Offence may be either active or passive. We may give offense by our conduct, or we may receive of peace from the conduct of others. The original word (σκανδαλίζω), in our version usually rendered "offend," literally signifies to cause to stumble, and by an easy metaphor, to occasion afall into sin (Mt 5:29). It may, therefore, apply to ourselves as well as to others (Mt 18:6-14). Hence the noun σκάνδαλον signifies not only "an offense," in our common use of that word, but also a stumbling- stone, a trap, a snare, or whatever impedes our path to heaven (Mt 18:17; Ro 14:13; 1Co 10:32). Sometimes offense is taken unreasonably; men, as Peter says, "stumble at the word, being disobedient." Hence we read of "the offense of the cross" (Ga 5:11; Ga 6:12). To positive truth or duty we must adhere, even at the hazard of giving' offense; but a woe is on us if we give it unnecessarily (Ro 14:13-21; 1Co 8:9-13). We should be very careful to avoid giving just cause of offense, lest we prove impediments to others in their reception of the truth, in their progress in sanctification, in their peace of mind, or in their general bourse towards heaven. We should abridge or deny ourselves in some things, rather than, by exercising our liberty to the utmost, give uneasiness to Christians weaker in mind or weaker in the faith than ourselves (1Co 10:32). On the other hand, we should not take offense without ample cause, but endeavor by our exercise of charity, and perhaps by our increase of knowledge, to think favorably of what is dubious, as well as honorably of what is laudable.
It was foretold of the Messiah that he should be "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (Isa 8:14; Ro 9:32-33; 1Pe 2:8). Perhaps predictions of this kind are among the most valuable which Providence has preserved to us, as we see by them that we ought not to be discouraged because the Jews, the natural people of the Messiah, rejected him, and still reject him; since the very offense they take at his humiliation, death, etc., is in perfect conformity to and fulfillment of those prophecies which foretold that, however they might profess to wish for the great Deliverer, yet when he came they would overlook him, and stumble at him.