Christian Pharisees

The term "Christian Pharisee" is an oxymoron, however, there are many people who claim to be Christians but act like Pharisees. The Pharisees are blind to their own errors but think they have the truth, which is why they are condemned. "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." Claiming to be speaking for God they teach their own commandments. "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt 15:8-9)."

In one situation the Pharisees challenged Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus answered them, by saying, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Matt. 9:13).'" These are the words of Hosea where at the end of the book he says, "whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them (Hosea 14:9). Let's look at what the book of Hosea has to teach us today.

Hosea addresses the idolatry of Israel and God's love for them. Israel turned away from God and did not know it. They claimed to know him but their actions proved otherwise. God continually called them to righteous and steadfast love, but their hearts where false and they continued in their idolatry thinking their sacrifices would please Him. The LORD did not accept their sacrifices, and  put an end to their feasts. He wanted them to act properly and to know Him, but they only wanted to do what they thought was right.

Similarly the Pharisees were guilty of this very same thing. They did not understand what God really wanted and ended up following their own doctrines. When the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners they were only concerned about Jesus breaking the law, they were not concerned about the people who were condemned by the law. They did not realize that it was God's desire to show mercy to sinners.

Christian pharisees are those people who have their own rules and don't realize it. They think they are pleasing God but they are only pleasing themselves. When someone puts rules above righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness you can be sure that they are acting like Pharisees (Hosea 2:19-20).  Love all too often comes on our own terms. We focus on ourselves and our relationship with God, not realizing that our relationship with God is displayed in our relationship with others. "He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20)". There are many people who focus on their personal purity and are in constant fear of disobeying God. They put doctrines* ahead of people thinking that the Lord is pleased by their sacrifice. What they don't realize is that Jesus did not sacrifice His life for doctrine, He sacrificed His life for others which is His doctrine.

"In you the orphan finds mercy (Hos. 14:3)." It was not God's desire to disown Israel, but it was necessary so that they could be saved. This is the stumbling block of Christian Pharisees. They are not interested in helping people who are struggling in sin get to know God, they are only interested in keeping themselves pure and their relationship with God. The heart of God is to show mercy, not judgment (James 2:13). In fact Christians should have the same heart as Moses when he says, "but now, if you will forgive their sin - but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written (Ex. 32:32)". Paul also echoes this statement when he says, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:3)."

Do you desire to show mercy rather than sacrifice? Is the salvation of others more important to you than your own? Are you willing to risk your holiness for the sake of someone else? When the idolatrous orphan comes to you will he find Mercy or a Pharisee?

* The doctrines I am speaking of are those which are clearly man made and are not shown in Scripture. These are rules people put in place for some reason or another and rely on the interpretation of certain individuals. They are mostly intellectual and have no real way of being demonstrated outside of someones own head. I am not talking about doctrines that relate to the person and work of Jesus Christ.


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