The Religion of the Pharisees

pharisees

“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash theirhands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

Mark 7:1-13

 

As our Lord Jesus warns us elsewhere to “beware of false prophets,” he warns us here to beware of false religion. Nothing is more dangerous to the souls of men, and nothing more deadly than false prophets and false religion.

 

The Apostle Paul warns us that those who eat and drink the bread and wine of the Lord’s Table without faith in Christ eat and drink damnation to themselves. What he says about the Lord’s Table is true of and applicable to all other religious practices without faith in Christ. To profess faith without faith, to claim an interest in Christ without an interest in Christ, to be baptized without being born of God, to pretend to be a child of God while you are yet a child of the devil, all these things are eating and drinking damnation to yourself.

 

Our Lord Jesus warns us again and again to, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” The warning is repeated often because it is needed often. Here he explains exactly what he meant by the leaven of the Pharisees. When our Lord warns us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, he is talking about the doctrine, or the religion of the Pharisees.

 

What a humbling picture we have before us of apostate, human religion. Here we see, to some extent, what man is capable of doing in the perversion of truth, while clinging to the name of God. These well read, highly educated, greatly respected religious men really thought God was impressed by watching them meticulously wash their hands and their dishes in religious ceremony! There are multitudes exactly like them today. In fact, the religion of the Pharisees is the natural religion of the carnal heart. All men, by nature gravitate to it. Yet, the religion of the Pharisees, though it is naturally appealing to and universally approved of by all men, is deadly to a man’s soul and an utter abomination in the sight of God. The religion of the Pharisees is both the most ancient and the newest of all religions. In this study I will call your attention to seven things that characterize the religion of the Pharisees. As we look at these seven characteristics of it, let us ask ourselves this question: — Is my religion the religion of Christ or the religion of the Pharisees?

 

  1. The religion of the Pharisees makes people self-righteous, critical, and judgmental.

tol_081813_herzog_pharisees

“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault” (vv. 1-2).

 

The Pharisees were always watching other people, inspecting the behavior of other people, finding fault with other people. They had a keen eye for what others did, or failed to do. Such critics and fault-finders are a penny a dozen. If you do something, anything, before you sit down, someone who never does anything will come along and find something wrong with what you have done. In natural things this is annoying; but in spiritual things it reveals a proud, unregenerate, self-righteousness, which is always the result of legalistic, works religion.

 

These Pharisees really thought they could tell, by observing the outward conduct of men in their daily routine of life, who was spiritual and who was carnal. We have many like them in our day. Self-righteous religionists in our day, like the Pharisees of our Lord’s day, ever justify themselves in their own minds, before others, and before God, proudly asserting, “I am not as other men” (Luke 18:11). They always justify themselves by comparing themselves with people they consider more sinful than they are. — “I am not as this publican.” Their claim to holiness is based upon what they do and what they do not do, not upon the work of Christ’s gift of God’s grace in him. Though they talk much above love, they despise others. That is manifest by their treatment of others. They are professional critics of men, who love to point out the weaknesses of others.

 

Here, the Pharisees and Scribes seized the opportunity to point out what they thought was a terrible evil in our Lord and his disciples. They saw them eating in public without ceremonially washing their hands beforehand. That was a breach of their religious traditions that was simply unpardonable! John Trapp tells us that, “the Pharisees deemed it as great a sin to eat with unwashen hands, as to commit fornication.”

 

The complaint of the Scribes and Pharisees against the disciples was not that they were evil, corrupt, covetous men, but that they did not, in keeping with Jewish traditions, wash their hands before they ate! Obviously, it is always good to wash your hands, the more often the better, as a matter of personal hygiene. But the practice of always washing one’s hands before eating, as a show of religious devotion, had become a religious tradition with them, a tradition they would never dare to break, at least not in public. They washed their hands, whether they needed washing or not, because they vainly imagined that in doing so they showed spirituality and devotion to God. Our Lord’s disciples, following his example and instruction, felt no compulsion to obey religious tradition. “They washed not their hands when they ate bread!” Why should they wash them if they were clean? Tradition had no power over their consciences.

 

You may think, “What does that have to do with me? How does this apply to anyone today” There are multitudes who do much of what they do purely out of religious tradition, only to be seen of men, so that they will appear to others to be true Christians, spiritually minded, and devoted to Christ. How often have you heard people say, or said yourself, “I do that to show people that I am a Christian. I want people to know that I love the Lord”? The one thing our Lord Jesus tells us plainly that we are never to do is to try, by our dress, our public appearance, or our public behavior, to show that we are Christians. Read Matthew 6:3-18. You may say, “But I want people to see Jesus in me.” Lost, unbelieving people did not see Jesus in Jesus. They certainly are not going to see him in you and me.

 

Let us take care that we live as men and women who trust and worship the Lord Jesus Christ in honesty, in labor, in conversation, in modesty, in love, and in patience. “Adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10). But do nothing to be seen of men. Several years ago, I was in the company of several pastors in a restaurant. When his meal was served, the senior pastor among us began eating his meal without bowing to give thanks first (without publicly washing his hands). One of the younger men objected to his conduct, saying, “I could never do that. I always give thanks before I eat, especially in a public place.” When my older friend asked, “Why,” he said, “I want people to know that I’m a Christian.” The older, wiser pastor smiled and said, “If you want people to know you’re a Christian, leave the waitress a good tip.”

 

No man has any more right to institute a new religious duty in the kingdom of God than to neglect an old one. The issuing of commands is for the King alone. Yet these religionists wanted to know why the Lord’s disciples broke a law, which was never established by God as a law. Lost religionists in all ages love to invent traditions and then rest their souls upon them. Going about to establish their own righteousness, they refuse to submit themselves to the righteousness of God in Christ. They refuse to trust Christ alone for righteousness before God. They have a form of godliness, which they cherish, but deny the power of true godliness, which is the gospel of God’s free, saving grace in Christ (Romans 1:16-17). That which our Savior said to the Pharisees of his day is yet true. — “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

 

The washing of hands, like all other religious tradition, is nothing. “Faith which worketh by love” is everything. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” All those things that men do to make themselves righteous in will worship “is abomination in the sight of God.

 

  1. The religion of the Pharisees is a religion which has apostatized and departed from the Word of God.

 

“For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (vv. 7:3-9).

 

            Never was there a nation of men raised so high and fallen so low as the nation of Israel. Never was there a people given such great privileges and opportunities, only to cast them aside, as the Jews. Israel was the nation to whom God gave his law, his ordinances, his priests, his tabernacle, his temple, his altar, his mercy-seat, and his prophets. These are the people to whom Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah prophesied. This is the people who sprung from Abraham’s lions, who descended from David’s kingdom, and wore Israel’s name. These are the people who once trembled before the ark of the covenant. How they have fallen! Here are Abraham’s sons. Here are men who claim Moses name, though they had long ago rejected his doctrine, who consider the ceremonial washing of hands, cups, saucers, and pots and pans an evidence of spirituality! In their opinion, the person who paid the most rigid attention to the external observance of man-made religious customs was the most holy among them.

 

            Let us be warned. Once a church, a denomination, or an individual leaves the King’s highway of truth, we must not be surprised to see them washing pots and calling it godliness! Multitudes today are just like the Pharisees. They wear the names of God’s prophets and claim identification with them; but have long since forsaken the truth of God’s Word in utter apostasy. Today’s religion places great emphasis on getting people into church, but none on getting them into Christ. Multitudes who pass by the doctrine of the cross proudly wear a cross around their necks. In churches everywhere, people sing “Amazing Grace,” though they despise the doctrine of grace. People everywhere make a big show of outward religion, but ignore righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. They have a form of godliness, but despise the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God. Pharisees in all generations are great washers of the outside. But formal, ritualistic, ceremonial, outward religion, without heart faith, is empty, useless religion.

 

  1. The Pharisees religion is outward, lip-service religion.

 

“He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (v. 6).

 

The passage our Lord referred to is Isaiah 29:13. I wonder if we will ever learn that God Almighty is not impressed with the way we comb our hair, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, or the show we make in our pretense of piety and godliness. — “The Lord looketh on the heart!” God says, “My son, give me thine heart.” “Keep thy heart with all diligence.” Let us remember the heart is the principle thing in faith, in private worship, in public worship, at the Lord’s Table, in prayer, and in all things spiritual.

 

The heart is the principle thing in the relationship of a husband and wife, parents and children, friend and friend. And in our relationship with, service to, and worship of our God the matter of chief concern is our hearts (Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31; Romans 10:13; 14:17).

 

What must we have to be saved? – A New Heart! What sacrifice does God require from us? – A Broken and Contrite Heart! What is true circumcision? – Heart Circumcision! What does God call for from his sons? – “My son, give me thine heart!” Where does Christ dwell? – In Our Hearts! J. C. Ryle wrote, “The bended knee, the bowed head, the loud Amen, the daily chapter, the regular attendance at the Lord’s Table, are all useless and unprofitable, so long as our affections are nailed to sin, or pleasure, or money or the world.”

 

  1. The religion of the Pharisee is a religion which uses the pretense of piety as a covering and excuse for irresponsibility.

 

“For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother” (vv. 10-12).

 

While true religion, true spirituality is a very practical thing. False, empty religion will allow a man or woman to neglect and despise the most common duties of life. True religion, true Christianity causes people to cherish and faithfully perform the most common duties of everyday life for the glory of God.

 

The Lord Jesus declares (Matthew 15:5-8) that if a person refuses to take care of his parents, trying to excuse his selfishness, by saying that the only money he has has been devoted as a gift to God, he nullifies the Word of God, and proves himself a religious hypocrite. The worship of God causes a believer to honor his parents, causes a father and husband to provide for his family, causes a believer to be a diligent employee, causes a Christian to be a faithful employer, and causes a woman to be a good wife and mother.Rowland Hill once said, “When a man comes to know the Lord, even his dog and cat and farm animals will be the better for it.” It was William Jay who wrote, “A person, when he comes to Christ, will be better in every relationship. He is a better husband, father, master, worker, and friend than before or else his religion is not genuine.”

 

  1. The religion of the Pharisee is a religion which rejects and makes of non-effect the Word of God, supplanting it with the customs, creeds, and confessions of men.

 

Three times our Lord lays this charge at the feet of these pompous, self-content, self righteous religionists. You lay aside the Word of God, holding the traditions of men (v. 8). “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (v. 9). You make the Word of God of none effect through your tradition (v. 13). First, they added their traditions to the Scriptures. Next, they made their traditions equal with the Word of God. In the end, they rejected the Word of God altogether and held to their traditions!

 

The religion of the Pharisees is religion that supplants the Word of God with the doctrines and traditions of men. Instead of teaching the doctrine of Holy Scripture, the gospel of Christ, salvation by his blood, righteousness, and grace alone, it teaches religious morality. Instead of teaching people to observe our Savior’s ordinances of worship (Believer’s Immersion and the Lord’s Supper), it teaches duties and ceremonies of purely human invention (The Sprinkling of Infants, The Observance of Lent, and Religious Pageantry). Such religion, though practiced with great devotion and ceremonial gaudiness, is an utterly vain thing, an empty show, void of life, power, and spirituality. It is unacceptable to God and of no benefit to man. The practice of it is eating and drinking damnation to one’s own soul!

 

  1. The religion of the Pharisee is a religion of legalism, works, and asceticism.

 

The Pharisees thought they would defile themselves by touching or using things and people they considered unclean. Multitudes today follow their example. Entire systems of works based religion have been established and gained popular acceptance by inventing extra-biblical taboos for “Christians.” Adventism is a classic example. All men by nature are legalists and love legal religion, any religion that gives them something to do or not to do, by which they can distinguish themselves from others and make themselves “holier” than others. That religion which says, “touch not, taste not, handle not,” no matter what denominational name it wears, is nothing but “a show of wisdom in will-worship” (Colossians 2:21-23). I personally know people who question the spirituality of anyone who enjoys boxing, horse races, baseball, basketball, or football, of anyone who eats pork, red meat, or catfish, and of anyone who drinks coffee, tea, or Coca-Cola! I am not exaggerating. I really do know such people.

 

Every servant of God, each child of God stands or falls before his own Master. We have absolutely no business in trying to govern the lives of God’s children. That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you are thinking – “If we do not, by some means, try to regulate people’s lives, what is there to prevent them from drunkenness, lasciviousness, fornication, and adultery?” That is the thinking of every legalist. Because he must be governed by rules, he presumes that everyone else must be. The believer is governed and constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to honor God in all things, and endeavors to mold his life to the Word of God.

 

Our energies and efforts would be far better spent if we would seek to love and serve one another, rather than rule and judge one another. I ask the reader to weigh these thoughts by only one criteria: — Are they or are they not in total compliance with both the spirit and the letter of the New Testament?

 

  1. In its essence, at its core, the religion of the Pharisee is a religion that denies the need of grace and redemption, because it denies the utter, total depravity of man (vv. 14-23).

 

“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every oneof you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (vv. 14-23).

 

All human religion, like the religion of the Pharisees, operates on the assumption that the defilement and corruption of a person’s soul comes from without, from the things we come into contact with in this world. But the Lord Jesus shows us that the defilement and corruption of our souls arises from within us. He shows us that our hearts are polluted, defiled, corrupt, and depraved. We are all by nature corrupt at heart, in need of God’s free, saving grace, and Christ’s precious blood atonement.

 

The Pharisees of old, like the religionists of our day, taught that holiness, righteousness, and godliness depended upon abstaining from certain meats and drinks and carefully observing religious ceremonies of washing and purification. Our Savior overthrows this doctrine by declaring three things.

 

  • It is not what you put in your body that defiles you, but what comes out of your heart (Romans 14:17).

 

Material things cannot defile your soul by using them. And material ceremonies cannot cleanse your soul by enduring them. Carnal things can neither corrupt nor cleanse the soul. If we would worship and serve God, we must have something more than a separated life and a form of godliness. We must have a heart that is clean and upright before God, a clean heart and a right spirit. Such a heart is the gift of God’s grace, the work of his Spirit in the new birth.

 

  • All sin and defilement originates in and springs from the heart. It is not our environment that corrupts us, or our company, or our education, but our hearts.

 

From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” — What a list! What must that heart be out of which so many evils pour forth! If these are the bees, what must the hive be? “Evil thoughts,” evil devisings such as the Pharisees displayed, come from the heart. “Murders” begin not with the dagger, but with malice in the soul. “Adulteries” and “fornications” are committed in the heart,before they are performed by the body. The heart is the cage from which every unclean bird flies forth into the world. “Thefts” are born in the covetousness of the heart. No man steals what he does not first covet. “False witness,” lying and slander, is venom in the heart that is spewed out of the mouth. “Blasphemies” are the enmity of the heart expressed by the vile speech of the tongue. All these, and all other evils, ooze from the vile cesspool inside fallen man called, “the heart.”

 

All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” — It is the corruption of the heart that makes fallen man unfit for communion with God, not failure to pour water on your hands before you eat, or failure to observe religious duties. The heart of man is abominable before God. The evils gushing from the heart make fallen man loathsome and revolting before God and expose all to shame and ruin. It is only the blood of Christ that can cleanse us from the pollution and guilt of our corrupt hearts and save us from the wrath of God, which we so fully deserve. Yet, those who know nothing of the corruption of their hearts, know nothing of God’s saving grace, know nothing of repentance and faith in Christ, are horrified when they see one who worships God in Spirit and in truth neglecting the religious traditions by which their blind leaders lead them into hell.

 

  • God looks on the heart; but we prefer outward things, because we are able to perform them and they call attention to us.

 

Few are able to grasp such elementary, but vital truths, because they are turned away from the simplicity that is in Christ by self-righteous, works religion. There is a vast difference between physical and spiritual defilement. What we eat and drink does not touch the soul. It passes through the body; but it does not reach our hearts. Material things cannot defile a person. That which is eaten is material substance, and cannot make anyone spiritually, or morally unclean. That fact is so obvious that no one would ever imagine otherwise, were it not for the man made dogmas of false religion.

 

The only hope for your soul and mine is that God might be pleased to save us from ourselves. I have no hope but Christ. He alone is all my Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption. May God make him yours.

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com

 

10 thoughts on “The Religion of the Pharisees

  1. Pingback: The Religion of the Pharisees | Sola Dei Gloria

  2. Dear brother, overall, I believe your post is in keeping with the spirit of the New Testament and I have found it quite edifying. Nevertheless, there are some things with which I strongly disagree and so, with fear and trembling (but perhaps not with the requisite amount), I bring them to your attention.

    To begin with, at one point in your post, you intimate (rather critically) that some people you personally know are Pharisaical because they “question the spirituality of anyone who enjoys boxing, horse races, baseball, basketball, or football.” But I hardly think that is Pharisaical. For did not the Apostle John and the Lord’s brother do this very thing, and much more?:

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16.

    “You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4.

    These chosen saints did not merely question the spirituality of believers who were on friendly terms with the world; they rebuked and judged them unfaithful to God!

    I can agree that dietary restrictions are on the order of the touch not, taste not, handle not prohibitions which pervade self-righteous religiosity, but I don’t see how anyone can love God and enjoy watching a creature made in his image and likeness being beaten to a pulp by another for sport. Neither can I imagine any godly man or woman delighting in any of the other professional competitive sports you list, which vigorously foment the very creature worship which God abhors and provokes his wrath. See Romans 1:17-25.

    It is here, therefore, that I take issue with your view that Christ was simply explaining that anything at all that comes from without a man cannot corrupt him. For as Christians we are expressly urged by the Holy Spirit not to consume or partake of the ungodly (unclean) things which the heathen around us consume and partake (things of the world, which find their origins in the lusts of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life), but rather to consume and partake of that which can edify us and makes us wise to the saving of our souls: i.e., God’s Word and joyful communion with the saints. So when you say that “it is not our environment that corrupts us, or our company, or our education, but our heart,” the Scriptures in no way bear this assertion out. The Scriptures expressly speak of guarding our hearts and being diligent to purify ourselves and prevent our hearts from being corrupted or contaminated from that which is without. See Job 31:1; Psalm 101:3(a); 119:37(a); Proverbs 4:23. This extends to stern warnings not to have fellowship with ungodly people and the worldly pursuits they enjoy, (see e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:33; Ephesians 5:11) as well as exhortations to sanctify ourselves, and to commune with godly people. See e.g., 1 Peter 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:1-10; Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:3.

    Furthermore, is it not written?: “[b]ad company corrupts good manners.” 1 Corinthians 15:33.

    Surely we must love and serve one another, but I would suggest that (quite particularly) those whom the Lord has placed in positions of responsibility do neither when they merely pass over such ungodly and adulterous conduct. The Scriptures are filled with instances in which, out of love for God and the elect, the Lord and his Apostles judge and rule, and teach others to do likewise, openly reproving and or rebuking their brethren for walking unruly, after the sight of their eyes, according to the lusts of their flesh, or for vainglory. See e.g., Matthew 16:23; Luke 9:55. This is in keeping with Scripture. See 1 Corinthians 5:12 (“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”). And the Apostle Paul teaches both Timothy and Titus to proceed this way. See 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:15.

    And this makes sense scripturally too: “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:5-6. Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Proverbs 13:24

    And does not our Lord say also that those whom he loves, he reproves and disciplines, in his exhortation for us to be zealous and repent when we are walking unruly. See Revelation 3:19.

    This being said, if the consumption and enjoyment of such things as organized creature worship is wholly contrary to God’s stated desire for his people’s sanctification how can we say we love our brethren by winking at such conduct? God’s Word teaches us that we are to have no fellowship with the works of darkness but rather we are to reprove them. Is not the love of money, which is the root of all evil, the very fount of all those competitive sports you mention? See 1 Timothy 6:10. Should we not rather be moved to righteous indignation than to enjoying the product of what is so manifestly evil? Is there anything more indicative of this society’s utter madness (but God’s wisdom) than that a man who throws a football is paid millions of dollars and glorified, while a preacher of righteousness, whose words save people’s lives from perdition, may even be unpaid and vilified? And does not the life of a top professional athlete consist in the very same sort of striving for self-promotion and vainglory which stirred the hearts of those Pharisees whom you rightly deride?

    To borrow your quote from J.C. Ryle: “The bended knee, the bowed head, the loud Amen, the daily chapter, the regular attendance at the Lord’s Table, are all useless and unprofitable, so long as our affections are nailed to sin, or pleasure, or money or the world.”

    To this I say a quiet amen and pray that God will bless us all with a greater understanding of all things, and particularly our role as His holy and peculiar people, zealous for good works. See Deut. 14:2; Titus 2:14.

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    • Daniel

      Thank you for commenting.

      I cannot presume to answer on behalf of the author in this regard, suffice to say that I am in full agreement with what he has written. However, here are my thoughts on the matter, which should explain my reasons for this agreement. Please read the article to which I have linked below.

      To begin with, at one point in your post, you intimate (rather critically) that some people you personally know are Pharisaical because they “question the spirituality of anyone who enjoys boxing, horse races, baseball, basketball, or football.”

      It certainly is akin to a works based, self-righteous and hypocritical religion to question the spirituality of any person based on what they may seem to enjoy, rather than making such a judgement based solely on the person’s relationship with the Saviour. There are two types of people in this world: those who are saved and are therefore spiritually awakened, and those who are reprobate and spiritually dead. Based singularly on those criteria, can we make any call as to a person’s spirituality. No person can earn salvation because of what they what they love or hate about the world.

      “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16.

      It is imperative to make the correct distinction between the different “worlds” spoken of in the Bible. In this regard, might I point you an article which I posted here a few years ago:

    • https://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2012/09/30/in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world-but-which-world-is-that-really/
    • This should explain the doctrine of which I speak and that which is central to the teaching of the apostles.

      “You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4.

      Here again, it is equally important to understand who they are which would be friends of the world and therefore an enemy of God. Would one who is saved, but who enjoys football, hunting or baking, be an enemy of God? Would they be adulterers and adulteresses? Put quite simply, that would be an impossible marriage to make, if you would excuse the pun.

      Similarly, would it be expected of the believer to be constantly at war with and engrossed in hostility and enmity toward everything and everyone in the world in order to please God? One could not bring that together with our great Commission and with the fruit of the spirit which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

      These chosen saints did not merely question the spirituality of believers who were on friendly terms with the world; they rebuked and judged them unfaithful to God!

      Once again, I ask you to look carefully at the words, even your own here. Would God expect His people to remove themselves from the world, both spiritually and physically while still on this earth, in this life? An impossible and illogical expectation, even those who have Christ. It is therefore imperative that you come to the correct understanding of which world it is of which the Word speaks. The alternative results in nothing but confusion and fear for the believer.

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  3. I definitely agree with Daniel and the Word of God on this one. Antinomianism is becoming a huge problem within reformed churches and your 2 articles are a perfect example of how it gets started. (Not that you intentionally meant for them to be).

    From years worth of experience with being vexed with the contradictions of those who profess Christ and yet lead a worldly lifestyle…..I can honestly say there is a HUGE difference between those who watch horror movies, dancing with the stars, super bowls (w/ horrible commercials and half naked cheerleaders), and those who refuse to “stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil” (Isa.33:15)……And those who want to spend their time reading God’s word, taking long walks in nature, singing psalms and hymns, fellowshipping with true believes in Christ by sharing God’s blessings, writing about His wonderful truths revealed in Scripture, helping the helpless,leading others to exalt Christ, rather than the idols of this world. They are two totally different kinds of people and I’d rather spend time with the latter any day.

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    • If you find yourself in agreement with both Daniel and also with the Word of God, you should re-examine your understanding, as the two points are in opposition to one another.

      While antinomianism has always been heretical, and continues to be problematic for some, in this instance your argument is founded upon an incorrect interpretation of what antinomianism entails. Those who are truly saved by grace cannot, by direct implication, simultaneously be antinomian. It would quite simply be another irreconcilable contradiction.

      There are only two “kinds of people” in this world – those who are saved by grace, and those who are not. You seem to be advocating that salvation is synergistic, and that it is reliant upon humanistic, works-based traditions, which can only result in an outward display of self-righteousness. You feel that by doing the same things that you enjoy doing, such as taking long walks in nature and helping others, one can earn or retain salvation. That is called legalism and is not Christianity. Such understanding is a hideously false and abominable doctrine.

      The problem may be that you cannot distinguish between those who simply profess Christ and those who are saved by His Grace, because you are looking at their outward show of holiness, rather than seeking to know their hearts. God’s people are blessed in the knowledge that He alone can truly see His Son in the believer.

      The completed and perfect sacrifice made by of our Saviour on the Cross includes the glorious truth that the opinion of men is of no significance or salvific value. You are welcome to spend time with those who believe that it is.

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  4. Thanks for your time Grant. This is very edifying and interesting. I’m totally Calvinist in by beliefs, yet I do struggle with this issue.

    For instance, I personally “enjoy” all the fleshly entertainments, but notice that when I indulge in them, my entire mindset feels defiled. And I’ve noticed that when I observe other believers indulging in them, their whole demeanor changes.

    Not that salvation is lost when this occurs, I know better. Instead it seems to be a matter of “staying close to God” or getting sidetracked. I will try to explain.

    When I go through bouts of suffering, the last thing I’m able to do is indulge in worldly entertainments. Instead, I’ve found my only source of comfort is in God’s word, singing hymns, walks in nature, etc.

    So sometimes I wonder…..could God be allowing the suffering to get me focused solely on Him again, and not all the worldly glamour or the worldly terror?

    Look what happened to Peter when he walked on water, solely focused on Jesus, and once he took his eyes off Him, for a mere moment, he began to sink.

    This is what I’ve been going thru. And honestly, it’s gotten to the point to where my conscience has become so tender and my dependence on God so crucial, that I feel like a lamb who’s had it’s legs broken by the shepherd so that I can no longer even think of straying without cringing. But it’s not out of fear of losing salvation, it’s something else. Do you think this is bad?

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    • Thanks for your time Grant. This is very edifying and interesting. I’m totally Calvinist in by beliefs, yet I do struggle with this issue.
      For instance, I personally “enjoy” all the fleshly entertainments, but notice that when I indulge in them, my entire mindset feels defiled. And I’ve noticed that when I observe other believers indulging in them, their whole demeanor changes.

      You are most welcome. Thank you for responding and I hope I am correct in greeting you as Lee Anne? I appreciate your being frank, and I will try to be as straight-forward as possible in my comment. While many regard me as being a Calvinist, of Reformed thinking, and some even bandy about the term “Hyper”- Calvinist, I honestly couldn’t care less about how they feel obliged to label or catagorize me, or God’s people, with empty words. All that truly matters is the Word of God, and when weighed against that standard, most of Calvin’s teachings are accurate. I suppose, in order for the will-worshipping self-righteous to be able to make accusatory conversation amongst each other, and in an attempt to try to justify their heretical beliefs, they need to place believers into “safe” compartments in their minds. I am a believer by the Grace of God alone.

      I think it is natural that one’s mindset would be influenced by all manner of things in life. If we encounter an accident scene, our mindset certainly undergoes a radical change, but of course, as with entertainment, it is temporary. Education changes one’s mindset, more permanently. Religious and polical war changes one’s mindset. Meeting someone with whom one falls in love with, brings about a whole new undiscovered mindset. Medical conditions and stressful situations can change one’s mindset, sometimes permanently, the birth of a child… the list goes on and on. Simply because one’s mindset can be radically altered by life’s tides, does not mean that it has been defiled, even if we might not have been focused on God over a period. That is because of our human fallibility, weakness and a sinful state. God knew this and God gave us the solution in His Son, because we never would have been able to sort ourselves out. We still can’t!

      If something does leave you feeling defiled, then prayerfully steer clear of it, but don’t steer clear of something simply because it could change your mindset – life will become impossible it that were the case. 1) Trust in the Lord, 2) trust in the Lord and, 3) trust in the Lord. When human beings indulge in entertainment, whether they are believers or not, their demeanour must change. God made entertainment for our purpose, it is a gift which we can partake in, just like a good meal, a perfect sunset or a nice warm bath. God made us human, in His likeness, gave us the ability to perform, and the need for, entertainment. A change in demeanour does not equate to a loss of holiness or innocence, as we are never holy nor innocent to begin with.

      There is no biblical prohibition of believers enjoying life’s pleasures. We are told to come out of the unbelieving and Godless world, not out of the physical world or out of the pleasurable world. The world which we are instructed to come out of is a spiritually dead world, and has nothing to do with the physical where we live in the flesh from day to day. Jesus makes this clear here, in His own prayer for His disciples: Joh 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. The Word also teaches us that believers are in the world, but not of the world. How does that work, really? It means we remain in the physical world legally, with God’s blessings and permission to make use of that world, but we are no longer of the unbelieving world.

      There are clear warnings against certain actions and against undue over-indulgences. 1Co 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. As long as we remain in control of our actions and, I suppose, mindful of others so as not to lead them astray. If one partakes in something which affects one’s relationship with the Lord adversely, then surely one should reconsider one’s reasons for participating.

      Not that salvation is lost when this occurs, I know better. Praise the Lord for bestowing upon us Grace beyond our understanding and which we do not deserve! Instead it seems to be a matter of “staying close to God” or getting sidetracked. I will try to explain.
      When I go through bouts of suffering, the last thing I’m able to do is indulge in worldly entertainments. Instead, I’ve found my only source of comfort is in God’s word, singing hymns, walks in nature, etc.

      This I understand, and I agree with you regarding the source of comfort being God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is our comforter and the Word describes Him as such. Joh 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. I believe this to be true for every one of God’s children, in varying degrees according to their God given abilities and personalities. God’s presence is also clearly evident in nature, and I am often greatly moved to acknowledge this when I observe the indescribable beauty, perfection and majesty of His creation.

      So sometimes I wonder…..could God be allowing the suffering to get me focused solely on Him again, and not all the worldly glamour or the worldly terror?

      Once again, I understand what you are saying and I must agree that these thoughts are normal, as we simply do not comprehend God’s perfect plan. We speculate and intellectualize about the reasons for disasters, plagues and suffering, yet we do not really understand the big picture, which encompasses all time, past, future and present. Whatever the truth of these matters is, we can do no better than to try to remain focussed on Him.

      Look what happened to Peter when he walked on water, solely focused on Jesus, and once he took his eyes off Him, for a mere moment, he began to sink.

      Keep in mind that it was because of doubt that Peter began to sink, not because he stopped concentrating on Jesus’ presence. He could still see Jesus and called out to Him immediately, but because Peter began to rely on his own ability, and no longer trusted fully in Jesus enabling him, he began to sink. The lesson here is to rely and trust fully on Christ, and not to trust at all on how well we can perform, or how good we can be at pleasing Him, or how enthusiastic we are at worshipping Him.

      This is what I’ve been going thru. And honestly, it’s gotten to the point to where my conscience has become so tender and my dependence on God so crucial, that I feel like a lamb who’s had it’s legs broken by the shepherd so that I can no longer even think of straying without cringing. But it’s not out of fear of losing salvation, it’s something else. Do you think this is bad?

      I think the answer to your question could be complex. Yes, it could be bad if it is something that you are doing according to your own reasoning. It might even be some false teaching which has lodged itself in your “sub-conscious” that is causing you to be controlled by guilt. You might still feel you have guilt to bear for your sins and weaknesses, maybe you haven’t laid them all at foot of the cross, maybe you are hanging onto some doubt. This could lead to you feeling that you are required to live an ascetic or pious life in order to be a better, or a holier person. Remember that we are never Holy, only God in us is Holy. As we mature under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we certainly will become more acutely aware of sin and it will sadden us more. We may even become more angry at sin. However, at the same time we must become more confident and joyful about God working in our life, and become less reliant on what we can or cannot do. Believers have all their spiritual legs restored and can walk through life with utmost zest and confidence, because the Lord God sees only His Son in them, and not what they try, or fail to do.

      In this instance it might be of value for you to focus on not trying to do things, or trying to be good, and rather focus on how good and complete the Lord’s work was in setting you truly free from all guilt. Past, present and future guilt. Focus on trusting in His real and true presence in you, so that no matter what your decisions might be, you will know that He has already paid for your possible future mistakes and He has accepted you and forgiven you. That is the unfathomable value of God’s love for His Son in us. Even before you were born, even before time, before creation, you were forgiven for all that you have done in the past and all that you will do in the future. God will not be disappointed by your mistakes, because He already knew what they were going to be, and yet He still chose to forgive you for all of them.

      However, it could be good if it is of God. In other words, if it is all His doing that you feel the way you do. It is unlikely though, that He would place in you a feeling of being harnessed, broken or severely restricted from living a free and greatly satisfying life. The believer is the only completely free being in this world, because the Lord came to set us truly free. Joh 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. No longer are believers bound by sin, not bound by the law, traditions, guilt, opinions, judgement, denominational creeds or human standards.

      If you trust in Him fully and you know that you have the Holy Spirit, you will agree that He has taken command of your life and your destiny. No matter what path you choose to take in this life, your final destination is with the Lord for eternity. That is His promise to all whom He saves. He loses none. Joh 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

      If you think about it carefully, you should come to realize that those who have Christ at the helm of their souls, can really do “anything”, because whatever decision they make, they should know that He allowed them to make it. Even the very, very best behaved of all men would spend eternity in hell, were he not forgiven by God’s grace. Even the very, very worst of men would spend eternity in God’s presence, were he forgiven by God’s grace.

      If ones demeanour changes when one enjoys something which seems to be a worldly pastime, although one certainly hopes that one’s conduct remains controlled and mindful of God’s presence, then I believe the Lord has allowed it to change, because the Word explains that He is in complete control of the believers life. We remain sinful beings throughout this life, all of our best intentions, thoughts and actions remain as filthy rags before a perfectly Holy God. Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

      No sin is greater than our inherited sin with which we enter into this world, and even for that sin, God’s people are forgiven. As soon as we try to become Holy by any of our own means, or by our choices, we are denying that Jesus was sufficiently Holy to pay for all our sins. We must never try to do salvation for Him, we must ever trust in Him because all has been and will be done by Him.

      Rom 11:36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

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  5. Thank you for this Grant. Looks like I have a lot to think and pray about. Since I do come from a very legalistic background (Church of Christ), I realize there may still be some false teachings lodged in my sub-conscience as you say.

    I was ex-communicated from that religion over a decade ago for visiting other “churches of Christ” who were more liberal.

    They still try to lay guilt trips on me and want me to come back if I “repent.” But I keep remembering “not to be brought under the bondage of any.”

    Both sides of my family are still in that religion and every family get together became such a nightmare I had to stop going due to the severe persecution, cruel mocking and scourging.

    Even when I go to the Mennonites down the road to get vegetables, I confess I am led to pray fervently that God will keep me from legalism, because they always try to lay guilt trips on me for not having a head covering, long, black, witchy looking dresses, etc. By God’s grace, reminding myself that they are “straining at a nat and swallowing a camel” helps me to overcome.

    So I truly don’t think my issue is legalism, I think it’s more along the lines of my “soul being vexed by the conversation of the ungodly,” which includes the Pharisees. I just want to live in the simplicity that is in Christ.

    I would love for there to be more “clean” entertainment, but even commercials are becoming more ungodly. It’s a very wicked world we live in and I just can no longer find it within myself to be entertained by those who hate the God I serve.

    Pray for me
    In Christ,
    Lee Anne

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    • So often I am saddened by hearing similar things to those you are experiencing. It is so much a part of the wicked world you describe. By and large, I have experienced people to be really nasty beings, and especially those who tend to treat us even more harshly because they are family or acquaintances.

      Judging from what you have written, it does seem that you are dealing with the persecution in the best way. I have always dealt with these issues by severing all contact with the people who bring grief into my life, both family and other acquaintances, and I am certainly not poorer for the fact.I doubt it whether they truly are worse off either.

      By God’s grace, reminding myself that they are “straining at a nat and swallowing a camel” helps me to overcome.    Good.

      If you think about it, there is no holy or Godly entertainment or commercials, for that matter. It all comes from the minds of fellow sinners and is all aimed at sinners. Some of it is even produced by true Christians, and even though it may seem to be “cleaner”, it remains for the benefit of the flesh, whether it is so-called Christian music, man-made hymns, a movie with a Christian theme or a commercial which promotes Christian publications. None of these, no matter how tastefully presented or packaged are holy. But then, neither are we holy, and we are in the world. We are therefore faced with the same difficulties as those which the Apostle Paul struggled with. I always find the following words of Paul to be of comfort when faced with the dilemma:

      Rom 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
      15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
      16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
      17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
      18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

      19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
      20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

      21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
      22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
      23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
      24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
      25
      Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

      You are in my thoughts and prayers
      In Christ

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