“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 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. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 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. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. “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. 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, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. 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.’ 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? 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. 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, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?’”’
Today, we appoint sister Nong-suk Cha to be a deaconess. It’s my hope and prayer that she will serve the Lord faithfully with us. And I hope that eventually, everyone will be appointed deacon or deaconess and serve the Lord like her. If you wait on the Lord, all of you will be appointed as God’s servants in due time, according to your faith.
Why Did Jesus Dislike the Pharisees?
As you and I have just read, Matthew chapter 23 describes the wrath that the scribes and the Pharisees were to face. It describes the flawed lives of faith that they were leading, and all the evil deeds that they had committed. Jesus abhorred the lives of the scribes and Pharisees the most. Although Jesus loved everyone when He was on this earth, He utterly loathed the lifestyle of the Pharisees. Why did Jesus dislike them? It wasn’t because of the Pharisees themselves, but because they had misled those who believed in God astray to misbelieve. Today’s Scripture passage shows clearly why Jesus abhorred the Pharisees so much.
The reason why Jesus detested them is shown in verse 2. The scribes and the Pharisee sat on Moses’ seat and ordered the Israelites to do this and that, even though they themselves didn’t raise a finger to help. So Jesus said, “Do not emulate their acts, but practice what they say.” The scribes and the Pharisees were typical hypocrites, tormenting the Israelites with their burdensome legalistic demands. How such people deceive others and lead their lives of faith is described well in verses 5-7: “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’”
The phylacteries here refer to two small square leather boxes containing strips of parchment inscribed with verses from the Word of God. One of them was worn on the forehead, and the other on the left arm. The Jews at the time of Jesus wore these boxes all the time as a reminder of the constant presence of God and the need to bear Him in their minds. This tradition probably stems from Deuteronomy 6:8, which says, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” The practice was spawned by the legalistic attempt to keep this commandment to the letter.
Over time, however, phylacteries became increasingly larger for the scribes and the Pharisees. It was all intended to show off their piety. The borders of garments were to cover their faces whenever they encountered unclean things. They were also enlarged, in order to set themselves apart from the rest of the Jewish people, and appear to be holier than everyone else. All these things were done to brag about their religious piety.
These people also sat at the places of honor at any and all feasts. The Pharisees were religious leaders at the time, and the scribes were politicians. They also played a role as religious leaders. Just as there are politically oriented pastors involved in politics nowadays, the scribes were religious leaders and politicians. Wherever there was a large gathering, whether in the synagogues or feasts, these people loved to sit at the best places, to be greeted in the marketplaces, and to be called by others, “Rabbi,” or teacher. They deliberately wore distinctive garments and loved to stroll around in a crowd. They enjoyed hearing others calling them saying, “Our revered Rabbi, we are so honored with your presence.” They loved to be called “Rabbi,” which, in today’s manner of speaking, is equivalent to such titles as the leader of a denomination, a synod, or a church.
However, Jesus said, “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matthew 23:8). This is indeed so true. Our true teacher is Jesus alone, although we say inside the Church, “So and so is a leader.” From the perspective of who was appointed by God first, and who was appointed later, all of us are the same creatures and brethren before our Savior Jesus Christ.
Whatever difference that exists among us is only because God has given to each of us different discernments and gifts to carry out His work. While God has appointed some people to lead the congregation by teaching them the Word, the Head Shepherd is nonetheless Jesus Christ, and it is under Him that we were appointed to be pastors, evangelists, deacons, and teachers according to each task assigned to us. The only thing that sets us apart from each other is depended on whatever offices God has given us.
The only genuine Teacher worthy of being called Rabbi is Jesus Christ alone. So through the Word of the Bible, we must learn what Jesus, our Teacher, is saying. Whatever His Word says, we must surrender and follow it, casting our own thoughts aside. Regardless of whether one is a pastor or an heir of faith, everyone must follow whatever the Word says.
Jesus said in verse 9, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” Certain parts of what the Lord said can sometimes be perplexing in carnal terms. After all, He said here, “Do not call anyone on earth your father.” But even so, this is in fact correct. Since we were born through parents of the flesh, they are our earthly parents. But at the same time, because we have been born again by believing in the true Word of God, God, who made us to be born spiritually is our everlasting Father. Our parents of the flesh gave us our bodies, but our spiritual Father is God the Father. That’s why we call God our Father. We are able to exalt His name and ask Him for anything, saying, “Father, thank You so much. Please give me these things, Father.”
There cannot be two fathers. What happens when there are two fathers? Isn’t it a bit awkward? Of course, it’s your moral duty to call your father of the flesh father. That’s because he is the one who bore you, and you should call him your father. Nonetheless, our true spiritual Father is the Father of Jesus Christ. We should all grasp this clearly, and setting our own thoughts aside, we must believe in the Word.
Every aspect of the Word of God is correct. There are absolutely no mistakes in the Bible. Before the Word of God, no one can explain his own arguments, nor can anyone refute this Word with his own knowledge. Isn’t every Word of God correct, whether you look at it from a spiritual or carnal point of view? I have parents who bore me. I also have adoptive parents who educated me. But who is the real Father of my soul? He is God the Father. By no means, of course, does this mean that I would somehow ignore my earthly parents. While I do honor my parents as much as possible, I know very well, and believe unwaveringly that my real Father is God. Isn’t this true?
It’s written, “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matthew 23:10). The real leader is Christ. The Christ here refers to Jesus, and Jesus is God Himself. This God came as our Savior and delivered us from sin; He came as the Prophet and taught us everything. He also came as the High Priest of Heaven and remitted our sins and became our true leader. He is none other than Jesus.
We must believe in the Word of Jesus and follow it. Jesus said that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. That’s because only God is high and noble, and therefore everyone must humble himself. Everyone must humbly follow the most exalted Lord.
Religionists Are Evil in God’s Sight
From verse 13 on, our Lord described what kind of sins the scribes and the Pharisees were committing before God, what kind of deception they were perpetrating, and what kind of hypocrisy they were practicing: “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” (Matthew 23:13). This is the greatest sin of the scribes and the Pharisees.
The scribes and the Pharisees had already become religionists. To draw an analogy to today’s Christianity, they are like those who have graduated from seminary, having received a formal education, including doctoral degrees, and are now ministering in their respective churches as the moderator of a synod for instance. It’s these people who have shut down the gates of Heaven to people. Even though they’ve been telling the people to believe in Jesus, telling them how to be born again by believing in Jesus, they’ve sealed the answer. This means that they’ve actually hidden the way to Heaven from their congregation. Not only do they themselves not enter Heaven, they also make it impossible for those who wish to go in.
Verse 15 says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” The Pharisees and the scribes are disobeying God completely. This prevents the congregation from believing in the Word of Jesus Christ. They make people twice as much sons of hell as themselves.
The Christian theology of this world is nothing more than a product of mankind’s attempt to interpret the Word of God by human ideology. Theology is all about interpreting the Word by means of secular sciences and by letter. There are theologians of Higher Criticism following a theological school called New Theology. The word “Higher Criticism” was first used by the German biblical scholar Eichhorn in the 19th Century. About the truth of the Bible, the advocates of Higher Criticism say, “Is every Word of the Bible the Word of God? No, it contains the Devil’s words, mankind’s words, and God’s Word as well.” It is “the study of the sources and literary methods employed by the biblical authors.” For example, they argue over the historical timeline of Moses’ life to verify whether the Pentateuch was really written by Moses or not.
When they can’t find any fault with the Word of the Bible, they resort to all kinds of means to try to find some fault no matter what. They say that what Jesus said personally is God’s Word. However, they say that what the disciples said is simply the disciples’ word, and what Satan said to Jesus is the Devil’s word. What they are doing is to arguing that all the Words of the Bible are not the Words of God. They study and teach theology according to their own thoughts. They are always looking for contradictions in the Bible and speak of them when they teach. It’s almost as if they were determined to make people distrust Jesus.
However, there is absolutely no contradiction in the Bible. The Bible appears to be full of contradictions when someone who has not been born again interprets it with his own mind. Mankind’s thoughts and God’s Word are not compatible. For someone who approaches the Bible from the ethical viewpoint of this world, neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament makes any sense, as we showed in the example, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.”
If you are bent on finding faults in the Bible, you will find many things that make no sense at all. For instance, Jesus said in today’s Scripture passage not to call your father “father”, nor your teacher “teacher”. Doesn’t this completely undermine social order? This is why those who approach the Bible critically say that it makes no sense. After gathering people together, preaching Jesus to them, converting them to Christianity, and convincing them to attend church, these Christian leaders say to them, “The Bible is not the Word of God.” In doing this, they cause Christians to disbelieve the Bible and turn them twice the children of hell even after believing in Jesus. That’s why people come to church to believe in Jesus at first, but later on, they end up turning completely into unbelievers. Once they disbelieve, they can never believe in God again.
In countries like Germany, the government pays pastors’ salaries and the people pay a religious tax. Just as we are obligated to pay various taxes, in Germany, religious life is taxed. When its citizens pay taxes, they have to pay the religious tax as well, and the government uses this money to pay pastors. In return for their salary, the pastors teach the Bible in their respective churches. What they perform in return for money, is only a formal ritual, such as teaching the Bible, presiding over a wedding, and officiating at a funeral. And they write down the names of their clients on their ministry notebook after performing ceremonies.
Just like officers working in a local government office, they write down everything about their church members, from their date of birth to their baptism and death. Pastors in Germany work like public servants. They have nothing to do. Ever since Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous theologian who resisted Hitler’s regime, Germany hasn’t produced any theologian of note. For all intents and purposes, Christianity has ended there. The pastors in that country have to do the government’s bidding.
Just as Jesus said that the Pharisees were making others twice sons of hell as themselves, today’s pastors who have studied the so-called New Theology are teaching so fallaciously that they deny the infallibility of the Word of God. As a result, it’s not just they themselves that don’t believe in the Bible, but they make others disbelieve the Bible and lead them to hell. This is what these scribes and Pharisees did.
Does Every Religion Has the Real Truth?
Religious pluralists inside Christian communities say, “Salvation can be found in every religion.” They argue, “Every religion offers salvation. It’s not that you are saved only if you believe in Jesus alone. It doesn’t matter which religion you believe in; as long as you believe faithfully, you can reach salvation through any religion.” There is a saying in Korea that “one is brave when he is ignorant,” which seems quite appropriate to describe these people. Such a claim was made by the dean of a Methodist seminary in Korea. Although he was praised by secular people for being an “open-minded theologian,” he was severely denounced by his fellow Christians for his controversial views. They condemned him and demanded his resignation.
For a while, pastors at this Methodist Church were very ashamed of having studied under this theologian. In their hypocrisy, they taught their congregation to believe according to the Word of Jesus, pretending to have never learned any such teachings from that theologian. However, a certain young pastor defended him in a religious newspaper, repeating what he had been taught, and arguing that the theologian in question was a great theologian, and that salvation could indeed be found in every religion. But he was also harshly criticized.
Is there anyone here brought up in the Methodist Church? Actually, until a generation ago, Presbyterians in Korea used to look down on Methodists. But in Gang-won Province, the Methodist Church is highly influential. In this province the Methodist Church is quite proud of itself, building huge church buildings and boasting about them. It shows only its superficial shell because there is no substance inside.
While the Methodist Church may seem quite influential in Gang-won Province in its outside appearance, in the southern provinces of Korea, it has no influence at all. The Presbyterian Church carries some weight there, but the Methodist Church is looked down upon, considered as an easygoing religion that barely resembles Christianity. Such denominational differences have mostly faded away now.
Have you been born again? If you have been born again, they you must cast aside your denominational label, whether you are a Methodist or a Presbyterian. Since you’ve been saved by believing in Jesus, you are a true saint, transcending denominational differences.
Just how frankly did Jesus speak? The “blind guides” mentioned in verse 16 refer to the religious leaders in this present world. When one of their church members makes a pledge offering, they say that he must keep this pledge without fail. But when this person pledges in his prayer to make a certain contribution to some charity work outside the church, they teach that he doesn’t have to keep this promise if it’s too demanding. They say that whatever one has pledged to the church, he has to keep this pledge. But he can just ignore anything else promised in his prayer. Considering this, which do these people think is greater before Jesus; the Temple that sanctifies gold or the gold itself? These people consider gold to be greater than the Temple. That’s why Jesus called them blind. For those who do not know the Bible, but are too busy to see what’s before their eyes, all that awaits them is wrath.
Verse 23 says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” The scribes and the Pharisees had neglected faith, love, and justice. Yet they too, had offered every tithe, even that of anise and cumin. For the born-again, and those who have not been born again, they all lead an equal life. What, then, is the difference between someone who has been born again and someone who has not been born again? The born-again believe the Word of God, love people, and follow God’s righteousness. Those who have not been born again consider their own legalistic acts to be more important than the gospel through which God has saved us. They love the Law even more than they love God.
Jesus had healed a sick man on the Sabbath Day, who had been suffering for 38 years. Seeing this, the scribes and the Pharisees denounced Him and called Him a sinner, saying, “Why did you heal this man on the Sabbath Day? You broke the Law. You are a sinner!” If an animal is trapped in a pit, then is it right to save this animal even if it’s the Sabbath Day? These people considered the Law more important than anything else. They said that God had told them never to work on the Sabbath. Since it is against the Law to try to save the animal, they would just abandon it regardless of what might happen to it, saying, “God told us not to do anything on the Sabbath Day no matter what. So we shouldn’t break the Law.”
The legalists only emphasize the do’s and don’ts of the Law. The scribes and the Pharisees had expounded only on the Law. Even now, such is quite common. At this very moment, many Christians do not listen to the voices of His servants who shout out, “Jesus has saved us from sin. He had done everything exactly as it is written in the Bible.” Rather, they only emphasize the doctrines of their own respective denominations, and they consider these doctrines to be more important than the Word of God. They think that they are the authoritative defenders of the Law.
They argue for the merits of their own legalistic acts so much that they ended up neglecting justice, mercy, and faith, which are the actual aspirations of the Law. In other words, they have forsaken the gospel that is attained by believing in the righteousness of God, the way of salvation. They have not only neglected the gospel of Jesus Christ which enables everyone to receive salvation by faith, whenever they meet the born-again who believe according to the Word, they accuse them of heresy. They speak as if they have met us even though they have never met us, and they add lies.
If anyone believes slightly differently from them, they don’t hesitate to throw personal insults at them. They spread false innuendos claiming that our gathering is a death trap, and they accuse us of being “the Salvation Sect,” which is one of the gatherings of the Evangelicals in Korea. But the Salvation Sect does not even preach this gospel of Truth. Its adherents are Evangelicals resembling us, but whose faith itself is fundamentally different from ours.
Even today there are scribes and Pharisees. All the Christians who have not been born again are the modern versions of scribes and Pharisees. The Christian leaders who have not been born again are scribes and Pharisees. It’s sickening just to hear them. When they praise, they don’t praise from the depth of their hearts, but they adorn and embellish their praise so superficially that it is disgusting to hear them.
Their choristers sing loud, trying to appear as if they were saved at least in their outside appearance. When the conductor waves his arm briskly, the choristers pick up the hymn books and sing until their voices are gone. When the praise is sung like this, wouldn’t this leave the impression that this church is such a faithful church? It really turns my stomach to see what the scribes and the Pharisees do. Only their voices are beautiful, only in their outside appearance are they righteous saints and believers. Their sin remains in their hearts, and only their voices are charming. It’s so hard to tolerate such abominable voices.
I’ve been preaching at so many revival meetings lately that my voice seems to have been refined a lot. But my voice is nothing compared to the liars’ voices. Their voices sound so holy, and their sermons are so articulate. However, I really hate it when they sound holy only in their voices, while their hearts are filled with sin. Those who profess to believe in Jesus only with their lips, even as their hearts remain sinful, praise God by making only their voices holy.
Even though they have sin in their hearts, their rituals of worship are grand and holy. They do not have the gospel of Jesus. They speak eloquently, but when they preach the Word, they do it all logically, systematically and flawlessly. They don’t actually preach the Word of God. The modern versions of the scribes and the Pharisees, Christian leaders who preach the Word, the revivalists, and bishops, are hypocritical legalists. This age is filled with legalists. It is these people whom Jesus cursed.
Today’s Scripture passage was spoken not by the disciples, but Jesus Himself. Because Jesus knows all about the heart of mankind, He rebukes and condemns the legalists who, even as they faithfully offer the tithe of their income, consider that the Law is more important than the gospel and the Word of the New and Old Testaments.
Are You Not Straining out a Gnat and Swallowing a Carmel?
Verse 24 says, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” The blind guides here refer to the scribes and the Pharisees. The great providence of God is our salvation. The salvation that has come by the water and the Spirit is the Truth that makes us God’s children. However, the Christian legalists ignore this gospel of the remission of sin, the great Truth of being born again and becoming God’s children, in its entirety. They emphasize, “Let’s live virtuously and uprightly.”
In Korea, there is a church that’s called “Filial Piety Church.” It’s said that the pastor at this church named it Filial Piety Church because he had won an award for his filial devotion even before believing in Jesus. Once he became a pastor, he wanted to teach his congregation to honor their parents. Apparently, anyone who attends this church is turned into a good son in no time, even if he had been a terrible son. Anyone who goes to that church can learn how to honor his parents properly. Of course, filial devotion is good. But is it okay to strain out a gnat and swallow a camel? No, it’s not right to just pick minute details, while dismissing in the great providence of God in its entirety, which is what really matters.
False prophets are even prone to embezzling the congregation’s offerings. So many pastors say, “Let’s build a new church building,” and then flee with the hard-earned money offered by the congregation. Many churchgoers are very careful when building a church building because they are afraid that their pastor might steal the money. A certain pastor that I know, after deciding to swindle his church, got everything ready and then quietly fled to the United States with his family. The members of his church were caught by surprise and were all deceived.
What happens when such pastors flee to another country? When there was no extradition treaty between Korea and the United States, they couldn’t be caught once they fled to the United States. Now that’s no longer the case. Korea has signed an extradition treaty with the United States, but prior to this, there was no way to bring criminals to justice once they fled to the United States. There are many pastors among such swindlers.
Also, when their church members hear the Word of Truth and receive the remission of sin, these hypocritical religious leaders poison them to kill their recently born-again souls. They say to them, “That church is heretical.” In reality, they are all blind. All they know is what their own respective denominations claim. Their thoughts and words are all one-sided.
Jesus said in verse 25, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” The scribes and the Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and dish. But inside, they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Though their hearts should be filled with faith in the Word of God, they are filled with sin instead. In spite of this, these pastors who have not been born again claim, “I have been born again.” They say, “Even though I have sin in my heart, I am a righteous man, though sinful.” If anyone does not have the Word of God in his heart, but only sin, then he is a sinner. That’s why such people look good on the outside only. For this reason, Jesus rebukes them saying, “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full extortion and self-indulgence.”
Verse 26 says, “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” You must receive the remission of all your sins first. Once you receive the remission of sin through the Word of God, your deeds will also change. But so many people everywhere try to be upright only in their deeds, without even receiving the remission of sin. God does not hesitate to call such people whitewashed tombs. He said that though their outside may appear beautiful, inside, they are filled with the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
Jesus then went on to say in verse 28, “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” This was addressed to the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. When they pray, they give wonderful prayers outwardly. When they eat, they eat in an elegant manner. When they speak, they don’t speak crassly, but they pretend to be as holy as possible. When they are invited to a nice meal, they don’t thank the host sincerely, but they feign in a godly voice, “That was very good. You are a superb cook. Thank you very much.” They always speak in a manner that is pleasing, never using vulgar language.
Even to those who are bound to hell, they don’t tell them that they are destined to hell. When they get extremely angry with someone, they put on a false smile and speak softly, saying, “I will pray for you.” Just how conceited is that? Even though they speak in a manner that makes them look eloquent outside, inside, they are filled with the bones of the dead and every filthy thing. They are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Do you know how many people are heading straight to hell, all because they’ve listened to the words of false, fraudulent pastors? Full of hypocrisy and lawlessness, these false pastors constantly distort the truth and needlessly embellish their outside appearance, preaching false doctrine. This has led many people to spiritual death. That they are “full of dead men’s bones” means that they’ve killed many people. A murderer is not just someone who kills another man physically. All pastors who have not been born again kill souls. You must be wary of such pastors. If you are trapped by them, you will end spiritually dead without hope.
The Bible says that these people adorn the monuments of the prophets. In particular, they memorialize martyrs from their respective denominations. For instance, among the renowned Christians in Korea who were recognized for their sacrifice are such pastors as Rev. Gicheol Ju, Rev. Namsun Ju, and Rev. Yanghun Sohn. One of them took care of lepers selflessly, while another pastor took in his own son’s murderer as his adopted son. Because of this, many denominational leaders in Korea keep emphasizing such legendary pastors, and try to establish their own righteousness, saying, “Our denomination is such a faithful denomination. Emulating our predecessors of faith makes us faithful also. So our church is the real orthodox church.”
Although they say that they’ve never committed any evil deeds of deception, and claim that they would never do so even when they are forced into such circumstances, our Lord says to them, “Evildoers are your forefathers. You brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” The end result for the scribes and the Pharisees is hell. They will end up bearing the condemnation of hell. Jesus will judge them and say, “Do you have sin? If you have sin, your punishment is hell. You were hypocritical. Even though you had sin in your heart, you told others to receive the remission of sin.” The end result of those who practice hypocrisy is the condemnation of hell to be cast into its fire. This is the judgment that all these hypocrites will face.
Even in this age, how many modern scribes and Pharisees are there? There are so many. The scribes and the Pharisees were extremely powerful religious leaders whose number was very large. The disciples of Jesus and the righteous could not even join their rank. When the disciples preached the Word learned from Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisee treated them like dirt. They told them, “Go away! You don’t belong here!” Even Jesus was completely despised and treated like a beggar.
If Jesus were sitting at a feast as a guest, the Pharisees would come to Him and try to intimidate Him and try to force Him to leave, saying, “What are You doing here? Get out of here!” Since they were so dominant in the political and religious community of that time, you can imagine just how pompous they must have been. It’s not surprising that they had nothing but contempt for Jesus and His disciples, whose outside appearance were humble.
How much did they denounce Jesus’ disciples when they saw them eating, saying, “Are these men no better than dogs? They are eating without even washing their hands!” Jesus Himself was also criticized. It’s impossible to describe just how much He was despised by the scribes and the Pharisees. His disciples were scorned even more. They were treated with complete contempt, no better than beggars, and not even as human beings. Since the scribes and the Pharisees put so much emphasis on the Law, there was no way that they would stay quiet when they saw Jesus’ disciples eating without washing their hands. Whether you washed your hands or not was not relevant as long he ate well.
But the Israelites had to eat in a proper manner. They had to wash their hands and feet before sitting down to eat. There were so many rules governing how they should behave, including washing their hands and feet when they were invited to someone’s house. Israel also had a severely segregated society among the educated and the uneducated. Depending on whether one kept the Law faithfully or not, he was determined to be either a decent man or a vulgar man.
In Korea also, in the old days, if someone could not use chopsticks properly, he was considered to be a person of lowly birth. When I was a child, I used to get scolded all the time for not being able to use chopsticks properly. Greeting elders of the neighborhood was also an important virtue that every youngster from a dignified family in Korea was expected to do. If I didn’t greet the village elders politely, I was considered bad mannered. But if I greeted them politely, I was treated like a well-educated child. Koreans used to judge others based on their outside appearance. Israel and Korea share many similar customs. Didn’t they put blood on the doorframe on Passover? In Korea, when the winter solstice comes around, people prepare red bean soup and sprinkle it around. There are many such similar customs between the two nations. Koreans slaughter cows when New Year’s Day comes around. In Israel, when the Day of Atonement came around, people slaughtered bulls and sheep.
Perhaps because of this, some people claim that Koreans are descendants of the tribe of Dan. When you turn to the Bible, the tribe of Dan took over the northern region of the land of Canaan, but they subsequently disappeared from the Bible. So some people argue that as the tribe of Dan got weary of fighting with the Philistines, they moved eastward and became Koreans. They claim that this is how King Dan, the forefather of Koreans, originated. About 20 years ago, there used to be a lot of people who agreed with the claim that there was a great possibility for Koreans to be descendants of the tribe of Dan.
We see in today’s Scripture passage that Jesus rebuked the scribes and the Pharisees without any hesitation. If Jesus were here on earth today, he would surely say that all the religionists of this world are the scribes and Pharisees of His day. Although those who are spiritually blind cannot discern whether one is a righteous person or a sinner, those who have truly been born again can understand this when they hear anyone giving his testimony of salvation. In other words, unless you are spiritually blind, you can tell whether someone has been born again or not.
In contrast, the blind religionists of this world, who are just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, do not know whether someone has been born again or not. Also, they claim to be righteous people, even though they themselves have not been born again. Anyone who has sin in his heart is not a righteous person. They say these things because they are blind, and they can only say what they can feel from fumbling in the darkness.
The Christianity of this present age is filled with many scribes and Pharisees. Just as they had abounded in the days of Jesus, they abound in the present time. Only Jesus’ twelve disciples and a small crowd of His followers agreed with Jesus. The scribes, the Pharisees, the political leaders of the time, and virtually all the Jewish people stood together against Him.
That’s why Jesus suffered so much pain on this earth. He was so frustrated by the scribes and the Pharisees that He devoted all of chapter 23 to rebuking them. Such criticism should be directed to today’s Pharisees as plainly as it was done back then. The scribes and the Pharisees of this age also want to sit only in high places, broaden their sleeves, greeted in the marketplace, and like to be called teachers. In their respective churches, virtually all of them act as teachers. The saints come last.
In Korea, if someone believes in Jesus, the person is called as a saint, and in no time at all, a teacher. Actually, the position of a teacher is more important than that of a deacon. The Sunday school teachers have elevated offices. These teachers’ job is nurturing the flock, just like mine. But the office of a deacon is to serve the church as a servant. In Korea, deaconship is now considered as some sort of honor. But in reality, when you are appointed as a deacon, it means that you have become God’s worker and servant. You should grasp this and faithfully serve the gospel and the Church from your place as a servant.
In Korea, some Christians are so proud of being deacons, they act as if this were some powerful position, saying, “I am a deacon, but what are you?” This actually means, “I’ve been appointed to live as a servant for the rest of my life. I’ve been qualified to be a servant of the Lord.” Not realizing this, people say, “I am an ordained deacon, but you are just a temporary deacon.”
Nowadays, there even are suspended deacons. Worldly churches appoint deacons once a year. But as the board of trustees has the right to appoint them, it also has the right to strip them of their duties. So if the pastors and the elders on the board of trustees decide to strip someone of deaconship for whatever reason, then he is no longer a deacon. He is an ordinary layman. However, in the church newspapers he is listed as a suspended deacon. There are all kinds of church offices. From suspended deacons to ministering elders; suspended elders, retired pastors, suspended pastors, cooperative pastors, and directors of the board of trustees. There are too many church offices.
My fellow believers, the religionists of the world are all scribes and Pharisees. Such modern-day scribes and Pharisees cannot avoid the condemnation of hell. They will all be cast into hell. Everyone who follows them will also be cast into hell. I can’t say anything other than that about them. I’ve only addressed the tip of the iceberg from today’s Scripture passage. To really dig deep into this issue, I could spend the whole day and there would still not be enough time. If you follow the scribes and the Pharisees, you will inevitably end up in hell.
Before I was born again, I led my life diligent of faith for ten years. But the people who taught me were all scribes and Pharisees who did not know about being born again. They only told me to keep the Law. They were so snobbish and they used to boast all the time. The predecessors of our faith are Rev. Gicheol Ju and Rev. Sangdon Han. Our denomination is the most faithful denomination in the entire world. We are descendants of martyrs. Even though our number is small, our denomination is very remarkable. We are the Ko-sin denomination of the Korean Presbyterian Church.
If you can’t recognize modern-day scribes and Pharisees around you as you read today’s Scripture passage, then you are blind. You would probably turn into a scribe or a Pharisee yourself. Jesus would then judge you, saying, “You are a Pharisee, and you will never escape the condemnation of hell.” If you can’t recognize anything right in front of your eyes, what else are you but a blind person? This purple flower is an iris and the pink flower here is an azalea. These two flowers are clearly different. The iris is purple, but the azalea is pink.
If you can’t tell the difference, then you are colorblind. If you can’t recognize those who have been born again from those who have not, then you are a scribe and a Pharisee. There is no doubt that you belong in this group of people. You will inevitably follow them because you can’t discern anything, even when you hear the Word from the servants of God. You cannot help but follow their deceptive words.
Even if you don’t know the Word, you can still recognize someone by looking at his outside appearance and his acts. But because you have no spiritual discernment whatsoever, you will end up becoming like the Pharisees, saying to yourself, “No, I must have been mistaken.” What will happen when you emulate such people? You will end up being just like they are, and you will preach just like they are preaching.
Such occurrences are very common in our present day Christian communities. It’s important that you realize how much Jesus detested the scribes and the Pharisees. It’s imperative for you to understand that when Jesus said to his disciples to be wary of the scribes and the Pharisees, He was also speaking to all of us living in this modern age. In spite of this, if some people still want to associate with the modern versions of the scribes and the Pharisees, even after receiving the remission of sin, then they should join them.
Those who consider the scribes and Pharisees as their colleagues, even after receiving the remission of sin, will join them and lead their lives of faith with them. They should go there and learn from them, offer their money to them, and learn their hypocrisy and their feigned holy voices. But when these hypocrites are cast into hell, they will also be cast into hell along with them. What did Jesus say to those who still stayed with the Pharisees after being born again? He said to them, “I will appoint you your portion with the hypocrites.” In other words, whoever follows the spiritually blind teachers, Jesus will treat him the same way as those blind people.
That’s why I do not associate myself with these people. Although I am not a perfect man, I am a perfectly righteous man on account of my faith. I am a servant of God. Even though I may be unable to strain out a gnat, I do not swallow a whole camel. This means that I do not just gloss over when it comes to important issues. Like everyone else, I, too, have good qualities and bad qualities. But regardless of this, I am a righteous man, because I believe in Jesus. So I can never associate myself with such hypocrites.
When someone says that I resemble his pastor, I actually get offended. I consider it extremely insulting when I am compared to another pastor who has not been born again, no matter how wonderful this pastor may be. I feel like shouting out, “Please stop! Don’t treat me the same as some other pastor. By no means do I consider myself better than everyone else, but please, don’t ever compare me to such people.” Some people say that my teachings resemble those of the Salvation sect. Let me make it clear that I have absolutely nothing to do with the Salvation sect.
Even how I speak is not similar to them. Do you know just how smoothly the Christians of the Salvation sect are? A man like me cannot last a day there because I look too rough and speak too straightforward. It takes a Machiavellian character to survive in their gatherings, and that is something that I absolutely detest. Why should I need to be approved by anyone when all I really need to do is acknowledge God, believe in Him, and follow Him?
I am only too happy to preach the Word to our fellow saints gathered here today. You have become a righteous person. However, if you try to live under the teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees, then you will become like them and perish away in the end. When Jesus returns to this earth, He will ask, “Who are your friends?” If you say, “The scribes and the Pharisees are my friends,” then Jesus will cast you into hell, saying, “Then you should join your friends.” Jesus abhors it if you join hands with the scribes and the Pharisees, and continue to fellowship with them after being born again. Given this, how could you lead your life of faith under these people whom Jesus detests so much?
I don’t get invited by that many people, especially after I was born again. Even among those who have not been born again, quite a few people still like me. Sometimes they invite me to their place to stay with them overnight, share a meal, and talk. They probably do this because they think they will get some benefit from sitting down with me and hearing me talk.
While I do accept the invitation, when I am actually sitting down with them, it’s very hard for me to speak the Truth face to face. If I do this, the other person won’t accept the Word of God. But his pride would be hurt, and so I would only be alienated from him in the end. So I find it next to impossible to tell him about how mistaken his beliefs are. Instead, I just invite him to one of our church’s revival meetings, saying, “We’ll be holding a revival meeting soon. Would you like to come? I would love to see you there.”
Once he is sitting in the revival meeting, I don’t hesitate to point out all his mistaken beliefs in my sermon. This is for this person’s sake. I explain in detail what the gospel is all about; what salvation is, what one must believe to become a righteous person, and how he should live after being made righteous. I use these revival meetings to get my point across to this person, because when I preach the Word of God from the pulpit, he won’t consider it a personal attack, and he would be able to accept it as a general lesson.
When I am standing here behind this pulpit, I am standing as a public figure, so I don’t preach my personal opinions. There is nothing personal when it comes to the teachings from the pulpit of God’s Church, regardless of who may be standing there. Anyone who stands here is standing before the Word of God, and he must preach what God is actually saying. That’s why I speak without mincing words. Sometimes, the people’s faces change color. After turning blue and red, and sinking their heads down, their faces eventually light up with joy when the end of the sermon nears.
They admitted to me, “At first, it was very burdensome and embarrassing to hear your sermon, but now I understand that you weren’t rebuking me. You preached the Word like this in order to teach me what is right.” Once they understand that my admonishment came out of my heart’s love for them, and they receive the remission of sin, from then on it’s possible for our hearts to share fellowship. No matter how weak you may be, and how you, as a righteous person, may still have too much of your own thoughts to make you weak, can you really afford to submit yourself to hypocrites like the scribes and the Pharisees and lead your life of faith under them? How could you go there and listen to their sermons? Wouldn’t it make you sick?
Whatever praise you sing, I thoroughly enjoy hearing you sing. Is this because we are attending the same Church? Absolutely not. It’s because you praise comes sincerely from your heart, while others sing with artificial voices embellished on their own. That’s why your praise sounds so different from theirs. Faith, my fellow believers, is something that emanates from your heart. It’s not something that you can make of your own will.
Now that you’ve received the remission of your sins, do not submit yourself to the scribes and the Pharisees. They will take you straight to hell. Is there no better place to go so that you don’t join their gathering? Remember how you were unable to be born again when you were under them, and how you had almost gone to hell? Knowing this, how can you afford not to cut yourself completely off from the people who were intent on dragging you to hell?
Jesus said in today’s Scripture passage not to call anyone in this world your father. Considering how the Lord told you not to call the one who gave birth to you your father, how can you call someone who is dragging you to hell your leader or your pastor? It’s inconceivable! Yet it seems to me that you are too attached. In contrast to you, I am so detached so that I can never approve such people.
Let me tell you a small story here. After being born again, I was riding a bus from Jinhae City to Busan. I saw an old man sitting in the bus, who had taught me long ago. To be more precise, he was the pastor who had tried to drag me to hell. At first, I was glad to see him, and I greeted him warmly and said, “Reverend! What a surprise to see you here! It’s so nice to meet you again.”
After shaking hands, however, I was reminded of what he had actually done to me. I thought, “I almost went to hell because of this man’s deception!” Once I was reminded of this, all my warm feelings for him left. Even though this pastor was not a bad man, because of his mistaken teachings, I had almost gone to hell. That’s why I was repulsed. Regardless of how good he looked on the outside, I couldn’t warm up to him because I had almost gone to hell because of him. But since the ride to Busan would take some time, I tried to strike a conversation with him.
“Have you been traveling?”
“Yes, I am just returning from a revival meeting that I led.”
“Where was this meeting held?”
“At so and so prayer center in Daegu.”
“Oh, I know that place quite well. It’s such a big prayer center. So did you lead the revival meeting there? How many people were there?”
“We had over 3,000 people.”
“Really? It must have been very nice, Reverend.”
“Yes, it was quite wonderful. I invited the sick and prayed for them while laying my hands on them, and some of them were healed. Demons were cast out as well. God did wonderful things on this occasion.”
I couldn’t help but feel even more disgusted when I heard this. How is it relevant to someone’s salvation that the person is healed and demons are cast out? What good does it do to cast out demons from anyone who has not received the remission of sin? They would just come right back into his heart.
I asked him again. “Reverend, did you get to preach about being born again?”
“Of course I did. I preached that one is born again of the blood of Jesus.”
I then felt even more revolted. I asked him these questions to test him, but as expected, his answers were completely off the mark. Healing someone and driving out demons by laying on hands are not what Jesus wants. What the Lord really wants is for everyone to be born again of water and the Spirit. People rely on Jesus only when their bodies fall ill, and they want to believe in Jesus only when they are in pain, or being possessed by demons. That’s why God permits such things to happen; so they would hear the Word of God and be born again of water and the Spirit.
But since this pastor did not know the will of God, he had just continued to practice hypocrisy. I couldn’t bear to sit next to him any longer, and so I said to him, “I am not feeling well. I’d like to get some sleep as I got hardly any sleep at all last night. I am sorry to leave you alone like this, Reverend, but if you don’t mind, I would like to go to the back of the bus and get some sleep. You can have both seats here all for yourself. I will try to get some sleep at the back.” So after saying farewell, I went to the back of the bus and sat there.
On one hand, I thought about teaching him a lesson about the Word of being born again on this occasion. I was itching to tell him, “Reverend, you are not even a pastor!” But I soon changed my mind. Since he had been a moderator of a big denomination and taught me once, I didn’t think he was going to accept the correct Word even if I taught him. Instead, I decided to do away with my spiritual relationship with him. I didn’t look down upon him because of his ignorance.
My fellow believers, are we able to recognize the good shepherds from the false teachers? Were your past teachers able to lead you to be born again? One can be really born again only when he comes across those who believe in the Word of God and preach it exactly as it is. Anyone who does not believe in this Word cannot preach it, nor can he help anyone else to be truly born again.
We must know the Truth about being born again of water and the Spirit. We must believe in it, and live our lives with this recognition. If any pastor is not able to discern this Truth, then he is a fraud. If you cannot recognize such false prophets from the true servants of God, then it’s your loss. Just as Jesus hated the scribes and the Pharisees of His day, so we do also hate today’s scribes and Pharisees.