Who Is The Real Pharisee?

Charles Pogue

Those who are faithful to the doctrine of Jesus Christ are often ridiculed for insisting on strict adherence to the law of Christ. “Commandment keepers,” “I”-dotters, “legalists,” “traditionalists,” and, of course, “Pharisees,” are just a few of the descriptive terms used by liberals both within and without the Lord’s church, to label those who are sound in the faith. The label of Pharisee is one of the most popular monikers affixed to the faithful. If people understood how the Pharisees really were, they would actually realize it is they, not God’s faithful elect, whose attitudes and practices are most in line with the Pharisees.

Matthew 15:1-3 says, “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” Now follow this: If it is Pharisaical to follow, with strict adherence, the commands of God, why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees for transgressing God’s commandment? To accuse those of being Pharisees who seek to follow, to the letter, what the New Testament teaches, is also to accuse Jesus of being a Pharisee. How ridiculous that is!

Now, wait a minute, we can hear the opposition now. Jesus used, for His illustration, one of the Ten Commandments did he not? Yes, He did. This is one of the big important matters in the law, right? Yes, it was. But it does not follow that just because He used one of the Ten Commandments to illustrate His point, that any command men might have regarded as lesser could be broken with impunity. We know, in fact, that it could not be.

How do we know that? Jesus said so Himself. “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:18, 19). Who were breaking the least of the commandments and teaching men to break them? Jesus answers that in the very next verse. “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Now go back to Matthew 15 and Jesus’ example again. In verses 4-7, Jesus explained how the Pharisees used their tradition and human reasoning to circumvent one aspect of a man honoring his father and mother. Men do the same thing today with some of the commands of the Royal Law.

Acts 20:7 shows that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed on a weekly basis. However, many want to have things their way, so in the tradition of the Pharisees they offer an excuse such as, “If the Lord’s Supper is observed on a weekly basis it will be less meaningful to the partakers.” That is the same kind of reasoning the Pharisees used in Matthew 15, and it has the same consequence of transgressing the law of Christ as the tradition of the Pharisees did in transgressing the law of Moses. Just who is the real Pharisee, the one who obeys the law, or the one who does not?

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Author: Editor

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