The Pharisees Overemphasized Making Converts

The Real Pharisees

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

One might wonder how it could be possible to overemphasize making converts. After all, one of the principal works that we have been given – both individually and collectively – is to try to turn people to the Lord. The New Testament places a good deal of emphasis on making converts.

  • The apostles’ mission was to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).
  • The church’s work is to be sure “the word of the Lord [is] sounded forth” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
  • Christians are to support preachers (3 John 7-8) and teach others (1 Peter 3:15) as we have the opportunity to do so.

Seeking to convert people to Christ is important. Yet there is an overemphasis on converting others when we are willing to change the message or are unconcerned that the message has already been changed. The Pharisees had changed the law to the point that they were converting people to themselves, which did the converts no good. While their zeal was commendable – traveling “on sea and land to make one proselyte” (Matthew 23:15) – the Pharisees should have made sure they were following the law correctly so they could be converting people to the Lord’s way instead of to their way. Today, if we compromise and change the gospel message, then we will be guilty of doing the same thing.

Paul told the Corinthians, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void” (1 Corinthians 1:17). This certainly does not mean that baptism is unnecessary for salvation. The Scriptures plainly teach that it is (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21). Paul’s point was that his responsibility as an apostle and preacher was to preach the truth, not to baptize (make converts). Timothy was to preach the truth without compromise, even if people were uninterested in his message (2 Timothy 4:2-5). Converting someone with a message other than the truth of the gospel means we are not converting them to Christ. If we do not use the pure, unadulterated gospel – “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16) – those who are “converted” are still condemned.

We must not compromise or change the message of the gospel in order to make more converts. The churches of men have been doing this for years, but they are not converting anyone to Christ this way. Paul was not sent “to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17). He wrote later in the same letter, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). We simply need to plant and water and allow God to cause the growth so that we are converting people to Christ rather than to ourselves.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are not the ones who sit back and refuse to try and make converts. Instead, they are those who are zealous about making converts; yet they have changed the message and are not converting people to Christ.

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!

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!

The Pharisees Were Lovers of Money

The Real Pharisees

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him” (Luke 16:14).

Luke identified the Pharisees as ones who were “lovers of money” as he described them “scoffing” at the things Jesus was teaching. These were not two unrelated facts about the Pharisees. Being lovers of money and scoffing at Jesus’ message were intrinsically connected to one another.

Why was it that these lovers of money scoffed at Jesus’ message? Notice what Jesus said immediately before this: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13). Jesus directly addressed this problem and stated that these ones who had “seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (Matthew 23:2) and had the reputation of being the “strictest sect” of the Jews (Acts 26:5) were not faithfully serving God. Understandably, they took offense at this – even though what Jesus said was exactly true. So as a response, they scoffed at Him and His message.

Jesus taught that we cannot be lovers of money if we wish to please God. There are three reasons why this is the case:

  1. The love of money is the root of all evil – “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Many people misrepresent this passage and claim that it says that money is the root of all evil. Yet money in itself is not evil. Instead, it is a blessing from God (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). However, it is wrong to love money and make it our highest priority instead of recognizing it as a blessing from God and a tool to be used in our service to Him.
  2. Covetousness is idolatry – “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed [covetousness, KJV], which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). When we covet after money or any other material thing, we are making it into an idol. Idolatry is something we need to guard against even today (1 John 5:21).
  3. We are to put our trust in God, not in wealth – “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). All of the money in the world will not save us (Matthew 16:26; 1 Peter 1:18). We need to be sure our faith and trust is in the Lord – the giver of all good things (James 1:17) and the source of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

We must not allow our desire for material things, such as money, to cause us to scoff at the words of Jesus. His words are the “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The value of money is limited and temporal. Our obedience to His word will bring an everlasting reward.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are the ones who reject the words of Christ because they overvalue the temporal wealth of this world.

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!

The Pharisees Rejected God’s Purpose for Themselves

The Real Pharisees

But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (Luke 7:30).

People often wonder if they have some special purpose in life. Of course, we all have the same general purpose – to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). But there are few in history that have had a specific purpose from God.

One individual with this type of specific purpose was John the Baptist. Jesus mentioned him in the context of His discussion of the Pharisees rejecting God’s purpose for themselves. Jesus said, “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You’” (Luke 7:27; cf. Malachi 3:1). When John came, he had a specific purpose – to prepare the way for Christ.

However, when Jesus talked about the purpose for the Pharisees, He was speaking of the Pharisees (and others) in general terms. What was the purpose to which Jesus referred? God’s purpose for them was to save them.

The Pharisees “rejected God’s purpose for themselves” by not being “baptized by John” (Luke 7:30). This baptism was tied to forgiveness: “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). When Zacharias prophesied of John’s mission, he said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77). John’s baptism was for forgiveness which led to salvation. This was God’s plan. The Pharisees rejected this.

John’s baptism was later replaced by the baptism of Christ. This was made clear in Paul’s visit to Ephesus. When he found some disciples who had been baptized “into John’s baptism,” he instructed them to be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:3-5). This baptism began at Pentecost when Peter declared, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Yet many of the same ones who rejected John’s baptism also rejected the baptism of Christ.

God’s purpose for all people is salvation. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). He wants all to be saved and has given the plan by which we can be saved. Jesus told His apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Many people spend time wondering if God has some specific purpose for their lives while rejecting God’s purpose for them that He has revealed – to save them from their sins. Let us not reject God’s purpose for us the way that the Pharisees did.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are not the ones who seek to obey the Lord to receive the forgiveness of sins. Instead, they are those who reject God’s plan of salvation.

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!

The Pharisees Disobeyed God’s Law

The Real Pharisees

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).

This passage is often misunderstood and misapplied. The common idea is that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for focusing too much on details when they should have focused on other matters instead. Those who allege this will argue that we must follow the “weightier provisions” and that the smaller details are, therefore, unimportant.

However, Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for doing something that was unnecessary while neglecting what was necessary. Instead, He said they should have done all that He mentioned – applying the “weightier provisions of the law” while also being careful to keep even the smaller details.

Jesus did not tell the Pharisees that they should have ignored the details so they could focus on the weightier matters. He said, “These are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). Because they failed to carry out part of the law (the provisions of justice, mercy, and faithfulness), they were disobedient to the law of God.

Furthermore, since Jesus said they “should have done [these things] without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23), we know that if they failed to tithe as they should, they also would have been guilty of disobedience to the law of God.

When Jesus gave His apostles the Great Commission, He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This means that the Lord expects His disciples to do “all that [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:20). We are not at liberty to do as the Pharisees did with regard to the Law of Moses – keep some of the commandments and neglect others. We must strive to follow all of the instructions that have been given for Christians to keep in the New Testament. We must remember that Christ has been given “all authority” (Matthew 28:18); therefore, we are obligated to obey His word.

Furthermore, the carefulness of the Pharisees in keeping certain details was not condemned. In fact, carefulness is commended to us elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul told Titus, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men” (Titus 3:8). The word translated careful means “to be thoughtful” (Thayer). In other words, we are not to be careless in following God’s word or have a casual attitude about our obedience to Him. We must be deliberate in our efforts to do what is taught in the word of God.

So who are the real Pharisees today? They are not the ones who emphasize careful obedience to the word of God. Instead, they are those who fail to do what has been instructed in His word.

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!