The Pharisees Honored God’s Spokesmen

The Real Pharisees

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets” (Matthew 23:29-31).

We might wonder why Jesus said what He did on this occasion. He condemned the Pharisees as hypocrites for building monuments to honor the prophets that had been killed by their forefathers. Consider a couple of points:

  1. It is good to recognize and respect those who faithfully proclaim God’s word (cf. Hebrews 13:7).
  2. It is also unfair to hold people guilty for the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 18:20).

With these two points in mind, how could Jesus condemn the Pharisees and associate them with the sins of those who lived generations before them, especially when it appeared as though they were honoring the prophets instead of opposing them?

First of all, Jesus was not condemning them because of their father’s sin; rather, he was condemning them because they were guilty of the same type of sin. Second, Jesus knew their hearts. Though they were honoring God’s spokesmen from previous generations, they were rejecting Jesus – God’s spokesman for the “last days” (Hebrews 1:2). Even though they claimed to be different from their fathers who killed the prophets, they were the same and would prove this by plotting together to put Jesus to death.

Stephen also connected their actions with those of their fathers: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:51-52). The old law pointed to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The prophets spoke about Him (Luke 24:44). But despite this, the Pharisees rejected Jesus and His gospel, even to the point of putting Jesus – and later His servant Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) – to death.

It is meaningless to pay lip service to God, to His word, and to those who teach it. Our words must be supported by our actions. We may declare our love for the Lord; but John wrote, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). We may claim to have faith in God; but James said, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works’” (James 2:18). It does not matter what we say if we do not do what is pleasing to the Lord. We cannot claim to be different from those who “murdered the prophets” (Matthew 23:31) or those who “nailed [Jesus] to the cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23) if we refuse to believe and obey His word today.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are those who claim to be following in the footsteps of God’s faithful servants from the past while opposing those who are actually serving God and faithfully teaching His word today.

The above post is an excerpt from the book, The Real Pharisees by Andy Sochor. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

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