During Jesus’ incarnation, the religious elite of His day, the scribes and Pharisees, would follow Him around and seek to trap Him, discredit Him and have Him arrested and killed.
The Pharisees honestly get a bad rap sometimes. During the 400 year silence prior to John the Baptist’s arrival on the scene, these men saw the godlessness of their countrymen and wanted to do something about it. They wanted Israel to live according to the Law.
So the strove to obey the Law as closely as possible. To obey God as His people.
The problem is they started adding to the Law.
The most common place was with the Sabbath. They had a lot of extra rules, particularly that there was to be no healing on the Sabbath.
So one day, Jesus is at Bethesda and sees a man who has been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (John 5:6-9a)
Jesus performs an amazing miracle in the life of this man. People should be celebrating, right?
Here’s the problem: “Now that day was the Sabbath” (v. 9b).
So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (v. 10-17)
The Pharisees sought to persecute Jesus because “he was doing these things on the Sabbath” (v. 16).
They did it because He broke their rules.
And they became so blind with pride that they could not see who Jesus was or what He was doing.
In Revelation chapter 2, Jesus sends a strong warning to the Ephesian church. He tells them that although He knows that they do not bear with those who are evil, do not put up with false teachers and endure patiently, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4).
Jesus warns them that He will shut down the church because they are devoted… but dead.
They did not pursue orthodoxy and sound doctrine with a passion for knowing and proclaiming Jesus, but only to refute error.
And that’s a real shame, because we need both.
Over the last few days, there’s been a bit of a hubbub in certain corners of the interweb. For those who might not have been paying attention, John Piper has invited Rick Warren to the 2010 Desiring God National Conference. And the reaction has been… interesting.
Here’s what Piper had to say about inviting Warren to the conference (note, the video’s about 9 minutes long):
For many it’s a bit of a head scratcher. Rick Warren is perhaps best characterized as the most pragmatic pastor in the known universe in terms of methodology. Seems like an odd fit, doesn’t it?
This has caused some to question the wisdom of the decision with what seems to be a genuine spirit of humility.
Some have supported it as an opportunity to have Warren speak at the conference, bring some clarity to where he stands theologically.
Others, well… the response has been less than pleasant.
The word “heretic” has been used liberally.
I wonder though if for some of us might be in a similar danger as the Pharisees and the Ephesians.
Seeking to obey God fully is good and necessary, but we must be wary of adding rules that aren’t found in Scripture.
Refuting error is essential, but best served by proclaiming what is right and good and true.
My concern for many, myself included, is that we would find ourselves to have right doctrine, but fail to be transformed by it.
That we, like the Ephesians and Pharisees, would be proud, devoted and dead.
Questions to consider:
- Do you speak more about what is wrong that what is right?
- Are your words characterized by joy or anger?
- How would your spouse, friends and coworkers answer?