Matthew 23:9

Our Lord does not wish to see the distinctions of Judaism, which had become so odious in his day, repeated in Christianity. He does not desire the dogmatism of the rabbis to be copied by the Christian teachers, or the authority of the rulers to be transferred to the Christian pastors. He does not want his people to think that they can best show their humility by losing their self-respect and cringing before ecclesiastical superiors. In opposition to all such tendencies, he enunciates his principles of Christian equality.

I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN EQUALITY. Christianity is essentially democratic. Jesus Christ was a Man of the people, the greatest Tribune of the people the world has ever seen. He took the side of the oppressed against their oppressors, that of the "dim multitude," not that of the privileged few. His aim in this matter was to bring about a condition of brotherhood. There is a measure of inequality which no arrangements of men can set aside. One man is not always as good as another. People differ enormously in character, in ability, in energy. Therefore absolute equality is impossible. It is impossible according to the constitution of nature, and it is doubly impossible in face of the great variation of human conduct. But there is an equality to be striven for. The equality of Christian brotherhood is to be observed among Christians. Christ's words do not directly apply to the larger society of mankind. This equality should involve an equivalent in religious privileges which are meant to be freely offered to all. It should discourage any artificial distinctions.


1. The Fatherhood of God. We have one Father in heaven, and undue deference to men in religion obscures the honour due to God.

2. The Lordship of Christ. This is the specifically Christian principle, while the former one is a general religious principle. The Church is not a republic; it is a kingdom with Christ as its Head. Christians are bound to see that they put no one in the place of Christ. He has direct dealings with each of his people. He wants no grand vizier, no local satrap, no intermediate lord. He is the Master of each individual Christian, and every one can go to him personally for instructions.

III. THE VIOLATION OF CHRISTIAN EQUALITY. The words of Christ are ominous of coming dangers. They have a profound significance in the light of subsequent events. It is wonderful that their plain meaning should have been so egregiously disregarded as to permit of the construction of a monstrous ecclesiastical hierarchy in one direction and the creation of a system of dogmatic orthodoxy in another. Forgetting Christ and the privilege of closest relationship with him, Christian people have bowed their necks to the tyranny of various ecclesiastical masters and theological fathers. Order requires the appointment of officers in the Church, and truth demands respect for knowledge and for the capacity to teach. But it is a mistake, a wrong to God and Christ, to show such deference to human authorities as shall be false to Christian liberty. - W.F.A.

But be not ye called Rabbi.
The late Rev. Wm. Jay, in a sermon at Surrey Chapel, said "Some time ago a countryman observed to me, 'I was exceedingly alarmed this morning, sir. I was going down in a lonely place, and I thought I saw a strange monster. It seemed in motion, but I could not make out its form. I didn't like to turn back, but my heart beat, and the more I looked the more I was afraid. But, as we came nearer each other, I saw it was a man, and who do you think it was?' 'I know not.' 'Oh, it was my brother John!' 'Ah,' said I to myself, as he added that it was early in the morning, and very foggy, 'how often do we thus mistake our Christian brethren!'"

During the Peninsular war, an officer of artillery had just served a gun with admirable precision against a body of men posted in a wood to his left. When the Commander-in-Chief rode up, after turning his glass for a moment in the direction of the shot, he said, in his cool way, "Well aimed, captain; but no more; they are our own 99th." This sad blunder has been repeated too often in the armies of Jesus. The great guns of the Church, which might have battered down the citadels of Satan, have been misdirected against Christian brethren!

A Hindoo and a New Zealander met upon the deck of a missionary ship. They had been converted from their heathenism, and were brothers in Christ, but they could not speak to each other. They pointed to their Bibles, shook hands, smiled in each other's faces, but that was all. At last a happy thought occurred to the Hindoo. With sudden joy he exclaimed, "Hallelujah!" The New Zealander, in delight, cried out, "Amena!" Those two words, not found in their own heathen tongues, were to them the beginning of "one language and one speech."

It was on a sacramental Sabbath, and at the close of the service, Dr. Cumming invited Christ's followers to remain and partake of the emblems of His atoning love. As we changed our seat to take our place among the communicants, we found ourselves in the pew of the Duke of Sutherland. The only two persons in the pew, besides our republican self, were the beautiful Duchess (then apparently about five-and-thirty years of age) and a poor, coarsely-clad woman, who had strayed in there from her seat in the gallery. On seeing the name of the titled owner of the pew upon the psalm-book, the poor woman looked disconcerted, as if she was "in the wrong box." But when the sacramental bread was passed, the Duchess very courteously took the plate and handed it to her neighbour with such delicate graciousness that the "puir body" was made to feel quite at ease immediately. It was a striking illustration of the unity of Christ's household, in which the rich and the poor, the lofty and the lowly, meet together and feel that Jesus is the Saviour of them all. When the service ended I said to myself, "Now, which of these two women has had the most serious obstacle to contend with in taking up the cross for Christ? That poor labouring woman probably lives in some back alley, and thanks God for her daily meal of potatoes and salt. Her worldly temptations are few; her sources of enjoyment are few; and perhaps her chief comfort in life is found in her Bible, her prayers, her communion with Christ, and her hope of heaven. The Duchess dwells amid the splendours of Stafford House, with everything to attract her toward this world, and very little to remind her of eternity. She has troops of friends, and luxury tends to self-indulgence. The atmosphere of high life is unfavourable usually to godliness. Gold is often a hardener of the heart. So I decided that it required more grace to make the lady of rank a humbleminded, devoted disciple than it did to make the poor woman at her side a Christian. Was I not right? Remember the dear Master said, "How hard it is for them that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God."

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

I. Human masters may transmit their words; Christ alone can impart His Spirit.

II. Human masters may teach the elements; Christ alone can conduct to the goal.

III. Human masters may establish schools; Christ alone can found a church.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

I. He Himself, by Himself, teaches us, and leads us by the way of virtue to heavenly glory. All others teach as they have been first taught by Him.

II. All others only teach in words that sound in the outward ears, like a tinkling cymbal; but Christ makes known their meaning inwardly to the mind.

III. All others only show what the law commands and what God requires; but Christ gives grace to the will, that we, when we hear the things which ought to be done, may indeed constantly fulfil the same.


"I am my own master," cried a young man, proudly, when a friend tried to dissuade him from an enterprize he had on hand, "I am my own master." "Did you ever consider what a responsible post that is?" asked his friend. "Responsible! what do you mean?" "A master must lay out the work which he wants done, and see that it is done right. He should try to secure the best ends by the best means. He must keep on the look-out against obstacles and accidents, and watch that everything goes straight, else he must fail. To be master of yourself, you have your conscience to keep clear, your heart to cultivate, your temper to govern, your will to direct, and your judgment to instruct. You are master over many servants, and, if you don't master them, they will master you." "That is so," said the young man. "Now I could undertake no such thing," continued his friend; " I should fail if I did. Saul wanted to be his own master, and failed. Herod failed. Judas failed. No man is fit to be his own master. 'One is your Master, even Christ.' I work under His direction."

I. Christians have a Master and a Father.

II. Christians have but one Master, but one Father.

III. There is no man upon earth that is the Christian's father or master.

IV. God is the Christian's only Father, Jesus Christ their only Master.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

Religion, like water, will not rise higher than the spring; if it derives its origin from this earth only, it will not rise and raise us up with it to heaven.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

The reasons for this caution are evident.

1. When the gospel began to be preached, men who were convinced of its truth, and inclined to receive it, were often in danger of incurring the displeasure of their nearest relations and dearest friends, of father and mother, as also of the rulers in Church and State.

2. The Jews at that time were accustomed to pay a blind and slavish deference to their spiritual fathers, their doctors, and wise men, and to prefer their authority even to that of their prophets and of their own sacred books.

3. Our Saviour foresaw that the same corruption would enter into His Church, and the same slavish obedience to the traditions and doctrines of men; that fathers, and monks, and councils, and synods, and prelates, and popes would at last so engross all power, both spiritual and temporal, and abuse it to such an enormous degree, that scarcely the shadow of Christianity would remain in the Christian Church.

(J. Jortin.)

The points may be reduced to three.

1. A belief in God, in opposition to atheism.

2. Moral duties, in opposition to vice and debauchery.

3. Christianity, in opposition to infidelity.

(J. Jortin.)

As God is our Father, a willing compliance and a cheerful obedience are due to Him. God is a Father to us in every sense of the word, bestowing upon us more than we could hope or expect, forgiving us our offences, ruling us with lenity, making allowances for human infirmities, temptations, surprises, mistakes, and errors, for everything that can claim compassion, and is not deliberate and stubborn. We should imitate and resemble Him. We should place our trust and confidence in Him. If God be the Father of all beings, they are all, in some way, related to us.

(J. Jortin.)

I. He is the Author of their spiritual being, gives life, and imparts His own nature.

II. God supplies all the need of His children. They are dependent, etc.

III. He provides them with a suitable home and habitation — Himself, His Church, His heaven.

IV. He secures the instruction of His children by His works, His word. He has appointed for them teachers.

V. He guards and protects His children.

VI. He gives them a glorious and everlasting portion. Reverence and fear Him; live and delight in Him; follow and obey Him, etc.

(J. Burns, LL. D.)

It is virtue that puts an esteem upon men, it makes their countenances lovely, their words to be remembered; it casts a perfume on all that men do or say; gives every word or action a rich scent. This will make our so much distasted habits and gestures that they shall not be contemned or derided, but reverenced and honoured.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

Excellent and admirable was the speech of Xunus, Emperor of China, to his son Tunis, who, according to the relation of Martinius, lived 2258 years before the birth of Christ. "Take," said he, when he was dying, "this sceptre, due to your virtue and merits; remember that you are the father of your people, that you are to deal with them as with your children; that the people are not born to serve you, but that you are born and designed to serve them; and that a king is alone raised up above all the rest that he might alone be able to serve all.

(C. Buckley.)

Do you see, so we have it in Herodotus, how God strikes the taller animals with His thunder, and causes them to disappear; while the small ones are not at all affected by it? Do you see how the loftiest houses and the highest trees are in a like manner thunder-stricken.

(C. Buckley.)


1. Against a proud, ambitious spirit — "Be not ye called Rabbi."

2. Against a servile spirit" And call no man your father upon earth."


1. As to Christ. He was their Master.

2. As to the unseen God. He is our Father in heaven.

III. AN IDEAL — "All ye are brethren."

(A. Scott.)

Abel, Barachias, Berechiah, Hen, Jesus, Zachariah, Zacharias, Zechariah
Alone, Anyone, Heaven, Heavenly, Heavens
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 23:9

     1040   God, fatherhood
     1651   numbers, 1-2

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 23:5-10

     5554   status

Matthew 23:5-12

     5849   exaltation

Matthew 23:8-9

     7032   unity, God's people

Matthew 23:8-10

     2212   Christ, head of church
     7026   church, leadership

Matthew 23:8-11

     5937   rivalry

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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