Matthew 18:7
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!
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(7) Woe unto the world.—The interjection is one of sorrow as well as denunciation, and here the former meaning is predominant, as the latter is in the next clause of the verse. The true meaning of “offence,” as meaning not the mere transgression of a law, but such a transgression as causes the fall of others, must be carefully borne in mind throughout. The words, “It must needs be that offences come, but woe unto that man . . . ,” unite in strange contrast the two truths which all the history of human guilt brings before us. Crimes seem to recur with something like the inevitable regularity of a law, and yet in each single instance the will of the offender has been free to choose, and he is therefore rightly held responsible both by divine and human laws.

Matthew 18:7-9. Wo unto the world because of offences — That is, unspeakable misery will be in the world through them: for it must needs be that offences come — Such is the nature of things, and such the weakness, folly, and wickedness of mankind, that it cannot be but they will come: but wo to that man — That is, miserable is that man; by whom the offence cometh. Offences are all things whereby any one is turned out of or hindered in the way of God. If thy hand, foot, eye, offend thee, that is, cause thee to stumble; if the most dear enjoyment, or the most beloved and useful person, turn thee out of or hinder thee in the way. Is not this a hard saying? Yes; if thou take counsel with flesh and blood. For a further elucidation of the words, see notes on Matthew 5:29-30; and Mark 9:42-50.

18:7-14 Considering the cunning and malice of Satan, and the weakness and depravity of men's hearts, it is not possible but that there should be offences. God permits them for wise and holy ends, that those who are sincere, and those who are not, may be made known. Being told before, that there will be seducers, tempters, persecutors, and bad examples, let us stand on our guard. We must, as far as lawfully we may, part with what we cannot keep without being entangled by it in sin. The outward occasions of sin must be avoided. If we live after the flesh, we must die. If we, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. Christ came into the world to save souls, and he will reckon severely with those who hinder the progress of others who are setting their faces heavenward. And shall any of us refuse attention to those whom the Son of God came to seek and to save? A father takes care of all his children, but is particularly tender of the little ones.Woe unto the world because of offences - That is, offences will be the cause of woe or of suffering. Offences, here, mean things that will produce sin: that will cause us to sin, or temptations to induce others to sin. See the notes at Matthew 5:29.

It must needs be ... - That is, such is the depravity of man that there will be always some who are attempting to make others sin; some people of wickedness endeavoring to lead Christians astray, and rejoicing when they have succeeded in causing them to fall. Such, also, is the strength of our native corruption and the force of passion, that our besetting sins will lead us astray.

Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh - He who leads others into sin is awfully guilty - no man can be more guilty. No wickedness can be more deeply seated in the heart than that which attempts to mar the peace, defile the purity, and destroy the souls of others; and yet in all ages there have been multitudes who, by persecution, threats, arts, allurements, and persuasion, have endeavored to seduce Christians from the faith and to lead them into sin.


Mt 18:1-9. Strife among the Twelve Who Should Be Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, with Relative Teaching. ( = Mr 9:33-50; Lu 9:46-50).

For the exposition, see on [1323]Mr 9:33-50.

See Poole on "Matthew 18:9".

Woe unto the world because of offences!.... By which are meant, not sins, as sometimes, but rather temptations to sin; and so the Ethiopic version renders this word by "temptation" in every clause, as the Arabic does in the next; and may design all the contempt and reproach cast upon the doctrines, ordinances, and people of Christ, and all those afflictions, distresses, and persecutions exercised on them, on purpose to cause them to stumble and fall; to tempt them to deny the truth, drop their profession of religion, and relinquish the service of Christ; things which are displeasing to God, discouraging to his people, and often attended with bad consequences to formal professors; and bring down the judgments of God upon the men of the world; who sooner or later will vindicate his own cause, avenge his own elect, and render tribulation to them that trouble them.

For it must needs be that offences come; considering the implacable malice of Satan, his unwearied and indefatigable pains, the malignity of the men of the world, their aversion and enmity to the Gospel of Christ, and all good men; it cannot be thought, God suffering such things for the trial of such as are truly gracious, and for the discovery of hypocrites, and for the manifestation of his grace, power, and faithfulness in the preservation of his dear children, that it should be otherwise, but that such offences should be:

but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh; for though God, for wise ends and reasons, as above, voluntarily permits such things to be in the world; and though they do not succeed, as to cause the true followers of Christ so to stumble and fall, as to perish, yet this does not excuse their sin and wickedness, in doing all that in them lay to effect it. For though God will, and does overrule all their base designs against his ministers, church, and people, for his glory, and their good, this is no thanks to them; and as it does not in the least extenuate their crime, it will not abate the severity of their punishment.

{3} Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that {c} offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

(3) A good man cannot help but experience offences, yet he must by no means offer offence.

(c) Obstructions and hindrances which stop the course of good works. The Greek word conveys the sense of things which we stumble at.

Matthew 18:7. Οὐαί] θρηνεῖ ὡς φιλάνθρωπος τὸν κόσμον ὡς μέλλοντα βλαβῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλων, Theophylact.

ἀπό] indicating the causal origin of the woe for humanity (τῷ κόσμῳ). The world is not conceived of as giving the offence (in answer to Jansen, Arnoldi, Bleek), but as suffering from it. With regard to ἀπό, see Buttmann, Neut. Gramm. p. 277 [E. T. 322].

ἀνάγκη γάρ] assigns the reason for the ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλ. immediately before: on account of offences, I say, for they cannot but come. This necessity (necessitas consequentiae) has its foundation in the morally abnormal condition of mankind, yet (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:19) is to be traced back to the divine purpose (not merely permission), which, however, does away neither with the moral freedom of him who, by word or deed, gives offence (Romans 14:13), nor with his liability to punishment. Hence: πλὴν (yet) οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, κ.τ.λ.

τὰ σκάνδαλα] temptations, as a general conception.

τὸ σκάνδ.] the temptation as conceived of in each individual case.

Matthew 18:7. οὐαὶ τῶ κόσμῳ, woe to the world, an exclamation of pity at thought of the miseries that come upon mankind through ambitious passions. Some (Bleek, Weiss, etc.) take κόσμος in the sense of the ungodly world, as in later apostolic usage, and therefore as causing, not suffering from, the offences deplored. This interpretation is legitimate but not inevitable, and it seems better to take the word in the more general sense of humanity conceived of as grievously afflicted with “scandals” without reference to who is to blame. They are a great fact in the history of mankind, by whomsoever caused.—ἀπὸ τ. σ.: by reason of; points to the ultimate source of the misery.—τῶν σκανδάλων: the scandals; a general category, and a black one.—ἀνάγκη γάρ: they are inevitable; a fatality as well as a fact, on the wide scale of the world; they cannot be prevented, only deplored. No shallow optimism in Christ’s view of life.—πλὴν: adversative here, setting the woe that overtakes the cause of offences, over against that of those who suffer from them. Weiss contends that it is not adversative here any more than in Matthew 11:24, but simply conducts from the general culpability of the world to the guilt of every one who is a cause of scandal, even when he does not belong to the world.

7–9. Of Offences. Mark 9:43-48From offences—hindrances to the faith of Christ’s little ones—the discourse proceeds to offences in general—every thing that hinders the spiritual life.

Matthew 18:7. Τῷ κόσμῳ, to the world) offences spread far and wide,—τῶν σκανδάλων, of THE offences) τὰ σκάνδαλα, THE offences.—τὸ σκάνδαλον, THE offence) The article is emphatic.—ἀνάγκη[810] γάρ ἐστιν ἐλθεῖν τὰ σκάνδαλα, for it must needs be that offences come) especially in the age blessed by the presence of the Messiah; just as insects abound in summer. The disciples were near offence: how much nearer must others have been!—πλὴν, but) used emphatically.[811] Woe to the world which is injured by offences: but woe indeed to the man who injures it by offence.

[810] Ἀνάγκη, it is necessary) On account of the frequency of unbelief.—V. g.

[811] Πλὴν being added to the previous enunciation, forms an ‘Epitasis,’ or emphatic addition. See Append.—ED.

Verse 7. - This and the preceding verse occur in St. Luke (Luke 17:1, 2) in an inverted order. Woe unto the world! The Lord thinks of the deadly evil brought into the world by offences given, such as bad example, unholy lives of Christians, persecutions, scoffs, thoughtlessness - things which lead so many astray. For it must needs be. While men are what they are, such consequences must be expected. This is not an absolute, but a relative, necessity. Man's heart is evil, his tendencies are evil, temptation is strong. Satan is active; all these forces combine to bring about a fatal result. Thus St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 11:19), "There must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." So these offences of which Christ speaks are overruled and permitted for wise purposes, that by them the righteous may be proved and purified, and the chaff separated from the wheat. But woe to that man! Because of this evil principle which is rife in the world, no man is exonerated from the guilt of giving offence. He has free will; he can choose good; he can use the means of grace; he can strengthen his natural weakness, control his perverseness, overcome corruption, by the help of God always ready to be given to them who seek. The first "woe" is a cry of pity for a world in danger; the second "woe" is a denunciation of the sinner as being responsible for the evil which he introduces. We are all in some sort our brothers' keepers, and are bound to help forward their salvation, and to do nothing which may tend to endanger their souls' health. Matthew 18:7
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