Sermon #65 Series: Matthew
Title: A Form of Godliness Condemned
Text: Matthew 23:1-12
Reading: Bobbie Estes - Mark Henson
Subject: Christ’s Condemnation of Self-Righteous Religion
Date: Tuesday Evening – November 28, 1995
Tape # R-99
The title of my message tonight is A Form of Godliness Condemned. What the apostle Paul warned us would happen in the last day, that the vast majority of the religious world would have a mere form of godliness, an outward show of religion, while denying the very power of God essential to godliness, had already come to pass in Judaism. And our Lord detested it.
Matthew 23 records the very last words ever spoken by the Son of God in the temple at Jerusalem. Judgment was about to fall on that nation. In just a short while, God would destroy the city, the nation, and the temple. In this chapter, our Lord tells the multitude and his disciples why such judgment must come. Read verses 1-12 with me and learn how contemptible a mere form of godliness is to the Son of God.
In these verses and in those that follow, our Savior gives a withering exposure of the religion of the scribes and Pharisees and of their disciples today. He sharply rebukes them, both for their doctrine and their practices, their religion retained the word of God and the name of God. But it was nothing less than an utter denial of God. By this time Judaism had been reduced to idolatry! Will worship, ritualism, and legalism prevailed. And our Lord despised it. Knowing well that his time on earth was almost done, knowing that soon his followers must be left alone, like sheep among wolves, he warns them plainly against the false shepherds and false religion that surrounded them.
Proposition: Nothing is more abominable in the sight of God than a self-righteous form of godliness.
Here are five important lessons to be learned from these twelve verses.
I. It is the solemn responsibility of every faithful servant of God to warn his hearers of the false teachers and false religion that surrounds them.
It is not meekness, but cowardice, that causes men to hold back in denouncing false doctrine. No man was ever more meek, more gracious, or more loving than the God-man. Yet, no man ever more boldly denounced false religion.
That man who refuses to identify heresy and heretics is unfaithful to his charge as God’s messenger and God’s watchman. No sin is more sinful than silence when alarm is needed!
All preachers of free-will, works salvation are false prophets. All who make salvation dependent upon man’s will, or man’s work are destroyers of man’s souls and must be treated by us as God’s enemies (II John 10).
II. It is the responsibility of every man to try the spirits and judge preachers and their message by the Word of God – (vv. 2-3).
Those who sit in Moses’ seat are responsible to teach what Moses taught. And they are to be obeyed, followed, and honored, only as they obey, follow, honor, and teach the Word of God.
B. But you must not allow any man to be your pope.
Like the noble Bereans, you are responsible to search the Scriptures for yourself. Receive nothing from any man that you do not find in the Bible.
III. Nothing in all the world is more obnoxious, abominable, and damning to the souls of men as an outward, self-righteous form of religion (vv. 3-7).
In the verses our Savior identifies self-righteous religion by four common trials. It may have many names, varied ordinances, and conflicting ceremonies but false religion can always be identified by these four things. There are many other things to identify it, as we have seen; but these four common characteristics of false religion are observable by everyone, except the people involved.
A. Legal Bondage (vv. 3-4).
· The Imposition of Mosaic Law.
B. Glaring Hypocrisy – “They say and do not!” “They themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
1. They preach one thing and do another.
2. They require from others what they do not practice themselves.
C. An Outward Show (v. 5).
“All their works they do for to be seen of men!”
D. Love of Recognition – (vv. 6-7).
Here are four things the scribes and Pharisees loved, four things followers of such men still love.
1. The best place in public meetings – “The upper most rooms at feasts.”
2. The best place in church – “The chief seats in the synagogues.”
3. Recognition by Man – “Greetings in the markets” – Name Recognition!
4. Honor from Men! “To be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
Religious hucksters love to be first and foremost!
Illus: “Call me Bro. Pink.”
IV. It is absolutely wrong for believers to give any man the names, titles, and honors that belong to our God and his Christ alone – (vv. 8-10).
“In the church of Christ, all titles and honors which exalt men and give occasion for pride are here forbidden. C.H. Spurgeon
A. To call a man “Father” is to rob God of his supremacy and Fatherhood as God.
B. To call a man “Reverend” is to rob God of his supremacy and holiness as the “Holy One!” – Psalm 111:9
C. To speak of a man as “Your Priest” or “Intercessor” is to rob Christ of his Priesthood.
D. To call a man “Doctor” or “Rabbi”, or “Master” is to rob Christ of his glory as our teacher.
V. The secret of greatness in the kingdom of God is service to the kingdom of God (vv. 11-12).
Richard Baxter said, “Church greatness consisteth in being greatly serviceable.”
“The desire of the Pharisee was to receive honor, and to be called “Master! The desire of the Christian must be to do good, and to give himself, and all that he has, to the service of others.” J.C. Ryle
Let us examine ourselves again and make certain that our religion is more than an outward form of godliness.
· Philippians 3:3