We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who Is the Pharisee?

One of the favorite ways Christians use to attack an apologist is to call him a “Pharisee.”  Demand that teachings adhere to Scripture and you get called a Pharisee.  Suggest that if someone claims to be a Christian, then their lifestyle should reflect it, and you get called a Pharisee.  Point out legalistic teachings and you get called a Pharisee.  Pulling out the “Pharisee” card is really akin to a homosexualist pulling out the “homophobe” card; it just isn’t true!
When we read the Gospels we find that the Pharisees were guilty of being false teachers, of adding to God’s laws, of being sticklers for the letter of the Law while ignoring its spirit, of being hypocrites, of showing disdain for the unsaved, of doing works in a flamboyant way to win approval of man, of setting themselves up as important persons, of claiming Jesus was working against God, of seeking signs and wonders, of loving money, of seeking to trick Jesus, and of being offended at being corrected!
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for all of these things.  He condemned them for their works-oriented salvation message.  He condemned them for weakening the law by not obeying the intent of addressing the heart (e.g., while they taught adultery was wrong, Jesus had to point out that lusting was adultery also!).  Jesus cited Isaiah when He condemned them for their teachings being nothing but “rules of men,” and he said they were worshiping God in vain.
So who are the real Pharisees today?
Those who are false teachers.
Those who add rules of their own to judge what is “holy.”
Those who are hypocrites.
Those who refuse correction.
Those who push the letter of the Law rather than its spirit.
Those who nullify the Law by applying it only outwardly.
Those who puff themselves up as authorities to be followed.
Those who show disdain for the unsaved.
Those who preach a works-salvation gospel.
Those who claim that their detractors are working against God.
Those who are seeking signs and wonders.
Those who promote tradition over Scripture.
I know of no Christian apologist who fits these descriptions, yet those who assail apologists usually fit many of them!
So any Christian who is attacking false teachers is not a Pharisee, but rather is emulating Christ and the apostles.


Anonymous said...

To add to your list, a Pharisee is really working against Jesus, not for Him. Those who play the Pharisee card today and try to pin this label on those that love the word of God are really at heart against Jesus Christ Himself. The one who truly loves Jesus Christ loves the word of Jesus Christ and seeks to uphold it, point others to it, and refute those who oppose it. Keep up the good work Glenn!

Emily said...

Wonderful post, Glenn! I thought you were right on the money.

Anonymous said...

Excellent list! They play the "you're a Pharisee" card so reflexively that I don't think they even realize what they are saying.

ali said...

In Matthew 23 our LORD calls the Pharisee's whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, blind guides, snakes and a brood of vipers!

It does not appear our LORD shrank from speaking truth - and neither should we.!!.

Christian Ease said...

Good post! It hurt a little, not at first, only after it sunk in for a while. I catch myself with the wrong dancing partner sometimes ... and it always seems like I'm prone to doing the two-step. Flirting with that pharisee in the mirror is a temptation, if we're honest, that afflicts the best of us. Although this thought probably never enters the mind of those you were referencing in your article, it's worth the effort for us to examine ourselves daily.