The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 3)

Let’s look now at Matthew 3.  Here is the first mention of the Pharisees and their kind in Matthew’s Gospel –

Matthew 3:1-17, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

First of all, where did these guys come from?  We have not met them in the Old Testament.  Malachi spoke some 400 years before, and then the OT canon ended.  The 400 silent years, this era is called, because God sent no prophet during that time.  And then John the Baptist came on the scene in the spirit of Elijah.  John was the last OT prophet, a real transitional figure between the Old and the New covenants and, as Jesus said, John was the greatest of the prophets (Matthew 11:11).  But who are these vipers – the Pharisees and the Sadducees?  How did they develop during this time that is also called the “Intertestament Period”?

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The Lord is Merciful and Gracious: but He Does Not Forgive His Enemies

In this article, I would like to demonstrate the following principle to you from Scripture and then help you apply it to this matter of “forgiving the abuser.” Every victim of abuse, especially Christians, know what it is like to be pushed and prodded with “as a Christian, you are required by God to forgive your abuser.”  Too often this pressure includes the demand that the victim reconcile with the abuser, and it leads to being deceived by the typical false repentance abusers love to claim for themselves.  Here is the principle:

God does not forgive His enemies. He never has, and He never will. As His children in Christ, we are to reflect His character and attributes. Therefore, this has profound implications for how we deal with our enemies, who are also the enemies of the Lord.

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Some Examples of How People Become Allies of the Abuser

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)

Christians would give hearty “Amens” to these verses from God’s Word. They would be in agreement about the seriousness of the evils described here and certainly would never want to be guilty of any of these evils.

And yet many of them are guilty.

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The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 2)

Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Acts 15:10, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

There is so much material in the Gospels (and really, in the whole Bible) about the false religion of the Jewish religious leaders and rulers, that we must conclude that the Lord is giving us a sober warning about its danger.  Jesus specifically warned His disciples, and therefore He warns us –

Matthew 16:6, “Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees….. 6:12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

What is this leaven?  What did the Pharisees and Sadducees teach and practice?  Whatever it was, and is, it’s ability to quickly spread throughout the entire church is inherent in it.  It is a highly infectious spiritual disease.  How possible is it that we ourselves as conservative, Bible-believing Christians have been “leavened”?  Watch!  Beware!  Those are pretty strong words of warning.  If you hear someone say aloud – “Watch out!  Beware!” – you would be snapped to full attention immediately, right?  This leaven, whatever it is, is something our Lord considered to be extremely dangerous.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 2)”

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 1)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

This subject has been on my mind now for some months.  I keep seeing it crop up in the stories that many of you tell us. In particular, the stories about your experiences with your church when you asked for help with an abusive marriage. Issues of divorce, marriage, separation, remarriage, submission and headship – all of these and more arise in these kinds of scenarios, and what is so often being applied to them as God’s Word just doesn’t seem to ring true with what Jesus says is His easy yoke.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 1)”

How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated?

I recently heard a speaker in a DVD series on domestic abuse say that abuse should not be tolerated “more than one time.”  This poses a good question.

Let’s limit a hypothetical example to physical abuse just for our purposes here. [You all know I trust that domestic abusers do not always use physical assault as a tactic, especially the “Christian” ones].  Slapping across the face, knocking the victim down, that kind of thing. I may be wrong here in not considering all kinds of abuse – which are equally evil – but I am just trying to clarify our illustration. Here is the question then – How many times should a woman (for example) forgive her husband for slapping her across the face?  By “forgive,” I mean, he says he is sorry and she says ok, and she stays with him – end of story.

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“Reconciliation” With an Abuser is the Twilight Zone

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:12)

There are two brief times every 24 hours when darkness and light attempt to co-exist. Dawn and twilight. (Hey, pretty good book title: The Dawn of Twilight. No idea what that means, but it’s good, right?). Anyway, at dawn and at twilight, light and darkness mix it up. Just for a bit. The sun rises, the night recedes. The sun sets and night comes. One shows up, the other must go.

Day and night. We even use that phrase to describe two things that are radically different: “Man, those two are as different as day and night.” The Bible uses these images, light and darkness, to underscore the complete incompatibility of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world (headed up by Satan). Kingdom of Light. Kingdom of Darkness. Righteousness. Unrighteousness. You can’t mix the two. In their very essence, light and darkness are as different as. . .well. . .night and day.

Twilight and dawn are nature’s announcement to us that light and darkness cannot be reconciled. When the one comes, the other must go. Light is light — it is some- thing. Darkness is. . .is. . .darkness is no-thing. It is the absence of light, not a thing in itself. Light and darkness cannot co-exist. And so it is with the kingdom of our Lord and the kingdom of darkness.

Which brings us round to our main point.

Continue reading ““Reconciliation” With an Abuser is the Twilight Zone”