Bible croppedContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 20:45-47

Beware of the Scribes

45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

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My previous entry on December 13, 2014, discusses Jesus’s conversation with the scribes — theological lawyers — on the same day, thought to be Wednesday of what we call Holy Week.

This passage immediately follows. Jesus warns His disciples against the scribes (verses 45, 46). Last year, when I wrote about Luke 11:39-44, I included John MacArthur’s helpful explanation of the scribes’ responsibilities. In short, they exercised the application of Jewish law in daily life. They were powerful men and had a certain celebrity status. They were legalist lords of the manor and expected to be treated as such. They were also Pharisees. However, whilst all scribes were Pharisees, not all Pharisees qualified as being scribes.

Jesus criticises the scribes for their distinctive attire, expectation of people fawning over them, having the most prominent seats in the synagogue and at feasts. He adds that they help themselves to widows’ property and are known for their lengthy prayers (verse 47). For this, He says, they will receive greater condemnation in divine judgement.

The mention of widows describes the practice of a religious elder overseeing — ‘protecting’ — them by visiting them and encouraging their hospitality. That would have entailed money, food, drink and material goods.

Matthew Henry says that our Lord’s message to the disciples is two-fold, even if they are unaware they will soon be shepherds of His Church. First, the disciples are not to imitate the scribes in any way. Secondly, they must not bring problems for themselves involving the scribes (emphases mine):

1. “Take heed of being drawn into sin by them, of learning their way, and going into their measures beware of such a spirit as they are governed by. Be not you such in the Christian church as they are in the Jewish church.”

2. “Take heed of being brought into trouble by them,” in the same sense that he had said (Matthew 10:17), Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils beware of the scribes, for they will do so. Beware of them, for,” (1.) “They are proud and haughty. They desire to walk about the streets in long robes, as those that are above business (for men of business went with their loins girt up), and as those that take state, and take place.”

John MacArthur says that the warning against following or acting as the scribes did holds true for us, whether we are laity or clergy. False teachers fall into the scribe category as do preachers who insist that church members donate a certain amount of money for their personal upkeep. Such men pose as being religious but are in fact religious frauds.

For this, they will be severely condemned, particularly because they purported to be men of God:

Greater, perissoteron, it’s a comparative, krima, judgment.  Perissoteron, “a far greater, an excessive, a more abundant,” or if you will, “an extraordinary” condemnation, more than the usual.  Religious people get a greater damnation, not a lesser one.  Far from pleasing God somehow because they’ve lived up to whatever truth they had, they receive a greater condemnation, especially if they’ve trampled underfoot the blood of the covenant and counted it an unholy thing, Hebrews 10:29-31, rejected Christ.

The idea is clear.  If you’re in the wrong religion, you’re going to be condemned.  If you’re a purveyor of the wrong religion, you’re going to receive a far greater suffering and damnation in hell.  They’re dangerous.  Be warned.  They’re hypocrites.  They’re worthy of condemnation.  Compassion?  Yes.  Gospel?  Give them the gospel.  Pray for their salvation.  Have a sad heart.  But in the end, we have nothing to learn from false teachers and false religions.  And they must know that they are under sentence of divine condemnation.  They must know for their sake and the sake of those who need to be protected from them. 

May we pray for discernment in our choice of church and pastors whose teachings we follow. May none of them be scribes.

Next time: Luke 21:1-4

 

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