Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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A Quality of Life

Luke 17:1-19

At first I thought that today’s section in Luke’s gospel was just a little bit of a potpourri of events and declarations of Jesus that are not really connected. But in reality I think verses 1 – 19 are very connected along the theme of: life as a disciple of Jesus in this age. The thing that ties these stories together is that it paints a picture of the life of a disciple in the community of believers.

In essence, a disciple is to be discerning, patient & forgiving, faithful, and grateful. We’ll get into what those mean as we go through the section.

1 – 3a

Jesus begins by saying that “offenses will certainly come.” Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. We are works in progress. The Apostle John said: (1 John 1:8 HCSB)

8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. We are going to make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are going to hurt others. We’ll get to that in a moment. What Jesus is talking about here are “offenses”. The Greek word is skandalon, which describes a bend sapling used as a trigger for a trap. The idea here is that when someone causes a disciple (“little one”) to “stumble” which uses the same Greek word—it is something far more serious than a mistake.

Most scholars agree that what’s in view here is when someone causes another to lose their faith in Jesus and walk away. Jesus says in that case certain death by means of a large stone tied around your neck as you’re thrown into the sea would be preferable to facing God’s judgment. There are fewer things that make God angrier than when someone stands in the way of a relationship with Him or tries to dissuade someone from coming to the Rescuer. That having been said. God also takes a dim view of anyone who influences another to do or say something that is outside of God’s value system.

I also want to point out that in the context of what we’ve seen in this part of Luke, Jesus may have had the religious leaders in view. Their opposition to the Messiah was a huge impediment to people believing in Him. In the judgment they will be held accountable and it won’t be pretty.

He finishes this by saying “Be on your guard.” This could refer to teachers, who bear a big responsibility for correctly teaching the Scriptures in order to lead people into a relationship with Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:15 (HCSB) 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.

James 3:1 (HCSB) 1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.

I take that responsibility very seriously. I study hard and I am very careful to try and teach that the Word of God speaks about Jesus from cover to cover and that faith in Him is the one and only answer to life and death. We should always pay careful attention to what is taught—not to nit-pick the teacher, but ensure that no one is being dissuaded from faith in Jesus.

The Apostle James goes on in Chapter 3 to say: “we all stumble in many ways.” Being imperfect humans, we’re going to do things that hurt others. This isn’t the same as causing “offenses” that Jesus refers to earlier, but none the less needs attention.

3b – 4

In many ways the life of Christians in community is like this. By the way, “stumble” in James is not the same Greek word as “stumble” in Luke. In James it basically means to make a mistake. Since by default we all act in the flesh, we will occasionally say or do something that hurts our brother or sister. Luke uses the word “sin” here, which is the common Greek word for sin and it means: “to miss the mark.” Make sure when you approach someone it is because they have “sinned”, not just that you got offended. We get offended for many reasons that have nothing to do with another person sinning. Often it is our pride or something sinful or dysfunctional in us. We need to make sure not to put that on someone else.

The admonition here is to:

  1. Be Relational - Solve it between yourselves (see Matthew 18 for more on that).
  2. Be Accountable (a rebuke – or a “charge”) by making the sin plain. If someone sinned against you, don’t just seethe inside yourself or worse, try to hurt them back.
  3. Be Repentant (“to reconsider”) means the person acknowledges their fault and indicates they are sincerely sorry and don’t want to do it again
  4. Be Forgiving, which can mean “let it alone”, and suggests that with repentance we essentially drop it. Don’t hold the offense over them. Don’t harbor a grudge. Now forgiveness isn’t the same as trust. Forgiveness is owed, trust is earned.
  5. Be Patient. For continued offenses, if there is continued honest repentance, then give out forgiveness. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to repeatedly forgive those who have sinned against me—but the key is—is there an honest rebuke (“speak the truth in love” Eph 4:15, “If anyone is caught in sin, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” Gal 6:1) and is there honest repentance? Then there should also be honest forgiveness.

The next part of life as a disciple is about our duty as an apprentice of the Lord.

5 – 6

It’s possible that having heard Jesus speak about paying attention to doctrine and making sure they don’t cause a little one to stumble and are forgiving to those that repent—maybe they felt inadequate to the task and are asking the Lord for help by increasing their faith. Often the disciples kind of threw up their hands realizing they weren’t capable of doing what Jesus wanted them to do.

That’s the right thing to do, but Jesus lets them know that it’s not the amount of faith that matters, it is the presence of faith. Maneuvering the complicated nature of human relationships in the kingdom can be scary. The mulberry tree has a deep and complicated root structure that allows it to live for hundreds of years and be extremely difficult to uproot. But even the smallest amount of faith can accomplish the most difficult of tasks because it isn’t our faith in ourselves, it is trust in Jesus.

How does this work? In the daily life of a disciple it is constant prayer for discernment and for God’s value system to become ours. It is:

  • Listening to the voice of the Spirit giving us tasks to do to further His kingdom, not ours
  • Then trusting that we’ll have the tools when needed.

Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB) 10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

We’re literally just walking in His footsteps, not blazing the trail.

Philippians 2:13 (ESV) 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

What can happen, though, is that when we experience God working amazing things through us, we either start to get a big head and think we’ve done it or we are especially good and deserving, and we think that us doing good stuff for God means He owes us special privileges. Not so.

7 – 10

This parable isn’t saying that God is mean to His servants, but that we serve because we are servants, and don’t get to pick and choose what we do for the Lord. Sometimes serving as a disciple is fun, often it is difficult.

Paul recognized that what was best for him, was not always what was best for the Lord or His kingdom or His disciples:

Philippians 1:21-24 (HCSB) 21 For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better— 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.

The value we have is from what we have received, not what we have earned. We have been given such a great gift that it is really our duty, and our joy, to seek to do God’s will not be expecting anything in return.

In fact, we should show gratitude for all that God has done for us in gaining for us such a great salvation, and that’s what the final story is about. It demonstrates the faith and gratitude we should have to our Master.

11 – 19

Jesus is continuing His journey to Jerusalem that He began back in Chapter 9 (9:51). To get from Galilee to Jerusalem you have to pass either through or around Samaria. The Samaritans were a mixed-race of people—part Jew, part Gentile, that were settled in the region hundreds of years earlier when the Assyrians conquered the area in 740 BC. The Jews did not consider them Jewish and would have nothing to do with them. Likewise, the Samaritans hated the Jews—but apparently there were at least 10 guys who didn’t get the memo and when Jesus entered a village these guys (probably a mix of Jew and Samaritan) approach at a distance.

They likely had Leprosy or some other infectious skin disease. They were required to keep their distance from others (Lev. 13:45-46) but had obviously heard about Jesus’ healing power. They call out to Him saying “Master” using a different word than what we usually encounter. This one means “one appointed over something” or “commander”. They knew Jesus’ authority over sickness and they ask for His mercy.

He tells them to go to the priest, something you didn’t do unless you’d been healed (Lev 13:19). So as they turned to go, it would seem they trusted that before they got to the priests they would be healed, and they were. It didn’t take much—no big prayers or penance, only turning on their heels. That small seed of faith led to a huge healing. All 10 turned to go, but one came back. Though he doesn’t really know it, he is fulfilling the same requirement of the Law in that Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1). But more than that, he is establishing a relationship with Jesus. Faith here brings more than healing, but salvation.

Luke notes that he was a Samaritan. Like the centurion in Luke 7:9. People outside of the Jewish nation also experience a relationship with Jesus through faith not often found among His own people.

Conclusions

Let’s go back over the values we as disciples of Jesus should have in this age:

  • Be discerning doctrinally and watchful for wolves.
  • Be patient with others, forgiving sin in the presence of honest repentance.
  • Be faithful in the things God calls you to do, relying on and trusting in Jesus to provide what you need to accomplish His work, and serving without expecting something in return for doing your job (though there are great rewards in heaven (2 Tim 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4).
  • Be consistently grateful and worshipful of the One who has provided your healing from sin and earned your place as a disciple of the King of Kings.

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