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.

America Celebrates Divorce from an Abuser on the 4th of July – Independence Day!

Here is the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. It is a divorce decree. It is the recognition of a breach of covenant. We celebrate this divorce in the United States every July 4th. The purpose of this post is to simply put forth this question: If it was right and good for the American Colonies to divorce the King of England for his many and repeated abuses, if most all Americans including pastors and church members celebrate this Independence Day as a glorious win for freedom, how is it that these same pastors and church members insist that an abuse victim in a marriage has no right to divorce their abuser?

There is the question as all Americans wave flags and watch the fireworks and celebrate freedom from tyranny. How is it that so many professing Christians will deny the same freedom to a fellow believer who is suffering a present and evil tyranny right in their midst? It is quite common for churches to wave the flag and celebrate on this day, yet at the very same time they oppress the oppressed by demanding they remain in bondage to a wicked abuser.  The common double standard.

*****

The Unanimous Declaration of the
Thirteen United States of America
In Congress, July 4, 1776

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 4)

Have you ever been judged and sentenced by a fellow Christian (well, maybe they were a Christian) as they glanced down and saw that NIV or ESV in your hand?  Ted was a member of a real fundamental baptist church (I’m a baptist, so it’s ok for me to say that).  I met him in the prairies of eastern Montana on an antelope hunt (yes, I hunt.  I keep a nice big bear hide on my office wall to test newcomers’ graciousness to us of the sportsman’s persuasion).  Riding in Ted’s old Ford truck out across the prairie, I was listening to Ted rattle on about the KJV of the Bible.  He had seen my NASB back at camp and felt compelled by the spirit of ________, whatever to convert me.  On and on he went until judgment came from above.  Ted was so hyped about the Authorized Version that he drove smack into a ditch.  No way was it coming out of there without another truck.  I left him there and wandered off to find a buck on my own.  Ted’s gospel was a tradition.  Ted’s religion was that of the Pharisees.  And it wasn’t pleasant.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 4)”

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?”

The Most “Godly” Person You Know Probably Isn’t

Proverbs 6:12-14 A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;

Just when my day is going along smoothly and I am actually getting some things on my list done, POW! Something happens that sends me back to the computer to write another post. I can’t just make a note of it. I have to crank it out at the moment if at all possible.

Recently I was reminded very powerfully of how abusers put on their convincing show of “godliness.” I know that we have written numbers of posts on this subject, but I want to try to describe this tactic to you even more clearly so that to whatever extent I am able, you can be there right with me seeing what I see.

Continue reading “The Most “Godly” Person You Know Probably Isn’t”

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”?

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 3)”

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)”