Beware of the leaven of Pharisees and false teachers in our midst

Let us read Mathew 15:1-20. Scribes and Pharisees, who were of Jerusalem, wanted to know from Jesus why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders for they washed not their hands when they ate bread. Jesus then posed a question to the Scribes and Pharisees, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition”. Then Jesus pointed out to them that by not honoring the parents, they broke the commandment of God by their tradition of telling their parents that the children were gifts of the latter. Then Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes, “ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The Scribes and Pharisees were adding to the commandment of God their own traditions. Instead of honoring the parents with service, they merely told the parents that what they (parents) would have gained from them was given to God, and they (children) need not honor their parents. The children were supposed to honor their parents by service and not to tell them that they were gifts of God that would benefit the parents in due course. It was merely a lip service but not a service through hands. The attitude to do such a service had to be emanated from their hearts. In the same manner, the Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem honored God with their lips but their heart was from Him. In vain they worshiped Him in the Temple but their heart was from Him. They taught for doctrines the commandments of men. They relegated the commandment of God to the background but worshiped Him in the Temple. Jesus made a clear distinction between the Old Testament, which was the commandment of God and the Pharisaic tradition, which consisted of merely human pronouncements.

Today, many false teachers in the Body of Christ are likened to the Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem. The Scribes and Pharisees were part of the Temple and were not outside the Temple. They were the teachers of law. They taught the law but added their traditions to it. Even today also, we find traditions of men laying emphasis on outward ceremonies. But their heart was far from God. They taught the law through their lips but taught their own traditions. If we observe every church or every Christian ministry, we can observe the same kind of teaching system of the Scribes and Pharisees.

I came across some messages wherein the women of God were condemned for not wearing the Jewish veils or for not covering their heads when they pray or prophesy, quoting Pauline epistle to the church in Corinth (I Cor.11:4 to 16). Kindly take the Bible in your hand and read it prayerfully. Ask the Lord to enlighten you through the Holy Spirit. We should know the context in which Paul wrote this letter and the spirit of his letter addressed to the women of God in the Corinthian church. He wanted the women of God to submit themselves to the authority of their husbands for which he desired them to have the symbolical cover of a veil when they pray or prophesy because "she dishonoureth the head", the husband. In the same letter, Paul addresses the men of God also that they should not cover their heads because "he is the image and glory of God". It was customary for the Jewish women to cover their heads in the temples in the first century. Please click here to read the interpretations of the Pauline epistle as given by the ESV Study Bible at

Paul has quickly moved from commendation (in v.2) to correction. Since a woman's head covering in first-century Roman society was a sign of marriage, Paul's practical concern in this passage is not with the relationship between women and men generally but with the relationship between husband and wife (head). It is sometimes said that this term (Gk. kephalē) means “source,” but in over 50 examples of the expression “person A is the head of person(s) B” found in ancient Greek literature, person A has authority over person(s) B in every case. Therefore it is best to understand “head” (kephalē) here as referring metaphorically to “authority” (see also Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 2:10). As with the authority of Christ over the church, this is not the self-centered exercise of power but leadership that takes care to serve the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the wife. See Mark 10:44–45; Eph. 5:23, 25–30.

Read 11:16 of I Cor. Paul says, "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God". "But" is very important. Ultimately, he says that if there is any contention on this issue, there is no such custom even in the churches of God. There should be no custom in the churches of God on the outward wearing of veils or on the outward appearance of men with a head cover. We do not read the Bible carefully but come to the conclusion after reading it in between the lines. If I write a letter to someone, that letter should be read from the salutation to the end. But if you pick up something from the middle of the letter and say something which I have not intended to convey, what does it show? This is the great tragedy with us today.

In temples, Hindu women put veils on their heads. I am mentoring some Sikh believers in Delhi. One of the young married girls is encouraged by me to prophesy or preach God's messages. If I quote the Pauline epistle to the women of God in the Corinth church, then I have to ask the Sikh men believers to remove their turbans. Please suggest what I have to do. These people have paid a heavy price for accepting Jesus Christ and today their testimony and spiritual lives are better than those who profess to be Christians for centuries. My wife puts a veil on her head in the church. It is a custom that we follow. How can I ask my sisters in the west to put veils on their heads in the church services. Please read Pauline letter to the women of God in the church of Corinth. He wants the women to have long hairs. Can we ask the women of God today to grow long hairs and not to have hair-cuts? Can we ask the men of God who have accepted the Lord from the Sikh background to cut their hairs and to remove their turbans? Jesus took the vow as a Nazarene and had a long hair. Sadhu Sundar Singh had long hair and a turban.

Pharisees found fault with the disciples of Jesus for not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus rebuked them for following some tradition. Why should we find fault with those girls and women who do not cover their heads? Legalism will harm the churches of God and will be a stumbling bloc to those new believers who have accepted the Lord from the religious backgrounds of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc.

Who are you and me to teach the people of God redeemed by the precious blood of God on their outward dress codes? How can I ask the women of God not to pierce their bodies or their ears for wearing ear-rings, quoting from the Word of God?

These false teachers say that this is the commandment of God to be followed by us. They just add up to the list of Old Testament laws. There are many sundry commandments from the Word of God applicable to the Jewish people of the Old Covenant regarding food habits. There were instructions to avoid contacting men who had been lepers (Lev.13: 44 to 46). "The leper should dwell alone : without the camp shall his habitation". Quoting the Bible, can we drive away the lepers from our towns today? Similarly, read the instructions about the uncleanness of issues in men in Lev.15th chapter. Can we follow these instructions today?

When I opposed some false teachers, someone who had not read the Bible about the meaning of wolves in sheep's clothing and the life of Judas pointed his finger of accusation at me as if I had taken away the Lord's sheep from the fold of the Great Shepherd (which the wolves in sheep's clothing do) and as if I had committed financial impropriety or betrayed the Lord Jesus like Judas? The judgment of these false teachers is also not righteous. They just read the Bible and know these phrases and names. Then they attack the people of God who speak the truth.

Of course, the women of God or the men of God are supposed to wear their dresses in a modest manner. It is again their cultures that define the limits of modesty.

Jesus has not given us any ministry of condemnation. The ministry of discernment is much different from the ministry of condemnation or unrighteous judgment.

Let us avoid such false teachers who take away the Lord's sheep from the fold of the Great Shepherd, teaching commandments of men. If we cannot convince these false teachers with our logical arguments, we had better avoid them. But let us continue to love them and to pray for them.

- Job Anbalagan