The Solution to Hypocrisy, Matthew 23

The Gospel of Matthew  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Matthew records Jesus’ final public message beginning in Matthew 23:1…
Given all that Jesus has said and done through His ministry to this point, we take note that Jesus begins this final public message with a warning… a warning against false religion and false teachers, or as the Bible calls it- Hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is the act of hiding your interior wickedness under the appearance of virtue.

According to Jesus the leaders of the Jews were doing just that. They were hiding their wickedness under the appearance of virtue. For example Jesus said in Matthew 23:5 that “they do everything to be seen by others.” At the beginning of the message Jesus told everyone listening to do what the Jewish leaders instructed, but not follow their example. He said, Matthew 23:3 (CSB), Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach.”
The Jewish leaders were hiding their own wickedness through right instruction, and I think it is safe to assume that in public they followed through on their instructions, but in their hearts and in private they were not the men they portrayed them to be.

Hypocrisy is right actions from wrong motivations.

The motivation that Jesus said was driving the decisions and actions of the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees was what other people thought. This is not a new accusation against these leaders. From the beginning of Matthews gospel the tension between Jesus and the Jewish leaders has been growing. Matthew records Jesus first sermon in chapters 5-7. In that sermon Jesus taught against hypocrisy in 6:1-4. Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-2 (ESV), “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
In our passage today Jesus again refers to the Pharisees and Scribes as hypocrites. Matthew 23:13 (CSB), 13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.”
Jesus refers to them as hypocrites in Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29.
Matthew 23:13 (CSB)
13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.
The hypocrisy of the Pharisees has resulted in a closed door to those around them.
Matthew 23:15 (CSB)
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are!
The ministry of the Jewish leaders was not multiplying the kingdom of God, it was growing the kingdom of self and sin.
Matthew 23:23 (CSB)
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
The leaders of the synagogue were doing the little things, the things that don’t really have a consequence in life. But, they were ignoring the things that matter. They were ignoring the more important things God had given them to do… namely living righteous and demonstrating that righteousness to others by caring about the things and people that God cares about.
One of the true tests of our faith is whether or not we care about the things God cares about and do the things God has said to do in light His heart for those in need and who cannot fend for themselves.
Matthew 23:25 (CSB)
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
Like a dirty cup that has been washed clean on the outside but remains dirty on the inside hypocrisy leaves you standing in judgment for your sin. The gospel message teaches us that our actions cannot transform us, only the Holy Spirit can do that.
Jesus sees the Pharisees for what they really are, fakes. But, He doesn’t stop here.
Matthew 23:27 (CSB) says,
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity.
Tombs are filled with the decaying and impure bodies of the dead. It doesn’t matter how nice you paint or seal off the tombs, at the end of the day they contain dead bodies, dead bodies are unclean and decomposing, and apart from a miracle it will be that way until Jesus returns.
Jesus warns the people of Jerusalem, and anyone who will listen, of the true spiritual condition of the hypocrite.

A hypocrite is a pretender; someone who uses religious practices and good deeds to cover up his or her true spiritual condition.

In the last woe or warning in this message Jesus refers to the consistency with which the people of God have attached and killed the messengers God has sent their way.
Matthew 23:29 (CSB)
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous,
They built the tombs and decorated the graves of the righteous because they killed them. How deep the hypocrisy must be for a people to kill someone and then take the time to honor them in their death. How sincere can the tears of a murder be?
The actions of the Pharisees are hypocritical because they claim to believe in God and His Word. And yet they consistently reject the truth, signs, and wonders that confirm that Jesus is the Messiah. They know all the right things to say, they even know the right things to do, but they aren’t doing the thing that matters most. They are rejecting Jesus instead of receiving Him as the Messiah, their King, the Lord and Savior of all men. No, they are not a part of the throng that welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem like a King… They are the ones who have denounced Jesus and who are scheming and working to have him imprisoned and then killed. But this is what hypocrisy does.
Hypocrisy produces a self-absorbed religion, with self-absorbed leaders, preaching a self-absorbed message, that results in self-absorbed attenders and members.
When we studied Matthew 6:1-4 we identified…

3 Ways Hypocrisy Robs You:

1. Hypocrisy robs you of real comfort

… because you are trusting in yourself or others, and not Christ. You cannot have comfort in trusting yourself or others… but, comfort is a fruit of trusting in the Lord.

2. Hypocrisy robs you of real joy

… because you are working for the approval of men and not the applause of God
Galatians 1:10 (CSB)
10 For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
There is real joy in serving God… Joy, gladness, and delight are consistently connected to a life that is aimed at serving the Lord.
Psalm 32:11 (CSB)
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
Hypocrisy robs you of real joy, but genuinely knowing and living for God is the source of real joy.

3. Hypocrisy robs you of real relationships with God and others

… because you become dedicated to wearing a mask rather than being truthful and transparent.
Whatever relationship you have is fake when you are pretending… which is what hypocrisy is… this is where Jesus is going with His teaching. He has opened our eyes to the reality of our failed attempts at righteousness, and now He is graciously showing us the futility of our hypocrisy…
There is no spiritual reward, which refers to salvation, for insincere religious gestures.
There is no spiritual reward for insincere religious gestures.
Let it sink in… you cannot attend enough Sunday worship services in your lifetime to make up for your sin. You cannot give enough to charity or volunteer enough in our city to overcome your failures before the Lord.
You cannot pretend long enough that God will believe and receive your efforts.
In our passage today we find two more truths concerning Hypocrisy that help us to heed the warning of Jesus:

1. Hypocrisy impacts others (Matthew 23:13-15)

You see Hypocrisy is not just a danger for the individual, it is a danger to others as well.
Distracts from Christ Leads others away from Christ

2. Hypocrisy is self-deceptive and justifies sin.

Twists the truth for gain Twists the truth to avoid full obedience
Twisting the truth eventually results in deceiving yourself and leading others to follow in your footsteps of rejection and …
The solution to Hypocrisy is found in Matthew 22:37–40 (CSB), “37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind., 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself., 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

The solution to hypocrisy is to love God with all that you are and love everyone else as much as you love yourself.

Loving God with your heart, soul, strength, and mind = loving God with all that you are.
Loving God is the antidote to self-absorption and the only way to clean the inside of the cup and be filled with life.
Loving God with all that you are involves trusting God by faith with everything in your life, especially your eternity.
Loving God flows from being loved by God.
1 John 4:7–11 (CSB) says, Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice, for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.”
1 John 4:16–19 (CSB), 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.”
Romans 5:8 (CSB)
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus gave His whole life for ours, to save us from our sin and to give us eternal life. But, He does not leave us the same. When we are saved we are transformed and changed. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (CSB) says, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
This is the work that God does in the heart, soul, mind, and body of the ones who love Him. Loving God means surrendering to Him and receiving the truth about Jesus.
The greatest depth of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees was seen in their rejection of Jesus. There is no such thing as a sincere faith or religion in all the world that isn’t in Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 (CSB) says, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This means that all other religions are false. This means that forms of Christianity that deny Christ and the power of the gospel are false. This means groups or denomination that add to the gospel of Jesus Christ with works or other scriptures outside the Bible are false.
Like it says in Matthew 23:40, All the law and the prophets hinge on loving God and loving others, and the ability to love God and to love others hinges on knowing, believing, and following Jesus.
Not only is there no other way to the Father than through Jesus…

Jesus is the glorious, gracious, and life giving way to the Father.

It’s true that Jesus said there is no other way, and it is right for us to acknowledge that all other paths dead end. But, it is even better for us to celebrate the truth that there is a way to the Father and that way is Jesus!
Romans 10:9–10 (CSB) says, “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.”
Salvation belongs to those who trust in Jesus Christ.
On a day where our study of Matthew presents the ugliness of Hypocrisy, let leave focused on the beauty of the sincerity of God’s love for sinners like us displayed through Jesus Christ.

We leave today to do three things:

1. We leave to love God with all that we are and all that we have.

2. We leave to love others in the same way that we love ourselves.

3. We leave to live sent by God to take the gospel to the people closest to us and farthest from us.

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