Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Singing like a Pharisee

The Pharisees did not simply follow God's commandments at all. They were hypocrites; shiny on the outside, rotten on the inside. To them the law was not spiritual, and their hearts were far from the Law-Giver.

They added to this wicked hypocrisy by not only making up new commandments not found in God's Word, but also condemning others for not keeping those things in order to puff themselves up. And the worst of all, which was no doubt the root of their pride and hypocrisy, was that they taught that righteousness was obtained by means of keeping the law. But only those who have graciously been given the perfect righteousness of Christ are justified in God's sight. The just shall live by faith in Christ's righteousness, not their own.

In contrast, those who believe that they have obtained righteousness by means of their own will, naturally will produce the proud fruit of hypocrisy, rather than the humble fruit of sincerity. Because they believe that their own will makes the difference between them and another, it is natural for them to puff themselves up against others, and insist on burdensome commandments to trip others up, so that they are considered better. So, they love the praise of men rather than the praise of God, because being unjustified, they have not experienced the praise of God in their consciences as righteous in Christ alone, which testimony makes the praise of men worthless and undesirable.

If you want an example of Pharisaic worship today, look no further than the Roman liturgy, or the charismatics (which are actually worse). Some charismatics even think that a person who does not raise his hands and shake and babble and do whatever other ridiculous fad, is totally unspiritual, and probably not even a Christian, or at least a far less spiritual Christian. And woe betide the church which refuses to sing their super-spiritual hymns and choruses!

After all, they say, isn't God always doing a "new thing", and bringing "new revelations", and "new waves" and "movements of the Spirit" (a spirit of confusion and pride, you understand, not the Holy Spirit of God who brings the righteous fruit of self-control, patience, and love which covers a multitude of sins, and by which we humble ourselves and bear with the failings and weaknesses of our brethren). And "sing a new song" they insist means that we must sing their sensational, carnal, and emotive doggerel, while discarding and abolishing the inspired Psalms as deadweight. So, they puff themselves up against those who are content with singing the songs actually inspired by God, the 150 Psalms. It is after all, one of the Psalms speaking of itself (not some other song) which says, "sing a new song".

Who here is the Pharisee? He who sings the songs which God has given to His church, or he who condemns us for refusing to sing songs which have not been appointed by God for worship? And since God is the only one worthy to determine how He must be worshipped, we must not worship in any way other than what He has commanded, and so we ignore the unscriptural commandments of the Pharisaic charismatics, and maintain that their worship is vain because it is not what God has required. By means of their pride, they lay aside the good things which God has commanded. And is this not Pharisaism?

"Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." - Matt. 15:6b-9.
"For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men...Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" - Mark 7:8,13.

Finally, consider the objection to only singing Psalms, which tries to compare our Scriptural practice to the wickedness, pride, and hypocrisy of the Pharisees, because we don't condemn the singing of all other songs outside the worship service as inherently sinful. To bring other songs before God as worship would be sinful - unless one meant in the sense that we must worship God with everything we think, say or do, and with all the gifts and talents that have been given to us. But is it not plain that there are a great many songs and many other activities that are not sinful to sing or do most of the time, but would be completely inappropriate for the worship service? I may fix teeth all week as a dentist, but I won't do it in the worship service. Similarly a poet, or a musician, or a singer may do a great many lawful things during the week, which would be inappropriate for the worship service. Is it is not placing an unnecessary and even grievous burden on such people to restrict their singing to only the Psalms all the time outside the worship service?

Now, the reason I've written a short article on the subject was to answer these objections, because they were laid against the Scriptural practice and teachings of my church, and they were made publicly, and I felt it would be worthwhile and helpful to defend our practice and teaching, because it is Scriptural, and I want others to see that, and grow in understanding, and for God to be worshipped rightly and given the praise and honour He deserves from His people, and I want to see the errors which oppose this thrown down and exposed, and His people blessed in singing the 150 Psalms in worship, and not burdened with the traditions of men, and the proud craftiness of Pharisaic philosophies.

But I can't help wondering what one hopes to achieve with these objections, if one is not really bothered after all with whether or not we sing the Psalms. Is it all just an academic exercise, or is there a genuine care about how God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth? And for those who treated the issues of God's commandments as mere academia, Christ had words too: "Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." - Luke 11:46.

Of course, God's law is not burdensome (I John 5:3; James 1:25), but men try to present it as such when they do not desire to keep it, or wish to excuse themselves. There is no fault with God's commandments, the fault is with us whose hearts are sinful and rebel against God's authority in His Word.


Anonymous said...

Could it be that YOU have become what You hate? We must be careful about our passions. As I read your blog I could see You being Religious. "Sing this or it is wrong." Where is the liberty (freedom) to stand and weep? Or smile with head bowed to the only true God. We must worship in spirit and in truth. From our heart and if something's wrong God will reveal it to us. Clarify if I've misunderstood you.

Wiseguy said...

Of course, I deny this groundless accusation. "Sing this or it is wrong" is not Pharisaism, unless you can prove that singing other uninspired songs are permitted in God's Holy Word. God alone must determine for us how He is to be loved and worshipped - not our own proud and perverse imaginations. It is actually the error of the Pharisees to make up their own ideas about what God commands.

Furthermore, in the article, I said nothing about standing or weeping. I have no objection to these things, and indeed in my fellowship we customarily stand to sing - but we don't say it is wrong to sit either. Neither do we say that it is wrong to weep or smile with head bowed. However, I do notice that these things can very easily simply belong to an outward show, and do not necessarily say anything about genuine worship in spirit and in truth. A Pharisee could easily give a show of standing and weeping or smiling with head bowed.

God reveals Himself and His commandments to us in His Word. I suggest that simply waiting for God to reveal something is very wrong - instead, search the Scriptures and be like the noble Bereans. That's what we must do if we take seriously our calling to worship in spirit and in truth, out of thankfulness for Christ redeeming us from all our sins and disobedience.