Partial outline: FULL PDF HERE

Matthew 23:16-23
Most modern ministers who only emphasize the positive aspects of Jesus’ teaching, avoid Matthew 23 like the plague. In Matthew 23, Christ
denounces the religious leaders of Israel as hypocrites for their outward show of religion, but had no inward heart for God. They failed to discern what is most important in their religious activities.

They were doing involved what was going on at the temple. The Temple was built for God (Ex. 25:8). God always desired to live among us, but He could not because of our sinful condition. So, He authorized the building of a “sanctuary”—a sanctified place—a place set apart—so He might dwell there among His people.

Approaching the Temple there was a wall, surrounding the Temple. Inside there was a holy place, and further inside was the Holy of Holies
where God met with the High Priest of the people. Obviously, the only thing that made this “building” sacred was the presence of God. Without God, the temple was just another building.

In the New Testament, every believer is the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). Apart from God dwelling in your body, you are just another lump of animated dirt that will one day return to dust.

I. Their DISTORTED values (vs. 16-22)— “…whether is greater…”

  • To “swear” meant to make an oath, promise, or vow to do a certain thing. It was actually a conditional curse a person would call down
    on himself from God if he did not keep his promise.
  • The Pharisees perverted the Scriptures to create a “loophole” to make an oath non-binding.

They taught if someone swore by the temple or the altar, they would not have to keep their promise. [Like making a promise with their fingers crossed.] But if a man swore by the gold in the temple or the gift on the altar, he was bound to keep that promise. This was entirely a man-made regulation motivated by greed. The Pharisees wanted the gold and the gift for themselves.


A. GOLD versus the temple (vs. 16-17). 

1. “The temple that sanctifieth the gold”— To sanctify means to make sacred/holy/set apart. Gold had no holiness in itself, but what it derived from it’s attachment to the temple. In any other place, it would be just a piece of gold. It was foolish, to think the gold was more holy than the temple, from which it received it’s sanctity.
2. The Pharisees elevated the gold over the Temple because they were covetous (Luke 16:14). The Temple was not as important
to them as the gold was (Ex. 37:2, 11, 22, 23). To them, the gold was worth more than the purpose of the Temple— The worship of God. These men were not interested in worshiping God—they were greedy for gain.

B. GIFTS versus the altar (vs. 18-19).

1. What was more important, the gift or the altar that the gift is placed upon? Christ teaches the same lesson as the gold/ Temple scenario—The Pharisees could not eat the altar, but they could eat the “gift” offered on the altar.

2. Their “god” was their belly (Phil 3:19).

C. GOD who is over all (vs. 20-22).

1. The Pharisees magnified the worth of the gold and gifts above God. The temple, altar, and heaven are more than all the gifts and gold in the world. God is above all.

2. The altar is holier than the gift on it. The Temple is holier than the altar. Heaven is holier than the Temple. And the God that made it (Acts 7:48-50) is holier than all.

3. Therefore, the Pharisees’ distinction about what is RIGHT to swear by, and what is wrong, is nothing but irreverent nonsense.

Partial outline: FULL PDF HERE

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