Matt 23:23                The Weightier Matters of the Law                      9/10/2017      ßà   

 

 

 

 

 

#1.    He That Is Greatest Among You Shall Be Your Servant (Matt 23:11,23, 16:6, 15:9, Rom 14:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      The Weightier Matters of the Law (Matt 23:23, Luke 11:42, John 5:42, 15:10-14, Rom 5:5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      Critics of the Church (Matt 23:4)

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, Matt 23:1 (2X). We are going to read a chapter that is filled with woes. In this chapter the Lord Jesus pronounces 8 woes upon the Scribes and Pharisees. And we have to ask ourselves this question: Why did God put this woeful information in the Bible? Why did God tell us these condemning sentences? Did God want us to know how wicked the Scribes and Pharisees were in the days that the Lord Jesus walked on this earth? Did God just want to show us a few wicked people and He points to them and says, “Be not like them?” The answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO! The Bible is not a Book to inform us of some historical tidbits about Biblical times. The Bible is a Book that was written for all mankind, and it was written for all times. It must be relevant to all people throughout the centuries of time, and we should not think of it as containing information that applies only to a particular people who lived a long, long time ago in a land far, far away. The Bible is a spiritual Book, and thus we must understand that it contains God’s messages to US for the purpose that WE might be saved, and that WE might become creatures who are honoring and glorifying God. The Bible is a Book that contains the Gospel of salvation, which is the Good News of salvation. And God uses historical events as the background for giving us messages that we can use, and that we can apply in our daily life. And so, let us find out what messages the Lord Jesus has sent to us in this chapter 23 of the Gospel according to Matthew.

Mt 23:1-3 Thenn spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,               Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:                  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Mt 23:4-5  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.          But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

Mt 23:6  And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

Mt 23:7  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

Mt 23:8  But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

Mt 23:9  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Mt 23:10  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

Mt 23:11-12  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.           And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Mt 23:13 ¶  But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

Mt 23:14  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

Mt 23:15  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Mt 23:16  Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

Mt 23:17  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

Mt 23:18  And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

Mt 23:19  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

Mt 23:20  Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

Mt 23:21-22  And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

Mt 23:23  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Mt 23:24  Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Mt 23:25-26  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.           Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Mt 23:27-28  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.                   Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Mt 23:29-31  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,    And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.     Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

Mt 23:32  Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

Mt 23:33  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Mt 23:34-35  Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:        That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

How would you characterize the general theme of this chapter? Which words would you choose as the underlying message that this chapter conveys to us? The underlying message is found in V. 11,

#1.    He That Is Greatest Among You Shall Be Your Servant (Matt 23:11,23, 16:6, 15:9, Rom 14:10)

Is that not indeed what this chapter is all about? The Scribes and Pharisees did not want to be servants of the people. They wanted to be the proud and sovereign rulers who ruled these people with rigor, and by binding heavy burdens on the people in the form of rules and regulations; burdens which they have invented, supposedly to glorify God. But while they were busy implementing these rules and regulations, they forgot the weightier matters of the Law. We read in verse 23 what these weightier matters of the Law were: Judgment, Mercy, and Faith. Therefore, this is also the title of this sermon, The Weightier Matters of the Law (2X). Can you see how these things summarize this chapter? “The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat”. They have been handed down the authority that Moses had as a leader and a judge of the people of Israel. They have been appointed to be the teachers and expounders of the Law, like Moses was. They were the teachers, not only of the Law of Moses, but of the entire OT, which is called the Law of God in Rom 7; since the entire OT was considered the Word of God, for Jesus and the Apostles speak of the entire OT as the Law. Therefore the people had to obey the Law, because it came from God. However, the Lord Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, because, as we read in V. 4, they bind heavy burdens on the people, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. They lay down the Law for the people, but they themselves live their lives outside the Law. They were critics over the works of the people, even the works that were pleasing to God, but they themselves did nothing of those works. For example, they were critics of the humility of the people of Israel, and they taught out of the Law that “God resisteth the proud, but gives grace to the humble”, but they themselves remained proud and arrogant. They were critics of people seeking repentance of their sins when they listened to John the Baptist, but the Scribes and Pharisees did not seek repentance, for they believed that they did not commit any sin. They criticized the Lord Jesus for healing people of their diseases, but they themselves did not help anyone in need. How do we apply this to our time? Based on verse 3 the hypocrites tell us that we are bound to obey everything that comes down from the leaders of our church. But this lie is refuted by the Lord Jesus as He said in Matt 16:6, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees”. The Lord Jesus directs us to the Bible, and He tells us that it is not only lawful, but even proper, to reject what our leaders have out of their own mind mingled with the Words that are found in the Bible. Likewise the Lord Jesus tells us in Matt 15:9 that “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men”. And so, the Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, but if they wish to teach anything out of their own mind, refuse to hear it, and refuse to do it. Likewise, no one should be called your spiritual master or spiritual father, for only Christ is your spiritual Master, and only Christ is your spiritual Father. And then in verse 8 we read “and all ye are brethren”. In other words, we all should depend on the words of Christ alone. We have no right to judge one another for we all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom 14:10). We all shall be judged individually for our works, and only Christ is our Judge. The Scribes and Pharisees were called hypocrites because they refused to be servants of men. But this is really implied when the Lord Jesus said, “and all ye are brethren”. And thus, if we apply this to the present structure of the NT church, we see it was the Lord’s wish that the leaders of the church are actually the servants of the congregation, and not the other way around. And then we read in this chapter about the eight woes.

Here the Lord breaks out into much stronger language of condemnation, for the purpose of drawing people away from the practices of church leaders, if these leaders lead wicked lives. Today we would apply these words to preachers who are in the business for the money. There are many today who are in the business of growing mega-churches, and who will write books and give seminars to many other pastors and Bible teachers who desire to follow in their footsteps. But what is the Gospel that they preach? What have they done with the Word of God to make their churches grow so rapidly? Or in the words of the Roman governor Pilate, in Matt 27:22, “What shall we do then with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all say unto him, “Let him be crucified”. In other words, what was their answer? “Kill Him. We do not want Him. We do not want this Jesus, we want another savior”. And this is really where the rubber hits the road. Are all those who attend these mega-churches saved? Not really! Actually, if you asked them they would say, “Saved from what”? You see, they will deny the very first foundation of the Gospel message. The total depravity of man is a concept that is not very popular in the eyes of today’s people in these United States. The fact that the natural man is dead in trespasses and sins is repulsive to most people, and yet it is so clearly stated in Eph 2:1. And the fact that the natural man is incapable of doing anything that is pleasing to God is an abhorrence to most people, and yet it is so clearly stated in Rom 8:8. And the fact that the natural man is incapable of hearing God’s message of salvation is absolutely unacceptable in the minds of most people, and yet it is so clearly stated in 1Cor 2:14. The natural man is the way every human being comes into this world. And as a result of Adam’s sin, the entire human race is on a slippery slide into Hell. These are the bare facts of the total depravity of man as is stated in various places in the Bible. This is what we need to be saved from. And we can only be saved from these by the grace of God. That is the first foundation of the Gospel message. Put a sticker here in Matt 23, and please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to John, John 15:18 (2X). Those who have been successful in growing mega-churches have found that preaching the true Gospel is not at all beneficial for the growth of their congregations. O No! The true Gospel is not at all appealing to anyone who is born into this world. No one really likes to hear these things about the Total Depravity of the natural man. The only reason some will believe these things is because God the Holy Spirit has changed their hearts and minds so that they will believe. But God says that He will save only a remnant out of every nation. It means that the true Gospel shall not be receptive in the majority of any nation. This means that the churches who preach the true Gospel will remain small and unpopular. It means that the churches where the true Gospel is preached shall be persecuted, or at the least they shall be maligned and scoffed at and given derogatory names. We read here in John 15:18-25,

Joh 15:18 ¶  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

Joh 15:19  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

Joh 15:20-23  Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.     But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.     If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.                      He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

Joh 15:24-25  If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.                      But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

What do we learn from this passage? We learn from it that mega-churches are not churches where you will hear the true Gospel. We learn from this that a majority opinion of anything spiritual cannot be the truth. And thus, when we observe or hear that some religious movement is sweeping the nation, we must take the Biblical stand that it is a false religion, unless it can be proved to be genuine. This must also apply to the Charismatic Movement which presently sweeps the nation and even the world. But particularly, read the words of verse 23 again: “He that hateth me hateth my Father also”. Almost no one will admit that he hates God. And yet the Lord Jesus says here that anyone who does not truly believe the Gospel of the Bible is a hater of God and a hater of Christ. The Christ of the Bible is hated by many. The Christ of the Bible who says, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated”, and this He said before the children were born, before the children could have done any good or evil, this Christ is hated by many in this world. The Christ of the Bible who opened the seven seals, and commanded to blow the seven trumpets, and who commanded to pour the seven vials of the wrath of God over the earth, and thereby released an avalanche of evil forces and calamities upon this earth, is hated much by many in this world. The Christ of the Bible is not very popular, and neither is the fear of God. These are things which are presently occurring in many churches in the world, all because their preachers and pastors desire more fame in their name, and they desire a fatter paycheck, and a more wealthy retirement. But it is not pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, and He says eight times, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Please turn again to the Gospel according to Matthew, Matt 23:23 (2X). Particularly we want to focus on one of those woes in verse 23, which concerns with:

#2.      The Weightier Matters of the Law (Matt 23:23, Luke 11:42, John 5:42, 15:10-14, Rom 5:5)

Mt 23:23  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought

ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Our Lord tells us here that the Pharisees are so meticulous with even trivial matters such as paying tithes of the spices which they consume, that they have neglected the weightier matters of the Law. Paying tithes is ranked among the trivial matters of the Law. And then the Lord states what matters are more important in His sight: Judgment, Mercy, and Faith. Why these three? Why did the Lord Jesus select these three activities to be important in His sight? First of all, this does not refer to the judgment of God, or the mercy of God, or the faith that God gives to those with whom He is pleased, for this passage speaks of things that the Scribes and Pharisees must do, or things they failed to have done. Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Luke, Luke 11:42 (2X). We have here a passage that runs parallel to Matt 23:23, and it is constructive to compare these two verses. And here we see that instead of Mercy and Faith, the Gospel of Luke uses “The Love of God”. We read in Luke 11:42,

Lu 11:42  But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

How can someone DO “the love of God”? Is this something that we can learn? No! You either have, or you do not have the love of God in you. The Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 5:42, “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you”. And the Lord said in Rom 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”. Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to John, John 13:34 (2X). Thus we understand that the love of God is an attribute that we receive from God when we have become born from above. This is the love with which we must love one another. It reminds us of that passage in John 13:34-35, where the Lord Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another. Let us read this here in John 13:34-35,

Joh 13:34  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Joh 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Why does the Lord Jesus call this a new commandment? Has He not always told us in the Law of Moses that we must love our neighbor as ourselves? And is our brother in Christ not much more than a common neighbor? So, why does the Lord call this a new commandment? First of all, the Lord told His disciples that He was going to leave them. He was going to the cross. And thus they would in love comfort one another, for their Savior has left them in this world. But secondly, He told them that the character of the NT believers is that they love one another with a new and fervent love, because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost”. This is the love that will be given to every NT believer, every NT saint. This is the focus of John 13:34 and it is the focus of Luke 11:42. Please turn again to Matt 23:23 (2X). Therefore this love for one another must also be the focus of Matt 23:23. Let us see now how the absence of this love for one another is the major criticism by Jesus of these Scribes and Pharisees. From most of this chapter we know that the Scribes and Pharisees ruled the congregation of Israel with harshness. They did not consider themselves as servants of the people but as rulers. But the Lord said in verse 11 that they must be as servants to the people. And thus when we come to verse 23, their omission of the weightier matters of the Law can certainly be traced back to the absence of love in their rule of the congregation. This is a very important point in the eyes of the Lord, for He said in John 13:34, that we must love one another as He has loved us. How then does this love come to expression in the subjects of Judgment, and Mercy, and Faith that the Lord mentioned here?

Mt 23:23  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

The first item on the list is Judgment, and this refers to judging righteously. One of the tasks of those who sit in Moses’ seat was to be judges whenever there was anything that required a just judgment. There are always disputes between people; that is the nature of living in sinful bodies. But the Scribes and Pharisees had not been judging righteously. They had been unrighteous judges, for they gave themselves greater privileges than were given to the common people. There was much unrighteous judgment passed in Israel by these Scribes and Pharisees. For example, in verse 14 the Lord mentions briefly that they devoured widow’s houses. Undoubtedly these decisions have first passed through the judge’s bench. Another example is given in verse 34, which refers to the persecution and killing of prophets and wise men. These were also events wherein the Scribes and Pharisees acted as judges before any killing took place. In the case of the woman who was taken in adultery and was brought before Jesus, the man was allowed to escape, from which we can conclude that it was a set-up. Later when the Lord Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin we read that these judges brought in false witnesses, for the purpose that they could bend the Law their way. And so, in Matt 23:23 the Lord lists one of the weightier matters of the Law wherein they fell short: There was not enough righteous judgment, and there was too much unrighteous judgment.

The second item on the list is Mercy. This is mercy from man unto man. Like God delights in mercy, so He also wants us to be merciful toward one another, because we are under obligation to love one another. Mercy leads a man to come to the aid of a brother in Christ who is in need. Mercy must be evident in the congregation for we are commanded to love one another, not just with words, but also with our money. Mercy toward our brethren in Christ means that we will protect those that are unjustly oppressed. Mercy toward our brethren in Christ means that we give them our time, even when it is valuable, and even when it cuts into our time of sleep. Mercy toward our spouse and our children means that we forgive them their faults. Mercy toward our brethren in Christ means that we will be less critical of their faults, and we admonish them in love. God says in Prov 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”. And so, the leaders of a church are commanded by Christ to rule their congregation with love and mercy, and not with harshness. That does not mean that we cannot be firm, for we must lead by example, and not in weakness.

The third item on the list is Faith. What has faith to do with the love of God? If God indeed has given us faith, then that faith will manifest itself in action. Our faith will lead us to deal with our brethren in Christ in strict integrity. We will deal with them faithfully because Christ has dealt with us more than faithfully. Like Christ forgave us our trespasses, so we are commanded to forgive our brethren in Christ their trespasses against us. And we trust that God will work things out to His honor and glory, because we are doing it God’s way. And so, the sum total of the three items the Lord raised up in Matt 23:23, judgment, mercy and faith, are all related to the command to love one another, even as Christ has loved us. We read in Rom 13:10, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law”. It tells us that it is not crazy to call the love of God for one another as the perfection of the Law. It shows that the Law is kept only when men are just, and kind, and true, towards each other; for thus we testify that we love and fear God.

#3.      Critics of the Church (Matt 23:4)

There is a Dutch expression, which translated says that the best sailors are on the shore. They who have lots of critique on the actions of those who are doing the sailing but themselves stay on the shore, are like the Scribes and Pharisees, who have lots of critique on others, but they themselves do not lift a finger. Let us read this again in verse 4,

Mt 23:4  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

And thus, anyone who is busy critiquing the goings on in a church, but is doing nothing to remedy the situation, is in the category of these Scribes and Pharisees. And from the condemnations that are heaped on the Scribes and Pharisees by the Lord Jesus we know that it is a grievous sin to be in the shoes of such critics. Those are the critics from within the church.

But there are also critics from outside the church. Our church has been the scorn of the town. We do not know why. Perhaps it is because we adhere to the Bible only, and we apply the measuring stick of God to judge the faithfulness of other churches. The measuring stick of God, as you know, is Rev 22:18-19. If anyone finds that objectionable that person has a quarrel with God. We do not put ourselves forward as judges, but we let God do the judging. But God is not going to retract what He already promised in Rev 22:18-19. And thus the warning of Rev 22:18-19 is a gigantic warning that there are many who are on the broad way to Hell. It is our duty to give people warning from the Word of God, and to let them know that all sins shall be held accountable before God.

But those who are critics from within the church, beware that your sins shall not be in the category of the sins of the Scribes and Pharisees, for they  have been neglecting the weightier matters of the Law.          AMEN.           Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.