A Voice in the
" What is a Pharisee? "
"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear
those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles
and are not, and have found them to be liars; and you have persevered
and have patience, and have labored on account of My name and have not
become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left
your first love." (Rev2:2-4)
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
Around the time this is being written there was a public discourse
between two entities (ministries) over the internet and mass e-mails.
One was exposing the other for their false teachings, and they in turn
accused the first of being pharisaical for doing such an expose
publicly; and what-else? I'm not sure exactly. And since I did not read
the original articles in question, I don't know any details beyond that,
nor do I -want- to know. I'm not going to name names, because this
argument has been going on for decades in many places, and between many
various entities, and could just as easily be anyone.
--you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in
yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in...
--you devour widows’ houses...
--for a pretense make long prayers...
--you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he becomes one,
you make him twice more a son of Gehenna than yourselves...
--you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have disregarded the
weightier matters of the law: judgment and mercy and faith. It is
necessary to do these, and not to leave the others undone...
--you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full
of extortion and self-indulgence...
--you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful
outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
When I was in college decades ago I became known amongst many campus
'christians' for being "judgmental"; primarily because I believed the
Bible means what it says, and that we should order our lives
accordingly. They lived like the world, and still called themselves
"christians", being expert in those passages they presumed condoned their immorality and licentiousness. Expanding from their simple term
"judgmental" I suppose I was also 'conservative' and 'fundamentalist'.
Some also include the term "pharisee" amongst these labels.
If the True Believer does as the opening passage says, "tests" those
claiming to be Christian, and labels their apostasy for what it is (that "not all those of Israel are Israel" Rom9:6b), those in such apostasy condemn the Christian with "Judge not that you not be judged" (Mt7:1) because we are supposed to be defined by 'luuuuuv'...
"By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love
mutually with one another." (Jn13:35)
They quoted this often, but would ignore the commands to...
"Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1Th5:21) or to "judge righteous judgment" (Jn7:24)
If a True Christian "tests" the 'fruit' of the one claiming to be a
prophet, and calls it like it is: a "false prophet" (Mt7:15~), the
Believer is chastised with: You shouldn't condemn your fellow brothers
and sisters. Who do you think you are to set yourself up as judge? If a
person, such as the aforementioned ministry makes a public comment, they
are chided for making such statements publicly, condemned for not going
to the false prophet (whom they falsely claim is the Believer's
"brother") "between you and him alone" (Mt18:15) And yes, over the years
I've also received these same condemnations.
But the exhortation is also given for when someone is proclaiming or
behaving falsely, publicly, as Paul chided Peter "before them all"
"Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also
may fear." (1Ti5:20)
The false prophets, when complaining against straightforward condemnation of sin, often call the Believer doing the exposing and condemning, a "pharisee". A Believer holding to strict Biblical doctrine is condemned as being a "fundamentalist", as though that was a bad thing. In today's political climate being a fundamentalist is tantamount to being a "terrorist", worthy of scrutiny and perhaps arrest for their "hate speech". Muslims are accused for 9/11. Christian 'extremists' are accused of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the bombing of abortion clinics and killing of baby murderers. Islam is given the wide-berth as being a "peaceful" religion (when they continually commit hateful acts of terror); but Christianity is not given similar tolerance when Believers hold, peacefully, to the strict doctrines of the Bible. When a True Believer holds to certain standards of dress and behavior, which is different from the world or the apostate church, such righteous standards are defamed by the apostasy as "phariseeism". Also known as "legalism".
On the other hand, True Believers will observe the pseudo-piety of
certain pretend or misguided christians who hold to certain traditions,
but are lacking in substance; those who guide their lives by KJ-onlyism,
and the "appearance" (1Th5:22-kjv) of things, good or bad; what will
certain activities and behavior "look like" to others; and label such
behavior as "phariseeism"
So... What -is- a pharisee? Is a pharisee good or bad?
The simplest way to begin is in the dictionary:
Is not #1 good? Did not Moses command Israel...
- A member of an ancient Jewish sect that emphasized strict
interpretation and observance of the Mosaic law.
- A hypocritically self-righteous person.
"Therefore, take heed to do as Jehovah your God has commanded you; do
not turn aside to the right hand or to the left." (De5:32)
Which also followed how Moses gave the Law, as God strictly warned
"And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was
shown you on the mountain." (Ex25:40)
The son is exhorted by the father...
"Do not turn to the right hand or to the left; remove your foot from
As Jesus also explained...
King Hezekiah went on a rampage, destroying idolatry out of Judah. He
was -very- 'judgmental' in doing so. And it says of him that he "did
what was right in the eyes of Jehovah" (2Ki18:3), and...
"He trusted in Jehovah the God of Israel, so that after him was no one
like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he
clung to Jehovah; he did not turn aside from following after Him, but
kept His commandments, which Jehovah had commanded Moses." (vs5-6)
After Hezekiah was Josiah who went on a similar rampage cleansing Judah.
For details please look up 2Kings ch22-23. And of Josiah it was said...
"And before him there was no king like him, who turned to Jehovah with
all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to
all the Law of Moses; nor after him has any arisen like him." (2Ki23:25)
Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent Moses had made in the wilderness,
that over time had become an idol. (2Ki18:4) Josiah destroyed the
"chariots of the sun with fire" and the pagan altars that his
grandfather Manasseh had built in the temple. (2Ki23:11-12) These
things Hezekiah and Josiah did were equivalent to today, if a leader
were to rampage into the churches and tear down the crosses, pictures of
"Jesus", the (open-book) 'flame' or 'dove' graphics, the communion table
symbols to "IHS", tied a cable to the church steeple (sacred pillar) and
tore them off with a truck. -Very- JUDGMENTAL. So terribly
FUNDAMENTALIST. So HATEFUL. But by definition, also: Phariseeist.
Jesus also made a whip of rope and drove the thieves out of the temple.
(Jn2:15) As such, a leader who might be bold enough to do such a thing,
as Hezekiah and Josiah did, by definition, could be considered to be
By definition: Strict adherence to the nitty gritty and detail of God's
Law. By definition: Good.
But what was Jesus condemning when He pronounced all those series of
"Woe!"s against the Scribes and Pharisees? The Scribes were the ones,
in times when there were no printing presses, who copied (by hand) the
Scriptures. In so-doing, they -knew- God's Law intimately. Let's say the
Pharisees were the preachers; the ones who gave exhortation to the
people as to 'how to live' according to the Law. Expounding the Law to
the people where the rubber meets the road.
But what had they become? Were they humbly ministering God's Word? Or
were they like so many preachers today? In their own estimation, high
above the 'laity'! As Jesus said, "sounding a trumpet" (Mt6:2) as they
were about to do some 'good deed', or to stand in the synagogues or
street corners to give "long prayers" (Mt6:4-5) Or did they also do as
Paul, an ex-pharisee, expounds...
"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who
preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, Do not
commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob
temples? You who make your boast in the Law, do you dishonor God through
transgressing the Law? For the name of God is blasphemed among the
Gentiles through you, as it is written." (Rom2:21-24)
You can re-read the opening verses. They like to tell -others- how
-they- should live, but themselves are full of rottenness. The
"appearance of evil" (1Th5:22-kjv) they preach -at- others, but
themselves beset by wickedness.
When I was growing up, the one responsible for my nurturing was soooo
strict with me regarding friends who were girls. There wasn't supposed
to be any kind of interest in them, whatsoever... not even to guidance
as to what was acceptable or not; only to find out many years later of
his own affair of which he had been guilty, and when confronted, rather
than confessing: "Who told you that??" Those who know my family
upbringing when I was a child, even at age 3-4 during furlough,
remember and have told me as an adult how on Sundays I was not allowed
to 'play'. I had to -sit- quietly all day. Doctrinally, the teaching was
that Sunday is not the same as Sabbath; but the imposed behavior was as
if it was. By contrast, during the Millennium of peace and rest
(shabbat) it says...
"And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in
its streets." (Zec8:5)
So then (as I've shared some years ago) as an adult, I got married, now
having my own 'family' (as husband/wife). Father happens by on a Sunday
afternoon as we had the sprinklers watering the lawn on a -hot- summer
day. Condemnation! "That's not how I taught you!" But on another
occasion, my wife and I happened to visit the church he was also
attending; and the church organ was in terrible need of tuning. As a
musician, I had also acquired the ability to tune pianos, and so it was
a simple matter: pull the back off the organ console, have my dad hold
down certain notes in order, and I turned the screws that tuned the base
tempered octave of 12 notes. It took all of about 5-10 minutes. It was a
service to the church, done freely. (Much as somebody else might have
gone around tidying up pieces of paper people might have left in the
pews so things would be neat for the next service, or straightened
things up on a track table, or this or that) Well, later that next week
my dad made a point of calling me up on the phone to "apologize" for us
having tuned that organ...on Sunday. So far, so good, if he -truly-
'believed' in the sabbathness of Sunday. But then, on another Sunday
some time after that, dad calls again: wants my help. He was fiddling
with something or other with his answering machine, or
something-or-other on his phone, and wanted me to participate in helping
him 'test' what he was doing; I don't remember now, perhaps by 'calling'
his number? Remember: this is another 'Sunday'. I declined. Him: Why?
Me: based on his prior apology for tuning the organ, I shouldn't do
this, either. Him: This is different; he is using the phone for
ministry. And if I don't believe as he does, why should it matter to me?
Me: If it was wrong to tune the organ (for ministry); it is also wrong
to help him test his phone (for ministry)... ON SUNDAY. His own
proclaimed standard of self-righteousness. No, I hadn't changed my
beliefs, and under any other context, if the organ tuning incident
hadn't happened, I would have had no problem helping him with his
phone project on Sunday. But how could I support his hypocrisy by ignoring what he claimed was a strongly held belief... to participate in and help nurture his double-standard!
Some of you, no doubt, shaking your heads. Some perhaps chuckling. Some,
even, perhaps have your own similar experiences you are remembering.
Yes, that's the kind of mentality that pervaded my childhood growing up
experience. Probably as 'strict' as any mentality can be, that I know
Today the 'self-righteous' ones (#2) pontificate about all sorts of things: home schooling, living in the country and raising your own food, (so-called) 'modest' attire, KJ-onlyism, and a whole host of things I would need to research to remember them all, that they promulgate; that all Christians should engage in... like they do. Now, while we know attire should be "modest", 'what' defines such modesty? (And typically, it is also usually always about -women's- attire) Is it that all ladies should wear red-and-white checkered aprons around the house? Or as I've seen at some modesty websites, 'modest' sleeping attire for wives in their own bed together with their own husbands? What do they make of Heb13:4 or 1Co7:3-5? Perhaps the Song-of-Solomon is a taboo book to them? And yet they are also often families with many children.
And yet, like I've mentioned in other contexts, when such churches in practice translate the meaning of "modest" into "frumpy", and perhaps a beautiful woman comes to attend/visit, not knowing of what sort the church is, the men leer and lust after her (making her feel very uncomfortable and violated); and the wives, instead of displeasure at their husbands for openly drooling, "hate her because she's beautiful". Jesus condemns men for 'looking to lust' (Mt5:28); but there are also several incidents of beautiful women, with no included contextual condemnation for her being beautiful, even when it is noticed that she had a nice figure. (Ge29:17, De21:11, Es2:7) And Job's daughters were considered to be unequalled in beauty "in all the land", and it was God's -blessing- upon Job's latter state after his trials. (Job42:15) Part of a woman 'dressing for the Lord' includes, as she is under the man's authority (1Co11:3), dressing for her own husband. She is not under the men of the congregation, the other self-righteous biddies, nor the pastor; she is under "her -own- husband". (1Co7:2,4, 14:35, Eph5:22,24, Tit2:5, 1Pt3:1,5)
But there are many, like that conservative Bible College some years ago, where I thought to apply to teach music, that stated in their "Dress Standards" page of the catalogue that "form revealing clothing" was not acceptable, but a couple pages later was a picture of one of their students and/or staff, perhaps in the library, wearing a tight stretch-knit sweater. So much for -illustrating- what "not" meant when it came to "form revealing". Hypocrisy!
Perhaps this seems a bit a-field of the main topic. While it is true
that the world pushes women to be goddesses, whores, sluts, and whatever
other label one wishes to place on them; neither is the Church to create
extra-Biblical rules that are beyond holiness. This is what the
Pharisees did. They took certain Godly standards, and then created a whole host of -more- rules and regulations which God never intended (if He had intended, He would have stated it clearly!), which they themselves did not keep, but foisted upon other people.
Remember: It was the scribes and Pharisees who, when Jesus said, "He who
is without sin AMONG YOU, let him throw the first stone at [the woman
'caught' in the -act- of adultery]" walked out one by one. (Jn8:7) Oh, this "terrible woman" who is a tramp. -She- needs to be stoned. But -they- were the ones having their way with her! They were the guilty ones! Self-righteous hypocrites!
For instance also: Where did the "sabbath day's journey" come from?
(Ac1:12) I've never seen it anywhere in Scripture, given through Moses.
Yet, they could be in a hustle and bustle of activity (not resting)
within a certain radius, travel from one area to some other area, within
a certain concocted 'distance' that was deemed sabbath kosher, travel
within that area, daisy-chained the sabbath distance to another, and
travel great distances; and according to the Pharisees, not break the
law (of their own devisings). They created extra-Biblical laws, and then
the means to also circumvent -their- 'law'. And yet, when Jesus would
heal a person such that they could now "rest" (shabbat) from their
infirmity, that was one of the contributory reasons why they crucified
Him. (Jn9:16) He didn't keep THEIR IDEA of SABBATH. They were hypocrites. They were self-righteous. Even though Jesus rightly observed to them,
"Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or
donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?" (Lk13:15)
Like even now, when the corn gets above a certain height in my garden, I
will dig trenches with the hoe and lay a hose down near the end. When I
do that, quite often the sparrows see it and happily go fluttering and
hopping, and are refreshed on a hot summer's Sunday. Which is 'worse'?
Laying down a hose and turning on the faucet, or when God sends a rain
shower on a Sunday? Is God "breaking the Sabbath" when He waters the
earth with rain?
"Also He spoke this parable to some who TRUSTED IN THEMSELVES that they
were righteous, and DESPISED OTHERS: Two men went up to the temple to
pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood
and prayed thus to himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other
men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I
fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax
collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to
Heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner! I
tell you, THIS MAN WENT DOWN TO HIS HOUSE JUSTIFIED RATHER THAN THE
OTHER; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who
humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk18:9-14)
A PHARISEE, in its pure form, is one who rightly divides the Word of God
(2Ti2:15) and seeks to obey everything, down to every last detail.
FUNDAMENTALISM is adherence to Biblical Doctrine; seeking the "old paths
where the good way is" (Jer6:16) It is adherence to the Foundation of
the Church and Faith, holding to the "foundation of the apostles and
prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph2:20)
And naturally, when the world 'lets loose, man!' where "anything goes",
and everybody is "doing their own thing" (If it feels good, do it!) the
Biblical Christian way will be deemed by them as "CONSERVATIVE".
To "judge with righteous judgment" (Jn7:24) will also be deemed by them
Thus, if a True Believer is being -faithful- to God and His Word,
following God's Word and not the concoctions of their own imaginations
that have no basis in Scripture, then indeed, it is a compliment to be
called a Pharisee (#1), Fundamentalist, Conservative and Judgmental.
But when a person becomes puffed up with pride in their judgments, and
becomes a "judge" of the Law, and not a "doer" (Ja4:11), such hypocrisy
receives God's condemnation. Such phariseeism (#2) is -NOT- "good". And
if a person were to guess, based on general observation, are there not
considerably more -evil- pharisees, than good ones! Thus, the general
concensus has become that: Phariseeism is bad!
And if such people at one time were True Believers, they should take
serious heed. Notice the verdict upon Ephesus, where at first they were
commended for their phariseeism; it turned into a state where it says
"...left their first love"
What is the warning? Be careful lest the lampstand be removed. What is
required? to "repent". But guess what! Many of those pharisees don't
believe in repentance, either. They have perverted a doctrine they call
"sola fide" (faith only), that they think repentance is a work. They
proclaim things like, "Salvation does NOT include the -work- of
repentance" (Confusing Biblical repentance with Rome's penance) A
statement like this was on a KJ-only website some years ago. Their
hypocrisy extended to the proclamation that the 1611 (apocryphal
catholic) KJV was the -only- true Word of God in English, condemning as
lost apostates all who didn't use it; while quoting regularly,
themselves, from the 1769 (non-apocryphal) version.
"Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first
works; and if not, I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand
from its place; unless you repent." (Rev2:5)
A Biblical Pharisee (#1) rightly judges what God judges; and also lives
But when a Pharisee (#2) rises above that humble place at the feet of
Jesus, and usurps pope-like authority to condemn others for things that
God does not condemn, and also does not even follow their own false
standards, which they mandate upon others, they are in danger of God's
"Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind
leads the blind, both will fall into the ditch." (Mt15:14)
Is that not the language of Salvation rejected. Lawyers were close
associates of the pharisees. Many lawyers were also pharisees, to whom
Jesus also said...
"Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You
did not enter in yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."
So... What's the difference between a good Pharisee and a bad one?
Simply put: One's stature in one's own eyes and estimation. A good pharisee will be of the attitude...
"So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are
commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our
duty to do." (Lk17:10)
And... one who is faithful!
"Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."
But also: If you, being a faithful True Believer, are the brunt of the
condemnations of the evil pharisees, or of the apostasy that condemns
your faithful phariseeism, remember Paul's other words...
"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made
administrator over his household, to give them food in due season?
Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so
"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or
a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come; but the
body is of Christ. Let no one condemn you, taking delight in false
All True Believers into Jesus Christ -should- be Pharisees. But which
kind are you?
"intruding into those things which he has not seen, being puffed up
without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head...
"Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the
world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to
decrees; Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle; which all concern
things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and
doctrines of men?
"These things indeed have an APPEARANCE OF WISDOM in SELF-DEVISED
worship, FALSE HUMILITY, and severity in abuse of the body, but are of
no value against gratification of the flesh...
"If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on
things above, not on the things of the earth; for you died, and your
life is hidden with Christ in God." (~Col2:16-3:3)