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Surviving the Leaven of Hypocrisy - Part One

February 16, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Hypocrisy Verse: Luke 12:1–12:12

Theme: The fear of the Lord produces integrity in the believer.

I. The Importance of Overcoming Hypocrisy – 12:1

A. The Illusory Impression of Hypocrisy

  • Our text begins with the statement: “Under these circumstances …” – a reference to the environment of hostility between Jesus and the religious hypocrites He had just denounced.
  • As news of the intensity of the exchanges between the religious leadership and Jesus spread, more and more people came out to watch the “fireworks.” 
  • Luke states: “… after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying …”
  1. “so many thousands” [μυριάδων] – is the largest number able to be written in Greek – and means “a very large, innumerable number” of people.
  2. The aggressiveness of the people as “… they were stepping on one another” – shows that they were crowding and jockeying for a better position.
  3. It was a mob scene that everyone came to hear a Rabbi teaching about love, peace, and selflessness, while pushing one another, shoving, and selfishly seeking advantage over one another.
  • Luke seems to include this as yet another example of hypocrites who project spiritual interest while truly only seeking to promote themselves.
  • A “hypocrite” [ὑπόκρισις] – is a person who pretends to be something they are not – originally, the word was used of an actor who played a role on stage using a mask – cp. Mark 7:6.
  1. They are more concerned with the flaws in others than in themselves – Matthew 7:4-5.
  2. They are defensive if a person bores in one of their flaws – John 8:39-41.
  3. As we mentioned in the last section, they hide from God and others through the façade of righteousness that they project – cp. 2 Timothy 3:5.

B. The Intrusive Influences of Hypocrisy

  1. Jesus “… began saying to His disciples first of all …” – indicating that He wanted to ensure that they heard and it registered what He was saying.
  2. He then describes the intrusive influences of hypocrisy – “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
  3. “Beware” [προσέχω] – conveys the idea of “guard against” or “pay attention to” (lit. “to have close” for inspection) meaning that one must not allow hypocrisy to creep into one’s modus operandi.
  4. The Pharisees’ influences on the people was a corrupting influence – compared to “leaven” [ζύμη] – the permeation of their hearts with the notion that their own righteousness and external “behavior” is adequate to be acceptable in the eyes of God.
  5. Like “leaven,” “hypocrisy” constantly intrudes throughout the outlook of a person like the yeast penetrates until the entirety of the lump of dough is leavened.


  1. In what ways can you identify that hypocrisy finds its way into your spiritual life?
  2. Explain the way leaven works … how is this spiritually applied? 
  3. Think back on a time when you were frustrated by the hypocrisy of someone toward you, what about that was most disturbing to you and why?

II. The Instruction on Overcoming Hypocrisy – 12:2-10

A. Accountability to the Father – vv. 2-7

  • Jesus doesn’t merely warn us with the idea that we will have to fend for ourselves against this intrusive, permeating influence.
  • He provides three general principles that will enable a person to avoid being a hypocrite: Recognize your “accountability” to the Father, engage in “adoration” of the Son, and “assent” to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
  • First, Jesus teaches us that if we are going to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” we will need to realize our accountability to the Father.
  1. First, He knows everything about you and you are unable to “get away” with anything – “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” – cp. 1 Corinthians 4:5.
  2. Second, the very things that we say or do in secret, God not only knows about it, but He will make sure that everyone else knows about it as well – “Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
  3. Essentially, God promises to rip the masks off that we so commonly think we can hide behind.
  4. Third, what motivates us to project self-righteousness to impress other people is useless because those people do not determine your eternal destiny – “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”

    a. The fear of the Lord is the foundation for holy living – described as the beginning of wisdom – cp. Proverbs 9:10.

    b. Essentially, the fear of the Lord is the apprehension of the peril that belongs to sinners in their sin, and the appreciation for the safety of those who are in Christ.

    c. When my behavior begins to align with those in peril, I scramble back to the safety that belongs to those in the care of the Redeemer – cp. Proverbs 8:13.

  5. Finally, God knows about every detail of your life, not merely the ones that you are willing to disclose; His knowledge of absolute – “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
  • While these truths are a source of great comfort for believers, they cause great distress in the minds of unbelievers – God knows exactly how unworthy all of us are of His mercy.



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