As far as the Jews were concerned, the Messiah they were expecting had a purpose and a duty to fulfill, that is, to restore the Kingdom back to them at whatever cost, breaking down and overthrowing the defenses of the Roman Empire. This was a follow-up on the Jews as a remembrance, looking at the last prophecy given by Prophet Malachi in the book of Malachi. It was titled “The Lord’s day”, which as quoted from the scriptures reads “Keep in mind the law of Moses, my servant, which I gave him in Horeb for all Israel, even the rules and the decisions. See, I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes, that great day, greatly to be feared. And by him, the hearts of fathers will be turned to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers; for fear that I may come and put the earth under a curse”.
Unknown to these Jews, a combination of the Pharisees and Sadducees predominantly, they were wrong in their dreams and postulations. God had a better plan for the Messiah coming. Before we focus on these two sects, we should know how they became the major impediments and critics of Christ as He came into this world, out of the Father’s love.
After the prophecy of Prophet Malachi, there was a break between the book of Malachi and the book of Matthew. It was the age of the Maccabees and from these we had the various divisions within the Jewish people and their culture. We had the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealot. The Essenes and Zealots were derivatives of the Pharisee or the Sadducee, because of doctrinal beliefs and what each represented.
Jesus, in instructing his disciples, warned them to beware of both camps and factions. He told them to stay away from both and not have any association with either of them. The Pharisees and the Sadducees came from two opposite worlds, each differing on the grounds of belief. Politically, the Pharisees were fundamentalists but legalists religiously, while the Sadducees were liberals, politically and religiously. There was a political and religious right and left. They were always at loggerheads with one another; they don’t like each other. The only ground on which they became comrades was when they agreed to kill Jesus.
Now John the Baptist was the one referred to in the book of Malachi and he was at the Jordan River baptizing people and all who had come to repent of their sins. The Pharisees and Sadducees heard that he baptized and therefore came out to see him. In return, John called them the “Brood of Vipers”. Vipers are snakes, which hide in holes until there is a threat to their lives, such as a fire. In the event of a fire breakout, they come out of their holes to escape dying. This implied that, as John came out with the message of the Kingdom as prophesied by Malachi, he referred to them as snakes who have heard information of the impending destruction as the axe is laid to the root of every tree. The tree that does not bring forth fruits is hewed down, cut into pieces and utterly burnt with fire. This was the reason John called them the generation of vipers; he said to them “why are you coming out of your holes, did you sense a fire (judgment) coming to burn you”?
Most Christians are naturally weary of Liberals; their doctrines are repulsive to us and as such, there is a natural guard that has been put up in defense against them. The major attacks on Jesus were mostly from the conservatives, the Pharisees. Pharisee means “The Separated Ones”. They were the true defenders of the orthodox Hebrew religion. Mostly, they talk about separation in their pulpits and doctrinal purities. They fast twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays); they pay tithes, attend public worships, will not break the law of the Sabbath, have no association with people they consider sinful, they pray often and are very patriotic.
During the Roman conquest, they made alliances with the Roman government, were active participants in Roman politics and in the governance of the Jewish people holding fast to the tradition of the elders. They believe the Old Testament scriptures to be the Word of God. They believe in eternal life and eternal death; they believe in angels, demons, resurrection and the supernatural but never believed Jesus was the Christ. The Sadducees on the other hand do not believe in life after death; they don’t believe in Heaven and Hell neither do they believe in angels, demons and the supernatural. They were that segregated from one another.
Within the Pharisaical sect, there is also another split amongst them over the doctrine of election and freewill. They tend to confuse that, which is essential with what is incidental, by placing both on the same plane. Everything has the same level of importance to them.
Jesus wrapped it all when He said that the major problem they had was hypocrisy and the disciples should stay away from either of them. From the literal English language, this is the state of falsely claiming to possess virtuous characteristics that one lacks.Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches; it is also pretense, deception, falsity, phoniness and dishonesty.
The Greeks refer to this as hupokrite: it applied to any sort of public performance (including the art of rhetoric). It was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered an appropriate role for a public figure. Put in other terms, it is speaking from behind a mask. The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek word (hypokrisis), which means “jealous”, “play-acting”, “acting out”, “coward” or “dissembling”. This was their strength.
They make walking with God an uphill task and unachievable. They give orders but do not do what they tell others to do. They lay burden on men but never partake of them. They lay down laws; the dos and the don’ts and the many steps to gain Heaven, laws too difficult even for them, to keep. This they do with the intention to control people and make them slaves. They talk and preach the doctrines of men projecting it as the doctrines from (of) God.
The characteristics and the doctrines spelt above would help us to identify the Pharisees and Sadducees that still exist in the Church today so that we are able to pitch our tents away from them because the will and the purpose of God concerning us is so far from being liberal or conservative. Jesus was not conservative or liberal.
When what you preach/teach leans towards the liberal or the conservative, you can be rest assured that you are not doing what God has called you to do. I believe this is the acid test.
“Those who are walking in the light are free from pretense, and are living in real earnest: is it so with you? Contentment with unreality is a sign of dwelling in darkness. Careful keeping up of shams, diligent puffing out of wind-bags, and constant creation of make-believes—all this is of the night and its dreams; but to be what you seem to be, to be true in all the phases of your life, this is surely seen in those who walk in the light of God”.
– C H Spurgeon.