17:1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 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. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:1-4)
“Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to him through whom they come.” It is terrible. The sense here is not of stealing a candy bar, but falling from the faith, being led into unbelief and false belief which is the same thing. It isn’t that you don’t believe in Christ and the forgiveness of sins, so much as you hold a false belief concerning him and the forgiveness of sins. It is a strong warning that to stand up and preach in the name of God is not a light undertaking. There is a great weight to it. If you lead the little ones to sin, to lose their faith, Woe to you. Pay attention to yourself and to your teaching Paul tells Timothy, for by it you will save both yourself and those who hear you. In other words make sure you teach the gospel. Take it seriously. It is a dangerous thing. I think about this. And you know, in zealousness and youthful enthusiasm I know that I have caused some to leave. I botched a confirmation class because I was too eager to have them memorize the catechism, and too strict about it. I haven’t seen them again. I pray for them daily. There are other stories I can come up with where either I did not apply the law properly, I applied the gospel improperly. And I pray. I have sinned against brothers. And I do not pretend to think it will not happen again. Though I pray it does not. But yes. In this I have sinned. And in this I have come to realize that there is only one hope, and it can never be the law. There is one hope and it is Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of all men, even pastors who botch it. And they need a congregation that forgives them, as much as the congregation needs to hear the pastor forgive them in his office. The Christian lives on forgiveness. We cannot afford to with hold it from others. To do so is our own undoing. If it was not for the forgiveness of sins, there would be no hope for any of us. But since there is forgiveness there is hope for all of us, yes indeed a certainty.