The Leaven of Doctrine

 1The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

 2He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.

 3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

 5And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

 6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:1-6, King James Version)

 11How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

 12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:11-12, King James Version)

Last time, we spoke about the leaven of the Pharisees, which Jesus identified as hypocrisy.  Here, we see the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and Jesus here identifies it as false doctrine.

Jesus wasted no time calling them hypocrites, though.  Notice how in this passage, hypocrisy and false doctrine are linked.  One feeds upon the other.  And you know, it is difficult to have hypocrisy without false doctrine and it is difficult to have false doctrine without hypocrisy.  Both involve a type of falsehood.  Both involve deceiving and being deceived.

The Pharisees were criticized by Jesus because they replaced God’s commands with traditions of their own.  It wasn’t enough that God said to not work on the Sabbath.  They had to make up rules for how far a man could walk, whether or not he could carry a light sleeping mat and other such things.  In a very real sense, they were trying to be more righteous than God.  How crazy is that?

Jesus warned, “Take heed that ye be not deceived” (Lk 21:8).  Paul wrote, “Let no man deceive himself” (1Co 3:18), and later he states in the emphatic, “Be not deceived” (1Co 6:9; 15:33).  John wrote, “Let no man deceive you” (1Jn 3:7).  We are commanded to not be deceived.

Does this mean we will always get every little point correct?  No.  That’s why we must learn and grow.  However, as HWA used to say, “The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.”  If someone in order to prove a point has to deduct from the extrapolation of the deduction, then something is wrong.  This doesn’t mean we don’t put together passages that belong together, but it does mean we have an obligation to do so responsibly.  Putting together unrelated passages with our own ideas does not good hermeneutics make.

Let’s be blunt, shall we?  When we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say, we are telling God what to do and what to be like.

That’s why there’s a section of Scripture on doubtful disputations.  There are things that cannot be disputed, while there are other things are frankly about as clear as mud.  What do you do in that instance?  You do the best you can and move on, but don’t expect everyone around you to see eye-to-eye on some things.

However, discerning between the plain things and the doubtful disputations is something we all need to work on the rest of our lives.  We need to make sure we have our nose in God’s word and be on our knees asking for guidance in all things.


  1. I believe the toughest nut to crack in the several scriptures you cited is, “Let no man deceive himself” (1Co 3:18).

    It’s one thing to concider another person or group of people as, “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” (1Tim 1:7) It’s another thing when a person does claim such a thing about someone else and in the end it turns out to be false. Then who becomes the one ‘desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm’?

  2. @Norbert: Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of that. Being judgmental against persons or groups will inevitably backfire, though.