Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pharisaism vs. Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness

Galatians 1:14

  • And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul goes on to say how "extremely" zealous he was for the traditions of his ancestors. This doesn't necessarily mean that he was zealous for God's commandments. There is a significant difference between being zealous for the traditions handed down to us and being zealous for the kingdom of God and His will.

Paul himself was a pharisee and he could even describe himself as a blameless man before God. This shows how much confidence he put in his flesh.

Philippians 3:4-6
  • though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
  • circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;
  • as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

He described himself as someone who was one of the more successful people than others in keeping the Pharisaic traditions. He could compare himself to others and say, "I am more advanced than many of them."

Judaism or Pharisaism or legalism was a form of religion that is based on works rather than grace. Therefore, Paul could rank himself among his people and rate how much progress he had made in the system of Judaism.

This system of works is foreign to the grace-based system of Christianity. No one can say, "I am better than them." because,

  • for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
  • “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
  • “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” (Romans 3:13-17)
  • “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:18)

These are the descriptions of our inherent condition apart from the grace of God. We can easily ignore God and be very selfish in our goals, ambitions and motives. Without His grace, we are what are described above. Please read again, if you need a reminder.

Well, we may say, "I haven't done as many bad things as Hitler has or even some of my mates and neighbours have done. Or, I have actually done some pretty good things in my life."

However, the scripture says,
  • the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

  • For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10)

Yes, even though we may have done a lot of good things in our lives, if we fail in one point, we are accountable for all of the law. This is because the law was to be obeyed completely and perfectly, which no person can perform (except for one person who actually did it, namely, Jesus of Nazareth.)

So, did Paul perhaps failed in at least one point of the law of Moses? You bet. How can anyone perform these commandments perfectly?

  • You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • you shall love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)

If Paul failed to keep these commandments completely and perfectly, he is guilty of the whole law, and the wages of sin is death.

So what was Paul talking about when he talked about traditions of his fathers?
These were customs of Pharisees that were not actually in the Old Testament such as ceremonial washing, additional Sabbath traditions, fasting, giving alms, offerings, making prayers and other such external practices that focused on appearing to be righteous through "good" deeds.

But what does God say?
  • Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
  • “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. (Matthew 23:23)

Jesus declares that the weightier matters of the law were justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Let us check ourselves to see whether we are focusing on justice, mercy and faithfulness, because God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Let us go and learn what this means.

No comments:

Post a Comment