Matthew 23:3 (All That They Tell You, Do and Observe)

Did Jesus say to the crowds and to His disciples that because of the religious pretense and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees they should just ignore their teaching?  See Mat 23:3a.  Because of their education and role as teachers of the people who sit in the seat of Moses, what did Jesus say the people should do with their teaching?  What does this teach us about the responsibility of students for what is taught even when their teachers are less than perfect or even hypocrites in regard to their own teaching?  How is this similar to our responsibilities under any authority?  Cf. Rom 13:1-2, 1Pe 2:13-14,18, 3:1 and note[1].  Why is this truth especially important to children even in our own families?  Cf. Heb 12:9-10 and think: is our example as parents always perfect?  From Jesus’ words to the people in regard to the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, should we suppose that there was anything inherently wrong with the chair of Moses itself as an office of instruction, any more than there is anything inherently wrong with the role of parents or civil leaders?  What was wrong?  See note[2].

Consider Jesus’ words to the people to give heed to the things taught by the scribes and Pharisees whom He severely condemns in this chapter, and Paul’s words to obey even ungodly rulers like Nero who had both Peter and Paul put to death; what do their words teach us about the importance of such roles and offices, and how that importance extends beyond those who occupy them?  How is it that such roles and offices remain important enough for us to give heed to those who occupy them even when those who occupy them are not righteous and even wicked?  Think: even when wicked men rule, is there no material benefit that God sovereignly provides through stable government and the suppression of anarchy?  Even when hypocrites teach, and even when their teachings include falsehoods, is there typically no truth in their teaching that a good and honest heart may learn from?  Cf. Phil 1:15-18.  Consider too: is it not precisely through such roles and offices that God sovereignly directs the macro-events of history and accomplishes his purposes?  Cf. 1Sa 1:12-18, 3:11-14, Dan 2:28ff, Jer 51:20ff, Rom 9:17, as well as the religious leaders Jesus is addressing here as described in Act 2:22-23, 5:30.  How is this?  Think: Is not the nature of God woven into the very fabric of the entire created universe so that even when wicked men exercise authority according to the misguided ways of the world that reflect the nature and character of Satan, still, in order to accomplish their own free will—whatever it may be—they must act in a manner consistent with the fabric of their own creation that is bounded by the nature of God?  See Isa 57:20-21, Jer 5:22; cf. Pro 8:22-31.  Thus, in order to accomplish their own will, all the realities of the created order force them to choices that still allow God, who is outside of creation, to ultimately accomplish His purposes.  Is it not in this way that although God gives to men free will, still He is sovereign over their affairs?  Cf. Rom 8:28, Pro 21:1.  Thus, even though God by the exercise of the free will of men allows even evil men to occupy such roles or offices, can that ever prevent Him from accomplishing His purposes?  What do these things teach us not only about the importance of such roles and offices, but also the great latitude God gives to men through their own free will, for better or for worse, to conduct their own affairs while still accomplishing His purposes?  Do these same principles also apply to marriage?  I.e., is the office or role of a husband bigger than the man who occupies it, that there is still a blessing for wives and children who submit even to husbands and fathers who are less than perfect?

Considering then that such offices are greater than the men who occupy them, because a person is in a position of authority that God uses to benefit others, even a teacher whom God uses to enlighten others to truth, should we suppose that such people cannot be condemned and must necessarily enter the kingdom of God?  See Rom 2:17-24 and with Mat 23:3 cf. Mat 23:33 and Mat 7:21-23; cf. Num 24:10-19, 2Pe 2:15, Rev 2:14 and note[3].  Is it possible then that we ourselves could be like the scribes and Pharisees whom God may even use to enlighten others to truth, but in fact are condemned like them, because like them we “say and do not”?  Cf. Jam 1:22.

Although God is sovereign in the affairs of men to accomplish His purposes even when wicked men are in positions of authority, does that mean the results are the same, especially for those under their authority?  See 2Ki 13:2,11, 14:24, 15:9,18,24,28,17:21-23 and cf. Pro 29:2.  What does this teach us about the importance of exercising our free will to come out from the midst of the world and be a separate, holy people, seek out godly teachers for ourselves and our children, and pray and work for righteous people in authority?  Cf. Rev 18:4-5.

 


1. We must not think the worse of good truths for their being preached by bad ministers; nor of good laws for their being executed by bad magistrates. Though it is most desirable to have our food brought by angels, yet, if God send it to us by ravens, if it be good and wholesome, we must take it, and thank God for it.  Matthew Henry

2. Many a good place is filled with bad men; it is no new thing for the vilest men to be exalted even to Moses’s seat (Ps. 12:8); and, when it is so, the men are not so much honored by the seat as the seat is dishonored by the men.  Good and useful offices and powers are not therefore to be condemned and abolished, because they fall sometimes into the hands of bad men, who abuse them. We must not therefore pull down Moses’s seat, because scribes and Pharisees have got possession of it; rather than so, let both grow together until the harvest, Mat 13:30.  Matthew Henry

3. [Hypocrites are] like bells, that call others to church, but hang out of it themselves; (Matthew Henry).

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