Christians who stand for the details of the Word of God and preach against that which they believe to be error, who exalt biblical morality and preach against immorality, and who have strong biblical convictions are often labeled “Pharisees.” Many of the Promise Keepers supporters who have written to me to rebuke me for reproving their movement, call me a Pharisee. Consider a couple of examples:
“Rev. Cloud says ‘Our sole authority is the Bible.’ No one who participated in the Council of Carthage in 387 which settled for all time the canon of the NT would agree with Rev. Cloud on this issue. ... Such arrogance! ... I take it then, that you’re the only one going to heaven. It’s going to be awfully lonely there. Such arrogance! ... Such arrogance! ... I wonder what makes Mr. Cloud so sure he’s right and everybody else is wrong? Look at the Pharisees, Mr. Cloud, and then look in the mirror!”
“You’re the best example I think I’ve ever seen of the Pharisee who sits at the front of the synagogue giving thanks for not being a sinner like everyone else.”
Henry Morris III of the Institute for Creation Research has also called fundamentalists Pharisees. Commenting on Matthew 23:13, Morris said:
“It is interesting to note that Jesus condemned both groups (Pharisees and Sadducees) for the same problem. Yet they were much different in their positions. The Pharisees would be analogous to the fundamentalists of our day and the Sadducees to the liberals. Both camps claimed belief in ‘inspiration’ and both camps prided themselves on their knowledge of Scripture. Their common error was distorting the truth of God with interpretations that clouded the message--thereby shutting up the doors out of unbelief that led into the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21)” (Morris, “Shutting the Kingdom,” March 20, 2009, ICR website).
To label a Bible-believing Christian who has zeal to obey God’s Word a Pharisee is a slander, because the error of Phariseeism was not their zeal to obey the Scripture. They had no such zeal. They were zealous, rather, to make up their own religious system and to rule over the people.
It is important to note that Jesus Christ did NOT rebuke the Pharisees for their zeal in obeying the details of the law. He said to them: “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” (Matt. 23:23).
Christ did not rebuke the Pharisees for paying attention to the less weighty things in the law. He rebuked them for focusing on the lesser matters to the neglect of the weightier ones.
The Bible-believing fundamentalists that I know do not neglect the weightier matters of the New Testament faith. They aim, rather, to follow Paul’s example and to give heed to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). They preach the virgin birth, blood atonement, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and justification by grace and the Trinity and the personality of the Holy Spirit and the other “weightier” matters of the faith, but they also preach church discipline (1 Cor. 5) and the restrictions upon the woman’s ministry (1 Tim. 2:12; 1 Cor. 14:34) and due order among men and women, which even touches on their hair styles (1 Cor. 11:1-16) and other things that are less weighty than salvation by grace and the deity of Jesus Christ.
We can see what Phariseeism is by examining what Christ rebuked them for:
(1) Phariseeism is supplanting the Word of God with man-made tradition and thereby making the Word of God of none effect. “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9).
(2) Phariseeism is rejecting Jesus Christ. “Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:22-24).
(3) Phariseeism is perverting the Gospel of the free grace of Christ into a work’s salvation. “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” (Matt. 23:15).
(4) Phariseeism is self-righteousness. “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Lk. 18:9-12).
(5) Phariseeism is gross hypocrisy. “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12:1).
The Pharisees were at the forefront of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and of the persecution of the early Christians.
It is a great error to label a Christ-loving, Bible-honoring, grace gospel-preaching, self-debasing, peace-loving Christian a Pharisee.
I can’t speak for all Bible-believing fundamentalists and fundamental Baptists, but I can speak for myself; and I have no confidence in my “righteousness.” I know that I have no righteousness apart from Jesus Christ. I look down upon no man, for I know that any spiritual victory I have enjoyed and any blessing in my life is only because of the grace of Christ. When I attempt to expose false teaching and sin, I am not looking down upon other men; I am simply striving to obey the Word of God.
The modern Pharisee would be more akin to the Roman Catholic priest with his sacramental gospel and his traditions exalted to the place of Scripture and his long history of persecuting the saints. The ecumenical crowd doesn’t call Catholic priests Pharisees, though. They don’t seem to be concerned about all of the souls who have been led astray by these contemporary Pharisees.
The only men they seem to be concerned about are those dreadful old fundamentalists with their strong Bible convictions and their refusal to smile at error. Oh, those dreadful old fundamentalist Pharisees!
BROTHER CLOUD, I HAVE A QUESTION
Updated June 23, 2009 (first published June 21, 2006) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
Hello, friends. I have been writing books since 1973 and have been receiving letters from readers ever since. Until a few years ago I tried to answer every piece of communication that included a question, unless it was merely an angry “hit piece.”
In 1993, the Way of Life web site became active and e-mail came into play. Since then the amount of communication I receive has increased dramatically.
In 2001, we returned to the mission field in Asia and are continuing the church planting ministry we began in 1979.
I also travel three or four months out of the year on preaching and research trips to many parts of the world.
All of this is in addition to researching and writing O Timothy magazine every month and Friday Church News Notes every week and the several new books we publish each year and new volumes of the Advanced Bible Studies Series (20 of them since 2002) and new and updated articles for the Fundamental Baptist Information Service (about 200 per year) and playing with the grandchildren and many other things.
What I am saying is that I just don’t have time to answer all of the questions that people want to ask me these days via e-mail. To do so would detract from other things that I consider more important.
The Fundamental Baptist Information Service is not an answer-on-demand or research-on-request service. I am not the fundamentalist “Bible Answer Man”!
I could easily spend four and more hours every day answering questions.
I have supplied God’s people with a lot of information that is freely available on the Web site. The answers to vast numbers of questions can be found in the articles there.
We also publish the much larger Fundamental Baptist CD Library, which is available from Way of Life Literature and is a resource that you can have at your own fingertips. It contains 100,000 pages of information in 6,000 books and articles. It is a contemporary church issues research library, a Bible Encyclopedia, a preacher’s information database, a church directory, a Baptist history library, a Bible Version library, and much more. This is not merely a batch of material thrown on a CD. Everything in this electronic library is carefully selected to be of benefit to a fundamentalist in his Christian life and ministry. The vast majority of this information is unique to the Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library and cannot be obtained from any other source.
Answers to multitudes of questions about Christian music or the Bible version-text issue or ecumenicalism or the church or alleged contradictions in the Bible and countless other subjects can be found in my books and video presentations. See the online catalog for a listing.
Many of our books provide virtual libraries of answers to questions. These include the Bible Version Question-Answer Database, Things Hard to Be Understood: A Handbook of Biblical Difficulties, Contemporary Christian Music: Some Questions Answered, The Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, Dressing for the Lord (it includes a lengthy section answering 36 questions on that subject), Evangelicals and Rome (a virtual database of popular evangelicals and their ecumenical relationships), Judge Not: Is It Legalism to Judge Sin and Error (this book contains answers to 21 of the most common charges brought against a strict fundamentalist approach to Christianity), The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: The History and Error (a huge collection of information on the men and organizations and doctrines of this movement), The Modern Bible Version Hall of Shame (this book contains information on practically every textual critic and modern Bible translation of any note) ,
When it comes to questions on church history, massive resources are available. There is the Advanced Bible Studies Series course “A History of the Churches from a Baptist Perspective.” There is the book Rome and the Bible. There is the huge electronic Church History Database that is part of the Fundamental Baptist CD Library.
When it comes to doctrinal and Bible questions there is the 6000-entry Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity. There is also the Advanced Bible Studies Series (Acts, Bible History and Geography, First Corinthians, The Four Gospels, Genesis, Give Attendance to Doctrine, Hebrews, How to Study the Bible, James, The New Testament Church, The Pastoral Epistles, Proverbs, Psalms, Revelation, Romans, and Understanding Bible Prophecy).
I can say right up front that if you write and ask me about this or that author or speaker or this or that organization or this or that movement, you probably will not get a reply. If I have written on that particular thing, the report can be found at the Web site or the Fundamental Baptist CD Library, both of which have search engines. If I haven’t written on that particular thing, it is exceedingly doubtful that I will give you a private statement.
I can also say that if you write to ask me to read some article or web site page and reply about it, 999 times out of 1000 you will not get a reply.
Also, if you write to ask me to give my opinion about what is going on in church, it is very doubtful that you will get a reply. I have learned that when I try to deal with such things with complete strangers and I don’t have the whole story but only their side of it, I am not only wasting my time but am positively wrong in getting involved.
Please understand that I’m not saying don’t write. I still reply to many of the e-mails that I receive, and you are welcome to write.
I sincerely wish I could help everyone, but the reality is that I only reply as I have time and as the Lord leads.
You must understand that you will not necessarily receive any sort of reply, not even a confirmation of receipt.
And writing repeatedly with the same question will not increase your chance of receiving a reply!
Yours in Christ,
A very busy but grateful and satisfied and excited in the Lord