Discernment: Who Are the Pharisees Today?

By Fangxia, Brazil

Pastors Were the People I Respected Most

“Hey, Sister Fang, a pastor from outside the town is here to preach to us, are you coming to hear it?”

“Of course I’m coming. I always go when pastors come to preach.”

In my heart, pastors and elders had always been the people I respected and worshiped most, because in the Bible it says, “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28). Pastors and elders are all established by God, obedience to the pastors and elders is obedience to God, and not obeying the pastors and elders is resistance to God, so in all things we should listen to and obey them. In addition to that, the pastors and elders have believed in God for a long time, understood much of the Bible, and had the most solid foundation, so when the Lord comes, He will first enlighten Himself to them. So, by following the pastors and elders, we would certainly be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whenever I heard that a pastor had come to deliver a sermon, I would always go to listen.

Who are the Pharisees today?At meetings, our pastor would often tell us, “To serve God, I gave up high-paying positions in France and the USA. I pray for each of you believers every day, and for our church. If any of you have any difficulties, no matter the time of day, you can seek me out, and I’ll resolve it for you.” When I heard the pastor say that, I believed even more that he was someone who loved and loyally served the Lord, that he was worthy of my respect, and that we certainly should listen to and obey the pastors and elders. So, in all things, I would first go to my pastor, and allow him to guide me and pray for me. Even in matters such as opening my family’s shop, my son’s marriage, and the birth of his son, I felt that my pastor was someone who delighted God, so with his prayer, God would surely keep me and ensure everything went smoothly. This is why I felt that no matter what happens, the pastors and elders could certainly resolve it.

My Pastor Forbidding Us to Hear Sermons Led Me to Reflect

As time went on, I realized that the pastor’s sermons had become stale and clichéd. If he wasn’t interpreting the surface meaning of scripture, he was preaching the doctrine of making offerings. There was nothing new or interesting. Hearing these same things over and over, I received no spiritual provision, so a group of brothers and sisters and I began listening to sermons at neighboring churches. But very quickly, our pastor learned about this, and with his finger wagging at us, he said, “Church regulations state that believers may not listen to sermons at other churches. If you were to bring anything negative back to our church and influence your brothers and sisters, you would be doing wicked deeds.”

These words didn’t sound right to me. I thought, “In the Bible it says, ‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all’ (Ephesians 4:4–6). The church is the Lord’s body. No matter how many churches there are, there is only one body, and all brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord are one family, so there ought to be nothing wrong with going to hear sermons at another church.”

The pastor then said, “For example, if your son doesn’t come home, but instead goes to someone else’s house, you’ll be very worried, and afraid that he won’t be properly fed and accommodated there. You are all my sheep, and I have to take responsibility for your lives. I need to watch over you. This is the Lord’s commission for me.”

Hearing my pastor say that, I couldn’t help but be confused, “Aren’t we all God’s sheep? The pastor is only God’s servant, not God, so how could we be his sheep?” But I again thought that pastors and elders are established by God, that obeying pastors and elders is obeying God, so for now I ought to listen and obey, so that I wouldn’t end up resisting the Lord. After that, I no longer dared to listen to sermons at other churches.

But I still was very doubtful, and I thought, “If what the pastor is doing is wrong, do we still need to obey?” After that, I asked a preacher, who told me, “God observes our hearts, and if what the pastor is doing is wrong, God will discipline him, which has nothing to do with us. All we need to do is obey.” I felt that seemed like a reasonable answer, so I continued to go to meetings and listen to sermons at my church.

Hearing the Good News of the Lord’s Return

One day, coincidentally, I met a preacher, Brother Mu, at the home of Brother Yang. Brother Mu fellowshiped with me on many aspects of the truth, such as the mystery of God’s incarnation, how to be a wise virgin, the true meaning of being raptured, how to discern true and false Christs, and how to be an honest person. These truths and mysteries were things I had never heard in the church. They were very fresh, a pleasure to hear, and gave me spiritual provision. After the meeting, when we prayed, I heard Brother Mu pray to the name of Almighty God. This made me very curious, so I went online and searched it. I was led to the website of Almighty God, and when I opened the link, I found a rich trove of content. There were many gospel movies, artistic performances, hymns, and articles of testimony of the experience of many brothers and sisters. All the brothers and sisters in the films and videos appeared excited and filled with joy, in a way that made me admire them. I also listened to many hymns. I thought they sounded good, and found them very moving. I felt that The Church of Almighty God had the work of the Holy Spirit.

Afterward, whenever Brother Mu preached, I always went to listen. Brother Mu also testified to me that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus, and that in the last days, Almighty God has expressed millions of words and does the work of judgment beginning with God’s house, to completely save people from the bondage of sin. And this precisely fulfilled the Lord Jesus’ prophecies: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:12–13). “And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12: 47–48).

While I admitted Brother Mu’s sermons were very good, but I was still somewhat doubtful of the idea that the Lord had returned, so I asked him, “Brother Mu, you said the Lord has returned, but why doesn’t the pastor of our church know about this? The pastors and elders serve God, they are established by God, and if the Lord had returned, He would enlighten them first of all!”

Brother Mu patiently fellowshiped, “Sister, we believe that the Lord will first enlighten the pastors and elders when He returns, but do we have a basis in the Lord’s words for this view? Does this accord with the Lord’s will? Did the Lord say He would first enlighten the pastors and elders? The Pharisees in Judaism were people who had served God in the temple for years. They were familiar with the Scriptures, well-versed in the law and temple decrees, and had traveled to the far corners of the earth to spread the gospel, but when the Lord Jesus came to work, He did not first enlighten them. In fact, none of the apostles who followed the Lord Jesus began believing in the Lord after they received God’s revelation. So, the idea that the Lord first enlighten the pastors and elders when He returns has no basis in God’s words, and is based purely on the notions and imaginings of man. The Lord Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27). ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:6). The Book of Revelation in the Bible also prophesied: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Revelation 2:7). From this, we see that when the Lord Jesus returns, He will speak to the churches, and those who are His sheep will recognize His voice from His words. The Lord Jesus asked us to be wise virgins, listen attentively for His voice, and after hearing it, to be able to seek and accept it. This is the way we can receive the Lord’s appearance and dine with Him at the wedding feast. So, in the crucially important matter of receiving the Lord’s coming, we should be wise virgins based on the Lord’s words and according to His requirements. We should listen attentively for the Lord’s voice, and when we hear someone preach that the Lord has come, we must be able to proactively seek and investigate, as well as to accept and obey once we determine it is God’s word and the truth. Only in this way can we receive the returned Lord and be lifted up before God’s throne. If we rely on our notions and imaginings and believe that when the Lord comes, He will undoubtedly first enlighten the pastors and elders, think that we only need to wait for our pastors to tell us the news that the Lord has come, ignore the Lord Jesus’ requirements for us, do not listen for the words spoken by the returned Lord, and do not seek or investigate the Lord’s work in the last days, we could very easily miss our chance to receive the returned Lord and be forsaken by Him!”

Brother Mu’s fellowship had wisdom and a sound foundation. I nodded to express my approval. In the matter of receiving the Lord’s coming, we certainly do need to practice according to the Lord’s words, be wise virgins, and listen attentively for the Lord’s voice, because only then will we have a chance to receive the returned Lord.

Are Pastors and Elders Really Established by God?

Then, Brother Mu said, “Sister, you just said pastors and elders are all established by God, but I’m not sure if you’ve considered whether that’s in accord with the truth.”

Puzzled, I said, “The Bible says, ‘Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God’ (Acts 20:28). Doesn’t this Bible verse say that pastors and elders are established by God? Obeying pastors and elders represents obedience to God. Are you saying that’s wrong?”

Brother Mu patiently said, “Sister, those words were spoken by Paul, not God. Paul was only a member of corrupt mankind. Could his words represent God? Is it appropriate for us to determine that pastors and elders are established by God based on Paul’s words? Isn’t that human notions and imagining? The concepts of ‘established and used by God’ are not ideas to be spoken of lightly. Those established and used by God are people selected personally by God. When Moses was established and used by Jehovah in the Age of Law to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, for example, there were clear words to that effect. Jehovah appeared to Moses in a burning bush and said, ‘I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt’ (Exodus 3:10). ‘Certainly I will be with you; and this shall be a token to you, that I have sent you: When you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain’ (Exodus 3:12). In the Age of Grace, when the Lord Jesus used Peter to shepherd the church, there were also clear words to that effect as proof when He said to Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? … Feed My sheep’ (John 21:17). ‘And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18–19). From how God established and used Moses and Peter, we can see those who have God’s word as proof that they are established and used by God also have the Holy Spirit’s work as proof. Those established by God are all people who lead God’s chosen people to practice God’s word and follow His way according to His requirements, their work is protected and guided by the Holy Spirit, they are capable of allowing God’s chosen people to gain spiritual provision and genuine shepherding. So, when others obey these people’s work and guidance, they are obeying God, and resisting these people’s work is resisting God, which offends God’s disposition, and incites God’s cursing and punishment.”

Hearing these things brought me a feeling of sudden realization, “That’s right, I never noticed that that Bible verse was spoken by Paul, not the Lord Jesus. Brother Mu’s fellowship is correct. How could the words of man represent the Lord’s words? The fact is that the people used by God all have God’s words as proof, as well as the Holy Spirit’s work as proof. Goodness! In the past I truly was ignorant to believe the pastors and elders were all established by God.” But I was still confused, “If these pastors and elders aren’t established by God, then how can they preach and work in the church? What’s going on here?” So, I explained my confusion.

Brother Mu listened, then fellowshiped, “Actually, most of the pastors and elders in the religious world are graduates of theology schools. Others who never attended theology school were selected by believers. As pastors and elders, they lack God’s word as proof, and they lack the Holy Spirit’s work as proof. They are not established by God at all. And today, the religious world is becoming ever more desolate, with more and more lawless acts being committed. Many pastors and elders follow evil worldly trends. They lust for wealth, are greedy for vainglory, fight and squabble amongst themselves, and struggle for fame and fortune. In their work and sermons they focus only on preaching about theological theories and biblical knowledge, teach people to abide by religious rituals and regulations, and often discuss how much they themselves have worked and how many paths they have walked for the Lord, and how they have forsaken things like work and marriage to serve the Lord, in order to make others worship and look up to them. Yet they never testify or exalt God’s word, they never fellowship on God’s will, they don’t lead others in practicing or experiencing God’s word, and they never discuss their life experience. By listening to their sermons, people not only gain no knowledge of their own corruption, and no genuine obedience or fear of God, and they actually look up to and worship these pastors and elders more and more. No matter what may happen, people no longer pray and seek, but instead go first to their pastors and elders. They believe in and follow God in name only, and actually believe in and follow man. These pastors and elders of the religious world left the Lord’s path long ago, and they were abandoned and eliminated by the Holy Spirit’s work. How could God possibly establish or use these people who serve God, and yet resist Him, to lead His chosen people? How could such people be said to be established or used by God? The view that ‘pastors and elders are established by God’ is utterly ridiculous, and is an idea with no other purpose than to confuse people and resist God! Also, many people believe that ‘because the pastors and elders are established by God, obeying the pastors and elders is obeying God, and not obeying the pastors and elders is resisting God.’ Based on this logic, should we say that the believers in Judaism who followed the Pharisees in condemning and resisting the Lord were obedient to God? And were those who rejected the Pharisees and followed the Lord Jesus people who resisted God? Obviously this is a ridiculous viewpoint.

“Also, sister, in our belief in the Lord, we should respect Him above all, use the Lord’s words as the basis for all things, and when things happen to us, we must seek to understand God’s will. In the matter of how to treat pastors and elders, we must first understand that they are not established by God, which means that we can’t blindly obey them, and that we must develop discernment. If what the pastors and elders say and do accords with God’s words, and we are able to understand God’s will and requirements through their fellowship, then we should accept and obey them. If the pastors and elders only exalt themselves but do not witness for God in their work and sermons, and what they say and do does not accord with God’s words, or even betrays God’s words, then we can’t listen to them or obey them. Only in this way are we truly in accord with God’s will and genuinely believers in God. So, if we blindly believe and obey the words of the pastors and elders, and have no discernment at all of what they say and do, we may very easily follow them in resisting God, and the consequences of that are unthinkable.”

After hearing Brother Mu’s fellowship, my heart felt brightened a little, and I said, “So the fact is that some pastors and elders in the religious world only became pastors after graduating from theology institutes, while others were recommended by their brothers and sisters, but as pastors and elders, they lack both God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit as proof of their qualifications. Despite that, I actually believed they were all established by God, and thought that obeying the pastors and elders is obeying God. That viewpoint is honestly ridiculous!

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