119. The Principles of Identifying Pharisees
(1) Pharisees are essentially hypocrites, outwardly humble and patient, but by nature insidious and malicious. They hate the truth and oppose God;
(2) Pharisees are especially arrogant and self-righteous. They often preach letters and doctrines to beguile others and make others worship and obey them, yet they do not accept the truth in the least;
(3) Pharisees suffer and pay a price only so that they may gain blessings and be crowned. They focus on adherence to rules and religious ritual, without ever practicing the truth;
(4) Pharisees only pursue false spirituality. They speak empty words of self-knowledge, deceiving and ensnaring others, and never truly repent or change.
Bible Verses for Reference:
“And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Mat 6:5).
“Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works: for they say, and do not. 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. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi” (Mat 23:2–7).
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore you shall receive the greater damnation.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
“Woe to you, you blind guides, which say, Whoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! You fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, Whoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is guilty. You fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Whoever therefore shall swear by the altar, swears by it, and by all things thereon. And whoever shall swear by the temple, swears by it, and by Him that dwells therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by Him that sits thereon.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone. You blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, 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. Why you be witnesses to yourselves, that you are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill you up then the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? Why, behold, I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall you whip in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, All these things shall come on this generation” (Mat 23:13–36).
Relevant Words of God:
What is the definition of the appellation, “Pharisees”? They are people who are hypocritical, completely fake, and put on an act in everything they do, while pretending to be good, kind, and positive. Is this what they are actually like? Given that they are hypocrites, everything that is manifested and revealed in them is false; it is all pretense—it is not their true face. Their true face is hidden within their hearts; it is out of sight. If people do not pursue the truth, and if they do not understand the truth, then what do those theories they have gained become? Do they not become the letters and doctrines to which people often refer? People use these so-called correct doctrines to camouflage and package themselves so nicely. Wherever they go, the things they talk about, the things they say, and their external behavior all appear right and good to others; they are all in line with human notions and tastes. In others’ eyes, they are both devout and humble, capable of forbearance and tolerance, and can love others and love God. Actually, though, all of this is fake; it is all just pretense and a way in which they package themselves. On the outside, they appear loyal to God, but they are actually just performing for others to see. When no one is looking, they are not the slightest bit loyal, and everything they do is perfunctory. Superficially, they have given up their families and careers, appearing to work hard and expend themselves; in actual fact, however, they are secretly profiting from the church and stealing offerings. Everything they outwardly reveal—all their behavior—is fake. This is what is meant by a hypocritical Pharisee. Where do “Pharisees”—these people come from? Do they emerge among the unbelievers? All of them emerge among believers. Why do these believers transform thusly? Could God’s words have made them that way? What is the main reason that they turn into such people? It is that they have taken the wrong path. They have taken God’s words as a tool with which to arm themselves; they arm themselves with these words, treating them as capital with which to secure a living and get something for nothing. They merely preach doctrines, yet have never put those words into practice. What sort of people are those who continue to preach words and doctrines despite never having followed God’s way? These are hypocritical Pharisees. That little bit of supposedly good behavior and good ways of expressing themselves, and what little they have given up and expended, are entirely forced; they are all just acts that they put on. They are entirely fake; all those actions are pretense. In these people’s hearts, there is not the slightest reverence for God, nor do they even have any genuine faith in God. More than that, they are of the nonbelievers. If people do not pursue the truth, then they will walk this sort of path, and they will become Pharisees. Is that not frightful? In what place do the Pharisees gather? It is a marketplace. In God’s eyes, that is religion; it is not the church of God, nor is it a place in which He is worshiped. Thus, if people do not pursue the truth, then no matter how many literal words and superficial doctrines about God’s utterances they absorb, it will be of no use.
Excerpted from “Six Indicators of Progress in Life” in Records of Christ’s Talks
In Israel, “Pharisee” used to be a sort of title. Why is it now a label instead? This is because the Pharisees have become representatives of a type of person. What are the characteristics of this type of person? They chant slogans and use high-sounding language; they are skilled at pretending, at packaging themselves, at hiding their true selves, and they affect great nobility, great holiness and uprightness, great fair-handedness and honor. As a result, they do not practice the truth in the least. How do they act? They read scripture, they preach, they teach others to do good, not to do evil, not to resist God; they say pleasant-sounding things and behave well in front of others, yet, when others’ backs are turned, they steal offerings. The Lord Jesus said they “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” This means that all their behavior seems good on its surface—they chant slogans ostentatiously, they speak lofty theories, and their words sound pleasant, yet their deeds are a disordered mess, entirely resistant of God. Their behaviors and outward appearances are all pretense, all fraud; in their hearts, they have not the slightest love for the truth, nor for positive things. They are sick of truth, sick of all that comes from God, and sick of positive things. What do they love? Do they love fairness and righteousness? (No.) How can you tell they do not love these things? (The Lord Jesus came to do work and spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, yet they condemned Him.) Had they not condemned Him, would you be able to tell? Before the Lord Jesus came to do work, what might have told you that they did not love fairness and righteousness? You would not have been able to tell, would you? All their behavior is pretense, and they use this pretense of good behavior to defraud others of their trust. Is this not hypocrisy and deceit? Can such deceivers love the truth? What is the hidden purpose of this good behavior of theirs? One part of their purpose is to cheat others; the other part is to deceive others, to win them over and be worshiped by them, and, in the end, to receive rewards. How clever must their techniques be, to pull off such a large swindle? Do such people love fairness and righteousness, then? Of course not. They love status, they love fame and fortune, and they wish to receive rewards. Do they put God’s words of guidance for people into practice? Not at all. They do not live out a bit of them; they simply disguise and package themselves to trick people and win them over, to shore up their own status, to shore up their own reputation. Once these things are secure, they use them to procure capital and a source of income. Is this not contemptible? It can be seen in all these behaviors of theirs that it is their essence not to love the truth, for they never put the truth into practice. What is the sign that they do not put the truth into practice? This was the biggest sign: The Lord Jesus came to do work and everything He said was right, everything He said was the truth. How did they treat that? (They did not accept it.) Did they not accept the Lord Jesus’ words because they believed them to be wrong, or did they not accept them despite knowing they were right? (They did not accept them despite knowing they were right.) And what could cause this? They do not love the truth, and they abhor positive things. All the Lord Jesus said was correct, without any error, and though they could not find any fault in the Lord Jesus’ words to use against Him, they said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” They set out to find faults in the Lord Jesus’ words to use against Him, and, unable to find any, they condemned Him, and then they conspired: “Have Him crucified. It’s either Him or us.” In this way, they pit themselves against the Lord Jesus. Though they did not believe that Lord Jesus was the Lord, He was a good person who broke neither secular law nor the law of Moses; why would they condemn the Lord Jesus? Why did they treat the Lord Jesus so? It can be seen in how wicked and malicious these people are—they are evil in the extreme! The evil countenance the Pharisees expose could not be more different from their camouflage of kindness. There are many who cannot discern which is their true countenance and which is the falsehood, yet the Lord Jesus’ appearance and work revealed them all. How well Pharisees disguise themselves, how kind they seem on the outside—had the facts not been revealed, no one would be able to see them for what they are.
Excerpted from “The Most Important Part of Believing in God Is Putting the Truth Into Practice” in Records of Christ’s Talks
What was the chief manifestation of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees? They only pored over Scripture and did not seek the truth. When they read God’s words, they did not pray or seek; instead, they studied the words of God, they studied what God said and did, and so turned His words into a kind of theory, into a doctrine that they taught to others. This is what poring over God’s words is. So why did they do that? What was it they pored over? In their eyes, these were not the words of God, they were not the expressions of God, much less were they the truth, but rather a form of scholarship. Such scholarship, in their eyes, should be passed on, it should be spread, and only this would have been spreading the way of God and the gospel. This is what they called “preaching,” and the sermon they preached was theology.
… The Pharisees treated the theology and theory they had mastered as a kind of knowledge, as a tool for condemning people and measuring whether they were right or wrong. They even used it on the Lord Jesus—that was how the Lord Jesus was condemned. Their appraisal of people, and the way they treated them, was never based on their substance, or on whether what they said was right or wrong, much less on the source or provenance of their words. They just condemned and measured people based on unyielding words and doctrines that they had mastered. And so, even though these Pharisees knew that what the Lord Jesus did was not a sin, and did not contravene the law, they still condemned Him, because what the Lord Jesus said appeared to be at odds with the knowledge and scholarship they had mastered and the theological theory they expounded. And the Pharisees just would not loosen their grip on these words and phrases, they clung onto this knowledge and would not let it go. What was the only possible outcome in the end? They would not acknowledge that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah who would come, or that there was truth in what the Lord Jesus said, much less that what the Lord Jesus did was in keeping with the truth. They found some unsubstantiated charges to condemn the Lord Jesus with—but in fact, in their hearts, did they know whether these sins they condemned Him with were valid? They did. So why did they still condemn Him thus? (They did not want to believe that the high and mighty God in their minds could have been the Lord Jesus, this image of an ordinary Son of man.) They did not want to accept this fact. And what was the nature of their refusal to accept this? Was there not something of trying to reason with God in this? What they meant was, “Could God do that? If God were incarnated, He must surely be born of distinguished lineage. What’s more, He must accept the tutelage of scribes and Pharisees, learn this knowledge, and read much Scripture. Only after He possesses this knowledge can He take on the title of ‘incarnation’.” They believed that, firstly, You are not thus qualified, so You are not God; secondly, without this knowledge You cannot do the work of God, much less can You be God; thirdly, You cannot work outside the temple—You are not in the temple now, You are always among the sinners, so the work You do is beyond the scope of God’s work. Where did the basis of their condemnation come from? From Scripture, from the mind of man, and from the theological education they had received. Because they were swollen with notions, imaginings, and knowledge, they believed this knowledge to be right, to be the truth, to be the basis, and at no time could God contravene these things. Did they seek the truth? They did not. What they sought were their own notions and imaginings, and their own experiences, and they tried to use these to define God and determine whether He was right or wrong. What was the ultimate outcome of this? They condemned the work of God and nailed Him to the cross.
Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (7)” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Do you wish to know the root of why the Pharisees opposed Jesus? Do you wish to know the substance of the Pharisees? They were full of fantasies about the Messiah. What is more, they believed only that the Messiah would come, yet did not seek the truth of life. And so, even today they still await the Messiah, for they have no knowledge of the way of life, and do not know what the way of truth is. How, say you, could such foolish, stubborn and ignorant people gain God’s blessing? How could they behold the Messiah? They opposed Jesus because they did not know the direction of the Holy Spirit’s work, because they did not know the way of truth spoken by Jesus, and, furthermore, because they did not understand the Messiah. And since they had never seen the Messiah and had never been in the company of the Messiah, they made the mistake of clinging in vain to the name of the Messiah while opposing the substance of the Messiah by any means possible. These Pharisees in substance were stubborn, arrogant, and did not obey the truth. The principle of their belief in God was: No matter how profound Your preaching, no matter how high Your authority, You are not Christ unless You are called the Messiah. Are these views not preposterous and ridiculous?
Excerpted from “By the Time You Behold the Spiritual Body of Jesus, God Will Have Made Heaven and Earth Anew” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
If, in their faith, people treat the truth as a set of regulations to be adhered to, then is their faith not liable to turn into religious ceremonies? And what is the difference between such religious ceremonies and Christianity? They may be deeper and more progressive in how they say things, but if their faith has just become a set of regulations and a type of ceremony, then does that not mean that it has turned into Christianity? (Yes, it does.) There are differences between the old teachings and the new, but if the teachings are nothing more than a kind of theory and have merely become a form of ceremony, of doctrine for people—and, likewise, if they cannot gain the truth from it or enter into the reality of the truth—then is their faith not just the same as Christianity? In essence, is this not Christianity? (Yes, it is.) Therefore, in your behavior and the performance of your duties, in which things do you have views and states that are the same as or similar to those of believers in Christianity? (In adhering to regulations, and in being equipped with words and doctrines.) (In focusing on the appearance of being spiritual and exhibiting good behavior, and on being devout and humble.) You seek to outwardly have good behavior, do your utmost to package yourselves in a kind of spiritual appearance, speak spiritual doctrine, say things that are spiritually correct, do things that are relatively approved of in human notions and imagination, and pretend to be virtuous. You speak words and doctrines from on high, teach people to do good, be virtuous people, and understand the truth; you put on airs of being spiritual, and you exude a superficial spirituality in everything you say and do. However, in practice, you have never sought the truth; as soon as you encounter a problem, you act entirely according to human will, tossing God aside. You have never acted according to the principles of the truth, you have never understood what is spoken of in the truth, what God’s will is, what the standards that He requires of man are—you have never taken these matters seriously or concerned yourselves with them. Do such external actions and internal states of people—that is, this type of faith—comprise a fear for God and the shunning of evil? If there is no connection between people’s faith and their pursuit of the truth, then do they or do they not believe in God? No matter how many years people who have no connection with pursuing the truth might believe in Him, can they or can they not attain true, God-fearing reverence and genuinely shun evil? (They cannot.) So what is the external behavior of such people? What kind of path can they walk? (The path of Pharisees.) What do they spend their days equipping themselves with? Isn’t it with words and theories? Do they not spend their days arming themselves, dressing themselves up with words and theories to make themselves more like the Pharisees, more spiritual, and more like people who supposedly serve God? Just what is the nature of all these methods? Is it worshiping God? Is it genuine faith in Him? (No, it isn’t.) So what are they doing? They are deceiving God; they are just going through the steps of a process, and engaging in religious ceremonies. They are waving the flag of faith and performing religious rites, trying to deceive God in order to achieve their aim of being blessed. They do not worship God at all.
Excerpted from “Only If You Live Before God at All Times Can You Walk the Path of Salvation” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some people only arm themselves with certain truths for emergencies or to forsake themselves and help others, and not to solve their own troubles; we call them “selfless people.” They regard others as puppets of the truth and themselves as its masters, teaching others to hold fast to the truth and not to be passive, while they themselves remain as spectators on the sidelines. What kind of people are these? They arm themselves with some words of truth but merely use them to lecture others, while doing nothing at all to keep from meeting their own destruction. How pathetic! If their words can help others, then why can they not help themselves? We should label them as hypocrites who have no reality. They supply words of truth to others and ask others to put them into practice, while making no effort to practice them themselves. Are they not despicable? They themselves clearly cannot do it, yet they force others to put the words of truth into practice—what a cruel method this is! They are not using reality to help others; they are not using love to provide for others. They are simply deceiving and harming people. If this continues, with each person passing the words of truth onto the next, then will this not end up with everyone merely speaking the words of truth while being incapable themselves of putting it into practice? How can such people change? They do not recognize their own problems at all; how can there be a path forward for them?
Excerpted from “Those Who Love the Truth Have a Path Forward” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some people have a penchant for drawing attention to themselves. In the presence of their brothers and sisters, they might say they are indebted to God, but behind their backs, they do not practice the truth and act entirely differently. Are these not religious Pharisees? A person who truly loves God and possesses the truth is one who is loyal to God but does not outwardly show off as such. Such a person is willing to practice the truth when situations arise, and does not speak or act in a way that goes against their conscience. This sort of person demonstrates wisdom when matters arise, and is principled in his or her deeds regardless of the circumstances. This kind of person can provide true service. There are some who often pay lip service to their indebtedness to God; they spend their days with brows locked in worry, putting on an affected air and pretending to be pitiable. How despicable! If you were to ask them, “Can you tell me about how you are indebted to God?” then they would be rendered speechless. If you are loyal to God, then do not talk outwardly about it; instead, demonstrate your love for God by way of actual practice, and pray to Him with a true heart. Those who just deal with God verbally and perfunctorily are all hypocrites! Some speak of indebtedness to God each time they pray, and begin to weep each time they pray, even without being moved by the Holy Spirit. People such as this are possessed by religious rituals and notions; they live by such rituals and notions, always believing that those actions please God and that He favors superficial godliness or sorrowful tears. What good can come of such absurd people? In order to demonstrate humility, some feign graciousness when speaking in the presence of others. Some are deliberately servile when in the presence of other people, acting like lambs without an ounce of strength. Is this a manner befitting people of the kingdom? People of the kingdom should be lively and free, innocent and open, honest and lovable, and be living in a state of freedom. They should have integrity and dignity and be able to stand witness wherever they go; such people are beloved by both God and man. Those who are novices in the faith have too many outward practices; they must first undergo a period of being dealt with and broken. People who have faith in God deep down are not outwardly distinguishable from others, but their actions and deeds are commendable. Only such people can be deemed to be living out the word of God. If you preach the gospel every day to various people in an effort to bring them to salvation, yet in the end are still living by rules and doctrines, then you cannot bring glory to God. Such people are religious figures, as well as hypocrites.
What do the superficial good deeds of humans represent? They represent the flesh, and even the best of outward practices do not represent life; they can only show your own individual temperament. The outward practices of humanity cannot fulfill the desire of God. You constantly speak of your indebtedness to God, yet you cannot supply the life of others or inspire them to love God. Do you believe that those actions of yours will satisfy God? You feel that your actions are in line with God’s will, and that they are of the spirit, but in truth, they are all absurd! You believe that what pleases you and what you are willing to do are precisely those things in which God delights. Can your likes represent God? Can a person’s character represent God? What pleases you is precisely that which God abhors, and your habits are those which God loathes and rejects. If you feel indebted, then go and pray before God; there is no need to speak of it to others. If you do not pray before God, and instead constantly draw attention to yourself in the presence of others, can this satisfy God’s will? If your actions always exist in appearance alone, then this means that you are vain in the extreme. What manner of humans are those who only carry out superficial good deeds and are devoid of reality? Such people are just hypocritical Pharisees and religious figures! If you do not shed your outward practices and are unable to make changes, then the elements of hypocrisy in you will grow even more. The greater your elements of hypocrisy, the more resistance there is toward God. In the end, such people will surely be eliminated!
Excerpted from “In Faith, One Must Focus on Reality—Engaging in Religious Ritual Is Not Faith” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Most people nowadays focus on methods of practice, yet they do not do so in order to pursue the truth and achieve life growth. This is where they have gone astray. There are also some who are capable of receiving new light, but their methods of practice do not change. They bring their old religious notions with them as they look to receive God’s words of today, so what they receive is still doctrine colored by religious notions; they are not receiving today’s light simply. As a result, their practices are tainted; they are the same old practices in new packaging. However well they might practice, they are hypocrites. God leads people in doing new things every day, demanding that each day they gain new insight and understanding, and requiring that they not be old-fashioned and repetitive. If you have believed in God for many years, yet your methods of practice have not changed at all, and if you are still zealous and busy about external matters, yet do not have a quiet heart to bring before God to enjoy His words, then you will obtain nothing. When it comes to accepting God’s new work, if you do not plan differently, do not go about your practice in a new way, and do not pursue any new understanding, but instead cling to the old and receive only some limited new light, without changing the way you practice, then such people as you are in this stream in name only; in actuality, they are religious Pharisees outside the stream of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
All those who do not seek obedience to God in their faith oppose Him. God asks that people seek the truth, that they thirst for His words, eat and drink His words, and put them into practice, so that they may achieve obedience to God. If these are your true intentions, then God will surely raise you up, and will surely be gracious toward you. This is undoubtable and unchangeable. If your intention is not to obey God, and you have other aims, then all that you say and do—your prayers before God, and even your every action—will be in opposition to Him. You may be soft-spoken and mild-mannered, your every action and expression may look proper, and you may appear to be one who obeys, but when it comes to your intentions and your views about faith in God, everything you do is in opposition to God; everything you do is evil. People who appear as obedient as sheep, but whose hearts harbor evil intentions, are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They directly offend God, and God will not spare a single one of them. The Holy Spirit will reveal each and every one of them and show everybody that all those who are hypocrites will, with certainty, be detested and rejected by the Holy Spirit. Worry not: God will reckon with and dispose of every last one of them in turn.
Excerpted from “In Your Faith in God You Should Obey God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh