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Bible verses about Pharisees
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The Pharisees substituted their ideas of how life should be lived in place of what God considers "weightier matters." They had perverted judgment by concentrating on self. My money, my house, my reputation, my power, my morals became their religion. Someone else's money, house, or reputation was only important to them as it affected their own standing. It was truly a "me" generation.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

The Pharisees perverted judgment by considering their desires ahead of others to the point of stealing widows' homes. Mercy never entered their minds—even for themselves, for they felt they needed none. As Christ noted, they would stand in the Temple, proclaiming their righteousness to God and man, while demeaning the publican, who would not so much as raise his face to God, praying "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:9-14).

When we honestly and squarely face our faults and weaknesses, we probably sympathize with the publican needing mercy, recognizing a great gulf between God's holiness and our own pitiful spiritual prowess. On the other hand, in actual living we may fall into the Pharisee's category without even realizing it.

Certainly we would never publicly proclaim our righteousness in church! Yet it is so easy—almost impossible not to—put someone else down; to cluck sagely at his foibles; to tarnish his reputation; to criticize his attitudes; appearance, family, doctrine, social standing, or job; or to laugh at his crazy theology if it does not jive with ours. We do these things in church! Maybe not in a public speech, but we do this in front of one or several brethren. This lifts us unmercifully above another brother, deriding his faults, laughing at his calamities, rather than "supporting the weak."

Is there a difference between this and the "classic" Pharisee? In either instance, we lift ourselves above another, esteeming our outlook or approach better than his—and saying so! In our ego and vanity, we do not consider—or even worse, may not care!—how merciless and devastating this can be on our brother when it filters back to him. And eventually, it does.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

Our Savior Jesus Christ shows in Matthew 23 that the scribes and Pharisees had perverted judgment and were terribly unmerciful to anyone "beneath them," as viewed from their own exalted position. This self-exaltation reached the point where they placed themselves above God. Matthew 23:18-19 explains that they honored their gift on the altar as more important than the altar itself. God's altar sanctifies or sets apart other things as holy. A person's "goodness" placed on the altar for all to admire is worth nothing!

This form of idolatry destroys faith in God. The Pharisees reckoned their salvation automatic because they paid such attention to minute details of the law—even adding more restrictive rules to it. Their over-carefulness bred an attitude of deserving salvation. They saw no need for a savior, for was not their obedience a guarantee? Surely God could not deny salvation to any so righteous as they!

Contrast the publican who "would not so much as raise his eyes" to God (Luke 18:9-14). He knew he was a sinner and needed help. Though he was not clothed in righteousness and thus not an immediate candidate for salvation, Christ could see in him a recognition of sin. His shame and humility would make it far easier for him to learn and repent than the pompous, self-satisfied scribes and Pharisees.

Christ instructs us to pray in private and do our good deeds quietly (Matthew 6:1-8). We should not even let one hand know what the other is doing. This does not mean we blindly walk in circles, unaware of what we are doing. It cautions us not to pat ourselves on the back in admiration of our righteousness.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 4) : Faith and Fidelity


 

Pharisee means separatist. The Pharisees of the first century were "holier than thou" types who separated themselves, both physically and spiritually from the main body of Jewish worshippers in their day. They strained over technical points, missing the loving intent of far larger issues, and as a result, they created a gulf between themselves and their fellow Jews. Jesus blasted them for this.

The church is an assembly. It is intended for fellowship, despite all its flaws. It is very clear from Paul's epistles that they were all addressed to church assemblies and that God intends His people assemble for worship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Judaism began after the reforms of Ezra. Ezra was a priest—a contemporary of Nehemiah—in the fifth century BC. Sometime after Ezra, the sect of the Pharisees arose. At first, they were lay members who rose in opposition to the Temple priests. No scholar has ever been able to determine what issue caused the Pharisees to band together as a group. They may have felt that the priests had too much power and authority, and were taking advantage of people, abusing them. The Sadducees were the priestly class combined with the wealthy.

Nevertheless, became the sect of the Pharisees began to arise. By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had begun attracting the scribes as well. They are frequently linked together. The scribes and the Pharisees often confronted Jesus together. The Pharisees were the stricter half of this duo, and despite this, they were more popular with the people. They were also generally less accurate in their interpretation of Scripture.

By the time of Christ, both parties of the Sadducees and the Pharisees had evolved into political parties with overtones of religious conviction, which varied considerably. They were vying for power in the community and of course confronting each another over what we might consider minor points of law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Deuteronomy 4:5-9

Gentiles' observing the results of Israel's obedience to God's law would be drawn to reject their pagan belief system in favor of God's true religion. There is no reference to God's calling these people. Rather, conversion is treated as a fully rational and voluntary choice made when thoughtful pagans recognize the superiority of God's way over their own satanic practices.

In other words, Israel's role was to be an example. God did not command missionary activity on the part of ancient Israel. Israel's proselytism was to be non-verbal, as distinct from the overt verbal action of preaching through the written or spoken word.

Not proselytism through words, but through works, is the God-sanctioned method for ancient Israel. Israel was not so much to preach as it was to obey and to teach. Obeying God's law was an individual responsibility; teaching that law was a parental duty. Notice verse 9, which stresses both roles.

The Old Testament is replete with examples of Gentiles who were won over to Israel by witnessing the unquestioned superiority of God's way of life, and subsequently becoming convinced that His way was for them. One early example may be "Eliezer of Damascus" in Abraham's day, the chief servant in his household. Other examples, certainly, are Ruth in the period of the judges, Uriah the Hittite in David's day and Ebed-Melech in Jeremiah's time. All these quickly come to mind as Gentile converts.

Later on, however, Hellenized Jews caught missionary fever and discarded the approach sanctioned by God. Active—and far-flung—evangelism became the order of the day. Indeed, the first New Testament occurrence of the word proselyte appears in Matthew 23:15 where Christ chastises the scribes' and Pharisees' for their hypocritical approach to spreading their corrupt religion.

Charles Whitaker
Proselytism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Part One)


 

Matthew 3:7-10

Notice that his scathing attack is against both the Pharisees and Sadducees: The Pharisees had public power because they tended to be successful people in private life. In spite of this, they also had the admiration of the people. The Sadducees were largely from the priesthood and thus controlled the Temple. Consequently, they pretty much controlled the religious life of the people. Yet, because they also tended to be wealthy but haughty in disposition, the feelings of the people were prejudiced against them.

John courageously confronts the establishment's leadership. His was an unpopular message of judgment aimed directly at the powerful, and they did not take kindly to what he said. "And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him" (Luke 7:29-30).

Matthew 21:32 confirms John's rejection when Jesus speaks to the chief priests and elders at the Temple: "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him." The powerful knew John was speaking about them, so in disdainful anger, they rejected him, while the publicans and harlots accepted his teaching.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

Matthew 4:4

It is essential that we look at the Old Testament as a Christian book that was purposely written with the Christian in mind.

It is easy for us to think of the Old Testament as the book of Judaism, and that Christianity's roots are in Judaism. In fact, this idea is readily accepted in the "Christian world," but it is not true—not true in the least, except that there are some shared beliefs. If it were true, its modern corollary would be that Christianity's roots are also in paganism, because some of the concepts that pagans have are also shared with Christianity. That, incidentally, is what one large church has claimed in its writings about the holy days—that they actually derive from paganism.

The truth is that Judaism is a corruption of the religion God gave to Moses. It, too, was syncretic: part pagan, part truth, bound together by their own reasoning. In many places, Jesus corrected and railed against the Sadducees, the scribes, and the Pharisees. He said directly that they had rejected God's commandments in order to keep their own traditions. God's commandments are in the Old Testament; the Jews' traditions are not, and they are what the Jews lived by. Therefore, how can we say that Judaism came out of the Old Testament? God called the people out of Judaism to bring them into Christianity, just as today God is calling people out of a syncretic Christianity in order to bring them into true, biblical Christianity.

If Judaism really were God's religion, why did He not fix it from within? The period between the Testaments—between Malachi and Matthew—covered roughly 400 years in which a great deal took place. The record of Judaism during that time, particularly the history of the high priests, is much like that of the Papacy during the Middle Ages.

True Christianity's roots are in the truth of God—not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New. Judaism, though, rejects the New Testament, claiming the Old Testament as their book exclusively, and that perception is very strong to all. This world's Christianity claims the New Testament as its exclusive domain and virtually—and practically—ignores the Old Testament.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are the pure in heart" is a beatitude expressing a standard that is extremely difficult to achieve. Relating strongly to much of what is written in the Old Testament, this standard is something the Pharisees vainly pursued through an obsessive observance of thousands of cultic rules they and others added to God's inspired Word. Their desire to achieve purity before God is commendable, but Jesus clearly demonstrates that they chose to do it the wrong way, leaving their hearts unchanged. In this vein Paul remarks:

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 5:16

A Christian should not let his light shine to be praised by others, but to bring glory to the Father. The Pharisees acted to be seen of men, but true Christians behave to glorify God, caring little what people may think of them. It is by our conduct, not our pomp and circumstance, that others may be brought to honor God. We should live so that people may see from our good works the proper nature of God's way of life. Good works cannot be hidden because they stand in stark contrast to the ways of this wicked world (I Timothy 5:25). These works are required behavior at home and in the outside world.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Light


 

Matthew 6:1

The word in the New King James Version rendered "charitable deeds," and in the King James, "alms," is best translated as "mercifulness" or "mercy." There are some who believe the word should actually be "righteousness." This comes from the Hebrew concept of good deeds or alms. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used most often for the idea is sadaka, translated most often as "righteousness." Rather than saying "doing good deeds," the Hebrews would say "doing righteousness."

The idea here is obviously righteous acts—good works. The Greeks did not have a word that worked exactly, and so Matthew chose the word that means "mercies."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"


 

Matthew 12:9-14

There is an obvious difference between Christ and the Pharisees on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were not there to worship God. Their questions were not asked out of loving concern. They were there as accusing authorities who wanted to judge Christ by their own regulations.

At the time, the Jews had been compiling for a number of years a code of regulations by which they hoped to make it virtually impossible for a person to sin. Eventually, there were 1,521 regulations just regarding keeping the Sabbath! These people did it in sincerity, a misdirected zeal. What happened is that they turned the observance of the day into a legalistic ritual rather than a loving service toward God and fellow man.

Consider the actions and words in Matthew 12 and in Mark 3. Is Christ doing away with the Sabbath observance, or is He restoring it to its original, divine value and function? Jesus helps us understand this by a principle He gives in Matthew 19:8. Referring to divorce and remarriage, Jesus says, "But from the beginning it was not so." So it is here. He is showing God's original intent for the Sabbath.

He is not saying, "You don't have to worry about breaking it," or, "I'm going to do away with this day in the future anyway, so it doesn't matter what we do." Instead, by what He says and does, He focuses attention on His own Sabbath activities: To relieve somebody of a burden, to deliver one from a withered hand. By these acts, we see that the Sabbath is a day of redemption, deliverance, freedom, and healing. It is a day to do kind acts. It is a day to help one's fellow man in some way and to relieve him of some burden, as much as lies within us.

Jesus' healing here was not done to a man whose life was in danger. He had a chronic problem, and it easily could have waited until the next day. He could have said, "Come back tomorrow." Instead, He purposely shows what the Sabbath is for. It is for healing—either physical or spiritual healing.

The man's chronic illness parallels us spiritually: We are chronically sinful! Jeremiah 17:9-10 says that the heart is incurably sick. The Sabbath, then, is a day given to free us from the chronic problems of human nature.

By Jesus' example—His reactions, His words—it becomes clear that God not only intends that "good" be done, but to fail to do good when the opportunity presents itself implies "evil" and "killing." If not, why was He angry? He was angry because the Pharisees were failing to do something to relieve this man of his burden. Instead, they were using him to provoke Jesus into what they considered as sinning so that they might accuse Him. Thus, the person who is not concerned for the physical and/or spiritual salvation of others on the Sabbath is automatically involved in destructive efforts and attitudes.

One of the Sabbath's uses is to prepare us to be used for the salvation of others. We are not in the position yet that Christ was. He was able, because of His closeness to God, because He was God in the flesh, because He had the Spirit of God without measure, to do things that we are unable to do. But the principle is there!

There are many such things—as opportunities present themselves—that we can do on the Sabbath. It is within our power to relieve other's burdens. It may only be giving someone encouragement or writing a letter or telephoning to let another know that he is cared for and thought of. It may be a little thing, but it is within our power to do things like this to help others along the way.

Consider the Sabbath command in Deuteronomy 5: The Sabbath was made to show compassion toward the weak and the defenseless. The command says that we are to give others who are under our authority the Sabbath day to rest. We relieve them—manservant, maidservant, even animals—of the burden of work. They, too, are to be given the opportunity to be relieved of a burden. They are physical. If they are worked constantly, they will wear out more quickly. And so it is wise to give them rest, is it not? It is to our benefit to give them the relief that they need. A similar command is given in Exodus 23:12:

Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Matthew 16:6

The key to understanding the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6, 11-12) does not hinge on their zeal in keeping the law, but on their zeal in finding loopholes to twist it to their own ends. Their motto could have been, "How close can we get to the edge without going over?" We could refer to this practice as brinkmanship (pushing a situation to the limit to force a desired result) or marginalism (taking an extreme position on an issue).

A former homiletics teacher, also an avid skier, conveyed to his class an analogy of the Ten Commandments as the boundary markers along the ski trail. Every year, when contemplating the boundary markers at Vail or Aspen, he reflected that only an idiot would ski as close to the edge as he could. Yet this describes many practices of the scribes and Pharisees!

The legalist and the lawbreaker both have a morbid curiosity about those boundaries rather than concentrate upon the vast latitude of choices between those markers. This is reminiscent of our parents Adam and Eve developing a morbid curiosity about the one tree that God forbade, ignoring the thousands upon thousands of varieties that He did not forbid (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6). This behavior dwells on the negative and ignores the positive.

These examples point out that the spirits of legalism and lawlessness are twin siblings. When we place the critical points of the law/grace and legalism/lawlessness issue in proper perspective, law and grace are powerful allies opposing legalism and lawlessness. They give Christians great freedom to do good for others while also doing what is right.

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

Matthew 23:1-39

In one chapter, Matthew 23, Jesus Christ rips the scribes and Pharisees to shreds. Eight times He pronounces on them woe—defined by Webster's Dictionary as "deep suffering, grief, affliction, ruinous trouble." He dubs them "hypocrites" seven times, "blind guides" twice, "fools and blind" twice, "blind" once, "whitewashed tombs" once, and finishes His name-calling tirade by designating them "brood of vipers"!

He then accuses them of being the children of those who had killed the prophets—a heavy-duty insult considering how proud they were of their ancestry. He predicts they would do the same themselves and declares that He would have nothing to do with them until they accept and bless the ones He sends.

Jesus was really worked up over this! Why? These people were extremely careful in keeping every minor article of the law. They even added many precise rules themselves to ensure they did not overlook the law's details.

Their lives, and the lives of those under their jurisdiction, consisted of endless, mindless details. Endless, for they continued to break branches of the law down to twigs down to leaves. Mindless, because this focus hampered their ability to think and properly weigh what was most important. They became so involved in making sure everyone else obeyed their demands that they no longer remembered the fundamental purpose of the law or kept it properly themselves. Even worse, they used the law against others and took advantage even to the point of "devouring widows' houses" (verse 14). Hence Christ's remonstrance: Hypocrites!

Yet they LOOKED good, publicly counting their mint, cummin and anise. It is not wrong or unlawful to count each seed; tithing should be done, as Christ pointed out (verse 23). But there are far more important issues of the law to consider than counting individual seeds—namely, JUDGMENT, MERCY AND FAITH.

Notice Christ's scathing indictment of the Pharisees' religion and it's effects:

♦ They set a horrid example by not following their own teaching (verse 3).
♦ They abused their office by burdening others with strict requirements while not requiring the same of themselves (verse 4).
♦ What they did do was only for vanity and show (verse 5).
♦ They were social climbers (verse 6).
♦ Their teaching had negative results, driving people farther from the Kingdom rather than closer to it (verse 13).
♦ Their twisted reasoning led them to steal even from the weak (verse 14).
♦ Their misguided zeal made their proselytes twice as bad as they were before they were even "converted" to Pharisaism (verse 16).
♦ Gold, money, and greed became their main focus and god (verses 16-18).
♦ Their perspective was so perverted that they would pay more attention to keep from swallowing a gnat than they would a camel (verses 23-24).
♦ How others saw them was far more important than moral values (verses 27-28).
♦ While they extolled the virtues of past men of God, they were so deeply hateful and murderous that they would kill Christ and any of His followers that they could (verses 29-37).
♦ Their religious house was utterly worthless and desolate, bereft of any contact with or influence of God, though they thought they were perfectly righteous. In a word, they were self-righteous.

We could easily break these attitudes down into many more categories of sin, but the point is obvious: The total of all their religious efforts was zero. Actually, Pharisaism had negative value, for the scribes and Pharisees took what people already had and made them even worse off than before!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 1): Introduction


 

Matthew 23:2-4

The person who sat in Moses' seat had a measure of authority, and Jesus said it was to be respected. Apparently, the majority of those seats were occupied by Pharisees and scribes. However, Jesus took great exception as to how they used their authority. They said, and they did not. It is clear they used their authority to abuse, to elevate themselves and put others down, and to burden the people in ways Jesus did not agree with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Matthew 23:23

We tend to think of judgment as the eternal judgment and the sorting of sheep to the right and goats to the left at the return of Jesus Christ. While this ultimately comes into play, we first need to examine some elements of judgment in the "here and now" rather than the "there and then." For the converted Christian, judgment is now on the house of God (I Peter 4:17).

As used in Matthew 23:23 as a weighty matter, "judgment" is from the Greek word krisis, meaning "decision for or against" and suggesting a tribunal or formal judgment. It implies "justice." Justice has several meanings, the first of which is "impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or assignment of deserved punishment or reward." More simply, when a conflict arises among people, justice is administering what is just - "factual, reasonable, faithful, morally upright, good, fair, righteous, impartial, and legally correct."

The Pharisees took one element of that definition - the "legally correct" part - and based their relationships with others on it, conveniently deleting fairness, impartiality, reasonableness, etc. from their thinking. Christ wanted them to be legally correct, for it is part of proper decision-making, but there is more to it than that!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 1): Introduction


 

Matthew 23:23

The Pharisees made their first major error in this area of judgment. They had abandoned the proper yardstick for their basis of judgment. As Matthew 15:1-9 shows, they had developed their own traditions that transgressed the law of God (verse 3). Their worship had become vain - worthless - as they substituted the doctrines of men for the doctrines of God (verse 9).

The Pharisees had lost touch with God's instructions, His mind. They leaned on carnal reasoning, which always decided in their favor. Situation ethics ruled, rather than the precepts of God. They became very harsh in their dealings with the "little people," taking advantage of them simply because they could (Micah 2:1-2).

"A just weight and balance are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are His work. It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness" (Proverbs 16:11-12). Though the Pharisee's "additions" to the law seemed innocent enough at their inception, over time they became increasingly partial to those who made the additions. This destroyed godly standards, and wickedness reigned. Since the leaders' righteousness had been destroyed, their leadership was void of justice. Significantly, the Bible's final warning is not to add to or subtract from God's Word (Revelation 22:18-19), for our own judgments do not have the purity and objectivity of God's.

This problem never seems to go away. Christ excoriated the Pharisees for it. James addressed the church about it because some were showing partiality to the wealthy in the congregations (James 2:1-12). Decision-making, judging, discerning, and evaluating fruits often become subjective. We base them on how they may affect our own well-being rather than render them impartially and objectively in the light of God's Word purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). Is it any wonder God gives us an average of 70 years to learn to make right judgments?

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment


 

Matthew 23:23

The real problem with the scribes and Pharisees is that they were totally selfish. They weighted their judgment toward themselves, and so they had no room for mercy for others. Nothing about them resembled Christ—no fidelity. They did not see a need for faith in the forgiveness in Christ, for they felt they needed none.

Christ gave them the answer to their problem. If they would render proper judgment, without partiality, emphasis on self would diminish. Their mercy would allow people to make mistakes and have space to repent rather than fear being destroyed financially or otherwise. Finally, with true fidelity, they would treat everyone as Christ did. Their faith would increase, as would the faith of those under their influence.

Had they properly applied these three qualities—judgment, mercy, and faith—their attitudes would have turned from selfish carnal goals to outgoing concern for others. They would have begun displaying the real love of God. If we apply them, we will have the confidence and boldness of which Paul spoke—the kind of faith required for salvation. The scribes and Pharisees lacked it. Being alive, we still have the chance to obtain it.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 4) : Faith and Fidelity


 

Matthew 23:25

Jesus declares the Pharisees "hypocrites" because they looked like they led "clean" lives, but inside they were greedy and self-indulgent. A person indulges himself by taking unrestrained pleasure in his pursuit of enjoyment and showing undue favor to his desires and feelings. By excessive compliance in gratifying our own desires, we pamper, humor, and spoil ourselves. Pamper implies inordinate gratification of desire for luxury and comfort with a consequent enervating effect. Humor indicates yielding to moods or whims. Spoil stresses the injurious effects on a person's character. Self-indulgence is excessive satisfaction of our sensual appetites and desires for the specific purpose of pleasing the self.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 8): Self-Indulgence


 

Luke 16:14-18

Jesus is again confronting the Pharisees. He had just given them the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which speaks about money; thus, this little section is introduced with the Pharisees described as being covetous. Does covetousness have anything to do with the commands of God? How about the tenth commandment?

The Pharisees were offended. Even though Jesus Himself did not say anything directly about covetousness, they were perceptive enough to pick up the drift of His parable. They justified their attitude of covetousness before men who would accept their rationalizations, but as Jesus says in verse 15, they could not escape the scrutiny of God, who judges the heart!

Jesus says that people were pressing into the Kingdom of God. Why? Because Jesus was preaching it, and people were believing the message and repenting. How deeply they believed it is not the point at this time. Crowds were following Jesus, and this enters into His explanation. Jesus warns the Pharisees that, just because people were pressing into the Kingdom of God due to Jesus' preaching of the gospel, they themselves would not pass blithely under the bar of judgment because God would judge them according to the standards given in His law.

Where are those standards given? In the Old Testament! Thus, He says that it is easier for heaven to pass away than for one tittle of the law to pass. Their covetousness would be judged by what was written in the Old Testament. In other words, He could perceive that they were quite sensitive to the standards written in the Old Testament.

To illustrate, He gives an additional principle that He pulls from the Pentateuch, from Genesis 2:24: "Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another. . . ." Why does He bring that in? Because the Pharisees in actuality had a very cavalier attitude toward the law of God, especially in the area of marriage and divorce. They just brushed it off.

The point is this: Our Savior did not have a cavalier attitude towards the Old Testament. He had every opportunity here to tell these people, "A New Covenant is coming, so do not worry about your sins. We are just going to overlook them." But He did not. He upheld the law and judgment according to it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Luke 16:19-22

Jesus describes Lazarus as being taken to Abraham's bosom, which is simply the human breast, with the arms as an enclosure. His words depict a loving embrace, suggesting an intimate relationship. Lazarus, therefore, comes into an intimate relationship with Abraham and receives salvation (Galatians 3:29). Since Lazarus had given himself to Christ, he became one of Abraham's spiritual children and an heir to the promises of God (Galatians 3:7).

The "bosom" metaphor occurs frequently in Scripture. God will care for His people as a shepherd for his sheep, carrying them "in his bosom" (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus was "in the bosom" of the Father (John 1:18), enjoying His blessings and close relationship. Moses carried the children of Israel in his bosom (Numbers 11:12). Lazarus had gained such intimacy with Abraham, while the Pharisees, who considered themselves to be the recipients of God's promises to Abraham, had not.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Part One)


 

Luke 16:19

Could He be referring once again to the Pharisees, using a typical Pharisee—a rich man, dressed in nice clothing, with plenty to eat? The preceding parable, the Parable of the Unjust Steward, the Pharisees rightly understood had something to do with covetousness about money. Jesus He tied the two parables together with His warning, "Look, the law is not done away. You will be judged by that law that covers covetousness."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Luke 17:21

"Within" is translated from entos, used only twice in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is "inside," as it is rendered in Matthew 23:26: "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." However, when used in conjunction with a plural noun, entos means "among" or "in the midst of." In Luke 17:21, entos is used with "you," and from the context, we can see that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Pharisees, who had come to question Him about the Kingdom of God (verse 20). "You," then, is plural. "The kingdom of God is among you" is best.

Most modern translations have recognized this grammatical error and translate entos as "among" or "in the midst of." Some texts, like the New King James and the New International versions, persist in using "within," though they note in the margin that "among" is an alternative.

Even without this technical knowledge of Greek, we could have easily understood that "within" is a poor and misleading translation. Christ was answering a question posed by the Pharisees, and He replied directly to them: "He answered them and said, . . . 'For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.'" But how could the Kingdom of God be within His most bitter enemies? How many times did He reveal them to be hypocritical and misleading the people? Theologically, it is quite impossible to think that His Kingdom would be in the Pharisees.

It is only after He had made this remark that He turned to His disciples (verse 22) and explained what He meant. The subject of the entire section (verses 20-37) is stated most explicitly in verse 30: "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." All along, He had been explaining His second coming! When He returns, He will set up His Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:9).

If the Kingdom is still future, how could He say that "the kingdom of God is among you"? To answer this, we must return to the four common traits of a kingdom: a king, who rules by law over a number of subjects who live within a certain territory. The primary trait is that a kingdom must be ruled by a king; otherwise, the country has some other form of government. A king of any nation is the chief representative of that nation. And the King of the Kingdom of God is none other than the living Jesus Christ!

Pilate specifically asked Jesus, "'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth'" (John 18:37). So as the King of God's Kingdom, He could truly tell the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

Luke 18:9-12

The Pharisee's prayer manifests his mindset (II Peter 2:3). People like him trust in their own works to gain salvation and eternal life, not trusting in Jesus Christ for them. They do not really think they need His sacrifice or help because they think they are good enough in themselves. So, they toot their own horns, making sure God knows how righteous they are. While kneeling before Him, they tell Him all the good things they are always doing, and believe that He is impressed. They act as if God owes them salvation because of their good works.

This attitude shows how little they understand of the true holiness of God and the lowliness of our spiritual state. While on earth, Jesus worked more easily with tax collectors and sinners than with the Pharisees, though the latter were more dedicated to adhering strictly to the letter of the law. The Pharisees, knowing they were more righteous, made sure others knew it. In their self-delusion and self-righteousness, they could learn little from Christ.

The Pharisee, considering others as nothing, treats them accordingly. It is typical of human nature to elevate itself while putting down others, and some believe that this is the only way to elevate themselves above their peers. Isaiah writes about such people: ". . . who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in [God's] nostrils, a fire that burns all the day" (Isaiah 65:5).

The Pharisee compares his own flaws, not with God's infinite perfections, but with the imagined greater flaws of others. His pride has made him bankrupt of genuine compassion and concern (James 2:13). He presumptuously errs in his prayer in that it is neither his duty nor his right as a sinner to point out another's sins. In trusting in Christ for righteousness, our inadequacies and guilt are revealed, and we become willing to admit that others may be much better than we are.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Acts 21:21

The speaker is James, our Savior's brother. "They" is the Jews, and "you" is the apostle Paul.

Verse 25 is a quotation taken from the conference in Acts 15, and the subject, according to verse 21, is the customs. The controversy did not involve the civil laws or the Ten Commandments. Instead, it involved the ceremonial additions, as is clearly shown in context by what Paul did.

The context shows what these customs were. Paul made the offerings required at the conclusion of a vow. It is clear that the passage is speaking about the ceremonies. It is also entirely possible that the controversy over these customs also involved the oral traditions of the Pharisees, which they were so devoted to.

There is no evidence that Paul ever taught any Jew to forsake Moses. To do so, he would have to preach against God. There is no evidence that Paul ever told them, "Do not circumcise your children." He certainly preached that keeping the law could not justify a person before God. His writings clearly state that we are justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8).

Plainly, Paul's own actions in Acts 21 testify that, though salvation or justification could not be won through keeping these things, keeping them was not destructive unless one depended upon them for justification or salvation. In addition, there was no hesitation on Paul's part to do them. Scripture gives no indication that he argued with James; in fact, we see a unity of mind between them. There is no indication of reluctance either, that somehow it would destroy Paul's faith in Jesus Christ, or that it would compromise him in the eyes of any Christian, Jew or Gentile, who might witness it.

This teaches that first-century Christians understood this issue. They clearly understood what we seem to have such a difficult time understanding nineteen centuries later. Nothing this God of love that we worship requires of us is bad for us. Sometimes what He requires may be difficult to bear, but it is not destructive to His purpose or thoughtless in any way. It is always intended to strengthen us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

Acts 26:5

The Pharisees were strict, but wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures. They were wrong primarily because their strictness was in the area of ritual purity and morality than true spirituality and ethics. Both by Jesus' and Paul's testimony, they were not living according to God's commandments as a way of life. Paul states clearly: "For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh" (Galatians 6:13).

A number of years earlier, Jesus said virtually the same thing, recorded in a couple of places:

"And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do. (Mark 7:7-8)

Mark 7:1 verifies that He was speaking to the Pharisees. They were zealously and religiously adhering to Halakah, which was an interpretation of both the written law, given at Mt. Sinai, and a collection of verbal or oral laws that had been passed from one generation to the next for centuries. This law they elevated to divine status. In so doing, they rejected the commandments of God.

When some in the Jewish faith merged their zealous practice of Halakah with Gnostic concepts, they became a persuasive and persistent enemy of the church. Gnosticism played a significant, background role in what Paul wrote in the book of Galatians.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 26)


 

Romans 2:27-29

The law he is writing about here is obviously the Ten Commandments. Within this context is the Bible's definition of what God means by circumcision. Circumcision is broadly defined as "when one keeps the law." Uncircumcision is "when one breaks the law." He does not mean an occasional breaking of the law but consistently breaking it as a practice or as a way of life.

It was the shocking disparity between what the Pharisees urged others to do and what they did themselves that ignited Jesus' strong rebukes against them. Here, Paul accuses the typical Jew—not necessarily the Pharisee, the scribe, or the Sadducee—of bringing blasphemy against God by doing the same thing the Pharisees did. They taught and demanded one thing of others and did something else.

The Jews, then, had acquired a bad reputation throughout the Roman Empire by teaching one thing and doing another in the business of life. Thus, Paul says that, spiritually, they were uncircumcised. The average Jew was externally in conformity with the Covenant, but inwardly, as shown by the way that he lived his life—how he conducted his business, his family life—he may just as well have been as uncircumcised as a Gentile! There is a powerful lesson in this for us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 7)


 

Romans 10:1-3

Recall what Jesus says about the Jews/Pharisees: "All too well you reject the commandments of God, that you might keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9). Paul is saying the same thing, only in more detail and later in time. However, he adds something to it: ". . . they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." This summarizes their zealous attitude and its result. Despite their learning, they were ignorant and established their own righteousness.

With a great deal of zeal, they went about thinking and saying they were serving God, but all they did was produce their own set of standards. Their zeal was probably their greatest barrier to the truth. The apostle Paul is a prime example. Before conversion, he was a zealous Pharisee! He was so zealous that it was notorious to the first-century church; it was afraid of him!

If he is an example of Pharisaism, then we see that his zeal for Judaism drove him to consider Jesus and the church as traitors to his way of life. Simultaneously, it prevented him from objectively examining what was being taught. His mind was blinded by his zeal. It took him getting knocked down on the Damascus Road to convince him otherwise. It is a good example of the miracle that takes place in our minds, though ours is not as dramatic as his. Once converted, Paul could effectively examine the Jews' problem.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Romans 10:2-3

The Pharisees are a prime example of Israelites "seeking to establish their own righteousness." In the same way the Pharisees approached God's law, first-century Jews dealt with prophecy. We can see this in their reactions to the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

A major theme of the Old Testament is the coming of the Messiah. From Genesis 3:15 through Malachi 4:2, prophecies of the coming of the Savior fill God's Word. The gospel writers show time and again how Jesus fulfilled the prophets' predictions in His actions or in the actions of those around Him. Matthew, especially, makes a conscious point to highlight many Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus' life.

Thus, the Jews had the prophecies of God's Word, as well as the life and words of Jesus—their God, Yahweh—to give unassailable proof that prophetic events were happening before their eyes. What more did they need? Did they even use the knowledge available to them? No! Paul says they avoid submitting to God's knowledge, and instead, they establish their own!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
No Private Interpretation


 

Find more Bible verses about Pharisees:
Pharisees {Nave's}
 




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