Have any of you ever sung the little camp song, I don’t wanna be a goat? Nope! The second line says, I don’t want to be a Pharisee (repeat), ‘cause a Pharisee ain’t fair, you see? I don’t want to be a Pharisee. In modern evangelicalism, the great curse word has become Pharisee. Worse than a liberal, more powerful than a locomotive, able to destroy churches with a single KJV! I have been hearing the terms ‘legalist’ and ‘Pharisee’ thrown around a good bit lately. Some men who are undergoing changes in thought and practice sometimes refer to their old ‘legalistic and Pharisaic days’. You know those days when they wore ties and sang out of the hymn book. Those days when they preached the duties contained in God’s law. You know, just like the Pharisees. You can see the comparison, can’t you? You can’t? Hmm, neither can I.
The term Pharisee is loaded. As I understand it to call your ‘brother’ a Pharisee (don’t worry, I still love you, you Pharisee!) is to call him unconverted. It is to call him a hypocrite. It is to say that he strains out gnats, swallows camels, and ignores the weightier matters of the law. It means that he has no heart religion, no love for Jesus, that he performs his righteousness to be seen of men. Is that what you mean? When you call him a legalist because he (gasp!) disagrees with you or (horrors!) thinks you might be going off track (don’t worry, it’s just his opinion—you have one too!), beware of what you say. We shall all be held accountable for our words. While we may challenge one another, express concern over one another on either side of the current debates, we must refrain from language which actually denies the grace of God in our brethren. If they are our brethren, let us address one another as brethren. If they are not, let’s drop the cloak of respect and say what we really think.
Jesus warned his followers about calling their brother, “racca”. The word means fool. Not idiot, but fool. Unconverted. He did not regard such talk as allowable and neither should we. It ain’t phar, you see?Jim Savastio, Pastor Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville