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THE DOCTRINE OF THE PHARISEES: FORMALISM

LORD’S DAY, FEBRUARY 26
Matthew 23:1-12
Matthew 23:27

 

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
… for ye are like unto whited sepulchres…"

 

THE DOCTRINE OF THE PHARISEES: FORMALISM


Formalism is the practice or the doctrine of strict adherence to prescribed or external forms. The fatal mistake of the Pharisees was that they thought of nothing but the mere externalities of religion. They were just concerned for their names, their forms of religion, their visible rites, or, at most, their aesthetic emotions. They valued more the excessive strictness in their attention to all the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic Law but without heart conviction. Thus, with all their religiosity, they actually had no religion, no spiritual vitality, no renewal of nature, and no union with Christ. In other words, they were like what is common today in most of our churches: Christless Christians.


It is said that external observance of the laws of God without the heart conviction is like painting a rotten old piece of wood. It looks good outside but there is nothing good inside. Thus, Jesus told the Pharisees, "… for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt 23:27-28).


O, the externalities of religion that replace the eternal value of salvation! The splendour of their garbs of pretended holiness that replaces the robe of Christ’s righteousness! The pomp of their ceremonials that replaces the power of the gospel! Are we merely professors of Christ or real possessors of Him? Do we have the assurance of eternal life in Christ? Are we merely onlookers or actual followers of Jesus? Do we have the desire to serve Him? Are we merely learners but never believers of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we have the fruit of the Spirit? May God enlighten our hearts and minds to understand the truth and save us from hypocritical faith.


THOUGHT: Am I worshipping God in form only?
PRAYER: "Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" (Ps 29:1-2).