Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Death of a Pharisee.

This idea came as a result of a time spent reading the bible a few weeks ago. It is based on the Apostle Paul's testimony concerning sin and the law in Romans chapter 6 in comparison to his self righteousness under the law found in Philippians chapter 3. I could give you a summary of what Paul says in each passage of scripture, but I would like the scripture to speak for itself so I will post the passages below:

Philippians 3:5-6

5 "I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6 I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault."

Paul here says that he obeyed the law without fault. Some translations say that he was blameless. He is boasting in his flesh or his own efforts as an example of someone who could boast about himself because of his credentials. Paul appears to be very devout in these two passages even to the point of fully obeying the law of God as a Pharisee, meticulous in the Jewish religion. No doubt Paul was striving to obey the moral dictates of God's Law and had a great awareness of right and wrong under the law. However lets take a look at what he testified about elsewhere concerning his experience under the law of God.

Romans 7:7-13

7 "Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.”[c] 8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. 9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. 12 But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.

13 But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes."

We see in this passage that Paul was shown his sin by the law, and as a result his covetous desires were aroused, and these desires brought spiritual death to him. Is Paul contradicting himself when he says that he experienced death by sin under the law in Romans 7, and that he was without fault under the law in Philippians 3? I don't think so! In his effort Paul was without fault. He was very zealous under the Jewish law and for the traditions of his fathers. He paid careful attention to observe the law of Moses, doing everything. Not only did he do everything, but according to zeal he stood out from amongst his fellow Jews! When Paul was exposed to the commandment that forbade coveting his desire for it was aroused and he was found to be covetous. He was found to be guilty under the law and condemned because his heart had transgressed it though outwardly he was faultless! Even when a person seems very religious, very devout, faultless, and zealous.

We know the truth about man from the bible, Amen? Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." And Jeremiah 17:9 says "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Even with the outward religious devotion, the law of God exposed the covetousness in Paul's heart and he realized that something was very wrong. Later on in Romans 7 Paul says that the answer do this problem is in Christ! Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and to free us from sin's dominating power!

There have been times when I have shared my faith with someone who is very religious in that he or she is careful to follow a certain set of moral laws or ritual. I particularly remember talking with Muslims who are like this. In some of them I have seen a great awareness of moral law (in their faith at least) and an understanding of sins (at least outwardly). However as I have talked with these people I have found a great reliance in themselves. They rely on their own efforts and ability to please God and remain right with God through observance of a moral code. This sounds like Paul and the Jewish people of Paul's day as he talks about in Romans 10:3. People trying to get right with God through their own works! What showed Paul that he couldn't do this? It was the law of God!! What will show the self righteous person that he or she can't do this? The law of God! It arouses sin within a person and that sin brings death! It shows the observer that there is something wrong with his or her heart! It brings the knowledge of sin according to Romans 7:7. The self righteous Pharisee was made aware of his own shortcoming by the commandment in the law, and he therefore saw his need for the Savior, Jesus!

Here is the application. When preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to someone, use God's Ten Commandments so that they can see how they have fallen short before God. Use it especially on those who believe that they are right with God through their own moral life! No person can do this! If it slew one of the most religious people in the bible, it will sure work on those who rely on their own efforts. Use the Ten Commandments on Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindu's, Buddhists, Religious Church goers, and any person who is trusting in their own goodness. Watch them become aware of their sinfulness and see that there is no hope in their own effort to be right with his maker! This is a good tip for increased evangelistic effectiveness.

All scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

Until next time!