Posts Tagged ‘Pharisees


The Sin of Trying

     I recently ran across an interesting statement.  “Sin is not just breaking the law but imagining you can keep it.”  Wasn’t that the problem with the Pharisees?  If anybody “kept” the law it was them. They defined it so carefully that they determined things like how many steps a person could walk on the Sabbath before it constituted work.  They were obsessed with keeping the law.

     Therefore it surprises a lot of people to see that Jesus reserved his harshest rhetoric for them. This even startled Jesus’ disciples.  “Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?”  (Matthew 15:12)  Jesus responded by describing the Pharisees as the blind leading the blind. 

     They were blind because they didn’t see the deadly folly of imagining that they could keep the law.  This also holds true for Mormonism.  Here are just a few examples from the first few chapters of Gospel Principles

            “By keeping His commandments we can become like Him.”  P. 6

            “Obey all His commandments as best we can (see John 14:21-23).” P 7

            “He, like our Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments.” P.13

            “As we obey each of our Father’s commandments, we grow in wisdom and strength of character.”  P. 19

            “If we keep His commandments and make right choices, we will learn and understand.  We will become like Him.  (See D&C 93:28).”

     Paul, as he states in Philippians 3, was one of the most zealous of all Pharisees.  He describes himself this way:  “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (v. 6)  He then says all that he now considers dung.  He continues: “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (v.9)

     The righteousness that is acceptable to God is not any righteousness cultivated by man.  The only righteousness that God accepts is Christ’s righteousness – the righteousness we make our own by giving up on our works and trusting only in Jesus’ works.  That is what Paul discovered.  That is what, I pray, many LDS people will discover.


The Parable of the Prodigal Son

    Of all the parables Jesus told, one of the most familiar is the Parable of the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15.  It is a wonderful story of God’s forgiveness as the father rushes out and welcomes home his wayward son.  

      But, as we place it into its context, we see that the point Jesus was really making was the joy we are to experience whenever we see a lost soul saved.  H makes that emphasis in direct response to the Pharisees’ murmuring against him.  “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Luke 15:2).  In response, Jesus tells three parables about the lost – the parable of the Prodigal Son being the last of the three.  And all three emphasize the joy we are to feel when we see the lost saved.  (See Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 22-24) 

     In that setting it is obvious that the complaining elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son represents the Pharisees.   His anger over his father throwing a feast for his brother mirrors the murmuring of the Pharisees over Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners.  I’m sure that the Pharisees listening to Jesus as he unfolded this parable felt as if he had hit them with a two by four over their heads!  In essence, Jesus was telling them that, instead of murmuring, they should be rejoicing that he was reaching the lost.

     Therefore I found it interesting to see how Mormonism interprets this parable.  In the New Testament manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, it talks about the mercy and forgiveness of the Father.  But what I found interesting is that it talks more about the two sons than it does the father.  The point it emphasizes is that the father “did not have the younger son restored to all the privileges he had forfeited.”  He was received back but now “the farm” is gone.  “The ‘father’ himself cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

     In striking contrast, the older son becomes the role model.  He is described as the “more dutiful” son.  “The father consoled him with the statement: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”   In other words, for him “the farm” was not gone.  Unlike the younger son, he did not forfeit his privileges.  There is not one mention made of the Pharisees and their ungodly murmuring against Jesus.

      A beautiful story of forgiveness is turned into a story of making choices.  “Every choice one makes either expands or contracts the area in which he can make and implement future decisions.  When one makes a choice, he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice.”  So much so, that “the ‘father’ cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.”

     The Bible teaches about a Heavenly Father who can undo the effects of foregone choices and has done so in Jesus Christ.  Through the saving work of Christ he has restored all the privileges that we have forfeited through sin.  Because of Jesus I’m looking forward to living eternally with Heavenly Father.

June 2020

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