Woe to the Pharisees, pt. 2: False Teachers

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 23:13-22, “Woe to the Pharisees, pt. 2: False Teachers”

What do you do with false teachers?  How can you identify them?  There are days that it seems like the only news about Christianity is when another false teacher is exposed.  Cults abound – all sorts of people go about promoting all different ideas about Jesus.  How can we know what is true & what is false?  False teachers abound in our day (and it is a sign that we are living in the end times), but they are not unique to our generation.  False teachers have always existed among the people of God – including among the Jews of Jesus’ day.  In their case, the false teachers among them were the premier teachers respected by them: the Pharisees. 

The Pharisees were not the only people teaching falsely about God, but they were some of the most dangerous because would not have appeared to have been false.  The Sadducees were obvious in their contempt for the Scriptures & the miracles of God, but the Pharisees (by all appearances) seemed to uphold the truth of the Bible.  They would have been the ones shouting the loudest proclaiming that the Scripture was true.  Yet it was clear that their actions and their teaching were at odds with their appearance.  They looked to be religious, but in reality they did not know God.

Jesus had taken the time to describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to the people; now He publicly confronts the Pharisees in the midst of the people.  He shows them to be the false teachers that they are, and declares God’s judgment upon them.  People need to be warned of the false teachers in their midst, and they need to know that God is not blind to them.

These may be tough words to read out of the mouth of Jesus, but what does it show?  His love.  It shows His love for the people, in warning them about the corruption of the Pharisees.  It shows His love for the Pharisees, in giving them a last-chance opportunity to repent.  It even shows His love for us, in that we are warned what to look for in false-teachers around us, even today.  This may be tough love from Jesus, but it is love nonetheless.  God loves us, and He neither wants us to deceive, nor does He want us to be deceived.  And when false teachers arise and deceive His people, God will not stand idly by.  There is judgment that will come to those who deceive the people of God in God’s name.

As we go through this passage over the next few weeks, you might notice the silence of the Pharisees.  The one group that has not been silent over the last three years – the one group that always had something else to say – now has nothing to say in light of the harshest (and most direct) accusations yet from Jesus against them.  No doubt this had somewhat to do with how Jesus shut down their questioning at the end of Ch 22 (“…nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.” 22:46), but to not defend themselves at all is rather striking.  It’s possible that they had nothing to say to Jesus, so disgusted they were with Him.  It’s possible that quite simply none of their objections were recorded by the gospel writers (who obviously did not write down every single word spoken at the time).  It’s also possible they could say nothing because it was all true.  Sometimes when we are confronted with the truth in such a direct manner, we might want to object, but there is nothing to be said.

Whatever the reason was that the Pharisees did not say anything, what is plain is that they could not object, even if they tried.  What God the Son said about them was absolutely true, and it was publicly convicting.  When God judges, God judges rightly, and nothing can be said against it.

Yet even in God’s judgment, there is a measure of compassion here.  Please note when Jesus is judging and condemning the Pharisees: while He (and they) are still alive.  This all takes place prior to the cross (by just a day or so at this point), and is obviously takes place prior to the Great White Throne judgment.  The Pharisees had not yet died, so there was still time for them to repent.  Sadly, they did not take the opportunity given to them by God.  Jesus was reaching out to them in His most direct attempt yet, and the Pharisees would walk away from this confrontation stone-hearted.

If we are convicted by the Lord, may we respond differently!  When God convicts us of our sin through the Holy Spirit, it’s not so that we would get mad and bitter with God & remain in our sin; it’s so that we would come to our senses and repent.

Matthew 23:13–22
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

  1. Because they are going to be used so often, it’s worth defining a couple of terms as we begin.
    1. Woe”: Actually, this is basically the same word used in the Greek.  It’s simply an exclamation that is an onomatopoeia (a word that sounds like what it describes.  Ex: greasy – buzz).  Οὐαὶ – almost like a groan.  It could mean “alas” & it’s often used to describe horror, pain, or condemnation.  Contextually, there’s little doubt that Jesus used it as a condemnation.  What the Pharisees were guilty of would be their undoing, and they would groan under the weight of God’s displeasure.
    2. Hypocrite”: This is another word taken directly from the Greek (ὑποκριτής). The original use of the word actually means to explain or interpret.  The idea had one of analysis, taking on a thought and making a decision.  It came to be used to describe an actor – someone who would interpret a role.  The moment he would put on a mask as he got on stage, he would assume the role of a “hypocrite.”  From there, the word became used to describe someone who was deceptive in their acting.  They would act one way around one set of people, and then (figuratively) put on a mask and act another way around someone else.  It primarily describes deception.
  2. Put it together when describing the scribes & Pharisees.  They were due the condemnation of God because of their deception.  Jesus will call out the Pharisees on certain aspects of their deception, but the overall point is that everything they did was deceptive.  There wasn’t anything of the Pharisees that was true and sincere towards God, despite all of their outward appearances to the contrary.  Certainly there were Pharisees who were true in their faith (like Nicodemus), who were honestly seeking to serve God & who valued the Scripture.  But overall, the practices of the Pharisees showed that they condemned themselves as they acted out the role of righteous teachers when they themselves were not righteous teachers.  They pretended to be spiritual and have faith towards God when in reality they had none.  They deceived the people into thinking that they were the spiritual authorities who could speak for God, when in reality they did not know God in truth at all.
    1. False teachers always deceive!  Think about it – not very many people would follow false teachers if they openly proclaimed themselves to be false.  (It’s not very good PR. J)  So they deceive others into believing that they are true.  They might even start out with a grain of truth, and then twist it into something completely different than what was intended by God.  They’ll take Scripture out of its context & take it through pretzel-like contortions to make it supposedly mean something that is completely the opposite of what the Holy Spirit intended when He inspired it to be written.  In doing so, they are acting just like Satan.  Satan has always been a deceiver – his is a liar & the father of lies (Jn 8:44).  He twisted the Scripture in the Garden of Eden & he has been twisting it ever since.  He might appear as a holy angel of light and proclaim a false gospel to wannabe prophets (2 Cor 11:14, Gal 1:8), such as he did with several cults and false-religions.  Other times, he works in more subtle ways.  False teaching is thus satanic at its core & it is no wonder it is condemned so harshly by God.
  3. Woe #1: they were obstacles to God.  Jesus said that they had “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.”  How so?  From the perspective of the average Jew, it would seem that the Pharisees would have been the last people guilty of such a thing.  After all, were not the scribes and Pharisees the ones who taught the law with such diligence?  Did they not serve as almost a moral compass to the people, looking for those who broke the law of God and the traditions of the elders in even the most minor ways?  How could they be guilty of shutting people off from the kingdom of heaven?  For the average Jew, they would have looked to the scribes and Pharisees as their only hope for getting into to the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus isn’t fooled by the pretenses of the Pharisees in the slightest.  They may have pretended to value the law of God, but it was plain that they valued themselves more.  They did not seek God’s honor; they sought honor for themselves (as Jesus said in the prologue to the people). …  The Pharisees had put themselves in the way of the people looking at God.  In order for the people to get to God, they thought that they had to go through the hoops of the Pharisees.  IOW, the Pharisees were obstacles; they were blocking the view.  Like something that blocks a doorway, not allowing anything to go in or out, so the Pharisees blocked off people from entering into a true relationship with the Living God.  They were simply in the way.
    1. We need to be careful as Christians that we don’t get in the way of someone else seeing Christ!
  4. Not only had the Pharisees prevented others from entering into life, they did not go in themselves.  There is no doubt that they sincerely believed that they were in a right standing with God, but obviously they were not.  They had not gained entrance into the kingdom of heaven because they did not submit themselves to God.  They had put themselves above God because they put their own tradition and their own interpretation above the word. … They had not shown any fruits worthy of repentance (as per John the Baptist – Lk 3:8).  They had rejected the Messiah, which demonstrated that they were not the children of God.  If they had known God, they would have known God’s Son. (Jn 8:19)
    1. There might be people today who sincerely believe that they are Christian, when in fact, they are not.  They have not surrendered their lives to Jesus, believing upon Him as Lord by faith.  Sure, you might go to church occasionally (even today!), and you do some good things every now & again – you might even have some family members who are solid believers in Christ.  But none of those things make you a Christian.  Know this: even if you participated in some works of the miraculous in the names of Jesus – not even that is a guarantee of your salvation.  The only person who is assured of salvation is the person who knows Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  Jesus specifically made this point during the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7:21–23, "(21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" []
  5. Notice something Jesus is saying here about the Pharisees & about false teachers in general: they aren’t saved.  There are a lot of people who have a lot of titles, or TV ministries, or seminary degrees, or all sorts of status symbols in regards to Christian things…but they are not saved.  False teachers have no guarantee of their salvation.  Think of it this way: if they truly knew Christ as their Lord & were indwelled by the Spirit of God, would they easily promote false teaching?  Granted, anyone can get off-track from time to time and be deceived themselves – but if someone is truly seeking the Lord Jesus, reading the testimony of God in the Scriptures, and is actively indwelled with the Holy Spirit, they won’t spend time in that place of deception for very long.  God would discipline them & show them the truth of what they had been previously teaching as false.  The reason many false teachers keep teaching false doctrine is because they do not know Christ at all.  At the very least, there can be no assurance of salvation given of a false teacher.  There simply is no fruit of the work of the living God in his/her life.
    1. If the false teacher doesn’t know Christ, why would a true born-again believer spend any time listening to one?  Sometimes Christians think, “I know what he’s teaching is wrong, but it’s just so exciting to listen to!  I feel good when he preaches that way…”  In truth, there’s nothing good about it.  It’s potentially harmful to your own walk with Christ, and it’s a waste of time, if nothing else.
    2. BTW – differences in non-essential doctrines do not make someone a false teacher.  There are all kinds of things in the Scripture which are important, but secondary issues when it comes to faith.  False teachers fail in the essential issues.  False teachers represent the nature of God wrongly – or they teach a different gospel – or they do not teach Christ at all, but themselves.  It would be easy to label someone as a false teacher simply because they teach something with which we disagree, but that isn’t what Jesus was doing here.  He called out the Pharisees for their misrepresentation of God & their blockade against salvation.  We would be wise to do the same.

14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

  1. Depending on your Bible translation, this verse is either bracketed, or perhaps not even included at all.  The oldest manuscripts of the NT do not contain this particular verse, and even the manuscripts that do contain it generally place it in the reverse order with vs. 13.  For this reason, many scholars believe that vs. 14 is not original to Matthew, but was placed in by a later copyist.  The textual debate aside, there is no doubt that the wording is absolutely accurate to what Jesus said & taught, as it is included almost verbatim in Mark 12:40 & Luke 20:47.
  2. Woe #2: They were deceivers.  This was true of them simply in their hypocrisy, but Jesus calls them out on a more specific form of deception.  They lied about their care for the widow, and they lied about their relationship with God.  Keep in mind that the Law of Moses was insistent on protecting the widow.  A woman who had lost her husband (and was presumably without children that could care for her) was truly in dire straits in ancient times.  She had no way of providing for herself, and without the compassion of the community, she would surely suffer and die.  God commanded His people to care for the helpless.  They were to leave some of their fruit behind in the fields so that widows could go through and gather for themselves.  They were to defend the widows in court.  They were to make sure that their cause was not perverted, nor the widows taken advantage of.  When the nation failed at this, God Himself promised to step up in defense of the widow (Ps 68:5, Isa 1:21-26).  Apparently, the Pharisees not only failed in this responsibility, but they were guilty of the very crime that God warned them against.  They mistreated the defenseless – particularly the widow.  How exactly they “devoured” the houses of widows isn’t said by Jesus.  It seems likely that the Pharisees had manipulated the widows into giving all of their possessions away (their “houses) to their benefit somehow.  Whatever the case, they did not protect the widow, but rather caused them damage instead.  What was likely done in secret behind closed doors, God had openly seen & now openly proclaimed to all of Jerusalem. …
    1. False teachers often take advantage of the helpless.  If someone just sends in their money as “seed faith,” then they are promised a hundred-fold return on their blessing.  So people who are living paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by on Social Security send in everything they have to a false teacher just so that the guy can buy another expensive house or private jet.  Make no mistake – this is exactly the same sin as the Pharisees, and it is not ignored by Almighty God.
  3. Not only did the Pharisees deceive the widow, they deceived the public regarding their prayer life.  Again, the specifics are not said, but it was well-known enough for Jesus to condemn them without contradiction.  Quite possibly, it was somehow connected with the devouring of widows’ houses since Jesus placed them together.  Perhaps when conning the widow out of gifts, they used long prayers to make them sound spiritual and deserving of the gift, or to supposedly speak a blessing over the widow.  Of course, perhaps the pretense of prayer was just another way of showing off their supposedly spirituality to the masses, as the example Jesus used earlier in the Sermon on the Mount about the person who would pray loudly on the street corners just so that others could hear him speak.
    1. False teachers will look to look spiritual, without any real spiritual truth.  Sometimes they don robes like other legitimate pastors, but with an eye of making themselves look more spiritual.  Sometimes they’ll heap titles upon themselves trying to give off an air of authority.  The more they can do or say in the eyes of others to make themselves seem more impressive, that’s exactly what they’ll do.
    2. BTW – God is not going to be impressed with the length of our prayers.  Obviously Jesus is not saying that long prayers are wrong (usually we do not pray enough!); He’s showing that prayers without sincerity are meaningless.  For someone to pray & pray without meaning what they are saying is useless.  For someone to spend all sorts of time in public prayer, weaving as much religious-sounding language into a prayer for the benefit of others does nothing to benefit themselves with God.  Especially if this person does not truly know the Lord to begin with, as was the case with the Pharisees!
  4. The Pharisees deceived many but they did not, however, deceive God.  God would give them the “greater condemnation” in judgment.  Those who teach the word of God to others already place themselves in a situation where they will receive stricter judgment from God (Jas 3:1), but Jesus is speaking of something a bit more here.  The Pharisees were filling up on their portion of the full measure of the wrath of God.  What they did to the people, and how they perverted what God had given for good was not unnoticed by the Almighty Lord of Hosts.  He would act in vengeance upon them for what they had done.
    1. God will judge false teachers.  They are known by God, and they will be condemned by God.  2 Peter 2:1–3, "(1) But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (2) And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (3) By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber." []  Peter goes on to write they if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned with Satan & if God did not spare the ancient world under the flood & if God did not spare Sodom & Gomorrah, then there is no doubt that God will reserve the unjust for the day of judgment.
    2. There is hope in the reality of God’s judgment!  For those who had been deceived and harmed by those who speak deception in God’s name, there will be justice.  God will not allow these crimes to go unanswered – He will act in all righteousness on the day of judgment when it is revealed.  For those who are (or would) deceive others…there is still hope because there is still time to repent.  Until the day that someone breathes their last breath, there is still an opportunity for him/her to humble himself before the Lord Jesus Christ and seek forgiveness.  Knowing that there is a judgment coming ought to help us do exactly that.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

  1. Woe #3: They converted people to condemnation.  Although scholars debate it, there seems to be some historical indication that the Pharisees engaged in missionary activity.  They would go great distances to introduce Gentiles to Judaism.  The problem is that the Pharisees never converted people to true Judaism; they converted them to the Pharisee’s corrupted version of Judaism.
  2. Question: if the Pharisees did not convert a Gentile to true Judaism, how is it that the Gentile would end up “twice as much a son of hell” as the Pharisees?  After all, if they were already lost, how could they end up being more lost?  This is similar to the first woe that Jesus mentioned.  Obviously the Pharisees were obstacles to others hearing the truth of God, but here, it’s worse than preventing someone from entering the kingdom of heaven; they were leaving people in a worse situation than which they were found.  It would have been better for people if they never encountered the Pharisees at all.  The Pharisees caused people to be inoculated against God as a whole.  People were left in a worse place because although they had earlier known little to nothing about the true nature of God, now that someone came along supposedly telling them the true nature of God, they were told a lie.  Now they had no reason to look for the truth, because they supposedly had it.  Even if the convert later ended up rejecting the Pharisees, they would reject the whole of the Scriptures along with them because the truth of God would have been mixed in with the lies of the Pharisees.
    1. How often does this happen today?  Because of the corruption and the lies of false teachers around us, people are inoculated against the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They’ve seen the scandal of the TV evangelists – they’ve read the exposes in the news about predatory religious leaders – and they’ve declared the whole thing to be false.  Because of the very public sin of a few false teachers, they’ve thrown out all of Christianity, wanting nothing to do with it.
    2. Or on the other hand, some still do convert under false teaching, or at least they think they do.  They think they have found the truth about God – they think they even worship Jesus Christ – but in reality they do not know Him at all because they have been sold a false gospel.  They don’t know the real Jesus because they’ve been told that Jesus is really just an angel – or they think that Jesus is a brother to Satan – or they think that Jesus is simply a prophet – or they think that Jesus is anything other than God in the flesh.  They’ve been given a false Jesus from a false teacher, and they are harder to win to Christ than someone who knows nothing about the gospel at all.
    3. There is some good news here.  Just because someone has bought into false teaching does not mean that they cannot be brought out of false teaching.  It may seem impossible to do (and in fact, it would be impossible for any of us), but what is impossible with men is possible with God.  God can reach anyone for Christ.  Never stop praying for someone to know Jesus in truth.  It doesn’t matter how hard-hearted they are against God, nor how deceived they’ve been by false teachers, keep praying for them.  The Living God routinely works miracles in people that would otherwise seem lost & unreachable.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?

  1. Woe #4: They were blind to God’s holiness.  They were “blind guides.”  They were supposed to be teachers of the people, helping them see the holiness of God, but they were blind to who God actually was.  As teachers, they were no help to the people they taught.  Bad teachers often do more harm than good.  Once someone learns something incorrectly, it can be very tough to learn to do something right again. (Muscle memory…)  The same principle is true with Scripture.  Sometimes people are deceived into thinking a certain way about God, and even when it is exposed as false, it’s tough for them to learn to think rightly about God in the future.  Some Christians still think God is “out to get them,” even though they know differently.  Some Christians still think they have to work to earn God’s approval, even though they intellectually know that Jesus gives us His grace.  Sometimes the scars of false teachers can last for decades.
  2. In the case of the Pharisees, they were blind to God’s holiness.  What God had given through His word to demonstrate His holiness, the Pharisees had corrupted through their tradition.  They had invented loopholes and legalism around the word of God.  They parsed the idea of oaths to make certain promises meaningless if the person who made the oath left out a particular qualifying phrase about the gold of the temple, and they absolutely bound someone to an oath if the person included it.  The temple was where God was supposed to be worshiped, and (earlier in Israel’s history) where God’s very presence had rested.  Yet they cheapened this place to be worthless in regards to oaths, and pretended that the gold of the temple was more valuable than the temple itself.
  3. What was going on here?  The Pharisees showed that they did not rightly fear God.  When the money and gifts of men become more important than the presence of God (which is what the temple represented), there is a problem!  The Pharisees had used their legalism and loopholes to make the stuff of man more important than God.  If they had been looking at the Lord (which they weren’t – they showed themselves to be unsaved), they would have feared God & they would have respected Him rightly.  Instead they thought more of themselves and what they could do than what God had already showed Himself to be.
    1. Whenever a teacher starts showing a lack of reverence and respect for God, that ought to be a warning sign to the rest of us.  When someone does not fear God, it shows they do not know God. …

18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

  1. The temple wasn’t the only thing of God’s that the Pharisees wrote loopholes around.  They did it regarding the altar as well.  The altar was where the sacrifice of offering was placed and given to God.  It was the place where the judgment of God was put upon sin, and the atonement of God was given out to the worshipper.
  2. BTW – there is a bigger problem here than just the “loophole-ing” around the things of the temple.  It was with false oaths that people had no intention of keeping in the first place.  After all, the only reason someone would look to have a supposedly “legal” reason to disregard an oath is because they don’t want to keep it.  The Law of Moses had been clear on the subject of oaths and promises – they were binding (Num 30).  God expected His people to be faithful to their word.  What a Jew said he would do, he was supposed to abide by.  (Why?  Because that reflects the character of God.  God is always faithful to His word – no matter what!)  For the Pharisees to find some way of weaseling around this showed that they were trying to give people a legal justification for disregarding something that God had clearly told them to do – and obviously the people did not object to the practice because they engaged in it.  That’s not what God desired for His people.  Actually, even the practice of oaths ought not to have been necessary.  Someone only swears an oath to somehow “strengthen” a promise, as if a regular promise isn’t enough.  But for someone who knows God as his/her Heavenly Father, a simple promise ought to be more than sufficient because a child of God will not go back on his/her word.  They should reflect the faithfulness of their Heavenly Father.  Jesus had addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount…
  3. Wrapping up the subject, Jesus brings correction to their faulty thinking which would justified all of their legal loopholes. See vs. 20…

20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

  1. It’s not that people could pick and choose what certain aspects of worship they could swear by.  The worship of God cannot be picked apart and parsed in that way.  If someone swore an oath by anything in the temple, they were really swearing by God Himself.
    1. God is bigger than the altar.  The sacrifice was only put upon the altar in order that someone would be reconciled unto God, or to consecrate themselves to God.  It wasn’t the altar or the animal that was important, so much as the God to whom the animal was given.
    2. God is bigger than the temple.  The temple was the place that God was worshipped, but the only reason people went there was to worship.  The place itself did not mean anything – it was just stone & mortar.  What made the temple special was the God who dwelt there.  When God wasn’t there, it was just another building.
    3. God is bigger than the heavens.  Here, Jesus takes away all excuses.  Take any place under the sun, anything or any tool that people would use to worship God…all of it is secondary in comparison to God Himself.  The very heaven where God dwells in glory upon His throne is less important than the God who is there.
  2. God is more important than all!  God cannot be cheapened to something that can be manipulated by men.  In essence, that was the issue with the oaths.  The Pharisees had given people an excuse to get around the faithfulness and honesty of God.  They had substituted legalism and lies for what should have been honest worship of the Holy God as people feared Him in truth.
    1. This isn’t just the ancient Jews…Christians do this same thing today when we substitute the stuff of men for the true worship of the Living God.  When we make certain objects or certain practices the center of our worship and faith rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re basically doing the same thing as the Pharisees.  It’s the show of religion, rather than the worship of God in spirit and truth – but the show of religion is always false & empty.

Conclusion:
Don’t worship God falsely – worship Him in truth!  This is what the Pharisees had been guilty of, and worse yet, they taught the people to go along with them.  They were obstacles in the way of someone truly worshipping God – they deceived the people and abused the helpless – they made Gentiles worse off than they were before & they made Jews lose the righteous fear of God.  The Pharisees may have been the premier teachers in Israel, but they were false teachers, fully deserving of the judgment and condemnation of the Living God.  Jesus calls them to the carpet about their crimes, and their response?  Non-existent.  Given one last opportunity to repent, the Pharisees do nothing.

At the same time that the Pharisees are condemned, the people are warned.  To be sure, most of the people who were listening to Jesus at the time would be deaf to the warning.  After all, in just a matter of hours (only a day or so), the mobs would turn on Jesus and demand His crucifixion at the urging of the teachers whom Jesus just exposed as being false.  But the people were warned, nonetheless.  False teachers are known by God & will be judged by God.

What is our response to such a thing?  Obviously we are not the crowd in Jerusalem, and we are not weighted down under the legalistic interpretation of the Old Testament, as taught by the Pharisees.  Do Jesus’ words have any application to us at all?  Yes!  We may not be surrounded by the historical Pharisees, but we certainly have people who follow in their footsteps.  False teachers abound in the church today – wolves disguised among the sheep, looking to devour those whom they can.  We also need to be warned about them.  False teachers insert themselves in the place of the truth, and set themselves up as the authority over God & His word.  False teachers abuse the helpless, and twist the Scriptures to fit their own purposes.  False teachers present a false gospel, and cause people to put their hope in a false Christ.  They come in many different forms, but they abound, and Christians need to be warned.

How do Christians stay clear of false teachers?  By keeping our eyes firmly fixed upon Christ.  After all, the best way for a sheep not to get picked off by a wolf is to stay as close as possible to its shepherd.  We’re no different.  The more we know the voice of the Good Shepherd – the closer we are to our Lord Jesus – the easier it will be to identify those who speak falsely in His name.  We’ll know when people are presenting a different gospel or when people are misrepresenting the character of our King, because we’ll know our Jesus is different than that.

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