Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were guilty of many sins. They bound man-made tradition upon the Jewish people (cf. Matthew 15:1-6). They were often guilty of hypocrisy, putting on a great show of religion, while falling far short of God’s requirements of righteousness and love (cf. Matthew 15:1-9). They desired the praise of men, and designed their worship to be ostentatious displays of false piety (cf. Matthew 23). One of the common sins of the Pharisees’ was the prominent self-righteous attitude that characterized many in the party.

Concerning this self-righteousness, Jesus said in Matthew 23:1-9, “…The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (vs. 12). The stereotypical Pharisee had fallen into the trap of self-righteousness. It took a prideful arrogance to believe himself better than others. This was demonstrated clearly by our Lord when he taught his disciples by parable in Luke 18. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (vs. 10-14).

The purpose of the parable was stated in verse 9 of the text, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Jesus had nothing good to say about the self-righteous Pharisees. The same sins the Pharisees committed in the first century can easily be repeated today. We all should be on our guard against such pride and arrogance.

Note the following three areas where the Pharisees had problems, and note that the same thing can happen to us as well.

Judge Others Unworthily

In Jesus’ parable, you note the Pharisee said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” It is easy to develop a sense of superiority over others. This causes Christian’s who are so afflicted to not only be confident in their criticism of others, but also to disregard any legitimate objections that others may have about them.

One example will suffice. Presently, there is much disagreement regarding the bounds of Christian unity. In the past, such differences led to discussion, debate and resolution. Today, some have the Pharisaical attitude of superiority, and (since they are better “people”) have expressed an unwillingness to discuss these issues with their “flawed”, and “unworthy” brethren.

No Self-Examination

Not only was the Pharisee unwilling to entertain objections of others, he was unwilling to examine himself regarding the possibility that he may be wrong. He did not look inward. Because of this, the Jew who was so critical of the Gentile was said to be, “…Inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1).

Again the present controversy regarding Fellowship serves to illustrate this point. Some men who have been accused of drifting away from truth in this area, not preaching the same truth they did in times past, have reacted by protesting their innocence by past faithfulness. In effect, “How dare you question whether or not I stand for truth, I have stood for truth for 40 years!” Never mind that their preaching has changed, some who are so willing to criticize others are unwilling to entertain the thought that they themselves may have drifted.

Violent Reaction to Criticism

Finally, the Pharisees often reacted violently to criticism levelled by others. The ultimate end of Jesus on the cross, and Stephen being stoned to death (cf. Acts 7) serve as demonstrations of this violent objection to such admonitions.

The current controversy shows some exhibiting this unattractive characteristic of the Pharisee. It is especially interesting in light of the fact that the differences on the fellowship issue revolve around the desire of some to be more tolerant. They emphasize the positive aspects of the gospel of Christ, are uncomfortable with “negative” preaching, and use Romans 14 as a rationale for accepting sinners into their fellowship.

When they are asked for authority, their veneer of tolerance is removed. They have used the following terms regarding their detractors: “Vultures”, “Watchdogs”, “International brotherhood of Watchdogs”, “Rabid Dogs”, “Little Popes”, “Mafia”, etc. They have judged the motives of these men. They have tried to get men fired from preaching jobs. They have judged hearts, and accussed men of trying to “run the brotherhood”, “making a name for themselves”, “trying to assassinate character”, and “going after godly men.” All of this is done behind the veneer of self-righteousness and superiority. Such pride is inexcusable.

Let us not be guilty of the same sins which characterized the Pharisees.