Rev. Ronald C. Purkey, an ordained Baptist minister, claims no originality for this Bible study outline.
However, every Bible study posted on this website has been taught by Rev. Purkey.
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CRITICIZES UNJUST LEADERS
July 8, 2018
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 23:1-4, 23-26
KEY VERSES: The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matthew 23:2-3}
BACKGROUND: Here are some things to take note of about Matthew chapter 23.
· This was our Lord’s last public message.
It is a scathing denunciation of false religion that paraded under the guise of truth. Some of the common people no doubt were shocked at His words, for they considered the Pharisees to be righteous.
· Not all of the Pharisees were hypocrites.
There were about 6,000 Pharisees in that day, with many more who were “followers” but not full members of the group. Most of the Pharisees were middle-class businessmen and no doubt they were sincere in their quest for truth and holiness. The name “Pharisees” came from a word that means “to separate.” The Pharisees were separated from the Gentiles, the “unclean” Jews who did not practice the Law (“publicans and sinners,” Luke 15:1-2), and from any who opposed the tradition that governed their lives.
· A few Pharisees sought for true spiritual religion.
(1) Nicodemus (John 3:1-21, 7:50-53), (2) Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42), and (3) the unnamed man mentioned in Mark 12:32-34, come to mind. (4) Even the Jewish teacher Gamaliel showed a great deal of tolerance toward the newly formed church (Acts 5:34-39).
However for the most part, the Pharisees used their religion to promote themselves and their material gain. No wonder Jesus Christ denounced them. In our Bible study today, notice Jesus’ teaching about these unjust leaders.
INTRODUCTION: Matthew chapter 23 concludes the clash between the Lord Jesus and the religious rulers of His day. Jesus warns the multitudes about them and then denounces the religious rulers in unmistakable terms. No words that ever fell from the lips of our Lord were more blistering. It is a harsh condemnation. If we read this chapter carefully, it should give understanding to our own soul.
I. DON’T BE LIKE THEM. (Matthew 23:1-4)
INSIGHT: In this section, Jesus explained the basic flaws of pharisaical religion.
A. The scribes and Pharisees had a false concept of righteousness.
(Matthew 23:1-3) Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
1. To begin with, they had assumed an authority not their own.
“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in Moses’ seat” is the literal translation. There is no record in the Scriptures that God assigned any authority to this group. Their only authority was the Word of God. Therefore, the people were to obey whatever the Pharisees taught from the Word of God. But the people were not to obey the traditions and the man-made rules of the Pharisees.
2. To the Pharisee, righteousness meant outward conformity to the Law of God.
They ignored the inward condition of the heart. Religion consisted in obeying numerous rules that governed every detail of life, including what you did with the spices in your cupboard (Matthew 23:23-24). The Pharisees were careful to say the right words and follow the right ceremonies, but they did not inwardly obey the Law. God desired truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). To preach one thing and practice another is only hypocrisy.
B. The scribes and Pharisees had a false concept of ministry.
(Matthew 23:4) For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
To the scribes and Pharisees, ministry meant handing down laws to the people and adding to their burdens. In other words, the Pharisees were harder on others than they were on themselves. Jesus came to lighten men’s burdens (Matthew 11:28-30), but legalistic religion always seeks to make burdens heavier.
Jesus never asks us to do anything that He has not first done. The Pharisees commanded, but they did not participate. They were hypocritical religious dictators, not spiritual leaders.
II. WOE TO THEM. (Matthew 23:23-24)
A. The scribes and Pharisees majored on the minor things.
(Matthew 23:23) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other.
They were very meticulous in tithing their little plants which produce condiments like mint, anise, and cummin.
INSIGHT: For example, if someone grew a little patch of mint out in the backyard, can you imagine one of these religious rulers measuring off a little patch of mint and taking a tenth of it to give to the Lord? Oh, they were so strict about those little matters!
But Jesus Christ says, “You have forgotten about the weightier matters of the law.” And those weightier matters would have brought these scribe and Pharisees to Jesus Christ the Savior.
B. The scribes and Pharisees were spiritually blind religious leaders.
(Matthew 23:24) Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
1. These blind religious leaders were a joke.
If I had been present when Jesus said “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel,” I would have laughed -- unless, of course, I had been a scribe or a Pharisee. The Lord said this in a serious manner, but I am sure many in the crowd laughed, especially those who knew these old religious rulers.
2. There are many just like them today.
A lot of people make so much of the little things. One dear lady used to argue about the use of lipstick. This woman thought lipstick was awful, and yet she had the meanest tongue of any person I know. She didn’t think that was bad, but lipstick was terrible.
INSIGHT: Frankly, the paint of gossip on the end of the tongue -- especially when it is used to blacken somebody’s reputation -- is lots worse than a little paint on the lips. It is amazing how people can strain at a gnat and swallow a camel!
III. CLEAN WHAT’S INSIDE FIRST. (Matthew 23:25-26)
A. Sorrow awaits all hypocrites.
(Matthew 23:25) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
This fifth woe pictures the Pharisees with their emphasis on the externals (the outside). The Pharisees substituted (1) ritual for reality, (2) formality for faith, and (3) religious ceremony for God.
INSIGHT: This is a picture of the average American church today that is so busy making the outside of the cup and platter clean. They go through all the ceremonies. They want to have the best equipment.
They talk so nice and piously on the outside, but inside they do not deal with sin. In most cases, they do not even like the word sin. But all of the external ceremonies cannot clean up their inner corruption.
B. Do what the Lord says.
(Matthew 23:26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
We must do things the way God says to do them in the Word of God. First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
INSIGHT: Don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying. The Lord is NOT saying that the outside should not be clean. The problem arises because we give a wrong impression when the inside is dirty and the outside is clean. The place for all of us to start is on the INSIDE!
By Lawrence Darmani
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
· While delivering a well-publicized speech, a respected leader and statesman got the attention of his nation by declaring that most of his country’s honorable Members of Parliament (MPs) were quite dishonorable.
Citing (1) lifestyles of corruption, (2) pompous attitudes, (3) unsavory language, and (4) other vices, he rebuked the MPs and urged them to reform. As expected, his comments didn’t go well with them and they dispatched counter-criticisms his way.
· We may not be public officials in positions of leadership, but we who follow Christ are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
As such, our Lord calls us to lifestyles that honor Him. The disciple Peter had some practical advice on how to do this. He urged us to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2: 11). Although he didn’t use the word honorable, he was calling us to behavior worthy of Christ.
· As the apostle Paul phrased it in his letter to the Philippians, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).
Indeed, Philippians 4:8 lists the characteristics of behavior that honors our Lord. We should fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. We should think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
when we are honest with You, we understand how
often we fall far short of honorable behavior. We know how
much we need You. By Your Spirit, help us replace any
selfish thoughts, words, and actions with things that please
You and draw others to You.
-- Adapted from Lawrence Darmani, Our Daily Bread, August 26, 2016
CONCLUSION: What have we learned from our study of Matthew chapter 23?
First, we learned that the Word of God has authority even if the people who teach it lack integrity (Matthew 23:1-3).
Our Lord’s standard is that we both do and teach His truth. Those who practice hypocrisy erode their character and do untold damage to others. The tragedy is that hypocrisy blinds people so that they cannot see the Lord, themselves, or other people.
Second, we learned that the God of the Pharisees is NOT the God of the Bible.
The God of the Pharisees is a rigorous Law Giver who pays back those who pay Him. He is not “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) or the loving Father who cares for His children (Psalm 103:1–14).
Third, we learned that the Scribes and Pharisees were blind to themselves.
They thought that they were right, and everybody else was wrong. Because they majored on the externals, they never saw the rottenness in their hearts. Because they majored on the minor details, they ignored the great principles of the Word.
Fourth, we learned that hypocrites never see the damage done to others.
The ministry of hypocrites causes the doors of blessing to close (See, Matthew 23:13); defiling those who touch them (See, Matthew 23:27); giving people a wrong sense of values (See, Matthew 23:16–22).
It is no wonder Jesus wept! These “woes” were born of anguish, not anger; and perhaps, today, Jesus is weeping over you and me.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “We honor God’s name when we call Him our Father and we obey him as His children.”
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REFERENCES: References used in these Bible studies are the King James Bible (KJV), The Moody Bible Commentary, Dr. J. Vernon McGee © Thru the Bible Radio Network ( www.ttb.org ), the Scofield Study Bible, the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge Bible Outlines, Dr. Lee Roberson’s Sermons, Dr. Charles Stanley: ( http://www.intouch.org/ ), Don Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Women’s Study Bible, The Bible Reader’s Companion Ed. 3, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version, KJV Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the New Testament ed. 4, Dr. David Jeremiah: ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/ ), Dr. Cliff Robinson’s Bible Outlines, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the Old Testament, Dr. Alan Carr’s The Sermon Notebook ( www.sermonnotebook.org ), With the Word Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s “Be” Series: Old & New Testaments, RBC Ministries ( http://rbc.org/ ), selected illustrations, and other references.
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