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"Avoiding The Spirit Of The Pharisees"

Jesus Christ delivered one of the most scathing rebukes in the Bible to the members of the Scribes and Pharisees, who were the ruling religious party of the day in Jerusalem. This God/Man who was usually so loving, compassionate and accommodating toward the multitudes of sick and seeking Israelites who followed Him everywhere, reserved this powerful outburst for those who had entrenched themselves in the seats of religious power in the nation of Israel.

Read (Matthew 23) (Mark 7) (Luke 11)

The fact that He openly rebuked the corruption that had entered into the religious system of governance of that day, gives us insights both into the frailties of even a religious mans character and the dangers that are intrinsic in hierarchal systems within the church.

Jesus stated that the Pharisees were sitting in Moses seat, and therefore needed to be obeyed. God has indeed ordained that church leaders should be obeyed by the members under their protection, and this is a valid scriptural principal. In this instance however what was lacking in the religious environment of the day was the accountability of those leaders before God, and toward the people of God.

We see a number of specific issues that Jesus brought to the Pharisees attention where they had fallen short of the standard required by God and brought reproach upon the name of the Lord. One of the real problems that we face is that the people we are trying to win to Christ look to us as examples of what God Himself is like, and if we are displaying character faults brazenly it brings shame on the name of the Lord.

Read (1 Samuel 2)

Eli was the high priest in Israel and had been for many years, and as was the custom his sons had followed him into the ministry. However his sons did not have the fear of God in their hearts and began to act corruptly in their role as priests before the people. They began to take advantage of their position over the people and demand things that were not lawful from the people of God. The scriptures state plainly that they 'did not know the Lord', so to them their role was merely a job and not a holy calling upon their lives.

When carnal men are placed in positions of control over the holy things of God, their can only be one result = disaster. Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas probably had no idea of the peril that their lives were in. They were using ungodly principles within a Godly environment, and because God is a holy God and can not allow sin in His presence, judgement was looming closer.

Eli had an opportunity to rebuke his sons' misbehaviour and to bring repentance and reconciliation with God, but failed in his fatherly responsibility toward them. One of the major issues that had come from this ministerial failure was the fact that the people of God were being offended and beginning to lose their faith in God because of the apparent corruption in the priesthood. Unfortunately in this situation the judgement of God did not only come upon the house of Eli but the nation of Israel suffered the loss of the ark of God for many years as a result of their sins.

When judgement falls upon the priesthood within God's house it falls heavily, because of their positions of trust and influence within the kingdom. The Pharisees and Scribes in Jesus day had fallen into the same delusion as Eli's sons, they thought they could get away with using ungodly principles within a godly environment.

Jesus rebuke and warning of the imminent wrath of God should have been a wake up call to take a good long look at themselves and what the results of their actions would be. However rather than repent and cry out for God's forgiveness they decided to get rid of Jesus instead and kill Him at the earliest opportunity.

Jesus identified 10 main areas of corruption within the Scribes and Pharisees tenure of control and these are areas that we as ministers of God today are still susceptible to and must avoid at all costs.

  • Doing things to be seen by men
  • Putting heavy burdens upon the people of God
  • Seeking the best seats
  • Devouring widows houses
  • Failure to discern holy things
  • Neglecting the important issues of their role as the priesthood
  • Focussing upon external laws rather than internal change
  • Claiming righteousness with God while opposing His will
  • Exalting mans tradition above the commandments of God
  • Taking away the key of knowledge

Any one of these areas being identified within the life of a member of the priesthood should have been a cause for deep and sober reflection. There needed to be a deep work of cleansing within the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees to enable them to continue more effectively within their role as representatives of the Lord. What for many of them had probably begun as a holy calling to 'serve the Lord', had now deteriorated into a political wrestle for power and control.

The hearts of young men that were once soft and teachable and loved God had been corrupted into a carnal display of self centeredness and self interest. What had begun as a pursuit of God Himself and service to His people had become a theatrical show of piety devoid of inner life or joy.

Today in the 21st Century, we as ministers of God still face the same pressures to conform to external standards rather than seek a life of purity and intimacy with God Himself. There are many opportunities along our paths to settle for the way of men rather than take the narrow road that Jesus spoke about, but each wrong decision will rob us of our eternal inheritance and begin to transform us into empty religious shells rather than vessels flowing with rivers of living water. 

Repentance is God's gift to us all. We can change if we only have a heart that desires it. Return unto the Lord with all your heart and He will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.

(Mark 7 v 6-7)
6He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

    "This people honors Me with their lips,

    But their heart is far from Me.

7    And in vain they worship Me,

    Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.


Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.