Testify in Truth

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:13)

This is the last public discourse that Jesus had in His ministry and, as it most times was the case, the ongoing opposition from the Jewish leaders was ever present. Our text today is the first of eight woes that Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees with. It is perhaps one of the strongest rebukes during His ministry here in the world. So who are the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus was in constant conflict with throughout His time here? There were actually four groups of leaders in the Jewish community but the scribes and Pharisees absorbed that most attention.

The first group were the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were a group of judges made up of a council of seventy men. The council of the Sanhedrin was under the direct supervision of the High Priest. They were as the Supreme Court in all religious and legal trials of that day. It is believed that this group began under the reign of King Jehoshaphat around 800 B.C. (2 Chronicles 19:4-11)

The Pharisees most likely evolved out of a priestly group of Jewish separatists during the Maccabean revolt. Certain Jewish priest refused to bow before Antiochus Epiphanes who was a Greek King from 175 to 164 B.C. The purpose of these Jewish priest was to preserve the right worship of God. This group, the Pharisees, became inflexible to their adherence to the “traditions of their fathers” rather than seeking God’s Word. Jesus criticized them for this in Matthew. (Matthew 15:14, Matthew 23:16)

The Sadducees were another priestly group like the Pharisees but had differing viewpoints. The Sadducees and Pharisees hated each other with the exception of when they found a common enemy, Jesus. Their difference from the Pharisees was that the Sadducees rejected all scripture Joshua through Malachi and only recognized the Torah, which is the first five books written by Moses. Also the Sadducees rejected belief in the resurrection of the body. (Luke 20:27)

Scribes were lawyers whose primary job was to copy the Scriptures. Their focus was the detail of the law. Over time they transformed from copiers of the Scripture to teachers of the Scripture. (Ezra was a scribe, Nehemiah 8:2-8)

In this woe Jesus addresses them as hypocrites. On the outside they appeared to be pious and pure, righteous and abiding in the law of God. God does not judge on the outward appearances but on the heart of a man. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) In Matthew Jesus referred them to be as whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but evil on the inside. (Matthew 23:27) Instead of using their achieved position for the glory of God they were self-serving people with intentions of gaining power for themselves and not serving the people. Much like most of the politicians in the world today.

These Jewish leaders of the people were the ones who were responsible for the teaching and the administration of God’s Word. Therefore, they had great influence over the Jewish people. Yet they used the power not for the position that had been given to them but for their own selfish purposes. They had perverted the Word of God. In the gospel of Luke Jesus pronounced a woe upon the Scribes, the lawyers, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:52 The “key to knowledge” was a symbol worn by the scribes upon their admission to office. The charge that Jesus was making is that they used the key to lock the door from the people rather than open the door to the knowledge of God. They themselves did not enter into the deeper meaning of the law or the Prophets. Also it was their custom to exclude people from entrance into the Temple and synagogues. Especially those who expressed a belief in Jesus. (John 9:22; John 12:42) Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians that they put people out of the houses of worship because they came to seek the Lord and not their spiritual leaders. “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.” (Galatians 4:17) This is the trap that people of leadership fall into, they twist the truth to serve themselves.

When we testify for Christ’s sake we must test our testimony that we must be sure that it is true. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) We are speaking on His behalf and we do not want to become a stumbling block to others. We do not want to block the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven. Being carnal as we are we are prone to seek our self-interest and the temptation to twist the truth is always prevalent. We must always remember that we serve not for our own glory but for the glory of God this is our purpose to glorify Him and in that day He will glorify us. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30) It is not enough to receive the glory of men for what is that worth in the end? We seek to be glorified by God for that is an eternal blessing that some marvelous day we shall be fully sanctified and be just as He is. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

Because of our natural fear of death, our fear of punishment by the wrath of God, all should be actively seeking their salvation. There are many false teachings from the world that lead to the same end, the lonely end of a lost man’s destruction. We read in Matthew that Jesus speaks of two paths that you can go by. There is the wide gate and the narrow gate. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) The narrow gate I see as a straight path with no twist or curve. No room for compromise and it is traveled in the Truth of God’s Word. The narrow gate is entered by faith. The wide gate there is room to wiggle and so it is not straight, it is not sure, and it is not truth. Many travel to the wide gate by their works and self-righteousness and they enter in through this gate by their pretense. The narrow gate leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of God and the wide gate leads to Hell. Every man makes his choice and every man reaps his reward. James 1:22-25 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, August 3, 2014

Durant Bible College

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