Matthew 18:6, "But whoso
shall offend one of these
little ones which believe in me, it were better for
him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and
that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
This morning, the world in which we live continues to wax old with evil men and seducers waxing worse and worse. Sometimes we hear these different "plans" to create the perfect society (Utopia), but these plans
never take into account the sin that is in the world. Because of this, we must, from time to time, examine
subjects that we would rather not. If I had my druthers, I would preach words of comfort, peace, and mercy without ever having to exhort, rebuke, correct, or admonish. But, we need to be prepared for the deceptions that will be hurled at us from all quarters in this old world. One of the deceptions that we must fight is false teaching and false theology. Again, I would rather never have to look at such things, but we need to be fit and able to stand in the evil day with all the armour fastened about us in defense and earnest contention of the faith once delivered to the saints.
Our Lord here uses very strong language to condemn a particular action or behaviour. So, let us examine this closely to not miss the strong admonishment and pending consequence that comes from stumbling into such wicked behaviour. We live in a society that enjoys speaking about people being "offended." In fact, our world today bends over backwards to not offend one person that directly offends a great number. But, the reasoning is that those offended as a result need to "get in step" with the times. The offense that is spoken of in the world is basically that "one's feelings get hurt." Is our Lord here speaking about hurting someone's feelings? While we should take great care not to intentionally hurt feelings in the house of God, I believe that the
thought is more hard-hitting than that. The word "offense" means to lay a stumblingblock, deceive, cause to err, or entice to sin.
The offense to the little ones in God's vineyard is when they are fed a lie, deceived into false teaching, and led to be enticed to sin. Again, these thoughts are not pleasant, but Paul acknowledged that after his departure wolves would seek to enter in not sparing the flock. (Acts 20) Today, the wolves still seek to enter in and kill as many sheep as they can. Thanks be unto God that they cannot steal their eternal life from them or cause them to walk in a way that God would no longer love them. But, we should have great concern about wolves who seek to rob the joy of our salvation and steal the sweet comfort and fellowship that we have with one another and above all, our Lord.
Now, there are, I believe, some that offend in this way that sincerely believe what they are teaching. While some out there teach things to intentionally deceive for money or fame, others are honestly teaching things that they believe to be true. Yet, I still believe they are offending the tender plants of Zion by leading them in a path of error. Should my own thinking stray from "Thus saith the LORD," then I will be guilty of the same. It is a most sobering thing to stand before God's heritage to try to proclaim the rich truths of God's word. We must give account to God as we should be watching for the souls of those that we are tending. (Hebrews 13:17)
Now that we know what the offense is, let us examine, for a moment, the consequence. Our Lord said it would be better for a man to drown (die) than to cause the little lambs to stumble in darkness and error. Strong language! Language in the Bible like this always makes me sit up while reading it. It is better for one to die than to entice to sin. This means that we need to know what to do when we meet those that offend the little ones. What, according to Scripture, should we do when we meet such characters? The easy thing to do would be to do nothing. When parents see children misbehave, it is always easier to ignore it than bring the proper punishment and chastisement. John declares that when we bid such men come into our houses (churches) and bid them God speed (say we are in agreement), then we are a partaker of their evils deeds. (II John 11)
So, the easy course is not only wrong but dangerous as well. If it is better for one that causes sheep to
stumble to die than deceive, we partake with him when we invite him to stand behind the pulpit and
potentially lead astray the sheep of our pastoring. While we should always act in a spirit of love, we should not forsake the cause of truth. Paul exhorts us to admonish a brother twice before rejecting him. (Titus 3:10-11) The reasoning for the two admonition method before rejection is that some brethren are honestly deceived into their way of thinking and can be won back to the truth with a little labour. Cutting them off too quickly would result in losing a brother that could be saved from his ignorance. But, labouring beyond the two admonitions results in usceptibility for more inroads to be made againstGod's sheep. Our "labour" with him becomes perceived as acceptance of his tendencies. Also, we continue to answer a fool that cannot be changed and become just like him. (Proverbs 26:4)
Invariably, the queasiness that comes in having to take stands such as these boil down to a couple of things. The first thing is that "we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings," and the second thing is "we just need to keep praying for him and labouring with him." To the first objection, I must say that my feelings or anyone else's feelings in the Lord's church are quite inferior to the purity of the Lord's bride. Paul exhorted them to turn out the fornicator so that the leaven would be gone from the lump. (I Corinthians 10) It was of greater concern for Paul that the purity of the Lord's bride be held intact than someone's feelings. While we rejoice when
repentance is found and forgiveness sought, the feelings are secondary to the glory and purity of the church. To the second objection, we should pray for men that are in error EVEN AFTER they have been cut off. Our prayers for our enemies (as commanded by the Lord) should never neglect enemies for the gospel's sake that we feel are still good people and elect children of God. (Romans 11:28)
Again, these thoughts are not such that we desire to dwell upon, but the cause of Christ and peace and
safety of Zion are too precious to not contemplate how we need to stand in defense of the truth. The Lord's
church is a blessing that I do not deserve. But, thanks be unto God that He has shown her to us. May we continually give Him the thanks for opening our eyes to the beauty and riches of Zion, and may we conduct ourselves honestly and earnestly so that we do not ever stray into the ditches that come with fellowship. May we never become legalistic Pharisees that have no concern for love and spirit. But, may we never become so concerned with feelings that we neglect the care of the church and its members to see them offended by false teachings.