Woe to Religious Proselytizers: Matthew 23:15
““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭15‬
This woe is directed toward making followers of self rather than followers of God. The Pharisees were committed to traveling far and wide to find a student, but then they would turn them into disciples of hell instead of disciples of heaven. Religion can be intoxicating.
Saul of Tarsus is a prime example of this system. He was young and zealous and was surpassing his contemporaries in what he thought was service of God, but it led him down the path of becoming a mercenary. He oversaw the stoning of Stephen as recorded in Acts 7:54-8:1. Then he orchestrated a ferocious persecution against the early Christians. (Acts 8:1-3) The entire time, he was deceived into thinking that he was serving God!
His whole understanding of the Law was bent around justifying his actions. (See Philippians 3:4-6) His devotion to “religion” made him an enemy of God. His story stands as an example of this woe Jesus pronounced on the Pharisees. They were religious, but throughout the four gospels they were the critics and enemies of Jesus. They eventually crucified Him!
Saul’s conversion is recorded in Acts 9:1-9. When Jesus appeared to him, he posed the question; “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Another way of asking that question might be; “Saul, Saul, why are you fighting against God?”
But wait, Saul was devoutly religious. He had volumes of zeal. How could someone so sincere be so deceived? How did he get so far off track?
We could ask the same question of many religious zealots today. Pick whichever world religion you want and I will show you many proselytes of hell. Like Saul, they lead the charge against the gospel and the true God. They feed on the blood of born-again believers. They may be devout, religious and sincere… but they are tragically wrong. This has been the case throughout history.
“Blind religion” is Satan’s playground. He uses it to deceive people and obscure the truth. It is bathed in the blood of the martyrs. So what is the answer?
It boils down to the simple gospel and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what converted Saul of Tarsus into the Apostle Paul. That is the narrow gate that every true child of God must enter through into heaven. (See Matthew 7:13-14) Don’t let anyone or anything block your way through that gate! Woe to the religious proselytizes!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global