The Pharisee and the Celebrity Pastor

Road to Emmaus  by James J. Tissot

Road to Emmaus
by James J. Tissot

If you spend some time listening to some Celebrity Pastors mishandling Scriptures, you’ll notice that while the doctrines they peddle may vary, they share a common problem, a problem the Pharisees shared. They strip-mine the Scriptures to justify their ideas and miss the point of the Bible. It is also interesting to note that many of these celebrity pastors are quick to accuse those who measure their words by the Scriptures of being “Pharisaical”.

The Pharisees did not faithfully handle the Word of God (the Law and the Prophets) for if they had, they would have recognized Jesus for who He is. A few months ago, we took a look at the sin of the Pharisee, but today I want to look at how their mishandling of scripture is alive and well today among celebrity pastors. I will do my best to point out the problem without naming names, because our goal here is to study what the Bible teaches, not what false teachers teach.

The Bible Isn’t About Us

It has been a while since we’ve visited this declaration that the Bible is not about us. The Bible is the very Word of God, and the Bible is about God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Law and the Prophets point to Christ. The New Testament points to Christ. The Bible is the Revelation of God to His people.

John 5:25-47 (ESV) 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Moses wrote about Jesus. The story of the flood is about Jesus, not Noah. It’s about God keeping His promises, not about what Noah did to earn favor with God. The Story of the Covenant with Abraham, is a story about the Promise of Jesus Christ, not about Abraham and the circumcision. The Law, the 10 commandments, were given as a Testimony of the Greatness of God, not a means for earning favor with God. The Pharisees searched the scriptures hoping to find hidden laws, or secret meanings behind the texts that would grant them deeper knowledge and understanding, all the while missing the overwhelming point of the Scriptures, that being Jesus. They completely missed that Jesus was fulfilling the Law and the Prophets right before their very eyes. And Jesus called them on it directly. The Pharisees added to the Laws and created extra standards for keeping the Laws adding all sorts of rules to specify how people were to keep the Sabbath and creating detailed rituals in how they were to wash their hands to keep themselves clean. The Pharisees also made rules that superseded (wrongly) the Law as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 15.

Why is it a Problem?

When we teach from the Law in a manner that does not find both its anchor and its destination in the person of Jesus Christ, we risk placing a yoke of the Law upon the neck of those who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are therefore sheep needing to be fed and guarded from wolves.

Acts 15:1-11 (ESV)  15 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

We must teach the Law, for the Law points us to Jesus. Without the Law, we cannot fully understand the Gospel. However, we dare not teach the Law as if it were the Gospel. We dare not supplant the Gospel for the sake of the Law. We need Jesus to stand between us and the Law because He is the Only one who could fulfill the Law, and He did so on our behalf. He fulfilled the Law where we could not, and then died a death He did not deserve so that in Him we might find forgiveness of sin.

Galatians 2:15-21 (ESV) 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Galatians 3:10-14 (ESV) 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

How Should We Teach the Law?

We should take our lessons from the New Testament. Look at the recorded sermons in Acts, look at the approach taken by the writer of Hebrews, and Paul’s letter to the Romans. They work through the Law and the Prophets to build the case for Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Remember, the Apostles had not yet written the New Testament when they were first preaching the Gospel. They preached the Gospel from the Law and the Prophets. When they refer to the Scriptures they are largely referring to what we call the Old Testament (though Peter does reference Paul’s writings in 2 Peter 3:14-18, which is pretty cool). Those who presume to teach the Law should also be perpetual students of the Law. This is another reason why we should follow the church structure given to us in the New Testament (plurality of Elders) rather than assume a Mosaic structure. Moses spoke with God face to face (Exodus 33), and wore a veil over his face after speaking with God because it shined such that fear would come upon the children of Israel (Exodus 34). Since we are NOT Moses, we should follow the Church structure set in place by the Apostles in the New Testament.

Here are some pitfalls I’ve seen in some of the derailed sermons I’ve witnessed (radio, TV, online, etc) and run into myself whenever I’m putting together these Bible Study blogs.

  • Attempting to turn a descriptive text into a prescription. This happens the most when the text being used is a once-in-the-Bible miracle that then gets broken down into steps that Christians should follow to get God to do the same miracle for them. “Sun Stand Still” is probably the most popular example right now, but there are new fads/trends popping up in Christian bookstores all the time.
  • Confusing the foreshadowing for the substance. This is when we look at the Tabernacle in Exodus and think that we are supposed to somehow return to those days when it was a foreshadowing for the in-dwelling of God the Holy Spirit within each of us as the promise from Jesus Christ. We also see this in churches that lift up the Pastor as a Moses, a Judge, or a Prophet from the Old Testament. That is not the leadership that Christ left for the Church. Jesus is our High Priest, the Head of His Church, we don’t have a singular vicar here on Earth.
  • Word-Search Proof Text. It happens most often when a topical sermon starts with an idea, a truism, a doctrine of man, where a term or phrase is searched in the Bible and exact hits are used to make the case that what is being presented is Biblical because isolated verses can be found in the Bible. Remember, Satan tempted Jesus by quoting Scripture out of context. While this is the most common pitfall, it is generally the easiest to refute. Simply read the text in bigger chunks so that you have a better idea of the context of each passage. Know the covenants of the Old Testament and learn to understand the blessings and curses tied to the covenants.

If you are reading this blog and are a blogger or teacher, I implore you to take note whenever someone challenges what you’ve shared. If you cannot defend your position Biblically, then either your position is faulty or you are simply lacking in understanding and need to grow in the Word. I’ve been blogging for a just under a year and can already see a lot of growth since my earlier posts. I am not a pastor or a teacher, but I am the head of my household. I bear the responsibility of being the spiritual head of my household, I must ensure that my wife and kids are being taught the Word and fed sound doctrine. A major part of that responsibility is in which church we attend on Sunday morning, which Bible Studies we participate in, and also what I write here and discuss with my family in my home. If my wife gets theologically ambushed while at the grocery store, I bear some responsibility for how she handles it. I know that whatever transpires, she will share it with me; not always in detail but enough to take the core question to the Word of God. We discuss each of these blog posts over dinner or before bed. As a father and a husband, I bear a great deal of responsibility.

That responsibility grows exponentially when one becomes an Elder, a Teacher of God’s Word, a Pastor (shepherd) over God’s sheep. James warns of this in his letter:

James 3 (ESV) 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That should not discourage us from preaching the Word of God; rather, it should compel us to take the preaching of the Word of God seriously. We must set aside arrogance and selfish ambition and humbly teach the Word of God in meekness of wisdom. We rely on the Word of God to explain the Word of God, and we take every question back to the Word of God. For we know that the all scripture is God-breathed and sufficient for every good work.

Notice also that James makes clear that “we all stumble”. That isn’t some clever use of the word “we” that doesn’t include the speaker. Therefore, if we all stumble, then we all share in our need to repent and ask for forgiveness. We share in our need for a Living Savior, One who has already paid the price for our sin, so that when we stumble and fall into sin, we have a Loving God who is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sin. In the same way that King David repented when he was rebuked by Nathan, so we must turn our hearts toward God whenever we are caught in sin… and God is faithful to forgive us by the blood of His Son, Jesus.

May the Lord bless you and keep you firmly in His Grace,
In Christ Jesus,

CTT | Mockery is Condemnation

18 century icon painter - Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia

18 century icon painter – Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia

We need to practice Biblical discernment in everything we do. We must share the Truth in Love. Rebuke and Admonition are unpleasant and often despised and resisted. We are often tempted to resort to mockery of those who refuse to repent. When we engage in mockery, we are pronouncing judgment and condemning the object of our mockery. We are no longer seeking repentance from the one being mocked, and this can be problematic even if we are in the right. Today I want to address the topic of bringing correction to those who are stubborn in their sin or false doctrine and reject sound doctrine and what is at stake when we resort to mockery… when we are in the right. A fool mocks from a position of error, and that is not what we will be addressing today.

Elijah Mocked the Prophets of Baal

Yes, he did. Some point to Elijah as their justification for engaging in mockery. I want to take a look at what is happening in context so that there is no mistaking what is going on in the story. To rightly understand the story of Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal, we need to first understand who Ahab was. For that, let’s begin in 1 Kings 16.

1 Kings 16:29-34 (ESV)29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Now, not to get too sidetracked, did you notice that in the days of Ahab, Hiel built Jericho at the cost of 2 sons? Well, it points all of the way back to the days of Joshua, when the God destroyed Jericho on behalf of His people, Israel. If we turn briefly to Joshua 6.

Joshua 6:26-27 (ESV) 26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.

Okay, so here we have a wicked King over the northern kingdom of Israel. More wicked than any before him. His wickedness trumps that of Jeroboam in that he takes as a bride the daughter of the king of Sidon. Ahab then worships Baal, builds a temple for Baal in Samaria (the capital city of the northern Kingdom of Israel) and sets up an Asherah. Idolatry. Ahab provoked the Lord, the God of Israel to anger. So God sends His prophet to Ahab.

1 Kings 17:1 (ESV) 17 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Now, the story follows Elijah as he goes into hiding while the judgment of the Lord falls upon Israel. Judgement provoked by the sin of Ahab.

1 Kings 18:1-6 (ESV)  18 After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. 3 And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, 4 and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.) 5 And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” 6 So they divided the land between them to pass through it. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

Now we see that Jezebel began killing the prophets of the Lord, and Obadiah hid 100 prophets in groups of 50 and fed them in secret. So, not only is Ahab worshiping a false God, his wife had also openly attack the prophets of the Lord God. It had not rained for 3 years, and the famine was rough. While Elijah was indeed a prophet of God, and heard from God directly, the shutting of the sky as a punishment for the sin of Israel is not spontaneous nor should it have been unexpected. Why? Because according to the Law, the Covenant with Moses, God already warned Israel of the punishments or curses for disobedience. We can find it in Deuteronomy 28, but specifically verse 24 states, “The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.” So, the Prophet Elijah brought the Word of the Lord to Ahab, and the sign given (lack of rain) points back to the Law of Moses. Ahab doesn’t get, as we’ll see in a moment, but the sign and wonder doesn’t point to Elijah, it points to God. This is Ahab’s first recorded warning, 3 years of drought.

1 Kings 18:17-19 (ESV) 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.

Ahab doesn’t get it. He had completely forgotten who was God of Israel, and considered Israel his own, a nation of his making, a nation that followed Baal. He did not recognize the true cause for the drought and accused Elijah of being the troubler of Israel. While 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah ate at Jezebel’s table.

1 Kings 18:20-24 (ESV)  20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

Elijah called an assembly of the people of Israel and charged them to choose whom they will serve, whether the One True God of Israel, or Baal. And the people remained silent. This was a second appeal to the Children of Israel to repent and reject the idols and false god Baal, and return to the True God of Israel. The Israelites responded properly to Joshua, but those assembled before Elijah fell silent. Repentance would not come without a sign. Whenever I read Matthew 12, I wonder if this very moment is part of what went through Jesus’ mind when he responded to the scribes, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign…” (Matthew 12:38-42).

1 Kings 18:25-40 (ESV) 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

The false prophets stood condemned long before God consumed the altar with fire. Their fate was already sealed according to the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 13:4-5 (ESV) 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Judgement had come to Israel. So why did Elijah mock the false prophets? Not for their sake, not for their repentance; rather, so that they would double-down and leave no room for doubt that they had fully exhausted everything they had into their apostasy, for the sake of the witness of Israel. Israel’s silence, while a failure, at least shielded them from being put to death along with the false prophets. They repented immediately at the sign of the Lord God, and they obeyed Elijah’s command to seize the false prophets. Elijah put them to death, as required by the Law.

Now lets look at something very cool. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 7 (yes, this is before the events in 1 Kings 18) to the dedication of the Temple built by King Solomon.

2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)7 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 7:11-14 (ESV) 11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The people should have recognized the 3 year drought as a sign of rebuke for their sin. They should have repented. They did not. Notice also here that the fire being called down from heaven was not new to Israel. This is how the Lord God answered Solomon’s prayer that began 2 Chronicles 6. So even the sign that Elijah proposed points back to the Lord God. God had already done this for His people. And the significance of that fire points back to when God lead the Children of Israel in the wilderness at night. How great is the Mercy and Grace of our God!


There is a time for mockery, but it is always a sign of judgement and condemnation. Israel will continue to sin and chase after false gods, and God makes a mockery of her among the nations. Hence the eventual scattering of the 10 tribes of Israel, leaving only Judah and Levi. They, too, are sent into Exile for 70 years, when they can repent and cry out to God.

We must rebuke false teaching, and silence false teachers. We must do so in love and humility, for it is not by our power or authority, but by the Word of God. You cannot mock a professing Christian in the name of “reaching out to them that they might repent”, that is not what mockery does. One who continues in sin, rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sound doctrine (defined by the Word of God, not the doctrines of men), then mockery may be in order so that the one who stands condemned by their own might be a warning to all who believe. Mocking someone who is caught in sin will harden his/her heart before it leads to repentance. Elijah didn’t begin with mockery, he closed with it… and then he put the false prophets to death.  Notice, this entire study has been under the singular premise that the one mocking was undeniably correct and spoke the Word of the Lord. Mocking someone from a position of error adds sin upon sin and invites condemnation of its own. Ultimately, we should be slow to mock, quick to forgive, and we should always point others to the Word of God and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

May the Peace of God remain with you,
In Christ Jesus,

Why This List Should Just Go Away

nopeI see this Internet Meme or Poster passed around on Facebook and included in Blogs and church marketing campaigns and it always grieves me. It popped up again twice this week, so I’ve decided it’s time to debunk this message. Now, I am certain that many of you have “liked” or “shared” something of this sort before in social media or in email. I’ve seen it and refrained from commenting on it before. My desire here is not to condemn anyone for sharing something that they thought was good or helpful or even accurate. At first glance, it seems like a good thing, right? I mean, how could encouraging folks that they aren’t beyond God’s reach possibly be bad? I think that such an approach to this meme is innocent enough, but once you look at the details, I think you’ll realize that nothing with these types of errors and falsehood could ever be considered “good”. In fact, there is no redeeming this concept, it is fundamentally flawed in its approach and execution.

I chose this particular iteration because it took the route of placing in a Scripture reference as “fine print” as if to say that the poster is Biblically accurate. We’ll get to that a little later, but I want to address the heart of the problem with this poster first.

Do You Seriously Think God Can’t Use You?

Okay, so right at the start, we are in a bad spot. The person who is thinking, “God can’t use me” needs to be corrected in their thinking. The Bible isn’t about us, it’s about God. The Gospel isn’t about us, or our potential, or whether or not God can use us. So, the person to whom this poster is speaking is already suffering from false doctrine, and a poor understanding of the Gospel. Our salvation isn’t dependent upon what God can use us for… it is wholly and completely dependent upon what Jesus Christ did upon the Cross for us. That He bore our punishment as the final atoning sacrifice so that in Him we are free from our sin, free to serve God, free to love Him.

Genesis 1:1 (ESV) 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

We serve a God who created everything out of nothing. Whatever He does, He does by His Will, for His purpose, for His glory. That we get to play any part is by His Grace and Mercy. He doesn’t need anyone or anything to bring about His Purposes.

Another problem with this premise, is it is born out of this “God sees potential in you…” or “God has a destiny for you…” false Gospel narrative. It comes from the notion that God has planned some level of greatness for each Christian. This is heavily marketed to Youth Ministries. I suppose the desire to inspire and motivate young Christians to be faithful to God and to have a desire for good works is a good desire, but this method is abusive. Not everyone is called to be a patriarch or a revolutionary. In all of the Bible, only one person got to be a Moses, a Joshua, a Peter. Moreover, God isn’t limited to only using heroes of the faith, or believers for that matter… He used King Cyrus to restore Jerusalem after the Exile… a pantheist! There are millions of faithful followers of Christ whose names never made history, and that’s okay, so long as their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The truly frustrating part about this point is that the “fine print” passage of scripture resolves all of this bad teaching if it would just be given proper attention in full context. So, Let’s look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1 (we’ll underline the portion that appears on the poster).

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ESV)
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The real question isn’t about how many failed people God has used before, it should be about whether or not you believe your sins are covered by the Blood of Jesus. Who are you to question whether or not the blood of Christ has the power to cleanse you of your unrighteousness? Either you’ve accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ or you haven’t. If you have, accept what the Bible says of you, and “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord”. If God had ruled anyone out due to their sin, we wouldn’t have the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The answer to “can God really use me” isn’t “well, He’s used a lot worse”. The answer to that question should be, “…if it were about who can be used of God there wouldn’t be anyone left, God would have judged us all long ago. It’s not about what we can do for Him, it’s about what He did for us.”

Artistic License or Falsehood?

Now that we’ve settled that matter, we have a whole different problem to contend with. The laundry list of characters and character flaws that are supposed to demonstrate God’s ability to use us is filled with… well… falsehood. Some of them I’ll accept as Artistic License… but they are still presented in support of a false narrative concerning the Gospel and Christian walk.

  • NOAH WAS A DRUNK Really? Who writes this garbage? He got drunk once and became the first recorded victim of incestuous rape. Let’s look at what the Bible says about Noah.
    • Genesis 6:6-9 (ESV) 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
    • 2 Peter 2:4-10a (ESV) 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
  • ABRAHAM WAS TOO OLD Too old for what? Here we have a shifting sense of the point being conveyed. Are we now saying Abraham was too old for God to use him,ortoo old for Abraham to have a child? Even that is wrong, because he firstfatheredIshamel by Sarah’s slave. So he wasn’t too old for procreation. Even after God gave him the son of promise, Isaac, Abraham lived another 75 years… that’s nearly an entire lifespan for us now.
    • Genesis 17:15-21 (ESV) 15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
    • Abraham was making excuses and trying to get God to take Ishamel as the son of promise. God refused the request, but made it clear that Ishmael would become a great nation, just outside of His covenant.
  • ISAAC WAS A DAYDREAMER Seriously… whoever came up with this nonsense hasn’t read the Bible. Nowhere in Genesis 22-27 is there any indication of a proclivity for daydreaming, especially not in the sense that this is somehow a character flaw that God needed to overcome. The closest we can come is in Genesis 24 when Abraham sends for a wife for Isaac. In the past chapter, Sarah has died and been buried. This is important to remember since the bulk of 24 tells of events taking place far away from Isaac.
    • Genesis 24:58-67 (ESV) 58 And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” 59 So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. 60 And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
      “Our sister, may you become
      thousands of ten thousands,
      and may your offspring possess
      the gate of those who hate him!”61 Then Rebekah and her young women arose and rode on the camels and followed the man. Thus the servant took Rebekah and went his way. 62 Now Isaac had returned from Beer-lahai-roi and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel 65 and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
    • So where is this Beer-lahai-roi? It is the place where the Word of the Lord came to Hagai, after Sarah had treated her harshly and caused her to flee. It is the name of the well and it means “the well of the Living One who sees me” (Genesis 16 (ESV))
  • JACOB WAS A LIAR I’ll concede this point as “Artistic License”. Yes, Jacob lied, and it didn’t go well for him. Still, Jacob was chosen by God as the heir of Promise over Esau while still in the womb. He lived a hard life, and wrestled with God and walked away with a permanent limp.
  • LEAH WAS UGLY That’s quite a stretch. We know only that her eyes were weak (or soft), and we know that Jacob’s desire was for Rachel. Now, she might have had a lazy eye or poor eyesight, the text doesn’t go into detail, but to say that this means she was ugly is a fabrication. It is also guilty of presenting a false notion that maybe it’s easier for God to work with pretty people, since this list is supposedly about the kinds of character flaws God has overcome so He could use certain people. Rank falsehood.
    • Genesis 16:13-14 (ESV) 13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
    • It just occurred to me that this might be an attempt to address those Christians who are crippled by ugly duckling syndrome (of which I was for a very long time). Is pointing to Leah really the answer to this false premise? Laban tricked Jacob by swapping daughters for the wedding, and then God opened Leah’s womb before Rachel’s because of Jacob’s treatment of Leah. This is the kind of garbage that comes from trying to inject human reason into Biblical historical narrative and then allegorizing it for today’s “hardships” rather than simply preaching law and Gospel.
  • JOSEPH WAS ABUSED First of all, Joseph was abused because his brothers hated him for giving a bad report of them and for sharing his dreams. Prophetic dreams, given to him by God. But this list isn’t about teaching Biblical truth (clearly), this list is someone’s human attempt to reach hurting Christians by twisting Scripture. All of it under a false premise that somehow we need to believe in ourselves that God can use us. That is a false Gospel. We need only believe in Jesus as the Christ, our atoning sacrifice, our Redeemer, who loved us enough to die on a cross for our sin.
  • MOSES HAD A STUTTERING PROBLEMUhm, No. This is a common myth. First of all, Moses was making excuses and trying to back out of God’s calling.
    • Exodus 4:10-17 (ESV) 10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
    • Acts 7:17-22 (ESV) 17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another kingwho did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
  • GIDEON WAS AFRAID Yes, yes he was, and rightfully so. However, God called Gideon. I’ll give this one an “Artistic license” pass.
  • SAMSON HAD LONG HAIR AND WAS A WOMANIZER If we are going for the whole “Champions of old had major flaws, too” bit… Solomon wins in the category of womanizer. But are you KIDDING ME with the long hair bit? No really… (I confess, I’m more than a little frustrated by this list) how does this even fit into this list at all. Trying to reach out to the “long-haired hippy” crowd or the “pony-tailed biker gang” by having them equated with Samson? Let’s look at why Samson had long hair, shall we?
    • Judges 13:1-7 (ESV) 1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so theLord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years. 2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”
    • His long hair was commanded by God. I’m going to close out this list with Scripture references only, and we’ll close briefly. Wow… what a horrible meme.
  • RAHAB WAS A PROSTITUTE Yes, before the Israel came and she served Israel. James mentioned her in his teaching James 2:24-26 (ESV).
  • JEREMIAH AND TIMOTHY WERE TOO YOUNG God chose Jeremiah as His Prophet, and Timothy had some of the best training possible since Christ ascended into Heaven. He was discipled by the Apostle Paul, and his Jewish mother and grandmother had taught him the Scriptures from a young age.
  • DAVID HAD AN AFFAIR AND WAS A MURDERER Yes. Internal inconsistency, for by then God had already used him mightily. What makes David special is his heart of repentance, a heart that was after God.
  • ELIJAH WAS SUICIDAL I can’t… ugh… no, this is false. We covered this recently in a CTT post, and you can read the account in 1 Kings 19 (ESV). He felt like he failed God and asked God to kill him (for his perceived error).
  • ISAIAH PREACHED NAKED … any research at all, here?… God told him to do this, just read the text. Isaiah 20 (ESV).
  • JONAH RAN FROM GOD Yes, he did. Because he didn’t want Nineveh to repent, for he knew God would forgive them if they did, and he wanted Nineveh to be judged. Book of Jonah.
  • NAOMI WAS A WIDOW How is this even on this list? This isn’t even remotely a character flaw or a sin.
  • JOB WENT BANKRUPT This is just… I mean I can’t… *sigh*. Book of Job. The steadfastness of Job.
  • PETER DENIED CHRIST Yes. Jesus warned him he’d do it, and it happened. He repented and was restored.
  • THE DISCIPLES FELL ASLEEP WHILE PRAYING Yes, they did… and then they fled when Jesus was arrested.
  • MARTHA WORRIED ABOUT EVERYTHING “everything” is a stretch. Jesus pointed out that Mary had chosen the better thing to focus on (Luke 10:40-42 ESV).
  • THE SAMARITAN WOMAN WAS DIVORCED Yes. But why stop there? She was a Samaritan, She had been married 5 times, and was currently sleeping with a man who was not her husband. And yet, God loved her enough to point out her sin and presented Himself as the source of life.
  • ZACCHEUS WAS TOO SMALL … that’s just petty, even for this list. Why even include him on this list? He was rich.
  • PAUL WAS TOO RELIGIOUS No, he was wrong. He persecuted the church with great zeal out of ignorance. He didn’t realize that Jesus was the Christ until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. I hate that the seeker-sensitive crowd throws this out as an attack at those like myself who insist on taking everything to the Scriptures, but I digress… this pain is almost over.
  • TIMOTHY HAD AN ULCER Yes, and Paul encouraged him to drink a little wine for his stomach. You see, Timothy was trying to just drink water even though Paul taught at length about the food and drink laws no longer applying. Perhaps Timothy was struggling with religiosity? Let’s face it… we all will struggle with this from time to time.
  • LAZARUS WAS DEAD Yes, and his death was part of God’s plan to demonstrate His Lordship over death and the grave. John 11 (ESV)

This list is not only unnecessary (for the lost or the saved) it is wrong. Bible twisting is evident in the majority of the examples cited, and the aim of the meme shifts in odd ways as the list progresses. Just… stop. This is not what we, the Church, are supposed to be doing to God’s Word. This is NOT faithful stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is falsehood. This is wrong. In closing, let’s look to Paul’s encouragement to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist,fulfill your ministry.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,

The Pharisee | An honest look at their sin

CTTIt seems these days whenever a Christian exercises Biblical discernment and questions the theology being presented or taught by a Pastor, Teacher, or fellow Christian, the accusation or warning of being Pharisaical is just around the corner. The trendy thing in today’s evangelical circles is to be “above denominations” and to be known as a “Word church”, a “Bible believing” church. What strikes me as odd is that many time such churches teach so very little Scripture, that one wonders exactly whose “word” the church has been built around. If Christ is to be both the Head of the Church and the Cornerstone of the church, then shouldn’t the very Word of God be the sole measure of the Church and its doctrine? Recently, a friend of mine shared that he was reading a book called Pharisectomy, so I decided it was time we stopped throwing around this general pejorative and look at what the sin of the Pharisee truly was in hopes of properly defining what it means to be Pharisaical.

 The Pharisees Rejected Jesus as the Christ, Son of God

I thought I’d start at the most obvious, and eternally condemning sin, the sin of rejecting Jesus as the Son of God. All of Israel was longing for the Messiah (Hebrew for the Anointed One of God) the Christ (Greek for the Anointed One), the Son of David to arrive as prophesied. In Matthew, we see from the beginning that the Pharisees were aware of the prophecies concerning the coming Christ, and they knew well enough to seek out the “one calling in the wilderness”.

Matthew 3:4-12 (ESV) 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Wow. John the Baptist wasted no time calling out the Pharisees and Sadducees who came out to investigate John the Baptist. As Matthew records this event, he captures 3 statements (underlined) that serve as prophetic statements. The first is John’s reference to them as a “brood of vipers“. What is interesting to me, is that this will come up again a couple of times when Jesus confronts the Pharisees. The next underlined portion serves as prophetic warning of an argument that the Pharisees will indeed make during a confrontation with Jesus. Finally, the third statement ends up being a recurring theme in Jesus’ teachings regarding trees not bearing fruit. Very exciting. However, before we get to it, I want to hop over to John for the rest of this encounter between John the Baptist and the Pharisees. I can’t say whether or not this happened before the account in Matthew or after it, but it adds to the picture of what is taking place.

John 1:19-28 (ESV) 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then?Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Clearly, the Pharisees were looking for the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. There hadn’t been an anointed Prophet of God since Malachi. Many expected Elijah to be the forerunner of the Christ. I find it interesting that John the Baptist denied this, when Jesus later spoke of John the Baptist as Elijah who had already come and was not recognized. I am certain that in his desire to do the will of God, his sole focus was to point to the Christ, the Son of God. Now Jesus performed a great many miracles. These miracles were to serve as a testimony to the fact that Jesus was in-fact, the Christ, the Son of God.

Matthew 11:2-6 (ESV)2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

This was what John the Baptist needed to hear, and all of these signs were performed before people so that they would know who Jesus is and repent. However, there were many who did not repent.

Matthew 11:20-24 (ESV) 20 Then [Jesus] began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

John 9:24-34 (ESV) 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

John 8:31-47 (ESV) 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Now, as for what the Pharisees were looking for in the Christ, Jesus asks them directly toward the end. Granted that by this time, it is clear that the Pharisees had already hardened their hearts against Jesus declaring him a blasphemer, an impostor, even a sinner (for breaking the Sabbath according to their rules) and a demon-possessed man, still the answer is interesting:

Matthew 22:41-46 (ESV) 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

They set their hearts and minds to kill him, primarily because they rejected Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Their fate was sealed by their hardened hearts and their unbelief. In His trial, Jesus made it clear to them that He had already said all that needed to be said, and He had done so openly, plainly, and publicly:

John 18:19-24 (ESV) 19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

There is a lot more to be said about how these Pharisees ignored Messianic Prophecies and the Law of Moses to feed their greed, defend their pride, and feed their bloodlust against Jesus. They hated Jesus and were lovers of themselves, and their esteemed positions.

The Righteousness of the Pharisee was Purely External

Jesus had a lot to say about the heart issue of the Pharisees. They were neither fulfilling their duties as priests, nor were they serving the people. They were serving themselves. Let’s see how Jesus rebuked them.

Matthew 23:1-7 (ESV) 23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Matthew 23:23-36 (ESV) 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

I skipped a couple of Woes because the fall more into the next point. Notice here, that Jesus doesn’t say that the Law is bad or wrong. He says plainly that the disciples are not to emulate their works. They preached perfection of the Law and their identity as Levites, Scribes, and Rabbis while hiding greed, self-indulgence, uncleanness, and lawlessness. In Luke 11, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees while dining in one of their homes. The Lawyers jump in, much to their dismay:

Luke 11:45-52 (ESV) 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.

That last comment is telling. In their refusal to accept Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Pharisees also persecuted the church, in the same way that their fathers killed and persecuted the prophets.

They Did not Understand the Law, and They Abused it to Serve Themselves

Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV) 1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV)  23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Matthew 23:16-22 (ESV) 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

Luke 18:9-14 (ESV) 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees

Luke 12 (ESV) 12 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Matthew 12:33-37 (ESV) 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Hypocrisy, twisting of Scripture for their own traditions, self-aggrandizement, and rejection or obfuscation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the markings of a Pharisee, or the sin of being Pharisaical. These are strong accusations. The rebukes levied against the Pharisees were of the strongest that Jesus uttered. We should be very careful to flippantly toss out such accusations at a brother or sister who is trying to point to the Word of God. Are there present-day Pharisees? Sure. However, I’d wager that they aren’t the ones commonly being labeled Pharisaical. Someone who preaches himself, or preaches only Law without Gospel, who weighs a man’s tithing before serving as his shepherd… these are the indicators of a Pharisee, not the one who is exercising Biblical discernment, objects to questionable teaching and insists on sound doctrine.

I pray that you walking the Spirit of God, and that you exercise Biblical and Spiritual Discernment. Guard your doctrine, and preach the Word of God rather than the schemes of men.

Jude 1: 24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,

CTT | As long as Christ is preached…

CTTI recently read a blog article that misapplied the following verse in Philippians.

Philippians 1:18 (ESV)  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

I say it was misapplied, because it was inflated to cover all doctrine and practices of a mega-church pastor who has come under fire recently from secular and Christian media over money, messaging, branding, and doctrine. The odd thing here is, that the use of the Scripture did not, in any way,  defend the individual; rather, it got warped into an attack on any who would dare speak out against what may have been viewed to be out-of-step with Scripture. It is even issued as a blanket accusation of pride to any that would dare speak against this particular ministry, and issued a call for repentance. But was Paul attacking Timothy, accusing him of pride, calling Timothy to repentance? Let’s look at the verse in its immediate context:

Philippians 1:1-20 (ESV)
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

If Christ is proclaimed, then I can rejoice in that. If the motives of the proclaimers are wrong, but the proclamation or teaching of Christ is correct, then we can rejoice in the latter, but that does not remedy the former. The former is still a problem, for that person, and should not be emulated with reckless abandon. In this case, though, Paul identifies the wrong motive as an attempt to afflict Paul in his imprisonment. Interesting. Paul is forgiving the personal attack for the sake of the Gospel. Paul never forgives false teaching. In fact, look at how he instructs Timothy at the end of his first letter:

1 Timothy 6:3-10(ESV) If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

The doctrine we preach/teach/share matters. If what we preach/teach/share isn’t plainly stated in the Gospel of Jesus, or in the teachings/writings of the Apostles in the New Testament, we need to be careful. There is a big difference between “words” and “Word”. Arguing over “-isms” without relying on the Word of God to explain the Word of God is tantamount to arguing over “words”. When we open our Bibles, the prevailing thought should be, “What does God’s Word say?” Too often, we skip that question and jump right into interpreting the meaning of bits and pieces of scripture without ever really understanding what it plainly says in context.

There is One Holy Spirit. If anyone thinks he has received a direct revelation that cannot be substantiated in the Word (by which the Holy Spirit teaches all Christians)… I recommend he test the spirit (1 John 4) behind that “revelation”.  Am I against mega-churches? Not if they preach sound doctrine. If they don’t preach sound doctrine, my heart breaks because their false teaching is affecting a much larger audience wholesale. We judge a tree by its fruit,  but “congregation size” isn’t included in the Fruit of the Spirit. If the one speaking out against a mega-church is doing so out of envy, then the accuser is wrong. However, accusing everyone who speaks out against a mega-church of doing so out of envy, is equally wrong.

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (ESV) Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,