The Pharisees were the representatives of the Divine law — not only of that given to Israel on Mount Sinai, but also of those more secret ordinances which were only verbally communicated to Moses, in explanation of, and in addition to the law. “(Edersheim)
Their numbers were incredibly small…. Yet this inconsiderable minority could cast Judaism in its mold, and for such terrible evil gave its final direction to the nation! Edersheim)
Acts 23:12-13, When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy.
Part of the very nature of Pharisaical religion is tradition. The Roman Catholic church is very much today’s prime example – it has a body of tradition that it openly declares to be the authoritative word of God. It has its priesthood and its rites. It adds works to the gospel. I realize that in this era of extreme ecumenicity, those words sound harsh and judgmental. But there it is. Rome is a counterfeit church preaching a counterfeit gospel led by a counterfeit bishop and priests exercising counterfeit sacraments.
However, the expression of the religion of the Pharisees that we particularly want to expose here is not that of Rome, but that which has infected the evangelical, professedly Bible-believing church. Man-made traditions accepted as God’s Word. A false priesthood. The elements are to be found among us as well as in Rome. As it was in Jesus’ day, as Edersheim notes, so it is today — the small numbers of the Pharisees have pressed us into their mold and are giving direction to our churches. And this needs to change. It will not change easily. Pharisees don’t go down without a fight.
Let’s return now to Matthew 3 where John the Baptist encounters this breed of religionist and see what more we can learn about them:
Matthew 3:1-10, 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.
Alright, what characteristics of this false religion can we identify in this passage? Remember, we can expect to find the very same qualities today wherever the religion of the Pharisees is “sold” –
- As soon as the true Gospel of Christ comes, expect the Pharisees to show up shortly. The Gospel makes the way of the Lord straight. It makes Christ’s way clear and visible. It opens up the way for Christ to come to us. It invites Him to meet us and speak to us. Pharisaism hinders the Word of God and the work of His Spirit.
- The true Gospel of Christ is preached by those who are foolish. John is a kind of mountain man. His clothing is wild. His food is wild. Everything about him is wild as he preaches in the wilderness. The Gospel is not traditional. The religion of the Pharisees is robed in fine garments, adorning the exterior of men. Its adherents exalt themselves. Their religion appeals to the world.
- The true Gospel of Christ is at war with the religion of the Pharisees. It has nothing in common with it and it loudly exposes Pharisaism for what it is – poisonous and devilish. A viper den.
- The true Gospel of Christ is concerned with the heart — with faith and repentance. It calls people to repent of their sin and turn in faith to Christ. The religion of the Pharisees has no concern with heart issues like repentance. It is exterior in its nature. It hates the call to repentance and it shows no fruit of repentance.
- The true Gospel of Christ gives birth to children by faith and regeneration. Pharisaical religion rests its confidence in externals, including heritage, nationality, and culture.
So then, what can we expect Pharisaical religion to look like today? Why don’t you tell us? Take these qualities of the Pharisees, contrast them with the true gospel of Christ and the true church, and describe for us how these traits are evidencing themselves in our churches today. Give us examples of how the way to Christ is being hindered by it, and how it appeals to the world. In what ways do you see its lack of repentance evidencing itself among us. And how does “Cultural Christianity” appear among us today? Let’s see how many of these things we can expose.
Go to Part 5 of this series
There is so much of Pharicitical leanings in many of the churches that I see around here. Primarily, I see it the outward signs of how people are told they should dress. And it is applied to the women most of all.
While I was growing up, half of my family were Mennonite and Amish. That portion of the family was steeped in the traditions of how the hair was to be worn, what colors and prints or No prints might be worn by the women, as well as the men. Though the Mennonite were somewhat looser, they were still quite strict. Even to the type of shoes that we were allowed (closed, lace-up, and plain). As I was raised outside “the faith”, when I would go for summers to my maternal grandmother’s farm, I had my suitcase taken from me and had to wear a girl cousins clothing. Because EVERYthing I brought with me was “vorgeriddelt” forbidden.
Today, 40 some years later, when we go to the square to pray on Fridays (a medium-size town in Florida) I see many women in long sleeves and high necklines and long skirts who came with a group from a couple of congregations. And we are not even talking breathable fabrics, but thick heavy ones. I see these women passing out from heat exhaustion, and cannot help but wonder WHY their men would subject then to this danger and intentional torture. I saw one woman who obviously has health issues being berated by her husband for passing out while she was unconscious. A few of us tried to help her, but we were not even allowed to touch her because we were “unclean women” because our arms were bare. NO ONE else was helping her! So we called 911, and her husband and the rest formed a circle around her and temporarily kept the paramedics from helping too. Thankfully the police came because she started to go into convulsions. She could have died. But according to what one young woman told me, that would have been ok, because she would have died “for her faith and marriage”…
I just don’t understand that! While I do understand being a martyr, and God giving grace in those situations…that was NOT what was going on here. No! This was false teachings wrapped in a sham of scripture and Pahricitical rhetoric being forced on an already abused woman who was doing as her dominering husband demanded.
Dear Gypsy Angel, it’s Bible thumping tyrants like that who drive people away from even considering coming to Christ. For a long time, i wanted nothing to do with Bible christianity, because of people like that; i equated the faith with mean men and abused (brainwashed) women.
I can certainly understand that. If I had not known God in a very personal way as a child (I had a few real-live encounters with one I firmly believe was the Holy Spirit, and maybe even God Himself; as well as an Aunt and Uncle who Lived Christ), I don’t think I would be a Christian today. But “somehow” I was able, even as a child, I guess to decern(?), what was real or not. So often I tried to fit the mold, of what I was told by those in authority over me was appropriate. How to be a “good” daughter, wife, mother, woman, [I stayed in a 34-year abusive marriage because of it.] only to fail to reach that ideal every time. But somewhere, in the back of my mind, there was this small voice that kept telling me that it was all a sham. Though I was also told that that was my rebellious heart speaking and not the voice of the Holy Spirit. I very quickly learned not to share those misgivings any longer.
It took me living in the lies for decades to figure out that these despotic and abusive rules and regulations that men and much of organised religion held up as right and true were not of God. It’s taken me a lifetime of five decades to learn that what I was seeing and experiencing was, in fact, deliberate constructs of evil designed to twist scripture and drive people away from God, relationship with Him, and salvation. It took me more years than I care to count to come to the place where I was strong enough to look outside the ecclesiastical box, to find people who were seeking relationships with God and with each other and not religion. I’m still learning…or should I say I’m UN-learning the lies and re-learning the truth.
I see it in the fake nature of the leadership teams in the large evangelical churches.
I see it in the shallowness of supposed leadership in these churches. The lack of repentance, the lack of mercy, the desire to side with evil so they can be popular, the lack of desire for any true fellowship, the desire to hang with the popular crowd, the cliques.
Using people, haughtiness, arrogance. I’ve seen all of this in so called leadership. This is what I’ve seen in the cream of the crop in the churches. It’s horrible. If this is the cream of the crop. This is horrible.
My entire “clan” of family and extended family lived and taught of the biggest and most prevalent example of whitewashed tombs. Satisfaction with outward works while the inside of a person and his/her heart were obvious to me, even as a child, to be evil. It was the isolated rote recitation of the “Sinner’s Prayer”, by which EVERYONE in the cultlike clan was said to be “saved” and going to heaven. No repentance needed. No need to stop sinning. Easy peasy. “Just repeat after me…Hallelujah! Now you’re saved!” I saw the abuse in my own household where all is chilren were abused by both parents. Both parents committed constant domestic violence in front of us. Cheating regularly by both parents. Pornography addiction by father. He sold porn also out of the home in front of us children. Other criminal frauds and crimes. Welfare fraud for over a decade.
It was less egregious but still evident in my extended relatives’ families that no one ever showed a bit of change or fruit of the Spirit. Same sins after the Sinner’s Prayer as before. The matriarch who brought this false teaching to the rest of the clan is an elder in her evangelical non-denominational church she’s attended for over 50 years! One other aunt is now an ordained Pentecostal minister.
I’m in No Contact with any of them now, but when I was in contact I’d ask these aunts about what appeared to be hypocrisy going on with all the continued sin in my family. Their answer was always “God’s grace.”
All this counterfeit “Christianity” sickened me and caused me many years of running in the opposite direction-away from them and their “false religion” and unfortunately away from a real relationship with my Precious Jesus. But thank God I always felt an awareness of Jesus throughout all the years of my abuse, my hopelessness. I’d cry to Him even though I was so messed up about how to have a real relationship with Him.
Blessedly, as an adult, I sought out the true Jesus and a real relationship of repentance, turning from my sins, a commitment to obey God and to learn about Him in His Word. I’ve never turned back. And I got away from that cult/clan as they also were abusers, abuse enablers, abuse apologists. They would not acknowledge real evil amongst them. And I was abused and physically and emotionally harmed worse and longer than I should have been because of the “religious leaders’ complicity.”
“Blessed is the man/woman who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Psalm 1:1
Jesus has set me free to worship and serve Him in spirit and truth! And He set me free from the presence of the wicked in my own “abusive family cult” as well as their false “Sinner’s Prayer/Cheap Grace/God-Mocking” Pharisaical teachings.
As for them, they all still think they are “covered by the Sinner’s Prayer” and going to heaven! No matter what! Convenient religion for them, huh? Continue freely sinning all your life and go straight to heaven with your “Sinner’s Prayer” ticket from decades ago.
I have seen it many, many times as well.
And it is people like you described who will be shocked beyond imagination when Jesus says to them “Depart from me you workers of iniquity”.
I have some relatives like that. They had seriously and grievously sinned against me, yet claim that they did no wrong. Their actions God calls sin in the bible, yet they think they are on their way to heaven!! They are seriously deluded. I also obey God and keep away from them.
Have to pay for private schools and Bob Jones University for his oppressed kids somehow..to get worthless teaching degrees. I don’t even think any state allows teachers from non accredited schools? Ours certainly doesn’t. Yet, I have two, have experience teaching ..but couldn’t teach Sunday school unless I quit smoking (and back up..I’m a paranoid nutbar about lung cancer yet smoke ..didn’t help explaining but any half wit can see the big difference between a cig and 200 picocuries/liter of radon. Didn’t matter, they didn’t want to know). Prior to the bruhaha, was told I could only change diapers or pull weeds unless I quit. Looks are the only things that matter to them. Sorry…on a roll this morning and I keep remembering more of it.
I also note the simplicity in Christ. It only takes one line to say how much I appreciate the truth being spoken by you and appreciate CRC…yet takes paragraphs to sift through just one example of crap. It’s designed to be confusing and keep attention on them, while the web gets woven around people’s lives. Like you said..it’s a war and they fight to not be exposed.
Truth is simple, isn’t it? Exactly.
Seven years after the end of a toxic marriage I dealt with smear campaigns, stalking, financial abuse, reveng porn and physical assault only to be told by the church that it’s punishment for the divorce. They said it is God’s judgement. Interestingly enough, in the Bible I never see God responding that way. Thankfully, I have a relationship not just a religion through my faith. It shields me from the calloused hearts of the religious. I am still standing and enlisting others who will help my children and I demonstrate that God is for his children and hates injustice, oppression and abuse.
Change Agent- punishment for the divorce. Yep. I’ve heard that garbage before too. So glad you are free!