Matthew 23:15 (When Evangelistic Endeavors Are Not a Good Thing)

For what reason does Jesus pronounce woe upon the scribes and Pharisees in Mat 23:15?  What is a proselyte?  See Act 2:10, 6:5, 13:43.  What would we call them in a Christian context?  Cf. the NAS text note and NET, NIV, and NLT translations.  What does “travel around” indicate about the efforts they consciously went to in order to make a single convert to their religious faith?  Cf. Eze 37:2, Mat 4:23, 9:35 for the same Greek word, which is translated by the KJV as “compass”.  Was it just from local or geographically close locations that they sought to convert others?  What words in Mat 23:15 indicate the extent to which they went to make converts?  What administrative planning, preparation, and cost would be necessary in order to compass sea and land in search of converts to their religious beliefs?  What does this indicate about their evangelical faith?  How might “compass sea and land” also describe the missions outreaches of many modern evangelical Christians?  Although missionary outreaches are not necessarily a bad thing, from Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, should we necessarily assume that such activity is automatically a good thing?

How would the scribes and Pharisees have funded their missionary enterprises and how is that similar to today?  See Mar 12:40-42.  In what way would Herod’s magnificent temple have both fueled and been fueled by their evangelistic endeavors?  Consider the economy surrounding the building, maintenance and support of the temple (cf. Joh 2:20); in what similar way have religious structures fueled the growth of organized religion throughout history, including today?  What is the key metric used to measure that growth?  Does a growth in numbers necessarily reflect a growth of God’s kingdom?  See Mat 7:13-14 and consider how the “church” grew after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire: did that necessarily reflect a growth of God’s righteous kingdom?  Cf. Rom 9:27.  From God’s perspective, how is such simple numeric growth different from the growth of the early church in the first century?  See Zec 4:6.  From our perspective how is it different?  Think: Did Jesus command his followers to make proselytes / converts, or disciples?  See Mat 28:19.  What is the difference between a disciple of Jesus and a religious convert?  See John 8:31, Galatians 4:17 and think: who or what does each follow, and as they follow, which is more sincere from the heart and all-encompassing of one’s life?  What does it mean to abide or continue in Christ’s word so as to truly be a disciple of Jesus?  See Mat 7:24-27, Joh 15:4-8, 1Ti 4:16, 1Jo 2:24.  Was the early Church composed of disciples or converts?  See Acts 6:7, 11:26, 14:21-22.

With what three-word term does Jesus describe the scribes and Pharisees in Mat 23:15?  What is a “son of hell”?  In spite of their religious pretentions that deceived nearly everyone else to the contrary, what does the term indicate about where they really belong and what their end must be?  See Mat 23:33 and notice that “hell” is literally “Gehenna”, the place of torment and punishment for the wicked in Hades or Sheol, the realm of the dead.  As the term “child of God” indicates that one has been born “from above” (Joh 3:3,7), born of God to reflect His image, what does the term “son of Gehenna” indicate from where the scribes and Pharisees had their spiritual birth, who their father is and whose image they reflect?  Cf. Joh 8:44.  Considering again that these appeared so outwardly righteous that others supposed “if but two men went to heaven, one would be a Pharisee” (Matthew Henry), what does Jesus’ severe condemnation and candid portrayal of their true nature indicate about how deep and subtle the deception surrounding religion can be?  Cf. 2Co 11:13-15.  What does this remind us must be the goal of our faith: is it to be religious, or to be like God, holy and godly?  See 1Pe 1:15.

What was it about the real nature of the scribes and Pharisees that made their evangelistic endeavors such a bad thing that brought woe upon them, instead of the good thing that they were deceived to believe their religious activities were?  Next lesson!

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