Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Pharisees and Sadducees
Pastor Frank Greer
Mt 16:5-12
What does the world in which we live look like? How does it compare with first century Israel? While the differences are many, there are also many similarities. It was in a very culturally diverse setting that the church was birthed by our Lord Jesus. In its early days, the church was pressed on every side by many different religions, philosophies, and cultures. All of them tried to force the church and its people to conform to their various points of view. The church withstood those pressures and grew to influence its world in a powerful way. It is no different for the church of today. In today’s passage Jesus cautions His disciples about allowing ungodly perspectives to creep into their lives. The warning of Jesus to His disciples today is just as pertinent and real as it was those two thousand years ago. Let’s look together at the Pharisees and the Sadducees to see what the Lord would teach us about how we are to live in today’s world.

Leaven – Jesus cautioned us to beware of the leaven, that is, the teachings, or way of life, of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
A definition: A substance, typically yeast, that is added to dough to make it rise. Metaphorically of inveterate mental and moral corruption, viewed in its tendency to infect others. (Thayer) Leaven starts small and grows big.

1) While their origins are uncertain, the Sadducees appear to have risen from the priestly families of the Jerusalem aristocracy.
2) Sadducees controlled the priesthood and most political affairs, dominating the Sanhedrin (Ac 5:17).
3) The Sadducees were the party of the status quo, content with the order and stability brought by Rome.
4) The Sadducees were more open to Hellenistic influence than the Pharisees.
5) They considered only the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) to be Scripture.
6) The Sadducees were not looking for the Messiah of the line of David, as he would be a threat to their political position.
7) Sadducees did not believe in:
• Any kind of predestination (Ro 8:29-31).
• The immortality of the soul (1Co 15:12-22).
• Angels or spirits (Ac 23:8).
8) The Sadducees were essentially all about political control, influence, and self-preservation. They had allowed the prevailing culture to shape them and mold them into its image.

It is no small wonder that Jesus cautioned us against their teaching (way of Life). They allowed secularism to dominate how they lived.

Ask yourself:
1) Have I allowed my culture to shape me too much?
2) Have I given in to the pressure of secular humanism in areas of my life?
3) Have I subscribed to the prevailing political perspectives of the world around me?

Pharisees – the term is probably derived from the Hebrew word for separatists (perushim)
1) It is believed that the Pharisees arose from the Hasidim, the pious jews who fought with the Maccabees against Antiochus Epiphanes (175-163 BC) – Strauss
2) While the Sadducees were mostly upper class aristocrats, the Pharisees were primarily middle class. Hence they were more favored by the common people of Israel than were the Sadducees.
3) Pharisees believed in:
• The resurrection of the dead (Ac 23:8).
• The coming of the Messiah
• The authority of Scripture
Note: The beliefs of the Pharisees were quite close theologically to Jesus’ teachings. Yet they were completely at odds with Jesus when it came to matters of the heart.
4) Jesus condemned the Pharisees for:
• Raising their traditions to the level of Scripture (Mk 7:5-8).
• Hindering people from entering the kingdom of God (Mt 23:13).
• Being more concerned about ceremonial purity than for purity of heart (Mt 23:25-26).
• Looking down on those who were not just like them (Lk 18:9-14).
• Holding on to their practices and traditions instead of reaching out to and caring about people (Mt 23:23-24).
• Saying one thing and doing another (Mt 23:2-3).
• For hypocrisy - Luke 12:1b “He began saying to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’”

Ask yourself:
1) Have I judged others based on race, age, gender, or income?
2) Have I talked a good talk, but not necessarily walked a walk consistent with my talk?
3) Have I looked down on others for incorrect behavior while being guilty of the same kind of behavior?
4) Have I been careful to tithe while ignoring justice, mercy, and faithfulness?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Jesus says to clean the inside of the cup so that the outside may be clean also.

Our Challenge Today
Today we are living as if in exile in a modern-day Babylon.
What do we do?
1) Repent of any unrighteous attitudes that may have crept in and grown over time.
2) Believe
• Our modern day Babylon is an opportunity instead of a problem.
• The people around us are ripe harvest fields instead of pains in the neck.
• That God is speaking to younger generations just like Eli realized God was speaking to Samuel.
3) Pray
• The Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers.
• That we will break any generational roadblocks in our church family.
• Pray for God to grow Christ’s love in us.
4) Engage
• Our world
• Our workplace
• Our church family
• Discipleship
- The Word of God
- This will enable us to go out into the world and impact it. The Word of God is alive and transforms people. We know this because it has happened to us.
- When we are full of God’s Word, it naturally flows out of us without a lot of effort.
- Discipline
- We must be willing to allow our faith to cost us something.
- The disciplines of Christianity are for our good, not to keep us from having fun.

Discussion Questions
1) What did God speak to me about spiritual leaven in my own life?
2) What will I do about it?
3) What steps will I take to clean the inside of my cup?

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