Matthew 23:1-12

Talks for Growing Christians

The Lord’s Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees for their Hypocrisy and Heavy Demands on the People

Matthew 23:1-12

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Lesson Number 62

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Don’t confuse religious orthodoxy with eternal salvation.
  2. Don’t confuse religious clericalism with spiritual authority.
  3. Don’t confuse religious fame with genuine greatness.

Practical Application

  1. Are you a great Christian?


  1. Who were the multitudes Jesus was speaking to in this passage?
  2. What does it mean that “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” (Matthew 23:2) ?
  3. What are phylacteries? Did the Lord condemn the practice of wearing phylacteries?
  4. What is clericalism?
  5. What is the measure of greatness in God’s eyes?


  1. Jesus was speaking in the temple courts to the Passover crowd which had gathered from all over Israel and the Roman Empire.
  2. They had proudly set themselves up as the official teachers and interpreters of the Mosaic Law.
  3. Phylacteries are small boxes containing portions of Hebrew scripture that Jewish men bind to their foreheads. Jesus did not condemn the practice of wearing phylacteries, but He did condemn the Pharisees for making their phylacteries conspicuously large to draw attention to their piety.
  4. Clericalism is the principle of maintaining the power of a religious hierarchy. It puts mere human beings on religious pedestals and considers them to be in a higher spiritual class.
  5. Serving others in the name of Christ.


  1. The Scribes and Pharisees tried to impress others with their piety and religious actions. But their outward show did not match their inward reality. Discuss why it is easy to fall into the trap of living your Christian life to be noticed by others. How can you safeguard against this?
  2. Discuss the world’s measure of greatness. Does this match up with the Lord’s standard? Discuss how Christendom is even affected by the world’s standard of greatness. Genuine greatness involves serving others in the name of the Lord. Don’t confuse religious fame with genuine greatness.


  1. We have all heard someone say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” This is an incredibly unbiblical idea. As Christians we are to live with integrity as our actions match up with our words. How are you doing in this area? Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) ?

Key Verses

  • “But all their works they do to be seen by men.” Matthew 23:5
  • “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

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