Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!Matt. 18:7
Three key points
In this Bible study on the meaning of offenses in the Bible, three points become very clear from the teaching of Jesus. First, Jesus does not soften the message or wording when stating dire consequences that await individuals who are the source of offenses. Secondly, for perpetrators who cause offenses in which people are prone to stumble or fall in their faith, take heed of the message from Jesus, “but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Lastly, in this passage, Jesus acknowledges without a doubt that offenses will come to people in all walks of life with his statement, “for it must needs be that offences come.”
The consequences of someone causing offences represents such a dismal state that Jesus further describes it in the passage, “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.” [Matt. 18:6] Despite this, the people of the world continue to create offences causing people of faith to stumble in their walk with God. Further, seekers of faith will often stumble and not even get to the starting line as they succumb to the temptation of offences from the world. To think that Jesus likened the consequences in the context of having offenders “drowned in the depth of the sea, with a millstone around their neck”! To further confirm this passage of scripture it was also recorded in the gospel according to Luke in chapter seventeen.
Interestingly, offenses were also written about in the apostle Paul’s letters to the churches. He described it in this way, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” [Rom. 16:17] Notice how Paul likens the causing of offenses as contrary to the Christian faith doctrine. This is a common theme among cult-like religions where their belief system is symbolic of a combination of biblical scripture, often reinterpreted and mixed with supplementary teachings from self-proclaimed prophets of God. The resulting effect is a twisted interpretation of scripture where doctrine becomes corrupted and polluted with false teachings that entrap people into thinking their teachings surpass original Christian doctrine.
For this reason, Paul wrote to believers in his letter to the Galatians warning them not to believe another gospel from which they have known from the beginning, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” [Gal. 1:6-8] Paul in a similar manner did not hesitate to proclaim his message in a clear and direct manner when it came to any notion of perverting the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to identify the meaning of offenses in the Bible.
Offence of heresy
Paul wrote further about this by describing the teachings from such individuals as heresy by saying, “…there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” [1 Cor. 11:19] Here it is important to note that offenses can arise even within the church and among professing believers. Jesus spoke further on all of these points by outlining how false people will infiltrate the faith, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, [he is] in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe [it] not.” [Matt. 24:24]
The whole notion of false believers entering into the church and infiltrating authentic and genuine believers was also articulated by the apostle Paul when he said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” [Acts 20:29-30] When the meaning of offenses in the Bible is explored in scripture it becomes clear how frequently the subject arises for readers to take careful note.
Offence of Judas
Let us close off this study on the meaning of offenses in the Bible with a couple of interesting and transitional points worth noting. If there ever was a person that caused offense it was the one who would betray Jesus before the religious rulers for a mere thirty pieces of silver. That person was Judas Iscariot. It was recorded that Judas went to the chief priests after the proverbial last supper with Jesus and his other disciples, “And said [unto them,] What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.” Matt. 26:15-16] Sadly though, the next chapter records the remorse from Judas for betraying an innocent person and he relinquished himself of the silver coins and went off to hang himself. Jesus spoke of the actions of Judas before they even took place, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” [Matt. 26:24]
Our own offences
What people may not realize in this study on the meaning of offenses in the Bible is that all of us are guilty before God of causing offenses. The Bible records, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. But, this passage of scripture does not stop there by simply condemning us in the presence of God.” [Rom. 6:23] It continues on to proclaim that we can be justified before God through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only through his sacrificial death on the cross, his shed blood, burial and resurrection whereby we may obtain atonement before God for our own sins and offenses. This is why Paul writes in the next verse, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. There is only one place where redemption is provided for in scripture and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Rom. 3:24]
Christ, the redeemer
For this reason, Paul continues on in the next chapter by stating how the righteousness of Jesus is now imputed to believers in him because he was delivered for our offenses on the cross. This is shared in this passage from scripture when it states, “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe in him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” [Rom. 4:25]
We are all prone to causing offenses, we have all sinned during our life. It is of interest that the Greek word for offenses is scandalon or scandalizo from which we derive the word scandal in English. This is such a fitting word for offenses and it is only through the Lord Jesus where redemption is obtained. If you are a seeker of faith, why not come to him now, repent of your sins, believe in him for his atoning work on the cross and for saving you from the penalty of sin. In exchange, he will give you his imputed righteousness, the comfort of the Holy Spirit to guide you, and the promise of eternal life!
Bible Study Questions
- In this Bible study on the meaning of offences in the Bible, can you list the three points that were noted in the first section?
- Why do you think people continue to cause offences despite the potential eternal consequences before God?
- Fill in the blanks from Rom. 16:17, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and ___________ contrary to the __________ which ye have learned; and ___________ them.
- In Matt. 24:24, Jesus warned of false Christs and false prophets that would infiltrate the world, true or false?
- Can you recall the name of the man that betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver with the religious rulers? Hint – Matt. 26.
- In Rom. 6:23, it says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” What does this verse mean to you personally?
- Take a few minutes in prayer to God to bring to light any offences you may have caused in other people and seek God’s forgiveness.
WORD GUIDE – * (woe – expression of dismay or grief) * (offences – stumbling block, snare, or to fall, more akin to be the cause or reason for someone to falter in their faith through sin)