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Sheep and Goats

Mat 25:31-46 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  (32)  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  (33)  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  (34)  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  (35)  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  (36)  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  (37)  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  (38)  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  (39)  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  (40)  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  (41)  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  (42)  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:  (43)  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  (44)  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  (45)  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  (46)  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

At lunch yesterday I was thinking about sheep and goats. To me this passage exemplifies the fruit of the Spirit. Those on the sheep side were kind and merciful unto all that they came across. They weren’t doing these things to be seen, they weren’t even doing those things to try to obtain salvation (look at their response). They helped their fellow man because it was right. So I started examining how much time I spent helping the “least of these.” I was definitely found wanting.

Today in Bible Class we watched a video by Shane Claiborne and his work with the poor in Philadelphia. Now I’m not advocating selling all your possessions and moving to the inner city. But I know that I’ve become too comfortable just giving a check on Sunday and paying my taxes and thinking that meets my obligation. Is there anyone else out there feeling this way?

Blessed Assurance

I remember the day when I realized that I wasn’t going to Hell. I grew up in a fearful tradition. One that had no assurance of salvation… we would only know once we were standing at Judgment Day. Verses would always be resounding through my head, warning me to be wary because God was just looking for a reason to send me to Hell. Verses such as:

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Heb 10:26-27 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  (27)  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

Php 2:12 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.

God was to be feared, because He was looking for an excuse to burn me up. I remember as a child, every night as I was falling asleep I would repeat, “I love God and Jesus” over and over again. My thought process was that if I didn’t repeat this then a sin might enter my mind as I was falling asleep and I’d be condemned to Hell. This is not something my parents taught me to do… in fact to this day they don’t know that’s something I did. That fear came from the culture I grew up in. Hear enough Fire and Brimstone lessons and you start to smell smoke. It’s like when a psych student gets a hold of the DSM IV for the first time. By the end of the day they’ve diagnosed themselves with half of the disorders in the book.

During that time there were so many things I didn’t understand (not that I’m a fountain of wisdom now). I wondered how Paul could say:

2Ti 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  (7)  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  (8)  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

How come Paul knew that he would go to Heaven before he died? Where did he get his assurance? And then there were some of the songs we sang: Blessed Assurance, When We All Get to Heaven, Sweet By and By, Mansions Over the Hilltop. The vast majority of the songs we sang were about getting to Heaven… but I never felt like I was going to make it. After all, I was a sinner. Occasionally I would knowingly sin… but wait… then there is no more sacrifice. I knew a girl when I was in college that gave up on God completely because of Heb. 10:26. In highschool she was a very devout Baptist… but her and her boyfriend started having sex. One day she read that verse and became convicted that she had sinned willfully and could never again have forgiveness so she gave up on God completely.

However, all through the scriptures we are told that if we endure we will be saved. God assures us many times that we are His children. He doesn’t look for excuses to condemn us… just the opposite, He looks for excuses to forgive us! Why else would He send His Son to die in our place?

Epiphany

Lately one of the things I’ve been studying has been silence in Scripture and how we’re to react to it. My whole life I’ve heard the phrase “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This principle always made perfect sense in my life. of course we practiced like the 1st century church! Sunday school? Not in Scripture. Bible classes? Not in scripture. Kitchens, musical instruments, paid preacher, the list of things we didn’t have goes on and on and on. Not only were we Church of Christ… but we were REAL Church of Christ because we didn’t let in the additions that some of our weaker brethren did. People would ask me what do these additions matter? Of course they do what about Nadab and Abihu using a fire not commanded? What about poor Uzzah who got struck dead for trying to steady the Ark? Of course we don’t want anyone to go to Hell because they have Sunday School, but… better safe than sorry.

Something’s always bothered me about the silences though. They aren’t consistent. After all… I’ve never heard a lesson against Gospel meetings, song books, a rotation instead of one man minister, buildings, microphones, projectors, white boards, chalkboards, etc. I’ve never read any commands or examples of those things. What bothered me is that it’s not consistent. I like consistency… I like things to be the same every time. I’m analytical like that. So why are some silences permissive and some prohibitive? The answer I got back was that some things were expedient and others were additions. Additions were not allowed. For years now this has been stuck in my craw. How can we tell what’s expedient and what’s an addition? There’s no command on how to tell the difference, so how do I know that the difference in and of itself is not an addition?

Lately I’ve been diving into this a lot. I’ve been emailing friends, reading blogs, and studying scriptures. I’ve been searching and searching for examples on what to do with silences. I started with Nadab and Abihu

Lev 10:1-2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.  (2)  And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Simple… the fire wasn’t commanded. Silence is prohibitive. Good deal. It was simple until I was reading in Exodus.

Exo 30:9 Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.

This is talking about the incense altar. It piqued my interest because Nadab and Abihu were burning incense.  It appears to me that they were violating a direct command of God, not taking liberty with a silence. The same goes for Uzzah. They were commanded not to touch the Ark.

Now I had to start searching fro silences. And I was having a hard time with it. One of my buddies remarked to me very wisely, “If they were written about in the Bible, they wouldn’t be silences.” I didn’t really have a response to that one. He’s right. By definition if something is written about it is discussed. I was still bothered though until I was reading some comments about instrumental music on Jay Guin’s blog. I came across this comment.

He was right, the Law said that God could only be worshiped at the Tabernacle. Later it became the Temple. If we recall that’s what led to trouble between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. In the North the king was scared his people would leave him if they worshiped in Jerusalem. Neither Jesus nor the apostles condemn the addition to God’s Law of adding a synagogue. However, Jesus does disapprove of corban. Why?

Mar 7:9-13 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.  (10)  For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:  (11)  But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.  (12)  And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;  (13)  Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

We can see here that the tradition of Corban was used to subvert direct commandments of God (not inferences). They used Corban so they didn’t have to treat their father and mother and they were commanded. Let’s contrast this with the synagogue that came about because the people were striving to serve God even though they were in a position that they couldn’t keep to the Tabernacle. This reminded me of the word of Christ.

Mar 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

If we look at the context of this that Jesus and his disciples are traveling through a corn field on the Sabbath day. The disciples became hungry and started to pluck ears of corn, which is harvesting, which is work, which is forbidden. Bad disciples! Jesus responds by telling the story of David found in 1 Samuel 21 (good story to read). Jesus goes on to tell us that the Sabbath was made for man. It was made to give us a time to stop and reflect on God. The disciples had violated the law, but not its intent.

That is what we should look for in every silence we try to interpret. Not what rule do I have to follow… but are we serving God or rebelling against Him? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 8 that some men can eat meat sacrificed to idols and not sin, but some men that eat meat sacrificed to idols sin. Everything goes back to our heart, and what we intend.

Act 17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;

I’ve always loved this description of Paul’s preaching. Christians were so well known that they were considered to turn the world upside down. To have changed everything. And thank God for that. But why did the message of Christ turn the world upside down? What was there that was not around before?

Forgiveness

What a new and refreshing concept to the world it was. No more sacrifices, no more rolling sin forward. Our connection with God was restored and we were once again His children fully justified. What a wonderful change that Christ brought to the world.

Act 2:37-39 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  (38)  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  (39)  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

It’s easy to think sometimes that we were the ones that invented feeling guilty. But that sick feeling we get in our stomach when we know we’ve done wrong goes all the way back to the Garden. Even at the day of Pentecost it was felt by the crowd. As we know this is only 50 days after Christ was crucified. Many of these men were there, and it’s likely many of them were calling for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus.

Another thing that we must remember about the day of Pentecost was that under Jewish law a fact have to be established by 2 or 3 witnesses. On this day 120 witnesses had come down from the Upper Room to establish that Christ really did rise from the dead. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:6 that more than 500 had seen Him.

Imagine the guilt of having killed a man, but then knowing that not only had He raised from the dead, but you could have forgiveness too!

Compassion

Another reason that the Gospel put the world in an uproar was the compassion Jesus and the Apostles had.

Luk 7:40-43 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.  (41)  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  (42)  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  (43)  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

The more I read the Bible, the more I’m convinced the Jews liked riddles and puzzles. Samson gave one at his wedding, the Pharisees often set riddles before Christ, and Christ would set riddles before them.

We all know that the Pharisees would often question themselves because Christ would let sinners touch him, or He would hang around them. That was a big no no. I mean if we were around sinners, people might think that we were sinners… and that would be the appearance of evil!

But the Pharisees had a problem that is all too common today. For those of us that were “raised right” it’s hard to have compassion on a sinner. It’s hard to understand why they just don’t live “right.” And we tend to reject those people such as the Pharisees did. But we look to where Jesus and His Apostles took their ministry… it’s too the poor, the sick, the sinners. They are the ones that love the Gospel so dearly. I hear mission reports from other countries where people did not previously know about Christ and they come to Him in droves when they hear the Gospel.

Didn’t Preach Differences

We must remember that the letters that Paul wrote weren’t to pat churches on the back. Many of them were to chastise. But even so, look at how he speaks of these brothers in error.

1Co 1:1-8 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,  (2)  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:  (3)  Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  (4)  I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;  (5)  That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;  (6)  Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:  (7)  So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:  (8)  Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s a pretty flattering opening for a congregation that I don’t know anyone who would fellowship if they were around today. Their assembly was out of order, they didn’t know how to partake of the Lord’s Supper, they were divided, they were suing each other… the list goes on and on.

Paul doesn’t start by telling them that here’s a list of things to get right on or they’re out. He entreats them as brothers and then shows them their error. But Paul didn’t only use this tactic of starting with a common denominator when he spoke to his fellow Christians. He did it with everyone.

1Co 9:20-23 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;  (21)  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.  (22)  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  (23)  And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

Galatians 5:13-15

I was reading this tonight and thought I’d share.

Gal 5:13-15  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  (14)  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  (15)  But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Liberal Vs. Conservative

My main goal with this blog is to show the dangers and inconsistencies in the ultra conservative mindset. For convenience sake I call the ultra conservative position Pharisaical. Some would say that because I have made, and have no plans at this time to write articles about the ultra liberal position that I’m automatically in that category. I don’t write on ultra liberals because I have very limited knowledge of the position. I’ll leave critique of their views to people who know more on the subject. Over the years a lot of mud has been slung back in forth between the two camps and I do not wish to add to it. I do, however, know the Pharisee position very well having grown up in it.

I only ask that those who read my articles do so with an open an honest heart. Regardless of position we all have the same goal. Let’s remember that our enemies are not people, but principles and ideas.

What’s Wrong With Being a Pharisee?

This is a question that I’ve asked myself a lot over the last few years. After all, the Pharisees generally meant well. And that’s not to say that every person that’s conservative is a Pharisee. Pharisaism is a hyperconservitism. It is only obtained when the traditions become the law as we read in various examples. I’d like to take a look at some of the charges that Jesus brought against the Pharisees.

Mat 23:2-4 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:  (3)  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  (4)  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Many of the things that the Pharisees taught were true. And that’s an important fact to remember. The problem is that they often didn’t do as they taught.

Mat 23:5-7 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,  (6)  And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,  (7)  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

The Pharisees love to have the approval of men. They can’t stand for people, especially other Pharisees, to not approve of their actions. It creates a pride as they all try to out Pharisee each other.

Mat 23:8-12 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.  (9)  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  (10)  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.  (11)  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  (12)  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

A lot of people take these passages as proof that we are not to have titles here on this Earth. They speak ill of denominations that use titles such as priest, reverend, etc. But if we stop there we don’t absorb the essence of what Jesus is telling us. We are all brothers and sisters. None of us is above or better than anyone else. We are to have a humble manner about us. Those who are Pharisees may not use titles, but they think that they are better than other Christians for many reason (doctrine, knowledge, purer lifestyle, etc.).

Mat 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

To me, this is one of the most interesting “Woes.” The Pharisees tell other people that they are not going to Heaven. And by their actions they prevent people from going to Heaven, but they don’t enter into the Kingdom themselves. By continually trying to “guard” God’s Kingdom against corruption, they find themselves on the outside.

Mat 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.

We see here that Pharisees neglect the widows and they pray long prayers just to be heard. You can’t go into too many churches without hearing the latter. But what about the former? Have you checked in with the widows in your congregation lately to see if they needed anything? Or is that “someone else’s” job?

Mat 23:15 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.

When I think of this one I think of all of my friends (and I’ve done the same thing many times) that have sat down with people of other denominations and tried to “save” them. They go through a long drawn out process, only to make people who already claim Christ follow the traditions that they believe in.

Mat 23:16-24 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!  (17)  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?  (18)  And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.  (19)  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?  (20)  Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.  (21)  And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.  (22)  And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.  (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.

Here Jesus points out the flaws in their logic. Pharisees divide things so finite that it’s laughable. Everyone uses faulty logic occasionally. But we really need to examine ourselves and make sure that we’re not swallowing camels.

Mat 23:25-28 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.

Everyone likes to appear righteous. Especially at church the place that everyone else appears righteous. The Pharisees make a show about how righteous they are, but they’re still sinners like everyone else. Do we try to look like we’re acting right, giving no appearance of evil, but sin when no one is looking?

Mat 23:29-39 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?  (34)  Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:  (35)  That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.  (36)  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.  (37)  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  (38)  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.  (39)  For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

The last thing Jesus says about the Pharisees is that they don’t have a good sense of reality. They talk about how they would do things if the prophets lived in their generation. However, they had the chance and they crucified Christ. Modern day Pharisees often talk about what they would do if they were in Biblical times. However, they staunchly oppose anything that does not fit in with their traditions even if it comes from the Word of God.

Pharisees Anonymous

My name is Thomas Paulson, and I am a Pharisee.

For my first post I’ll give a little background about myself. I grew up in a very strict sect of the Church of Christ (Restoration movement, not Mormons). The name a lot of people give us is the “Anti’s,” because we’re anti everything (one man minister, musical instruments, Sunday School, Bible Classes, kitchens, One Cup, the list literally goes on and on).  About five years ago I decided to question everything I had been taught, and see what the Bible had to say on all subjects. Having grown up in a tradition that boasts we always “Speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent,” this was a hard process to go through.

I often look back to that time and I’m frustrated at how blind I was. But then I think in another five years I’ll be frustrated at how blind I am now.

The purpose of this blog is to share the studies I’ve had over the last few years, and to share my future ones.

As with alcoholism, phariseeism is easy to slip back into. My secondary goal is to avoid slipping back in.

Mat 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.

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