The Pharisees have a reputation for focusing too much on keeping God’s Law. They were Law-keepers, right? To a fault, right? When instead they should have been loving God and loving their neighbor — isn’t that what we say?
This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The Pharisee does not love the law of God. He hates the law of God.
If we don’t understand this, we will learn the wrong lesson from the Pharisees.
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
– Mark 7:1-13 NASB
Love interwoven with commands, not opposed to them
Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more…
– 1 Thessalonians 3:11–4:10
Do we say that we should obey such passages as this, but not wholeheartedly, because that would be legalism? Then we do not understand the Scriptures.
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. … We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. … If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.
– 2 Thessalonians 2;15; 3:4, 14
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.
– Psalm 40:8
When we say ‘law’ we do not mean the Jewish ceremonial law that has been abolished. But God’s moral law abides, as Jesus and the apostles make clear. And the Pharisee is him in the church who works to maintain appearances while hating God’s law and refusing to bend the knee to Him who sits on the throne. O brothers and sisters, let us not be that man!