As Righteous as a Pharisee

I just finished listening to a sermon by RC Sproul in which he challenges us to be as righteous as a Pharisee. The Pharisees were roundly criticized by Jesus, but they did do some things right. Consider

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. 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. … 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. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 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. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 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. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 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. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

The Pharisees made long prayers. Now, they did it for “pretense”, but they prayed regularly. How’s _your_ prayer life? Are you doing even as well as a Pharisee?

The Pharisees travelled across “sea and land to make one proselyte” and then discipled that proselyte. They made him a child of hell, but they were evangelistic. Do you support missions? Do you regularly share the gospel? Are you doing as well as a Pharisee?

The Pharisees tithed on even the smallest herbs. They did omit the “weightier matters”, but they were faithful in tithing, and Christ said that was good. Do you tithe? Are you as righteous as a Pharisee?

The Pharisees “[built] the tombs of the prophets, and garnish[ed] the sepulchres of the righteous”. Do we show the same concern for the house of God? I know that God is not worshipped only in the church building, and the building is not the church, but the sanctuary is used for a sacred purpose and I believe should be regarded as special. Do we respect the house of God as much as a Pharisee?

The Pharisees were whitewashed tombs, beautiful and clean on the outside, but full of wickedness on the inside. Are we even clean on the outside?

Christ said that the problem with the Pharisees is that they were faithful in the small, external, outer things, and they neglected the inward and weightier matters such as judgment, mercy, and faith.

One could argue that we Christians have the opposite problem – we get the weighty matters right, but miss the minor points. Jesus, however, said “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10) That pretty much blows that argument out of the water, doesn’t it?

The Pharisees were “the separated ones”. They sought righteousness. Many of them missed it, and wound up with self-righteousness and hypocritical, external obedience. But they tried to be separate, they tried to be righteous. God calls us today “Come out from among them, and be ye separate”. He tells us to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.

How is it that the self-righteous legalistic Pharisees who crucified our Lord, were arguably more sanctified than the blood bought saints of God? They carried the heavy burden of legalism. We have Christ’s light yoke. We are adopted as sons, by grace through faith plus nothing. And yet the Pharisees were more faithful than we are.

Do we really think that Christ saved us so we could be _less_ obedient than the Pharisees? Are we, under grace and grateful for the sacrifice of Christ, somehow _less_ obligated to obey God than the Pharisees?

Here’s something else to chew on:

Matthew 5
5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Christ emphasizes that even the _least_ commandments are vitally important. Want to be least in the kingdom of heaven? Break even some of the little matters of the law, and tell others that’s OK. Not the big stuff like justice and mercy, but the little stuff. Like tithing.

It can be argued that our righteousness _does_ exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, since we have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, but that does not seem to be the sense of verse 20. He seems to be speaking of our own sanctification. Not only are we responsible for the tiny little outward matters (tithing, prayer, evangelism, outward righteousness), which the Pharisees could do – we’re also responsible for those weightier matters like mercy, judgment, and faith. And _that_ is the righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

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22 Responses to As Righteous as a Pharisee

  1. Catez says:

    Very thought provoking. For me it is all about His righteousness. My righteousness is filthy rags. Thanks for the interesting post.

  2. For me it is all about His righteousness. My righteousness is filthy rags.

    I don’t mean to suggest that there is any way we could actually be righteous on our own. We are only accepted on the basis of Christ’s obedience and death.

    But we are called to an actual righteousness. After establishing in Romans 5 that our righteousness comes from Christ alone, Paul continues in Romans 6 to tell us to “yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13) and calls us to “obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16).

    I believe “righteous” is a good choice of words, but if it causes confusion, substitute “obedience” instead. The Pharisees were obedient in external, small things, and disobedient in the large things. I like to think that I am obedient in the big things, and just disobedient in the little stuff. But Jesus said in Luke 16:10 that if you can’t even get the little stuff right, there’s no way you will get the big stuff right. After all, it’s much easier to, say, tithe, than it is to sincerely love my neighbor. If I won’t even tithe, how can I honestly think that I will do the harder job of loving my neighbor?

  3. dopderbeck says:

    I haven’t heard Sproul’s sermon, but it seems to me that this explication of Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees is missing the point. In saying our righteousness must “exceed” that of the Pharisees, I don’t think Jesus was suggesting we need to do better than the Pharisees, or even as good as the Pharisees, in “little” things. Rather, Jesus’ point was that the Pharisees were substituting meaningless things, that had nothing at all to do with real righteousness, for genuine righteousness. Tithing mints and herbs as the Pharisees did it isn’t righteousness, it’s self-righteous legalism — that’s why Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs.” In contrast, we are to be transformed from the inside, so that our righteousness is a genuine one, born of grace and love. If that’s the case, we’ll find some meaningless external things fall by the wayside in terms of how we define righteousness — we won’t be counting everyone’s mints and herbs to make sure that we’ve been more exacting than the “common” folk in our tithes. But we’ll also find that we want to be obedient in the so-called “small” things, not out of a belief that such acts will curry God’s favor and set us above other men, but out of a deep inner response to God’s grace.

  4. It’s odd to me that you would criticize a sermon you did not listen to, particularly one delivered by such a man as RC Sproul.

    Your comments sound a lot like antinomianism.

  5. dopderbeck says:

    Robert — First, if I haven’t listened to the sermon I can’t comment on your post? Did you fail to summarize it accurately? Why post a summary if no one can comment on it what you’re summarizing?

    Second, I don’t see what Sproul’s status has to do with it. I agree, he’s a good and smart guy. Even good and smart guys get it wrong sometimes. We’re talking about this particular explanation of a text — whether it’s Sproul’s explanation or your possibly inaccurate summary of it — not about anyone’s character.

    Finally, I don’t see how it “sounds like antinomianism” to suggest that Christians are held to a standard of righteousness that emphasizes inner transformation above showy, external observance. In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus is saying in this passage, and in many others in which he criticizes the Pharisees. If that’s antinomianism (it isn’t), than Jesus was antinomian (he wasn’t). Inner transformation leads to proper external observance. What you’re saying, in contrast, sounds like legalism: keep some rules and call it righteousness. That isn’t New Testament thinking.

  6. Chris P. says:

    “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
    Robert, you are quite right,it is antinomianism.
    Jesus didn’t tell the Pharisees to not tithe,dill,mint and cumin, (which means that they are not meaningless external things), He told them that while they were doing so they should not have ignored the law, judgement, mercy, and faith. The Pharisees are a good example of those who attempt to gain the Kingdom without the imputed righteousness of Christ. In the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus delivers the “death-blow” to us. Even if we keep the Law externally, our internal thoughts are the same as external action. So,who can be saved? Jesus says he came to fulfill the law, so now that I have His imputed righteousness, the fruit (evidence) of that should be a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees. Good post, and I enjoy Sproul immensely.

  7. dopderbeck says:

    I’m trying to understand this. Explain to me why you think my interpretation of this passage is “antinomian?”

    “Antinomianism” is the belief that grace frees the recipients of grace from the obligation to obey the moral law. (See a good definition at Where have I suggested that?

    The point is that external observance isn’t “keeping the moral law” if that observance doesn’t spring from inner transformation. I haven’t suggested that anyone is excused from the moral law. I have suggested, as I think Jesus clearly teaches here, that external observance of moral rules is meaningless if that observance does not proceed from sanctified attitudes.

  8. Explain to me why you think my interpretation of this passage is ?antinomian??

    Clearly not all antinomians are licentious hedonists. Antinomianism is a theological position that the law has no value per se. One can be a very moral antinomian.

    From the link you gave:
    righteous persons might well hold such a doctrine and behave in an exemplary way, not from compulsion but from a devotion higher than the law.

    Your comment sounds antinomian because you seem to make righteousness entirely a matter of one’s attitude. You even go so far to dismiss the positive examples of the Pharisees’ meticulous attention to the law as meaningless little things that have nothing to do with real righteousness.

    The Pharisees began as an admirable movement. They were men who worked hard to take God’s law seriously. Jesus did not criticize them for this. He criticized them for mere external obedience, not meticulous external obedience. He criticized their self-righteousness (attempting to justify themselves), not their obedience.

    You set up a false dichotomy when you write:
    inner transformation above showy, external observance

    We observe the law of God because it is the law, and because it is of God, who is both our Lord and our Savior. That is not “showy, external observance”, nor is it opposed to or necessarily distinct from “inner transformation”.

    1 John 5:3 says “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments”.

    Sproul’s point, which I agree with, is that we – who claim to be truly righteous because we have been transformed, and are being transformed, by the grace of God – are far less obedient in anything than the hypocritical, inwardly corrupt, whitewashed tombs that the Pharisees were. In context, the things Sproul mentioned were not little, meaningless things. They were things like evangelism, prayer, fasting, and tithing. That should be troubling to us.

  9. Jeri says:

    Please tell me this article was written tongue in cheek. Surely you do not commend nor even find remarkable that a devil will travel over sea and land to make another devil, that a tomb is whitewashed to cover the corruption and uncleanness within, that a hard hearted miser tithes the mint and the rue because his greedy heart with holds the real bounty of his house from the poor.

    When Christ warned that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees He was, in part, being ironic since the Pharisees were condemned and many committed the unpardonable sin. He was also speaking of the true standard of heaven (a reference, by the way, to JUSTIFICATION, and not SANCTIFICATION, which you assumed.)

    To get into heaven, our righteousness must be perfect, and that righteousness must be given to us. No amount of evangelizing, no amount of outward cleanliness, no amountof tithing gets us in the gates of heaven. Christ does that. He is the Way, the Truth, the Light, and He gives Himself to us, His people. There’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell that our good works will impress God. Go read Galatians and see what you find there: no hope in the flesh, but the resurrected life by faith in Christ.

    There is no point system at all for the Christian. We gain no ground by comparing our works to the works of others. For the life that we live by faith is the power of Christ living through us.

    Please don’t try to whip yourself into “good work frenzy” by comparing yourself to the Pharisees and trying to work harder. The testimony of the centuries is that you’ll fail. But fix on Christ, come to know Him and comprehend the vast riches of what His salvation brings you, the power of His Resurrection, and good works will spring out of you.

    Furthermore, no exercise of the flesh can please God. Without faith it is impossible to please God. And our faith is placed in Christ, who IS our sanctification.

    I think you’ve missed the point of it all young man. Totally. Time to open that Bible, take down the scoreboard of ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH TODAY? and start to learn Christ.

  10. No, Jeri, I’m serious.

    I understand justification by grace. My obedience is not an attempt to earn my justification. My obedience is unworthy and must be viewed in the context of my redemption by God’s grace and Christ’s death. Whatever rewards God may give me at the judgment will be grace as well, for I have earned and can earn nothing.

    But Christ calls us to obedience. He calls us to discipline ourselves. Obedience is work. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Sanctification is both positional and practical.

    My intent is not to commend the Pharisees for their outward obedience and self righteousness, but to condemn professing Christians for our lack of outward or inward obedience, and our utter lack of righteousness. Not to commend legalism, but to condemn laziness and licentiousness.

    Go listen to Sproul’s sermon. May you find it convincing and convicting. I did.

  11. Jeri says:

    You left out the full passage: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
    (13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.”

    We must take hold of Christ by faith, knowing that it is God who works in us and causes the life of Jesus Christ to work through us.

    Obedience IS work, and it’s a work that human beings have never yet succeeded at accomplishing. But Christ performs His perfect work in us, and we walk by faith in Him. The perfect obedience is the obedience of Christ, working in His people.

    I’ll listen to Sproul’s sermon, if you go read the book of Galatians. But I don’t think Sproul is wrong. I think you’ve got big gaps in your comprehension of what it is that brings about the Sanctification of the Christian.

  12. Chris P. says:

    I really don’t see why Robert’s point is so hard to grasp. Robert is not espousing legalism. Boenhoeffer called it “cheap grace”
    I believe the Lord’s statement to the Pharisees was intended to show that nitpicking your way to righteousness wasn’t going to happen. If they had been able to keep the weightier matters, along with the “nit-picky”, they could have acheived a real righteousness. HE told them to do BOTH! As it stands, only Christ was and is able to do it all perfectly. So now He has become our righteousness and sanctification, etc. 1Cor1:30
    The law is not abolished. He is presently and actively keeping (fulfilling) it for us all. First, as the only man who had never broken any of the Law,and secondly as the therefore perfect and spotless Lamb, standing in the Holy of Holies i.e. the Father’s presence, who paid the supreme requirement of the Law on all lawbreakers,in our stead. (Think about that for a day or two! He was made to be perfection so that HE would be worthy to be punished ??!!)
    Robert is right. We cheapen the whole thing by calling ourselves His, and then half-assing our way through our walk. Many Christians are anathema to non-believers in terms of business dealings and relationships,because we blow things off as insignificant and besides that, we are under grace.Shame on me and shame on us all. We lack the fear and trembling. This is a good post and a much needed word to the Church.

  13. Chris P. says:

    “Obedience IS work, and it?s a work that human beings have never yet succeeded at accomplishing. But Christ performs His perfect work in us, and we walk by faith in Him. The perfect obedience is the obedience of Christ, working in His people.”

    This is not an excuse for our disobedience. HE came that we would have no excuse. The obedience of Christ IS the perfect observance of the Law. The Lord Himself read Torah, went to temple and observed the statutes, and why not, as He is the agent of their existence (John 1:3) and they along with the Prophets testify of Him.(Luke 24:27 and John5:45-47)

    If we are truly His by faith, we would live a life that exhibits all the fruit of the Spirit, (isn’t that found in Galatians?)which is the righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees.
    Robert,forgive me for horning in so blatantly,but I do find this sort of fellowship to be refreshing, and a means of making us sharper. I do appreciate all the brothers who weighed in here.

  14. Jeri, I went and read Galatians again as you asked. Keeping Galatians in the context of the rest of the Bible, I just don’t see what you are so upset about. I mean, you even said in an email that you questioned my salvation!

    My point is simple and should not be controversial. The gospel of Christ should change lives. Inward conversion should produce outward obedience. Yet even the corrupt and hypocritical Pharisees were more obedient in things like prayer, fasting, tithing, evangelism, and so forth, than Christians are. Only a small percentage of Christians could be considered even remotely obedient in those areas.

    Jesus said that if we are faithless in small things, we will be faithless in the big things like mercy and justice. We are faithless in small things. That means we cannot be faithful in the big things.

    If we are truly being regenerated and renewed by the Holy Ghost and the Bible, then we ought to show obedience in both the big and small things. The genuine fruit of the Spirit will make us obedient in areas like prayer, giving, etc. Our lives ought to be easily as apparently righteous (in the real stuff, not the made up laws of men) as the Pharisees’ were. After all, the Pharisees were trying to obey out of their own effort, and we have the grace of God transforming us.

    The fact that even the Pharisees could obey in external things does not make them role models. It simply judges us.

    I’ll give a concrete example. God wants us to pray to Him. I do not do so. But even a corrupt, hypocritical Pharisee was disciplined enough to pray regularly. This is convicting to me. If a Pharisee can do it in the flesh, I should be able to do it with the Spirit.

    You seem to take issue with the idea that our practical sanctification does require discipline and effort on our parts, but I do not know why you find that troubling. Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus that the Christian life did take discipline and work (1 Timothy 4:7-8, 4:15-16, 2 Timothy 2:15, Titus 2:11-12). We’re told to fight, to run, to suffer as a soldier, to work, to study, to count the cost, etc. None of these things are opposed to the grace of God. None of that is legalism, justification by works, etc. I probably do not understand your position here, because I’m not saying anything unusual whereas you seem to be. So I must have misunderstood you.

    Thank you for you comments. God bless.

  15. Jeri says:

    I questioned your salvation *privately,* by the way. And there is certainly no shame in doing that. If you say something that makes me think you may have missed the Gospel, would you prefer I NOT ask you to verify where you have placed your faith?

    Are you really going to challenge readers to be more righteous and admit that you lack the righteousness you see in others, and then be angry when I suggest you check your salvation?

    The example of the Pharisees is very badly chosen because their alleged good works were an offense to God. They had energy to do those so-called good works because it was all done for them to exalt themselves before men.

    So if you want power to pray as regularly as the Pharisees prayed, then pray to be seen of men, and you will find that your flesh can be trained to support you in these efforts.

    If you want energy to live a clean outward life as the Pharisees lived (hiding their corruption like whitewashed tombs), then base your efforts in the flesh and take pride in your outwardly clean life, and you will have a moral uprightness that will astound your neighbors.

    If you want self-discipline to tithe even the herbs that come across your kitchen counter, then base your tithing on the power of the flesh, and you will learn to tithe everything down to your shoe laces.

    If you want to emulate the righteousness of the Pharisees, consecrate yourself to Phariseeism, and you will succeed.

    But if you want Christ’s righteousness, then drop confidence in the flesh. You cannot whip or reason or even force yourself to be the thing that by nature you are not. You can’t eat hay; you can’t walk on water; you can’t fly; you can’t be truly good enough to generate even one honestly good work. It simply isn’t in your nature. Christ has given you a second nature that thrives only by faith.

    Christ can do good works. He does so effortlessly, and our life is lived by faith in Him. And that is why the righteousness of those who walk by faith far exceeds the righteounsess of the Pharisees and is acceptable to God so that He lets us into heaven and calls us sons. We have the righteousness of Christ. We live by faith, and faith proves itself by works, but those works are the works of One who overcomes our flesh and our will.

    I am very concerned about what you wrote and sharply disagree with it because I document abuses in Independent Fundamental Baptist churches, and the category of this group (IFBx) that commits the grossest sins are the churches that demand good works without providing the doctrine of Sanctification by grace through faith.

    There are preachers who hide incredibly gross sins while exhorting their people to attain to greater and greater good works: longer skirts on the women, shorter hair on the men, no rock and roll music, more time in prayer, being at church every time the doors open, more tithes and offerings. They break the hearts of God’s people and destroy their lives because they with hold the key to all the truly good works we can ever do, and that key is the power of Jesus Christ at work in us, which we apprehend by faith.

    So if you don’t want to be mistaken for a Pharisee, don’t commend the Pharisees. Commend Christ, and people will then assume you are a Christian.

  16. Chris P. says:

    What about faith without “works” is dead? Remember that Jesus is the one bringing up the issue of righteousness. From what I could tell visiting your blog, you are letting the gross sins of a few wolves color your doctrine. I have seen pastors try to control God’s people in every kind of church and/or denomination. Pendulum swings can be very “iffy” at best. I have recently begun to visit this blog, and without knowing Robert personally, I find his posts to be insightful,knowledgeable and spirit-filled. Questioning his salvation is, I believe,out of line. I appreciate Robert’s candor and transparency. It is his blog and email and he can publish or delete whatever he wishes. I know he doesn’t need my defense,these are just my thoughts, for what it’s worth.

  17. Jared says:

    Heck, I’m one of those licentious, hedonistic, worldly, culture-reclaiming Christians, and even I understand what Robert is saying.

    Talk about missing the point. Willfully, it seems.

  18. Jeri says:

    Look I asked him this question PRIVATELY. *He* chose to make it public. Was that a reflection of handling a situation in good faith? Robert protests that he does not want to be like a Pharisee, yet then he (or you, really) admits no questioning of his standing with God, after he wrote a pretty dubious account of the righteousness of the Pharisees.

    So which is it? Can Robert work like a Pharisee to do the good and discard the bad? Or does he find himself in that same place as the rest of us, a sinner with no standing at all except for that standing which has been given to him? If his only hope is Grace, why is he so indignant that somebody would ask him if he’s sure that he understands the Gospel and is trusting in Christ and Christ alone? Why would he openly lament the question instead of simply offering a reassurance based on Scripture? I mean, what does he have to boast in, except Christ?

    What IS Robert proud of? Works? or Christ? If Christ, proclaim Christ and I would be convinced and reassured on Robert’s behalf. But if his confidence is in works, then proclaim works and be offended that anybody would question his grasp of salvation.

    Faith without works is indeed dead, for faith brings about works, as our lives are lived by faith in Christ. But works for their own sake, and works brought about by human effort, are myths and deceptions. Don’t look to the Pharisees for works, because their works were rooted in the flesh and merely created an illusion.

    What good is praying for three hours a day if your prayers are an abomination directed at your own self righteousness? Of course THAT can be accomplished.

    Look to Christ and His work in us. He could pray a single sentence and stop a storm. WHen good works are the natural outflow of a person, ar they from Christ, nobody has to time their prayers.

  19. Jared says:

    I understand Robert to be saying that obedience should be real and evident. I don’t see anywhere where he’s saying that the Pharisees were great people or that we should trust our works to save us.

    I’ve gone toe to toe with Robert on lots of issues related to grace/works; I’ve accused him of being a Pharisee, he’s accused me of being worldly.
    But if you think he’s saying we trust our flesh in this post, you’re not actually reading it.

    What good is praying for three hours a day if your prayers are an abomination directed at your own self righteousness?

    This, for instance. Where in anything he’s said is something like this supported? It’s not. You’re making it up.

    I also find it odd that you think it odd somone would take exception to the questioning of their salvation. What a ridiculous thing to do based on a call to obey God. That sort of accusation sounds, well, kind of Independent Fundamentalist to me!

  20. dopderbeck says:

    Robert — thanks for the clarification. I think you were misreading me a bit as I was misreading you a bit. Looking back at the subsequent exchange, I really think we’re saying the same thing. You’re not suggesting justification comes through works, but that justification produces sanctification, which progressively moves us towards holiness in every area of life, big or small. I’m not suggesting “small” things are unimportant, but that meticulous observance without inner transformation is meaningless. Thus, faith without works is dead, and works without faith are dead. Classic, historic and Biblical Christianity.

  21. justification produces sanctification, which progressively moves us towards holiness … faith without works is dead, and works without faith are dead

    Yes. Just the normal, classic, Biblical doctrine. And I’m noting that, in the lives of many Christians, there seems to be a lack of practical sanctification. It’s ironic that the unregenerate Pharisees were arguably more concerned with obeying God (although not really, but you know what I mean) than the redeemed children of God are. We ought to be truly righteous in the areas where they were merely externally righteous.

    For instance, I don’t remember the exact figures, but less than 10% of professing Christians actually tithe. And I mean the born again church going kind. But the Pharisees tithed, meticulously. It ought to convict us that a self righteous man with no genuine love for God is (externally) obedient in an area where Christians are generally disobedient. And we have a good reason to obey. We have God’s grace! We’re redeemed!

    The Pharisees travelled over land and sea to win a single convert. But we are the ones with the good news to share! And we can’t be bothered to talk to our co-workers about it.

    If an alien were to watch us from space, he might see a Pharisee tithing, fasting, praying, and so forth. Maybe he would recognize that the Pharisee was doing it to appear righteous. Maybe he would see that the Pharisee was not truly righteous. But on the other hand, maybe he would also see a Christian. And he wouldn’t see that Christian tithing, praying, fasting, etc. He might have trouble distinguishing between the Christian and a non-Christian. And he might have trouble figuring out whether the Christian loved God any more than the Pharisee did.

    Chris and Jared, thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them.

  22. Kim says:

    I think both Robert and Jeri are in agreement on Christ being our righteousness. Both are also passionate that we keep a balance. We ARE to put our total faith in Christ’s atonement. He IS our righteousness. We cannot do anything to earn our righteousness. Both agree on that. But what Robert seems to be saying is that we go on to maturity by obeying the Lord in our daily lives by doing what His word says to do and not do what His word says not to do. Not because it saves us, but because obeying Him pleases Him and is commanded to us as believers. Not to mention that that is where our heavenly rewards will proceed from (beyond salvation, I mean). God WILL reward His children for their good works (aka obedience). His word says so in lots of places.

    Ephesians 6:7-8

    Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. He is speaking to believers here.

    What I see here is Robert dealing with one extreme (believers who feel good works aren’t necessary at all now that we have grace) and Jeri is dealing with the opposite extreme (believers who put faith in their works to save them, eliminating their reliance on Christ as is spoken about in Galatians). You both are on the same page, but Jeri doesn’t see that because of her perspective, having seen those who’ve been led astray by equating works with salvation. I see that Robert IS all about putting our faith alone in Christ alone. If you read him often enough you will see he is orthodox in his beliefs. It’s so easy to misunderstand each other, isn’t it? If you step back and look at this whole thread you’ll see that there is definite agreement on the core issues.

    Here’s more scripture to ponder:

    James 1:21-27

    Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
    If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
    Again, believers are being addressed here.

    Hope I’m not misunderstood now. ;-) Robert, yet another thought-provoking post. Thanks and blessings!

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