Luke 17:3

ESV Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,
NIV So watch yourselves. "If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
NASB Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
CSB Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
NLT So watch yourselves! 'If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.
KJV Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
NKJV Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

What does Luke 17:3 mean?

Luke has condensed the main ideas of a few of Jesus' teachings. In Luke 17:1–4, Jesus teaches the disciples about the responsibilities of spiritual leaders regarding the sin of others.

There's debate about the first phrase of this verse, but it seems to fit better with Luke 17:1–2 than with the rest of verses 3 and 4. The disciples, the larger group that will build the church, need to "pay attention" so that they do not teach anything that might tempt "little ones"—immature Christians—to sin. They are to be careful that what they say does not cause another to stumble or to go against God. Temptations to sin will come from the world (Luke 17:23); they shouldn't come from church.

The rest of the verse explains what to do if the "little one" commits any kind of sin. In Luke 17:1–2, the Greek word sometimes translated as a reference to sin was skandala. Here, it's the Greek word hamartē, which means to "miss the mark" in any way.

To "rebuke" is to warn someone: show that you disapprove of what they're doing. Even mature Christians find it difficult to rebuke someone in a helpful, biblical way. In person, we often let unbiblical beliefs go unchallenged out of politeness or peace. Online, we can rebuke so harshly we drive people further from God's truth. Other passages give guidelines: be kind and tenderhearted (Ephesians 4:32), speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), watch yourself so you don't fall into the same sin (Galatians 6:1), be patient and seek their good (1 Thessalonians 5:14–15).

To repent means to turn away from what was done or believed. It is a reconsideration and generally includes remorse for what was previously done or believed. Even if someone sins seven times a day, they must be forgiven if they sincerely repent (Luke 17:4). That command is both comforting and convicting. It's comforting because even though believers are not permanently tied to sin (1 John 5:18), it can take a while to find freedom from old habits. It's convicting to the one who must forgive over and over. Some Bible scholars think that's why the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5–6).

It should be noted that this phase of church discipline is for those who repent. Other passages state that if the offender continues to sin without repenting, the members of the church should stop fellowshipping with him until he does (Matthew 18:15–17; Titus 3:10).
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