"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Learning From Hypocrites (23:1-39) INTRODUCTION 1. What is a hypocrite? a. Some are accused of hypocrisy when their walk does not measure up to their talk b. But that may be an indication of weakness, not hypocrisy per se c. "Hypocrite" comes from the Greek "hupokrites (hoop-ok-ree-tace'), meaning an actor under an assumed character; e.g., stage-player (Strong's) d. A true hypocrite is one who pretends to be something he or she is not, and really has no intention of becoming 2. Jesus addressed hypocrites in His day, in particular some scribes and Pharisees... a. They were among the more religiously conservative of that time b. Yet some of the harshest words Jesus ever spoke were directed toward them c. In just one speech, he called them... 1) Hypocrites (seven times) - Mt 23:13-15,23,25,27,29 2) Fools (twice) and blind guides (five times) - Mt 23:16-17,19, 24,26 3) Serpents, brood of vipers (once) - Mt 23:33 3. Despite such strong condemnation, one can learn from hypocrites... a. You can heed their teaching, when it comes from God's word - cf. Mt 23:1-3 1) Don't automatically disregard the message if the messenger is a hypocrite 2) Look beyond the messenger to the original source of the message b. You can also learn how not to act... 1) Especially when you take note of how Jesus rebuked them 2) Which we shall do in this lesson [What valuable lessons can we learn from hypocrites? The first are lessons gleaned ...] I. FROM THEIR ABUSE OF AUTHORITY A. BINDING ON OTHERS WHAT ONE IS UNWILLING TO DO... 1. When speaking from Moses' seat in the synagogues, they were speaking with authority 2. Unfortunately, they were binding things on others they themselves were unwilling to observe - Mt 23:1-4 3. This breeds disrespect for all authority, including the Word of God -- If we desire the highest regard for God's word, then practice what we preach! B. DOING WORKS TO BE SEEN OF MEN... 1. When they did their works, they did them to be seen by others - Mt 23:5a 2. They loved to wear religious clothing that gave appearance of devotion - Mt 23:5b 3. With time, such hypocrisy will become evident to those who know us -- If we desire God's approval, we need to do things to glorify God, and at times seen only by Him - Mt 5:16; 6:1-18 C. SEEKING ATTENTION AND SPECIAL TREATMENT... 1. The Pharisees loved special treatment received from others 2. Such as the best seats and honorary titles - Mt 23:6-7 3. Jesus expected His disciples to be different - Mt 23:8-12 a. He forbade the use of religious titles b. He enjoined humility as the road to greatness -- If we desire to honor Christ, we will respect His teaching and not use religious titles or expect special treatment, but serve others with humility [As Jesus continues with a diatribe against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, we glean several lessons...] II. FROM THEIR FAILURE IN TEACHING A. FAILING TO SAVE OTHERS... 1. They failed to truly show others the way to the kingdom of heaven, and to go in themselves - Mt 23:13 2. Through their doctrines they had rendered the commandments of God of no effect - cf. Mt 15:3-6 3. Their teaching came from hearts far removed from God -
cf. Mt 15:7-9 -- We need to make sure our teaching saves both ourselves and others - cf. 1Ti 4:16 B. MISUSING RELIGION FOR MONEY AND PRESTIGE... 1. They used religion to take advantage of widows, and impress others - Mt 23:14 2. Paul warned Timothy and Titus about such teachers - 2Ti 3: 4-6; Tit 1:10-11 3. Instead, we should view godliness with contentment as true gain - cf. 1Ti 6:3-8 -- It is imperative that we do things honorable in the sight of all - cf. 2Co 8:21 C. MAKING PEOPLE WORSE THAN OURSELVES... 1. The Pharisees did not make people better, they made them worse! - Mt 23:15 2. Perhaps by their emphasis on the traditions of men, rather than upon the word of God a. The Pharisees themselves may have known the word of God to some degree b. But in neglecting God's word, they starved those who received their teaching! -- We must be careful not to put ourselves or traditions between God's word and those we teach, but let them know "the whole counsel of God"! - cf. Ac 20:27 D. MAKING DISTINCTIONS WHERE GOD HAS NOT... 1. The scribes and Pharisees made fine distinctions between the types of oaths one could swear - Mt 23:16-22 2. We can easily do similar things today a. Saying some commands of God are essential to salvation, while others are not b. Teaching our "think so's" and "it seems to me" instead of telling people what the Bible says -- To safely guard against this, "let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent", proclaiming the oracles of God - cf. 1Pe 4:11 [As Jesus increases the level of His righteous indignation against the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees of that day, we are able to learn three final lessons...] III. FROM THEIR INCONSISTENCY OF PRACTICE A. LEAVING COMMANDS OF GOD UNDONE... 1. They left undone the "weightier" matters of God's law - Mt 23: 23-24 a. They stressed tithing, but neglected justice, mercy, faith b. Thus they would strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel 2. We can be guilty of the same thing a. By stressing "lighter" matters, and leave "weightier" matters undone b. Also by stressing "weightier" matters, and leave "lighter" things undone -- Jesus said we should do both, leaving neither undone, for all of God's commandments are important! - cf. Mt 5:19 B. FOCUSING ONLY ON THE OUTER MAN... 1. The "blind" scribes and Pharisees focused only on the outside - Mt 23:25-28 a. Concerned with keeping the traditions of ritual cleansing b. Willing to put up with extortion, self-indulgence, hypocrisy and lawlessness 2. We can be guilty of having the wrong focus a. Stressing big buildings, large crowds b. Accepting people into the church without challenging them to true repentance -- If we are to avoid creating a church of hypocrites, then we need to emphasize true repentance, a conversion of the inner man - cf. Ro 12:2 C. HONORING THE PAST, BUT UNWILLING TO LIVE IT... 1. They honored the ancient men of God, but were more like their ancestors who murdered the prophets - Mt 23:29-31 a. Indeed, they would do even more harm than their fathers - Mt 23:32-34 b. Upon that generation would come the judgment for the murder of all God's prophets (cf. the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) - Mt 23:35-39 2. We honor men like Jesus and Peter, but are we willing to live what they preached? a. Are we willing to obey their commands? - cf. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38 b. Or are we like many back then who refused to heed their word? CONCLUSION 1. What can we learn from hypocrites? A lot! Provided we... a. Take to heart Jesus' denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees! b. Do not imitate their abuse of authority, failure in teaching, and inconsistency of practice! 2. Speaking of hypocrites, some people avoid church because "there are too many hypocrites there." There may be hypocrites in the church, but that is no reason not to follow Jesus... a. Did the hypocrisy of Judas Iscariot permit the rest of the apostles to leave Jesus? b. Do you allow the presence of hypocrites keep you from enjoying other activities (such as sports events, vacations, etc.)? Besides...which is better, to spend a short time with hypocrites in the church, or to spend eternity with hypocrites in hell? Remember what Jesus said of the hypocrites: "How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Mt 23:33b) Only through the redemption God offers through His Son can any of us escape the condemnation of hell. Don't let the hypocrisy of some keep you from the blessings of salvation in Christ Jesus!