Bible Study
The Gospel of Matthew - Program 25

Roderick C. Meredith (1930-2017)

This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series

These were the religious leaders of the Jewish people at that time. We know that Jesus condemned them again and again and that they were very self-righteous. They would add all kinds of "do's and don'ts" to God's Law, which Jesus never gave, God never gave these extra requirements in the Old Testament at all—the religious leaders simply conjured up these things and added them. So Jesus tells us, several times, not to follow all those things.

Greetings, friends around the world!

This is Roderick C. Meredith, bringing you a commentary on the book of Matthew. We have been going through the Gospel of Matthew almost verse by verse. I am doing this in a teaching style, as you have noticed—not a formal preaching style. I will digress a bit, and stumble a little bit. But as a teacher, I want to help you understand the details of prophecy, and be able to really grasp the meaning of this book—perhaps in a way you never have before. I had the privilege of teaching this material in a college class for about 30 years, so I am pretty familiar with this territory; I hope I can impart a lot of this understanding to you.

We have reached Matthew 23. If you are following in your bible, which I hope you will do, please open up to Matthew 23—and open your mind.

Matt. 23:1-2

"Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.'"

These were the religious leaders of the Jewish people at that time. We know that Jesus condemned them again and again and that they were very self-righteous. They would add all kinds of "do's and don'ts" to God's Law, which Jesus never gave, God never gave these extra requirements in the Old Testament at all—the religious leaders simply conjured up these things and added them. So Jesus tells us, several times, not to follow all those things.

Matt. 23:3

"Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do."

When they were teaching the Law officially, they would teach the truth, apparently, but their works added things that we should not do. They had wrong practices and they had wrong examples—wrong ways of life. They were very self-righteous; they would put others down and judge them. Some of them were adulterers, as Jesus pointed out. He told us not to follow their example. He told his listeners to follow the teachings of Moses—or the Law that God gave through Moses—but not to follow the religious leaders' example.

Matt. 23:3-5

"…but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens [they added many "do's and don'ts"], hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. ["They don't do all these things themselves," Jesus said, "but they try to get others to do all these things."] But all their works they do to be seen by men."

These leaders were constantly aware of men. As John wrote in his Gospel: "They love the praise of men more than the praise of God." That is a tremendous pitfall for many religious leaders. They tend to want to please men. Many of you ministers out there know that. It is so easy to go along with the church committee, the church board—whoever it is—and let them tell you what to say rather than be willing to say what this Book says and preach faithfully the Word of God. But every true minister has to preach faithfully the Word of God and not water things down—not play with God's Word. Yet these leaders do things to "show off" in a sense.

Matt. 23:5

"They make their phylacteries…"

They had their robes and accessories. A lot of us know about different church organizations where the ministers or priests wear big, fancy robes and all kinds of stuff. They look like "Mother Hubbard" as I sometimes say. That is not what Christ did. He did not have some great long robe to look some special way—and neither did His disciples. They were just ordinary men, and they looked like it. We have to be very normal and not act like we are some "mucky mucks" in the way we dress or the way we act. Today, most professional men—doctors, lawyers, bankers, and businessmen—wear suits. So ministers normally wear, at least, suits. We, in this Work of God, wear suits, but we don't wear all kinds of fancy ropes or things like that—or go by some high blown title of "the right reverend this-and-that-and-something-else." Frankly, that is wrong. "Holy and reverend is Thy name," God says in His Word, talking about God Himself. The word "reverend" means holy. No man is reverend at all. That is a wrong title.

Matt. 23:5-6

"They make their phylacteries. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues."

Often ministers will go to the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club and other clubs and activities, wanting to sit in the best places and kind of "show off." That should not be the attitude of God's true ministers.

Matt. 23:7

"…greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'"

It is hard to understand this. Even many of the commentaries misunderstand. It is not wrong to be called a minister or teacher in that sense, in a general way. But it is wrong to use this term in an exalted way like one is some super-teacher—and certainly, no man should be called such titles in that way.

Matt. 23:8-9

"But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven."

Yet one great denomination has that exact title for its ministers. And frankly, that is ludicrous because those men are not fathers; they are sworn to celibacy. I am a father, I have six children and six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. But these "fathers" have none. If they have children, their children are illegitimate—born out of wedlock, born contrary to God's Laws—as of course many have been, down through time. So we understand that this is wrong. "Don't call any man father," as a religious title, Jesus commanded. He does say to "honor your father and your mother" if it is your own human father, yes. But as a religious title, do not call anyone father.

Matt. 23:10-12

"And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. [The one who serves the most, who helps, who builds, who teaches and who strengthens others the most.] And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

If you are just looking for big titles—if you are just looking for some big reward from men and are trying to please men—then you are going to be abased. Each one has to examine himself—I do and you do. Are we doing things because we are trying to serve God and God's people? Or are we living the way we are, or doing the way we are, because we are trying to please ourselves? God knows our hearts and God knows what we ought to do. You had better understand this.

Matt. 23:12-13

"And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. [God will exalt him.] But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."

He spoke very plainly to the religious leaders of His day, didn't he? Very plainly. But you may say, "Ghastly, that wasn't very polite." Jesus was "rattling the teacups"—you had better believe He was. He spoke right to the top religious leaders, and He called them hypocrites! He showed that they confuse people so much with their false teaching—and their false gospel, their whole false concept of God and Christ, their false concept of everything Jesus Christ taught. Because of their teaching, people get mixed up and don't know what to do. That is terrible. "Hypocrites, who ought to know the truth, but turn aside from the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and from God's Law and from God's way." He condemned them very, very much.

Matt. 23:14-15

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, [just get one convert] and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."

I am not being nasty here. This is Jesus Christ speaking here. He spoke very plainly on occasion, as here where he tells the religious leaders that they make their proselytes twofold a son of Hades (or a son of Gehenna—as it is here, hell, the lake of fire).

Matt. 23:16-23

"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.' [How ridiculous! They valued money put on the altar more than the altar itself. But it is the altar that represented God. This shows where their heart was.] Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.' Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? [Obviously, the altar is greater because that directly represents God.] Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. [It was God's temple, and no matter what they put on the altar, that did not make it any more holy or any better.] And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [These are little tiny herbs of the garden. Little tiny herbs, you see. They got all picky. If someone gave them an ice cream cone, they would be sure to tithe on that! They were very picky and very self-righteous], and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith."

The big ("weightier') matters of the Law tell us to be just, to be fair with other people, to be honest, and to have right judgment because we are called to be kings and priests. We are to have justice, but not just "letter of the Law" justice—we must have mercy, be willing to forgive and be willing to see the "big picture." We must be willing to let other people's sin be put behind. We must have absolute faith and trust that God's way is right no matter what. These are the big things. "These you ought to have done, without leaving the other undone."

Don't leave the other undone! What was the other? TITHING! Careful tithing, said Jesus, the Son of God. "Don't leave that undone." God's Law—and His example throughout the Bible, beginning with our father Abraham, long before the Law of Moses—set the example of tithing. Abraham gave one-tenth of his increase to God. God tells us to do that, and we should do that. Find out where the true Work of God is being done, and send one-tenth—a tithe—of your income to the Work of God and God's faithful ministers who are preaching His truth and doing His Work.

Matt. 23:24-25, 33-36

"Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! [who make a big deal out of some little deal] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside [of course, they were ravening wolves, as He went on to describe]…( v 33) Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? [He was strong with these men who ought to have known better.] Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city…"

Do you think God's true ministers will never be persecuted today? You are wrong! They will be. As the end of this age approaches, as you will see in the next segment of this Bible Study, God's true servants will be persecuted. It is going to happen—partly because of religious leaders who will be jealous, insanely jealous, and become bitter.

Matt. 23:35-36

"…that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah [in other words, from one end of the Bible to the other] , son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

Why? Because Abel when he was righteous, and Zechariah, were in a sense typifying Jesus Christ in serving Him as the God of the Old Testament. So when the God of Israel, the Rock of Israel came among us, and they rejected and killed Him, they were guilty of ALL these sins. They had, "in spades," the attitude typified by all these other people—killing the very Son of God.

Matt. 23:37-39

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! ["You were not willing to come to the Savior. You were not willing to come to the Son of God and do what He said. You were not willing. You wanted to follow your friends and your family and do what is convenient. You were not following the teachings of the Son of God."] See! Your house [Originally, it was God's temple, God's house, but they turned away from God.] is left to you desolate; [of course, the Living Chist was going to destroy that temple in 70 AD, which He did. working with God the Father.] for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'"

It seems that people are always unwilling to follow the Truth. They want to follow the traditions of men. We in this Work of the Great God—this Work of the Living Christ—are trying to teach all of you to restore Apostolic Christianity. That is what it is all about—getting back to true Christianity, the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles. It is not modern Christianity, not mainstream Christianity, frankly, but true Christianity—the Christianity that Christ taught. And we have a booklet for you, absolutely FREE, Restoring Apostolic Christianity. You will find that this is absolutely filled with information—historical information and biblical information—things most of you have never understood. It can change your whole concept of Christianity, it really can. I hope you will read it. Check up on it. Prove it. And your life can be changed.

We will continue on next time. This is Roderick Meredith, speaking for the Living Church of God.