Blind Leaders of the Blind
Sometimes those who are followers do not realize that they are blind. They truly and honestly believe that those who are leading them and teaching them are solid, knowledgeable, trustworthy persons. For a variety of reasons, followers often follow without verifying what they are being told. Sometimes that’s just easier. But, when it comes to our eternal salvation, do we want to put our trust in a man or in the God of heaven?
In Matthew 15, Jesus had one of His many encounters with the Pharisees—a Jewish sect who were revered for their (supposed) knowledge of and strict adherence to the Law of God. The Pharisees were the largest Jewish sect of Jesus’ day, with many followers. However, what the Pharisees adhered themselves to was their own traditions, not the Law of God. (Read the parallel verses in Mark 7:1-4.) Jesus called them, “Blind leaders of the blind.”
They were “blind leaders of the blind” because they would “break the commandment of God for the sake of [their] tradition” (15:3). Any group today who is more focused on their manmade traditions and doctrines than they are on carefully following the doctrine of Christ fall in this same category.
They were “blind leaders of the blind” because they changed the nature, focus and basis of “worship” of God (15:7-9). First of all, the focus of the worship was more on the outward than on the inward. “Their heart” was “far from” God, even though they looked, on the outside, like they were honoring Him. Second, the basis of their worship was “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” which made their worship “vain.” True worship is “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). When either or both of these elements is absent or misrepresented, the worship is not acceptable to God.
They were “blind leaders of the blind” because they “were offended” at the teaching of Jesus and His truth, rather than being convicted by it (15:12). When individuals are not concerned with “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), but only focus on their own wishes and traditions, they will be offended when Jesus’ truth is taught to them.
Look carefully at what Jesus said about those who are blind leaders and those who are their followers. “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted,” and “both will fall into a ditch” (15:13-14). Many denominations, human doctrines and manmade practices have been “planted,” which are “not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). They may “seem right,” but their “end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). May God help us to not be a blind leader or a blind follower! Let us open our eyes to His one truth!
Thanks Be To God
The ninth chapter of Second Corinthians ends with an eight word expression of thanks - “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). What a succinct statement of the greatest gift ever given - Jesus Christ! As we examine these words, we will see three things.
The Gratitude for the Gift - Thanks
Thanks is a single word, but a powerful one. It is an acknowledgment of and an appreciation for a gift. Failure to say thanks is a serious offense. It was one of the sins for which God gave up the Gentiles (Rom. 1:21). It was a sin that was singled out by the Savior in Luke’s gospel. Who can forget the Lord’s question, “But where are the nine?” (Lk. 17:17). As you recall, ten lepers were cleansed, but only one, a Gentile, returned to give thanks to God (Lk. 17:18). Jesus noticed the sinful slight and He said something about it.
The Giver of the Gift - Be To God
James, the half-brother of Jesus, declared, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jam. 1:17). Of course, the best and the most perfect gift that God ever gave was the gift of His Son. In one of the most beloved verses of the Bible, John declared, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Thanks should be expressed to God as the giver of this gift and of every other one.
The Greatness of the Gift - For His Indescribable Gift
Imagine someone paying a huge debt for you. Perhaps, a debt that you could never pay. Imagine someone taking a beating for you. See them writhe in pain at the crack of the whip that was meant for you. Imagine someone giving you the gift of life. Think of someone giving a kidney, a lung, or a heart to save you. Imagine someone pulling you from a raging fire and saving you from a horrible death. Imagine someone freeing you from captivity. Maybe, rescuing you from the hands of cruel tormentors. Imagine someone dying for you. Picture a soldier covering a grenade with his own body. How would you put such actions into words? How would you say thank you to that person? Words would likely fail. As you know, Jesus did all of these things and more for us. Isaiah wrote, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5). In like manner, Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Again, Paul wrote, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).
Today, and every day, let us give thanks to God for the gift of His Son. Although we will fail to find words to adequately describe this gift, we must not fall to say thanks!
You Are Mistaken, Not Knowing the Scriptures
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the two major Jewish sects during the lifetime of Jesus. The Sadducees were more inclined toward the political matters of the day than they were the law of God (to which some Christians ought to take note today), but to their credit (at least in this small point), they followed a strict interpretation of the Pentateuch, as opposed to revering the oral traditions like the Pharisees. So, if anyone in that day would have had a good working knowledge of the books of Moses, it would have been the Sadducees—right?
In Matthew 22, right after the Pharisees tried to “entangle” Jesus (22:15-22), “The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him” (22:23). Notice how they begin their attempt to trap our Lord—they quote Scripture: “Teacher, Moses said…” (22:24). Then they proceeded to summarize the levirate marriage laws regulated by Moses in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, and then presented the Lord with an “impossible case” to solve in the implementation of that law, if there actually is a resurrection of the dead (which they did not believe). They were convinced that they (1) had indisputably proved their point and thus (2) had trapped Jesus in His own falsehood.
Look at how Jesus responds to their quotation and misapplication of Scripture: “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures” (22:29). They had taken a verse and completely misused that verse to teach something that GOD (i.e., the BIBLE) did not teach.
So, how did Jesus answer their error? He showed what the fullness of Scripture teaches. One verse of Scripture cannot (and does not) contradict another. The fullness of God’s Word must be gathered (Psa. 119:160) and handled accurately (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). Remember that the Sadducees only believed and followed the Pentateuch portion of the Old Testament. So, Jesus went to that section of Scripture and said, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” (22:31-32). Jesus said that God said this “TO YOU.” It’s in your Bible! By quoting Exodus 3:6, Jesus allowed Scripture to prove that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (22:32). The Bible clearly taught the resurrection!
When you get into a discussion with someone who has quoted a verse to you but the entirety of Scripture does not validate their conclusion from that one verse, Jesus taught us to use the fullness of Scripture. Let the Bible answer! It’s not “my verse versus your verse.” “The sum of God’s Word is truth!” The best commentary on the Bible is…the Bible!
Blessed is the Man
Wade Lee Webster
For several weeks we have been considering the attitude that we are to have in worship (John 4:23-24). To analyze and adjust our attitudes we have been examining the beatitudes of the Bible. This week we will consider Psalm 1:1-2: “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”
Blessed is the man who DEPARTS. The man being praised in this psalm departs from the ungodly, from sinners, and from the scornful. He doesn’t walk with them, stand with them, or sit with them. Please note the progressive, or better yet, digressive direction of these verbs - walk, stand, sit. First, you walk with the ungodly, then you stand with sinners, and finally, you end up sitting with the scornful. The blessed man of this psalm departs from their counsel, their course (way), and their contempt (scorn). We have to develop this man’s attitude or we can’t adore God acceptably in worship. We can’t fellowship the wicked all week and then worship God acceptably on Sunday. We can’t listen to the scornful all week and then honor God on Sunday.
Blessed is the man who DELIGHTS. The man being praised in this psalm delights in God’s word. The Hebrew word translated as delight refers to pleasure, longing, desire, and joy. The blessed man hungers and thirsts for God’s word (Mt. 5:6; 1 Pet. 2:2). He desires it more than physical food (Job 23:12). God’s word is his joy (Acts 2:41). It is the rejoicing of his heart (Psa. 19:8). He desires God’s word more than gold (Psa. 19:10). He seeks it as one would seek silver or hidden treasure (Prov.2:3-5). We have to develop this man’s attitude to adore God acceptably on Sundays. We can’t delight in worldly things for six days and then flip a switch on Sunday. We must delight in God’s word daily to be ready to worship on Sunday.
Blessed is the man who DELIBERATES. The man being praised in this psalm deliberates on God’s word. He isn’t deliberating to decide if God’s word is true or not. He knows that it is (Psa. 119:160; John 17:17). He is meditating on it to glean all that he can from it. He wants to understand God’s will (Psa. 119:27; Eph. 5:17). He is meditating on God’s word because He doesn’t want to miss what God is telling him (Mt. 22:29). We have to develop this man’s attitude to adore God acceptably on Sundays. Shallow study during the week leads to shallow worship on Sunday. To deepen our worship we have to deepen our study of God’s word.
As we get ready to worship this week, let’s follow the blessed man’s example of departing, delighting, and deliberating. If we will develop this man’s attitude, then our worship will be much more likely to be in spirit and in truth.
Using the Word “Tithe” in the Way the Bible Uses It
Many religious groups today urge (and some require) members to give their “tithe” to the church. How does the Bible use that word and how does it apply to us?
The word “tithe” literally means “ten, tenth.” We first read about the “tithe” during the Patriarchal Age of the Old Testament (Gen. 14:20; 28:22). Then, in the Mosaic Age, Jews were required to give a “tithe” of the land and livestock (Lev. 27:30-33), plus they made additional offerings (Deut. 14:22-29). So, the Jews gave much more than a tenth, but that was their starting point (Mal. 3:10).
When we come to the Christian Age (i.e., the dispensation under which we live today), there is not a single command for Christians to “tithe” and there is not any example of early Christians “tithing.” Every use of the term in the New Testament was a reference to the practice under Judaism, and we are no longer bound by the Old Testament law (Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 8:8-13; 10:1-11). Some people are surprised to learn that Christians are not told to “tithe,” as they have heard that term used so prevalently in some circles. Other folks are excited to hear that they are not required to give ten percent and will choose to give less than that. However, lest we totally misunderstand the teachings of the New Testament, let us examine what it teaches us.
First, consider the contrast that is made in the book of Hebrews between the old covenant (which specified a tithe) and the new covenant (which does not specify a tithe). The epistle describes the new covenant as a “better covenant” (7:22; 8:6), established on “better promises” (8:6) through “better sacrifices” (9:23) and offering a “better hope” (7:19). If the covenant under which we live is a superior covenant with superior blessings (than the old covenant), can we willfully give a percentage that is inferior to the ten percent required under the inferior covenant?
Second, consider the manner in which God speaks about the giving we are privileged to do under the new covenant. We are to give every Sunday (1 Cor. 16:1-2), as we “purpose in our hearts” (2 Cor. 9:7). That heart should give (1) proportionally to how God has blessed him (1 Cor. 16:2; 8:12), (2) bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6), (3) generously (Rom. 12:8), (4) cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7) and (5) happily (Acts 20:35). Paul praised some brethren who, in “their deep poverty,” “abounded in the riches of their liberality” and gave “beyond their ability” (2 Cor. 8:2-3). Why would they do that? Because they realized how much the Lord had blessed them (2 Cor. 8:9; 9:15)!
We are not commanded to “tithe” today, so we should not use that word. But, we have an opportunity to show the Lord “the sincerity of [our] love” by how and how much we give to Him (2 Cor. 8:8).