- Religion and Philosophy
The Way To The Kingdom
The Way To The Kingdom
Then the Lord said to him, ‘You Pharisees are so careful to clear the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are still filthy - full of greed and wickedness.’
Luke 11: 40
One remarkable character of the Lord is his courage to expose the hypocrisies of the religion of the Pharisees.
The largest and the most influential sect in the New Testament times was that of the Pharisees. Their name is derived from the verb “parash” which means “to separate.” They were the separatists or the puritans of Judaism, who withdrew from all evil associations and who sought to give complete obedience to every precept of the oral and written law. They originated as a separate group shortly after the times of the Maccabes, and by 135 B.C. they were well established in Judaism.
Their theology was founded upon the entire canon of the Old Testament which included the Law of Moses or Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. In interpreting the Scriptures, they used the allegorical method. They attached great values to the oral law or tradition which they observed scrupulously. They practiced ritual prayer and fasting, and tithed their property meticulously. They kept the Sabbath very strictly not even allowing of the sick on Sabbath.
The Pharisees were indeed very religious people. They were self-righteous considering themselves more holy than other groups of people. They were externalists, they placed high value in following the customs and traditions of their religion. But despite their tremendous religiosity, they were not sure of their salvation. Remember Nicodemus approaching Jesus one night seeking the way to salvation.
In the eyes of Jesus , their righteousness is not sufficient to enter the “Kingdom of God.” Poor poor Pharisees, very careful in following the most minute detail of their traditions and laws , but still will not enter heaven. Truly one may have religion but not salvation.
The Pharisees were blind guides. They could not see their utter depravity. They could not see their true condition before God. They failed to see the true condition of their heart, that it is full of self-centeredness and greed. Without seeing their true condition before God, salvation for them is still a great distance away.
In order to receive the salvation of God, one must see his/her true condition before God. One must see his/her depravity and sinfulness before the Holy God. It is written in Matthew 5:3; “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” The “poor in spirit” is a broken person who had been humbled by the realization.of his utter depravity and sinfulness. He has seen himself as vile, filthy sinner before the eyes of God, and he has been broken by this realization and made him poor in spirit.
He has seen that apart from God’s mercy and grace, it is impossible for him to find salvation for his soul. Therefore, he humbled himself before God and pleaded or His mercy and he embraced the CROSS of JesusChrist, which he saw as his ultimate hope to to be delivered from the judgement of God. I believe, no one will ever appreciate the crucifixion of Christ, without first seeing his total depravity. An agnostic will remain an agnostic if he will not see his depravity. It is indeed a work of God to see your depravity. To the world lost in sin, but not recognizing its depravity, the CROSS will just remain a Christian symbol and the celebration of the Passion Week will just be another religious tradition.
The poor in spirit possesses the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven is given to the broken sinner not to the self-righteous religious practitioner.