The Guilt of the Hypocrites

July 5, 2019 Preacher: Gareth Franks Series: Hypocrisy & Grace

Topic: Christian Living Scripture: Matthew 23:13–15

Home Group Study - Sermon Date: 05 July 2019

Text: Matthew 23:13-15

Opening Discussion: There are many modern day religious hypocrites that want to devour widows' houses. I received an email that started with ‘Calvary greetings. I am a preacher with the Seed Harvest Ministry… After I received instruction from God to use my funds to do His work, I prayed to God for direction and he has been directing me. I told God that I want a ministry, an honest Person who will spend the fund for things that will glorify His name. I came across your address in the internet as I was browsing through a Christian site…I took interest in your ministry…Will you send me the necessary money to cover the overheads so I can send you the fund for God’s work?’ Have you received a similar email? Share your story.


Matthew 23 records the most scathingly severe and serious message that Jesus ever preached. This was His last public message. Matthew 23:1-12 was addressed to his disciples and the crowd that had gathered, condemning spiritual hypocrisy. The passage we are studying in Matthew 23:13-15 is addressed to the Scribes and the Pharisees. More than any other group, the scribes and Pharisees were false teachers. There were a few that were true, but the majority had traded in the truths and wisdom of God for the traditions and wisdom of men. Verse 13, is the beginning of the eight woes that Jesus pronounces on the hypocritical religious leaders. These woes stand in contrast to the eight beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-11. Jesus spoke harshly here, yet this was not the language of personal irritation but of divine warning and condemnation. A "woe" isn't a curse. Rather, it's a simple statement of fact. It basically means, "Oh, how terrible it will be for you! How horrible your destiny!"

The "woes" Jesus speaks in this chapter over the religious hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees can be divided into three basic themes. The first few woes (in verses 13-15) are spoken because of the harmful impact the religious hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees had on other people. The next two woes (in verses 16-24), are spoken against the impact their hypocrisy had on their own religion. And the last three woes (in verses 25-36) are spoken against the impact that religious hypocrisy had on the scribes and Pharisees themselves!

Here, we have a complete picture of the impact of religious hypocrisy on all spheres of relationship—on others, on God, and on ourselves. This first section (v.13-15)—the woes spoken against the harm religious hypocrisy has on other people, teaches us that our Lord hates religious hypocrisy because of the ways it hurts people that He loves.

Investigation & Interpretation:

  • Read: Matthew 23:13-15
  1. What did Jesus mean when he referred to the Pharisees as ‘hypocrites’ in verse 13?
  2. How did the Scribes & Pharisees ‘shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces’? v.13
  3. How did the Pharisees coerce widows into giving them their money? v.14
  4. In verse 15, Jesus pronounces ‘woe’ on these ‘hypocrites’ a second time, this time for travelling far and wide to make converts to the works based system that He came to abolish by fulfilling the Law. What is a works based system?

Application - How must I change?

  • Is there a Truth to be believed?

Some people say that sin is sin. God sees all sin the same. Yet in Matthew 23:14 it says that the Pharisees will receive greater condemnation. Charles Spurgeon comments on this verse, he says “These words prove that there are degrees of punishment, as there are gradations in glory. All the ungodly will be judged and condemned by the Righteous Judge, but ‘the greater condemnation’ will be reserved for the hypocrites.” What is your view? 

  • Is there an Attitude to be fostered?

Some commentators say that in verse 15, Jesus did not criticize the fact of the Pharisees’ extensive missionary effort but rather its results. If this is true what results should our evangelical missionary zeal produce? What should our missionary motives be?

  • Is there a Behavior to be changed?

The Pharisees were similar to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses today. They were courageous and energetic messengers, but with a false message. Why do you suppose that amongst evangelical churches where the message of the gospel has been preserved and faithfully preached, that so many professing Christians lack courage and zeal to share it?


Our Lord hates religious hypocrisy, because it hurts other people. It slams the door to the kingdom of heaven in their faces. It covers up injustices done to them. And it corrupts them and condemns them to even greater acts of hypocrisy. Woe to those who do such things! True Christianity leads a person to a relationship with Christ, not a religion. We must make sure that the goal of our evangelism and discipleship is to help others know, love and obey Christ.

Mahatma Gandhi once said to Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones, “Your faith doesn’t need to be changed—it doesn’t need to be added to or subtracted from—it needs to be lived as it is.” Christian integrity is so important because it leads people to Christ. Hypocrisy leads them away from Christ.

As Christians, who have received God’s grace and forgiveness we are ‘a kingdom door opener’.  We are not to take Gods grace for granted! We need to be intentionally looking for ways we can display Gods glory in our good works and our lives of integrity, so we can call people away from the closed doors to the open one. We have the keys to the kingdom. We know how people are to come in. We understand the truth of the gospel. And it's our tremendous responsibility to open that door to unbelievers and to call them out of those false religious systems.  May it never be said of us that we shut the door on others. May we so live that we fuel the hope that there is salvation in Christ alone.  


Prayer Points:  

  1. Pray we would walk humble with our God, with Christian integrity.
  2. Pray we will faithfully open the door to all those needing to hear the gospel, with courage and enthusiasm.
  3. Praise that we will never take God’s grace for granted.

More in Hypocrisy & Grace

August 23, 2019

When the "Woes" turned to "O"

August 16, 2019

The King's Farewell

August 9, 2019

The Heart Scanner