Email Exchange on Paul and Pharisees
Michael's Email That Paul Is Unlike Pharisees (7/28/16)
Paul's message is of the spirit of the law and not the letter, the very thing that Christ attacked the Pharisees for. They followed the letter and not the spirit. They were outwardly effective and not inwardly inspired or driven. They employed intellect and rationale rather than love, honor and dignity.
The Pharisees, Jesus taught, neglected the entire Law except one tiny provision. What provision was that?
23 `Wo to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye give tithe of the mint, and the dill, and the cumin, and did neglect the weightier things of the Law -- the judgment, and the kindness [i.e., mercy] and the faith; these it behoved [you] to do, and those not to neglect. (Matt 23:23 YLT.)
So Jesus did not attack the Pharisees for following the Letter of the Law, but instead for not following almost the entire Law except tithing.
Paul was very much like other Pharisees -- Paul neglected the Law except provisions used by the religious elite to guilt people into financial support for themselves.
The Pharisees inspected people's vegetable gardens to collect the tithe - an agricultural cut of 10%, but from self-interest. They no doubt thought they served the same job as Levites who would collect tithes, and lawfully take a 10% cut, and so the Pharisees evidently collected the tithe with the same intention. See Neh 10:38
Paul could not cite the tithing law to guilt Gentiles to whom he wrote as tithing only applied to "sons of Israel," just like circumcision only applied to "sons of Israel." See Law of Tithing on Gentiles? Thus, not surprisingly, the primary command from the Torah-law which Paul taught Gentiles as still applicable to them is found in 1 Corinthians 9:9 -- the Mosaic Law that you cannot muzzle an ox -- preventing the ox from feeding from the field -- eating while it is treading out the corn (Deut 25:4). Paul said this Mosaic law implies you must support those teachers who teach you -- implying Paul had a right to financial support based upon Deut 25:4. However, that command of animal husbandry had nothing to do with supporting financially one's teacher.
In fact, Jesus taught us not to take wages for preaching and teaching. (Matthew 10:8.) And thus Paul made of no effect the commandment of Christ by virtue of a commandment of a man -- Paul, a Pharisee -- based on a far-fetched application of Deut 25:4.
This was the other fault that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for in Matthew 15:6 -- they made of none effect a commandment of God – the duty to honor your parents – by their self-made law about providing a donation to the temple. By you paying a gift to the temple, the Pharisees said you no longer had to help your parents when they were in financial distress, contrary to what Jesus said the law implied from your duty to honor your parents. No doubt the Pharisees based this principle too on some flimsy application from the Law given Moses. Paul did the same to a commandment of Christ about not taking wages for preaching by an obtuse application of a Deuteronomy verse about not muzzling an ox. Paul loosely extracted from it his right to claim an entitlement to eat from the "field" he helped sow just as an ox had over the cornfield he furrowed. Oh the inconsistencies of Paul! Oh the strange Bible applications of Paul which led him to contradict Christ's words in Matthew 10:8!
Finally, the other critique by Jesus about the Pharisees were their rule about not eating with sinners, such as prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. Jesus did so in Luke 15 in which context he defended this eating-practice by delivering the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Luke introduces this:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2 ESV.)
Jesus then tells the Parable that the good shepherd will diligently seek out one of "my sheep" who wanders away even though ninety-nine sheep did not stray. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that their rule to not receive and eat with sinners was wrongful, and contrary to God's will. Jesus was going to recover "my sheep" (which includes brothers / sisters in Christ) who wandered away. He would rescue them by sitting at a meal to talk.
But what did Paul teach? The same thing as the Pharisees taught which Jesus condemned in the Parable of the Lost Sheep:
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church[a] whom you are to judge?13 God judges[b] those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:9-13 ESV.)
So Paul teaches you "not to even eat" or "associate" with one who says he is a brother but whom you judge a sinner -- exactly the same teaching of the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned for such principles, Jesus declaring them to be contrary to God's will.
Jesus likewise condemned the Pharisees making of none effect the sixth commandment to honor your father and mother which implies in Hebrew that children should support their parents in financial need. The Pharisees taught the child was excused if the child made a korban offering at the temple. It turns out Paul had a similar principle. We read in 2 Cor. 12: 14 KJV "the children ought not lay up for their parents, but the parents for the children."
Do you see any parallel about what Jesus condemned about the Pharisees and what Paul taught?
Blessings of Yah
Paul in his epistles shared a view similar to the Pharisees' doctrine of election and predestination. In this, Paul shared a similar implication that works worthy of repentance were not necessary for salvation. We learn the Pharisees' doctrine from John the Baptist's encounter with them in Matthew 3. As explained next, John says that these Vipers -- the Pharisees -- should not have come for baptism unless they had works worthy of repentance. When John says that if God wanted to he could raise sons of Abraham from the rocks, this was a critique on the doctrine of election and predestination of the Pharisees.
John the Baptist Spoke Against Two Pharisee Doctrines
John the Baptist — whom Jesus called the Greatest Prophet (Matt 11:11), excoriated the Pharisees for teaching a doctrine of election that discounted the need for any repentance, as we shall explain here. John proclaimed:
(7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come from God? (8) Produce the fruits of perfect repentance. (9) And do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father,’ for I tell you, that God is able to raise up his son Abraham from these stones. (10) And even now the axe lies at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that does not produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.” (Matt 3:7-10 OGM.)
What was John meaning by saying God could make stones into sons of Abraham? And in context, why is this contrasted with the Pharisees who resisted true repentance? John was making a rhetorical point about the Pharisees' doctrine of election. If God is simply unconcerned with a person’s heart, and would save the elect of Israel despite disobedience, then God could simply make stones into sons of Abraham. It would be all the same to God. But of course God does not want to save stones — heartless, emotionless and repentant-free stones. He wants loving obedient children.
To understand this point in context, one has to know the doctrine of election and predestination that John and Jesus too were battling against. As Ebinezer Ireson in The Methodist Preacher (Putnam: 1833) at 160 wrote:
The Pharisees were, at that time, the most rigid predestinarians in the world, and believed (as a matter of course) in the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation; and believed, also (as all do who credit the doctrine) that they were elect, because they were descendants of Abraham…. (Emphasis added.)
Paul, a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) himself, never gave up on this doctrine, oddly enough. Paul says “All Israel will be saved.” (Rom. 11:26). The wider context makes clear that this is an “election” and “mercy” of God, having nothing to do with a change in belief or "repentance.” Rather, it was to fulfill a supposed promise toward Israel. In Romans 11:26 we read:
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (Romans 11:25-32.)
Paul thus believes "all Israel is in unbelief" but “all Israel will be saved” and God will have "mercy upon all [of them]." How does this salvation come about? Based upon an “election” and “calling” of Israel that is “without repentance.” They will receive “mercy” through the “mercy” God bestows on Gentiles who “believed” which came about due to Israelite “unbelief.” How is this just? Because by the “unbelief” of Israel, the Gentiles received mercy. Now the belief of the Gentiles will impart mercy “upon all” of Israel — and thus “all Israel will be saved.”
What did John the Baptist say instead is the true basis of salvation? He said “God wants works worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8.) You cannot rely upon election and predestination to excuse the requirement. Oddly enough, Paul's doctrines then extended an election and predestination to Gentiles, equally without the "works worthy of repentance" necessary. Eph. 2:8-9.
So the cure to that doctrine of election and predestination of the Pharisees was, John says, to have "works worthy of repentance." God's promises of blessings to Abraham and his seed are not to each specific individual from physical birth, thus guaranteeing salvation, but only those sons of Abraham who love and obey Yahweh as did Abraham. Their individual blessing would be the Torah that would guide them to all blessings.
Jesus in the same chapter of Matthew then repeats the gospel of Works Worthy of Repentance. This lets us know Jesus likely was teaching this so as to reject and make clear that election and predestination are invalid doctrines, as they wrongly dispense with the necessity of repentance, including works worthy of repentance. See our article Works Worthy of Repentance.