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Woes into Wows pt 2 – From delivering destruction to reproducing righteousness

Woes into Wows pt 2 - From delivering destruction to reproducing righteousness

In Matthew 23:13 -15 we see Jesus turn His focus to the impact the scribes and Pharisees are having in the lives of others. It’s a vital challenge to us as well, because we all have influence in the lives of other people… whether we like it or not! In this message Mike explores the reality that we might teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are. We confront the fact that the way we live and the choices we make matter far beyond ourselves. If we care about the people God’s put around us and the people God’s called us to reach out to, we have to take our own righteousness seriously.


Woes into Wows pt 2:

From Delivering Destruction
to Reproducing Righteousness.

Matthew 23:13-15


Woes into Wows

Is it worth bruising someone’s ego in order to save their life?

Is it worth suffering short term pain for eternal gain?

That’s what Jesus is doing right here – He’s delivering hard but life-giving truths to people who are heading for destruction and taking a bunch of others with them.

Last week we laid a foundation of what’s happening in this passage and exposed the root problem of pride that manifest itself in hypocrisy.  When pride is allowed to grow in your heart, hypocrisy is inevitable in your lifestyle.  Your actions will not match your words.

We explored some ways that even with the best of intentions we can do that and we can even push others in that direction.

If you missed it I’d encourage you to check it out on the website, youtube channel or podcast.  Remember if you have the elvanto app you can get all our sermons on there as well!

But right now we’re following Jesus as He turns His focus to the impact these Scribes and Pharisees are having on the eternal destiny of other people.  This is serious stuff.

Are you concerned about how your life impacts on others?

Do you want to be someone who God uses to help others come to know Jesus?  Do you want to be a channel that God works through to bring His goodness into the lives of people around you?  Do you want the joy of seeing people you love responding to God’s love in this life and the life to come?

Here’s a truth you need to know – you cannot control anyone else’s response to Jesus.  No matter how hard you work at it.

But you can and do have influence.  You have influence whether you like it or not.  You have influence that you can choose to pursue.  Jesus addresses both types in today’s passage, so let’s turn to…


Matthew 23:13-15

13 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.


15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are!


Before we get started… where’s verse 14?

Most modern translations of the Bible don’t have it at all, some of them have it but in brackets so you know something’s up!

This is what it says:

14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.



The reason you won’t see it in most Bibles is because the oldest manuscripts we have of Matthew’s gospel don’t have it.  Later manuscripts do, and most scholars think that it was added in at some point by scribes who were following the story out of the Mark and Luke’s gospels, which both contain this saying of Jesus.

But while this is a genuine saying of Jesus, it kind of breaks up the flow of what He’s saying immediately before and after. So it’s more likely that Jesus said this a little later in his address where he’s giving examples of their hypocritical behaviour.

It’s a good opportunity to briefly talk about what we believe about Scripture; and especially the four gospels.

We believe that God inspired the authors of these gospels with exactly the words He wanted them to write so that we’d have four clear accounts of the life of Jesus.  Each account has its own style, perspective and focus; they are not meant to be identical, but complementary.

We also believe that God has preserved His word so that we can be confident in what we have in front of us today; despite all that wicked people have done to try alter it, destroy it and discredit it.

The preservation of God’s word is absolutely amazing, but not perfect.  Small errors in copying and sometimes even well-intentioned editing have occasionally happened.  By God’s grace we have so many ancient manuscripts that we can do some careful checking on that.  But when we talk about the inerrancy of Scripture we’re talking about what was originally written, not what has been copied over the centuries.

So that’s the deal with verse 14, if you have any questions about that feel free to ask me later!


Let’s head back to verse 13 and ask ourselves this question:

How is your response to Jesus affecting people around you?

13 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

  • We’ve seen in the story so far that the scribes and Pharisees couldn’t get their heads around the fact that the Messiah did not fit their expectations. They could not accept that He did not teach and follow all their traditions.  They could not grasp that He could be a man, yet at the same time be the Son of God.

    For these reasons and more, they would not accept the promised King or enter His Kingdom.

    But if that’s not bad enough, they also put barriers in the way of others believing in Jesus.

    As respected leaders of the people and scholars of Scripture, their opinions and their example mattered.  They had influence, and they exerted that influence to turn people away from Jesus.


What is it that you are most desperate to win people to?

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are!

It’s not complacency that Jesus is upset with these guys over.  It’s not as though they don’t care about winning people.  It’s what they’re winning them to that matters.


Howard Hendricks said this: You teach what you know, you reproduce what you are.


These scribes and Pharisees had terrific knowledge of the Scriptures and some great wisdom to share.  But their pride was their downfall.

They elevated their traditions to the point where those traditions prevented them from obeying the Scriptures.

They selectively applied even their own traditions so that they were always affirmed while other people never did well enough.


You know what that does?  It turns people away from the Kingdom (v.13) and it turns them into something terrible (v.15).


Jesus is going to give some very explicit examples of how the religious leaders were doing that, which we’ll take the time to go through in coming weeks.


But for today, let’s examine our own lives.  Let’s think about who we are and what we are reproducing.

We symbolise who we are in the act of baptism and we’ve had the joy of seeing three of these in recent weeks.  Let’s refresh our minds with the meaning of baptism..


Baptism vid.  &  Summary – 2 ways to live slides.

(Media provided courtesy of Relevant Community Church, used with permission.  ph:  +1 (205) 356-3725 w: )


If you’re someone who has accepted new life in Jesus, you have traded in the first way of living for the second.


And the great news is that if we do that, we’re also reproducing that in others!  We can’t control how anyone else responds to Jesus, but we can show them Jesus and give them every opportunity to taste and see that He is good!

Evangelism doesn’t start with learning how to explain or argue or convince anyone about anything.  Sharing the good news about Jesus starts with being good news about Jesus.


How are we really doing with that?  We don’t want to let pride do to us what it did to the scribes and Pharisees.


If we’re honest, we’ve probably all had those times where Jesus is part of your life; rather than being your life.

And we might recognise that our words about Jesus haven’t matched how we’ve lived for Jesus.  We’ve been a bit hypocritical.


Me – the work picture actually represents church.  I can let that get out of control because it’s not only about Jesus, it’s also about me.  It’s about how I can get a sense of accomplishment or recognition.  I can care too much about negative feedback and too much about positive feedback.  I can define myself by how my church is going instead of by who God says I am.


If I live that way I’ll do exactly what the scribes and pharisees did – I’ll push some people away from the Kingdom and I’ll corrupt some people who think they’re doing what God wants but it’s so different to what God really wants.

I can pass that way of living on to our team.  I can pass it on to my kids.

I can reproduce that dysfunction.  I can deliver people to destruction.
So can you.


The solution to that is not to try harder to be better.  To make sure that we’re setting a perfect example.  That actually just creates more pressure, more guilt, more shame, more hiding.

The solution is to keep finding out who you are in Christ.  To own up when you mess up is to show that sin didn’t win, it’s been paid for and it’s sting has been removed.  To make the godly choice instead of following the pattern of the world is to show that our faith is sincere, that we really do believe that our lives are in Christ.

To obey what God says even when it’s hard is to show that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us to help us do what we don’t have the capacity to do on our own.

The Pharisees had a great big chunk of their lives devoted to religion.  They thought that made them pretty special.

But many of them had hearts that were not in tune with God.  Pride put them at the centre of their lives.

Because of that even their great knowledge of Scripture and their wise principles for living got twisted and corrupted to be more harmful than helpful.

Because there’s no point knowing how to if you don’t have the heart to!

There’s no point knowing how to live God’s way, if you don’t have the heart to live God’s way.

There’s no point knowing how to serve people if you don’t have a heart to serve people.

There’s no point knowing how to – have a good marriage, be a good friend, manage your finances, watch what you say….


I worry that there’s a lot of people who call themselves Christians because they’ve got a bit of Jesus in their lives.  That’s not a Christian, that’s a religious person.  And that doesn’t actually do a lot of good.

Only a changed heart leads to changed behaviour.  Knowledge alone won’t do it.  Are you willing to let Jesus make it new?

Regardless of how your life has been shaped, He can make you new.  But only if He is Lord of your life.  As long as you are in charge you will never be free.


Freedom isn’t the power to do whatever we want, freedom is the faith to pursue what God wants.


 Parents & Carers Meeting.  How can we avoid turning our kids away from Jesus and instead reproduce faith in our children? It starts by supporting it in each other as followers of Christ who are also called to be parents.  As parents it’s really easy to focus on our kids physical health or sporting achievements or academic progress or career ambitions or friendships… they’re all important!  But if we want to really bless our kids it’s their relationship with Jesus that matters most!  How is our response to Jesus affecting our children?  What are we most desperate to win our children to?

We’ve got to keep each other on track with that and help each other out with that.  And once our hearts are in the right place, we can then start talking about how we’re going to help our kids with all those things I mentioned earlier.  The how to won’t matter until we have the heart to.

We won’t just be teaching better stuff to our kids, we’ll be reproducing better things in them by the grace of God.

That’s my prayer for all of us, no matter what your calling in life is and who your lives most affect.