1. Why the Lord Jesus cursed the Pharisees, and what the essence of the Pharisees was
Bible Verses for Reference:
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death. But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat 15:1–9).
“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:
Do you wish to know the root of why the Pharisees opposed Jesus? Do you wish to know the essence 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 pursue the life truth. 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 to the mere name of the Messiah while opposing the essence of the Messiah by any means possible. These Pharisees in essence 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. Is this belief not preposterous and ridiculous?
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. By the Time You Behold the Spiritual Body of Jesus, God Will Have Made Heaven and Earth Anew
The Jewish Pharisees used the law of Moses to condemn Jesus. They did not seek compatibility with the Jesus of that time, but diligently followed the law to the letter, to the extent that—after having charged Him with not following the law of the Old Testament and not being the Messiah—they ultimately nailed the innocent Jesus to the cross. What was their substance? Was it not that they didn’t seek the way of compatibility with the truth? They obsessed over each and every word of Scripture while paying heed neither to My will nor to the steps and methods of My work. They were not people who sought the truth, but people who rigidly clung to words; they were not people who believed in God, but people who believed in the Bible. Essentially, they were watchdogs of the Bible. In order to safeguard the interests of the Bible, to uphold the dignity of the Bible, and to protect the reputation of the Bible, they went so far as to nail the merciful Jesus to the cross. This they did merely for the sake of defending the Bible, and for the sake of maintaining the status of each and every word of the Bible in people’s hearts. So they preferred to forsake their future and the sin offering to condemn Jesus, who did not conform to the doctrine of Scripture, to death. Were they not all lackeys to each and every word of Scripture?
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. You Should Seek the Way of Compatibility With Christ
In the Bible, the Pharisees’ appraisal of Jesus Himself and the things that He did was: “… they said, He is beside Himself. … He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casts He out devils” (Mak 3:21–22). The scribes’ and Pharisees’ judgment of the Lord Jesus was not them merely imitating other people’s words, and neither was it baseless conjecture—it was the conclusion that they drew about the Lord Jesus from what they saw and heard of His actions. Although their conclusion was ostensibly made in the name of justice and appeared to people as if it were well-founded, the arrogance with which they judged the Lord Jesus was difficult for even them to contain. The frenzied energy of their hatred for the Lord Jesus exposed their own wild ambitions and their evil satanic countenances, as well as their malevolent nature with which they resisted God. These things that they said in their judgment of the Lord Jesus were driven by their wild ambitions, jealousy, and the ugly and malevolent nature of their hostility toward God and the truth. They did not investigate the source of the Lord Jesus’ actions, nor did they investigate the essence of what He said or did. Rather, blindly, in a state of crazed agitation, and with deliberate malice, they attacked and discredited what He had done. They went so far as to willfully discredit His Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit which is God’s Spirit. This is what they meant when they said, “He is beside Himself,” “Beelzebub,” and “the prince of the devils.” That is to say, they said that the Spirit of God was Beelzebub and the prince of the devils. They characterized as madness the work of God’s Spirit incarnate, which had clothed Himself in flesh. They not only blasphemed God’s Spirit as Beelzebub and the prince of the devils, but also condemned God’s work and condemned and blasphemed the Lord Jesus Christ. The essence of their resistance and blasphemy of God was entirely the same as the essence of the resistance and blasphemy of God given by Satan and the demons. They did not just represent corrupt humans, but more so they were the embodiment of Satan. They were a channel for Satan amongst mankind, and they were the accomplices and lackeys of Satan. The essence of their blasphemy and their denigration of the Lord Jesus Christ was their struggle with God for status, their contest with God, and their unending testing of God. The essence of their resistance to God and their attitude of hostility toward Him, as well as their words and their thoughts, directly blasphemed and angered God’s Spirit. Thus, God determined a reasonable judgment based on what they said and did, and God determined their deeds to be the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This sin is unforgivable in both this world and the world to come, as is borne out in the following passage of scripture: “The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men,” and, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
—The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III
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? (No.) What is the reason? It is because of the path they have taken. 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.
—“Six Indicators of Life Growth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
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 essence, 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.
—The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Are Evil, Insidious, and Deceitful (Part Three)
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, they are skilled at pretending, at ornament, 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, and they behave well in front of others, yet, when others’ backs are turned, they steal offerings. The Lord Jesus said they “strain at a gnat, and 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 detest truth, detest all that comes from God, and detest 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 spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, which they not only refused to accept, but also condemned.) If their condemnation were absent, 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. They do not put God’s words of teachings for people into practice at all. They do not live out a bit of them; they just use ornament and disguise to trick people and win them over, to shore up their own status and 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 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 legal laws nor Jehovah’s[a] laws; 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.
—“The Most Important Part of Believing in God Is Putting the Truth Into Practice” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
a. The original text does not contain the word “Jehovah’s.”