Thursday, February 11, 2010
2/11/2010 Matthew 23:1-12 Exalting Ourselves in Church
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 "Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them 'Rabbi.' 8 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Calvin abridged: Christ’s purpose in saying this was that the people would not be so offended at the vices of the scribes that they throw away reverence for God. For our minds are prone to dislike the Law- but especially when the pastors are poor examples. Some also fall away when people in the church debate- for most men throw off the yoke and give way to their wicked desires showing contempt for the faith. We should conform our lives not to wicked leaders (even if they are in the church), but follow the Law. The scribes did not practice what they preached, and did so much to exalt themselves. They took a command of God and used it to display their devotion (Dt. 6:8). Christ rebuked them for being enthralled with titles (Master, teacher, Rabbi, Father). We must remember that Christ alone ought to be obeyed (Mt. 17:5) and no mortal should claim the smallest portion of his authority. He is the only Pastor, yet he allows many pastors under him, provided he holds the preeminence over them all and that He alone governs the Church. Christ charges those who occupy places of honor to conduct themselves as the servants of others, as we are all under equal footing under the heavenly Father.
Thoughts: The scribes and Pharisees knew the Law, but they exalted their added commentary (tradition) to the same status as the Law. They began to be more concerned about looking holy than being holy. This is a great temptation for anyone who serves God or who is faithful in church. In contrast to this, Jesus exalts the one who serves without recognition. Calvin describes the symptoms of our day. So many church leaders today have exalted their own theories and traditions that the Word of God has become degraded to a secondary place- even lost. There is little done to inspire people to read the scriptures, because so many theories degrade it to exalt their own ideas or even to sell books (or gain PhD.s) for the writers. So there is rampant biblical illiteracy in our society compared to previous years. One thing that distinguished America from Europe in times past was the amount of biblical illiteracy and scripture memory. So many have fallen away because of the hypocrisy, the ridiculous debates, and the self-exaltation of leaders in the church. But as Calvin points out, these are not reasons but excuses to turn away from the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.
Prayer: Keep us faithful to you, O Lord, though all around us fall away. Help us not to exalt ourselves, but you alone. You alone are worthy of our worship, our time, our lives.