Our Lord Jesus gave his most fiery and emphatic sermon to the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 23. As I have read that portion of Scripture many times, I have often been glad that I was not in the crowd on the receiving end of that scathing rebuke from the Messiah. He who was a friend of publicans and sinners had little patience with these self-righteous Pharisees.
Unfortunately, we have many spiritual pharisees today in our churches. They may or may not be born again (only God knows), but they are readily recognized by their attitude toward others and their attempts to live like God in the power of the flesh. These great sins are as repulsive to God today as they were when this sermon was preached on that fateful day.
If we desire to escape the displeasure of our Lord in these matters, we must be able to identify the marks of a Pharisee and make sure these attributes don’t creep into our lives. We must ask God for the grace and wisdom to walk the fine line between righteousness and self-righteousness; holiness and haughtiness; Spirit and flesh.
May we do the right thing for the right reason! Don’t be a Pharisee!
Characteristics of a Pharisee
1. Pharisees desire position & prestige for their own ends.
Matthew 23:2 “Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:”
2. Pharisees preach the truth, but excuse their own disobedience.
Matthew 23:3 “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”
3. Pharisees hold others to a higher standard than themselves.
Matthew 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
4. Pharisees are motivated by the praise of man.
Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
5. Pharisees hinder those who truly desire to obey the King.
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
6. Pharisees often hurt others under the pretence of godliness.
Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
7. Pharisees seek to convert others to their philosophy rather than God’s Truth.
Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
8. Pharisees are more concerned with the financial & temporal rather than the spiritual & eternal.
Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
9. Pharisees obey outwardly to be seen of men, but neglect the internal commands.
Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
10. Pharisees magnify the insignificant and minimize the important.
Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
11. Pharisees are content to put on a show with no desire for true holiness.
Mathew 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
Matthew 23:26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Matthew 23:28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
12. Pharisees honor the memory of spiritual leader of the past while violating the truths for which they stood.
Matthew 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
Matthew 23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Matthew 23:31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
Matthew 23:32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
13. Pharisees cannot see their hypocrisy and do not escape judgment.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?