Monday, May 20, 2019

The Former Pharisee, the Apostle Paul, the Theologian of Separation

"Pharisee" means "separatist."  BDAG, the foremost lexicon of the Greek New Testament, says right at the beginning of the definition:
The Semitic words mean ‘the separated ones, separatists'.
The Pharisees were separatists.  Paul had been a Pharisee.  Upon conversion, Paul was no longer a Pharisee.  He left Pharisaism.  So does that mean he wasn't a separatist?  Wrong.  After he was saved, Paul still taught separation.  He could rightly be called the theologian of separation, the face of scriptural separation.

The modern evangelical calls separation Pharisaism and separatists, Pharisees.  When Paul gave up Pharisaism, he didn't give up separation.  One could say he doubled down on actual separation, godly separation, because no one represents it more in the New Testament than the Apostle Paul.

Separation isn't Pharisaical. No, separation is scriptural.  Pharisaism is what is unscriptural.  "Pharisee" means "separation" and the lineage or legacy that led to Pharisees was legitimate.  If we went back into the history, there was good reason to participate in separation.

The legitimate forefathers of the Pharisees were the separatists from Greek culture, when Antiochus Epiphanes offered the pig on the altar of the temple.  They led the Maccabean revolt, which is was a legitimate expression of disgust with impurity.  Daniel represents this by separating himself from the sinful aspects of Babylonian culture, despite living in the midst of it.  By the time, we get to Christ, the Pharisees were a mere caricature of that group of separatists.

The Apostle Paul didn't give up separation.  He gave up the self-righteous separation of the Pharisees.  They separated to show others how much better they were than others, comparing themselves with men (see this post).  What set the Pharisees apart was not biblical practice, but traditions that were not required by scripture.  They were showy traditions that emphasized the easiest ways to manifest a faux righteous behavior.  They weren't even obeying scripture.

In recent days, and this isn't unusual, I was called a Pharisee by someone, and it included the label, whitened sepulcher, a designation Jesus used for the Pharisees.  From what I could gather, I was being called these things for three main reasons:  one, the standards I hold, two, the practice of separation to which I adhere, and three, my lack of sinless perfection.  None of those three made a Pharisee to be a Pharisee in the pejorative use of the term.

No one is a Pharisee for interpreting, believing, and applying scripture.  The Pharisees weren't doing that, which is why Jesus asked them continually in the gospels, "Have ye not read?" (Matthew 12:3, 5, etc.).  Because it seemed like they hadn't even read the book, they were so far off in their understanding of it.  When He corrected their perversion of the Old Testament in the Sermon on the Mount, He started by saying, "It hath been said."  What was said in scripture was true; it was their corruptions that were not true.

In general, the Pharisees conformed God's Word to their own attempts on keeping all of the law.  That was impossible, so they turned it into mere ritual that they thought they could keep.  They wouldn't even do that, but it was an attempt to minimize the Old Testament to what was possible for them, which is salvation by works.  The people attempting to be saved by works don't respect the scripture, because they are impossible to keep by one's self.

The idea of separation itself, subsisting within the carcass of Pharisaism, was correct and the Apostle Paul taught it in nearly every one of his epistles and implied it in all.  In Romans he said, mark and avoid (Rom 16:17-18).  In 1 Corinthians he said, not to keep company with someone who calls himself a brother, but is still continuing in sin (1 Cor 5:11).  In 2 Corinthians 6:17, he said, come out from among them and be ye separate.  In Galatians he said, if any many preach any other gospel, let him be accursed (Gal 1:6-9).  In Ephesians, he said, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Eph 5:11).  He implied separation in Philippians 3:18-19:
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose] glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
In 2 Thessalonians 3:14, the theologian of separation said:
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him,, that he may be ashamed.
In 1 Timothy 6, he said to withdraw your self from those who do certain things.  In 2 Timothy 2, he said to purge yourself from vessels of dishonor.

God will separate every unbeliever from Himself into the lake of fire along with the devil and His angels.  He had separated Noah and his family by water and the ark from every other soul on the entire planet.

Just because you believe something and separate over it doesn't mean that you will live it with sinless perfection.  You're not a hypocrite or deceive just because you don't keep it one hundred percent.  No one keeps the standards with perfection.  I'm not saying I'm better than someone else.  I do break the laws that I believe are right.  I don't separate from anyone else for breaking them.  That isn't biblical separation.  A Pharisee might separate after one violation, but a biblical separatist will first get the beam out of his own eye, so he can remove the mote out of his brother's eye.  He still tries to help his brother, and if his brother, after three tries, won't repent, then he separates from him.   He doesn't want to, but God tells him to, so he does.  That's not Pharisaism.

Pharisaism proclaims what he is not willing himself to keep.  He acts like he believes it, when he really doesn't.   He just wants others to think he does.  He judges other people harshly to make himself look better in front of them.  That would fit with what Jesus said about the Pharisees in Matthew 23 with His woes to the Pharisees.

Paul was a former Pharisee, and He knew and taught Christians to separate.  Separation isn't Pharisaical.  If you are saying that, please stop.  If you are not separating, then you are disobeying scripture.  If you disobey scripture, and then act like you do obey it, you're being a Pharisee.  Don't say you're obeying scripture, when you won't practice biblical separation.

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