Republished July 14, 2008 (first published August 2, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com) -
Christians who stand for the details of the Word of God and preach against that which they believe to be error, who exalt biblical morality and preach against immorality, and who have strong biblical convictions are often labeled “Pharisees.” Many of the Promise Keepers supporters who have written to me to rebuke me for reproving their movement, call me a Pharisee. Consider a couple of examples:
“Rev. Cloud says ‘Our sole authority is the Bible.’ No one who participated in the Council of Carthage in 387 which settled for all time the canon of the NT would agree with Rev. Cloud on this issue. ... Such arrogance! ... I take it then, that you’re the only one going to heaven. It’s going to be awfully lonely there. Such arrogance! ... Such arrogance! ... I wonder what makes Mr. Cloud so sure he’s right and everybody else is wrong? Look at the Pharisees, Mr. Cloud, and then look in the mirror!”
“You’re the best example I think I’ve ever seen of the Pharisee who sits at the front of the synagogue giving thanks for not being a sinner like everyone else.”
To label a Bible-believing Christian who has zeal to obey God’s Word a Pharisee is a slander, because the error of Phariseeism was not their zeal to obey the Scripture. They had no such zeal. They were zealous, rather, to make up their own religious system and to rule over the people.
It is important to note that Jesus Christ did NOT rebuke the Pharisees for their zeal in obeying the details of the law. He said to them: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23).
Christ did not rebuke the Pharisees for paying attention to the less weighty things in the law. He rebuked them for focusing on the lesser matters to the neglect of the weightier ones.
The Bible-believing fundamentalists that I know do not neglect the weightier matters of the New Testament faith. They aim, rather, to follow Paul’s example and to give heed to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). They preach the virgin birth, blood atonement, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and justification by grace and the Trinity and the personality of the Holy Spirit and the other “weightier” matters of the faith, but they also preach church discipline (1 Cor. 5) and the restrictions upon the woman’s ministry (1 Tim. 2:12; 1 Cor. 14:34) and due order among men and women, which even touches on their hair styles (1 Cor. 11:1-16) and other things that are less weighty than salvation by grace and the deity of Jesus Christ.
We can see what Phariseeism is by examining what Christ rebuked for:
(1) Phariseeism is supplanting the Word of God with man-made tradition and thereby making the Word of God of none effect. “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9).
(2) Phariseeism is rejecting Jesus Christ. “Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:22-24).
(3) Phariseeism is perverting the Gospel of the free grace of Christ into a work’s salvation. “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).
(4) Phariseeism is self-righteousness. “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Lk. 18:9-12).
(5) Phariseeism is gross hypocrisy. “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12:1).
The Pharisees were at the forefront of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and of the persecution of the early Christians.
It is a great error to label a Christ-loving, Bible-honoring, grace gospel-preaching, self-debasing, peace-loving Christian a Pharisee.
I can’t speak for all Bible-believing fundamentalists and fundamental Baptists, but I can speak for myself; and I have no confidence in my “righteousness.” I know that I have no righteousness apart from Jesus Christ. I look down upon no man, for I know that any spiritual victory I have enjoyed and any blessing in my life is only because of the grace of Christ. When I attempt to expose false teaching and sin, I am not looking down upon other men; I am simply striving to obey the Word of God.
The modern Pharisee would be more akin to the Roman Catholic priest with his sacramental gospel and his traditions exalted to the place of Scripture and his long history of persecuting the saints. The ecumenical crowd doesn’t call Catholic priests Pharisees, though. They don’t seem to be concerned about all of the souls who have been led astray by these contemporary Pharisees.
The only men they seem to be concerned about are those dreadful old fundamentalists with their strong Bible convictions and their refusal to smile at error. Oh, those dreadful old fundamentalist Pharisees!