Blogging the Bible 305 – Acts 21-23 – A Pharisee of Pharisees

Was Paul just trying to cause a distraction when he called the Pharisees of the Temple Council to his support, or did he mean what he said in 23:6?
“Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”
Some of the Pharisees were persuaded,  and the argument got back into the familiar battle lines between Pharisee and Sadducee. But was Paul really a Pharisee after all he’d been through?
Perhaps we find it hard to think of him that way because we tend to see the Pharisees purely as ‘opponents of Jesus,’ or as universally hypocritical. But the reason that Jesus came up against them much more often than the Sadducees is because they shared something of the same concerns. Unlike the Sadducees, they didn’t think that faithfulness to God was just about prayers and sacrifices. They wanted all of God’s people to live every day with the seriousness and holiness of a priest preparing to offer sacrifice in the Temple. They went out into the villages and towns of the whole country to ‘help’ people to do that. Where they came into conflict with Jesus was over what it meant to live within God’s love, and over their focus on law over love and life – over faith as cleansing from the world’s taint rather than as celebration leading to transformation.
We’ll soon come to Paul’s letters, but I’ve formed the view over the years that his Pharisee heritage shapes the way that he thinks. The Pharisees treasured the clear boundaries they imposed on life – everything was right or wrong, clean or unclean, Jew or Gentile etc. And these boundaries were fundamental to a Pharisee’s view of the world. I think that’s why those boundaries figure so strongly in Paul’s letters. But now he gives all the energy he once put into maintaining those boundaries to proclaiming that in Jesus they are wiped away.
I think the strength of Paul’s gospel comes from the fact that he is, indeed, a Pharisee, and a Pharisee who’s seen in Jesus the fulfilment of the holiness and Kingdom he’d been working for all his life.

6 thoughts on “Blogging the Bible 305 – Acts 21-23 – A Pharisee of Pharisees

  1. Matthew Perri

    ….”Paul’s gospel”…..

    What about the gospel of JESUS of the Gospels?

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

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    1. Nick Watson Post author

      Sorry, pressed send too soon! I presume you’re referring to 1Cor13 – which is part of his letter to a divided and argumentative church, not a systematic theology.

      I don’t think for a moment that Paul is trying to erase Jesus’ first part of the summary of the Law, but it’s not what he’s focused on here in response to a particular urgent situation in one church (but sadly repeated in many!)

      God be with you.

      Nick

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      1. Matthew Perri

        Yes Nick,
        “1Cor13 – which is part of his letter to a divided and argumentative church………”
        and yes
        “sadly repeated in many” ..

        It’s a dismal failure of leadership, repeated in many churches today- it seems we agree.
        Who was in charge?
        When Paul wrote his letters to the church in Corinth, who was leading all aspects of the church?
        PAUL !!!
        Yes Paul.

        And why is it “sadly repeated in many” churches today?? Because it’s “profitable’ for the modern “Paul”. He gets to be an abusive absentee Boss, like Paul was to the church in Corinth. He preaches down to them and blasts them from a distance. He claims all the credit, all the rights, all the benefits, all the glory, is accountable to no one, and accepts none of the responsibility or blame for any of the problems.

        The Church in Corinth is infamous for being very unhealthy – yet, I have never heard a single sermon that puts any of the blame on Paul – even though Paul was still completely controlling the church from hundreds of miles away, years after he left, while he was working full-time teaching in his own school in Ephesus.

        After Paul broke from his mentor Barnabas, Paul NEVER appointed ANYONE to a position of leadership in any church, as far as we can tell from the pages of the Bible. He was a prima donna, clinging to power, travelling around as he pleased, accountable to no one, demanding people give him money so he could “do his own thing.”

        What about my original point?
        Jesus was asked twice which Commandment is the greatest or most important one, (Matthew 22 and Mark 12)
        Both times Jesus answered quoting the same two commandments, from the Law of Moses.

        Jesus said that one of these two commandments is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ? Paul didn’t agree with Jesus on that point……

        “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [Mark 12:29-30, Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

        Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22:37-38, Deuteronomy 6:5]

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  2. Nick Watson Post author

    Hi Matthew, thanks for your thoughts. I hope you don’t mind, but I won’t engage with this discussion online. It’s not that I think Paul was perfect, for all the great things he did as an evangelist and teacher, but I don’t think online theology debates tend to get anywhere useful! I struggle to make the time for the blog I’ve committed to completing (alongside the ‘day job’ of ministry in the community where I live!), and as there’s not much chance of meeting face to face, I suggest that we continue this discussion when we meet in heaven! May God bless you in your discipleship and ministry. Nick

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    1. Matthew Perri

      Nick, I hope you can hear the voice of Jesus here. Blessings !

      The message of The 11 (“The narrow gate”)

      “The eleven disciples went to Galilee”
      “Where Jesus had told them to go”
      They heard His voice and obeyed His will
      Despite uncertainty down below

      Jesus spoke to them at length
      He wasn’t really a Tweeter
      Only 3 of them wrote Scripture
      Matthew John and Peter

      “Feed my sheep” said Jesus, for though
      “Heaven and earth will pass away”
      I have the words of eternal life and
      “My words will never pass away”

      “Enter through the narrow gate”
      The voice of Jesus through the eleven
      Believe in Jesus “through their message”
      And “eat from the tree of life” in heaven

      Jesus commissioned the eleven
      With “everything I have commanded you”
      “Teaching THEM to obey” Jesus
      And “THEM” means me and you !

      “The command given by our Lord and Savior”
      Is not a Pharisee speaking alone
      It came rather “through your apostles”
      Matthew Peter and John

      If a Pharisee boasts proudly
      Those men added nothing to my message
      He doesn’t speak for Jesus
      His words are nothing more than garbage

      Bibliography
      All “quotes” in “quotation marks” are from the writings of the Apostles Matthew John and Peter in the Bible, mostly the “Red Letter” words of Jesus. [Matthew, John, Revelation, 2 Peter – NIV]

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