Jesus warned, “watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” (Matthew 16:6) He reiterated the exact same warning just a few verses later in verse 11, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” Note that Jesus did not simply warn His followers to beware of the Pharisees themselves, He warned of the “leaven” the Pharisees were teaching. This is no small distinction. Jesus warned of the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The “leaven of the Pharisees” refers to the false teachings and false doctrines of the Pharisees which was far more dangerous than the Pharisees themselves. In verse 12, it is made clear to all to beware of “the teaching of the Pharisees.”
The reason Jesus issued such firm warnings about the teachings of the Pharisees is simple; false doctrines lead people away from the saving grace of God. This is exactly what was happening as a result of the false teachings of the Pharisees. (Matthew 23:13)
There are plenty of false doctrines being taught by modern day Pharisees. These false teachers like the Pharisees of old, see themselves as knowledgeable and are equally puffed up with pride.
“BUT FALSE PROPHETS ALSE AROSE AMONG THE PEOPLE, JUST AS THERE WILL ALSO BE FALSE TEACHERS AMONG YOU, WHO WILL SECRETLY INTRODUCE DESTRUCTIVE HERESIES, EVEN DENYING THE MASTER WHO BROUGHT THEM, BRINGING SWIFT DESTRUCTION UPON THEMSELVES. AND MANY WILL FOLLOW THEIR SENSUALITY, AND BECAUSE OF THEM THE WAY OF THE TRUTH WILL BE MALIGNED; AND IN THEIR GREED THEY WILL EXPLOIT YOU WITH FALSE WORDS; THEIR JUDGMENT FROM LONG AGO IS NOT IDLE, AND THEIR DESTRUCTION IS NOT ASLEEP.” (2 PETER 2:1-3)
It is naïve to assume there are no false teachers, especially after the Word of God tells us there will be. It would be equally naïve to deny the consequences of false teaching. The believer’s protection against false doctrine is sound doctrine which can only come from the Word of God. Sound doctrine is the surest safeguard against false teachings. Believers have to study and know how to handle the Word of Truth.
“DO YOUR BEST TO PRESENT YOURSELF TO GOD AS ONE APPROVED, A WORKER WHO HAS NO NEED TO ASHAMED, RIGHTLY HANDLING THE WORD OF TRUTH.” (2 TIMOTHY 2:15)
“HOLDING FAST THE FAITHFUL WORD WHICH IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TEACHING, SO THAT HE WILL BE ABLE BOTH TO EXHORT IN SOUND DOCTRINE AND TO REFUTE THOSE WHO CONTRADICT.” (TITUS 1:9)
Believers are commanded to hold fast the faithful word, “exhort in sound doctrine,” and “refute those who contradict.” Satan does not want believers to be obedient to these commands, because it results in the spread of sound doctrine and the saving work of Christ Jesus. Therefore, these are often neglected commands as believers fear offending one another. We are all too willing to watch other believers hold to false doctrines out of fear of offending them if we “exhort” and “refute” as commanded. When we choose NOT to “exhort” and “refute” as commanded, we choose to be a barrier to the spread of sound doctrine and saving grace.
“SO THEN, BRETHREN, STAND FIRM AND HOLD TO THE TRADITIONS WHICH YOU WERE TAUGHT, WHETHER BY WORD OF MOUTH OR BY LETTER FROM US.” (2 THESSALONIANS 2:15)
Systematic study of the Word of God and a daily intake of sound doctrine will absolutely thwart Satan’s plans. Satan has taken this simple lesson to be on guard against false teachings and tweaked it as only he can do. Satan’s false teaching has morphed into one that keeps believers out of the Word of God. His message; knowledge causes one to be puffed up with pride so knowledge must be bad. Believers will buy into Satan’s lies and accuse other believers, who “exhort” and “refute” with sound doctrine, of being “puffed up.” Is knowledge bad? Are all believers with knowledge of sound doctrine puffed up with pride when they exhort and refute? Not according to Scripture. Does it make sense to call these obedient believers who exhort in sound doctrine “Pharisees” as I have heard on several occasions? Who is the modern day Pharisee? A) the believer who systematically studies the Word of God, warns others of false doctrines (leaven), and uses sound doctrine to exhort and refute others who hold to false doctrines. All of which is Scriptural, or B) those who discourage believers from studying the Word of God, discourage believers from increasing in the knowledge of the Word, and accuse those who are obedient of being “puffed up” - all of which leads others away from the saving grace of God.
The Bereans of Acts 17:11 are held out as examples for the rest of us to emulate because they studied. When they heard a teaching they compared what they heard to the Scriptures. By doing so they were able to identify false teachers (Pharisees). They had a clear advantage over other believers who lacked sound doctrine because they “examined” the Scriptures. Reject every attempt by Satan to convince you that knowledge is dangerous. I exhort and encourage all believers to study, study, study Bible doctrine and value knowledge of the Scriptures.
“TEACH ME GOOD DISCERNMENT AND KNOWLEDGE, FOR I BELIEVE IN YOUR COMMANDMENTS.” (PSALM 119:66)
“FOR THIS REASON ALSO, SINCE THE DAY WE HEARD OF IT, WE HAVE NOT CEASED TO PRAY FOR YOU AND TO ASK THAT YOU MAY BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL IN ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.” (COLOSSIANS 1:9)
If you are still not convinced of the importance of knowledge of the Word of God, read the book of Proverbs.