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November 12, 2007

“BEWARE OF THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES”

by Professor Robert J. Barth

Then Jesus said unto them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6)

As we comprehend and walk in the blessings and authority we have “in Christ” we must be very mindful of Jesus’ words warning His disciples concerning the leaven of the Pharisees. What is the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Jesus tells us it is hypocrisy, spiritual pride, and self-righteousness. It was the “doctrine [teaching] of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

Satan will always try to pervert the truth with subtle lies. He did it with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-13), he tried to do it with Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), and he certainly tries to do it with us. That is why the Apostle Paul and others warned us to be alert to the schemes of the devil.

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (I Timothy 4:1)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8)

At the root of every attempt of the devil to deceive us, and at the root of the “doctrine of the Pharisees” is pride. Even if it is masked in spirituality or religion, it is still pride. It is resistance to faith in Jesus as our Savior and King, and it is unwillingness to surrender to His lordship and obey His commands out of love for Him. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they elevated religious traditions over the commandments of God (Matthew 15:1-9), and they imposed heavy religious duties upon the people that they did not do themselves. (See Matthew 23.) Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy and lack of love. They had a “form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5), but they rejected the means of having a relationship with God—faith in Jesus as the Christ.

All of us are subject to temptation because of our lusts. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). But whether it is lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (I John 2:16) the root of all sin is pride. Satan tempts in our areas of weakness to get us, in effect, to put “self” on the throne of our life rather than Jesus.

It is important to note that in the midst of His rebuke to the Pharisees for their spiritual pride and efforts to be “seen of men” (Matthew 23:5) Jesus instructed His disciples on greatness in the kingdom of God.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

Jesus has given us “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). He has clothed us with righteousness. He has given us authority to heal the sick, cast out devils, proclaim the gospel of salvation, and make disciples of all nations. But we must always and everywhere be mindful and thankful that it is only He that is the power. We are His servants, for His work, in His kingdom, for His glory! We cannot do in the flesh, what Jesus gave us authority and power to do only in the Spirit!

Spiritual pride can manifest in different ways, but it can always be discerned or detected by a lack of love. It does not matter if we understand the mysteries of the Scriptures, exercise spiritual gifts, or do great works for God. If we are not motivated by a love for Jesus and for others, we are not ambassadors of Jesus. In fact, Jesus called such self-motivated manifestation of power and good works “iniquity” and such individuals will have no place in the eternal kingdom of God.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)

The Apostle Paul put in this way:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

So, yes we are to glory in our position in Christ and what He has given us, but we always need to remember that He is the vine and we are the branches. If we abide in Him, we will bring forth much fruit, but apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (II Corinthians 10:17-18).

God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud. (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5). If we humble ourselves as servants of the King, we have great authority and opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. But it is He that will reward and exalt us. (I Peter 5:6)

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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