What was wrong with the Pharisees? Why did Christ condemn them? Was it for keeping the letter of the law? WHY would He condemn them for doing what HE, HIMSELF said? HE DIDN’T!
He never condemned them for the righteous things they did!
Matthew 23:23 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.
Notice He said that tithing of mint, anise, and cummin was GOOD! He commended them for doing that – but the problem was, they were NOT keeping the rest of the law!
Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Notice He said that they had SOME righteousness – just not enough.
Matthew 23:1-3 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: FOR THEY SAY, and DO NOT!
He did NOT condemn them for professing to believe and preach the letter of the law that He, Himself gave them… He condemned them for not doing it themselves…
Luke 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
The world today seems to have the idea that the Pharisees kept the letter of the law perfectly – and that they were condemned because they didn’t have “love”. But the Bible says they were covetous – the tenth commandment is “Thou shalt not covet” – therefore, they DID NOT KEEP the letter of the law!
John 7:19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet NONE of you keepeth the law? …
So it’s clear, they didn’t keep the law. Christ Himself said so. But this wasn’t their only problem!
The other problem they had, was that they were not content to leave the law as GOD set it up. They had to add laws, and explanations, and details to the law that GOD NEVER SAID! They MADE UP THINGS.
Mark 7:5-9 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him [Christ], 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 [NOT OF GOD!]. 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.
They added a law of ceremonial washings to the law of Moses – they weren’t keeping the law GOD gave, but one they invented! But even worse – they changed the law God gave them!
Mark 7:10-12 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;
So their sin was of not only not keeping the law properly… but adding to the law… and also TAKING FROM the law. They were NOT keeping the letter of the law at all!
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
The Pharisees did what righteousness they did to be seen by men. They worked on fixing only the things other men would SEE, and ignored everything else – such as covetousness!
Matthew 23:25-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly APPEAR RIGHTEOUS unto men, but within ye are full of HYPOCRISY and INIQUITY!
So you see, the Pharisees did NOT keep the letter of the law – in fact, they didn’t keep the law well at all! Their sin was the same as everyone else’s… Changing, adding to, and BREAKING the law of God! The only real difference between them and the publicans and harlots was that both ignored the law of God… but the Pharisees PROFESSED to know God!
Romans 2:17-24 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and RESTEST IN THE LAW, and makest thy BOAST of God… And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness… Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? … Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles THROUGH YOU, as it is written.
What was wrong with the Pharisees is that they were UNRIGHTEOUS! They did NOT keep the law! And yet, at the same time, they PRETENDED to keep the law – they made sure their actions that other men saw were pure, and yet at the same time in their private life and in their heart they were rebellious and evil!
And yet they had the colossal gall to look down their noses at the harlots and publicans, people who were in their hearts no less righteous than they, and condemn them mightily and pretend that they were holy men of God, when in fact they “none of them kept the law”!
So examine yourself, and make sure you ALWAYS DO what you CLAIM TO BELIEVE… lest you wind up a with the condemnation of a PHARISEE, and a HYPOCRITE!