Two posts in one day is highly unusual for me, but I wanted to make sure I got part 2 of this series out today.
The purpose of this study to determine where the Pharisees went wrong and how we can avoid the same mistakes. Yesterday we talked about how the Pharisees were rebuked not for their strict following of the Law, but rather for their additions to said Law. God wants us to walk in obedience, but he does not want our man made rules to hinder others from coming to him. Furthermore, he wants our complete obedience and he does not wanting us picking and choosing which laws to follow or which commands are more important. Those that favor strict obedience must be willing to walk in grace and mercy and those who favor grace need not rest on said grace and walk in the ways of the Lord. Today we will see how the Pharisees’ doctrinal belief of self-righteousness caused them to be blind to the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Category 2: Self-Righteousness
The term self-righteous is often interchanged for the word prideful. This is of course true; however today I would like to focus on how the Pharisees believed their own system of self-righteousness would make them right before God rather than believing in the blood of Jesus Christ for salvation.
Luke 18:9 (NLT): Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else.
Romans 10:1-4 (NLT): Dear brothers and sisters,[a] the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given.[b] As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
Matthew 5:20 (NLT): 20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
I believe the Pharisees start off strong and for the right reasons. They truly believed that following the Law of Moses was the only way they were going to get to Heaven. You must remember, when the Pharisees first came out of exile, Jesus had yet to make an appearance, so they were still following “old school” law. They had been beat over the head with obedience, so when they realized their human limitations, they started adding their own laws (as we discussed yesterday), which would forgive or excuse their failings; thereby creating a system of self-righteousness based on works.
However, unlike the Pharisees, we know that salvation only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ, is freely given, and cannot be earned.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT): 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Ephesians 64:6 (NLT): We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Romans 3:9-20(NLT): 9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles,[c] are under the power of sin.10 As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”[d] 13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.”[e] 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[f] 15 “They rush to commit murder. 16 Destruction and misery always follow them. 17 They don’t know where to find peace.”[g] 18 “They have no fear of God at all.”[h] 19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
James 2:10(NLT): For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.
Titus 3:5: Not by work of righteousness which you have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.
Could it be any clearer?
Jesus not only condemned the Pharisees for their self-righteous system of salvation but because their self-righteousness blinded them to their sins and their need of repentance and Jesus Christ.
Over the years the Pharisees had built a good reputation among the common Jews and they became like judges over religious law. Their knowledge gave them power and soon they began to think they were holier than others. They failed to see their sins because they made up their own laws to excuse them, and if they did acknowledge any sin, they found their sins to be minor compared to others.
Luke 18:9-14 (NLT): 9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[b]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The tax collector, though he lied, cheated, and stole, was justified because he recognized his sin, showed sorrow and shame for his sin, and asked for mercy. The Pharisee did none of these things causing him to walk away without justification. In addition, this verse shows, once again, how much the Pharisees were relying on their good deeds to make them right before God.
Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT): 10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?[d]” 12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[e] For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Once again, a Pharisee shows his true colors by exalting himself above others. The Pharisees did not approve of Jesus’ association with “sinners” because they felt it was beneath him.
The NKJ version words Matthew 9: 13 a little differently:
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’[b] For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”[c]
I honestly believe Jesus was being a little factious here and poking a little fun at the Pharisees for their arrogant attitude. The righteous would not need to repent because they have already been made right before God; however, the sinners would need Jesus because that is the only way they could be made right before God. Of course, the joke is on the Pharisees because they were not the righteous ones as they presumed but sinners who need repentance and Jesus.
Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Once again, the Pharisees messed up big time when they failed to see the severity of their sins and realize their standard of righteousness was different than God’s standard of perfect righteousness. Remember James 2:10, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” All it took was one sin, big or little; it didn’t matter, to make them lowly sinners in the eyes of God.
How about you? What or who are you trusting in to make you right before God? It is my prayer that the answer to that question is “Jesus.”
Until next time, stay safe and God bless,