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Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series: #3 Were all the Pharisees Wrong?

30 Nov

Among the Pharisees were a few members who sought for true spiritual religion. Nicodemus (John 3; 7:50-53), Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38ff), and the unnamed man mentioned in Mark 12:32-34, come to mind. Even Gamaliel showed a great deal of tolerance toward the newly formed church (Acts 5:34ff). But for the most part, the Pharisees used their religion to promote themselves and their material gain. No wonder Jesus denounced them.

They are the quintessential bad guys. In looking at the Apostle Paul it is only fair to ask if this classic understanding is accurate, because Paul refers to himself as having been a Pharisee before his conversion:

· Acts 26:5 “I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.”
· Acts 22:3 “I am a Jew, born of Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.”
· Acts 23:6 “I am a Pharisee, a son of a Pharisee . . .”
· Phil. 3:5 “circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee.”
· Gal. 1:14 “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countryman, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.”
    Perhaps we should remind ourselves that not all of the Pharisees were hypocrites. There were about 6,000 Pharisees in that day, with many more who were “followers” but not full members of the group. Most of the Pharisees were middle-class businessmen and were sincere in their quest for truth and holiness.
Among the Pharisees were a few members who sought for true spiritual religion.
Nicodemus
(John 7:50-53): “Nicodemus said to them (he who came to Him before, being one of them), {51} “Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” {52} They answered and said to him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” {53} And everyone went to his home.”
   Joseph of Arimathea
(Mark 15:43-46): “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. {44}And Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. Mark {45} And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. {46} And Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock;
and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
    (John 19:38-40:) “And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. {39} And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. {40} And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”
   The unnamed man mentioned in Mark 12:32-34, come to mind:
“And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; {33} AND  TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE  UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” {34} And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.”
   Even Gamaliel showed a great deal of tolerance toward the newly formed church
(Acts 5:34-40): “But a certain Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. {35} And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. {36} “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. And he was slain; and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. {37} “After this man Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away some people after him, he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. {38} “And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; {39} but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” {40} And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.”
   But for the most part, the Pharisees used their religion to promote themselves and their material gain. No wonder Jesus denounced them.

Their major beliefs
· The Pharisees were strongly monotheistic (one God)
· They accepted all the Old Testament as authoritative.
· They affirmed the reality of angels and demons.
· They had a firm belief in life beyond the grave and a resurrection of the body.
· They were missionary, seeking the conversion of Gentiles (Matt. 23:15).
· They saw God as concerned with the life of a person without denying that the individual was responsible for how he or she lived.
· They had little interest in politics.
· The Pharisees opposed Jesus because He refused to accept the teachings of the oral law.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2020 in Pharisees

 

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