Believing Sound Doctrine isn’t Enough - The Warrior's Journey®

Believing Sound Doctrine isn’t Enough

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. Therefore, all that they tell you, do and observe.  But do not do according to their deeds. For they do not practice what they preach.’” (Matthew 23:2). 

It is a disturbing fact that Jesus’ most virulent enemies were not the sexually immoral, the thieves, or the flagrant sinners. Jesus’ worst enemies were the religious leaders of His day – the scribes and Pharisees. These were, in fact, the fundamentalists of their time. Doctrine for doctrine, they most closely matched Jesus’ teaching. 

Unlike the Sadducees – who didn’t believe in the afterlife or in the spiritual world – and rejected most of the Scripture, the Pharisees were very conservative in their theology. They honored the whole of Scripture. They believed in a future resurrection, a rewarding of the righteous, and a judgment of the wicked. Jesus shared all these same beliefs. Why, then were they so hostile to Jesus? 

Jesus explains why in this chapter. However, Jesus does not take issue with the Pharisees’ teaching – except in vv.16-22. And even here the Pharisaical teaching isn’t the issue, but the greed behind it.   

The majority of Christ’s condemnation had to with the Pharisees’ actions and attitudes: 

  • Self-Exaltation (vv. 2, 11-12; Luke 14:7-11; 18:9-14). 
  • Hypocrisy (vv. 3, 13-15, 25, 27, 29). 
  • Love for Men’s Praise rather than God’s (vv. 5-12). 
  • Spiritual Obstinacy (v.13). 
  • Greed (v.14, 16-24; Mark 12:40; Luke 16:14; 20:47). 
  • Heartlessness (vv. 4, 23-24). 
  • Religious Appearance over Inner Purity (vv. 25-28). 
  • Unrepentance (vv. 29-33). 

In their day the Pharisees were closer to Jesus doctrinally than any other religious sect. Yet they proved to be Jesus’ fiercest enemies. Humility, inner purity, mercy, love, and godliness were absent from their lives, but must be present in ours. Yes, believing in sound doctrine is not enough in itself. Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17). 


  • Do you pride yourself in being “doctrinally sound”? Is pride ever appropriate in the light of Christ’s humility and the grace of God? 
  • With whom is your heart more compatible? Jesus or the Pharisees? 
  • Let’s pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart … see if there be any hurtful way me and lead me in the way eternal.”

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