The coming series on the topic of LEGALISM is a newly formatted word document for the purposes of this blog. The actual document can be found at http://www.rv85.net.
INTRODUCTION. As a preliminary to a discussion on legalism, I want to offer a recent (expanded) article I wrote on the word pharisee. This study addresses a word used by some in an accusatory fashion.
A Modern Day Pharisee
The word “pharisee” is a word used in some religious discussions. Its use is one that is negative in application. On Facebook earlier this week I asked the question: “What is a modern-day pharisee?” Many answers were given, but all of them were nothing but opinions; there was no Scripture offered to sustain an application of the word in today’s religious environment. Whatever value there might be in a person’s opinion, opinions are like noses—everyone has one! With these opinions and with this label “pharisee” thrown around as readily as it is, there is no real way to communicate effectively. On the other hand, one is communicating well with the use of the word, but its communication that genders, occasionally, a sharp response.
From the New Testament we learn the following concerning what is a pharisee. 1) A pharisee rejects Jesus as the Christ (John 7:32-49), 2) a pharisee elevates tradition to a place where, 3) a pharisee rejects God’s commands (Mark 7:1-13), and 4) a pharisee tries to control what others think concerning the Christ (John 9:22).
The 4th point needs a bit of elaboration lest someone misunderstands or perverts the thrust of the remark (and context). In the context of John 9, because the first three points are already in place, #4 is implemented. In other words, there was a rejection of Jesus, His mission, His teaching, and all who subscribed to what He taught were under suspicion. Thus, there was an effort to control another’s thinking concerning the Christ (cf. John 12:42-43).
Thus, in a proper sense, unless one meets the criteria (at least one) above, he is not a pharisee.
What solution is there to being accused as a modern-day pharisee? First, reject the label when it is thrown around. Many just want to use it, not because it is accurate, but because the position taken by the “thrower” is a weak one and this is a method of weakening you. Second, be sure to know Jesus by allowing Him to teach you His word (John 10:1-5; 12:48). Not only will you gain knowledge, but you will also gain godly wisdom. Godly wisdom is needed in teaching others, especially those who throw accusations around. Third, make it a point for yourself that you don’t fall into the trap of pharisee thinking (see any of the points above). This is more difficult than one realizes. We all believe we are spot-on right in the things we think. Our thinking (opinions), however, must be subservient to the Lord’s way (John 14:6; 1 John 4:1, 6).
I am no modern-day pharisee (as some think) and neither am I an olden-day pharisee. I am just a Christian.
Did God expect His Israelites to be “legalists”?
(ASV) And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandment which I command you this day. (Brenton) And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded, saying, Keep all these commands, all that I command you this day. (JPS) And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying: ‘Keep all the commandment which I command you this day. (NET.) Then Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “Pay attention to all the commandments I am giving you today.
(ASV) Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Brenton) Cursed is every man that continues not in all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say, So be it. (JPS) Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say: Amen.’ (NET.) ‘Cursed is the one who refuses to keep the words of this law.’ Then all the people will say, ‘Amen!’