To Jesus the issue in Israel was not Roman occupation, the issue was Jewish religious corruption. The Lord is not concerned with the people's relationship to Rome, He is concerned with the people's relationship to God. That's an old word, one you may know only from medieval history, but heretics have not gone away. In fact, heresy is more widespread in the church today than you may realize.
So what does it look like? How did Jesus deal with enemies of God's truth and enemies of the gospel? And what should you take away from his example? Consider that today on Grace to You as John MacArthur begins a series that will show you how to talk to a heretic. That's the title, How to Talk to a Heretic.
Now John, that title, a pretty sharp edge there, but that's sort of the point, isn't it? There's a time when Christians, both pastors and laymen, need to be blunt. Yeah, that's a word you don't hear much today.
I mean, just having you say it is, wow, I haven't heard that in a while. Blunt would be, in some circles, considered hate speech, depending on what you were talking about or who you were talking about. But bluntness is a good thing if it simply means that you give the unexpurgated, unadorned truth of the Word of God. And of all times when you want to be blunt, all times when you want to speak the truth, it's when you're dealing with someone who falls into the category of a heretic, which is simply not – that's not necessarily a professional professor who teaches error or a cultist.
That's anybody who doesn't believe the truth. Anybody who denies the truth and believes something other than the truth is a heretic. And the Bible only knows one way to confront error, and that's with truth, right?
The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, that's the only weapon we have. So we're going to look at the subject of how to talk to a heretic, and you say, well, I don't know if I've ever met an official heretic. Well, maybe you've never met an official heretic, but you meet them every day, because anyone who rejects the Gospel is a heretic. And the sad thing is I would assume that most heretics are religious.
You know, I know there are atheists and agnostics who are utterly irreligious, but still the general population of people have some kind of religious connection, so their heresy is connected to some religious tradition or some religious error. So what you're doing when you confront them as a heretic is you're both attacking their personal decisions and their personal beliefs, and you're attacking their family and their network and their friends. And so it's a very challenging thing to talk to a heretic, and yet that is exactly what evangelism is. You're going to learn about it as you stick with us. We're going to deal with religious leaders who taught error and how you deal with them.
We're going to deal with how you talk to people who are caught up in that error. Are we to look for common theological ground with the enemies of the truth? Do we pursue dialogue and conversation?
Do we avoid confrontation at all costs? That's not what the Bible says. Life transforming for you so that you'll know how to be effective with the Gospel when you meet unbelievers. Right, and to help you identify dangerous error and embolden you to defend biblical truth, stay here as John MacArthur shows you the example Jesus set for how to talk to a heretic.
Here's today's lesson. Open your Bible to Luke 19 and we will look at the last section in this 19th chapter, Luke 19 verses 45 through 48. As we approach this text, we need only briefly to be reminded that our Lord Jesus Christ has begun the final week of His earthly life. On Friday He will die. This is Tuesday, the day after His humble coronation, the day after His entry into Jerusalem. And it was Monday that He entered into the city to the cries of Hosanna. On that Monday He presented Himself to Israel as the true King. And the people cried that He was the one coming in the name of the Lord, the Son of David, the heir to the throne, the Messiah, the anointed one. The procession of that Monday involved tens of thousands of people, some would estimate over 200 thousand possibly, as He came down the western slope of the Mount of Olives, having ascended to it from the city of Jericho and came to the city of Jerusalem through the eastern gate.
It was a celebration the likes of which had never been held in Jerusalem for a long, long time. Quite a day that Monday, riding in on the colt, the foal of a donkey as people threw their robes and palm branches at His feet and hailed Him as the coming Messiah. He went directly to the temple and in the twilight of that Monday must have surveyed the conditions in the temple which were manifestly visible in the wide outer courtyard called the Court of the Gentiles. And what He saw in that twilight set the agenda for what He did the next day. But on that Monday night, first of all, He retired to Bethany to rest.
His weariness must have given Him great rest. Lodging, by the way, was a problem. It was Passover time, as many as two million Jews would be in and around Jerusalem.
To put it simply, the place was jammed with people beyond its capacity. So it was very good that Jesus and His disciples had their friends in Bethany and that they had a home large enough to accommodate Him and the Twelve as well. So culminating that Monday entry as twilight comes, because it's late, Mark tells us in chapter 11, Jesus left Jerusalem, walked the two miles with His disciples back across up the slope of the Mount of Olives over the crown down into Bethany to spend the night there. In His mind as He walked in the darkness, in His mind as He went to sleep, must have been what He had seen in the temple. It wasn't unfamiliar to Him, He had seen it many times. But this was His last visit there and He was going to act on what He saw.
He does. Tuesday morning He comes back and we pick up the text in verse 45. He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling, saying to them, it is written, and My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a robbers' den. And He was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him and they couldn't find anything that they might do for all the people were hanging upon His words.
This is an amazing, amazing event. And it does mark the manifestation of Jesus as King. It gives evidence of His kingly credentials. What He does here and the response that it generates all points to Him as God's true King, God's true Messiah, God's own eternal Son.
He does something that is shocking. The people who hoped that He would be the Messiah would have expected Him to attack Fort Antonia where the Roman army was garrisoned. Or they might have expected Him to attack the house of Pilate, the pathetic Roman appointed ruler of Israel. But He doesn't attack the pagan idolatrous occupying Romans. He attacks the temple. He attacks the heart of Judaism. He attacks the soul of the nation. He attacks the most respected, the most elevated, the most trusted of all people in the land, those who ostensibly represented God. He attacks the most corrupt of all things in Jerusalem religion.
This is stunning. This is shocking and demonstrates again His credentials. Let me show you a handful of things that show that He is indeed God's King. First of all, He demonstrates that He's on a divine mission. He demonstrates that He's on a divine mission. Verse 45, and He entered the temple. That's enough said. A lot of places He could have gone, a lot of places.
That says all we need to know. People would have hoped that He headed for Pilate or the Roman army. They would have hoped that He would have brought about freedom from the oppression and occupation of Rome. They would have hoped that He would have divested that country of all the symbols of idolatry that were on Roman paraphernalia, that He would have attacked the taxation system which Rome had opposed upon them. They wanted this all along since the very first great demonstration of His power in Galilee at the beginning of His ministry.
They tried to make Him a King by force when they knew He had miracle power over disease, and when they knew He had miracle power over demons, and when they knew that He could create food, they saw in Him the ultimate liberator who would free them militarily, politically, socially, economically. And so they had all along a fixation on earthly issues with Jesus who had been inaugurated informally the day before, came with no weapons and no army and made no attack on any earthly institution whatsoever. He attacked the temple.
He had no dignitaries with Him, just some common nobodies. But nonetheless, it becomes clear to us that He is God's King because He is on a divine mission. Luke says He entered the temple. Matthew says He went into the temple of God. Indeed it is the temple of God. And God was being desecrated and dishonored and blasphemed in that temple. To Jesus, the issue in Israel was not Roman occupation, the issue was Jewish religious corruption.
The Lord is not concerned with the people's relationship to Rome, He is concerned with the people's relationship to God. This whole ministry is always focused on the spiritual. It is always focused on that which concerns people's relationship to God. He is concerned about true worship of the true God in the true manner, not about politics, not about earthly matters. He said in John 4 in conversation with the Samaritan woman, God seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is always about worship.
Three years has changed nothing. His focus is unaltered back to the temple. He passed over many issues, social issues, economic issues, political issues, issues of justice and equity. He saw all that was out of harmony. He saw all that was not as it should be. But He also knew that the only way to remedy anything is to have a right relationship with God. His ministry was always about the Kingdom and about true worship. If the Lord were to come into this world today and here and now, He would not go to Washington and assault political powers, He would go to the churches and He would attack the heretics and the hypocrites and the exploiters and the phonies and the fakes and He would call for true worship of His Father. As long as things are wrong in the temple, then everything else is chaos.
Measure of any society is its relationship to God. Worship is always the issue, always. Judgment has to begin at the house of God. I stand with Christ.
I can't get caught up in political issues, military issues, social issues. I grieve that there is unrighteousness that prevails in institutions in the world. But in the end, my concern is the purification of the church because the only remedy is the true gospel being preached in a true church. Jesus went to the temple. That was the only place to go for the work of God.
What did He find when He got there? The word temple here is the general word, generic word for temple, keeron. It simply refers to the whole huge ground, the general ground on which the temple and all its accommodating facilities sat. This is a word that means the broad total ground of the temple.
The sacred place was located right on the plateau, right on the top of the hill. It was a very, very large place, obviously to accommodate tens of thousands of people who were there. Surrounding the temple were great walls, colonnades, all kinds of buildings, steps ascending to the temple.
Now there were within this great area with its outer wall several inner courts that got tighter and tighter and tighter until finally you got in to the temple on the inside which was made up of the holy of holies and the holy place. First you entered the court of the Gentiles. Name that because that's as far as Gentiles could go.
Anybody could go there. Absolutely anybody could go into the court of the Gentiles. But if any Gentile went beyond that, death to the Gentile. Now the court of the Gentiles is where I want you to draw your attention. You walk into the court of the Gentiles on the east side of the old city of Jerusalem and you're shocked at what you see. And if you love the Lord and if you believe in true and pure worship, you're outraged. Jesus was angry at what He saw.
He'd been angry since He had seen it the night before. What was going on there? The court of the Gentiles had been turned into basically a business center and the business was selling animals for the needed sacrifices. One record of one Passover indicates 260,000 lambs were slain so you can understand how many animals would have been there. Also you had to buy accommodating components for offerings and sacrifices as well. And there were money changers there. All of this was basically called the Bazaar of Annas. Annas and Caiaphas both being high priests, they ran this operation, became filthy rich by running it. They sold franchises to people who sold the animals and changed the money and sold the oil and the other things that were used. They sold these franchises for very high, high prices and then they skimmed off a huge percentage of the profit that the shop owner made. So that the court of the Gentiles were just jammed with these shops. Lightfoot writes, there was always a constant market in the temple in that place. They were called the shops where every day were sold wine, salt, oil and other requisites of sacrifices, also animals were sold as well.
Now here's the way the thing would work. You might say, well why don't they bring their own animals? They should do that, they could do that, choose the best one in the flock without spot and without blemish. But if you brought your own animal, it was a pretty risky deal because every single animal that was sacrificed had to pass priestly inspection and it was to the benefit of the priests to reject your animal. Because when they rejected your animal, you had to buy their animal and you would be forced to do that at a very exorbitant price. A huge percentage of that, as I said, skimmed off and paid into the palms of the chief priests.
You brought your animal, they rejected your animal and some records tell us you paid ten times the fair price...ten times. This is robbery, this is extortion by the priests. The noise of the place, the filth of the place, the stench of all the animals, the chaos of a stockyard in the temple of God was nauseous to Christ.
The corruption, the robbery, the thievery, the kind of people who were operating like this, who had no conscience about bilking the poor. And then there were sellers of doves and pigeons because there were some people so poor they couldn't even afford a lamb. And so the poor people could offer, according to Leviticus 12, 6 and 8, they could offer two doves. Doves would be worth, probably in our money today, about a dime each.
It would cost about ten dollars each there. The travesty, the prostitution, the perversion, the corruption was just vile and blatant. Then there were the money changers, kalabon is the word...is a part of the word money change, it means small coins. Every Jew had to pay a half shekel temple tax near the Passover time. A month before you could pay it locally, but if you got to Jerusalem and you hadn't paid it, you had to pay it in the temple and you had to pay it with a certain coinage required and if you didn't have the exact amount, then you had to change your money and they charged you 25 percent to change your money. It's like traveling overseas and changing your money at the airport, isn't it?
You better off to go to the bank before you get to the airport. The charge was exploitive. The whole thing, the whole bazaar of Annas was vile. It became a hangout for every crook, charlatan, conmen of all sorts were there playing their trade. That's where Jesus went. Religion was corrupt. That's where He gave His attention.
All His being was repulsed by what He saw and smelled and heard. Jesus was on His turf. My house, He says in verse 46, that's the Word of God borrowed from the Old Testament, Isaiah 56, My house, this is My house. You've brought your corruption into My house. His house is not the petty political institutions of the world, or their social institutions. His house is the house where God's name abides.
You have corrupted My world, My house, My glory, the purity of worship. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Matthew 12 says, He is also the Lord of the temple. And so He's on a divine mission. And that is to assault false worship in the name of the true God. This is a revelation of who He is. He goes to defend God and God's house against the blasphemers. Secondly, we see His kingly person demonstrated not only in a divine mission, but divine authority. He began to cast out those who were selling. I can't...I can't explain this in the way that it appears vividly in my mind.
How does one person shut that whole operation down? Here is the first official act of the recognized King. It is a powerful, powerful act. He casts out those who were selling. How many hundreds or thousands of them were there?
And are we to suppose that they all lined up and went willingly without a fight, without an argument, without resistance? He began to cast out those who were selling. He started a process of getting them all out, literally threw them out of the place.
The leaders had no zeal for God's glory, God's honor, but He did. Maybe He made another whip. I don't know, it doesn't say anything about what He used to do it. In Matthew it says He overthrew the tables of the money changers. He didn't politely come along and say, look, guys, you've got to stop this and get out of here.
This was physical. He physically threw people out. He physically flipped tables.
The money changers, literally in the Greek, those who make small change, kolobon. He flipped them off their stools and bodily threw them out of the place. I don't know how long this took, but it must have been something to behold. And they must have been terrified at His physical power because they left. He flipped over their tables and scattered their coins all over every place. Matthew also tells us that He overturned the seats of those who sold doves. They probably had their doves in little crates and were sitting on little stools. And He picked them up, threw them out, flipped over their stools, sent them rolling and reeling through the temple ground. And Mark adds in chapter 11 chapter 16, He wouldn't allow any man to carry anything through the temple, that is they left without any of their stuff.
How does one person empty the place? I wish I had been there. I hope actually that God recorded it and there's a DVD in heaven.
I want to see this. If not, I want to talk to some of the disciples who were there, get a firsthand and perfectly accurate account. He kicked over the stools, threw over the tables, threw the people out, didn't allow them to take anything. What power, what strength, what authority. And what a stunning thing to do, attack Israel, attack the temple and not Israel's enemies and the pagans? I'm convinced that if the Lord Jesus would arrive in this world today, He would attack the church, not Washington, not the universities. He would attack the church with divine authority. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. John is Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today he began a study that shows you Jesus' attitude toward false teaching and why his attitude should be your attitude. The study is titled How to Talk to a Heretic. Now if you'd like to own this study, it's available on eight CDs or eight MP3s. Give us a call or go to our website for the CDs or you can download the MP3s online for free.
Again, the title to ask for, How to Talk to a Heretic. Get your copy today. Call 800-55-GRACE or go to our website gty.org. You might want to donate the CDs to your church's library. Again, to get the CDs, call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE or go to our website gty.org. The website is also the place to download How to Talk to a Heretic on eight MP3s, and those are free along with 3,500 of John's other sermons from 52 years of his pastoral ministry. A reminder, too, we appreciate hearing how Grace to You is helping you grow spiritually. If you've never written or if it's been a while, jot a quick note to share your story, and be sure to include the call letters of this station when you write.
That's always a big help. Our mailing address is Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412, and our email letters at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for tuning in today, and join us tomorrow when John shows you what you can learn from an explosive encounter between Jesus and enemies of biblical truth. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
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