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The Ancient Poisons: Discernment Heresies of the New Testament


The Pharisees’ Distorted Faith

Jesus’ ministry attacked and challenged the Pharisees’ distorted definition of faith. Jesus, in word and deed, reminded all that the primary meaning of faith was a trust-expectancy relationship with God. God would provide for the needs of the believer, deliver the afflicted from the kingdom of Satan, and do great and mighty works of power. Jesus understood that faith came from a relationship with God rather than the proto-Talmud learned in rabbinical schools.[8]

This did not mean that Jesus disdained theological knowledge and doctrine. Rather, in the total faith equation that He taught His disciples, belief in the Bible, faith-expectancy and trust in God were critically important, while Proto-Talmudic doctrines (theological commentaries) were good, but of secondary importance.

The New Testament clearly demonstrates the primacy of faith-expectancy in two incidents, the exorcism of the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28) and the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13). In both cases the seekers had pagan or incomplete theology – far below that of the Pharisees. Yet despite their beliefs, both had faith-expectancy that God used to grant their requests for healing through Jesus. We cannot conclude that Jesus was affirming by silence the pagan doctrines of either seeker. Rather He praised and affirmed their faith-expectancy as a spiritual virtue and example for others. The basic doctrines would come later through their relationship with Him and incorporation into the Church.


A Hellish Spiritual Inheritance

The Pharisees’ self-evaluation was that they were on the forefront of what God was doing for Israel; Jesus’ judgment of them was considerably different. It shows Phariseeism as truly a “destructive sect:”

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, `If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? (Matt. 23:29-33).

Although they believed themselves to be the protectors of orthodoxy, the Pharisees were really the opponents of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ argumentation needs some clarification. He was talking about acquired spiritual inheritance, a concept not often brought up. Because of the Pharisees’ failed discernment, they opposed Him and the Holy Spirit (that is, in His person, miracles and teachings). By doing this they allied themselves with those who had opposed the prophets, and the Holy Spirit in former generations. Thus although they believed themselves to be the protectors of orthodoxy, the Pharisees were really the opponents of the Holy Spirit. This is their primary biblical definition – opposers of the presence, revelation, and activity of the Holy Spirit. Their legalism, which is most often identified as their chief fault, is an important but secondary issue.

Jesus’ revelation on acquired spiritual inheritance warns every generation that present attitudes opposing the work of the Holy Spirit place a person in the hellish spiritual inheritance of the prophet murderers. Stephen, speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit, repeated this same concept in the closing words of his defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts: 7:51-53).

The legalism of the Pharisees, often identified as their chief fault, is an important but only a secondary issue.

The Pharisees responded to Jesus’ ministry by accusing Him of sorcery. The accusation had a certain logic to it given their assumptions. Jesus and his followers worked miracles and cast out demons, yet neither He nor His disciples came from the established rabbinical schools. Thus they must be casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). Through that false accusation, Jesus defines the unforgivable sin:

And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come (Matt. 12:32).

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Category: Church History, Winter 2018

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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