To those who took a stand for truth, and found themselves out in the cold, I have something for you from the Lord;
“Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” Isaiah 66:5
Note that the context of this passage is the End Times, the times in which we live.
I have often heard the term “Pharisees” bandied about with regard to other churches and denominations, yet have not heard anyone being called “Sadducees”. This is strange since we actually have both groups in Christian circles these days.
The Sadducees were a lot like our liberal denominations. They denied everything the bible says, especially the resurrection, and allegorized, or spiritualized, everything, to the point that the bible said nothing. This category today is so widespread that it infects every denomination to some extent! These are the people who focus on the “social gospel” and “communitarianism”. While it used to be limited to the mainstream denominations like Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican (Episcopal), and the large Baptist associations, this mindset has infiltrated most denominations, and I’m afraid, even independent churches. Purpose Driven is a perfect example of this type of Christian, as is the Emergent or Emerging Church, the New Apostolic Reformation, and the Roman Church.
These churches, while paying lip service to the gospel, deny it by their lifestyle. You will find that their emphasis is on making the world a better place for the poor. They believe in Ecumenism for the sake of working together for the betterment of mankind. These poor people have traded in their glorious birthright, of salvation by grace through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, for a bowl of communal porridge that will be gone tomorrow. They have traded a belief in literal six day creation for a poor confused God who can’t figure out what He wants for over billions of years of experimenting!
The worst part of it all is that when the Antichrist shows up, speaking some Christian-like words, these people will end up supporting him, because they didn’t believe what the bible says about the one-and-only Savior, Jesus Christ. There are blood-bought born-again Christians attending these churches. They are the ones who don’t quite fit in. Are not quite comfortable. The ones who see where their church is going and try to warn the rest. They often end up, as Rick Warren calls them, “blessed subtractions”.
At the other end of the spectrum we have the Pharisees.
Like today, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were much closer to the truth than the Sadducees. I don’t know of any rebukes Jesus made against the Pharisees for their understanding of Scripture, rather, he often rebuked them for their hypocrisy. For saying one thing and doing another.
Our modern Pharisees are rather similar to those of Jesus’ day. The Old Testament had some 613 laws that were given by God for Israel’s benefit. Thinking that they could out-do God they added law upon law, to the point that in Jesus’ day there were some 2,000 man made laws added to Scripture.
Many of the conservative Churches today do similar things. Churches add law upon law, with the idea of pleasing the Lord, but in the end all it does is cause their children to fall away. People, of all stripes, can’t seem to be able to allow anyone else the freedom to follow their own conscience.
To coin a phrase “What would Jesus do” in the same situation? What did Jesus do in the Garden of Eden? You know He was there. He created Adam and Eve, gave them language and one law. He told them the truth, and left them alone to their own devices. He gave them the freedom of choice. Yes, in the end they did choose wrong, but do you think God regrets His decision? I don’t think so. He has done the same for billions of their descendants ever since.
He could have destroyed that couple for their decision, but instead He chose to be born of one of their descendants and to die for their sin, and for yours and mine. Imagine! God made a way for depraved sinners, like you and me, to actually come into His Holy presence, and to be called His children! He didn’t stop with a visit to Heaven, but actually invites us to live in His presence! The amazing thing is that nowhere in scripture are we told to live perfect lives to earn a place in Heaven. We are told to receive Him as our Saviour, repent, and walk with Him. (Acts 16:13, John 3:16, Romans 10:9)
So, what are our modern Pharisees teaching their children when they make up all kinds of unbiblical rules? Though they may say they believe in salvation by grace, their actions teach a salvation by grace-plus-works. As they say, “Actions speak louder than words”. You see, while they say “Salvation by grace” they actually focus on works and actions, leading their children to believe that salvation is dependent on works.
I have actually heard these Pharisees say “it is possible to live a victorious Christian life”, implying that you can achieve total victory at some point in your life, which leads me to observe that the words of Paul don’t sound like he was always victorious;
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24
Read the whole passage. Paul was not teaching that one can be completely victorious throughout one’s life. He was teaching our total dependence on Jesus for our righteousness! We have none of our own, and though we do seek to lead an obedient life, we are not, and cannot be saved by our works, nor do our works keep us saved. Furthermore our obedience must be to God, not to our pastor, Prime-Minister, or President.
So what should we do in the grey areas? The areas that Scripture says nothing? Do we make up rules for others to follow? Many pastors do. The area of alcohol and wine, is one example. Some passages are positive toward this liquid, and others are negative. Do we make up rules for interpretation, such as “if it is positive then it must be grape juice, and negative is interpreted as alcoholic wine”? This is contrary to the literal principle of Hermeneutics, which indicates that one should accept the normal literal sense of the words, unless the context dictates otherwise.
Do you see how subtle it is? For a good cause, preventing drunkenness, we change the interpretation of Scripture just slightly so our children don’t become alcoholics! It doesn’t hurt anyone does it? Actually, I think it offends the Holy Spirit! When God told us not to change His word, (Revelation 22:18-19), this is exactly what He was talking about! These well meaning Christians are actually doing exactly the same thing the ancient Pharisees did! (for more on the biblical teaching on wine and alcohol, see my article here)
When they get away with doing it once, do you think they will stop there? No. Following the pattern of many Churches down through the centuries, the pastor becomes the local pope, and failing to follow his dictates can lead to excommunication. I was personally asked to leave a church because I disagreed with the pastor on the subject of tithing, and passed a book to a fellow believer about this subject.
It may seem, to some, that I am nit-picking on these subjects. Surely Christians should support the Church? The truth is that is a different issue. The tithe was instituted as income tax, when Israel was a theocracy, and the nation was administered by the priests. Christians are not tenants on His land, but actually the body of Christ! Each true believer is permanently indwelt with the Holy Spirit, something totally unheard of in ancient Israel, and forgotten by many pastors today. Jesus told us of this position one day when he was speaking with Peter:
24 “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? 25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.” (Matthew 17:4-6)
If you are in Christ you are free! Should you support the ministry of your local Church? If they are preaching truth, you should, but the amount is up to you. There is no set amount, or percentage given for Christians in the New Testament.
So why do preachers preach tithing? We have already examined the reasons above. They believe that they have the authority to grab Old Testament teaching, meant specifically for Israel, and apply it to the Church. Tithe teaching works. This is called pragmatism, and is not to be found in the New Testament. Frankly if they teach this doctrine you can be sure they are teaching error in other areas.
Usually Church governance will also suffer. In the New Testament, the pattern of Church governance is set out for us. “Presbuteros” is the Greek word translated as Presbytery in 1 Timothy 4:14, and means a ruling body of Elders. Acts 14:23, and Titus 1:5, indicate that Elder was an ordained position, and did not indicate just any older man in the congregation. The rest of the references to elders in the New Testament is always in the plural, unless it is speaking of an individual elder. The Pastor is the presiding elder in the Presbytery, also known as a Bishop.
Baptist pastors generally rebel against this divinely ordained system of Church Governance, largely because they like to have control over what is taught in their church, but it truly is rebellion, and has led to much sin and abuse among this group of pastors. Having to answer to a board of Elders, is the divinely ordained system of responsibility for the Church leadership. A pastor who falls into sin can be disciplined or removed by the Elders, as can an individual Elder. This naturally goes against the grain of many pastors. Pride keeps many of these men in the pulpit, until the Lord Himself removes them. The Jack Hyles story is a tragic case in point.
I am not saying that having the true biblical system of Church governance is a guarantee against apostasy. It is too late in the day for that. Presbyterians, and the Plymouth Brethren, who are the closest to the biblical model, are as far from the truth today as everyone else. I am only saying that God originally intended a certain type of Church governance, as a system of checks and balances, but men always think they know better than God!
Between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, there is not a lot of room for the true flock of God. If you are one of His, I commend you. Keep looking unto Jesus. Seek out like-minded believers to associate with, knowing that you will never find someone who believes exactly as you do. It isn’t essential that we all believe the same things, just so long as we all have the same Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ! The Lord Jesus, born of a virgin, the Only Begotten Son of God, who is the creator God, who died as a substitution for our sins, and who was raised again on the third day, and today sits at the right hand of God the Father making intercession for us. That’s the Jesus I’m talking about!