Since I have had very little time to write new material the last few days, I’ve tried to post some edifying material that resonates with the spirit in which I started this project. Today’s extended quote comes from the venerable J.C. Ryle in a paper he wrote on the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. I wish I remembered where I came across this; I’d give you the link. For now, though, this will have to do…
“Be careful,” Jesus said to them.
Be on your guard against the yeast
of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ was not speaking to men who were worldly, ungodly, and unsanctified, but to His own disciples, companions, and friends. He addressed men who, with the exception of the apostate Judas Iscariot, were right-hearted in the sight of God. He spoke to the twelve Apostles, the first founders of the Church of Christ, and the first ministers of the Word of salvation. And yet even to them He addressed the solemn caution of our text: “Be careful and be on your guard.”
There is something very remarkable in this fact. We might have thought that these Apostles needed little warning of this kind. Had they not given up all for Christ’s sake? They had. Had they not endured hardship for Christ’s sake? They had. Had they not believed Jesus, followed Jesus, loved Jesus, when almost all the world was unbelieving? All these things are true; and yet to them the caution was addressed: “Be careful and be on your guard.” We might have imagined that at any rate the disciples had little to fear from the “yeast of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” They were poor and unlearned men, most of them fishermen or tax collectors; they had no desire to follow the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; they were more likely to be prejudiced against them than to feel any drawing towards them. All this is perfectly true; yet even to them there comes the solemn warning: “Be careful and be on your guard.”
There is useful counsel here for all who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. It tells us loudly that the most eminent servants of Christ are not beyond the need of warnings, and ought to be always on their guard. It shows us plainly that the holiest of believers ought to walk humbly with his God, and to watch and pray so that he won’t fall into temptation, and be overtaken with sin. None is so holy, that he can’t fall–not ultimately, not hopelessly, but to his own discomfort, to the scandal of the Church, and to the triumph of the world: none is so strong that he cannot for a time be overcome. Chosen as believers are by God the Father, justified as they are by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit–believers are still only men: they are still in the body, and still in the world. They are ever near temptation: they are ever liable to misjudge, both in doctrine and in practice. Their hearts, though renewed, are very feeble; their understanding, though enlightened, is still very dim. They ought to live like those who dwell in an enemy’s land, and every day to put on the armor of God. The devil is very busy: he never slumbers or sleeps. Let us remember the falls of Noah, and Abraham, and Lot, and Moses, and David, and Peter; and remembering them, be humble, and be careful so that we don’t fall.
The books that are read in many quarters are most mischievous, and the tone of thought on religious subjects, among many classes, and especially among the higher ranks, is deeply unsatisfactory. The plague is abroad. If we love life, we ought to search our own hearts, and try our own faith, and make sure that we stand on the right foundation. Above all, we ought to take heed that we ourselves do not drink the poison of false doctrine, and go back from our first love.
I feel deeply the painfulness of speaking out on these subjects. I know well that speaking plain about false doctrine is very unpopular, and that the speaker must be content to find himself being thought of as very uncharitable, very troublesome, and very narrow-minded. Thousands of people can never distinguish differences in religion. To the bulk of men a clergyman is a clergyman, and a sermon is a sermon, and as to any difference between one minister and another, or one doctrine and another, they are utterly unable to understand it. I cannot expect such people to approve of any warning against false doctrine. I must make up my mind to meet with their disapproval, and must bear it as I best can.
But I will ask any honest-minded, unprejudiced Bible reader to turn to the New Testament and see what he will find there. He will find many plain warnings against false doctrine:
“Watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15).
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8)
“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9).
“Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).
He will find a large part of several inspired epistles taken up with elaborate explanations of true doctrine and warnings against false teaching. I ask whether it is possible for a minister who takes the Bible for his rule of faith to avoid giving warnings against doctrinal error?
– J.C. Ryle