THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION…


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

I hope the title is not too problematic for anyone.  It is simply a vehicle to allow us to discuss the Pharisees and the bondage of religious legalism.  The more I study the New Testament and the ministry of our LORD, the more I become convinced that if you took the Pharisees out of the gospels you would create an incredible void.  Much of the valuable teaching of Jesus came through His interactions with that group of religious legalists. 

Much of what Jesus said and did, He said and did in contrast to what the Pharisees said and did.  Much of the truth that He brought to us comes through His confrontations with them.  I have observed that our LORD would, at times, bait them in order to expose their false views and teach much-needed truths to bring liberty.  He, unashamedly, went out of His way to upset them seeking to bring them and the hearers to Freedom.  It was not mean spirited, but for the purpose of redemption but bait them He did.

In Galatians 4:4 we are informed that when Jesus was born it was in the ‘fullness of time.’  That is incredibly important.  Jesus could not be born at just any time.  It was in the exact moment of nations coming together.  It was exactly at the right time.  It was when languages had developed, and all dovetailed together.  It was in the Fullness of Time!

However, one thing had to wait and that was the development of World Religion.  What I mean by that is a religion born of the world, the devil, and self.  That religion used the Inspired Word of God as its foundation.  It used it wrong, but it used it.  This religion was not Islam, Buddhism, or any of the myriad of other religions.  No, it had the Word of God as its foundation and yet it was spawned from hell.

At the coming of Jesus, it had risen to its fullness.  There was never a time when religion was as strong as then.  Jesus came and ‘confronted’ that religion.  He had to so that we could know what the Gospel IS NOT.  Thus, I contend that Jesus could not be born until the Pharisees had risen to their zenith.  It was in that ‘fullness of time’ that He came on the scene and ripped away the mask of religion and said, “I have not come to give you this (the religion of the Pharisees), but this (the Gospel and Grace).”  That is an incredible contrast and a problem we still face today in many circles.

In order to grasp what Jesus did, we must define the Pharisees.   Who were they?  I want to be fair in my discussion.  The word Pharisee has come to mean hypocrite and that is unfortunate.  Originally it identified a person of great sincerity and faith.

I ask that you take a walk through history with me and consider the progression of the religion of the Pharisees.  Let’s go back 600 years before the birth of Jesus and we see Israel in captivity.  They were in bondage because they had turned to idols and forsaken God and His directives.  Their disobedience and rejection of Him had brought about the severe judgment of God and they lived in slavery to Babylon.

It was in that time of captivity they picked up their copy of the Law, the Torah (Pentateuch).  That was their Bible.  They began reading and discovered they were cursed because of Idolatry.  In that revelation and realization, they repented and turned back to God and devoted themselves to studying the scriptures.  It is at this time that we discover the scribe Ezra and his incredible guidance for Israel.

At the time of their return to the land under Cyrus the Persian, they devoted themselves to the Scrolls of the Law and realized that in God’s Words was their hope of life and liberty.  They understood that every command must be obeyed and there could be no more idolatry.  They were incredibly sincere and dedicated to truth.  In that intense desire for Truth, they began to insert the Laws of Man to enable them to keep the Laws of God. 

I have only scratched the surface and hopefully not been too focused, on the minute but we will take this another step in the next devotional but until then, set your heart to seeking first the LORD and pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  We will consider the benefits of their devotion and the dangers that evolved.

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!