PHARISEES AMONG US
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 19, 2018
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. 16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
— Luke 16:1-13, ESV
Among the various personalities who paraded into Jerusalem during the last phase of our Lord’s public ministry, none were more notorious than the Pharisees. Though seldom was heard a discouraging word from the lips of our Lord, His few condescending comments were usually aimed at them. We boo and hiss when the name pops up in the Gospels, but we must remember the Pharisees were quite popular in Jesus’ day.
Pharisees were not born, they were made by learning to walk to the right of everybody else. They created and clung to elaborate, extra-biblical rules and regulations that they thought made them right with God and better than other people, even religious people, even the incarnate Son of God. As the confrontation between Christ and His biggest critics drew to a close at Calvary, the people opted to side with the Pharisees.
The Pharisees’ greatest hypocrisy was their claim to know and love God more than anyone else. After gaining the people’s confidence, they proceeded to steal, lead people astray, preach heresy, and commit adultery, all in the name of God. The Pharisees hounded Christ in His day and in hide out in the Christian church in our day. There are still Pharisees among us, and here is how you can spot them.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who loves money more than God.
The first salvo fired at the Pharisees in this text comes on the heels of the previous one. Jesus’ declaration, “You cannot serve God and money” (ref. Luke 16:13) was aimed primarily at them. Instead of saying, “My God, You’re right,” they exalted themselves by belittling Jesus in the eyes of His beholders. When you cannot heed the message, attack the messenger.
It is true that you cannot serve God and money, though you can serve God with your money. But the Pharisees served money with God. In other words, they used their outward piety to gain increasing profits. They cheated widows out of their estates by feigning to act in God’s best interests (ref. Matthew 23:14). They withheld their resources from helping their aging and needy parents in the name of God (ref. Mark 7:11). These Jewish laymen constantly used their standing in the synagogue to prop up the earnings in their various economic interests.
Jesus knew the Pharisees loved money more than God, so He hit them right between the eyes with these words. Sadly, God’s words did not seem to poke their eyes nor penetrate their hearts. Perhaps they will comfort or condemn ours.
If you love God more than money, you can be a good follower of Jesus Christ. If you love money more than God, you are a Pharisee. Pharisees among us today rob God of tithes and offerings, are stingy with family and friends, and turn their backs on the poor. Statistics bear this out, but only God, you, and your banker know for sure if you are a good follower or a Pharisee.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who leads people away from God.
The Pharisees were doers of good deeds, and they went to great lengths to make sure everybody knew it. They made long public prayers and let everybody see what they put in the offering plate (ref. Mark 12:40; Matthew 6:2). They took the best seats in the synagogue and scolded people for not following their rules and regulations. Of course they were hypocrites, but people fell for their act.
Since the Pharisees put up such a good front, people followed and even put them on a pedestal. The Pharisees’ movement was akin to the fundamentalists and prohibitionists of the early twentieth century who also gained great followings. But as people began to walk with the works-righteousness of the Pharisees, they were pulled further and further away from the grace and imputed righteousness offered by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew the Pharisees were leading people astray. The people followed them because of their outward appearances, but God knew their thoughts and intentions. Jesus revealed this to them, but once again His words ricocheted off the Pharisees’ hard hearts. Perhaps they catch us on the rebound, for what is popular with people is not necessarily kosher with God.
If you are a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then no doubt you are leading others to do the same. However, Pharisees among us today go to church not to see God, but to be seen by people. They crave power in the church, too, wanting people to follow their rules rather than the pure and unadulterated word of God. They lead people astray from God and God’s word, and one day they will be called onto the carpet in a large room with a great white throne.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who promotes heresy against God.
Verse 16 is one of the most difficult to interpret in the Scriptures. In this context it must mean something negative about the Pharisees. While the true word of God was preached by Old Testament prophets up to the time of John the Baptist, and while the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ has become the centerpiece of God’s word, the Pharisees were trying to force their way into the kingdom with their system of external obedience to extra-biblical commandments.
At least this much is certain. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had encapsulated the two greatest heresies ever known to mankind in one deadly pill. They denied the deity of Christ and believed in salvation by works. No two poisons are more potent. The Pharisees among Jesus disregarded His equality with God and disdained His offer of grace.
Pharisees among us abound with these two heresies hand in hand. Professing to be Christians, Arians and Pelagians and Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others have all followed in the Pharisees’ footsteps. Surveys in Baptist and other Evangelical churches reveal half of the people in the pews believe being good is the best way to Heaven. You see, there are still Pharisees among us.
Reject the Pharisees and the heretics. Believe in the Lord God Jesus Christ, and you will be secure in salvation. Rest in His grace, upon His finished work on the cross, in all He has done for you and not in what you have done for Him. Then be sure to do good works in His name, and keep yourselves free from idolatry and immorality, unlike the Pharisees among us.
A Pharisee is a professing Christian who commits adultery in the name of God.
Divorce is controversial in any context. Taking verse 18 out of context can make it even more so. Jesus is by no means condemning every person who has ever been divorced and remarried, even though the Pharisees among us, especially Baptists, take it this way.
Remember that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible. Jesus never promised we can get anything we want in prayer, even though some verses taken out of context might indicate such an interpretation. This has been exploited to the hilt by the health and wealth evangelists. A more perfect understanding is found in 1 John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
Likewise, divorce is understood more fully when taking into consideration all of the biblical revelation. Scripture warns against it but realizes it happens. Therefore, it is regulated by the word of God (ref. Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 5:31-32, 19:7-9; 1 Corinthians 7:15).
The only legitimate reasons to be divorced, according to the Bible, are infidelity and abandonment. Those who commit adultery against a spouse or abandon an otherwise faithful spouse have a serious sin standing between them and God. Those who are victims of infidelity and abandonment are free to remarry, as long as it is another Christian, and so often a good remarriage is an answer to prayer and a healing gift from God. Only the Pharisees among us would condemn it.
But let’s get back to these Pharisees, the ones Jesus faced, for a moment. Clearly the term translated “indecent” in Deuteronomy 24:1 parallels with the New Testament understanding of “immorality.” But the Pharisees, with their myriad loopholes, translated it “any reason” in their religious rulebook. Therefore, even if a wife only burned the toast, a Pharisee was free to divorce her and marry another. Of course, like other sexual perverts before and after them, the Pharisees just used this as a guise for adultery and wife-swapping.
Surely there are not these kind of Pharisee among us today? Unfortunately, professing Christians divorce their faithful spouses every day, not because that spouse was unfaithful or ungodly in any definitive way, but just because, and I quote from years of counseling experience, “God wants me to be happy.” No, Pharisee, God wants you to be holy.
Here again, the word of God is meant to comfort the wounded and wound the comfortable. If you were the unwilling victim of a divorce, and you found a wonderful Christian person to marry afterward, then know that God does want you to be happy, healed, whole, and blessed. But if you divorced your spouse just to have sex with someone else, then you should repent before almighty God and apologize to the spouse, the children, and anyone else who got burned in your lust-fueled fire.
After all is said and done, there appears to be no love loss between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Pharisees. However, there is a great deal of love lost. Jesus lost their love, though He never had it in the first place. The Pharisees among us love themselves too much to have any room for anyone else, not even God. At the end of the day, however, God is not the one who suffers loss.
It is the Pharisees among us who will be hurt the most. They lose the love of God by simply not accepting it. They pass on Jesus, don’t think they need grace, and offer works of their own rather than faith in the Savior. They live their lives and go to meet their Maker without the love of God that has the power to save anyone in the world, even a Pharisee.
So, if you are one of the Pharisees among us, hear the word of God. You may not love Him, but He loves you. He does not need you, but you desperately need Him. Drop the act, burn your book of rules, repent of your hypocrisy, and find forgiveness and eternal life. Come to Jesus and find the love you need and the salvation He alone can give. Then walk and worship as a true Christians among us.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org