What is a Pharisee?
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do.”
Matthew 23:1-3 (WEB)
There is much contained in the Words of Jesus. His words are full of truth and that truth pierces to the core of a man’s heart. In this discourse, it is striking to note the audience to whom He spoke.
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples”
The word that follows is important to all who call themselves by His Name. His warnings are given to everyone in general “and to His disciples”. It is a word to us, to all generations who desire to walk rightly before Him. There will always be those who ascend to prominent religious positions, speaking good things. Jesus declares what things people should hearken to and DO.
“All things therefore whatever
they tell you to observe, observe and do”
True disciples are to recognize God’s word even if it is spoken by some who may live hypocritically or carelessly. God’s Word is true regardless of its source. The emphasis in this warning from the Lord is found in a very short word… DO. A disciple is one in whom the word of the Lord influences their living. It is not the mental aspect; it is not merely the enlightenment of the mind while leaving one’s conduct unaffected. Doing is the revelation of true discipleship. Many hear, many teach. It is the focus of the Holy Spirit to bring us into the realm of becoming through obedience.
“…but don’t do their works;
for they say and don’t do.”
Jesus considered their lack of works as their works. Their works were to talk of the things of the Lord without doing. Their non-doing became their works; much like not deciding inadvertently becomes a decision. True faith is the agency through which the works of God are born. The essential nature of faith is to reveal the Life and the Works of its Author. James declares:
“But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
The subtlety of Pharisee-ism is a fearful and easy thing into which any disciple can fall. We can become comfortable in our beliefs rather than in our relationship with Him. Disciples follow Him. They participate in the doing of His Will on the earth. They are involved in the works of Christ for He is their Head, and they are His hands, feet, and heart in this world. Because they are of His Body, they move with Him.
May we be warned in our own walk. Let us heed the exhortations of Him to flee the Pharisaical ways of speaking without doing, of teaching without being a demonstration in our own lives. The truth of our words is to be evidenced in our homes, in our workplaces, and in our fellowship with those who are His.
“…but don’t do their works;
for they say and don’t do”
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance, a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
“So speak ye, and so do,
as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty”
See: Words and Deeds A.W. Tozer
Brian, stated with much wisdom from God, and His word. Appreciate your teaching focus. We are to follow Jesus, He is our teacher. We are to follow His Holy Spirit. He is our teacher and the giver of ministry gifting. He also corrects our thinking and our ways. Love you brother.
Thank you Jerry for the kind words and encouragement!
I remember chatting with my Mom a few years before she went Home, and noting to her, “Mom, you DO realize we are the modern Pharisees, right? We read the Scripture, it’s all we talk about, we go to church meetings and try to live to the letter whatever we find in the Bible.” She laughed and said, “Yes, I never thought of it like that, except that we are good Pharisees like Nicodemus, and maybe better in that we do not hide that we are Jesus’ followers.” She was always so right! And now I expect since she’s been in Heaven a couple decades, she’s made sure Paul knows how he botched his job in the Mars Hill sermon!
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