Pharisaism is alive and well on planet earth. Pharisaism is popular among deacon boards and church councils, hospitality committees and choir rooms, and yes, even pulpits and pews and prayer rails, of Christian churches everywhere. Pharisaism knows no denominational or status boundaries. You can find the sin of Pharisaism everywhere God's people come together. How can we rid ourselves of this creepy, tenacious sin, the sin Jesus condemned with greater vehemence than any other?
by Jerry Gentry
"He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1).
Jesus shows utter repugnance with only one type of sinner, the Pharisee. Jesus issues his strongest rebukes to these most religious people. Jesus condemns the sin of Pharisaism with all the verge and vigor of total righteous indignation. Jesus despises Pharisaism and lets loose His strongest words of reproof against this sin:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
Seven times recorded by Matthew and one additional time recorded by Luke, Jesus thunders the words: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
It becomes quite obvious that Jesus Christ considers Pharisaism a serious sin, one worthy of His strongest rebukes, one he has little patience for, one he refuses to tolerate.
But just what is the sin of Pharisaism? Do you know a Pharisee? Do you yourself commit the sin of Pharisaism? How can you identify this sin, root it out, and never again be found guilty of this heinous offense called the sin of Pharisaism?
According to Jesus, this sin of Pharisaism calls for greater rebukes than the sin of adultery. Concerning the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus "lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, [and] he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" (Joh 8:10). "She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (v. 11).
But, to the Pharisee, he shouts: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
A notorious murderer of Christians once saw a blinding light and later told his story: "And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 26:14). The challenging question, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" is gentle by comparison to Jesus words to the Pharisees. Hereby, former Saul becomes the apostle Paul, born an apostle out of season. He later writes to young Timothy, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1Tim. 1:15).
But to the Pharisees, Jesus retorts: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" Yes, Jesus unleashed His harshest language of rebuke and condemnation upon the sin of Pharisaism.
Concerning a thief, the apostle Paul admonished "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth (Eph. 4:28). This language of "Let him that stole steal no more" is hardly the kind of language Jesus used against the sin of Pharisaism.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matt. 23:15).
From scripture, it comes quite clear that Jesus Christ equates the sin of Pharisaism with being "the child of hell," a frightening thought. Nowhere in the scripture is any other sin equated as such&emdash;not adultery, not murder, not theft&emdash;only the sin of Pharisaism! Surely, then, Christians should be on the lookout for the sin of Pharisaism and make every effort to identify this sin, 'fess up to it, and root it out of our lives.
Now reader beware. All sin is sin. And the penalty of sin is death, no matter what sin it is, whether adultery, or murder, or theft or, yes, even the sin of Pharisaism. Only acceptance of the blood of Christ can cover sin and save the sinner from eternal damnation.
Now if all sin brings the death penalty, then why is the sin of Pharisaism singled out for Jesus' most stern rebukes, pinpointed for His most vehement condemnation?
The answer to this question identifies one of the most painfully difficult challenges of the Christian life. For surely, other major sins, such as the sins of adultery and murder and theft, are all clearly condemned in the Bible, even within the Ten Commandments themselves. These are black and white issues, easily identifiable. How can we identify the sin of Pharisaism, since it does not appear within the Ten Commandments per se, or even within other clearly identified single points of Bible law?
When we identify the sin of Pharisaism, dear reader, we can begin to see how subtle, how heinous, and how revolting, this sin of Pharisaism really is.
The heart of the sin of Pharisaism is hypocrisy. A modern dictionary definition of a hypocrite is a "pharisee." Of the word "pharisaic," the dictionary says, "hypocritical, sanctimonious, two-faced."
When we think of the sin of Pharisaism as being "two-faced," the meaning starts to come clear. What did the ancient Pharisees do that made them two-faced hypocrites? And what two-faced, hypocritical acts do modern Christians do also that makes them guilty of this same sin of Pharisaism?
Think about the sin of Pharisaism as the sin of a two-faced hypocrite. We have all met some of these people. They are the finger pointers who always condemn others while justifying themselves by comparison. They are the ones whose eyebrows go up when you mention that old so-and-so walked the aisle and knelt for prayer last week at church. They doubt his sincerity. These two-faced doubters are quick to imply to you that they have seen it all before. These are the ones who will assure you emphatically that they would never do what old so-and-so did. They emphasize how terrible his sin is, thus feeling better by comparison, justified in their own sin.
These are the people who have have pet sins they condemn in others. For example, an attractive married woman works in a retail store. An unattractive old man comes into the store, looks her up and down, and makes a comment. Later, the married woman takes great delight in telling others how she turned and avoided this dirty old man, how she could not stand him, how revolting he was to her.
Why does this same married woman who calls herself Christian wear provocative clothing in public? What would she say if an attractive younger man noticed and complimented her? Would she give him her phone number? Would she soon be in his arms, careful to keep the facts from her husband? Is her open condemnation of the dirty old man merely a smokescreen to cover her ongoing adulterous affairs of the heart with men she finds attractive?
The sin of Pharisaism. It is everywhere. It plagues the hearts and minds and actions of Christians, until we identify it, confess it and root it out of our lives.
Jesus said: "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops" (Luk 12:1-3).
Of this sin of Pharisaism, the apostle Paul wrote: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1:32). Does this verse describe to a "T" the Pharisees who accused the woman caught in the act of adultery? Were they too guilty of the same sin, since none of them were willing to cast the first stone?
"And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Rom. 2:3). The sin of Pharisaism brings on a special "judgment of God?"
"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt. 7:2).
The sin of Pharisaism brings on the law of sowing and reaping: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:7-8)
Some of the greatest men and women of God were guilty of great sins. King David succumbed to lust and committed adultery when he saw Bathsheba bathing herself on her housetop next to the King's palace. He later committed murder in an effort to cover this sin. Yet after he repented, God said: "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will" (Acts 13:22). He is listed in Hebrews 11 among other members of the Hall of Faith.
And yes this same Hall of Faith includes such questionable characters as Moses (a murderer); Noah (who once got drunk); Abraham (who fathered a nation by an adulterous affair with the Egyptian Hagar, a servant girl); Jacob (who tricked his brother Esau out of his rightful blessing); Rahab (a harlot who lived on the wall of Jericho next to the city gate and sold her body to men coming into the city); and Samson (a womanizer). We are told: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1).
Can you imagine the first great evangelistic campaign being preached by the apostle Peter, who just 50 days earlier had denied the Lord three times and even cursed? Can you imagine Jesus appearing after his resurrection first, not to beloved John or James or any of the other eleven, but in the garden to Mary Magdalene, a notable former prostitute who once had seven devils? Can you imagine God choosing a notorious murderer such as Saul to carry the gospel to the gentiles?
No, if you are guilty of the sin of Pharisaism, you will condemn and reject all the above members of the Hall of Faith, simply because you must find justification for your own sin by comparison with the greater sins of these and others. The sin of Pharisaism foremost rejects the blood of Christ to cover sin, finding justification for sin only by comparison with others. Think about it.
But you see the sin of Pharisaism is just that. It is a smokescreen, a cover-up, a hiding place for the worse sin of all, the hardest sin to identify and root out. That is why the sin of Pharisaism is so deceitful, so subtle, so cunning that it deceives the one guilty.
"And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness" (Luk 11:39). Note the severity of these words against the sin of Pharisaism.
"Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness" (Prov. 30:20). The sin of Pharisaism flourishes where there is denial of the truth, though these people outwardly put on a Christian front.
The adulteress states what to her seems true, because, in her own adulterous mind, she feels justified due to her husband's imperfections, etc. She blames her husband as having the greater sin. Of such foolishness, the Bible says: "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2Cor. 10:12).
The sin of Pharisaism is born out of the mindset of "measuring themselves by themselves" instead of measuring themselves by the Word of God and the standard of Jesus Christ. By what measure will you live, Christian?
Will you live by pointing the long condemning finger at others, in self justification by comparison? If so, you will burn in hell as an unsaved person, because you have no power to justify your own sin. Only acceptance of the blood of Christ can pay the price of sin. Your self justifying words will never do the job. Will you live in the comfort zone of the sin of Pharisaism? Or will you stop trying to justify your personal sins by comparing them with others? Instead, will you live by the standard of Jesus Christ and the Word of God?
"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" (Matt. 5:20).
The sin of Pharisaism is alive and well on planet earth. It is the one sin that prevents the salvation of the sinner and preserves his unsaved, hell bound condition of self professed righteousness. This sin of Pharisaism must be identified, confessed and rooted out, through confessing the only means of genuine justification, that being Jesus Christ and His blood alone.