The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 5)

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.

The Devil is in the Details: To Reveal Abusers and Their Allies You Must ask the Right Questions

Quite a long time ago I wrote a review of Voddie Baucham’s “sermon” on the permanence doctrine (i.e., divorce is never ever permitted by God. Period. No discussion.) Baucham thinks that remarriage is only permitted when a former spouse has died. If any member of his church comes to him or his elders and says they want to divorce or that they have serious marriage problems of ANY kind, Baucham tells everyone his reply will be “YOU are the problem. Go back to your marriage.”

Baucham, incidentally, was actually “preaching” straight out of a book by Jim Elliff called Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View (terrible, terrible book). But Baucham gave the plain impression he was preaching Scripture and thus speaking by the Lord’s authority. I think the prophet Jeremiah has some words for such people who would presume to speak for the Lord when in fact the Lord has not sent them.

Many of Baucham’s followers have vehemently protested that we would be so critical of him. Recently a reader submitted the following comment in response to my critique of Baucham’s teaching. Here is what she said (and I have not edited her comment even though it appears a little confusing, probably just an auto-correct typo thingy):

I had the privilege of speaking to Voddie Baucham in February when he was just outside of Atlanta. I asked him about a specific issue since of my family members are going through. A divorce occurred in order to keep the wife safe because her life was in danger and because of marital unfaithfullness on the unbelieving husbands part. Mr Voddie gave me great advice to pass along to her. He also said that unfortunately, sometimes there are severe situations where divorce is unavoidable.

Our commenter sounds satisfied with Baucham’s response, does she not? Perhaps implying that we have been too hard on the man or at least have misunderstood him. Nope. We haven’t. But what HAS happened is that she made a common mistake we have all made when dealing with such people — she failed to ask him the right questions.

What should she have asked him?

  • In these “severe situations” should a divorce take place?  Are both parties guilty of sin before God? That is to say, is any divorce a sin? I am not asking if the Lord will forgive a person who files for divorce, but specifically I want to know if you are saying that it is always a sin to file for divorce?
  • In these “severe situations,” does God allow for remarriage?
  • And incidentally, just what are some examples of these “severe situations” you speak of?

It takes these kind of pointed questions, asked very pointedly so that there is no room for shifting, to get down to the heart of the matter. In this case, Baucham would have to answer (if he were being straightforward and honest) that he believes every divorce is a sin, that filing divorce papers is always a sin, that God never allows any divorced person to remarry if their ex is still alive, and that these “severe situations” are limited to severe physical abuse.

Mr Baucham’s advice on this subject is never “great advice.” This lady may think it was, but we say once more, she failed to ask the right questions — and Baucham, like so many of these kinds of people who lord their private opinions over Christ’s people, conveniently avoided the details.

As is often said and is always true, the devil is in the details

Is a Written Procedure and Training the Solution to Domestic Abuse Hiding in the Church?

Mat 23:24-25  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!  (25)  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

With some frequency I have sincere people contact me with the same question. Their motive in asking is good and they truly want to get justice for abuse victims and expose their abusers – especially the ones hiding behind a Christian disguise. Here is the question they bring:

Is there a written procedure or protocol somewhere that I can take to my church leaders so it can be implemented and domestic abuse will be handled properly in our church?

Another form of this question goes something like this:

Is there some type of conference that can be put on in our church to educate the pastors and members about domestic abuse?

These questions come often enough that I thought it would be good to write in this post what I tell those who ask them. So, here we go.

Continue reading “Is a Written Procedure and Training the Solution to Domestic Abuse Hiding in the Church?”

Being Comfortable in the Presence of the Wicked is a Mark of an Unregenerate Heart

Psa 1:1-2  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  (2)  but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Pro 4:14-15  Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.  (15)  Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.

Psa 26:4-5  I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.  (5)  I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.

More often than we realize, I am convinced that the fundamental reason evildoers (such as domestic abusers hiding behind a “christian” facade)…the fundamental reason evildoers are welcomed in local churches is not mere naivete about abusers on the part of the pastor and congregation. Sometimes naivete, for a time, can explain things, but what we are seeing over and over again is a hardened, continuing insistence by local churches that the evildoer be “loved” and welcomed with open arms. So much does this spirit reign that anyone who balks at welcoming such people are accused of being hard-hearted and unforgiving. What is the explanation of this?

Continue reading “Being Comfortable in the Presence of the Wicked is a Mark of an Unregenerate Heart”

Call Evil Good: The Error of Couple Counseling for Abuse

Job 30:26 ESV  But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came.

Psalms 52:3-4 ESV You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.

Couple’s counseling (and I would add marriage “intensives” – a kind of focused retreat for a couple) is anathema when it comes to abuse. It goes wrong and works as a tool to further enable and empower the abuser. I won’t go into all of the reasons why this is the case, but it is true.

What I do want to discuss here is a very similar experience that I have had personally and which I have seen played out in the experience of others many times. It is the fallacy of calling evil, good, and good, evil. Here is how it works:

Continue reading “Call Evil Good: The Error of Couple Counseling for Abuse”

I Do Not Believe the Southern Baptists’ Claim that they Are Changing and Dealing With Abuse

Mat 21:28-32  “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’  (29)  And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.  (30)  And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.  (31)  Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.  (32)  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

My journey into the Lord’s wisdom about domestic abusers hiding in the church began in 2008, eleven years ago. Since that time we have all seen “Christian” organizations (Focus on the Family, Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, etc) and denominations jumping on the wagon ready to go along for the ride, even claiming to be leading the caravan.

Most of it is a mere front. A public relations stunt and I don’t believe the large majority of these people at all. Here is what has happened – they got busted. As other voices began giving a hearing to abuse victims and the facts of what has been going on in churches for decades came to light, the pressure grew. All of a sudden the “ministries” began launching their programs. There has been almost no real repentance for all the years of oppressing victims and enabling abusers that these groups are guilty of. No. They simply knew that it was looking bad for them and they had better do something. And thus the conferences, the books, the therapy programs, yada, yada, yada.

But I am telling you that nothing has changed among these counterfeits. Nothing. How do I know? Read on –

Continue reading “I Do Not Believe the Southern Baptists’ Claim that they Are Changing and Dealing With Abuse”

Want to Read a Letter from Wormwood?

I did not send the prophets, yet they ran;
I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.
(Jeremiah 23:21)

Here is still another example of the wicked, evil filth that victims of abuse are subjected to through the hands of their fellow “christians.” In this case the abuser is in a full-time ministry position. All the time he has been “serving the Lord,” he emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and sexually abused and tormented his wife. Ultimately she realized what was happening and left him. Later, she received the following letter from one of the abuser’s colleagues. Notice that this man is a false prophet, claiming to be announcing Jesus’ very words which were given to him to speak to her.

Continue reading “Want to Read a Letter from Wormwood?”