WHEN HATE IS THE MOST LOVING THING YOU CAN DO
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
NOVEMBER 29, 2015
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath. ’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath. ’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. ’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
— Matthew 23:13-36, ESV
As soon as we begin to use words, there is one four-letter word we are taught not to use: hate. It is wrong to say it. It is wrong to think it. It is just plain wrong, period.
We should not hate green beans, we should not hate homework, we should not hate things just because we don’t like them, because some of them are good for us. We especially should not hate other people, for we are all equals, created in the image of God.
God, on the other hand, is not our equal. God is transcendent and supreme, possessing attributes and authority available to no human being. We shall not hate Him, but is it within God’s character and rights to hate us, another person, or perhaps a whole group of persons?
Consider the curious case of Esau, twin brother of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob. Apparently, God hated Esau, as declared in the Old Testament and New Testament (ref. Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13). If you think, as some do, that hate is tempered in this case to mean love a little less, then please read the entirety of Malachi 1:3-4.
Consider also the declarative statement about God in Proverbs 6:16-19. Included in the seven things which God hates are tongues, hands, hearts, feet, and the whole persons to whom such body parts belong. Surely this cannot mean the Lord just loves them a little bit less. Rather, it is quite clear that individuals and groups who consistently perform evil deeds without repentance are hated by God, and they will experience His full-blown anger, judgment, and wrath.
Now consider another set of sevens, seven woes pronounced by Jesus upon a certain group of people. Like hate and anger and wrath, woe seems to be a dirty word. I first heard it as a child uttered from the lips of my grandfather who was riding a stubborn shetland pony at the time. Woe meant stop, which the pony did, abruptly, just a few inches short of a barb-wired fence. When used in the Bible, however, as Jesus does in Matthew 23:13-36, woe means curse, condemnation, and a pronouncement of God’s utter disdain and destruction.
Hypocrites Are Hated By God
I know Christians are supposed to hate the sin and not the sinner, but remember, Christ is not a Christian. He is the Christ, He is the Lord, He is our God. And God, who is not our equal, reserves the right to hate, if He so chooses. Which, God does, according to the situation with Esau, plus anyone who fits the description of Proverbs 6:16-19, and all persons covered by the woes in Jesus’ final Temple sermon.
Woe, Jesus said seven times, to seven named people: the scribes, the Pharisees, the hypocrites, the blind (guides, fools, men, Pharisee), the whitewashed tombs, the murderers, and the snakes. You generally do not call people names like this if you really love them.
All seven names are best summed up by one: hypocrite. Hypocrisy at the highest levels of Jewish religious leadership is something made painfully plain by the Jewish disciple who wrote the Gospel according to Matthew. As the first book of the New Testament, his direct identification and dire warning should speak today to the heart of every member of the Christian church. Those who are Christian in name only, those who pretend to be Christians but do not practice the Christian faith, those who are using Christianity and church for personal power or profit, will one day fall under the horrible hatred, unrequited anger, and full wrath of God.
Why is God so hateful toward hypocrites?
Hypocrites Hold People Back From God
God is hateful toward hypocrites because hypocrites hold people back from God. I wish I had a nickel for every time I tried to share the gospel with someone or invite someone to church services and received a negative response because of the terrible influence some hypocrite had on their lives. Gandhi famously said he would have become a Christian, except for the Christians, and this script has played out on a billion other stages.
Woe, Jesus said, over the seven hateful ways that hypocrites hold others back from hearing the true gospel and becoming a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here they are, and they do not need much commentary. Hypocrites shut the door on people coming to Christ (vs. 13-14). Hypocrites keep people in their own false religion or cult (vs. 15). Hypocrites value money and material things more than God, and use religion to get it (vs. 16-20). Hypocrites practice partial obedience and teach others to do the same (vs. 21-24). Hypocrites work to look clean on the outside, but are morally dirty on the inside and when no one is watching (vs. 25-26). Hypocrites act spiritual, but are spiritually dead (vs. 27-28). Finally, hypocrites verbally or physically attack the true preachers of God’s word (vs. 29-36).
Woe, Jesus said, curse be upon you. Woe, my grandfather said, which means stop. Hear these woes carefully, and if you are a hypocrite or a person being influenced by a hypocrite, stop. Shun the hate of hypocrisy, embrace the love of God, because even God’s hatred is sometimes the most loving thing He can show.
Hatred Of Hypocrites Is One Of The Most Loving Things God Can Do
Jesus said these things personally and publicly. He did not talk about the hypocritical Pharisees behind their back, but said these things and more right to their faces. He said it out loud, too, for all the crowd to hear. In espousing God’s hatred for hypocrisy, God’s Son actually demonstrated great love.
These words served as a loving, last warning to the Pharisees. The world they made would soon burn down, and Christ’s fiery words should have served to make them run for living water. Even when expressing columns of hatred, God’s bottom line is love. Bad news about sin and punishment must be included in the good news of salvation by grace through repentance and faith in Jesus the Messiah.
These words serve as a loving, lasting warning to all people. I have a dear friend who I met when his wife brought him to hear me preach. He told me he did not like to attend church, for there were too many hypocrites in it. I repeated a cliche I had often heard, “You can go to church with them or you can go to Hell with them, make your choice.” His feathers were ruffled, his anger was kindled, yet he was curious enough to continue to come and hear me preach. Soon he repented and trusted Jesus Christ as Lord, and became one of the finest church members I have ever known. The church will not be rid of hypocrisy until Jesus comes again, but if you wait until Christ comes again to genuinely join the church, it will be too late.
While God’s hate can and does result in loving repentance and faith, our hate will never accomplish anything redemptive. We are God’s people, but we are not God. We do not have the right to hate any other human being. Far above us, God is supreme, and supremely complex. Let us let Him do His work His way. In His wrath He offers mercy, in His judgment He offers forgiveness, and even in His hate, He offers love. And sometimes, hate is the most loving thing God can do.
HYPOCRISY AND HUMILITY
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
NOVEMBER 22, 2015
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
— Matthew 23:1-12, ESV
I am not a fan of Jeff Foxworthy. His comedy routine is highly offensive to me, since it has shone the light on some of the nuts who fall out of my family tree. When he said, “You might be a redneck if …” and finished with certain sayings, I knew he was talking about them.
“You might be a redneck if … you burn your yard rather than mow it; … directions to your house include ‘turn off the paved road;’ … your dog and your wallet are both on a chain; … your mother has been involved in a fist fight; … you have to go outside to get something out of the fridge; and, … you come home from the dump with more than you went with.”
There is no “might” or “if” about it, many of my relatives are bonafide rednecks. And I love every one of them! Laugh at them if you want, but there is nothing especially wrong with being a redneck, is there? Even rednecks can love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hypocrites, however, cannot and do not follow Jesus. God can accept the redneck or the refined. But, He will not accept the religious hypocrite who does not humbly repent, believe, trust, and surrender to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of God’s word.
This is the subject that Jesus used for His last scathing sermon in the Jewish Temple, and it is at least part of the reason He was betrayed, arrested, and crucified. A large Passover crowd heard Him preach it, a multitude that included hypocrites, humble followers, and a huge mass of people in between. We will examine His balanced words in the first part of the chapter now (vs. 1-12), then look later at His totally berating words in the remainder of the sermon (vs. 13- 36). What does the Lord say about you, me, and our family tree?
You Might Be A Hypocrite
Jesus directed the better part of this sermon to the “crowds” and “disciples” to warn them not to follow in the footsteps of the “scribes and Pharisees.” The latter, in the eyes of God, were blatant hypocrites. A hypocrite is an actor, a person who pretends to be godly but is not, one who preaches critically and judgmentally to others, but does not practice what he preaches. At the end of the Old Covenant, Israel was full of them, and the Pharisees were their poster child. As we near the end of the New Covenant, Christian churches and nations built upon Christian principles are full of them, too. Could I, you, or someone we know be a hypocrite?
You might be a hypocrite, if you are religious. Now, not every religious person is a hypocrite. Genuine Christians follow the religious rituals and disciplines of biblical Christianity. Even adherents to other religions like Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism often practice their religious principles in sincerity and truth, as they see it. As I have often stated, religion is a good thing even if it is not a saving thing, when practiced with love, respect, and a desire to improve the life of your fellow man.
But religion practiced insincerely with ulterior motives is blatant hypocrisy. The Gospels show that most of the Pharisees concocted a cacophony of rules not to keep them, but to use them to control, condemn, and extort money and property from other Jews. Modern radical Muslims use their own version of Islam to terrorize, rape, and murder people of other religions. Some so-called Christian preachers clearly use extreme forms of pentecostal theology to promise health and wealth to their followers, impoverishing them so that they can live immoral and lavish lifestyles. And in what may be the most common form of hypocrisy today, most people who have made professions of faith in Christ are nominal Christians, in name only, and do not worship, witness, give, or serve Christ through His bride, the local church. If your use or misuse of religion makes your life comfortable at the expense of harming someone else’s body, soul, or chance of coming to Christ, then you are a hypocrite.
You might be a hypocrite, if you love to be first. Now, not every person who works to be first is a hypocrite. Everyone should strive to be the best they can be in matters of faith, academics, vocation, and athletic competition. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win the gold medal. Unless, you want to win so that you can call everybody else a loser.
The Pharisees strived for “Moses’ seat” in the synagogue and made “their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.” These were sorts of blue ribbons for the Jewish religious rulers who could memorize the most Scripture. That’s why to this day I don’t care much for Sunday School pins or other kinds of church awards. If you know a lot of Bible verses and can pass a theology test, but do not love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, you are nothing but a two-bit hypocrite, according to Jesus.
You might be a hypocrite, if you like to tell others what to do. Now, not every leader, supervisor, or coach is a hypocrite. In every entity someone has to be in charge, or there would be nothing but anarchy and chaos. Leadership is even one of the spiritual gifts in the New Testament, and fathers as family leaders and pastors and elders and teachers as church leaders are encouraged.
But if you crave titles for titles’ sake, power for power’s sake, if you want to rule over other people because you think you are better than them, and if you use your authority to force or guilt people into doing what you are not willing to do, you are a hypocrite. The Pharisees fit the bill. They liked the titles, because the titles gave them human power over human beings. Human power that does not to submit to divine authority is hypocrisy and harmful to other human beings.
Jeff Foxworthy could probably say it better. But, you might be a hypocrite if you are religious for religion’s sake, love being seen and admired above other people, and enjoy bossing people around just to feel power and control. If so, beware, for God, as you can see in this chapter, is not laughing.
You Might Be A Humble Christian
Religion, rule-keeping, and acquiring knowledge and authority can change you on the outside, while also making you a menace to polite society. Grace, faith, and good works can change you from the inside out, and broadcast the gospel to the world. You might be a hypocrite, according to Jesus. On the other hand, you might just be a fully devoted follower of Christ, also known as a true, humble Christian, if the following things are true about you.
You might be a humble Christian, if you are a real follower of Jesus Christ. You can be a follower of Christianity and still be woefully lost. Lost people love to attend worship on Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and select other occasions. Lost people love to have leather-bound Bibles in their homes, that are never read. Lost people often cover themselves with baptism and communion and other outward clothing. They may name the name of Christ, but they are still lost.
Christians do not only follow the Christian religion, they whole-heartedly follow Christ. They bow before the Lord, freely confess their sinfulness, pray for forgiveness and strength, and rise up to worship Him on Sundays and every day. They don't just ask what Jesus would do, they find out what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do, and immerse themselves in it. They join a long line of pilgrims traveling the narrow way, with Jesus unequivocally at the head of the line. And, they don’t mind being last.
You might be a humble Christian, if you don’t mind being last. I don’t mean to make it your ambition to finish last in a contest by going slow or dropping out. I am speaking of putting yourself last on your list of people priorities.
I’m not a fan of corny acronyms, but true “JOY” in life can be found by putting Jesus first, Other second, and Yourself last. It is a genuine Christian joy, one that delights in the lordship of Christ, the pursuit of gospel witness and good works, and a peace with oneself that come through knowing you have given your all for Jesus Christ. It is the great role of the “servant” that Jesus commends so highly in this text and many others. A “servant” is a true, humble follower, and a follower follows from behind while listening carefully to the leader.
You might be a humble Christian, if you don’t mind being told what to do. Now wait a minute, no one really likes to be bossed around, given marching orders, or otherwise told what to do, do they? Christians delight in doing their duty, when it is God calling the shots, or God’s word being accurately interpreted and obeyed, or God’s sovereignly appointed leader giving the instruction. And even if the leader is a hypocrite, if what they are telling you to do is consistent with the word of God, do it with joy, for ultimately it is God you are obeying, not them.
Are you an obedient servant of the Lord? If you could ask God one question, would you ask Him to give you something, or give you something to do? If you are convinced by the word and the Spirit, that certain things are right and wrong, will you cling to the right? Humble yourself, in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the Lord, and one day you will be exalted above and beyond anything you’ve ever dreamed possible.
According to Jesus, you might be a hypocrite, or you might be a humble Christian. Most people, however, are like the large “crowd” caught in between. What will God do with them?
Two men robbed a bank, one wore a mask and the other did not. They were arrested, then stood before the judge at arraignment. The one who wore the mask pleaded guilty, while the other pleaded not guilty. Both of them were caught red-handed, so the judge incredulously asked the second man why he pleaded not guilty. “Your Honor,” he said, “I did not wear a mask. I wasn’t a hypocrite about it. I didn’t care if they saw me do it.” Do you think he was exonerated, just because he didn’t wear a mask?
God will humble the hypocrites who exalt themselves on earth. God will exalt the humble servants who sincerely followed Christ on earth. What will God do with the big crowd in the middle who didn’t wear the mask of hypocrisy but would not follow the Lord Jesus Christ?
SOME QUESTIONS YOU CAN’T GET WRONG
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
NOVEMBER 15, 2015
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
— Matthew 22:41-46, ESV
There are some question in life you can’t get wrong and there are some questions in life you can’t get wrong.
When the waiter asks you if you want chicken or steak, there’s no wrong answer. When the ice cream parlor attendant asks you if you want chocolate or vanilla, once again, you can’t go wrong. Some questions in life have multiple answers that are all good, so you really can’t get them wrong.
On your algebra test, however, there is a right answer and a wrong answer, and your answer is consequential. If you want to make good grades, go to college, and enjoy a lucrative career, you can’t get too many of those questions wrong. Once you’re on the job, answer too many questions wrong and the next thing you know you are looking for a new job. So you see, some questions in life have serious ramifications for getting the answer wrong.
This is especially true when it comes to matter of religion, faith, and especially religious faith in the true and living God. All roads do not lead to Heaven, so it cannot be all good. Just as He divides all time into B.C. and A.D., so the Lord Jesus Christ divides all mankind into those who answer rightly and wrongly concerning the most critical questions of this life, and the life to come.
The Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees were deceitful little men asking disingenuous questions of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the previous three episodes, each took their turn in asking trick questions to trap Him. Their goal was to catch Jesus in some error and drag Him into the courts of public opinion, and Rome, in order to condemn Him. Each time our Lord swatted their slow pitches and provided a perfect answer. Now, it was the Messiah’s turn to take the mound.
Jesus threw three pitches, all concerning the identity of the Christ. They are perhaps the most profound questions ever posited on this planet.
“What do you think about the Christ?” “Whose son is he?” “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
“Christ,” or “Messiah,” identifies a person anointed by God to mediate for and save God’s people. There is a corporate sense in which Old Testament priests and people could mediate for others and lead them into a saving relationship with God, just like the New Testament church and Christians can do today. There is a sense in which key characters, like Moses or David or John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul, were viewed as God-like saviors of God’s people. We even throw around the term “Messiah” or “Savior” loosely for political, economic, and sports stars who turn around governments or franchises. There seem to be many messiahs who have come into the world.
Or, is the answer to the question of the Christ really only one? The question Jesus asked did not concern itself with multiple Christs, or metaphorical Christs, but the Christ. If there is only one, then who is he, how does he mediate between God and man, and what does he save people from and for? This is a good and godly question, which leads to the two others.
If there is only one Christ or Messiah or Savior, then who is he? Where did he come from? How can we know who he is? Look to the Bible for answers.
The Bible gives us inspired answers to life’s most profound questions because it is profoundly the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. The Pharisees and most Jews believed this in Jesus’ day. The majority of confessing Christians today assume the same authority of Scripture. When you have to answer a question you cannot get wrong, you cannot go wrong by looking for the answer in the pages of God’s word, the Bible.
Jesus hung His hat on Psalm 110, and cited just the first verse. He did this to make the Pharisees think about the important questions at hand and get to the right answer. Let’s consider the questions again and see what biblical answers can be found.
“What do you think about the Christ?”
It is clear that Jesus of Nazareth considered Himself to be the Christ, the one and only anointed by God the Father to mediate between Him and His people and save them from their sins. The Old Testament points to the Christ, the New Testament presents and explains the Christ, and Jesus Christ is the Christ!
To the Pharisees, however, no such Christ was sought; and, even if he were, the carpenter’s son from Galilee could not be him. Salvation for them was not by grace through faith in God’s Savior, but by legalistically keeping God’s law as defined by rules and regulations of the Pharisees. Sadly, these silly little men represent most men today, who think salvation comes by self-help, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-work.
What do you think about the Christ? Is a Savior really needed? Won’t God just let sin slide? If we do need a Savior, who is He, and where does He come from?
“Whose son is he?”
On this question the Lord and the Pharisees finally found some common ground. The Old Testament prophets did indeed promise that a descendent of David would deliver God’s people and sit upon the king’s throne at the right hand of God forever and ever. David, of course, had been a principal prophet, priest, and king of Israel, leading them to their apex of power and proprietorial lands. One day, a new king would arrive from David’s lineage to give Israel not only exclusive authority over a relatively small country in the Middle East, but over the whole world.
The fulfillment to this promise had almost vanished from Jewish thought by the time Jesus arrived on the planet, and you would be hard pressed to find a literal Messianic hope amongst the whole of religious Judaism today. David reigned three thousand years ago. After his son Solomon squandered most of David’s moral and spiritual authority, the kingdom split in two. The Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom in the 8th century B.C. and the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and Judea at the beginning of the 6th century B.C. No Jewish king has reigned over exclusively Jewish land since then.
“The son of David” was really a hollow answer given by the Pharisees, for they failed to look long into the eyes, character, and history of the man standing in front of them. If they had only bothered to do the same research of the Jewish disciple Matthew and the Gentile disciple Luke, they would have known that Jesus, according to the flesh, was a direct descendent of King David.
Every Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, born a direct descendant of the great Jewish King David. Everybody loves the baby Jesus. But He is much, much more.
“If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
Jesus challenged the Pharisees with His questions. He wanted them to see that He was indeed the son of David, and the Son of God. For it was David himself, as an inspired writer of Scripture, who claimed the very Messiah who would come from his loins would also somehow be the Lord of lords and King of Kings, God of very God!
Psalm 110, the most quoted Old Testament text in the New Testament, the favorite psalm of the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon, affirmed the biblical teaching of the humanity and deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He came from God (In Hebrew, “Yahwey”), He is God (In Hebrew, “Adoni”), He will save His people from the penalty of sin, and He will destroy unrepentant and unbelieving sinners in His wake.
We call the true story of how God became a man, of how a descendent of David would come to earth, of how He would live, die, rise again, of how He will return one day to rule the new heavens and new earth, we call this story the gospel. Do you believe the gospel? This is one question you cannot get wrong.
The Pharisees whiffed. Having had their turn at the plate, they struck out and walked back to the dugout. Failing to answer the question is failing. The Pharisees failed themselves, for this was their opportunity to know and trust the living God. They failed their people, the Jews, for the Jews looked to the Pharisees for biblical answers to important questions. Most of all, they failed God, for the one thing God wants you to do is believe in His only begotten Son.
You can ignore Jesus, like so many church members do on Sundays, or like the predominately secular people in our country and world. You can look unto lesser saviors in alternative religions of which there is no end. Either way is the broad way that leads to the wrong answer. If this is the path you are on, please turn around. This is a question you cannot get wrong.
Jesus is the answer, Son of Man and Son of God. Jesus is the one mediator between God and man. Jesus alone can input His perfect righteousness to your account and take your sin and wipe it completely clean. Come to Him, with the correct answers of repentance and faith, and receive forgiveness and eternal life which can never be taken away. Find answers and assurance in the perfect word of God, through the perfect gospel, through the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.
ONE, TWO, THREE
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
NOVEMBER 8, 2015
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
— Matthew 22:34-40, ESV
One, two, three. Three players threw three pitches at the Lord Jesus Christ. The Herodians hurled a curveball concerning paying taxes to Caesar and Jesus busted it back up the middle for a base hit. The Sadducees threw a low slider concerning life after death, and Jesus doubled off the wall with wonderful words of life. Now, the Pharisees (who teamed up with the Herodians on the first pitch) fire a fastball over the outside corner to make Jesus reach for the Law. The Lord hits it right out of the park with one word, in two commandments, about three people. One, two, three, here we go.
The one key word in the Pharisees’ world was “law.” To them, life was a competition in keeping the rules, and the one who kept the most rules ruled. Pharisees presumed they were the true religious rulers of Israel, for they legislated and legalistically kept more laws than anyone else. They lived by a tradition that turned the Ten Commandments into exactly 613 (248 “thou shalt” plus 365 “thou shalt not,” one for every day of the year). They considered themselves to be superior to everyone else, including the Sadducees, Herodians, and especially the carpenter’s son from Galilee with His few dozen followers. Yet their emphasis on outward appearances at the expense of inward holiness had turned them into judgmental hypocrites.
Law is a good word, in spite of how the Pharisees and other religious legalists muddy the water with it. Laws are good, putting up boundaries, setting up protections, and providing formation for a civil and safe society. But there is a greater word that, if embraced and obeyed, would make laws almost obsolete.
“What’s the greatest law,” asked the Pharisee. Jesus answered with “love.” This was Jesus’ word, and love is always a better word than law. It is a very special and specific word Jesus used, too, a New Testament word that most of you are familiar with, “agape.”
Unlike erotic love, which is sensual and selfish, and unlike friendly love, which is mutually beneficial, agape love is absolute, costly, sacrificial, and unconditional. It is the taking of everything you are and everything you have and willingly giving it for the betterment of another cause or person.
A friend, or spouse, or parent demonstrates this kind of love when they put the good of a friend, a spouse, or a child above their own comfort and desires. A soldier demonstrates this kind of love when he goes to war and pays the ultimate price for his country. God demonstrated this kind of love when He sent His Son into the world to face these questioners, and after that the executioners.
I want to be loved like that, don’t you? I want to give love like that, don’t you? How can you receive, and give, this kind of love? By keeping two laws.
When our loving Lord was asked about the one greatest law, He quoted two. The two laws lead with love, and love leads you to keep both of the two laws. You can see the original versions in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18.
The first commandment was so familiar to the Jews that they had a name for it, the “Shama” or “Shéma,” from the Hebrew word for “hear and obey.” They were supposed to recite it at least twice a day. Unlike their pagan and polytheistic neighbors, Israel under the Old Covenant practiced the one, true religion on earth in devotion to the one, true, and living God. Those who rightly heard God, rightly obeyed God, and those who rightly obeyed God, did so with the right motive and manner: love.
This love is absolute and complete. Various renderings of the commandment include every inward and outward part of a man or woman (remember the Pharisees only worried about outward appearances). This love gives heart, soul, might, mind, strength, and understanding (ref. Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-33; Luke 10:27). Love led Abraham to offer his own son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Love led Moses to go back to Egypt and face death to set God’s people free. Love led David to face the giant, Goliath. Love led Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel and New Testament Apostles like Peter, John, and Paul to preach the gospel of repentance and faith in spite of the enormity of the personal cost. Love is the willingness to lay down everything you are and everything you have for the glory of the true and living God.
Love glorifies God, and love does good to other people. This is where the second of the two greatest commandments comes in. Love for God should be supreme, and it should spill over into the way we treat our fellow men and women. Our goal should always to give others what God wants us to give and to treat them the way we would want to be treated ourselves. Would you want someone to lie to you, steal from you, commit adultery with your spouse, or murder you or your family members? Then love others enough not to do any of these things to them. The more positive side of this principle is the “golden rule,” stated by Jesus in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Agape loves God and others more than money, sex, power, fortune, or fame. Perfect love would result in a perfect world. If we could just love like God wants us to, we wouldn’t even need laws. But we don’t, so we do.
Therefore, let me give you some (non-pharisaical) laws to live by in order to apply the greatest word, love, through the two greatest commandments, to the three most important people in your life.
The three most important people in your life are God, others, and yourself. Yet each one is three, in a manner of speaking. God is triune, or a trinity. Other people can be divided into three people groups. And you are a unique combination of three components: mind, heart, and will.
Your first and greatest love should be for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the three persons of the one true and living God. He created people to love and honor Him. He saves people to love and follow Him. He lives in people to enable them to bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is first and foremost, love.
You cannot know and love God unless He first knows and loves you. But God is love, He loves the world. By His grace, you can reach out to Him and love Him back.
Do so, first, with you mind. Contemporary Christianity seems to be aiming for the emotion and bypassing the brain, which is why we have so much silliness, false doctrine, and outright heresy in the church today. This is why a good church majors on Scripture and doctrine, not loud music, silly skits, and an overstimulating video experience. To love God, one must first think about God, and think rightly. “Shéma,” is what we need to do, hear the word of God and the gospel, and learn how to obey.
When we hear the word of God and learn the difference between obedience and disobedience, righteousness and sin, we should be immediately convicted about our own disobedience and sin. This is how we begin to love the Lord with our hearts. For our sinful hearts, God gives forgiveness. For our spiritually dead hearts, God gives life through repentance and faith. For our hearts that tent to love the lesser things of the world, God gives love, agape, that loves Him the most, making our other loves purer, better, deeper, richer. Love God with all your heart, a new heart that He gives by grace through faith.
A mind made right by the word and a heart made to beat by regeneration results in a will set free to obey and serve the living God. Don’t pretend to think for feel you love God if you are not willingly setting your clock by His commandments, worshiping Him on the first day of the week and every day, and seeking His kingdom first before adding other priorities to your life. To truly know God through the gospel is to love Him, and to love Him is to willingly obey Him.
First of all, love God. Secondly, love people, in three groups. Love the people you never meet. Love the people you come into contact with on a regular basis. And, love the people you live with.
Love the people you’ll probably never meet by praying for missionary success and giving offerings to spread the gospel and alleviate poverty and suffering. Love the people you meet regularly by showing them what Christ looks like in human flesh, showing compassion and integrity, offering encouragement rather than judgment. Love the people who have to live with you in the home, workplace, and church. They know you the best, and love you anyway, so give to them the unconditional love that defines agape. Put them above yourself, far above, and you’ll be amazed at how it will elevate your own life.
Save the last love for yourself. A healthy self-love, or self-respect, or self-esteem, is something good God desires for you. You cannot attain it by putting yourself first, but by allowing the first to be last. The paradox of climbing higher while bowing lower is the key to spiritual success and self-worth in the kingdom of God.
Do you know why so many criminals, who break God’s law and man’s laws, who hurt other people, abuse drugs and alcohol? It is because they cannot stand themselves and they want to forget who they are, at least for fleeting moments. Do you know why murderers hide and adulterers sneak around and thieves usually break in at night? Because they are ashamed of what they are doing and deep down inside ashamed of themselves. If you do not love God supremely, and if you do not love other people enough to give them basic courtesies and proprieties, then you have no chance of living a life of healthy love and respect for yourself. One of the greatest things about Christ and Christianity is that it is the only path to true happiness, because it begins with true holiness.
How do your fell about yourself, about others, and, more importantly, about God? One, two, three. Love plus salvation equals true happiness. One, two, three. Loving God, loving others, and loving yourself in that order equals true holiness. One, two, three. If you are not there yet, repent, believe, and enjoy true life in Christ. One, two, three.
ONE BRIDE FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
5963 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71913
November 1, 2015
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. ’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
— Matthew 22:23-33, ESV
One of the all-time great musicals is 1954’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Woman marries man, man brings woman home, women discovers his six brothers live in the home, too. Until they find wives of their own, there is only one bride for the seven brothers.
Having not attended the Broadway play nor seen the major motion picture, the Jewish Sadducees who accosted Jesus on this day were not aware that the story is supposed to have a happy ending. They paint a similar but sad picture of one bride for seven brothers. Death takes one brother at a time, each time the wife marrying the next brother, until all the men were dead and gone and the wife was left with nothing but seven heartaches and seven Social Security checks. Frankly, I prefer the Broadway version.
At least the famous musical tipped its hat to Holy Scripture, inasmuch as the seven brothers all had biblical names (Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frankincense, and Gideon) and marriage was seen as a holy institution between one man and one woman for one lifetime. The Sadducees’ story did take a cue from the Old Testament institution of levirate marriage (ref. Genesis 38:8; Deuteronomy 25:5-10), when ancient customs and economies encouraged widows to marry the brother-in-law of a deceased husband.
But what does the Bible really teach about brides, brothers, and more importantly, the broad and narrow roads to life after death?
Making a Mockery of Scripture
Of the three groups questioning Jesus on this fateful day, the Sadducees were supposed to be more erudite than their compatriots, the Pharisees and the Herodians. Jesus had just showed the latter two up by flipping a coin, now it was the smart guys’ turn. But sometimes smart people aren’t very spiritual.
I like NBC’s “Law & Order,” it is one of the smartest television dramas ever produced. But virtually every episode that touches on matters of the Christian faith belittles the Christian faith. I look forward to reading George Will’s column in the Washington Post and Thomas Friedman’s editorials in the New York Times, but neither one of them is a fan of evangelical Christianity. The Ivy League universities, most of which were founded to train true Christian pastors and missionaries, mostly now make fun of true Christianity. There seems to be a strong push in our society to make intellectual superiority incompatible with biblical fidelity.
Such a poisoned parallel is not merely modern, but as ancient as the Sadducees. They were smart, they were successful, and they even subscribed to the Jewish religion, albeit on their own intellectual terms. They honored the books of Moses as law, but only in the civil sense. They rejected anything overtly spiritual, like spirits, miracles, resurrection unto life after death, and they vehemently repudiated Jesus as the Christ, in spite of the fact that witnesses has seen Him supernaturally cast out demons, perform many miracles, and raise Lazarus (and at least two others) from the dead.
The Sadducee’s tale of one bride for seven brothers was nothing but a mockery of Scripture. They tried to paint Jesus as a backwoods preacher whose archaic belief in the teachings of the Bible were as silly as a single bride for seven brothers who would all be fighting over her in some confusing and confounding afterlife. Jesus was silly, they said, to believe in the moral principles of the Bible, to accept the spiritual teachings about sin and salvation, to warn people of a literal Heaven and Hell, and to think that He was the Savior of the world.
These days, if you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the miracles of the Bible, the sexual morality of Scripture, and the good news that Jesus is God incarnate, died on the cross and rose again, and offers salvation and a place in Heaven by grace alone through faith alone in Him alone, then the elites of this present world will paint you as being a little backwards and silly, too.
Setting the Record Straight
The Sadducees were smart, but Jesus’ IQ would be off the charts. The Sadducees knew a little bit about Scripture, but Jesus inspired and interprets Scripture. The Sadducees were wise in their own eyes, but Jesus is the wisdom of God personified, and everyone should sincerely look to Him for answers to the important questions of this life, and the next.
Jesus set the record straight by scolding the Sadducees on two counts. “But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” You have to have confidence in the Bible to correctly understand the Bible, and you have to actually believe in God in Christ to appreciate divine attributes and ability.
Those smart Sadducees were ignorant of the fact that the limited amount of Scripture that they accepted, the books of Moses, used present tense language in Moses’ day to describe God’s relationship with predecessors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “I Am,” the Son said of Himself and the Father, meaning when Moses was alive, so was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After the grave, all men shall live again and give account of themselves to God. Even the first books of the Bible, which the Sadducees said they believed, proved Jesus’ point. Score one for the Messiah in this battle for the Bible.
And it is not just the books of Moses, but all of Holy Scripture, the inspired words of the Old and New Testaments, is the authoritative law of almighty God. Some civic laws, like levirate marriage and prohibitions against eating pork and shellfish, were meant momentarily for Old Covenant Israel. All moral laws, like those governing the sanctity of marriage and prohibitions against adultery, murder, dishonesty, and idolatry are as serious and binding today as when they were when first presented by God through the prophet Moses, and we break them to the disgrace of God and the dissolution of civilized society. God’s word is God’s word and those who break it shall give an account of themselves to God. If this makes me backwoods, then all I have to say is, “Howdy, y’all.”
The Sadducees really didn’t know and trust Scripture. Secondly, they were woefully weak in their understanding of “the power of God.” What is the power of God? According to sacred Scripture, it is the gospel (ref. Romans 1:16). The gospel declares that there is a resurrection of the just and the unjust, and Heaven and Hell await. The gospel declares that Christ came to be crucified, rise again from the dead, and give all who believe in Him forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. The gospel declares that all who ignore Jesus or reject the gospel will suffer everlasting death, worse than the imagination can dream. And higher than our imaginations can soar (ref. 1 Corinthians 2:9), is the reality of a Heaven in which we will live together forever with the Lord, in relationships richer than the best marriages on earth, where we will be one bride for one brother, our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
And the best glimpse of Heaven we get in the Bible, in the very last book, tells us that Heaven is not for scoffers and Sadducees, but for people bound to the word of God and the gospel. The Lord Jesus Christ, standing on that day right in front of the Sadducees, is the personification of both the word and the gospel. If you had to choose today between the smart, socially acceptable Sadducees, or the rough-around-the-edges Jesus of Nazareth, what would be your choice?
A Surprising Choice
So, would you rather be smart or spiritual? I’m sure it pays to be both, and we probably don’t have as much control over either one as we would like to think. However, we can choose to read and think and educate our minds. We can choose to hear the word of God and the gospel and make affirmative decisions.
What did the people choose on this day of debate between the Sadducees and Jesus? We cannot be sure, it only says they were “astonished at [Jesus’] teaching.” The term, found about a dozen times in the Gospels, literally means to be taken aback, surprised, perhaps even shocked. What it does not say, explicitly, is that they repented and believed Jesus’ teaching. If they had, I do not suppose the Sadducees, along with the Pharisees and Herodians, with the help of the Romans, would have see Jesus dead within forty-eight hours. The people, the Sadducees, and the Lord Jesus Christ ultimately all make their choice and took their stand. But where are they all standing now?
Years ago I served a church where many of the members were doctors, lawyers, educators, and business leaders in the community. A group within the church, led by a leading lady, opposed my leadership bitterly. I tried not to take it personally, for they were against me before they ever even got to know me. They decided, or she decided for them, that since I graduated from a state university and an independent seminary, that I was not intellectually astute and Baptist enough to be their pastor.
As my ministry began to unfold there, her opposition did begin to get personal. She insulted me to my face in conversations, slandered me to other church members, and taped our televised church services in a failed effort to try to paint me as some backwoods fundamentalist. In our conversations she admitted to, among other things, a wholehearted support for abortion on demand, a sheer hatred of the Apostle Paul, a disbelief in the authority of all of Holy Scripture, and a general disagreement and disdain for my love of the gospel of grace. I read recently where she died. In the resurrection, whose wife she will be?
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org