Authentic and Hypocritical Witnesses
You’ve heard it said, “Churches are full of hypocrites.” Why is this accusation so common? Could someone accuse you of being hypocritical?
Earlier in Luke 11, Jesus upbraided the Pharisees and experts in the Law for their callous and self-centered attitudes, saying they are actually opposing, rather than serving, God. The battle lines are drawn as our passage begins.
1. Read Luke 11:53—12:12. Verses 53-54 set the tone for this passage. What words indicate how the Pharisees and teachers feel about Jesus? Describe the scene 12:1. (Note: It was dangerous to gather large crowds during this period of Roman occupation.)
2. Jesus first warns about the Pharisees. What is “hypocrisy”? How is their hypocrisy like yeast?
3. Find the contrasts in verses 2-3. What is Jesus saying about secretive acts? Who is the “you” of verse 3? How might these people—and we ourselves—feel about personal secrets being revealed?
4. Next Jesus teaches about fear (verses 4-5). According to Jesus, who is the only one worthy of fear? Why? What do verses 6-7 add about God’s character, authority, and care? (Note: Sparrows were cheap food for the poor.)
5. According to verses 8-12, what does Jesus promise to those who “acknowledge” him before others? What does it mean to you to acknowledge Jesus before others? How is this being a “witness”?
6. What might cause a person to deny Jesus before others (verse 9)?
7. Verse 10 indicates that there is forgiveness for those who may speak against Jesus, yet not for those who “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.” What is the difference? (Note: To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit does not mean, as some students fear, a single act of sin or letting a bad word or two about the Holy Spirit slip out. It means consistently denying the Holy Spirit’s power working in Jesus [see Luke 11:15-16 for an example of this]. It means to say an eternal “no!” to Jesus, to deny that he is Lord, Savior and God. By definition, a believer committed to Jesus as Lord, Savior and God in daily life has not committed this blasphemy.)
8. This section indicates that successive generations of believers in Jesus will inherit the battle against hypocritical authorities. What does Jesus promise when we are forced to be witnesses before rulers and authorities? What is our responsibility?
Who are the rulers and authorities in your daily life? Describe a situation you are in right now in which you must acknowledge Jesus before others. How might you handle it? Take time to pray for one another.
“Witnesses to Jesus” Bible Studies are available
Many thanks to those who gave their time to the writing and editing of these studies: the InterVarsity® staff authors (mentioned with each study); Kathy Burrows (design); Jeff Yourison (layout editor); and Shelley Soceka and Judy Yourison (proofreaders).—Bob Grahmann, editor
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