July 4, 2022
These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble (John 16:1).
The word ‘stumble’ (skandalizo) is translated as ‘fall away’ in the NET, ESV; ‘abandon faith’ in the NLT, GNB; ‘stumble’ in the RSV, NASB, NKJV, ASV; ‘offended’ in the KJV; ‘lose faith’ in GW; to ‘doubt’ in the BBE; and to ‘be afraid’ in the CEV. The Greek word skandalizo sounds very familiar to our English word ‘scandal’ or ‘scandalize’. Literally it means to ‘trap’ or ‘trip up’; ‘entice to sin’ or ‘cause to stumble’ spiritually.
In this verse, Jesus continues to address the hardships and opposition the disciples would face as ministers of the Gospel. In chapter 15 He spoke to them of these things in general terms. In chapter 16 He detailed some of the specific persecutions they would face. He also spoke to them about what they would do (chapter 15) and what God would do through them by the power of the Holy Spirit (chapter 16). It was His way of telling the disciples, and us, that ‘to be forewarned is to be forearmed’. Many years ago, as a teenager, my father taught me to ‘expect the best, but prepare for the worst’. No doubt he learned this from the Scriptures.
Bernard of Clairvaux (A.D. 1090-1153) called ‘the skandala of faith’ the ‘the stumbling blocks which trip up a disciple’. The Apostle Paul warned us of the methodeia (methods; schemes) of the devil that Christians are to stand against (Ephesians 6:11). Are they the same thing? What are the skandala of faith that the disciples faced, and that we face today?
The main umbrella under which the many skandala of the faith and methodeia of the devil are grouped is the umbrella of persecution. Christians are called to be witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The word ‘witness’ is martureo. It is translated to ‘testify’, ‘bear witness’, ‘give testimony’, and is anglicized in the word ‘martyr’ - someone who gives his life for his faith. The disciples gave their lives for their faith in Jesus. Peter, Andrew, and James (son of Alphaeus) were crucified like Jesus. James (son of Zebedee) and Paul were beheaded. Bartholomew was whipped to death, then crucified. Thomas was stabbed with spears, Mark was dragged to death in the streets of Alexandria, Egypt. James (Jesus’ half-brother) Stephen, and Philip were stoned to death. Matthew, Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot were also killed. It is estimated in the first 3 Christian centuries, hundreds of thousands of Christians were killed on the authority of the Roman Emperors. During the Protestant Reformation (15th century A.D.) it is reported that more than 50 million Christians were put to death by the Roman Catholic Church (John Dowling, History of Romanism). Today, thousands of Christians are being arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred every year by those who hate Jesus (especially Muslims and Communists).
Satan uses such methods to put a stumbling block of fear and antagonism in the path of modern Christians. But Jesus has warned us of these (and others) so that we will be prepared to face a world that is hostile to our Christian faith. These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. Amen.