Truth Taught- We must be aware of and avoid false teaching in all its forms
Last time we looked at the Gospel of Matthew we saw the first part of this section. We looked intently at the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their teaching Jesus calls leaven. What He meant by this is that a small pinch of false doctrine will permeate the entire group or church. Their’s had permeated Judaism to the point that traditions had taken hold and had overshadowed what God had actually said. False teaching only needs to miss the mark by a little bit to create a complete system that is light years away from the original.
Picture this if you will…rain falls on the tin roof of a house. As the water runs down the roof to the west, it ends up in the Pacific Ocean and the water that runs off the east side ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. The drops of rain may only be an inch apart when they hit the ridge or peak of the roof but they end up thousands of miles apart. The same can be said of false doctrine. It may be just slightly off but as it penetrates and permeates the church it can lead us light years away from where we should be.
Galatians 1:6–9 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Why was Paul so serious about the church believing and preaching the one true Gospel? There is no salvation in any other Gospel. Nor is there salvation in a close to the original Gospel. It has to be the Gospel presented in the Bible and no other.
Some False Gospels In Churches Today
False Gospel 1: The Gospel of Permissive Grace
Many people have been rescued out of sterile, joyless, and performance-based Christianity when they learn that we are not only saved by grace, we are also daily renewed and accepted by grace. They have been delivered from a life of rules without relationship and outward compliance without joyful obedience. Grace, once understood, is truly amazing, not just for great sinners but also for struggling saints as well. But today we are witnessing a perversion of grace in what we can call the Grace Movement: teachers and preachers who offer people grace in advance, even before they are convinced they need it.
Today, many preachers say that “God loves you unconditionally” and “God loves you just as you are.” Unconditional love is interpreted as unconditional acceptance of one’s lifestyle.
God does not love everyone in the same way. He loves His people, those who are “in Christ” unconditionally, even as He loves His Son (John 17:20–23). In the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in The Epistles addressed to the Church/elect of God, we see God has an unconditional love for His people but not the same love for those who are not His. But this does not mean that God is always pleased with our conduct; nor does it mean that God does not discipline us for our waywardness. Although God is in some ways kindly disposed to everyone and in some ways loves the world (John 3:16).
False Gospel 2: The Gospel of Social Justice
In the early to mid twentieth century, many churches left off preaching the cross of Christ and replaced it with “doing good to their fellow man.” They justified their stance with verses from the Old Testament, such as “bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17) and similar texts in the New Testament, where Jesus taught that when we visit His followers in prison, we are visiting Him (Matthew 25:35–40). Social concerns replaced the finished work of Christ who died and rose again to save sinners, and the gospel of God saving us from sin was almost entirely neglected. In reaction, fundamentalists rejected the social gospel and, for the most part, confined themselves to the urgent need for individual conversion, neglecting the social implications of the gospel. They reacted too far the other direction saying social issues are not important at all.
History is repeating itself today, but with a different twist. Many today have chosen to devote themselves to social justice, and sadly, many of them have abandoned the doctrine of personal faith and repentance and opted for what they see as a more practical gospel, helping the poor and needy.
We are commanded to live radically like Christ, committing ourselves to the needs of others, body, soul, and spirit. But we must serve with a redemptive mindset, always seeking for opportunities to build bridges to the Gospel. We need gospel-driven social work that serves people because they are needy and because we want them to trust in Christ.
False Gospel 3: The Gospel of New Age Spirituality
Many today gravitate to groups where they can be personally involved in honest sharing, caring for the poor, and ongoing relationships. They are a “seeking” generation and uncomfortable with being told what to believe but are committed to finding a faith that is right for them.
These people are open to seeking spiritual experiences independently of Bible doctrine. Thus, in order to be more relevant, New Age spirituality, which is widely accepted in many churches, is often taught alongside biblical teaching in our evangelical churches and seminaries. In many instances, the textbooks used contain New Age teachings based on mystical experiences of God rather than the Scriptures.
Such books are popular because they present God as more accessible, more easily experienced without much need for specific Bible doctrines. However, we have to teach our people that the only sure knowledge we have of God is based on Scripture, which must be believed whether we experience God or not. Only in the Scriptures do we have a reliable guide to lead us to encounter God and salvation. Sometimes we have no experience of God at all but, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
False Gospel 4: The Gospel of My Sexual Preference
The Gospel must say what the Bible says. We must gain our knowledge of God from the Scriptures and nowhere else. Many pastors fear that a loving but firm stand against same-sex relationships would brand your church as a hate group, and thus do damage to the gospel, put yourself in the shoes of the apostle Paul: just reread,
Romans 1:24–32 (ESV)
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
We must also remember he was writing to a church within a culture that was prevalent with defiling sexual sins of every sort. Yet he wrote candidly about God’s view of homosexual relationships, knowing his letter would be read publicly to the congregation. He knew that truth hurts, but it also heals.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (ESV)
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
False Gospel 5: The Gospel of Religious Inclusion
Our culture and some churches have chosen to submit to Islam for example, and there’s pressure on the church to follow suit.
Under the appearance of tolerance, love, and some would even say, evangelism, Muslims are being invited into churches to present a special revised version of Islam. Interfaith dialogue in the church gives Muslim leaders an uncontested platform to speak publicly and invites them to present a version of Islam that simply does not exist in Muslim countries. Nor is it based on Islam’s history or its foundational writings.
If a church wants to learn what Islam believes, why not invite a convert out of Islam to come into a church and share his/her story?
This is the time for us to remember the words of Jesus to His disciples: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
False Gospel 6: New Covenant Theology
This has other names: New Perspective on Paul, The New Calvinism,
New Covenant Theology positions vary, but essentially, it is the idea that with the coming of the shed blood and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the Moral Law of God or the Ten Commandments are not the enduring standard of righteousness for the believer to Glorify God.
Whereas the Grace of God that saves in the Gospel, now reigns in the believer (see Romans 5:21) and commands us to obey the same Lord who gave us His Law. Remembering that God had long before promised to write His Laws upon hearts of flesh. See Jeremiah 31:33 and later confirmed in Hebrews 10:16. Grace must never be set up against God’s Law. In other words grace does not lead the believer to transgress God’s Law but rather the Grace and the Gospel leads us to frame our lives by the Law. Grace leads us to obey God’s Law. Thus the Gospel establishes the Law, in the believer’s heart and life. Romans 3:31
Samuel Bolton (1601-1654) wrote “The Law sends us to the Gospel for our justification; the Gospel sends us to the Law to frame our way of life”.
In every False Gospel there is human pride, a lack of biblical understanding, and hell at the end.
In our text today, Jesus warns His disciples of the false teaching, false Gospel or the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their false Gospel was a works salvation focusing on signs and wonders not on Jesus’ truth. If you remember, those who were also in this group were the many people who sought to drag Jesus into the limelight making Him their King in order to have things like food, shelter, and health. They did not want Jesus but more miracles. So, here is this continual theme of the evil and adulterous generation that continually wanted more than God’s Word even going so far as to want a sign.
Matthew 16:5–12 (ESV)
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
1. The Disciples Lack Understanding
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
All their lives the disciples had been taught to respect and listen to the Jewish Leadership. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the experts or so they had been taught. The influence of the leaven of false teaching had infected their perception of who Jesus was. Jesus would just perform another sign miracle and give them more bread. The fact that they all forgot to bring bread shows what their thinking was. I think Mark’s Gospel says that collectively they had one loaf between them. That is a clear indicator that they were leaning toward Jesus being a sign worker too. They forgot to bring bread. They had seven large man-sized baskets of bread left over from the feeding of the four thousand. Could their thinking have been, well we don’t need to worry about bringing bread along because Jesus can just make more. He just fed nine thousand plus women and children twelve should be a snap.
Their current mindset is a little in line with the crowd or even with the Pharisees and Sadducees who always wanted another sign. Jesus needs to drop them down another notch so He can build them up again. He needs to get them focused on Him and take away their preconceived ideas. He needed to remove them from their version of corrupt Judaism a little bit more.
I remember a line in the movie Hoosiers where Coach Dale when asked why he doesn’t let the players shoot the ball in practice says, I’ve got to tear them down so I can build them up. This is Jesus’ goal.
2. The Disciples Are Those of Little Faith
7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?
They are those of little faith but they are not like the Pharisees who had no faith. They were slowly growing into Christ likeness but they had not arrived yet.
I’m so encouraged by the disciples and the things they thought and said that showed their lack of knowledge. If they can be with Jesus and say and do dumb things then perhaps there is hope for us, right? Then, I’m thankful for Jesus’ patience also. He is patient with us who at times are also those of little faith.
So, they were wrong to assume Jesus would just produce food whenever they wanted it and they were wrong to think the conversation was really about bread at all.
3. The Disciples Were Stuck at the Lowest Truth
9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Up to this point, all the disciples could understand was what I’m calling the lowest truth, namely, that Jesus could miraculously produce food. But now is the time that they move up in their understanding of truth. It is true that Jesus can miraculously produce food. But it is also true that the bread from heaven is a pointer to Jesus, Himself being the Bread from Heaven. He is the Manna. He is the Bread that gives eternal life.
If they were to move forward from physical bread to the Bread of Life, they had to get this truth. They had to move past the basic understanding to the spiritual understanding. Yes Jesus can give them bread from heaven but the greater truth is this bread from heaven points to the real meaning that He is the Bread from Heaven.
John 6:33–40 (ESV)
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
4. The Disciples Were Made to Understand
12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Now they finally understand. This will prove to be a breakthrough for them. Now, they understand who Jesus truly is and why He came. It has taken multiple miracles, one on one teaching with Jesus, a discussion about the leaven of the Pharisees and a whole lot of patience on Jesus’ part. Now they see that their perception of Jesus was really close to that of those leaders who had no faith. They see that the leaven is, in fact, false teaching which focuses on the miraculous. The truth is that Jesus is the miracle. He is the manna. He is the Bread from Heaven. He is the Bread we need for eternal life not bread that simply fills us for a few hours.
Jesus taught them and He knew they were dependent on that teaching. I mean over and over again, He says to them, “Don’t you yet understand? Have I been so long with you, and you still don’t know who I am?” It seemed as though they were in a corrective state continually, but He patiently taught them. That’s the difference. We’re all blind, but those who are made to see are made to see because sovereignly, graciously, the Savior teaches them. Jesus makes them understand. In time they will receive the Holy Spirit and then they will remember all Jesus taught them.
John 14:26 (ESV)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Much of the challenge for them was that they needed to unlearn what they had been taught all their lives. Unlearning things that have been engrained from childhood is difficult.
It seems as if the disciples have moved forward in their faith…
The same is true of us, isn’t it? We have all, for the most part, come out of Catholic, Armenian, Ultra Fundamentalism type backgrounds. We see the truth in God’s Word on certain things but what we’ve already learned is different. It’s difficult for our minds to let go of false teaching and grab hold of truth.
Praise God that He is patient and by grace teaching us all truth.
Read the Word with prayer and thanksgiving and watch what God does.
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris