Increasing Another’s Guilt


Increasing Another’s Guilt
Matthew 23:13–15 “Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! For you…make
a single proselyte…twice as much a child
of hell as yourselves” (v. 15).

Many, though not all, of the scribes and
Pharisees were among Jesus’ major
antagonists during His earthly ministry,
largely because of their differences
with His biblical interpretations. Our Lord emphasized the inability of people
to obey the Law perfectly (Matt.
5–7), a position His opponents found
unacceptable because they prized
adherence to the letter of the Law (12:1–14).
Christ’s rejection of the oral
law as the definitive exposition of Scripture
and His willingness to minister
to Gentiles were also scandalous to His foes
(15:1–16:4). Moreover, the
insight of Jesus rarely won over the scribes and
the Pharisees; they were too
proud to admit His superiority (22:15–23:12).

Having warned the people to
watch out lest they become like the scribes and
the Pharisees, Jesus begins
in today’s passage to declare several woes upon
these teachers. A woe, James
Boice writes, is “a lament or wail concerning the
final end for evil people”
(The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 2, p. 492).
Woes are an important part
of the Old Testament prophetic books; in many
places the prophets declared
oracles of woe from God that promised judgment
for Israel’s sins (for
example, Isa. 5:8–23; Amos 6:1–7). With His oracles of
woe, Jesus stands as
the judge of men, warning the impenitent of the fate that

Our Savior’s first woe condemns the Pharisees and scribes for
shutting the
door of heaven to themselves and others (Matt. 23:13). The
reference here is
to the failure of most in these groups to trust Jesus as
well as their actions
to prevent others from believing in Him. At several
points during His
ministry, the scribes and Pharisees have worked actively to
hide the truth
about Jesus from others (9:32–34; 12:22–24), manifesting
clearly the depth of
their corruption.

The second woe faults the
Pharisees’ missionary outreach (23:15). Making
converts per se is not
condemned, the problem is the “truth” to which they
convert people. Pharisaic
teaching tends to produce zealous advocates of
legalism and proponents of
humanity’s ability to earn God’s favor, not
messengers of grace. Since man
cannot earn his own righteousness (Rom. 3:23),
most converts to Pharisaism
become children of hell, preachers of a false

Coram deo:
Living before the face of God
we preach the Gospel to our friends and neighbors we must always
grace, otherwise we can convert people to a Christianized form of
that implies it is possible for us to get right with God through our
works. The Gospel does demand a change of life, but this change of life
empowered by grace and occurs subsequent to conversion. If we are
stressing the priority of grace, we are no better than the

For further study:


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