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

Matthew 16:5-12 – Watch Out for the Leaven of False Teaching

|| Mark 8:14-21; Luke 12:1

MT16:5 Now the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake and they forgot to bring loaves of bread with them. MT16:6 So, Jesus told them, “Watch and pay attention regarding the leaven[1] of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” MT16:7 The disciples now carried on a dialogue among themselves, “We brought no loaves of bread.” MT16:8 Realizing what they were talking about, Jesus said to them, “Men of very small faith,[2] why are you having this dialogue just because you did not bring loaves of bread? MT16:9 Do you not perceive[3] or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many surplus baskets you gathered? MT16:10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many surplus baskets you gathered? MT16:11 Why do you not realize that I was not speaking about loaves of bread? Rather, be alert regarding[4] the ‘leaven’ of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” MT16:12 Then the disciples finally got the point that Jesus was not talking about the leaven of loaves but rather the teaching of[5] the Pharisees and Sadducees.

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[1] Leaven: Compare Mark 8:15 where Jesus includes the party followers of Herod; and, Luke 12:1 where “hypocrisy” is included. See notes on Matthew 13:33.

[2] Men of very small faith: See notes on Matthew 8:26.

[3] Do you not perceive: One gets the feeling that the miracle of feeding the crowds was more of an object lesson for the apostles.

[4] Be alert regarding: Jesus believed in Biblical Truth and made no effort to compromise his teachings with others. He wanted his disciples to pay close attention to what others taught and view as ‘leaven’ (or corrupt doctrines) those teachings or manners which did not line up with his own teachings.

[5] The teaching of: Jesus has mentioned three groups in this context. Regarding the Pharisees (self-righteous conservatives) Josephus records: “And so great is (the Pharisees’) influence with the masses that even when they speak against a king or high priest, they immediately gain credence.” [Jewish Antiquities, XIII, 288 (x, 5)] “They believe that souls have power to survive death and that there are rewards and punishments under the earth for those who have led lives of virtue or vice: eternal imprisonment is the lot of evil souls, while the good souls receive an easy passage to a new life.” (Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, 14 [i, 3]) “Every soul, they maintain, is imperishable, but the soul of the good alone passes into another body, while the souls of the wicked suffer eternal punishment.… [The Pharisees] attribute everything to Fate and to God; they hold that to act rightly or otherwise rests, indeed, for the most part with men, but that in each action Fate co-operates.” [The Jewish War, II, 162, 163 (viii, 14)]

            Sadducees (liberal free-thinkers) ‘denied the workings of fate, maintaining that an individual, by his own actions, was solely responsible for what befell him.’ [Jewish Antiquities, XIII, 172, 173 (v, 9)] They ‘rejected the many oral traditions observed by the Pharisees and also Pharisaic belief in the immortality of the soul and in punishments or rewards after death. In their dealings with one another, the Sadducees were somewhat rough. They were said to be disputatious. According to Josephus, their teachings appealed to the wealthy.’ [Jewish Antiquities, XIII, 298 (x, 6); XVIII, 16, 17 (i, 4); The Jewish War, II, 162-166 (viii, 14)]

            Herodians (political) are unknown in secular history but much involved in the politics of Jesus’ homeland. Compare Matthew 12:9-14; Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 20:21-26.

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Preceding

Matthew 12:9-21 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Is It Lawful to Cure on the Sabbath?

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

Matthew 16 Asking for signs from heaven

Matthew 16 Calvin’s view

Matthew 16 Spurgeon’s view

Matthew 16:1-4 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The Signs of the Times

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Matthew 16 Calvin’s view

And the Pharisees came.

Mark says that they began to dispute, from which we may conjecture that, when they had been vanquished in argument, this was their last resource; as obstinate men, whenever they are reduced to extremities, to avoid being compelled to yield to the truth, are accustomed to introduce something which is foreign to the subject. Though the nature of the dispute is not expressed, yet I think it probable that they debated about the calling of Christ, why he ventured to make any innovation, and why he made such lofty pretensions, as if by his coming he had fully restored the kingdom of God. Having nothing farther to object against his doctrine, they demand that he shall give them a sign from heaven. But it is certain that a hundred signs would have no greater effect than the testimonies of Scripture. Besides, many miracles already performed had placed before their eyes the power of Christ, and had almost enabled them to touch it with their hands. Signs, by which Christ made himself familiarly known, are despised by them; and how much less will they derive advantage from a distant and obscure sign? Thus the Papists of our own day, as if the doctrine of the Gospel had not yet been proved, demand that it be ascertained by means of new miracles.

The Pharisees, together with the Sadducees. It deserves our attention that, though the Sadducees and the Pharisees looked upon each other as enemies, and not only cherished bitter hatred, but were continually engaged in hostilities, yet they enter into a mutual league against Christ. In like manner, though ungodly men quarrel among themselves, their internal broils never prevent them from conspiring against God, and entering into a compact for joining their hands in persecuting the truth.

Tempting. By this word the Evangelists mean that it was not with honest intentions, nor from a desire of instruction, but by cunning and deceit, that they demanded what they thought that Christ would refuse, or at least what they imagined was not in his power. Regarding him as utterly mean and despicable, they had no other design than to expose his weakness, and to destroy all the applause which he had hitherto obtained among the people. In this manner unbelievers are said to tempt God, when they murmur at being denied what their fancy prompted them to ask, and charge God with want of power.

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3. Hypocrites, you can judge.

He calls them hypocrites, because they pretend to ask that which, if it were exhibited to them, they are resolved not to observe. The same reproof applies nearly to the whole world; for men direct their ingenuity, and apply their senses, to immediate advantage; and therefore there is scarcely any man who is not sufficiently well qualified in this respect, or at least who is not tolerably acquainted with the means of gaining his object. How comes it then that we feel no concern about the signs by which God invites us to himself? Is it not because every man gives himself up to willing indifference, and extinguishes the light which is offered to him? The calling of Christ, and the immediate exhibition of eternal salvation, were exhibited to the scribes both by the Law and the Prophets, and by his own doctrine, to which miracles were added.

There are many persons of the same description in the present day, who plead that on intricate subjects they have a good right to suspend their judgment, because they must wait till the matter is fully ascertained. They go farther, and believe that it is a mark of prudence purposely to avoid all inquiry into the truth; as if it were not an instance of shameful sloth that, while they are so eagerly solicitous about the objects of the flesh and of the earth, they neglect the eternal salvation of their souls, and at the same time contrive vain excuses for gross and stupid ignorance.

A very absurd inference is drawn by some ignorant persons from this passage, that we are not at liberty to predict from the aspect of the sky whether we shall have fair or stormy weather. It is rather an argument which Christ founds on the regular course of nature, that those men deserve to perish for their ingratitude, who, while they are sufficiently acute in matters of the present life, yet knowingly and willfully quench the heavenly light by their stupidity.

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Matthew 16:4: A wicked and adulterous nation.

This passage was explained {1 } under #Mt 12:38 The general meaning is, that the Jews are never satisfied with any signs, but are continually tickled by a wicked desire to tempt God. He does not call them an adulterous nation merely because they demand some kind of sign, (for the Lord sometimes permitted his people to do this,). but because they deliberately provoke God; and therefore he threatens that, after he has risen from the dead, he will be a prophet like Jonah. So Matthew at least says  —  for Mark does not mention Jonah  —  but the meaning is the same; for, strictly speaking, this was intended to serve as a sign to them, that Christ, when he had risen from the dead, would in every place cause the voice of his Gospel to be distinctly heard.

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Matthew 16:5. And when his disciples came. Here Christ takes occasion from the circumstance that had just occurred {1 } to exhort his disciples to beware of every abuse that makes an inroad on sincere piety. The Pharisees had come a little before; the Sadducees joined them; and apart from them stood Herod, a very wicked man, and an opponent and corrupter of sound doctrine. In the midst of these dangers it was very necessary to warn his disciples to be on their guard; for, since the human mind has a natural inclination towards vanity and errors, when we are surrounded by wicked inventions, spurious doctrines, and other plagues of the same sort, nothing is more easy than to depart from the true and simple purity of the word of God; and if we once become entangled in these things, it will never be possible for the true religion to hold an entire sway over us. But to make the matter more clear, let us examine closely the words of Christ.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Along with the Pharisees Matthew mentions the Sadducees. Instead of the latter, Mark speaks of Herod. Luke takes no notice of any but the Pharisees, (though it is not absolutely certain that it is the same discourse of Christ which Luke relates,) and explains the leaven to be hypocrisy. In short, he glances briefly at this sentence, as if there were no ambiguity in the words. Now the metaphor of leaven, which is here applied to false doctrine, might have been employed, at another time, to denote the hypocrisy of life and conduct, or the same words might even have been repeated a second time. But there is no absurdity in saying, that those circumstances which are more copiously detailed by the other two Evangelists, in the order in which they took place, are slightly noticed by Luke in a manner somewhat different, and out of their proper place or order, but without any real contradiction. If we choose to adopt this conjecture, hypocrisy will denote here something different from a pretended and false appearance of wisdom. It will denote the very source and occasion of empty display, which, though it holds out an imposing aspect to the eyes of men, is of no estimation in the sight of God. For, as Jeremiah (#Jer 5:3) tells us that the eyes of the Lord behold the truth, so they that believe in his word are instructed to maintain true godliness in such a manner as to cleave to righteousness with an honest and perfect heart; as in these words,

An now, O Israel, what doth the Lord require from thee, but that thou shouldst cleave to him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul? (#De 10:12).

On the other hand, the traditions of men, while they set aside spiritual worship, wear a temporary disguise, as if God could be imposed upon by such deceptions; for to whatever extent outward ceremonies may be carried, they are, in the sight of God, nothing more than childish trifles, unless so far as they assist us in the exercise of true piety.

We now perceive the reason why hypocrisy was viewed by Luke as equivalent to doctrines invented by men, and why he included under this name the leavens of men, which only puff up, and in the sight of God contain nothing solid, and which even draw aside the minds of men from the right study of piety to empty and insignificant ceremonies. But it will be better to abide by the narrative of Matthew, which is more copious. The disciples, after having been reproved by our Lord, came at length to understand that he had charged them to be on their guard against certain doctrine. It was plainly, therefore, the intention of Christ to fortify them against prevailing abuses, by which they were attacked on all sides. The Pharisees and Sadducees were expressly named, because those two sects maintained at that time a tyrannical sway in the Church, and held opinions so utterly subversive of the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, that almost nothing remained pure and entire.

But Herod did not in any way profess to teach; and a question arises, why does Mark class him with false teachers? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and Of The Leaven Of Herod. I reply: he was half a Jew, was mean and treacherous, and availed himself of every contrivance that was within his reach to draw the people to his side; for it is customary with all apostates to contrive some mixture, for the purpose of establishing a new religion by which the former may be abolished. It was because he was laboring craftily to subvert the principles of true and ancient piety, and thus to give currency to a religion that would be exceedingly adapted to his tyranny, or rather because he was endeavoring to introduce some new form of Judaism, that our Lord most properly charged them to beware of his leaven. From the temple of God the scribes disseminated their errors, and the court of Herod was another workshop of Satan, in which errors of a different kind were manufactured.

Thus in our own day we find that not only from Popish temples, and from the dens of sophists and monks, does Antichrist vomit out her impostures, but that there is a Theology of the Court, which lends its aid to prop up the throne of Antichrist, so that no stratagem is left untried. But as Christ opposed the evils which then prevailed, and as he aroused the minds of his followers to guard against those which were the most dangerous, let us learn from his example to make a prudent inquiry what are the abuses that may now do us injury. Sooner shall water mix with fire than any man shall succeed in reconciling the inventions of the Pope with the Gospel. Whoever desires to become honestly a disciple of Christ, must be careful to keep his mind pure from those leavens; and if he has already imbibed them, he must labor to purify himself till none of their polluting effects remain. There are restless men, on the other hand, who have endeavored in various ways to corrupt sound doctrine, and, in guarding also against such impostures, believers must maintain a strict watch, that they may keep a perpetual Passover

with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, (#1Co 5:8).

And as on every hand there now rages an impiety like that of Lucian, {2 } a most pernicious leaven, or rather a worse than deadly poison, let them exercise this very needful caution, and apply to it all their senses.

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Preceding

Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued 1 Charity and neighbour love

Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued 3 Forgiveness and neighbour love

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

Matthew 13:36-43 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Zizania in the Field Explained

Matthew 16 Asking for signs from heaven

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Additional reading

  1. What Jesus did: First things first
  2. Autumn traditions for 2014 – 4 Blasphemy and ridiculing faith in God
  3. Pretense — Is it practiced by people in their approach to God?
  4. Not Really Acknowledging God
  5. Serving yourself, not the Lord
  6. We Must Be Real With God

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Related

  1. A Sign From Heaven In The Toy Aisle
  2. God’s True Feelings About False Religion.
  3. Speak Sound Doctrine
  4. Dogma v Doctrine
  5. Papal Vanity

Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued 3 Forgiveness and neighbour love

Matthew 6:14-18 c) Forgiveness and neighbor love

MT6:14 “For, if you forgive the missteps of others[1] your heavenly Father will forgive yours.[2] MT6:15 But, if you do not forgive the missteps[3] of others neither will the Father forgive your missteps. MT6:16 But, when you fast[4] do not be gloomy hypocrites[5] with distorted faces to make fasting obvious.[6] I tell you in truth: They are having their full reward! MT6:17 But, oil your head and wash your face.[7] MT6:18 So you will not be obvious to men in your fasting but secretly[8] to your Father.

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As We Forgive

As We Forgive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[1] Forgive the missteps of others: The first commentary on the Lord’s Prayer was by the Nazarene himself in the verses following it. The Nazarene avoids the word AGAPE (or, love) and gets right to the root of man’s problem in his relations with others: forgiveness. This attribute must characterize the Friend of the Nazarene, for their Lord stands ready to forgive any who repent! (John 3:16) Complaints, even legitimate ones, will occur even among those possessed of the Transformed Mind (Colossians 3:13: complaint). If one does not forgive then all is lost, for God’s forgiveness is voided and any further hypocritical worship is in vain or worthless. One cannot claim discipleship to the Nazarene and at the same time hold a single, unforgiving thought!

[2] Father will forgive yours: Compare James 2:13: mercy. Colossians 3:13 is a virtual commentary on the Nazarene’s words.

[3] Missteps: This Greek PARAPTOMATA is variously rendered: faults, trespasses, false-steps, mistakes.

[4] Fast: (Compare Acts 13:2) Fasting was a regular and normal feature of Jewish life and much mileage could be made from a religious standpoint if one’s motive was to curry the spiritual favor of others. Some religions do not fast but have similar obligations or requirements that give some public evidence of sacrifice.

The word group “fast” occurs 159 times in the Bible and 38 times in the Gospels with a descending order as the particular Gospel ages (Matthew 15x, Mark 13x, Luke 8x, John 2x).

[5] Do not be gloomy hypocrites: Various renderings: RHM: sullen countenances; TCNT: gloomy looks; RSV: do not look dismal; PHI: don’t look like those miserable play-actors; RHM: darken their looks; MOF: they look woebegone; GDSP: they neglect their personal appearance; NOR: trying to make a show.

[6] Make fasting obvious: The motive of fasting is clear. NOR: trying to make it show. Neighbor love enters the picture here because of the affect on one’s neighbor by such a hypocritical showing of religiosity. There are a multitude of other ways to do the same thing.

[7] Oil your head and wash your face: Note Ecclesiastes 9:8: glow. Various renderings: WEY: pour perfume on your hair; PHI: brush your hair. Exactly the opposite of the intent of the hypocritical person fasting. No one will know! Just as in the matter or prayer and charity.

[8] Secretly: The Greek here is related to “cryptic.” PHI: let it be a secret between you and your Father. Nothing can be more thrilling than this intimacy between the disciple and his God: only the two of you know about the object of the prayer, the secret giving, and the private fasting. Does the Nazarene encourage fasting of the proper kind? What would be some conditions or situations in which the Friend of the Nazarene might go without food?

 

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Preceding articles

Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued 1 Charity and neighbour love (#Mt 6:1-4)

Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued 2 Prayer and neighbour love (Mt 6:5-13)

Continued with: d) ‘Treasures’ and neighbor love

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Additional reading

  1. Failures, mistakes and Initiatives for Excellence and success, Working towards turning a Dream of yours into reality
  2. God, my father, my closest friend
  3. I can’t believe that … (4) God’s word would be so violent
  4. Failing Man to make free choice

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Further reading

  1. The great mistake
  2. On Mistakes, Memories and Introversion
  3. Mistakes And Feelings

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Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued 1 Charity and neighbour love

Gospel by Matthew

Chapter six:

Love and money

Matthew 6:1-34 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18 Continued

a) Charity and neighbor love

MT6:1 “But, listen to this:[1] Do not exhibit your ‘righteousness’[2] before men to be observed by them[3] or you will have no reward[4] from your heavenly Father. MT6:2 So, when you give charitable donations[5] do not trumpet before you as hypocrites[6] do in religious gatherings and roadways to be honored by men. I tell you in truth:[7] They have their full reward![8] MT6:3 But, you who give charitable donations, let your left hand not know what your right hand is doing.[9] MT6:4 So, your charitable donations will be secret. Then your Father watching secretly will reward you secretly.

[1] Listen to this: The Nazarene’s commentary on neighbor love continues and takes many forms and applications.

[2] Do not exhibit your ‘righteousness’: Motive is involved here. Nothing demonstrates more hatred for a neighbor than trying to be a “show-off” and parade self-righteousness in front of a neighbor. The Nazarene rabbi has not shifted from his subject of Leviticus 19:18 and neighbor love. He begins to give practical application to it with several examples.

Various renderings are: RIEU: exercise your virtues in public; NEB: make a show of your religion; MOF: in order to be noticed; WMS: to attract the attention of people. Compare Matthew 23:5.

[3] To be observed by them: The “them” are also your neighbors.

[4] Reward: A word and idea the Nazarene uses 8 times in the sermon (Matthew 5:12, 46; 6:1, 2, 4, 6, 17).

[5] Charitable donations: The Greek is ELEEMOSYNEN and may be rendered “gifts of mercy”. Various renderings are: TCNT: acts of charity; BAS: give money to the poor. The idea and word only occurs in Matthew in this sermon (Matthew 6:2-4) and 8 times in Acts. However, there are two occurrences in Luke of particular note: Luke 11:41, inner gifts of mercy; and Luke 12:33, where the apostolic Little Flock is commanded to ‘sell your belongings and give.’ Material giving is right at the top of the short list of Jesus’ favorite topics.

[6] Hypocrites: Various renderings are: PHI: like those play-actors in the synagogue; TCNT: praised by others; MOF: to win men; PHI: make sure that men admire them. The Greek word translated “hypocrite” is HYPOKRITAI (hypo + critic/judge) and refers to that mask actors wear when playing roles. It carries the idea of “two-faced.”

[7] I tell you in truth: This is literally “amen” and is often used by the Nazarene to stress a serious warning.

[8] Reward: Reward and credit or repayment is a much-used expression by Jesus as though God were an accountant keeping a tally of debits and credits in a ledger.

[9] Let your left hand not know what your right hand is doing: Right or left. There may be a scientific truth here for left-handed people operate mainly in the brain’s right hemisphere which is not the “knowing” or intellectual side. The Nazarene Saint must exercise caution in giving so that his motive and manner are pure. Compare Proverbs 19:17: giving.

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Tes...

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Testament manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew. Most likely originated in Egypt. Also part of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (P. oxy. 2) Currently housed in: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Preceding article

Matthew 5:43-47 – 6. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Leviticus 19:18

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