Matt. 12: 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I don’t remember a time when the above verse wasn’t used in reference to Gal. 5:22, the Fruit of the Spirit which is “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.” It is obvious in the context of Matthew 12 that the religious leaders of Jesus day were practically fruitless in that sense. They showed no love for the needy and no doubt hated The LORD Jesus. How could you love someone you are mocking or seeking to kill? In verse one of Matthew 12, they criticized Him for allowing His disciples to eat from the corn stalks on The Sabbath. Jesus implied they had no true understanding of how to study the scripture, nor were they filled with The Spirit of God. Had they been, The Spirit of God would have brought to their remembrance, as He did with Jesus, how David and his men ate the shewbread that, by law, only the temple priest should eat. Moreover, the priest labored on the Sabbath because they would remove the shewbread, prepared the fire for animal sacrifices, and performed all manner of temple services without complaint (vv. 5).
The love of God should undergird all religious services then and now. In other words, there is nothing particularly wrong with practicing religious traditions. However, when we elevate those traditions above the fruit of the Spirit and condemn the innocent for not keeping those church traditions, we may as well just put on a Pharisee hat and wear phylacteries.
1st Corinthians 12:20 “But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (NASB)
Should you ever find yourself in a position of weakness in the Body of Christ, less honorable, or in lack, you will find out first-hand how unloving Christians can be. You will see how religion/tradition takes precedence over the care of the Bodies lesser parts. When Paul wrote those words, they were supposed to be instructions on how we were to care for one another. Jesus lit up that truth by His very existence in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Phi. 2:15).
Today, millions of modern day Pharisees could care less about understanding and practicing the Word of God. On the other hand, they do take good care of church laws and by-laws, or church polity. They are so focused on the running of the church and church growth they tend to ignore 1st Corinthians 12. The church is supposed to be run based upon The New Testament, not the ideology of denominations. Jesus said in another place:
Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”(NASB)
A religious mindset does not care for the same things God cares about. It is a works-based way of dealing with The Word of God. In Matthew 12: 7 Jesus said: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” Our LORD always used The Word of God to quench the fiery darts of wickedness. Those words are a summation of many verses from the Old Testament such as the following:
Isa 1:11 The LORD asks, “What do your many animal sacrifices mean to me? I’ve had enough of your burnt offerings of rams and enough fat from your fattened calves. I’m not pleased with the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. 12 When you appear in my presence, who asked you to trample on my courtyards? 13 Don’t bring any more worthless grain offerings. Your incense is disgusting to me, so are your New Moon Festivals, your days of worship, and the assemblies you call. I can’t stand your evil assemblies. 14 I hate your New Moon Festivals and your appointed festivals. They’ve become a burden to me, and I’m tired of putting up with them. 15 So when you stretch out your hands in prayer, I will turn my eyes away from you. Even though you offer many prayers, I will not listen because your hands are covered with blood. 16 “Wash yourselves! Become clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight. Stop doing evil. 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Arrest oppressors. Defend orphans. Plead the case of widows.” (GW) To be continued…