Woe to the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
A caution this, as has well observed, "particularly necessary for the disciples at this time striving for superiority; for if they had continued in that spirit, they would have turned out of the way those they had gained to the faith." Let us inquire —
I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND HERE BY "OFFENCES." Stumbling-blocks in the way that leads to heaven. Figurative expression (Romans 14:13, 21): offences may be taken when they are not given. Offences may be given when they are not taken. Stumbling-blocks are of three kinds —
1. Such as God has laid in the way.
(1) Jesus Christ is in this sense a stumbling-block (1 Peter 2:6, 8; Romans 9:31-33; Isaiah 8:13-15; Luke 2:34; Matthew 13:57; Matthew 26:64, 65).
(2) The doctrine of Christ is a cause of offence (Matthew 15:12; Matthew 19:22, 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23; John 6:61-66; Matthew 13:54).
(3) The suffering and death of Christ on the cross is a stumblingblock (1 Corinthians 1:23; Matthew 26:31, 33; Luke 24:21). The Jews called Christ, in derision, "Talui," the man that was hanged. An offence without reason.
2. Such as are laid in the way by the subtlety and malice of the devil and his children. Such as false doctrine, reproaches, etc.
3. Such as, through the devices of the grand adversary, are laid in the way by the inattention, folly, and misconduct of those who are, or profess to be, the children of God (Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:7, 9).
II. How IT APPEARS THAT IT MUST NEEDS BE THAT OFFENCES COME.
1. Offences of the kind first mentioned must come (Matthew 2:6). These are only stumbling-blocks in our apprehension. They that stumble at these, stumble at their own mercies and salvation.
2. Offences of the second kind will come, not, strictly speaking of necessity, but in the nature of things. For the devil and his children will hate the children of God, etc. (Zechariah 3:2; 1 Corinthians 11:19; Acts 20:30; 2 Corinthians 11:26).
3. Offences of the last kind will also come, as appears from the text, and from (Luke 17:1), where the Greek word imports it is not to be expected, etc. He does not appoint or ordain these offences. He does not withhold the grace whereby they may be avoided. But He permits, or does not absolutely hinder them.
III. WHY OUR LORD PRONOUNCES A "WOE" UPON THE WORLD BECAUSE OF OFFENCES, AND UPON THAT MAN BY WHOM THE OFFENCE COMETH.
1. By "the world," may be here meant, those that know not, and love not, God (John 15:16, 19; John 17:9, 14; 1 John 5:19). Through offences, especially those of the last-mentioned kind, many of these perish eternally. Therefore, woe to them! They dishonour God, obstruct and injure others, and lose their own souls.
2. "The world," may mean mankind in general, including even the people of God.
3. "Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." For he dishonours God in a manner none else can do — he does the work of the devil and pleases him — he confirms the wicked in their prejudices, etc. All this mischief will be required at his hands, etc.Application —
1. See that you offend not (ver. 6).
2. See that you be not offended yourself (ver. 8, 9).
Parallel VersesKJV: 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!