Hypocrisy's Threat

Nov 05, 2023

Hypocrisy's Threat

Passage: Matthew 23:1-12

Preacher: Jeff Crotts

Series: Matthew

Category: Sunday Morning


Matthew 23:1-12 – Jesus’ seven woes to the Pharisees (pt. 1): Hypocrisy’s Threat


Intro: Normal to have an automatic disgust for hypocrisy.

  • Sickens when someone we respect is found out.
    • Who they appeared to be; actions prove otherwise.


  • Hypocrisy of others, one level, but threat of hypocrisy in your life is deeper level.
    • Threat of shame.
    • Threat of damage done to others; worse.


  • What’s devastating is immediate loss of trust.
    • What takes years to build, lost in a second.
    • Integrity vs. Duplicity.


  • Spouse, children, measure inconsistencies, undermines their trust in God.
    • The message and character of God.
    • Reputation affects your Gospel work.

[Quotes] Good leader is a good repenter. Not perfect, intreatable. Blameless. His repentance is as notorious as his sin. A good leader makes a bad decision and then turns around and makes a good decision. Makes it right.

  • Why James 3:1 is haunting.

ESV  James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (Jam 3:1 ESV)    


[KEY] This passage is as binding as it is freeing.

  • A stricter judgment can be warning for motivation toward integrity.
  • Judgment not only damning but saving.

[TRANS] Benefit from 7 woes of chapter 23 (first “woe” comes in v. 13).

  • A woe curse to be heeded (cf. Isaiah 6, “Woe is me”).
    • Grace comes with each woe.
    • Chapter is a warning to all of us.


  • First warning goes to the core to X’s 7 woes.
    • Sin of self-exaltation (cf. v. 12).
    • Cloaked in Hypocrisy.

ESV  Matthew 23:12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Mat 23:12 ESV)

[TRANS] Important to solve hypocrisy’s threat in our lives.

[Context] X goes dark soon, last thing he does is: Warn, leaving a clear path of repentance of the pride of hypocrisy.


Prop: Extinguishing hypocrisy’s threat

  1. Jesus lists 4 symptoms of hypocrisy (vv. 1-10).


  1. Blocking truth by duplicitous living (vv. 1-3)

[KEY] After X’s deposed several times from rel. groups, now speaks in monologue, “…to the crowds and to his disciples” (v. 1).

  • Final words, applied on (3) levels.
    • Warning, Hardening, Delivering.
    • Masses will decide; disciples have decided; Pharisees have decided.


  • X’s words, a winnowing fork, dividing line.
    • X’s final warning before death.
      • X now holds nothing back!
      • Hypocrite or X’s disciple.


  • Disciple is synonymous with integrity.


[Illus] X’s spiritual chemotherapy, stripping religious cover, called duplicity.


[Note] “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat” (v. 1).

  • “scribes” after exile no more OT prophets.
    • Interpreted and taught Law.
    • Preserved the Law.
      • Law: Angels, Moses, Joshua, Elders, Prophets, Synagogues.
      • Now Scribes. Meaning high authority.


  • Moses’ seat was raised chair in the synagogues where the rabbi would deliver his sermon.

[Illus] Historical/Arch records shown synagogues had a stone seat at the front where the grammateus (Auth. Teacher) sat. Rabbis “sit in Moses’ seat” “teachers of the law” Moses’ legal successors, possessing all authority – view scribes had of themselves [Bible X Comm].

  • High platform delivering God’s law, w/gravity.


  • Highest chair of University department.

[KEY] “sit” [literally] “seat themselves,” self-appointed to chair.

[Illus] RCC, Pope speaks ex cathedra, meaning. Latin phrase: “from the cathedral” or “from the chair” speech taken infallible, from the mouth of God.

[KEY] Clear distinction btwn/Word of God and lifestyles of hypocrites.

  • Locates source of corruption.
    • In purest form, God’s Word, in this case the Law, is to be listened to/obeyed.
      • God’s Word is always profitable.
      • Originates from God’s mouth (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).

ESV  Jeremiah 15:16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jer 15:16 ESV)

  • Even from outright hypocrites, when Word clearly/accurately spoken, still God’s Word (cf. Phil. 1:15-18).

ESV  Philippians 1:15-18 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, (Phi 1:15-18 ESV)


[Illus] A seaworthy supply ship ideally delivers its goods to a city in need. These same supplies ferried to port by damaged vessel, though they just make it to port, nevertheless bring the same goods to meet the city’s need.


[TRANS] X still makes the sharp distinction between the spoken Word and damage done by contradictory practice. “…do and observe [verses]…but not the works they do” (v. 3).

  • Follow the Word but do not follow these men.
    • “For they preach, but do not practice” (v. 3).
    • Aphorism: “Practice what you preach!”


  • Teachers undermine message w/duplicity.
    • Accurately explain God’s Word; practice the opposite.
      • What makes for scandal is their accuracy.
      • Begs, “Why duplicity!”


  • X’s broad indictment is on Pharisees speaking truth on the outside while their remains a complete disconnect between what is happening on the inside.

Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 15:7–9 - And the Lord ...


                ESV  Matthew 15:8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

(Mat 15:8 ESV)

  • Empty, whitewashed tombs, full of dead men’s bones on inside.
    • Calling for obedience to God, from God’s seat of authority, while decidedly unwilling to obey it.
      • Most spiritually dangerous.
      • Saying one thing and do another is bad.
        • Handling God’s Word, unaffected by it, worse.
        • Woe to the shepherds who give not their lives for the sheep.


ESV  Jeremiah 23:1 "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. (Jer 23:1 ESV)


  • Paul’s same indictment.

ESV  2 Timothy 3:1-7 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,

4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions,

7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2Ti 3:1-7 ESV)  

[KEY] Pharisees, nt/neutral in denials; nt/empty bt/corrosive. Spreading hypocrisy like cancer metastasizing thru body.

ESV  Titus 1:11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. (Tit 1:11 ESV)



  1. Binding others with legalism (v. 4)

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders” (v. 4).

  • Hearing the Word of God and following it from the heart is always the right path, but when extrabiblical requirements are added this will crush the soul.


  • A hypocrite will always manifest this kind of application to God’s Word revealing the fact that he is not spiritually minded.


  • Hypocrites have no other recourse than to apply God’s Word by way of legalism.


  • Legalism is the religion of extrabiblical requirements laid upon someone’s life as a superficial test to reveal whether someone is inside or outside of God’s favor.


  • The Pharisees added “traditions” which are their prescribed applications to the Law.

[Appl] What on the surface might seem helpful suffocates someone’s spiritual life. If you think about how many things, we are told we must do (even inside the church) that are extrabiblical, beyond Scripture, you might be tempted to panic.

ESV  1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. (1Co 4:6 ESV)



[Illus] Matin Luther was used in the history of the church to emphasize the individual priesthood of every believer. T

he impetus of the great Protestant Reformation of the church was translating Erasmus’ text into German. Also, use of the Latin Vulgate (Latin version of the Bible) into the common man’s language of German.

Luther used Erasmus' second edition (1519) of the Latin New Testament with Greek (later developed into the Textus Receptus) and annotations. After leaving the castle, he revised passages obscure to him with the assistance of Greek specialist Phillip Melanchthon.[13]:

This movement repeated in the next century known as the English reformation was spearheaded by William Tyndale who ran for his life, translating and mass printing the Word of God into English. Placing Word of God in the hands of the ploughman.

Tyndale was echoing Erasmus' famous inscription in the preface to his Greek New Testament: “I would to God that the plowman would sing a text of the Scripture at his plow and that the weaver would hum them to the tune of his shuttle."

In both eras translating God’s Word and multiplying it out to everyone through the printing press spawned the expansion of the church in the world. When individuals gain direct access to God’s Word, they can study and test with accuracy both meaning and application of the God’s Word.     

[Appl] People bound up in legalism will constantly fail in external expectations because they have been shut off to the power of the Holy Spirit in their life. The power of the Spirit works in concert with the Holy Spirit, inspired truth. This truth is what frees people to obey.


[Note] Verse 4 marks the sad commentary on Phar’s, “…themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (v. 4).

[Barclay] The Talmud [Jews saw thru their hypocrisy] distinguishes seven different kinds of Pharisee.

(i) There was the Shoulder Pharisee. He was meticulous in his observance of the Law; but he wore his good deeds upon his shoulder. He was out for a reputation for purity and goodness. True, he obeyed the Law, but he did so in order to be seen of men.

(ii) There was the Wait-a-little Pharisee. He was the Pharisee who could always produce an entirely valid excuse for putting off a good deed. He professed the creed of the strictest Pharisees but he could always find an excuse for allowing practice to lag behind. He spoke, but he did not do.

(iii) There was the Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee. The Talmud speaks of the plague of self-afflicting Pharisees. These Pharisees received their name for this reason. Women had a very low status in Palestine. No really strict orthodox teacher would be seen talking to a woman in public, even if that woman was his own wife or sister. These Pharisees went even further; they would not even allow themselves to look at a woman on the street. In order to avoid doing so they would shut their eyes, and so bump into walls and buildings and obstructions. They thus bruised and wounded themselves, and their wounds and bruises gained them a special reputation for exceeding piety.

(iv) There was the Pharisee who was variously described as the Pestle and Mortar Pharisee, or the Hump-backed Pharisee, or the Tumbling Pharisee. Such men walked in such ostentatious humility that they were bent like a pestle in a mortar or like a hunch-back. They were so humble that they would not even lift their feet from the ground and so tripped over every obstruction they met. Their humility was a self-advertising ostentation.

(v) There was the Ever-reckoning or Compounding Pharisee. This kind of Pharisee was for ever reckoning up his good deeds; he was for ever striking a balance sheet between himself and God, and he believed that every good deed he did put God a little further in his debt. To him religion was always to be reckoned in terms of a profit and loss account.

(vi) There was the Timid or Fearing Pharisee. He was always in dread of divine punishment. He was, therefore, always cleansing the outside of the cup and the platter, so that he might seem to be good. He saw religion in terms of judgment and life in terms of a terror-stricken evasion of this judgment.

(vii) Finally, there was the God-fearing Pharisee; he was the Pharisee who really and truly loved God and who found his delight in obedience to the Law of God, however difficult that it might be.

[Personality Types under Legalism] Jew's own classification of the Pharisees; and it is to be noted that there were six bad types to one good one. There would be not a few listening to Jesus' denunciation of the Pharisees who agreed with every word of it.

[Unbelievers see thru Legalism!]

  • What are the things (“them”) that they are unwilling to move?
    • Simply, the burdens they place on people’s backs.
      • List of do’s and don’ts they create that weigh people down.
        • Left on backs.
          • By hypocritical leaders.
          • Blind to the damage, causing to others.


  • Where cults come from.

ESV  1 Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,

3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1Ti 4:1-3 ESV)


[Illus] Hypocritical leaders believe they are solving people’s needs, like a medieval medicine leaching someone’s diseased blood who is a hemophiliac in need of an opposite procedure.


  • Opposite of Jesus!

ESV  Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mat 11:29-30 ESV) (Mat 11:28 ESV)


  1. Building ego with facades (v. 5)

[KEY] Hypocrites, not only void of “works” they are desperate for praise.

  • Empty spiritually spikes their need for approval.
    • External actions, to be “seen by others” (v. 5).


  • X’s example is them wearing, “phylacteries.”


  • Leather boxes containing parchment of Scripture
    • 4 columns citing: Ex. 13:1-10; 11-16; Deut 6:4-9; 11, 13-21. [Mac Study Bible].


  • Taking literal, Deuteronomy 6.
    • Keep Word of God between eyes or on your hands.
    • Evolved to attaching Scripture there [Maccabean; Intertestamental Period].


  • Hypocrites conveying obedience by these external attachments.

[Appl] Carrying large Bible for people to see. Surely, he must know about the Bible because he is always seen carrying it around.

[Illus] Oleg said early in Xian life, in Ukraine the sign of spirituality was having a used or soiled Bible. Inspections from Sunday school teachers, led him to rub dirt on parts of unused Bible, appearing used.  

  • “…and their fringes long” (v. 5).
    • The Pharisees wore long white robes.
      • Different than common practical and colorful robes.
      • Phar’s robes dropped down over feet making them appear to float, hovering on air.


  • Façade of holiness.


  1. Bowing to idols of personal honor (vv. 6-10)

Verse 6 takes us inside of their hearts to self-worship.

“…and they love the place of honor at feast and the best seats in the synagogues” (v. 6).

  • “love” [Philew] seeks personal honor as an obsession with self.

[Appl] Being willing to receive honor when not sought can be an act of humility.

  • This “love” [Philew] is a perversion of self-praise.


  • “…the place of honor at feast and best seats in the synagogues” (v. 6).
    • Sitting at the head of the table [by the religious relics].
    • Not back at the kids table.


  • True narcissism, pride, that the Lord hates.

[Appl] Narcissism has been tossed around as a term as a personality type but when understood on this level, term should be used sparingly.

Someone self-consumed with entitlement will feed himself with himself, to grotesque degrees.

[KEY] Being in love with their title, “rabbi” (v. 7).

  • Rabbi was the religious title, literally, “master” as one in authority.
    • Greeted by title, worshipped for his position.
    • Primary function of “rabbi” was to teacher, making title synonymous with teacher.


  • X’s clarifies how to see each other: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers” (v. 8).
    • Seeking praise, misses the point of who the real teacher is.


  • God is our teacher and this levels playing field.
    • “…you are all brothers” (v. 8).
    • Jesus, speaking to his “disciples” and “crowds” (cf. v. 1).


  • Appeal for all to avoid following the false, pretentious spirituality of the Pharisees.


  • X takes things a layer deeper, forbidding them to “…call no man father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (v. 9).

[KEY] Applications taken literally must be measured by all Scripture.

  • Titles, are not sinful.
    • It is the motive for being called this or that.
      • Title “father” for people “on earth” (v. 9), is to misplace the source of truth.
      • God is the only source of Truth.


  • People worship is always wrong. Always sinful.

[Appl] My title was senior pastor could easily be misunderstood or misapplied by me or anyone else. In terms of my authority or role as a pastor, there is no essential difference between my life before God and yours.

Yes, there is a stricter accountability and a prescribed role (cf. Heb. 13:7; 17) but in the eyes of God, I am likewise a brother among the church.

Why I function casually amongst our local body. 

  • We are all children under “one Father” the same God, “who is in heaven” (v. 9).

[TRANS] X finishes his point in verse 10 saying we should not call each other “instructors” or “teachers” with the same point in mind.

  • No one should be elevated by a title, even “teacher” and this is curious because God specifically gives the gift of teaching to leaders within the Body.
    • Every elder must be apt or equipped to teach.
      • Teaching is never a power play!
      • Teachers are never to be worshipped as if there is inherent authority.


[Appl] The sin of raising up man as teachers is what stifles the church from growing in influence. God will not share his glory with another, so it is incumbent upon teachers to resist personal glory inside the heart. Deflecting glory is a necessary act based on the understanding the teacher is “Christ” (v. 10).     


  1. Jesus offers 2 solutions to hypocrisy (vv. 11-12).


  1. Reverse your mindset (v. 11)


  • The call is servanthood.


  • “Be like the ultimate example: “Christ.”


  1. Right your practice (v. 12)


  • If you raise yourself up, God will put you down.


  • If you humble yourself, God will raise you us.


[Modelled in the prayers of Hannah (dedicating son Samuel, 1 Sam. 2); Mary when found pregnant with Messiah (Luke 1:46; Magnificat)]


ESV  Matthew 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

(Mat 18:4 ESV)

ESV  Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Pro 15:33 ESV)

ESV  Proverbs 22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.

 (Pro 22:4 ESV)

ESV  James 4:6-10 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jam 4:6-10 ESV)


[Appl] I was hauling boxes out of my garage last weekend. Had SUV radio on at 5pm. I was preaching on 1 Peter 5, “Younger men, cloth yourselves with humility. God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (cf. 1 Pet. 5:5-6). I was clear. I was preaching. I thought, my goal is to live what that person is saying.


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