Matthew 23:12

This setting of truth was repeated by our Lord again and again, and variously illustrated by parable and by example (as in our Lord's washing the disciples' feet). He must have been much impressed by the unreadiness to serve which distinguished the prominent religionists of his days. The Pharisee class was always scheming to get - to get wealth, to get praise, to get credit. He never saw them giving, or trying to do anything for anybody. They were always standing on their dignity. They loved "salutations in the market places," everybody paying special deference to these learned and holy men. Even the little boys pulling off their turbans, and bowing low as the great man passed. It was in the mind of Christ to set a complete contrast to all this before the people; and he would have his disciples continue his example. But it should be clearly shown that our Lord's example was in no sense put on; it was the natural and proper expression of his principles and spirit.

I. A MAN IS IN NO SENSE GREAT WHO THINKS CHIEFLY ABOUT HIMSELF. This is what Christ teaches. This is not what the world teaches. If a man is to "get on," the world says he must take care of "number one." Christ says he may get on, that way, but he will never get up. The inspiration is low which a man gives himself. The old-world idea of greatness was summed up in the ideas of position and achievement. In connection with our text, set out before you a self-centred Pharisee, and say whether that man is, in any sense at all, great. What can you admire in him? No doubt he thinks himself great; but is he? Evidently Christ has raised our standard of judgment, and we find we only despise the man whose life circles round himself.

II. A MAN IS GREAT WHO THINKS CHIEFLY ABOUT WHAT HE CAN DO FOR OTHERS. Christ has recovered "ministry," and ennobled it forever. Recovered it, because:

1. It was God's primal idea for the human race. When he made man male and female, he established the law of mutual service. When he made parents and children, he glorified the law of mutual service, and lifted motherhood into the first human place. When he permitted sickness, trouble, and poverty in his world, he called for a brotherhood of sympathizing service.

2. It was man's mischief making to interfere with God's dignity of service. This man did when, in his wilfulness, he organized society, built cities, made offices, and set one man above another. Then everybody soon began to think what advantage he could get over his brother, instead of what he could do to serve him. - R.T.

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.
There must be some just, reasonable, and great cause of our Lord's indignation, and this we find was an accumulation of great wickedness in these men, which received aggravations(1) from their pretences to greater sanctity than others;(2) from their having greater opportunities of being better than others;(3) because they, being many of them in public places, their practice must have a bad influence on their followers. For they who pretend holiness, and are wicked; they who are wicked, though they have great helps to be good; and by being wicked cause others to be so too, their sin is exceeding sinful.The particulars for which our Saviour taxes them, were principally these:

1. Their great pride. Under the title of Rabbi they affected a greater authority than is compatible to men.

2. Their wretched covetousness, which showed itself in the instances of devouring widows' houses, of esteeming the gifts and the gold above the altar and the temple.

3. Their abominable hypocrisy, shown in "teaching others to do what they themselves would not do;" in serving a carnal interest by a religious carriage. It might have been supposed that Christ's disciples had been out of danger of these evils, that they would not have come near the place where their Pilot had set a sea-mark. But whoso takes a view of the Christian Church, as Erasmus hath represented it, he'll say, that Pharisaism then lived and reigned as much as ever.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

There was a great religious revival among the Jews after their return from the captivity, which continued for a considerable time; and which, after they had rebuilt the temple, sent them back to the law with a sincere desire to honour God by keeping its commands. So long as the life remained, the obedience was the real outcome of an inward principle; but when the life died out, then the obedience became only a fossil, and was soon covered over with corruption, until it became what we see it to have been in the days of the Saviour upon earth. The same danger attends on every spiritual movement. A real devotion to Christ stimulates to reverent attention to the forms of worship, and so long as that is simply an expression of loyalty to Him, all is well; but by and by all thought of Him drops out, and then only the ritual remains, becoming the idol of the heart, and so the life departs. Thus what was a voice full of sincerity in one generation, is often only an empty echo in that which follows.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

If ministers do well, it is their own gain; if they say well, it is thine. Take thou what thine own is, and let alone what is another man's. Sylla and King Richard III. commanded others, under great penalties, to be virtuous and modest, when themselves walked the clean contrary way. A deformed painter may draw a goodly picture; a stinking breath sounds a mighty blast; and he that hath but a bad voice may show cunning in descant. A blind man may bear a torch in a dark night, and a harp wake music to others, which itself is not sensible of. Posts set for directions of passengers by the highway side do point out the way which themselves go not; and sign-posts tell the traveller there is wholesome diet or warm lodging within, when themselves remain in the storms without. Lewd preachers are like spire-steeples, or high pinnacles, which point up to heaven, but press down to the centre.

(J. Trapp.)

They had tongues which spake by the talent, but their hands scarce wrought by the ounce; like that ridiculous actor at Smyrna, who, pronouncing, O coelum, O heaven, pointed with his finger toward the ground: so these Pharisees had the heaven commonly at their tongues' end, but the earth continually at their fingers' end. In a certain battle against the Turks, there was a bishop who thus encouraged the army: "Play the men, fellow-soldiers, to-day: and I dare promise you, that if ye die fighting, ye shall sup to-night with God in heaven." Now after the battle was begun, the bishop withdrew himself; and when some of the soldiers inquired among themselves what was become of the bishop, and why he would not take a supper with them that night in heaven, others answered, "This is fasting-day with him, and therefore he will eat no supper, no, not in heaven!"

(J. Trapp.)

Bombay Times.
Thirty miles north-east of Sholapoor, at Toolazapoor, is the great temple of the goddess Bhowani, and twice in the year the place is thronged by men and women of every grade, who come to pay their vows and sacrifices to the idol. Besides this, at every full moon long trains of pilgrims may be seen flocking thither; and such is the faith of the people in the healing powers of the goddess, that the sick are resorting there constantly in the vain hope of some relief. The temple at Punderpoor is still more renowned. Not to speak of the myriads who go there at the great festivals, persons make a pilgrimage thither every month from a distance of fifty or a hundred miles; and the practice is kept up for many years. One man, who had apparently come from a distance, the writer saw near Barsee, making the journey by prostrations, measuring his length upon the ground. It was under the burning sun of noonday; and, hardly able to proceed, he seemed the very picture of despair. But a case still more remarkable was that of a man performing the journey by rolling himself upon the ground. We came up with him two miles east of Wairag, and asked him where he was going, and why he was thus torturing himself. He at first did not seem to hear; but at length stopping, he lay exhausted upon the ground, and answered in a faint voice that he was going to Punderpoor. After some further questions, as the writer remonstrated with him upon the folly of such a course, he raised his head from the ground, and half reclining, said that he had come so far already he could not desist now. He stated that his village was near Chandrapoor, 450 miles to the east from there, that he had spent fifteen months on the way thus far, and that it was forty miles more, and he wished to complete the pilgrimage. He was accustomed to go about a mile each day. He would. then note the place where he had stopped, and walking back to the nearest village, would remain until the next day, receiving his food from the villagers. Then he would return, and from the place left the previous day would begin his toilsome pilgrimage. If he came to a river that could not be passed in this manner, he would go back a distance equal to this space, and roll over the ground a second time. He had for clothing only a coarse cloth bound tightly about his loins, and another about his head; and thus, almost naked, over roads extremely rough and stony, exposed to heat and cold, sometimes drenched with rain or covered with mud — for a year and three months this poor man had been rolling himself along towards the shrine of Vithoba. Yet it was not a sense of sin or a desire for pardon that induced him to undertake this painful journey. But it was evident, upon further conversation, that he was urged on by no higher motive than a selfish pride. He sought a reputation for holiness.

(Bombay Times.)

When corn runs into straw and chaff, those who feed on it may well be thin and lean; but when it runs into ears and kernel, thou mayest expect such as eat of it to be fat and well-favoured. When religion runs into formalities and ceremonies, her followers can never be thriving spiritually. They may starve, for all the gaudy flowers wherewith several dishes on her table are decked and set forth.


The shops in the square of San Marco were all religiously closed, for the day was a high festival. We were much disappointed, for it was our last day, and we desired to take away with us some souvenirs of lovely Venice; but our regret soon vanished, for on looking at the shop we meant to patronise, we readily discovered signs of traffic within. We stepped to the side door, and found when one or two other customers had been served, that we might purchase to our heart's content, saint or no saint. After this fashion too many keep the laws of God to the eye, but violate them in the heart. The shutters are up as if the man no more dealt with sin and Satan; but a brisk commerce is going on behind the scenes. From such deceit may the Spirit of Truth preserve us.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

When Hanway was in Persia, a certain governor rose from his seat and left the room, because Hanway had inadvertently taken his seat higher than he, though at the opposite side of the table,

There is no external supreme, infallible judge in the Church of God, to whom all Christians are obliged to submit their faith and consciences in all matters of religion. Argument

I. This authority which they pretend to is a greater authority than the apostles themselves did ever claim or exercise in the Church of God, as plainly appears from 2 Corinthians 1:24 — "Not that we have dominion over your faith." This was very agreeable to the nature and person of Christ. Argument

II. Such an authority as they pretend to is contrary to that command of the trial of doctrines which is laid upon all Christians; for if there be an infallible judge to whom I ought to submit my falth and conscience in all matters of religion, what need I try doctrines?

1. Christians have ability to try things with.

2. They have a rule to try things by.

3. Christians have a promise of discovery upon trial. Argument III., against the supremacy and the infallible authority of the pope, is taken from the danger of following false guides. People may sin in following their guides and teachers. Argument IV., and last, against this doctrine is, from the want of a Divine appointment and promise. Inference

II. Forasmuch as there is no person upon earth that can infallibly guide you to salvation, it concerns you to have the greater care of your own salvation.

1. Study the Holy Scriptures.

2. Pray fervently for the guidance of God's Spirit.

3. If you would discern and hold fast the truth, love and practise it.

(M. Pool.)

But, indeed, there was a deeper and worse design than this in it; they did not only aim at splendid and glorious titles, but they did usurp authority and dominion over the consciences of the people, whereof this was but a sign: as amongst us the flag is a sign of the dominion of the seas, so.this title was an indication and sign of that authority which they usurped over the people.

(M. Pool.)

Abel, Barachias, Berechiah, Hen, Jesus, Zachariah, Zacharias, Zechariah
Abased, Abases, Exalt, Exalted, Exalts, Humble, Humbled, Humbles, Low, Makes
1. Jesus admonishes the people to follow good doctrine, not bad examples
5. His disciples must beware of their ambition.
13. He denounces eight woes against their hypocrisy and blindness,
34. and prophesies of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 23:12

     1620   beatitudes, the
     5786   ambition, negative
     8302   love, abuse of
     8803   pride, evil of

Matthew 23:1-32

     8767   hypocrisy

Matthew 23:1-33

     5381   law, letter and spirit
     8749   false teachers

Matthew 23:1-36

     5379   law, Christ's attitude
     7552   Pharisees, attitudes to Christ

Matthew 23:2-12

     7759   preachers, qualifications

Matthew 23:2-33

     7464   teachers of the law

Matthew 23:4-15

     7734   leaders, spiritual

Matthew 23:5-12

     5849   exaltation

Matthew 23:8-12

     2036   Christ, humility
     8343   servanthood, in society

The Morality of the Gospel.
Is stating the morality of the Gospel as an argument of its truth, I am willing to admit two points; first, that the teaching of morality was not the primary design of the mission; secondly, that morality, neither in the Gospel, nor in any other book, can be a subject, properly speaking, of discovery. If I were to describe in a very few words the scope of Christianity as a revelation, [49] I should say that it was to influence the conduct of human life, by establishing the proof of a future state
William Paley—Evidences of Christianity

Jesus' Last Public Discourse. Denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees.
(in the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXIII. 1-39; ^B Mark XII. 38-40; ^C Luke XX. 45-47. ^a 1 Then spake Jesus ^b 38 And in his teaching ^c in the hearing of all the people he said unto ^a the multitudes, and to his disciples [he spoke in the most public manner], 2 saying, ^c 46 Beware of the scribes, ^a The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: 3 all things whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Christianity Misunderstood by Believers.
Meaning of Christian Doctrine, Understood by a Minority, has Become Completely Incomprehensible for the Majority of Men-- Reason of this to be Found in Misinterpretation of Christianity and Mistaken Conviction of Believers and Unbelievers Alike that they Understand it--The Meaning of Christianity Obscured for Believers by the Church--The First Appearance of Christ's Teaching--Its Essence and Difference from Heathen Religions-- Christianity not Fully Comprehended at the Beginning, Became More and
Leo Tolstoy—The Kingdom of God is within you

First Attempts on Jerusalem.
Jesus, almost every year, went to Jerusalem for the feast of the passover. The details of these journeys are little known, for the synoptics do not speak of them,[1] and the notes of the fourth Gospel are very confused on this point.[2] It was, it appears, in the year 31, and certainly after the death of John, that the most important of the visits of Jesus to Jerusalem took place. Many of the disciples followed him. Although Jesus attached from that time little value to the pilgrimage, he conformed
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

For which Cause Our Lord Himself Also with his Own Mouth Saith...
4. For which cause our Lord Himself also with His own mouth saith, "Cleanse what are within, and what are without will be clean." [1813] And, also, in another place, when He was refuting the foolish speeches of the Jews, in that they spake evil against His disciples, eating with unwashen hands; "Not what entereth into the mouth," said He, "defileth the man: but what cometh forth out of the mouth, that defileth the man." [1814] Which sentence, if the whole of it be taken of the mouth of the body,
St. Augustine—On Continence

Relation of the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes, and to the Gospel of Christ
On taking a retrospective view of Pharisaism, as we have described it, there is a saying of our Lord which at first sight seems almost unaccountable. Yet it is clear and emphatic. "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (Matt 23:3). But if the early disciples were not to break at once and for ever with the Jewish community, such a direction was absolutely needful. For, though the Pharisees were only "an order," Pharisaism, like modern Ultramontanism, had not only become
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Among the People, and with the Pharisees
It would have been difficult to proceed far either in Galilee or in Judaea without coming into contact with an altogether peculiar and striking individuality, differing from all around, and which would at once arrest attention. This was the Pharisee. Courted or feared, shunned or flattered, reverently looked up to or laughed at, he was equally a power everywhere, both ecclesiastically and politically, as belonging to the most influential, the most zealous, and the most closely-connected religions
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

The General Service to a Prophet.
At the Vespers, for O Lord, I have cried, the Stichera, Tone 4. Similar to: Called from above... Thou that hast in the purity of thy mind received the reflex of the God-emitted light and wast the herald of the divine words and seer and divine prophet, thou appearedst as the God-moved mouth of the Spirit, conveying that which was shewn by Him unto thee, O all-honoured (mentioned by name), and declaring unto all the peoples the salvation that was being granted and the Kingdom of Christ; do entreat
Anonymous—The General Menaion

Of the Power of Making Laws. The Cruelty of the Pope and his Adherents, in this Respect, in Tyrannically Oppressing and Destroying Souls.
1. The power of the Church in enacting laws. This made a source of human traditions. Impiety of these traditions. 2. Many of the Papistical traditions not only difficult, but impossible to be observed. 3. That the question may be more conveniently explained, nature of conscience must be defined. 4. Definition of conscience explained. Examples in illustration of the definition. 5. Paul's doctrine of submission to magistrates for conscience sake, gives no countenance to the Popish doctrine of the obligation
John Calvin—The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Hints to Teachers and Questions for Pupils
Teacher's Apparatus.--English theology has no juster cause for pride than the books it has produced on the Life of Paul. Perhaps there is no other subject in which it has so outdistanced all rivals. Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul will probably always keep the foremost place; in many respects it is nearly perfect; and a teacher who has mastered it will be sufficiently equipped for his work and require no other help. The works of Lewin and Farrar are written on the same lines;
James Stalker et al—The Life of St. Paul

On Attending the Church Service
"The sin of the young men was very great." 1 Sam. 2:17. 1. The corruption, not only of the heathen world, but likewise of them that were called Christians, has been matter of sorrow and lamentation to pious men, almost from the time of the apostles. And hence, as early as the second century, within a hundred years of St. John's removal from the earth, men who were afraid of being partakers of other men's sins, thought it their duty to separate from them. Hence, in every age many have retired from
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

Machinations of the Enemies of Jesus.
Jesus passed the autumn and a part of the winter at Jerusalem. This season is there rather cold. The portico of Solomon, with its covered aisles, was the place where he habitually walked.[1] This portico consisted of two galleries, formed by three rows of columns, and covered by a ceiling of carved wood.[2] It commanded the valley of Kedron, which was doubtless less covered with debris than it is at the present time. The depth of the ravine could not be measured, from the height of the portico; and
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

The Early Ministry in Judea
113. We owe to the fourth gospel our knowledge of the fact that Jesus began his general ministry in Jerusalem. The silence of the other records concerning this beginning cannot discredit the testimony of John. For these other records themselves indicate in various ways that Jesus had repeatedly sought to win Jerusalem before his final visit at the end of his life (compare Luke xiii. 34; Matt. xxiii. 37). Moreover, the fourth gospel is confirmed by the probability, rising almost to necessity, that
Rush Rhees—The Life of Jesus of Nazareth

The Crossing of the Jordan
THE CROSSING OF THE JORDAN Just how did you feel at the time you were sanctified? I have heard some tell of how the holy fire of the Spirit seemed to go all through them. Others have told of a deeper, more complete peace. Some have shouted for joy. Others have wept for joy. And I am wondering how one ought to feel. Can you tell me? And how can I know that I am consecrated? Every teacher of entire sanctification that I ever heard says that the consecration must be complete; but how am I to know when
Robert Lee Berry—Adventures in the Land of Canaan

Subjects of Study. Home Education in Israel; Female Education. Elementary Schools, Schoolmasters, and School Arrangements.
If a faithful picture of society in ancient Greece or Rome were to be presented to view, it is not easy to believe that even they who now most oppose the Bible could wish their aims success. For this, at any rate, may be asserted, without fear of gainsaying, that no other religion than that of the Bible has proved competent to control an advanced, or even an advancing, state of civilisation. Every other bound has been successively passed and submerged by the rising tide; how deep only the student
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

Letter Xliv Concerning the Maccabees but to whom Written is Unknown.
Concerning the Maccabees But to Whom Written is Unknown. [69] He relies to the question why the Church has decreed a festival to the Maccabees alone of all the righteous under the ancient law. 1. Fulk, Abbot of Epernay, had already written to ask me the same question as your charity has addressed to your humble servant by Brother Hescelin. I have put off replying to him, being desirous to find, if possible, some statement in the Fathers about this which was asked, which I might send to him, rather
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

Number and Order of the Separate Books.
The number of the books was variously estimated. Josephus gives twenty-two, which was the usual number among Christian writers in the second, third, and fourth centuries, having been derived perhaps from the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Origen, Jerome, and others have it. It continued longest among the teachers of the Greek Church, and is even in Nicephorus's stichometry.(83) The enumeration in question has Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with Jeremiah. In Epiphanius(84) the number twenty-seven
Samuel Davidson—The Canon of the Bible

I. (Who first propounded these heresies, p. 11.) Hippolytus seems to me to have felt the perils to the pure Gospel of many admissions made by Clement and other Alexandrian doctors as to the merits of some of the philosophers of the Gentiles. Very gently, but with prescient genius, he adopts this plan of tracing the origin and all the force of heresies to "philosophy falsely so called." The existence of this "cloud of locusts" is (1) evidence of the antagonism of Satan; (2) of the prophetic spirit
Hippolytus.—The Refutation of All Heresies

"The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. So Then they that Are
Rom. viii. s 7, 8.--"The carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." It is not the least of man's evils, that he knows not how evil he is, therefore the Searcher of the heart of man gives the most perfect account of it, Jer. xvii. 12. "The heart is deceitful above all things," as well as "desperately wicked," two things superlative and excessive in it, bordering upon an infiniteness, such
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

We are not Binding Heavy Burdens and Laying them Upon Your Shoulders...
37. We are not binding heavy burdens and laying them upon your shoulders, while we with a finger will not touch them. Seek out, and acknowledge the labor of our occupations, and in some of us the infirmities of our bodies also, and in the Churches which we serve, that custom now grown up, that they do not suffer us to have time ourselves for those works to which we exhort you. For though we might say, "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the
St. Augustine—Of the Work of Monks.

Repentance and Impenitence.
In the discussion of this subject I shall show,-- I. What repentance is not. 1. The Bible everywhere represents repentance as a virtue, and as constituting a change of moral character; consequently, it cannot be a phenomenon of the intelligence: that is, it cannot consist in conviction of sin, nor in any intellectual apprehension of our guilt or ill-desert. All the states or phenomena of the intelligence are purely passive states of mind, and of course moral character, strictly speaking, cannot be
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

Second Sunday after Trinity Exhortation to Brotherly Love.
Text: 1 John 3, 13-18. 13 Marvel not, brethren, if the world hateth you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. 15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III

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