Allegheny Valley Church Of God
The Pharisee Test
A Study Of Matthew Ch. 23
In Matthew Ch. 23 we find Jesus giving his final public discourse. While his disciples were convinced that they were very near the time when he would establish the kingdom of heaven on earth, in reality they were just a few days away from having their world fall apart before them. Even though Jesus made it clear to them on numerous occasions that he was to be killed by the rulers of the Jews, they stopped their ears and expected him to reign upon his throne.
Since his "triumphant" entry into Jerusalem a few days earlier the Sadducees and the Pharisees were firing salvo after salvo of questions at him, all designed to make him say something that they could use against him. In each case their efforts were thwarted. At the end of the preceding chapter, when Jesus asked them a question they could not answer without admitting he was the Messiah, ("What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?") they gave up trying to catch him in his words.
It was these attacks that prompted the discourse in ch. 23. He was speaking to the multitude and his subject was the leadership of the nation. His first admonishment to the people was to respect their leaders because they "sit in Moses' seat." But he also warned them to beware of their behavior and attitudes.
I wonder if the same applies to the church today? God appointed apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers. There are elders and deacons and overseers. Many claim to hold these offices by appointment, credentialing, many are even self-ordained. I wonder how many of them would pass the Pharisee test.
1. (v3) Do they practice what they preach? Jesus first warning was "do not after their works, for they say and do not." I don't think there is anything more embarrassing than a church leader who preaches holiness but lives unrepentantly a life of sin. "Do as I say not as I do" might work in some instances, but not in church leadership.
2. (v4) Do they make unreasonable demands upon their people and won't lift a finger to help? Do they preach holiness and live like the devil? Do they rebuke their people for minor offenses but themselves do the unthinkable when no one is looking? Have you ever known a pastor who was too good to pick up a broom? But they're the first to demand someone else do it. Or how about the ones who harp on tithing, but never do so themselves? Do they minister the love of Christ or the demands of their office?
3. (5-7) Do they love attention? Do they love to be seen and applauded. Everything they do is for the sole purpose of garnering attention to themselves. They love to sit at the main table on the platform. They love to wear $1000 suits and brag about it and drive big cars and own jets. Some always make sure they wear the collar so everyone will know them. They love to have all their accomplishments given when their name is announced. They love to have the preeminence in public meetings and always make sure they use the "Rev" or "Pastor" before their name.
4. (v13) Do they keep people from a saving knowledge of Christ by promoting religious performance over being born again? They don't know God and don't want anyone else to.
5. (v14) Do they know how to manipulate the weak and make a good buck off of those who don't know any better, and will make sure they don't have a chance to learn?
6. (v15) Do they go out of their way to convert people to their perverted form of religion, leading them to a Christless hell by teaching them a false gospel? Do they have the compassion of Christ, or are they just interested in the offering plate.
7. (v16-22) Do they teach loopholes in God's law? The Pharisees would make rules about taking oaths when in reality they had no right to swear on anything that wasn't theirs. Jesus spoke about that in the sermon on the mount. (Mat. 5:34)
8. (v23-24) Do they major on the minors and ignore the important things? Are they so caught up with how long a woman's skirt should be but can't keep their eyes from looking? Do they emphasize performance and ignore the gospel? Do they minister grace or condemnation?
9. (v25-28) Are they all show and no game? Do they put on a front? The Greek word translated "hypocrite" actually referred to the masks that were worn in the Greek theater. Often one person would play more than one part, and the way you could tell was by the mask they were wearing at the time.
10. (v29-33) Do they pretend to honor the Bible but deny it's very teachings? That is rampant in the church today. They'll say they believe it, but teach the opposite. The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus' day outwardly honored the patriarchs but denied their teaching. Jesus confronted them with that in, among other places, John Ch. 8. They thought they were saved because they were children of Abraham in the flesh, but Jesus called them children of the devil.
If you have applied these questions to the religious leaders with which you are associated I have one more challenge. Put your name at the beginning of every one of these questions. They don't just apply to the pastor, overseer, bishop or whatever you call the one in charge. They apply to each and every one of us.
None of us are perfect. If you're like me you probably find yourself falling short now and again. The key is being able to recognize our shortfalls and repenting and trusting Christ to make us the men and women of God we need to be. Be convicted! He has to bring about the change in our lives. It is encouraging to know that there were priests and Pharisees who were converted. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and, yes, even Paul the apostle. He was one of the best Pharisees that ever lived, yet when he came into contact with the risen Savior he was brought to his knees. He said he counted all of his power and prestige as a Pharisee as dung compared to the knowledge of Christ.
How about you, beloved? Do you know Christ in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering? Being born again is the per-requisite. Once you know him then you grow in him. Don't fall into the religious trap of phariseeism, but keep trusting Jesus to make you who he wants you to be.