Modern-Day Scribes and Pharisees

February 21, 2010

by Shawn Brasseaux

Do you ever wonder why Jesus Christ always referred to the religious leaders of Israel as “crooks,” “liars,” “vipers,” “hypocrites,” and “white-washed sepulchres?” Was this simply mean-spirited name-calling, or was there something far more serious going on? As a matter of fact, the Lord Jesus Christ was not being cold-hearted or unfair. As God incarnate, Jesus Christ knew their motives; He was able to read their deepest thoughts and their intentions of the heart. The Lord could honestly say that these religious leaders were cooperating with the devil. They truly were vipers, crooks, and hypocrites! In this Bible study, we will show you several examples.

In John’s Gospel chapter 9, we find the Lord Jesus has just healed a blind beggar. Consequently, the Pharisees have a conniption fit. Why? Because it is the Saturday Sabbath! Look at verse 16: “Therefore said some the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Other said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.” Pitiful, huh!? Here we have these religious leaders supposed to be “serving God,” yet when God the Son is in their presence in a literal body, they arrogantly reject Him in unbelief. Right off the bat, we see those Pharisees and scribes were indeed hypocrites.

Let us look at another example. Most church members know of the adulterous woman being brought to Christ in John’s Gospel chapter 8. The scribes and Pharisees intend to trick the Lord Jesus, but Him being the Creator God, He can read their minds and intentions! As they whine and complain, Christ draws in the dirt and ignores them (verse 6). Finally, He puts the self-righteous Pharisees in their place, and says “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (verse 7). Notice, that these Pharisees never brought the man caught in adultery, manifesting the fact that they simply wanted to trip up the Lord (but to no avail!). Also, in light of what the Lord Jesus said, were some of these religious leaders guilty of adultery, too?

In Matthew 12:24, the Pharisees falsely accused our Lord of casting out devils by means of the devil, Beelzebub (Satan)! The Lord replies in verse 34 by aptly calling them “vipers!” Right after this miracle of casting out an evil spirit, the Pharisees reject it in unbelief; then, they have the audacity to ask the Lord to perform a miracle (verse 39)! Utterly sad.

Matthew 19:3 is another example of the Pharisees trying to trick and test the Lord, this time using divorce. Christ’s perfect response is: “He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (verses 8,9). The only reason Moses allowed those Jews to divorce was because of their unbelief, but divorce was not part of God’s design for marriage!

On another occasion, the Lord Jesus is eating in the presence of publicans (tax collectors) and sinners when the Pharisees see Him. Again, they display their self-righteousness in Matthew 9:10,11: “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?”  The Lord’s response was, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (verses 12,13). That is, “At least these people recognize they need me as their Saviour!”

A good summary of the true nature of the scribes and Pharisees is found in Matthew chapter 23 (also Luke chapter 11 and John chapter 8). The Pharisees, Matthew 23:3, never practiced what they preached—they were hypocrites, all right! In verses 4-10, these religious leaders appeared to be serving the Lord, but they only did the good works in order to be recognized by fellow man (cf. John 12:42,43, where it says the Pharisees “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God!”) In addition, the Pharisees were discouraging Jews from accepting Jesus as their Messiah-King (Matthew 23:13).

In Matthew 23:14 these religious leaders were taking money from people in the name of religion. The Lord told them that they would receive “the greater damnation” than those of whom they were taking advantage! They would ignore what they considered “minor” sins, but condemned “greater” sins (verses 15-22)—forgetting that all sin was contrary to the Law of Moses! The religious leaders would tithe, but never bothered to focus on the important aspects of the Law (verse 23).

As the Lord Jesus continued condemning the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 23, He told them: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepuchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (verses 27,28). These religious leaders of Israel had a good outward appearance, but inside they had the heart of unbelief and rebellion.

Look at the irony of it all in Matthew 23:29,30 KJV: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 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.” The Pharisees and scribes proudly claimed they would have never killed God’s prophets like their ancestors did—yet these same Pharisees and scribes are influential in putting Jesus Christ to death later on!! Moreover, the Lord foresaw the days when these religious leaders would also persecute and kill the Jewish believers, especially the twelve apostles (Matthew 24:34).

That was 2,000 years ago, but did you know we have modern-day Pharisees and scribes? In the name of religion, the devil has multitudes upon multitudes upon multitudes of people working for him. They are just like the Pharisees: they pretend to be of God, and criticize and curse those who are of God! The sad part is that most people are so confused, they would rather follow the false teacher than listen to you share the Bible with them!

Speaking of false teachers in the last days, the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:5, they “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof: from such turn away.” Down through the centuries, and even to the present day, there are priests, pastors, popes, and teachers deceiving the masses with their denominational doctrine and tradition. They have millions of followers, are collecting millions of dollars, and enjoying the praise of men! Their large cathedrals and sanctuaries look nice, but they contain spiritually dead people.

Be cautious, for there are many modern-day scribes and Pharisees, ready to take advantage of you: spiritually and financially….