I want to make 2 quick points in this passage that I read yesterday:
And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
1. God’s sovereignty doesn’t exclude us from being responsible.
God has a plan, and he will fulfill it. But we still have a choice in our life. God allows the devil to tempt (and really tempts himself, because he has control over everything), but we are still held responsible for our deeds, as the first verse makes clear. This isn’t the only passage you can take this from. There are probably many more, but I can think of 2:
In Luke 22:22, Jesus tells Judas that he “will die as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed”. Again, we have both aspects of our life in one single sentence by Jesus.
The other passage I can think of is Romans 9:19: You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” I heard a good sermon on this passage once, in which the preacher also addresses this topic – I don’t really remember what he said, though. I can point anyone to it who wants to hear it. Anyway, fact is that we are sinful and God is just and must hold us accountable to our sin – even though, in a way, he has control over it: because he gives us choice.
What can we do with this knowledge?
I take comfort in God, because I know that he is good, and just, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I trust the Lord that he knows how to glorify himself. He may do with me as he pleases (he does anyway) and I am glad about it, for I know that he will do better than I would. I also work hard, fight the devil, try to die so that Christ may live in me, because: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15) (By the way, everyone should have studied James 1:2-18. This passage is really, really important). Finally, I have good faith, because “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The Word is stronger that a double-edged sword. The devil can go right back home – his future doesn’t look so good anyway!
2. Love doesn’t ignore sin in a brother.
Okay, I already wrote a lot… I’ll keep this short.
There are several passages that teach how to deal with sin in the community. Matthew 18:21-22 would be another example, if you are interested. In short, the correct response to sin isn’t to ignore it. True, there is 1 Corinthians 13, but that’s not what that passage means.
If you love your brother, then rebuke him! If he is godly, he should be glad about any guidance he can get and try to conform himself to scripture. Then, when he repents, forgive him. This is where 1 Corinthians 13 comes into play. You don’t ignore sin, you forget and forgive past and acknowledged sins. By the way, this command is old: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. (Leviticus 19:17) As you can see, Moses already taught this as a basic rule for the community. Sin has to be fought, for the Lord is Holy. Sin cannot be tolerated in the community: either the sin, or the Holy Spirit have to leave. They cannot coexist. If we tolerate sin, we ourselves sin against the Holy Spirit in us and the others, as Leviticus teaches.
It’s important to guide our brothers and sisters in Christ within their daily life, so that they may “present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is their spiritual worship.”