Summary: One of the harshest questions Jesus asked was asked of the Pharisees: "How shall you escape Hell?" As much a byword of legalism as they were, we must be careful we don’t fall into the traps that ensnared them.
OPEN: Down thru the ages, there have been rare occasions when different printings of the Bible have been found to have small errors them
· For example in 1653 Christians were upset to find that one Bible which declared: “Know ye not that the UNRIGHTEOUS shall inherit the kingdom of God?”
· The first English-language Bible to be printed in Ireland in 1716 became known as the “Sin On” Bible because it encouraged its readers to “sin on more” rather than “sin no more.”
· And in 1631 – the infamous WICKED BIBLE was printed - So named because it had mistranslated the 7th Commandment to say “Thou SHALT commit adultery,” King Charles was angry that he ordered all copies destroyed and fined the printer 300 pounds
APPLY: All those Bible versions created a scandal in their day. And no one - even today - would ever dream of accepting them as valid. But these minor mistranslations serve to illustrate that even a small change can dramatically alter the messages from Scripture.
Our text today introduces a disturbing question Jesus asked the Pharisees:
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" Mt. 23:33
One commentator noted that this was the most severe language Jesus had ever used with anybody. Jesus was essentially telling the Pharisees that they were going to hell because of their teachings.
Look again with me at Matthew 23:15 in the NIV "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”
In other words: The Pharisees sought to teach others - to bring them into their understanding of how to please God. And their teachings would convert new people and destine them to the same destination the Pharisees were bound for: Hell.
I. What were they teaching?
Well, just as an example, let’s look again at Matthew 23:16-22
“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’
You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’
You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”
You might ask: What was Jesus complaining about? It seems somewhat confusing to our ears.
Well, I could get real technical about this… but the short and fat of it is this:
The Pharisees were teaching their followers that if they swore by the GOLD that was in the temple – or the GIFT that was on the altar…they would HAVE to keep that promise.
But if they wanted to make a promise they didn’t want to keep they could simply say