What is a stumbling block? Note: the Greek word used is skandalon from which we get our scandal; in the LXX it is used for a noose or snare, and is properly the baited trap-stick, the moveable stick or trigger of a trap; see Jos 23:13, Jdg 2:3, 8:27, 1Sa 18:21, Psa 106:36, 140:5, 141:9. From this meaning it came to include any impediment placed in the way that would “trip up” another and cause him to stumble or fall; see Lev 19:14, 1Co 8:13, Rev 2:14; cf. Mat 16:23. Hence the verbal form is often used in the sense of offending someone so that they are prevented from continuing along a path and so “fall away” or cease to follow after another; see Mat 13:21,57, 15:12, 17:27, 24:10, 26:31. The dictionary definition of our English word scandal is: “discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person; conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another.” What insight does this understanding give us about what it means to cause “one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble”? What sort of “scandals” or other types of “stumbling blocks” do we see in today’s Church that have brought discredit upon the name of Christ, encouraged a lapse of faith in others, and caused some to “fall away”? Think: sex scandals; disputes and dissensions that cause divisions and especially church splits; any act of hypocrisy, such as slander, gossip, or engaging in unseemly conduct (forwarding unseemly e-mails?), etc… In what way are such scandals a baited trap stick that instantly sets the snare on those “little ones” who are just barely escaping from the ones who live in error? Think: apart from causing them to fall away from religion entirely, how many are caught in the snare of believing that God doesn’t expect us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Tit 2:12), so that they “fall away” from the true faith to “another gospel” that cannot save? See 2Pe 2:18-22. What is the great danger of being involved in such scandals that bring reproach upon the name of Christ and cause others to stumble and fall away, whether completely, or to a false Christianity that does not deliver from sin? See Mat 18:6; cf. 13:41. Knowing that such things are a baited trap stick, what can we do to avoid being one that ensnares others? See Rom 14:13, 1Jo 2:10. What can we do to avoid being caught in the snare that such trap sticks spring and would cause us to stumble? See Psa 119:165, Rom 16:17. In what way was Jesus Himself a stumbling block? See Joh 6:60-61,66, Rom 9:33, 1Co 1:23, Gal 5:11. How is the way people stumble over Him different from other types of stumbling blocks? See 1Pe 2:4-8; cf. Gal 6:7-8.
What does Jesus mean that it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come? See 2Th 2:3-5, 1Ti 4:1, 2Ti 3:1-5, 2Ti 4:3-4. Why is it inevitable? Is it inevitable because God causes it to happen, so that He is the author of evil and wills that some be damned? Or is it because God created man a free agent and the far-reaching effects of even the smallest of sins make it inevitable? Cf. Gen 2:16-17, 3:13. Many people wonder what the big whoop is about a little sin; what does this teach us about why even seemingly minor transgressions are such a big whoop with God? Cf. Gal 5:9.
What does the context of Mat 18:8-9 indicate about what Jesus had in mind concerning the manner in which one’s hand or foot or eye causes him to stumble? See Mat 18:6-7,10. What do these verses indicate is even worse than having a heavy millstone hung around one’s neck and being drowned in the depths of the sea? What do these verses warn will be the plight of those who cause “one of these little ones who believe in [Jesus] to stumble”? Were these words of Jesus addressed to those whom we would think of as “believers” or “unbelievers”? Under what circumstances were they spoken? See Luk 9:46-49, Mat 18:1-3. What does this teach us about the great danger to us as Christians of not repenting of everything contrary to God’s word when we come to Christ, but clinging to our own carnal worldly notions that will inevitably cause another to stumble? See Mat 7:21-23, 18:3, Luk 13:1-5.
1. Contrast 1Co 1:10-13, 3:1-4, and note that the Greek word from which we get our word heresy actually means a faction, and a heretic is one who is factious and causes divisions; see Tit 3:10 in both the KJV and NASB.↩
2. See Psa 50:20 where skandalon is used in the LXX for “slander”, an old meaning of scandalize.↩
3. Note NASB text note on “hindrances” that means literally “occasions of stumbling”; KJV = offenses; NIV = obstacles in your way.↩