- A member of a Jewish sect that flourished during the 1st century B.C and 1st century A.D. and that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah.
- A sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the Pharisees were the personification of evil. There was no reason for a call to repentance because, in the words of Jesus, “the Pharisees were children of hell” (cf. Matthew 23:15) and all ‘their’ fruit will be uprooted (cf. Matthew 15:13). Jesus reserves His seven woes, not for Herod or Caesar but to a group of lay religious types who sought to bring the requirements of Temple holiness to their table.
Why were the Pharisees headed toward hell?
According to Josephus, the total number of Pharisees amounted to about 6000. Jesus honored the seat of Moses (cf. Matthew 23:1-2) but more than once challenged the content of their teaching (cf. Matthew 5:21-48) and most importantly, their hypocrisy (cf. Jeremiah 42:20; Matthew 6:2).
The religion of the Pharisees became a platform for money, sex, and power. Jesus knew the heart of an average Pharisee was pure fakery (Matthew 23:25). Our knowledge-intensive society sets us up for a Pharisaical Revival. We have access to the best tools in Church history. Unfortunately, these tools make this generation the one most likely to divorce knowledge from spirituality.
God’s woes apply to everyone else while you develop your own extra-biblical woes no one dare transgress.
When God says “Woe to you,” it’s time for us to say “Woe is Me.”
- Woe unto u s! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. (I Samuel 4:7-8)
- Woe to me! I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (cf. Isaiah 6)
- Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, “This is my sickness, and I must endure it.” (cf. Jeremiah 10:19)
- Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! (Psalm 120:5)
Luke 18:11, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[ ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
The apostles and those who followed them believed the gateway to the Spirit was “Woe is Me” (aka “mortification of the flesh”). The Puritan John Owen, in The Mortification of Sin, wrote: “Mortification is the soul’s vigorous opposition to self.”
- “If you live after the flesh”, says the apostle, “you shall die, but if through the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live” (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5 and Galatians 5:24).
- “For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. … Let no one make any more trouble for me because I carry the scars of Jesus on my own body” (Galatians 6:18).
- “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (I Cor 9:27).
- “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” ( Col. 1:24).
- “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving” (Hebrews 12:4).
The Only Cure is Christ
As a Pharisee, Saul loved to Pray. Before the Damascus road experience, as a Rabbi, Paul spent much time studying the Torah. But did you know prayer was the “central occupation of the Pharisee
As a Pharisee, Saul longed for the coming of the Messiah. Paul and his fellow Pharisees awaited the Messiah’s advent (Acts 1:6).
As a Pharisee Saul loved to share his faith. Missions were a major force in the life of Paul, the Pharisee
Then Christ appeared to Paul.