Being godly precedes doing godly. When we emphasize the doing over the being, we become like the Pharisees. That’s also the problem with so many religions today, they emphasize on the doing instead of understanding the being first. However, Christianity is a religion of “being” because God emphasizes on the renewal of the internal, because it’s what inside that counts.
To understand this truth more, let’s look at Matthew 23:23-27, wherein Jesus had a climactic confrontation with the Scribes and Pharisees. We can see in this chapter the seven woes of the Lord Jesus towards these religious leaders of Israel. In verses 23-24, the Lord Jesus said,
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
Meaning, they are focusing all their attention on the particulars of behavior and have completely omitted to consider the more important issue of motive.
In verses 25-27, the Lord continued,
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
You see, it is really possible for you and me to appear somehow “somebody,” as if we’re righteous and godly. And yet, in reality, if our hearts are not really honest, what we’re doing is just putting on a good face. Christianity is not like this. Your behavior is not the one that makes you righteous before God; that was actually the Pharisees’ philosophy, rather than the internal conversion of the heart to Christ.
In verse 28, Jesus continued,
“So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
The word “lawlessness” here in the Greek has to do with a condition without the law, or from Thayer’s Greek definition, it means a “frame of mind or a state of being in which one commits or can commit lawlessness or iniquitous deeds.” That’s why the apostle John said in 1 John 3:4,
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”
So when it comes to the sin of the Pharisees, their problem is not really that they misbehave. Actually, our Lord recognized that their behavior appears righteous, but of course only to men, not to Jesus. That’s why in Matthew 15:10-11, there’s a record there that says,
“Hear and understand.”It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Again, we see that it is what inside that counts. Yet, it’s interesting that the Pharisees were offended by this statement. Nonetheless, our Lord answered in verse 14,
“Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
The Cleansing Effect of the Scriptures
Thus, it’s really vital that we have the light of the truth in order not to become blind guides like the Pharisees. And so, even Paul in 1 Timothy 1:5 was reminding Timothy to teach sound doctrine. He said,
“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Take note, Paul is saying something here that, when it comes to teaching, we have a goal. Interestingly, that goal is not primarily to make a Christian a highly-educated person, or a person whose mind is bursting with facts. Rather, the verse says, the goal of doctrine is love from a pure heart. It’s internal. Colossians 1:22, 28-29 testify also to this fact. Paul said,
“…yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
That’s why in order to grow in our internal transformation; we need the sound teaching of the Bible. Paul said in Ephesians 4:15,
“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”
Aside from this, another Scripture passage that I want you to consider is Ephesians 2:11. It says here,
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands.”
Compare this with Romans 2:28-29, Paul said,
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”
Paul is teaching a spiritual circumcision here. The physical circumcision of the Jews is just a shadow of the spiritual reality of circumcision that shoul lead to us in Christ.
Therefore, it’s an important pursuit in the life of every Christian to grow in their spiritual life, because in the end that is what will really count. 2 Corinthians 4:16 testifies to this fact. It says,
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”