a cursory read of the gospels leaves us in little doubt that the most
continual opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit came, not from the
Roman Empire the Jewish commoner or the heathen gentile, but from a
group of zealously religious people called the Pharisees.
seems that almost everywhere Jesus went doing God’s work in the power of the
Holy Spirit they were there to protest.
loved the Pharisees
enough to die for them, but He hated the Pharisee spirit. He
knew better than anyone that He did not wrestle with flesh and blood and
He would neither fear them nor come under their spiritual intimidation.
the Baptist didn't like the Pharisee spirit either.
when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism,
he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the
wrath to come? (Matthew 3:7)
It would be a
great mistake to think that the Pharisee spirit was peculiar to those
amazing years in Galilee when Christ and His disciples walked amongst
men. A great mistake to think that the Pharisee spirit was somehow
locked into those special days when the gospels and epistles were
written and then they were no more.
Even - in the
book of Acts - where we read of Pharisees being believers we still see
that spirit manifesting..
But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." (Acts 15:5)
So we can
safely say that the Pharisee spirit - often called the religious
spirit - is alive and well in the church today, and it would be a
brave man or woman who could say that there was not a trace of it in
their own Christian walk. As I look back over my Christian life I
can clearly see times when I was that Pharisee.
In five years
time I will probably be able to look back and see that right now I have
Pharisee blind spots. But oh how I want to work with the Spirit of God
to rid every bit of the leaven of the Pharisees from my life!
spirit is in terrible opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit and yet
appears to be on God's side, it is vitally important that we can recognise the
fingerprints it leaves on the Body of Christ.
In order to
do so we need to examine the lives, the attitudes, the words and the
behaviour of the Pharisees.
means ‘separated ones’ a name apparently bestowed upon them by their
opponents in substitution for their self chosen title ‘Hasidim’
meaning ‘The pious ones’.
Pharisees formed themselves into an association which would have given
them collective clout. According
to the Roman historian Josephus, the association they formed themselves
into was 6,000 strong.
separated themselves from the common man by a scrupulous cold adherence
to the letter of the law, but often, if not always, without its true
Pharisee bound denominations have 'separated' themselves from other
believers, holding the view that they alone are the true observers of
remember well the time a gospel singer asked me to accompany him to a
small gospel hall in my home town where he had been booked to sing
during one of the services. When I walked in with my friend - who was
well known to them - I sensed their unease. When seven or eight gathered
in a side room to pray for the service I instinctively joined them, but
it was - not very subtly - made clear to me that I was not
allowed to pray since I was not one of them.
Pharisees were very confident - because
of their long and disciplined theological studies- that
they were God’s guardians in Israel against wrong doctrine and false
their in depth knowledge of the scriptures they did not
recognize the Author of those scriptures when the Word became flesh
and moved amongst them.
His teaching offended them.
His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees
were offended when they heard this saying?" (Matthew 15:12)
were zealous for God but without a true understanding of the grace
and mercy of God and
so they ended up in their zeal for God, opposing God.
As Paul wrote about his Jewish brethren who had been so influenced by
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Romans 10:2)
Pharisees fasted often, tithed meticulously, behaved righteously before all men and Jesus openly acknowledged this.
I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness
of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom
of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
despite their outward righteousness they were declared by Jesus to be
them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind
leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch." (Matthew 15:14)
Fischer, author of the book '12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee
(like me)', writes
makes Pharisaical sin so dangerous is that it disguises itself as a
form of enlightenment. This is what Jesus meant when he said,
the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"
is great because one is deluded into thinking it is light. You think you
are seeing better than anyone else, when, in fact, you can't see at all.
This means the idea that what you can't see is farthest from you. A
blind person knows he is blind. A Pharisee thinks he can see, and this
is why the "light" within him is actually darkness.
mark of Holy Spirit produced 'light' is humility.
I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of
unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5 )
Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart
from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8)
the Pharisee 'light' produces the darkness of spiritual arrogance. They were
proud of their righteous behaviour and drew their self worth from
their righteous behaviour by setting their righteousness against the sinfulness in others around
Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I
am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as
this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)
always opposes the proud (James 4:6) hence Jesus' harsh proclamations of
woe to them.
woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up
the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor
do you allow those who are entering to go in.
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows'
houses, and for a pretence make long prayers. Therefore you will receive
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and
sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much
a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:13-15)
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint
and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the
law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without
leaving the others undone. "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and
swallow a camel!
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the
outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and
self-indulgence. "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the
cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like
whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside
are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "Even so you also
outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the
tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, (Matthew
others was their perceived ministry.
some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher,
rebuke Your disciples." (Luke 19:39)
fault with others was their perceived ministry.
when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is,
with unwashed hands, they found fault. (Mark 7:2)
sinful behaviour in others was their perceived ministry.
the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And
when they had set her in the midst, (John 8:3).. This
they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to
accuse Him (John 8:6)
when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself,
saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what
manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner."
were never the friends of sinners, and they accused Jesus (and His
disciples) of being just that.
Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton
and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' (Luke 7:34)
the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives
sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:2)
their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples,
saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and
sinners?" (Luke 5:30)
leaven of the Pharisees was reflected in the attitude of the people.
Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the sycamore tree and declared that He
was going to his house that day the people protested.
when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be
a guest with a man who is a sinner." (Luke 19:7)
Paul wrote to the church
little leaven leavens the whole lump”
(1st Corinthians 5:6 & Galatians 5:9)
only things that could be said in their favour was that they really meant well.
There were Pharisees who come out well. Nicodemus, Gamaliel and Joseph
of Arimathea for instance.
known as Saul prior to his Damascus Road conversion, was a Pharisee. He
genuinely believed that he was a zealous guardian of God's laws and he
saw his role as ensuring that everyone else strictly adhered to God's
knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according
to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. (Acts
the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a
Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; (Philippians 3:5)
With Saul's conversion he was renamed Paul and what a joy it is to
read of his view of himself from that point on.
For I am the least of the apostles, who am
not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1st Corinthians 15:9)
To me, who am less than
the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (Ephesians 3:8)
did not move in the gifts and anointing power of the Spirit, had no
understanding of the gifts and anointing power of the Spirit, and
therefore concluded that anyone who did had to be moving in demonic
when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast
out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons."
very, very dangerous thing to say, Jesus warned them.
I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the
blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (Matthew 12:31)
Jesus healed the man with the withered hand in church, they attacked Him
for doing it on the Sabbath.
behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him,
saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" that they might
accuse Him. (Matthew 12:10)
were so doctrinally aggressive that church members and even the leaders
were frightened of disagreeing with them.
parents of the blind man who was healed were frightened to say that it was
Jesus who had
healed their son for fear of the Pharisees driving them out of the
parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had
agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be
put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22)
the Jewish leaders were intimidated by them and would not disagree with them lest they should be put
out of the church;
even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees
they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
this case because they wanted man's favour more than God's.
they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:43)
opposition to God’s Spirit at work divided the church.
fellow isn't from God because He's working on the Sabbath. Others
said, But how could an ordinary sinner do such miracles. And so
there was deep division among them. (John 9:12)
They could pull
down but could never build up. Their spirit ran contrary to God's Spirit
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
read in the Bible where they derided,
the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things,
and they derided Him. (Luke 16:14)
they reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are Moses'
disciples. (John 9:28)
the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives
sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:2)
they plotted against
the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy
Him. (Matthew 12:14)
they assailed vehemently, where they cross examined,
as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to
assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, (Luke
they disputed and tested,
the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a
sign from heaven, testing Him. (Mark 8:11)
was the Word become flesh and yet they were stricter than Jesus.
they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's
shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their
fingers. (Matthew 23:4)
confronted Him, and His disciples, about not keeping the Sabbath
when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples
are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" (Matthew 12:2)
questioned Jesus on issues such as adultery, and divorce.But they questioned Him, in their spiritual arrogance, not to
learn from Him, but to 'test' Him and try to theologically catch Him out in His
The Pharisees also
came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man
to divorce his wife for just any reason?"
they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him
in His words. (Mark 12:13)
tried to trap Him on the
question of allegiance to the
us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar,
or not?" (Matthew 22:17)
were so sure, so absolutely certain, that their zeal for 'truth' was
godly and that God would be well pleased with their 'ministry'
came with grace and truth
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the
glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of
whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was
before me.'" And of His fullness we have all received, and grace
for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth
came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-17)
instructs us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus
grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2nd Peter 3:18)
and knowledge running always on the wheels of grace.
and again and again scripture places a blessing on these fragrant wheels
Queen Esther obtained
grace and favour from King Ahasuerus. (Esther 2:17).
The Psalmist declared
God would give grace and glory (Psalm 84:11)
Zechariah prophesied that God would pour out on the inhabitants of
Jerusalem the grace and supplication (Zechariah
Paul declared that through Jesus he had received grace and apostleship
that through Jesus we received abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness
Peter knew all about God's grace and was opened his letters with the
blessing of grace and peace (2nd Peter 1:2)
but grow in
the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To
Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
that ten times 'mercy and truth' are bound together
as an indivisible unit)
is VERY hard for people in bondage to the Pharisee spirit to grasp. They
can quote all the verses but they cannot grasp the concept in any
measure. They see grace as being weak on sin.
brought the woman caught in adultery to test Jesus. How could He let her escape
'the law' and still keep His credibility?
"Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. (John 8:5-6)
them, saying, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."
and begins to write again in the dust, presumably silently confronting
them with sin issues in their own lives.
Convicted by their conscience they
slunk away, eldest first. Note there was no repentance. Just, as
they would have seen it, humiliation.
mercy to the adulterous woman. In doing so was He going soft on sin?
closing words to her were.
"Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you;
go and sin no more." (John 8:10-11)
example of grace and mercy was also the One who taught..
"..whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30)
The One who
would die to take away the sins of the world would not be One who
compromised on sin. Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden. It is
forbidden because it is harmful. How could Jesus claim to love us and
allow something harmful to remain in our lives. He came to save us, not
to condemn us.
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the
world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)
That's why He
said to the woman caught in the act of adultery..
"Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
spirit appears to be a righteous 'pious' spirit but uses righteousness
as a measuring stick to condemn others. The Pharisee spirit is a condemning spirit.
said that the letter without the Spirit who wrote the letter 'kills'. It
is the Spirit that gives life and the two must not be treated separately.
also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the
letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit
gives life. (2nd Corinthians 3:6)
all -even as 'Spirit filled' Christians - probably have a measure of
this cold spirit at work in our lives, but in my experience the the most
serious examples of men (and even denominations) who are 'bound' by the
Pharisee spirit have not known the baptism or fullness of the Holy
Spirit. An arguable observation perhaps!
the gospel accounts we see sinners crying out for 'mercy'
When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David,
have mercy on us!" (Matthew 9:27)
And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying,
"Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." (Matthew 15:22)
Pharisees were legalistic, judgmental, and without mercy. Jesus
said to them
"But if you had known what this means,
'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7)
addressed them He showed little mercy, because they were merciless.
Blessed are the
merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
sowed into others lives they reaped back from God.
"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:2)
Likened by Jesus to vipers,
every time they lifted their heads they would strike poison from their
mouth into a fellow creature. And violence was never far
from their hearts.
they didn't like the answer Jesus gave when He stood before the high
priest to be questioned, they spat in His face, and beat Him, and
they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms
of their hands, (Matthew 26:67)
a Christian has felt thoroughly beaten up by the Pharisees. On the
very day that I write this I have spoken to a minister - a very Godly
man - who is suffering
enormously from the Pharisee spirit within the church he has recently
been called to. He and his wife are almost at breaking point.
is so easy for each of us to see the weaknesses in our Pastors and
elders. It is often said that we leave church and go home and have
Pastor for lunch.
are so gifted at seeing the speck in their eye. Not so gifted at seeing
the moat in our own.
"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
Pharisee finds it hard to submit to Pastor or elders or brothers because
he always sees their faults and has a constant burning desire to 'put
them right'. Scripture as always has the antidote.
and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints- that you also
submit to such, and to everyone who works and labours with us. (1st Corinthians 16:15-16)
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you
be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (1st Peter 5:5)
wrote to the church these words of wisdom
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for
"love will cover a multitude of sins." (1st Peter 4:8)
people feared their intimidation and condemnation, and so with ease they were able to
influence the multitudes from
behind the scenes. They
persuaded the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas, and the death of
the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should
ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. (Matthew 27:20)
probably, to some extent, the secular authorities feared them also, and
feared this sway they had over crowds. Pilate could not find Jesus
guilty of anything, but he did not have the courage to go against the
Pharisees and see that justice was done by releasing Jesus.
Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult
was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude,
saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to
it." (Matthew 27:24)
the Pharisees truly saw themselves as guardians of the Jew’s unique national
and spiritual heritage, and
the long standing traditions
associated with that heritage.
the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not
walk according to the tradition of the elders.." (Mark 7:5)
tightly to, and lifting these traditions on to a spiritual plane,
ensured that they quickly became woven into the fabric of their faith,
until they became associated with worship being offered as pleasing to God.
Ireland for instance we have a tradition of Christian abstinence - which
is certainly not a bad tradition - but somewhere along the way tradition
has become 'law' and that 'law' is used to soundly condemn. The
scriptures teach sobriety not abstinence. Paul's' admonition 'do not be drunk with wine'
(Ephesians 5:18) has become, through tradition, 'do not drink wine'.
A member of
my team told me the sad story about a friend of his. The man had been a
'hard man' prior to his conversion. A paramilitary man. A dangerous man.
However his conversion radically changed him into a man of peace, a man
of integrity, a man on fire for God. He married a girl from his church
and while on holiday in France the man had two glasses of wine with a
meal. His church 'found out' and disbarred him. He asked them to
show him one scripture that said he could not drink two glasses of wine
with a meal and they could not, but they still disbarred him. Shattered,
rejected and condemned he backslid and today is still in that sorry
I could weep
for this man. No wonder Jesus so detested the Pharisee spirit in men.
appeared at a Christian wedding and produced approximately 120 -180
gallons of 'good wine' for the guests (John 2:7-10) we would quickly see Him being rebuked
and probably disbarred by these well
meaning 'guardians of the Word'.
A number of years ago, a wise man pointed out to me the root difference between the ethic of Jesus and the ethic of the Pharisees. Usually we think of the difference in these terms: The Pharisees had an ethic of externals, of ritual and rigmarole, and Jesus had an ethic of the heart, of the heart’s inner workings. The Pharisees were concerned about not committing adultery while Jesus was concerned about lust, the root of adultery He was concerned with adulterousness.That’s true as far as it goes. Only it doesn’t go very far. The deeper difference between Jesus’ ethic and that of the Pharisees was this: The Pharisees had an ethic of avoidance, and Jesus had an ethic of involvement. The Pharisee’s question was not “How can I glorify God?” It was “How can I avoid bringing disgrace to God?” This degenerated into a concern not with God, but with self - with image, reputation, procedure. They didn’t ask, “How can I makeothers clean?” They asked, “How can I keep myself from getting dirty?” They did not seek to rescue sinners, only to avoid sinning.Jesus, in sharp contrast, got involved. He sought always and in all ways to help, to heal, to save, to restore. Rather than running from evil, He ran toward the good. ... The tragedy is that we have often preferred the ethic of the Pharisee to the ethic of Christ. We have become self-obsessed in our doctrine of sin, as though sin were merely a personal flaw like acne, plantar’s warts, or crooked teeth. As though sin is merely about personal victory or defeat. We seldom see sin as a brokenness that’s bone deep and creation-wide. Sin ruptures our relationships: with God, with one another, with the creation. It ruptures our own deepest self. So sin needs more than a private remedy, a personal therapy. Overcoming sin requires more than avoidance. The ethic of avoidance proves altogether too frail an ambition. God desires restoration and reconciliation - of relationships, of creation, of our own true selves. That’s the wider and deeper meaning of the Cross. (from pages 108-109)
As we read in Matthew chapter 15, and again in Mark chapter 7, and again
in Luke chapter 11, the one thing that always triggered off a fearful -
in Jesus against the Pharisees was this very thing.
eaching as doctrines the
commandments of men
Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to
Me with their mouth, And honour Me with their lips, But their heart is
far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the
commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:7-9)
reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition (Mark
wrote to the church about such attitudes.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to
regulations "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the
using according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
the Spirit of God meant of course that they never knew that anointing presence of God upon their lives. The
word without the Spirit brought death not life, because the two cannot
be separated. They are one. So because they were not experiencing His
anointing power, they believed that anyone else outside of
their camp who did was deluded, or worse. If
they didn't believe Jesus was the Messiah why should anyone else?
"Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? (John 7:48)
sure were they that if God was going to do anything He would do it
through them that they attacked those who moved in the power of God.
Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And
the power of the Lord was present to heal them......And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks
blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke 5:17
only thing the spirit of the Pharisees cannot cope with is a man or
woman who fears God only. Such a man or woman is beyond their legalistic
and it greatly unsettles them.
single revival of God has had to run the gauntlet of the Pharisees.
had to preach in the fields because the churches said he was not of God.
is a paraphrase excerpt from his journal.
5th AM preached in St. Anne's; was asked not to come back'
5th PM preached at St. Johns; deacons said 'get out and stay out''
12th AM preached at St. Jude's; can’t go back there.
12th PM preached at St. George's; kicked out again.
19th AM preached at St. Andrew's; elders called special meeting and
said not to return.
19th PM preached on the street and was run out of town.
26th AM preached in a field ; got chased by a bull that was let loose.
2nd AM preached at the edge of town; police moved me on.
2nd PM preached in a pasture and 10,000 came to listen to me preach.
even John Wesley was not immune from the same spirit! For many years he
denounced George Whitfield as a false teacher. Later in life he
mellowed. A man asked him if he was confident he would see Mr Whitfield
in heaven and he relied "No Sir, I don't"
Then, after a
pause, he added, "because he will be too far ahead of me in the
early days of the Salvation Army received the same Pharisee condemnation. Why
would God ever use ex-prostitutes and ex-drunks when there were ordained
ministers in town?
the reformation began, church authorities admitted that changes were
needed, but they said, who could accept that they should come from
that quarter - meaning Luther.
I have worked closely with a man who lives
for Christ and whose whole heart is to help the broken, the hurt and the
lost find their salvation their freedom and their destiny in Christ.
Using his own money he built a superb youth club in a somewhat deprived
area and worked tirelessly to see young people brought to Christ. As the
fruit appeared so did the Pharisees. They told him in no uncertain terms
that he was a wolf in sheep's clothing and that God was luring him along
the path he was on to his destruction.
The man was totally
devastated. Were they right? Was this true?
In his despair he rang a
well known man of God, one of the world's great preachers. This great
old man of God who had walked through such things many times said, "Son,
pull your drawers up and get on with it" (drawers meaning 'pants' or
trousers') It was good advice.
The youth club goes from
strength to strength and the man, now a Pastor, has built a very
substantial church nearby. The mission verse he has built the church on
is taken from Matthew 25:35 '..I was a stranger and you took Me
The crowds have come in
and the Presence of God has also come in. He is now building a
church that will seat 2500 people.
Rick Joyner put it well when he wrote..
"Some one is going
to detest what we are doing. Who do you want it to be? God or men?"
told us that the things He did, we would do also, and
greater. He said those who
believed would among other interesting things, heal the sick, do
miracles, and cast out demons. He commissioned disciples to preach the
good news, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. His last
words on earth to them were go and make more disciples teaching them to
obey all that I have taught you to obey.
never did, and never has countermanded that commission.
spirit of the Pharisees resisted the work of the Spirit during Jesus’
days, and still resists the work of the Spirit today.
where the spirit of the Pharisees rules will be clean on the surface,
with everything in it’s place, but it will be spiritually dead on the
Like a whitewashed tomb
Kingdom of God with the legal lifelessness that makes up their church
life they see anything contrary to their experience, that is liberty and
life, as being counterfeit of their 'real'.
Max Lucado put it well
when he wrote,
Christians, instead of being fishers of men, become critics of the
saved. Instead of casting nets we cast stones. Instead of extending
helping hands we point accusing fingers. Rather than helping the
hurting we hurt the helpers'
me share such an illustration of the Pharisee spirit from my own life.
was told of a Christian lady who was being tormented night and day by
'pictures' of the devil. She felt so defiled by these incessant pictures
that she felt she could never be allowed into heaven and was now in the
mental unit of the local hospital. Her husband asked me to visit her in
the hospital and I was pleased to do so.
my visit to the hospital her husband mentioned that she had been seeing
a minister from another denomination for six months prior to her
hospitalisation and he felt that she trusted him.
I got back from my brief visit to meet her I phoned this minister with a
view to the both of us trying to help this dear sister. When I
told him that I had been into the hospital ward to meet her he
immediately interrupted me, saying
could you get into the ward to see her when I couldn't"
husband invited me in" I replied.
then explained to him that I thought she was being spiritually
tormented. He thought this was nonsense and said so, declaring her to
be mentally ill.
me ask you something son" he said "Have you or have you not
ever spoken in another tongue?"
I have indeed" I replied.
you ever been present at the casting out of a demon" he asked.
times" I replied.
its people like you who split churches" He said.
by this unexpected turn of events I said.
only came to you to see if we could work together to help this dear
sister and it is you who are attacking me"
don't you read the scriptures and stick to them?" he said angrily.
I replied as gently and inoffensively as I could, "I believe that I
do. Speaking in tongues is mentioned nearly twenty times in the New
Testament. The first verse declares that believers will speak in tongues
and the last verse tells us not to forbid the speaking in tongues.
(Mark 16:17 and 1st Corinthians 14:29)
I continued, "I try to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and His
commission to disciples has not changed. We are to preach the good news,
heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. I have never
raised the dead yet but one day I believe that I will. I believe
that I do read the scriptures and stick to them"
then started to accuse me again and again of being a 'church splitter'
and eventually I had to interrupt him saying "Sir, I must go now,
but I pray the Lord's blessing be upon you"
I gently set the phone down, still shaken and almost in disbelief, he
was still proclaiming his accusations down the phone.
evening in prayer I asked the Lord if I had done anything to incite this
reaction but got no reply.
as I swung my legs out of bed the next morning I believe the Lord suddenly dropped
this sentence into my spirit.
had little success with the Pharisees. Why do you think you will fare any
that moment I had never given a seconds thought to the Pharisees,
believing, I suppose, that they were unique to the times of Jesus.
A year or two
later I had another 'extreme' encounter with the same spirit.
I received an
email from a person stating that they thought my web site was so good
they were going to give it a prominent link on their web site.
clicked through to see the web site in question and what I saw horrified
me. The whole web site was extremely aggressive in condemning persons
and churches for their false doctrines and false teachers. There was not
one positive comment I could read. It was devoid of mercy. Full of
At first I
honestly thought it was one of the 'spoof' Christian web sites, where
those against Christianity set up what appears to be a Christian site
but is in fact intended to bring discredit on the faith. However
as I read on and on I gradually could see that it was probably meant to
be Christian. After much prayer I emailed the site owner with a polite
request that my site not be linked as I was distressed by both the tone
and content of their site. As gently as I could I explained that this
did not represent Christianity.
I received a fiery
email in reply from the web site owner - who turned out to be female - telling
me that this was her ministry.
I replied -
as graciously as I knew how - giving her several verses to show that
this attitude was not scriptural and got another fiery reply mentioning
the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation as a proof scripture for her
exchanges we agreed to disagree and she removed the link from her
site. I was so shaken by her view of 'ministry' that I began the
editorial section of this web site and posted the first editorial
entitled 'Passion, yes.
have found it almost impossible to help a person where the Pharisee
spirit has a strong-hold because the
man (or woman) bound by the Pharisee spirit is un-teachable. It is
talking to a concrete wall. Your words fall to the ground in front of
you. There is no real debate or discussion.
Pharisee reaction to one of their flock who believed that Jesus was moving under
the anointing of God’s Spirit..
you trying to teach us?” (John 9:34
who did not see the Kingdom exactly as they saw it was quick to be told
they were deceived.
the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? (John 7:47
a person seeks to live in spiritual perfectionism.
friend of mine is a wonderful trophy of God's grace. Once a man who did
time in jail for his crimes, he was radically saved. Those who are
forgiven much love much (Luke 7:47) He loves Jesus. Despite much
family trouble he is always rejoicing. Always. He goes round doors in
the evenings telling people about His Saviour. His joy and his love for
Jesus is infectious and he has led many to Christ. I am privileged
to know him. A local church asked him to give his testimony and he
prayed and worked on what he would say for a week before nervously
getting up and telling his story of God's grace. (Public speaking rarely
comes naturally to men with such a background) Many were deeply moved
and came to him afterwards to tell him so. He was greatly
one man came up to him to tackle him on a 'doctrinal issue'. (I believe,
from memory, his issue was predestination - Why evangelise when God has
predestined who will be saved) The man had been unable to hear the
good and see the miracle of my friend's life, but was listening for
anything he perceived from his theological standpoint as error that must
be exposed. God's self appointed watchman. The Pharisee spirit. My
friend said that had he not been so strong in the Lord he would have
been well knocked down that evening.
man bound by the Pharisee spirit will be reading this paper right now,
not with an attitude of perhaps learning something, but looking
diligently for 'the errors' so that he might expose them.
Joyner in his excellent article 'confronting the religious spirit' says
'When a religious spirit is founded upon pride it is evidenced in
perfectionism. The perfectionist sees everything as black or white. This
develops into extremes as it requires that everyone and every teaching
be judged as either 100% right or 100% wrong. This is a standard that
only Jesus could comply with and leads to serious delusion when we
impose it on ourselves and others. True grace imparts a truth that sets
us free, showing us the way out of our sin, or to higher levels of
goes on to say,
'Because we 'see through a glass darkly', or in part, we
are compelled to always be open to greater accuracy in our beliefs and
teachings. One of the greatest delusions of all is that we are already
complete in our understanding, or 100% accurate in our perception or
actions. This closes us to further understanding and correction. The
perfectionist both imposes and tries to live by standards that stifle
true maturity and growth'.
of the religious spirit, he says that
'when it combines with the martyr
syndrome it is almost impossible for a person to be delivered from his
deception. At that point any rejection or correction is perceived as the
price he must bear to 'stand for the truth' This will drive him even
further from the truth and any possibility of correction'.
'such a religious spirit is so slippery that it will wiggle
out of almost any attempt to confront it. If you address the pride, the
fears and insecurities rise up to attract sympathy. If you confront the
fear it will then change into religious pride masquerading as faith'.
experience in ministry bears witness to what he writes.
at the language and the actions of the Pharisees helps us to recognize
the fruit of this spirit at work in our midst...
sample of Pharisee language.
eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
a drunkard and a glutton”
casts out demons using demonic power.”
breaking the Sabbath!”
He was a prophet, He would know who this woman is - for she’s a
I thank You that I am not like other men who’re always sinning”
not from God, because He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
mixes with sinners and eats with them.”
sample of Pharisee behaviour.
Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him
and His ministry.
the Pharisees came testing Him.
the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His
the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, The Pharisees
complained against His followers.
Pharisees watched Him closely that they might find an accusation against
Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and they watched Him closely.
Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery.
couldn’t bring Jesus under their control so they sought to destroy,
first His reputation and then His very life.
later when the
disciples were moving powerfully in the healing gifts of the Holy
Spirit, they sought to ban their ministry.
fearless disciples replied
decide whether God wants us to obey you instead of Him” Acts 4 :19
IS MUCH THAT IS WRONG WITH THE CHURCH.
lukewarm-ness, unbelief (how many Christians do not even believe the
opening pages of scripture) a love of mammon, hypocrisy, a frightening lack
of discernment, and at times sheer apostasy. There is talk now of 'the
other great faiths'. In certain quarters what God calls evil is being
called good. Fictional witchcraft is as popular within the church as
without. The editorial page on this web site reveals some of the pain in
my heart that these issues bring.
why God raises up men and women with the anointing to bring correction.
Word of God is the Sword of The Spirit. Not the sword of man. When carnal
flesh wields it people die. When the Spirit wields it through a man or
woman people live.
When I feel
lukewarm I sometimes have a bath and read Tozer. His words slap me around
the face and I am the better for it. One of my
favourite writings by him is entitled 'We need men of God again' You
can read it here. He also
wrote the following words about the men God sometimes calls to bring
drastic divine correction to the Body of Christ.
"God has always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke and exhort in the name of God and righteousness... Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart."
There is a
real cry for the John the Baptist ministry right now.
Many a man
with a Pharisee spirit sees himself as such. He is not. One brings
life in his wake. The other death. Those at the receiving end know the difference. We are called to be salt and light. Not salt and
MUST guard our doctrine.
heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this
you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1st
most overlooked part of guarding our doctrine is to make sure we have not
embraced anything of the
doctrine of the Pharisees.Jesus
warned His disciples saying,
is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?
-but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then
they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven
of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
If our doctrine is indeed the doctrine of Jesus we
will carry the anointing of God upon our lives
answered them and said, "My
doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent
high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His
doctrine. (John 18:19)
they continued steadfastly in the apostles'
doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
You will know when you walk in His doctrine. People
will be drawn to you. Sinners. Sick people. Tormented people. Lonely
people. Hurting and frightened people
a sure sign will be that the Pharisee spirit will rise up against you.
This check list – taken from Rick
Joyner's article 'Confronting the religious spirit' -
might prove helpful as a
tendency to see our primary mission as tearing down what we believe is
wrong. Such a persons ministry will produce more division and
tearing down than lasting works that have been built and are bearing
fruit for the Kingdom
inability to take a rebuke, especially from those we may judge to be
less spiritual than ourselves. Think back on how you responded the
last few times someone tried to correct you.
philosophy that will not listen to men, but 'only to God'
Since God usually speaks through men, this is an obvious delusion, and
reveals serious spiritual pride.
inclination to see more of what is wrong with other people, other
churches, etc than what is right with them. John saw Babylon from
the valley, but when he was carried to a 'high mountain' he saw the
New Jerusalem. If we are only seeing Babylon it is because of our
perspective. Those who are in place of true vision will have their
attention on what God is doing, not men.
guilt that we can never measure up to the Lord's standard. This is
a root of the religious spirit because it causes us to base our
relationship to Him on our performance rather than on the cross. Jesus
has already measured up for us. He is the completed work that the
Father is seeking to accomplish within us. Our whole goal in life
should be simply to abide in Him.
belief that we have been appointed to fix everyone else. These
become the self appointed watchmen, or Sheriffs in God's Kingdom.
These are seldom involved in building, but serve only to keep the
church in a state of annoyance and agitation, if not causing serious
leadership style which is bossy, overbearing, and intolerant of the
weakness or failure in others. As James said: "But the wisdom
from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of
mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed
whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make
sense that we are closer to God than other people, or that our lives
or ministries are more pleasing to Him. This is a symptom of
profound delusion that we draw closer to God by who we are rather than
in our spiritual maturity or discipline, especially as we compare to
others. True spiritual maturity involves growing up into Christ.
When we begin to compare ourselves with others it is obvious that we
have lost sight of our goal - Jesus.
belief that we are on the cutting edge of what God is doing. This
would also include thinking that we are involved in the most important
thing that God is doing (note: while I agree with Rick Joyner on
all the warning signs, I feel that this one -as it is worded - is more difficult to class
as a warning sign on its own. Most evangelists think that the church needs
more evangelism, most teachers think that the church needs more
teaching, etc, because that is the 'burden' God has placed on their
heart. The problem comes when they have no time or place no value on others with their
parts of the Kingdom jigsaw)
mechanical prayer life. When we start feeling relief when our
prayer time is over, or when we have prayed through our prayer list,
then we should consider our condition. You never feel relief when your
conversation is over with the one you love.
things in order to be noticed by men. This is a symptom of the
idolatry of fearing men more than we fear God, and results in a
religion that serves men instead of God.
overly repulsed by emotionalism. When a person who is subject to a
religious spirit encounters the true life of God it will usually
appear excessive, emotional and demonstrative, such as David demonstrated
when he brought the ark of God into Jerusalem.
emotionalism as a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. This
would include such things as requiring weeping and wailing as evidence
of repentance, or 'falling under the power' as evidence that one has
been touched by God. Both of these can be evidences of the true work
of the Holy Spirit; it is when we require these manifestations that we
are beginning to move in another spirit. In the first great
awakening, Jonathan Edward's meetings would often have some of the
toughest, most rebellious men falling on the ground and staying there
for up to 24 hours. They got up changed, and such seemingly strange manifestations
of the Holy Spirit fuelled the Great Awakenings. Even so, Edwards
stated that he believed that men faking the manifestations worked more
to bring an end to the Great Awakening than the enemies of the
score on our spiritual lives. This includes feeling better about
ourselves because we go to more meetings, read our Bibles more, do
more things for the Lord, etc These are noble endeavors, but
the true measure of spiritual maturity is getting closer to the Lord.
encouraged when our ministry looks better than others. We could
include in this being discouraged when it seems that others are
looking better, or growing faster than we are.
more in what God has done in the past than in the present. God has
not changed. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The veil has
been removed; we can be as close to God today as anyone ever has been
in the past. A religious spirit always seeks to focus our attention on
works, and making comparisons rather than simply drawing closer to
tendency to be suspicious of, or, to oppose new movements, churches
etc. This is an obvious symptom of jealousy, a primary fruit of
the religious spirit, or the pride that asserts that God would not do
anything new without going through us. Of course, those with such a
mentality are seldom used by the Lord to birth new works.
tendency to reject spiritual manifestations that we do not understand.
This is a symptom of pride and arrogance that presumes our opinions
are the same as God's. True humility keeps us teachable and open,
patiently waiting for fruit before making judgments. True discernment
enables us to look for and hope for the best, not the worst. That is
why we are exhorted to "Prove all things, hold fast to what is
good (1st Thessalonians 5:21)
overreaction to carnality in the church. The truth is that there
is probably far more carnality in the church and a lot less of the
Holy Spirit than even the most critical person has seen. It is
important that we learn to discern between them, be delivered from our
carnality, and to grow in our submission to the Holy Spirit. But the
critical person will want to annihilate those who may be 60% carnal,
but were 95% last year and are making progress, instead of helping
them along their way.
overreaction to immaturity in the church. There is a certain
amount of immaturity that is tolerable with the Lord. My two year old
is immature compared to my nine year old, but that is okay. In fact,
he may be very mature for a two year old. The idealistic religious
spirit only sees the immaturity without considering the other
overly prone to base evidence of God's approval on manifestations.
This is just another form of keeping score and comparing ourselves to
others. Jesus did some of His greatest miracles, such as walking on
water, to be seen by only a few. He was doing His works to glorify the
Father, not Himself. Those who use the evidence of miracles to testify
and build their own ministries and reputations have made a serious
departure from the path of life.
inability to join anything that they do not deem as being perfect or
near perfect. The Lord joined and even gave His life for the
fallen human race. Such is the nature of those who abide in Him.
overly paranoid of the religious spirit. We do not get free of
something by fearing it, but by overcoming it with faith in Christ
tendency to glory in anything but the cross of Jesus, what He has
accomplished and Who He is. If we are building our lives,
ministries or churches on anything but these, we are building on a
shaky foundation that will not stand.
Paul exhorts us to
"Test yourselves to see if you are in
the faith" (2nd Corinthians 13:5).
He does not tell us to "test your neighbour," or to "test
your pastor", but "yourselves". Using this to measure
others by can be symptom that we have a serious problem.
this article has given you illumination about another ministry, which is
causing serious problems, be sure that you use it in the Holy
us heed the warning to the Galatians:
even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual,
restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to
yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
Here's a good note to close on.
With God nothing is
The man who was once the Pharisee of all Pharisees was the
one who ended up writing the most famous words ever penned about love.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1st Corinthians 13:1-13)