins one brother commits against another. This rebuke should be a mild brotherly admonition, helping them understand what occurred. If such correction brings him to humbly acknowledge his fault, forgiveness must not then be withheld, even if the trespass had already been six times repeated. We see this last part in verse 4. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, I repent, forgive him.” Luke 17:4. Now, this seven times is not to be taken literally for it has a much deeper meaning. It does not mean you may forgive him, but it is an imperative denoting ‘you will forgive him’. There is no option here.  And to understand the numbers, we must go the Matthew for clarification. “Then Peter came and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22. The seven times mentioned in Luke, and the seventy times seven in Matthew are not upper limits to the number of times we are to forgive.  It means ‘always.  If a brother or sister sins against us, and they repent, then we are to ‘always’ forgive them.  And our model in this is God Himself. He forgives all our sins if we truly repent and ask forgiveness. Remember, Jesus forgave all the sins committed by one on the cross in which he repented.  “And he was saying, Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom! And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43.

Jesus calls us to forgive those who sin against us and repent of that sin. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. When we repented, He forgave us.  Therefore, those who repent of their sins against us, we must forgive. And in so doing, we will show them the reality of our faith, and thus open the door to help them grow in their faith and in the knowledge of God. And this is what we are called to do. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14.  And this light is to help disciple others in the faith. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. That is, after all, our calling.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

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