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The Pharisees truly wanted to honor God, but ultimately missed the point.

Key Points:

  • God’s original commands were the 613 laws of Moses (called “Torah”) that guided the ancient nation of Israel.
  • The Mishnah was an oral tradition of commentary on the Mosaic Law that introduced additional, man-made rules that “built a fence” around the Mosaic Law so people wouldn’t even come close to breaking God’s commandments.
  • The Pharisees were concerned with keeping these additional commandments and especially with having the outward appearance of keeping them.
  • Jesus’s critique of the Pharisees was that they were legalistic – only concerned with the external appearance of keeping the Law rather than the inward spirit of the Law.
  • For Christians today, we should take care not to fall into the trap of Pharisaism – caring more about the letter of the law than the true meaning and power behind it.

Quote This:

Matthew 23:27-28 What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

See Also: Legalism, New Testament, Salvation

Talk About It
  1. What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  2. Why do people find legalism and rule-following appealing?
  3. Read Matthew 23:27-28. In your opinion, what defines a modern-day Pharisees? Explain.
  4. What is the “spirit” of the law of the Sabbath? Do you keep it? Explain.
  5. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.