Summary: The Lord warns his disciples about the dangers of practices of the Pharisees in day to day life.

The Commands of Christ

Sermon # 23

“Beware of the Leaven”

Matthew 16:6

The last command of Christ that we examined together was to “Honor Your Parents” found in Matthew 15:4. In that command we noted that in our youth we are called to honor our parents through obedience, as young adults we are called to honor our parents through recognizing their wisdom and in our parents elderly years we are called to honor them by helping with their support.

The next command is found in Matthew 16:6

where Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." The command is found in the words translated “take heed” (horate) and “beware” (prosechete) which can both be understood to be imperatives.

This command is repeated in verse eleven

where we read, "How is it you do not understand

that I did not speak to you concerning bread? ——

but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and


We want to consider this command by asking and answering a series of questions.

First, “What is Leaven?”

The Greek word translated “leaven” is (zume). Yeast, or leaven, is a powerful fungus that can cause a lump of dough to rise into bread, ferment liquids into alcohol, or cause painful infections. But principally leaven as referred to here, caused fermentation and made bread rise before baking and was used in much the same way that yeast is used today. Most of you ladies are familiar with the use of a “starter” for causing fermentation in sour-dough bread. This “starter” is a used in the next for inducing fermentation into the next round of bread baking. For people living in the New Testament age the only method of reproducing yeast was to save a small piece of the unbaked dough, which would later be used to start fermentation in the next batch of bread.

Secondly, “What Does the Bible Say About Leaven?”

Because a small piece of leaven was able to cause a relatively large amount of dough to rise it, the term was often used figuratively to represent any kind of influence, although in scripture the word is used almost universally to represent evil.

In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. (8) Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Third, “What is the Leaven of the Pharisees?”

It is against the doctrine of the Pharisees

and the Sadducees that Jesus is warns his disciples. He calls their teaching “leaven” because has the potential of affecting not only their own lives but everyone that they come in contact with.

The doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees contained a mixture of God’s truth and man’s traditions. The danger of the “leaven” of the Pharisees is that it spreads quickly effecting the thought process of an individual or a group to the extent that it corrupt their hearts and minds to the true meaning of God’s word and commandments.

I want to look briefly at few crucial areas that the Lord deals with the Pharisees about.

•They Made The Commandments Of God Of No Effect By Their Traditions. (Mt 15:3-6)

“He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? (4) "For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ (5) "But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"

They majored on minor parts, while they violated major principles of the Law with their traditions. Jesus uses as a case in point, the way that they used dedication of one’s goods to God as an excuse to avoid having to take care of their elderly parents. By doing so they are making God command to “honor one’s parents” of no effect.

•They Were Hypocrites, Teaching One Thing And Practicing Another (Matt 15:7-8)

"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: (8) ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.”

Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites.”

Hypocrite is a word which really means “an actor” one who wears a mask or one who pretends. The principle criticism of Jesus toward the Pharisees is that they taught one thing and did another. The hypocrite often deceives himself as well as others.

The author C.S. Lewis warns “Anyone who has ever taught or attempted to lead others knows the tendency in all of us toward exaggerating our depth of character while treating leniently our flaws. The Bible calls this tendency hypocrisy. We consciously or subconsciously put forward a better image of ourselves than really exists. The outward appearance of our character and the inner reality (that only God, we, and perhaps our family members know) do not match.” [C. S. Lewis. The Four Loves. -]

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