Too much Bible Study wasn't the problem with the Pharisees

The problem with the Pharisees wasn’t their knowledge of scripture. Some people try to portray the Pharisees as the Bible knowledge guys and portray Jesus, in contrast, as the Spirit-led guy. Now of course Jesus was led by the Spirit, but the problem with the above reasoning is that Jesus actually knew His Bible better than the Pharisees did. In fact, in all of His interactions with them Jesus never rebukes them for knowing too much about the Bible. Jesus calls them out for disobeying and contradicting Scripture by adding their own traditions to it, but not for knowing too much of it. He, on the other hand, quotes the Old Testament all the time, and teaches that the Scriptures cannot be broken and that even if heaven and earth pass away God’s word will still remain. Jesus actually has a much higher view of the Bible than that of the Pharisees.

So what was their problem if it wasn’t too much knowledge of the scriptures? Jesus reveals the core issue very clearly when speaking to the religious leaders in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (ESV). The problem was not their knowledge of scripture but rather that they failed to see Jesus as the one to whom all the scriptures were pointing. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 3:14-17, speaking about the Jews, he says, “But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant (the Hebrew scriptures), that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. [15] Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. [16] But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. [17] Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (ESV). Do you see? Their hangup was not that they read the scriptures too much but that they didn’t see Jesus as the fulfillment of the old covenant writings. You see, Jesus is the point! All the promises of God find their “yes” in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

So how do we avoid becoming Pharisees? By steering clear of learning too much biblical teaching? No, but by looking unto Jesus in His word, with the eyes of faith granted by the Spirit. Ask the Spirit of God to highlight Jesus as the hero of the whole story and of every little story, proverb, poem, and prophecy. The Spirit loves to reveal Jesus to us, and He loves to take the truth about Jesus, apply it to our hearts, and empower us to live in light of it.

Nathan Cedarland is a servant-leader of Kaleo Community, a gospel-centered church in Aberdeen, WA. He is passionate about God, his family (his wife Julissa and their five kids), his church family, his city, and equipping the Spanish-speaking church throughout the Americas.


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