Christian Pharisees

Greetings in the LORD,


I recently read an article concerning a “non-essential” topic for Christians that we sometimes debate or even divide about – I won’t mention the topic because it really is something that should not be made to be as divisive as some people make it, but the main point from the article is this quote:


“Holiness, in other words, can’t [take on an external expression]—it can only be cultivated through the practices of the Christian life.”


Fill in the blank with whatever topic you think the article might have been talking about, but the point is we should not become “Christian Pharisees” by adding to the Scriptures.  Let me be clear, what is black-and-white in Scripture remains black-and-white.  Jesus called all who would follow Him to obey His moral imperatives (Matt. 28:20).  In fact, when He preached against the Pharisees what Jesus was doing was rebuking them for looking morally good without following the LORD’s moral imperatives.  So in essence, when Jesus is preaching against the Pharisees, we Christians need to pay special attention to Jesus’ words so that we will not be guilty of being a Christian version of those whom Jesus preached against. 


So how do I make sure I don’t become a Christian Pharisee?


First, read one of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. 


Second, pay attention to Jesus’ teaching – to His do’s and don’ts.


Third, when He interacts with the Pharisees – make sure you understand why the Pharisees were upset with Jesus, and why Jesus responded the way He did. 


You can do this by making sure you:


(1)    Have a good “Study Bible” – if you don’t, then go out and buy one – the best study bibles are: NASB, Ryrie Study Bible; or ESV, The Reformation Study Bible; or NASB, The Zondervan Study Bible;

(2)    Read the footnote on each verse – look up any verses the footnote refers to;

(3)    Notice the little letters next to certain key words or ideas – for example: in the NASB Ryrie Study Bible in Luke 11:42 it says – 42 aBut woe to you Pharisees! For you bpay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Those little letters a& brefer to notes on the sides of the page or in the middle column between the Scriptures that tell us where to find similar concepts in other parts of Scripture, specifically à bpay tithe of mint and rue” – refers to Leviticus 27:30 and Luke 18:12.

(4)    Understand the immediate context – for example: the immediate context of Luke 11:42 is 11:37-53 à in these verses, Jesus was judged by a Pharisee for a non-essential (i.e., not washing before eating – Luke 11:38).  Since the idea of washing before a meal is not in Scripture (anywhere), but rather is a made up human law, Jesus took the opportunity to rebuke the Pharisees for being legalistic, and yet having a wrong heart, which leads people away from the LORD and His intent in the Scriptures.


Put all the above together and you will have a better understanding of how Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees applies to modern “Christian Pharisees” è in essence Jesus is saying the same thing that was said in the above mentioned article:


“Holiness, in other words, can’t [take on an external expression]—it can only be cultivated through the practices of the Christian life.”





P.R. Faust



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