The spirit of the Pharisees animates Evangelicalism today. I say that in a positive and negative sense.
What could be the positive sense? The Pharisees were those Israelites in the time of Jesus most zealous for the Law of Moses. While they certainly misapplied their knowledge of Moses, they had more knowledge of his law than anyone else. Once one of them saw the light – surely the apostle Paul comes to your mind – they could be as ferocious for the truth in the spirit of love as they had been ferocious for misunderstanding in the spirit of hypocrisy. Grant this to the Pharisees as well: they had far more hope in God than their rival faction the Sadducees. The Sadducees swore allegiance to the Scriptures but could not accept the idea of people being resurrected. The Pharisees made it an essential element of their doctrine. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is of the Jews” and the Pharisees had the zeal to be the Jews of all Jews.
Similarly, Evangelicals in our time swear allegiance to the Bible and to the Lord like no other. And I should be clear that I am defining Evangelicalism in its broadest sense, so I include Charismatics and Pentecostals when I speak of them. These are all people who will tell the world unashamedly that the Bible is the word of God and has not an error in it. They are absolutely right about this. Where they err is in their obedience to the Bible. Like the Pharisees, their obedience is focused on petty things – like not cussing or saying a blessing before eating a meal. Jesus prefaced His teaching on the Lord’s prayer by saying prayer should not be vain repetition, and yet that’s just how many Evangelicals pray that prayer – by rote group repetition. Also like the Pharisees, they neglect the commandments of God for their own man-made commandments. This includes insistence on church affiliation, participation, and financial support – none of which Jesus ever commanded.
If the Evangelicals ever recover the spirit that provoked them to come to Jesus in the first place, they will find the kingdom of God and then will be like the head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old. May the spirit of that great recovered Pharisee Paul himself animate them. If that happens, our world will be rocked like nothing we have ever seen.
In the meantime, know that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Evangelicals, you will not enjoy the rule of God.