Mat 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, (3) so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
Have you ever read these words of Jesus and been confused? I have. Wouldn’t you think that we should disregard what such hypocrites say as well as what they do?
Well, recently a commenter on this blog gave an account of how he was taken in by a similar hypocrite and his comment I believe sheds some light on why Jesus said what He said:
My wife and I have a friend that has been at our home the past three days. A family that were pillars in the church….married over 50 years….the husband a mentor to me when I was a young husband and father….who come to find out, behind closed doors in the home abused his wife and children. So instead of a home filled with the love of Jesus it was a house of horrors. Pray for the family. Pray for their safety especially the wife. Pray for wisdom.
So what you are telling us Pastor Crippen is even though I broke bread with this man…studied the Word together, prayed together, shared our deapest thoughts and concerns…learning to be a godly husband and father with him…he did this as a wolf, as a fraud, as a hypocrite? I should be weeping losing a friend. But I find myself not…instead there is this steadfast anger in my soul….not a raging anger….just a steadfast mad….might it be righteous anger? I am now doubting he never became a new creation in Christ as he claims.
Thank you Wade, for sharing this.
The scribes and Pharisees “sat in Moses’ seat.” This brings to our minds how Ezra read the Scriptures to the people after they returned to the land and apparently that tradition continued in the synagogues as some teacher would read and expound the Law given through Moses to the people. We see it in Jesus’ actions at Nazareth:
Luk 4:16-20 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. (17) And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, (18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (20) And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Hypocrites, in other words, are very capable of stating scriptural doctrine. Of quoting Bible verses. So when these Pharisees in the synagogues read Moses’ words, Jesus told the people to do whatever the Pharisees “told them to do,” ie, whatever the scriptures said. BUT the application of the Law by the Pharisees is what the people were to reject. Because these wicked counterfeits warped and twisted the real meaning and spirit of the Law.
Remember that people in Jesus’ day, just as so many people have been down through the centuries, did not have personal access to the Scriptures. People didn’t carry their Bible around and I would imagine that myriads of people wouldn’t know how to read it if they did. So they were dependent upon their synagogue leaders to read God’s Word to them. THAT is the part Jesus is telling them to hear and do. But the actual practical interpretation and handling of it was botched and was to be rejected. Jesus was upholding the Law as God’s Word, but was denouncing the ways the Pharisees and scribes twisted and perverted it.
And that is what Wade (author of the comment above) has experienced in this guy whose mentoring even benefitted him. I have experienced the same thing more than once, only to learn later that the person I thought was genuine was a fraud. And as I looked closer, I could see how such people misapplied and twisted God’s Word.
You can think of many examples of this very thing. Think for instance of the “godly” and saintly and wise preacher who was well-known and appreciated by thousands, and then is found out to have been living a sham all along. Did we benefit from his “ministry”? Yes, in many ways. To the extent he was truly communicating God’s Word in the Bible to us, we did. BUT, we had better go back now and closely examine how we might have bought into some of his applications of Scripture because in some way ALL of his applications are going to be tainted.
Really, I think what Jesus is saying is simply what we refer to as “sola scriptura” (if I spelled the Latin correctly). Scripture alone. Yes, God gives us pastors and teachers and so on (Ephesians 4), but our sole authority for what we believe is the Bible alone. We err greatly if we make any human being our authority.
Practically, what will inevitably happen when we are dealing with a hypocrite, is that if we will apply Jesus’ instruction here, it will not be long before the hypocrite hates us and leaves us. Because hypocrites demand that we do as they do. When we make Scripture our only authority and thus do what God says to do, the counterfeit will be incensed – and exposed.