Sermon #36                                                 Series: Matthew


            Title:            EMPTY RELIGION     
            Text:             Matthew 15:1-9

            Subject:        Christ’s Confrontation with the Pharisees

            Readings:     Office: R. Wood  Aud. L. Campbell

            Date:            Tuesday Evening – March 14, 1995
            Tape:            R – 13




            The title of my message tonight is Empty Religion. In our text the Lord Jesus confronts the religious system of his day head on. He confronts the scribes and Pharisees publicly, giving a scathing denunciation of their religion, its customs, traditions, and hypocrisy, drawing a clear line of distinction between true religion. This is a matter that God’s servants must deal with, and deal with plainly, in every age.


            It is written, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7). Obviously, that commandment prohibits profanity and vulgar language in which the name of God is used, as well as all flippant, irreverent usage of God’s name. The name of the Lord our God is not to be used as a by-word! (Gee, Gees, Gosh, Lord, my Lord, my Lord, my God, oh God!)  But the commandment goes much, much deeper. It forbids all superficial, indifferent, insincere, half-hearted, hypocritical worship!


            Someone said, “God’s name is taken in vain more often inside the church than outside!” Most of what we see in religion today is nothing less than the blasphemy of God’s name! The mechanical use of God’s name in repetitious prayers, songs, and rituals, while having no thought and regard for his honor and genuine devotion to him is taking his name in vain.


1.      Empty religious rituals and ceremonial, even when the outward form conforms to the Word of God is but the taking of God’s name in vain (Isa. 1:13-18).


NOTE: Most religious practices today do not even attempt to be outwardly conformed to the Word of God!


2.      Malachi declares that the offering of blemished, unworthy sacrifices is taking God’s name in vain (Mal. 1:6-7).

3.      God will not accept any pretended worship of him that does not arise from a redeemed, regenerate, believing heart.

·        Isaiah 66:2-3

·        Amos 5:21-24

·        Proverbs 21:27 “The sacrifice of the wicked’s an abomination!”




            Most people think that religion is primarily an outward thing; but in our text the Lord Jesus shows us that true religion is more inward than outward.


            Pharisees died out hundreds of years ago; but the spirit of the Pharisees thrives in every age. Pharisees make religion a show. But our Savior tells us plainly that we must never make a show of religion.


·        Not in Giving (Matt. 6:3-4).

·        Not in Praying (Matt. 6:5-8).

·        Not in Fasting (Matt. 6:16-18).


There are four things in these nine verses that need to be understood, remembered and laid to heart. May God the Holy Spirit, who caused them to be written in his Word, now inscribe them upon our hearts.


I.  Formal, Ritualistic, Ceremonial, Outward Religion, Without Heart Faith, Is Empty, Useless Religion.


            The complaint of the scribes and Pharisees against the disciples was not that they were evil, corrupt, covetous men, but that they did not, in keeping with Jewish traditions, wash their hands before they ate!


A.  Do not misunderstand either my doctrine or the doctrine of our Lord in this passage.


1.  I do not suggest that outward, public worship is insignificant – Nothing is more important in the activities of life than the worship of God!


·        Hebrews 10: 25


2.      I do not suggest that the outward forms of public worship is insignificant.


God’s saints vary in the way they conduct their assemblies of public worship. Some are more formal and some less formal than others. Some have instrumental music, and some do not. Some do not have music at all. But, with regard to the ordinances of public worship, if we fail to keep God’s ordinances in God’s way, we do but take the name of God in vain in our pretended worship.


·        Believer’s Baptism!

·        The Lord’s Supper!


B.  Yet, even when the outward form of worship is right, that is not the principle thing – Heart worship is the principle part of worship – (verse 8).


·        Isaiah 29:13

·        Ezekiel 33:31

·        Romans 10:13

·        Romans 14:17


The heart is the principle thing in the relationship of a husband and wife, parents and children, friend and friend. And in our relationship with, service to, and worship of our God, the matter of chief concern is our hearts!


            What must we have to be saved? – A New Heart! What sacrifice does God require from us? – A Broken and Contrite Heart! What is true circumcision? – Heart Circumcision! What does God call for from his sons? – “My son, give me thine heart!” Where does Christ dwell? – In Our Hearts!


            “The bended knee, the bowed head, the loud Amen, the daily chapter, the regular attendance at the Lord’s Table, are all useless and unprofitable, so long as our affections are nailed to sin, or pleasure, or money or the world.” J.C. Ryle.


II.  That Religion Which Either Adds To Or Diminishes From The Word of God Is Empty, Useless Religion.


            It does not matter how sincere, zealous, and well received a religious practice is, if it is something that adds to or diminishes the Word of God, it is useless – (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 20:18-19).


NOTE: The Jews took this matter of washing hands before a meal very seriously (John 2:6)! They had no biblical authority for it at all. It was nothing but the invention of some old Jew. But it had become a matter of religious law and a test of righteousness in their lips!


NOTE: Those who treat the Word of God with such contempt make the Word of God of none effect by their traditions. (vv. 4-6).


A.   Our Only authority is the Word of God – (II Tim. 3:16-17).


·        For Doctrine (Isa. 8:20).

·        For Ordinances of Divine Worship.

·        For Proscribed Duties.


B.  We must never allow ourselves to be put in subjection to the commandments of men.


·        Colossians 2;18

·        I Timothy 1:1-6        } I Thessalonians 5:22

·        Titus 1:14


III.  True Religion, True Spirituality Is A Very Practical Thing.


            False, empty religion will allow a man or woman to neglect and despise the most common duties of life – True religion, true Christianity causes people to cherish and faithfully perform the most common duties of everyday life for the glory of God.


            Illus: The Jews’ Corban (vv. 5-6).


            The Worship of God will make –

A.      A Man Honor His Parents.

B.      A Father and Husband Provide for His Family.

C.      A Believer a Diligent Employ.

D.      A Christian a Faithful Employer.

E.      A Woman a Good Wife.


IV.  True Religion, True Christianity, True Worship Is A Spiritual Matter.


·        John 4:24

·        Philippians 3:3


A.  It begins with the circumcision of the heart.

B.  It involves knowledge of and obedience to the truth.

C. It is a spiritual thing.

D.  It is, in its essence – Rejoicing In Christ!


·        Believing Him!

·        Loving Him!

·        Exalting Him!


E.  It is a renunciation of all confidence in the flesh.


·        Privileges of the Flesh!

·        Works of the Flesh!

·        Ordinances of the Flesh!

·        Experiences of the Flesh!


Application: I Samuel 16:7