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Matthew 23 – A Jeremiad against the religious hypocrites

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE:
A JEREMIAD AGAINST THE RELIGIOUS HYPOCRITES

[“Woe to a Generation of Vipers”]
(Key word: Woe!)

Already in chapter 16 of Matthews’s account of Jesus his life the apostle wrote about Jesus warning them to be careful and to pay attention regarding the leaven (Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians (Matthew 16:6, 11, 12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1) or particular people who claim to be speaking in the name of God.

Today we start looking at chapter 23 of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus speaks directly to those who claim they are the only ones who have the right to speak about God and His commandments and demanded followship.

This chapter clearly shows the extent to which the disciples are viewed as Jews in relation to the nation, even though their master condemned the leaders who misguided the people and dishonoured Jehovah God by their hypocrisy.

To speak to the crowd and to His disciples, Jesus says:

“The scribes and the Pharisees have sat down in Moses’ chair”;

and though their behaviour was only hypocrisy, they had to follow them, as the interpreters of the law, yet in all that they spoke in accordance with it.

We find Jesus speaking to the multitudes and to his disciple in the most public manner.

First of all, Jesus acknowledges the official position and the orthodoxy of the leaders of the people, and therefore encourages his disciples to bear the fetters of the stricter statue even longer than by premature dropping the semblance of indiscipline (the temple falls soon enough) V. 36).

On the other hand, he recommends to the disciples the harmony of change with doctrine, fraternal equality and humble service (his, the Messiah’s, as the sole leader V. 10); that was the basis of all greatness in his kingdom.

In this chapter we shall come to see how certain people shall try to convince people how they can not come in the Kingdom of God in case they do not follow their teachings. Also in our present day we do find such teachers of religion, Pharisees and hypocrites who love to prevent ordinary people from entering the kingdom of God (v 14) or who set up a show, putting themselves in the spotlights, doing as if they are very devout people and saying ‘great prayers’.

Today we still find people who are more attracted to the writings and sayings of so called theologians instead of concentrating on the words of the Holy Scriptures. They let themselves being carried away by the many theological theories even when those would be not according the Bible texts. Often those church leaders want to have full control over their congregation and therefore make them afraid with all sorts of stories which are not in accordance with the Bible, or of taking certain texts to literally instead of reading in between the lines and seeing the essence of the text.

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Preceding

Matthew 13:33 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Fermented Whole

Matthew 16:5-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Watch Out for the Leaven of False Teaching

Matthew 22:41-46 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Jesus Asks a Trump Question

Additional readings to Matthew 22:41-46

Next

Matthew 23:1-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Prominence and Humility

Matthew 7:15-20 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The True Disciple #2 False prophets and fruitage

MT7:15 You, be alert for false prophets[1] who come to you dressed as sheep[2] but inside are rapacious wolves.[3] MT7:16 By their fruitage you will know them![4] No one ever gathers grapes from thorns[5] or figs from thistles! MT7:17 Thus, every good tree bears good fruitage,[6] but rotten trees, wicked fruitage. MT7:18 No good tree bears wicked fruitage,[7] nor a rotten tree good fruitage. MT7:19 Every tree not bearing good fruitage is cut down and thrown into the Fire. MT7:20 And, so, from their fruitage you will know them.

False teachers – Bowyer Bible Gospels print 3572 By their works you shall know them Passeri

[1] False prophets: Not only is The Way narrow and cramped but there are deceitful individuals who make the journey even more difficult. The Nazarene describes these as “false prophets.” He uses this designation 4 times in the Gospels (Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 24; Luke 6:26). Peter uses it once (2 Peter 2:1) and John once (1 John 4:1). False prophets disguise themselves, which would indicate some motive (Luke 6:43, 44). Various renderings are: PHI: false religious teachers; GDSP: disguised as sheep; PHI: greedy wolves.

The most often used context in the Nazarene’s teachings where he uses the designation “false prophets” are those who predict ‘the appointed time is near’ (Luke 21:8); or claim, ‘The Christ is here!’ (Mark 13:21) (Or, ‘I am the Anointed.’ Matthew 24:4)

These “false prophets” must also be among those who the Nazarene describes later as ones who say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak before others, exorcise demons, do dynamic works, all in your name?’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

The subject of “false prophets” was one that Moses, a proto-type of Messiah, also took up at Deuteronomy 13:1-10 and 18:20-22, with two identifying characteristics: a) lead others to false gods; and, b) foretell events which do not occur.

[2] Dressed as sheep: Paul echoes this when he says that some false brothers from among the Corinthian elders appear as ‘angels of light’ or ‘messengers of righteousness.’ (2 Corinthians 11:3, 14,15) Jude calls them ‘rocks hidden below water.’ (Jude verse 12) The Nazarene foretold their success when he said, ‘For pseudo-anointed and false prophets will rise and give great signs and portents to mislead, if possible, the Elect.’ (Matthew 24:24)

[3] Rapacious wolves: Paul uses a similar description when he warns a gathering of elders, ‘After my departure, oppressive wolves, not sparing the flock, will rise among you, speaking twisted things.’ (Acts 20:29) Elsewhere he describes such “false brothers” as ‘pseudo-apostles, deceitful workers who appear as angels of light and servants of righteousness.’ (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

[4] By their fruitage you will know them: Signs are certainly not a way to recognize true prophets. False prophets are identifiable by: a) an oppressive nature which places burdens on the flock; b) false prophecies about appointed times which prove untrue; c) claim of Christ’s authority as an elitist priesthood or singular channel; d) claims of “signs” as proof of Christ’s backing.

The Nazarene later uses the word “lawless” which would mean breaking the commandments of Christ. This word “lawless” crops up at Matthew 13:41; 24:12. It ought to be clear that one of the major areas of concern when considering “false prophets” is whether what they have foretold comes true or not.

[5] No one ever gathers grapes from thorns: Various renderings: NEB: can grapes be picked from briars.

[6] Every good tree bears good fruitage: See Luke 6:43. Various renderings: a good tree always yields good fruit; WMS: sickly tree… poor fruit.

[7] No good tree bears wicked fruitage: This infers that a good tree always produces nothing but good fruit. If a tree would produce even one rotten fruit then it would at least call into question its “claims.” Various renderings: TCNT: by the fruit of their lives you will know such men.

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Preceding articles

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:7-9 – Vipers, Repent!

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:10-14 – “What Shall We Do?”

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:15-17 – The Baptisms of the One Coming

Nazarene Commentary Matthew 3:7-12 – Opposition and Two Baptisms

Matthew 7:1-11 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Neighbor Love Continued 7: Matthew 7:1-5 Judgment and neighbor love

Matthew 7:12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Summary on the Torah’s Fulfillment

Matthew 7:13-14 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The True Disciple #1 The Narrow Gate and the way to destruction

The sin of partiality

Back from gone #4 Your inner feelings and actions

Object of first woe

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Additional reading

  1. Your position about materialistic desires having conquered the world
  2. Fruits of the spirit will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful
  3. Looking for True Spirituality 5 Fruitage of the Spirit
  4. Looking for True Spirituality 8 Measuring Up
  5. Pain, sanctification and salvation
  6. Good Morning January 25 We are theologians
  7. Bearing fruit
  8. Several Christians fail to recognise the Chosen ones of God and are not taking on a Christian attitude
  9. James 2:14-23 — Justified Dynamic Faith & works

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Further additional reading

  1. Phillip Medhurst presents Bowyer Bible Gospels print 3572 By their works you shall know them Passeri
  2. Phillip Medhurst presents Bowyer Bible print 3586 A tree is known by its fruits Matthew 7:16-19 Passeri
  3. Fruit of the Holy Spirit
  4. Bearing Fruits
  5. Practically Speaking
  6. Narrow Or Wide Gate?
  7. The Narrow Road Of Discipleship
  8. Build Your House On The Rock
  9. False Prophets 1
  10. False Prophets 2
  11. False Prophets 3
  12. Strong Roots and a Good Foundation
  13. Signs and directions
  14. Is it Fruit yet?
  15. Log?..What log?
  16. A Plague on All Our Houses: Racism in American Theatre

It is difficult to accept that we each play a part—regardless of how small—in perpetuating racism in our society. We are products of our time, and although our legislation and current President would suggest that we are post-racism, we are actually far from it. Instead, we live in a nation still reeling from the Civil […]

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