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  • Steve Derenge

The Irony of Phariseeism


“‘A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

Matthew 10:24-25 ESV

There are some ironies about Jesus’ ministry.

He was full of God and was yet accused of being full of the devil by the religious leaders. The leading theologians couldn’t tell the difference between God and satan, between light and darkness. C.f. Matthew 12:22ff. John 8:48-49, 52; 10:19-21.

Another irony is that the religious people had their bad attitudes about Jesus because of demons who set up strongholds in their minds. The accusation that Jesus was demonized came from the demons who hijacked the minds of the religious leaders. That's why they couldn't understand nor bear to hear Jesus’ words.

c.f. Mark 4:15; John 8:43-47; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Matthew 3:7ff; 23:33.

How does this apply today?

Sometimes Christian ministers can fall into this same kind of deception that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did. It happens to the best of us. We can unwittingly nullify the word of God for the sake of our theological tradition that's been handed down to us (See Mark 7:6-13).

Consequently, we'll be in error because we know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29). Now we could have the entire Bible memorized, but we'll interpret the Scriptures through our faulty worldview grid rather than allowing the Holy Spirit (who wrote the Scriptures) to shape our worldview according to what His word says.

The Pharisees memorized the Scriptures; they were the theological experts and ministers of the day. But they couldn't recognize the Person of the Godhead on the earth whom they studied their entire lives (the Messiah) as they were talking to him face-to-face. How ironic that they were talking to God Himself and yet thought he was the devil! We like to think today, “Those stupid Pharisees. That could never happen to us! I would never make that mistake.”

Is that a humble or realistic attitude? Might that sound Pharisaical? C.f. Matthew 23:30.

Theoretically, might well-meaning Christians today mistake the works of the member of the Godhead on earth today (the Holy Spirit) for the works of satan, just like the good-intentioned Pharisees did with the member of the Godhead on earth in their day (Jesus Christ)?

However, there is good news. The Holy Spirit is mightier than the religious spirits living inside God’s servants and children. Do you ever see a Pharisee in the Scriptures worshiping or honoring Jesus? Yes, the repentant ones did. E.g. Nicodemus, the apostle Paul, etc. So if/whenever we find ourselves to be Pharisees, there is grace, forgiveness, restoration, and mercy at the cross. Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was a Pharisee, and a very deceived and wicked one at that. He imprisoned and killed many Christians, doing a lot of damage.

But God still saved him and anointed him with the Holy Spirit, using him mightily. Paul operated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit as he planted churches, preached the gospel, and made disciples. Since God the Father is no respecter of persons, he is able and willing to do great exploits with us, no matter how religious and/or demonized we were in the past.

c.f. John 16:7ff; 14:12ff; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 3:20f.

Application points:

  • Don’t read and interpret Bible verses or passages through the worldview grid of any particular philosophy that is not endorsed by the Bible itself. c.f. Colossians 2:8.

  • Rather, let the Bible interpret the Bible as you fellowship (communicate) with the Author of the Bible (the Holy Spirit). c.f. Proverbs 3:5-8; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 14:26.

  • Don’t adopt “biblical” doctrines or opinions on the basis of your feelings or experiences (or lack thereof). E.g. “I prayed for a sick person and it didn’t work; therefore, God now only heals people in heaven after death.” [That’s faulty, unbiblical reasoning.] The trustworthiness of God and His Word--not our feelings, theological traditions, or experiences--is our authority. Keep pursuing God and taking risks in obedience until you see Jesus’ promises manifest in your life.

Learn about the good news of God’s goodness and power through a relationship with Jesus Christ in my article here.



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