In Luke 17:3-10 Jesus talks to His disciples about unlimited forgiveness, miraculous faith, and what it means to be a servant of the Lord. At first glance these things seem to be disjointed, but a second look (anaginosko) reveals a thread of truth that is necessary for those who really want to be a disciple. Everyone has had times when they were disappointed in their faith. Why is it limited? Why is it so unfruitful? The Lord Jesus answers these questions.
Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves…
What did Jesus mean by saying, “Take heed to yourselves”? Paul answers the question. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3. Thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to think is a deterrent of faith. You will notice that God gives to each one a measure of faith. A measure of faith is limited faith; it is always less than what you need in a given situation. Why does the Lord give us a faith that is usually less than what we need? It is because we have the responsibility of increasing our faith through the appropriation of His faith. If we always had enough faith, we would start thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.
Luke 17:3 If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
Human nature likes to rebuke and condemn and since that human nature still resides in Christians, forgiveness is not so easily done. There are quite a few churches today that excel in the ministry of condemnation. They minister the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”, and if a commandment is broken they are quick to condemn. “But Jesus said to rebuke the one that sins.” Yes, He also said: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Matthew 5:44. Can you rebuke with love? Did you first love him, do good to him, and pray for him? Let’s define the love that must accompany the rebuke of which Jesus is speaking. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. I Corinthians 13:4-6. A rebuke must edify. Let all things be done for edification (I Corinthians 14:26). Remember, how you relate to a brother determines how the Lord will relate to you. That is why Jesus said, Take heed to yourselves!
Luke 17:4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.
Judaism was a religion of condemnation. The many rules and regulations kept the people in bondage. They were enslaved to the commandments of men. Man’s religion is not conducive to forgiveness. So when Jesus told His disciples to forgive the one who sins against them even seven times in a day, they said, “Lord, increase our faith.” They knew themselves well enough to know they couldn’t do that. They didn’t have enough faith to be that forgiving. Faith cannot grow in an unforgiving heart. Why does a Christian lack the faith needed to be forgiving? It is because he thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think. Take heed to yourselves!
Luke 17:6 So the Lord said, If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.
As Gomer Pyle would say, “Shazam! That is miracle faith!” Faith as a mustard seed can pull up the tree and plant it in the sea! Faith as a mustard seed – what is meant by that? Matthew 13:32 says that a mustard seed is the least of all seeds. Does not that mean a little faith can plant that tree in the sea? No, if our faith was much smaller, it would be next to non-existent. Small faith is not the answer.
It has also been pointed out that mustard seed is pure mustard. So our faith has to be pure faith. James talks about faith that is unmixed when asking for wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:5-7. Pure faith is what we need. Faith mixed with doubt is unproductive. Surely, the measure of faith that God gives us is pure faith. And if pure faith as a mustard seed can pull up a tree and plant it in the sea, why isn’t our measure of faith enough? It is pure faith when God gives it to us, but when we claim it as ours it becomes mixed with the doubts, fears, insecurities, and unbeliefs of our adamic nature. Do you understand what I am trying to say? The only pure faith is the faith of God. The moment we claim it as our faith it is polluted with our nature. That is why Jesus says to take heed to yourselves. Paul said it this way: What do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? I Corinthians 4:7.
Jesus is our pattern. Listen to what He said. I can of Myself do nothing (John 5:30). Again, the Father that dwells in Me does the works (John 14:10). The pattern was continued by the Apostles. When the lame man at the gate Beautiful was healed the people were amazed. Peter responded: Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus…and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Acts 3:12, 13, 16. We must follow the example of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles. It is His faith, His dedication, His love, His authority…. We have none of those things in our own nature, and when we claim them as ours they become polluted. When the faith is not our own but is His, it is pure faith. Take heed to yourselves.
Why would anyone want to pull up a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea? Why would Jesus use such an illustration as an example of pure faith? Mystically, Jesus is talking about a change of nature, which is what must happen if we are to be born of God. We cannot change ourselves; only God can change the nature of man. Only His faith can do that, not ours. When the two blind men asked Jesus to have mercy of them, He said, “According to your faith let it be to you,” and they received their sight (Matthew 9:29). The woman with an issue of blood received healing when she touched Jesus’ garments, and He said, “Your faith has made you whole” (Matthew 9:22). Because of their faith they were healed of a physical ailment. However, faith that brings a change of life form has to be His faith without the pollution of man. Paul expresses it beautifully in Galatians 2:20. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Take heed to yourselves, for when you claim the faith as your own it becomes polluted with your adamic nature.
Luke 17:7-10 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, come at once and sit down to eat?
8 But will he not rather say to him, Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?
9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.
Take heed to yourselves, lest you think you can earn something from God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. Do you understand grace? Our relationship with the Lord begins with grace and it must continue in grace. Spiritual growth and change only takes place in the realm of grace. The moment we begin to feel that God owes us something for our service is the moment we begin removing ourselves from the grace of God. Take heed to yourselves, lest you begin to think more highly of yourselves than you should.
Copyright © 2004 by Henry DuBose