The Danger of False Teachers
The Dangers of False Faith Pt 1
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.”
Chapter records the strongest indictment against the Jewish leaders in the gospels. Throughout his ministry, the Jewish religious leaders continually sought to attack Christ and undermine his ministry. In chapter 23, Christ turns the tables and condemns these leaders for their failures. The chapter involves a series of strong denouncements. The word “woe” can be used to express grief or denunciation. The word suggests the profound emotion and horror when disaster strikes. In using the term, Jesus is making it clear that those who distort God’s word will face a severe and terrible fate. Thus, these seven “woes” are a series of judgments condemning the religious leaders for failing to teach the people and adequately convey God’s message.
The first woe condemns the religious leaders for placing a barrier before the people that prevents them from entering the kingdom of heaven. These religious leaders were to be the ones who proclaimed and called people to the kingdom. But they had distorted the message, and as a result, they were doing the very opposite. Instead of pointing to the grace of God and the truth of God, they were teaching that people could obtain salvation through their good works and merit. This misled the people, leading them down a path that did not lead to salvation. Instead of pointing people to the truth of God’s word, they were pointing people away from it by their distortion and rejection of God’s law.
This is further emphasized in Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders in verse 15. These religious leaders went to great lengths to recruit new proselytes to their religious system. They were skilled in attracting new converts to their religious system. The Gentile “God-Fearers” (i.e., Those who embraced the teaching of the law) were encouraged to live by the legalism of the Jewish leaders. Instead of leading them to faith, they were doing the very opposite. They possessed a great passion for evangelism, but not based on the true Gospel.
We see the same thing today, even in the church. Pastors distort the gospel to make it more appealing to gain a following. They build their church preaching a message that promises salvation without needing repentance and obedience. While the Pharisees distorted the gospel by binding the people with legalism, today, many churches distort the gospel by rejecting God’s moral law and teaching salvation without conversion. They attract crowds by affirming sin rather than transforming sinners. They say what people want to hear.
However, both legalism (salvation by works) and liberalism (universal salvation without obedience) distort the gospel and lead to destruction. The gospel message is transformational repentance. It involves the recognition of our sins and surrendering our life to God. It recognizes that we are saved solely based upon faith and acceptance of God’s grace obtained by the death and resurrection of Christ. But genuine faith is always transformational faith. It is grounded in accepting the truth of God's word and surrendering to a life of obedience to it. This is not to earn our salvation but the inevitable result of our salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit. As disciples of Christ, we should always reject any who justify the rejection and disobedience to God’s word and distort it to fit their own narrative. When looking for a church, do not look for a popular church with a charismatic preacher; look for a church that faithfully preaches the scriptures and calls people to a life of obedience.