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Posts tagged ‘Pharisee’

Different Degrees of Sinners

Jesus taught us that he makes a distinction between sinners.

The key is one man recognized and confessed that he was a sinner;
the other tried to cover up his wretchedness by boasting of his own “goodness”
and pointing out the sinfulness of his “rival”.

Does anybody get the picture?

Luke 18:9-14

And [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain
which trusted in themselves that they were righteous,
and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray;
the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,
extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in the week,
I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off,
would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying,
God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified
rather than the other:
for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased;
and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


Pastor Tim D. Cormier


Matthew 23:24

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

In the days of Jesus, the tiny flying insect known as a gnat was “unclean”–i.e., it was on the list of animals that the Jews were forbidden to eat, according to the Torah. Most people are aware that Jews will not eat pork; this is why. The pig was also on the list of unclean animals. Anyone who violated this law and ate something that was “unclean” was considered to be ceremonially defiled and was subject to the penalty of such an infraction of the Torah.

The Pharisees in the days of Jesus were extremely meticulous and ostentatious about observing even the tiniest matters of the Torah. Apparently, it was a common practice in those more primitive days to have a large pot of drinking water in a communal area. As we all know, flying insects such as gnats are attracted to open containers of water and many times will get trapped in the water and die, being unable to free themselves. The Pharisees apparently would make a great show of filtering these tiny winged insects out of the drinking water by pouring the water into their cups through a piece of white linen or something similar and showing all those around any of the offending creatures that they had been so diligent to “strain” out.

This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of those who would “strain at a gnat.” They were filtering out tiny specks and making a big deal over it so others would acknowledge their spiritual superiority.

However, Jesus observed another dietary practice common in their day, about which the Pharisees were completely oblivious. In geographical regions where there are not many trees, there is a resultant scarcity of firewood. In Palestine, the particular land where Jesus lived, it was customary to use dried camel dung as fuel for fires—not just fires for heat, but also cookfires.

Surely it comes as no surprise to learn that as fuel burns the smoke from the fire contains microscopic particles of the fuel’s molecular components. For example, when we eat something that is hickory smoked, the taste and flavor of the food we are consuming has been enhanced by the exhaust from a fire fueled at least in part by hickory wood. Technically, we are consuming microscopic particles that were released from the hickory fuel during combustion and which floated up and adhered to the surface of the food being cooked.

Now it becomes clear what Jesus meant when he said the Pharisees were swallowing camels whole! The camel, it should be noted, was also on the list of unclean animals which were prohibited from the diet of the Torah-observing Jews. No self-respecting Pharisee would ever think of consuming a camel steak or a camel burger!! However, something not even visible to the unaided eye was coating and permeating their “sanctified” foods as they were being cooked over fires fueled with dried camel dung. How abhorrent to consider that they were unwittingly contaminating their religiously prepared kosher food with the waste product of a ceremonially unclean beast!

In Matthew 23:24, Jesus was not telling the Pharisees not to strain out the gnats as much as he was saying they shouldn’t feel quite so smug about not ingesting unclean gnats when all along they were consuming foods defiled with the microscopic residue of the most unclean part of an unclean camel, a creature that just happens to be 260 million times larger than a gnat!


Notice the context of Matthew 23:24….

Matthew 23:23-25

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

No matter how careful we are to faithfully follow “the letter of the law,” Jesus is teaching us that it is possible to be unknowingly “spiritually contaminated” with and by things that are not visible to the carnal eye. It doesn’t really matter—in the final analysis—what we look like on the outside if our heart is black with the absence of justice, mercy and faith.

We know how to filter out the gnats.

May God help us to filter out the camels!

Rev. Tim D. Cormier

(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.



“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

– James 1:26-27


ONE OF THE WORST MISTAKES a person could make would be to believe that a vain religion is the equivalent of true salvation. Sadly, much of our world has come to equate humanitarian aid and charitable services with “Christianity,” without regard to the condition of the heart of the individual.  AND WHILE TRUE SALVATION IS INVARIABLY ACCOMPANIED BY PURE RELIGION, RELIGION IN AND OF ITSELF IS NOT AN INDICATOR OF SALVATION. In other words, it is possible to be very religious without being saved, but you may not be truly saved without being religious!

IN THE WORDS of the late Elder Carl Ballestero, religion is what man does for God, while salvation is what God does for man. Religion without salvation is empty and worthless (vain); true salvation, on the other hand, will, given time, produce pure religion. We understand from the teachings of James that faith without works is dead; using the same line of reasoning, we could safely say that the absence of “pure religion” indicates a lack of true salvation.

OBVIOUSLY, the presence of “works” in someone’s life does not guarantee that they possess faith; by the same token, being religious does not mean that someone is saved. But pure religion will only be found where true salvation is.

AND WHLE it doesn’t take any special spiritual assistance to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” it is impossible to “keep oneself unspotted from the world” without divine intervention and “things that accompany salvation.” Holiness (sanctification), like righteousness (justification) and cleanness (purification), is conferred upon the true believer (i.e., one who obeys the truth) during the conversion experience. What many have failed to realize is that the Holy Spirit is the “spirit of holiness!” WHEN WE RECEIVE THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST WE ARE EMPOWERED BY JESUS CHRIST TO BE HOLY.

IT IS THE HEIGHT OF FOLLY and absurdity to suggest that someone may receive the Holy Ghost without becoming holy. When we receive His Holy Spirit, we begin to travel upon the “highway of holiness.” Thereafter, through the preaching and teaching of the Word we are made partakers of His holiness, according to Hebrews 12:10. Additionally, the Bible teaches us that we each have individual responsibility in “perfecting holiness” (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1) and “pursuing holiness” (Hebrews 12:6–15). Indeed, Hebrews 12:14 makes it very clear that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

IT BEHOOVES US, therefore, to make sure that our religion is PURE and not VAIN. Truly this is a time when many have a FORM OF GODLINESS but DENY THE POWER THEREOF. These are folks who have all the external appearances of true holiness but lack the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. They are spiritual imposters–claiming to be what they really are not. These are contemporary Pharisees.

CONVERSELY, there are many who claim to be Spirit-filled but who still look just like the world; their holiness is in their heart where only God can see it, they claim. Apparently they received “another spirit” than the HOLY SPIRIT that we received. For when we received the Spirit of Christ, we also received the MIND OF CHRIST, and thus we hate even the garment that is spotted by the flesh.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING as inward holiness that does not manifest itself in outward holiness. BE YE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY was not spoken with only the heart in mind. If Jesus rejected the Pharisees in His day who had cleaned the outside of the cup but left the inside dirty, He must also reject the modern-day religionists who claim to be clean on the inside but have no visible signs of separation from the world on the outside.

ISRAEL MARCHED for 40 years in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. And when the day came for Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land, the Lord stopped everything at Gilgal and made them rid themselves of the “reproach of Egypt.” You see, a brand new generation had been born and raised in the wilderness, during which time Moses–THE LAW–had failed to enforce the conditions of the Abrahamic covenant–circumcision. And while the old faithless generation was dying off, the new generation was coming on the scene. But when they attempted to claim the promise of the covenant they were forced to subscribe to the provisions of and receive the seal of the covenant.

WE WOULD DO WELL to heed the admonition of this story. BE WE EVER SO ABLE, STRONG AND FULL OF FAITH TO CLAIM THE PROMISES OF GOD TO HIS CHILDREN, WE ARE NO LESS ACCOUNTABLE TO THE MESSAGE OF HOLINESS THAN WERE OUR FATHERS IN THEIR DAY, OR THE APOSTLES WERE IN THEIRS. It doesn’t matter how loud you shout or how high you jump or how great a move of God you have–you may even have many miracles performed while you are in your wilderness trek; but be assured of this one thing: GOD WILL NOT PERMIT ANYONE TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND UNTIL THEY HAVE COMPLIED WITH ALL THE TERMS OF HIS COVENANT: Repentance, water baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, and living a holy, separated life under the care and tutelage of a God-called and anointed shepherd.

TRUE SALVATION is always and forever accompanied by pure religion. Never let it be said that we let Holiness fall to the ground in our day. And when we worship the Lord–which is but another aspect of our religion, let it always be in the BEAUTY OF HOLINESS–holiness that begins in our hearts and works in us until it works its way out of us, and we have been completely clothed therewith.

Rev. Tim D. Cormier

Reprinted from the May, 2001 issue of the Apostolic Standard.
Edited and revised 14 October, 2010 by Tim D. Cormier.

(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.

Confessions Of An Erstwhile Pharisee

It is a sad commentary on the current state of certain segments of the Apostolic ranks when Pharisees are allowed the privilege of coming under the umbrella of our fellowship. What is sadder still is the fact that not many Pharisees could be helped, in the extremely unlikely event that such help would be accepted. Most of them wind up embittered, lonely and broken, having been chewed up and spit out by a monster of their own making. Some, however, manage to come to their senses and by the help and grace of God correct the course of their lives in time to avoid the certain and inevitable catastrophe of shipwreck. It is just such an awakening that occasions the writing of these few lines.

While there may be some that do not understand what a Pharisee is, most students of the Bible quickly recognize that a Pharisee – “a separated one” – is nothing but someone who has taken a good thing too far. And even though it is correct to be separate from the world, true Holiness is only achieved when one is also separated unto God. The holier-than-thou attitude of a Pharisee, however, is smoke in the nostrils of God! These are the ones of whom Jude speaks, who separate themselves for carnal, fleshly reasons, and are totally devoid of the Spirit.

Pharisees boast of keeping the Law, yet are quite incapable of truly comprehending it. A Pharisee will even go so far as to superimpose his own interpretations and interpolations as well as those of his fellows upon the Law, supposing that he has improved upon it, and excoriating any who will not blindly—yea, stupidly follow his ill-conceived and misguided initiatives. Who but a Pharisee could callously condemn adultery while possessing the heart and soul of a thief? Or, worse still, how could it be considered anything other than Pharisaical to abhor idols while committing sacrilege? Given time, the ideas of a Pharisee become his ideology, and his dogmas eventually wind up as his doctrine. Though we scorn him, he ought to be pitied.

Superficial thinking is the trademark of a Pharisee. Shallow, unscriptural exegesis characterizes the Pharisee’s defense of his positions. Not surprisingly, appearances are paramount to the Pharisee; thus, much effort goes into making a show and a pretense, while very little spiritual industry is applied to the things that would really make a difference in the heart. A Pharisee of long standing finds it hard to understand the needs of the common man, because the core teachings of the Law have been lightly passed over in favor of the rigid, crusty rituals that are so easily enforced upon the weak- and simple-minded.

To a Pharisee, Truth is the ultimate aspect of the Law, while Grace has been abandoned to the Charismatic as an inferior by-product of false teachings. Justice, Mercy and Love merely receive lip service; as a result, the ostentatious Tithing of tiny seeds far supersedes the Grand Purposes of the Law. The letter of the Law must be kept, even if it means violating the spirit of the Law. Should the Law-giver Himself ever stoop to walk among those to whom He gave the Law, he would be condemned and ultimately crucified by the Pharisees for not conforming to their concept of what the Law should be. It is the Pharisee that creates rules and sets standards for others that he never could or would have lived by—yea, that tempts God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.

A Pharisee considers himself to be the grand epitome of the Law, while in reality he is a disgusting travesty of it. Pharisees chastise men who transgress their traditions, without even considering the fact that their traditions transgress the commandments of God. Who but a Pharisee would make a great show of polishing the tombstone of a prophet he would waste no time in killing, were he yet alive? A Pharisee will ostracize a good man because of his organizational affiliation—or lack thereof—without giving any weight or consideration to his convictions, intentions and circumstances. And each one he succeeds in drawing in to his slimy pit becomes as a result a two-fold more child of hell.

To the Pharisee, the Law has become the End, rather than the Means to an End. Instead of being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, the Law has become so exalted that when Christ comes on the scene he is rudely shoved aside because He doesn’t fit into the Pharisee’s picture of how things are supposed to be. The Pharisee will never reach the intended aim of the Scripture, because he is forever preoccupied with the perceived superiority of his preparations for the trip; he constantly rides around and shows off his fancy “vehicle,” but never really goes anywhere.

The only righteousness a Pharisee possesses is self-righteousness. Instead of Holiness, Pharisees are clothed in filthy rags. A Pharisee will make a great show of filtering out the unclean gnats from his drinking water, while feasting upon foods cooked over fires fueled with camel dung. The Temple of God is the Pharisee’s idol, but the God of the Temple—Jesus Christ—is the object of his scorn. The image of godliness is more important to the Pharisee than the true power thereof—the symbol preempts the substance. The actual state of holiness is not discerned by the Pharisee, because his preoccupation is with looking holy.

Compassion is considered to be compromise by the Pharisee; the sick sinner deserves his condition, and the sorrow of the unregenerate is but his just due, as far as a Pharisee is concerned. The poor and needy? The undisciplined children? Too much trouble…. Yet, while they clean the outside of the cup, the inside of the cup is sickeningly filthy. Deception, malice, spite, envy, pride—all these and more lurk in the unlit recesses of the Pharisee’s heart.

Beware ye, Jesus said, of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. It should be noted that one of the definitions of hypocrisy is “the acting of a stage player.” With this definition in mind, consider this paraphrase: Watch out for those who call themselves “the separated ones” but who are really only acting the part. One of the strangest ironies of Scripture is the fact that the ones who prided themselves as being the very essence of holiness have, with the passing of time, come to symbolize absolute and unmitigated hypocrisy.

And so it is, even to this day. Listen to the prayer, testimony or preaching of a Pharisee. Who gets glorified? –The Pharisee, his doctrine or his deeds. Instead of having a treasure in an earthen vessel, the Pharisee’s treasure is his earthen vessel. The Pharisee is ever self-centered and self-sufficient; his god? –self! To survive, a Pharisee must constantly feed his ego.

Are any Pharisees ever converted? Not many. There are some, however, that have been brought out of the deep ditch of Phariseeism by the Grace of God. Please note: one of the easiest things for a former Pharisee to spot is a Pharisee. It is a dangerous thing to glorify one aspect of the Gospel while neglecting another. If we are to have the mind of Christ, we must not only grow in Knowledge, but we must also grow in Grace; otherwise we become Pharisees, with an unbalanced understanding of—and thus an improper application of—the Word of God.

Rev. Tim D. Cormier

Reprinted from the February, 1998 and July/August, 2003 editions of the Apostolic Standard.

(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.

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