And How God Bestowed His Grace Upon a Pharisee Like Me
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matt. 23:15
The word “Pharisee” means one who is separated for a life of purity. Oh, that described my intentions to the fullest as a believer. I wanted to be pure and holy. The Pharisees probably began with pure motives and good intentions. They so desired to please God. They wanted to love God with all their heart. They wanted to obey Him in everything they did. But even though the Law of Moses was rather stringent, there were still many areas of freedom, such as what it meant not to do any work on the Sabbath. So the Pharisees began to add to the Law, to make it even stricter than what God had intended, even going so far as to prescribe where one could spit on the Sabbath, for example: It was fine to spit on a rock because the spittle just sat there, but if you spat on the dirt, the dirt had to absorb the liquid, so that was considered work. Oh, we look at that now and laugh, but do we do the same things in our desire to be pure and holy? I know I do.
When we are truly sold out for Christ, it is a wonderful thing. It is a goal worth obtaining to be everything that God wants us to be. But in so doing, sometimes we lose our first love. Sometimes the pursuit of holiness begins to take precedence over our relationship with Christ. Sometimes the rules begin to rule in our own hearts. Sometimes we forget the grace of God toward us while we were yet sinners and we “work” to please the Lord. We don’t even realize it is “work.” We think that we are pleasing the Lord by living a life of holiness and obedience to him. And we may be. If our motives are right.
When we see a pattern or principle in Scripture, that can be a good thing, if we understand how to properly use it. There is much to be learned from these biblical principles. But there is a world of difference between using a biblical principle as a guide and using the principle to define sin. Some Christians have falsely elevated principles in Scripture to make them the equivalent of commands. When we see a principle in Scripture, I think it is intended to help us make wise decisions. Often people will call them guiding principles, and that they should be. They should be there to guide us in life, but they are not there as a rule of law for us. We get into trouble when we elevate even Scripturally-based guiding principles into a rule of law for our life.
When we discover principles in Scripture, we make our own preferences in life based upon these principles. After a while of living out these preferences, they may start to become convictions for us. After having our own convictions for a while, they can then be falsely elevated into convictions that we put upon others, often without ever meaning to do so. When we expect others to follow these same convictions, we elevate what started out as merely a guiding principle for life to the status of a command or law for us. To violate this “law” now becomes a sin. Sometimes these violations are even then elevated to the level of being an excommunicable offense. How did we get from a basic guiding biblical principle all the way to an excommunicable offense? I saw this happen in my own life.
These last few months were excruciatingly painful for me as I realized what I had bought into all these years. Until very recently, I was bound by legalism, but I didn’t know it. I have just recently had many “convictions” stripped away from me as I saw that God does not give us explicit commands in His Word regarding these areas. I am not advocating antinomianism in any way whatsoever; we are under the Law of Christ, and as such, there are plenty of commands for us to obey. We just need to be very cautious not to elevate principles to the place of a direct command.
Having been a part of the Patriarchy movement for seven years, even after our excommunication, I was surprised when some here started challenging this movement. These were not egalitarians or feminists, and they appeared to believe in biblical roles, so I didn’t understand what they had against patriarchy. I was suddenly faced with the realization that Patriarchy may not be as biblical as I’d always believed it to be. I loved the lifestyle of Patriarchy, in spite of my story.
When I first set about to write about patriarchy, my thoughts were that I would start by listing everything in patriarchy that I found to be biblical. The second part of that series was going to focus on what seemed to be hyper-patriarchy, or extra-biblical. As I read through the “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy,” I thought that, overall, they sounded fine. There were a few minor areas of concern, however, so I decided to look up those verses to see why that tenet was stated in that particular way. Expecting to find biblical language being used in the tenets, I was surprised to find that the first few Scriptures I looked up did not provide the biblical support I anticipated. As I looked into the Scriptural support further and further, I began to see a pattern emerge, a pattern of tenets without the requisite biblical support. Still, I reasoned to myself, these tenets aren’t really that bad in and of themselves. They just need a little more Scriptural support. Even after writing out all the lack of biblical basis found in the “Tenets,” I was blind to what it all meant.
I believe these tenets were originally written in 2001, which was a time when I found Patriarchy to be much more loving and not nearly as extreme as it is currently. While I am sure that many patriarchists still believe these Tenets as written, how they play out in real life has become a huge concern to me.
When it comes to God’s Word, truth is all important. I am sold out for the truth of God’s Word, even if it means that I have to make changes in life in order to line up with the truth of God’s Word. We naturally gravitate toward positions that favor our personal inclinations. Sometimes we do so without searching the Scriptures for ourselves. But a diligent search for the truth of God’s Word demands that we be willing to let God rip away our emotional attachments.
When we first attended a patriarchy church, I was attracted to the like-mindedness of the other families there. I had always had a strong desire to live in a Christian community with other people who believed the same things I did, who lived a similar lifestyle, and who worked and lived and fellowshipped together on a regular basis. I wanted more, so much more, than what a normal church has to offer. I wanted that New Testament church where they had all things in common, where they broke bread together daily, where they met together in homes to study and fellowship. I wanted to be with people who believed in following the roles for men and women that God laid out for us in His Word. I desired to be with families who wanted to stay together as a family and weren’t separated every time we walked through the doors of a church. I really wanted to meet other families who believed in a reasonable amount of training and discipline for their children, so that children are a pleasure to be around, and not terrors.
I also crave structure. I’d been in churches where they just “let the Holy Spirit lead,” and we never knew what was going to happen from week to week. That was too touchy-feely for me and I created my own boundaries instead. Although I don’t need liturgies, I enjoy a highly-structured format to the service. I like predictability. I thrived under the discipline of military life and was drawn to memorizing all the rules and regulations. I carried that desire over into real life as well, feeling safe inside my man-made boundaries. As long as I could see a solid reason for them, I was willing to submit to all kinds of rules, and delighted in having that same kind of structure at home. I never felt I was too extreme in all this, as I didn’t lay out a schedule for every adult and child in my family for every fifteen minutes of the day, as did some of my friends. But I still advocated basic time management.
So I didn’t know anything about Patriarchy when we first started attending this church, but I was so desperate for a “godly” church that I was willing to follow just about any set of rules in order to be a part of one. In fact, had we not gone here, I was ready to go to the Mennonite church the following week. I told my daughter that I was willing to give up my wardrobe of normal clothes and wear plain, drab dresses, no make-up or jewelry, and I would even wear a head-covering, if I could just find a godly church. When the elders started preaching on different aspects of Patriarchy and these different tenets would come up in everyday conversation, I thought this was what was necessary in order to be holy. I had previously thought that maybe I was the only person in the world who was concerned with holiness, but once I started attending this patriarchy church, I realized that I didn’t even begin to meet their standards of holiness. I arrived there full of pride at my own holiness, but I soon had that pride dashed, as I suddenly felt myself fall to the bottom of the barrel, spiritually, in comparison to these other godly families there.
I worked real hard to make the necessary changes to fit in. I wasn’t about to change just to fit in, though, so I set about to pray and asked God to reveal to me all the sin in my life. My husband did the same. Together, we began to listen to dozens of sermons by various speakers about this new kind of lifestyle. After each tape, we would discuss the message as a family, evaluating whether it lined up with Scripture or not. If we agreed that it was biblical, we would cry and repent and make major changes in our family. Looking back now, I can see that nearly all these messages were based on biblical principles, often taken out of context, rather than on direct commands of Scripture. We listened to most of these on a 6,000 mile cross-country trip, so we sometimes listened to three or four sermons a day. That meant three or four major changes in our family a day. That was pure hell for our thirteen year old daughter and she hated all the changes, but she eventually just got used to them, since everyone else at church lived the same lifestyle. So, it wasn’t too long before we were on par with the rest of the families at church regarding Patriarchy or, at least, as much as we could figure out without having it demonstrated to us. I did have some concerns about the level of submission that was taught and the emphasis on not allowing girls to attend college and some of the extremes for the women, such as not being allowed to introduce my own parents at church, but for the most part, they were small differences that I could live with. Or so I thought.
Years later, I told my story. And I was still dedicated to Patriarchy. In fact, I said as much in many of my comments here. I wasn’t even ready to give it up when I posted that series of three articles exposing how extra-biblical “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” really are. But God was ready for me to nail that coffin shut on that part of my life, so I believe that He led Corrie to post some articles here by Jonathan Lindvall. I said I didn’t want any off-topic comments on the “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” exposés, so I had some complaints about letting those comments stand. But as I read through those comments by Jonathan Lindvall, I suddenly realized that while the words on “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” sounded polished and full of vision, what Jonathan Lindvall was talking about was what my real life was like in Patriarchy. That hit me like a ton of bricks and I was forced to examine the fruit of Patriarchy in my life.
But something really significant happened along the way, something that made me willing to examine Patriarchy. The more I think about this particular experience in my life, the more I am able to empathize with those who are still caught up in Patriarchy, especially hyper-Patriarchy, and the more I understand why they just don’t see what we are talking about. As I share a really personal part of my heart with you now, I hope that this will help us to be able to pray for those who are still blinded to extra-biblical teachings of hyper-patriarchy.
As many of you know, Mike is my Bible study teacher. But we did not get off to a very good start last March when I argued incessantly with him about the definition of the words “observe” and “keep.” I don’t know why Mike gave me a second chance, but he began to systematically teach me about the Law of Moses in the Bible. I didn’t get it. I liked being under the Law, all the while insisting that I wasn’t actually under the Law, but was merely following the Law. We spent hours and hours and hours going through Galatians, but I just didn’t understand what Mike was trying to say. At one point, in exasperation, I said, “Do you know how many times I’ve read Galatians in the last several days?” Mike merely responded, “Not enough,” so we went back to the drawing board. I averaged 8-12 hours of Bible study a day for weeks, trying to find the truth. I knew my position was wrong by this point, but I wasn’t ready to concede. I had to be convinced of the truth; I had to see it for myself. So we studied many, many passages on the Law. And I still didn’t get it.
I woke up on March 25 this year at 3 in the morning with two words racing through my mind: authority and jurisdiction. All of a sudden, I realized that the Law has no authority over me because I am not under its jurisdiction. (I realize that this is a very simplified version of hundreds of pages of teaching. Mike also taught me later which law I am under.) Mike had been saying that all along, but my mind was blinded. As Mike encouraged me to go back over all the previous lessons again, I suddenly realized that I understood them all clearly. They were as obvious now as the nose on my face. What changed? Why did those two words keep my stomach in knots for weeks? Why did this Bible study consume my whole life? Why was I so driven to study about the Law of Moses, of all things?
I didn’t understand why then, but as I recently studied II Corinthians 3 again, a passage that Mike taught me in great detail previously, I saw something that explained the radical change in my life from that day I woke up shouting “Authority! Jurisdiction!” This passage is talking about the veil that Moses wore over his face, even as the glory was passing away, the glory that came from the Old Covenant, also called the ministry of death or the ministry of condemnation. Then it talks about how much more glorious the New Covenant is. Now look at verses 14-16:
But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
When I saw this two weeks ago, I noticed something new to me. Both thoughts are repeated twice, which gives meaning to the context. Before we look at that, though, we need to understand what the veil does. Verse 14 states that their minds were blinded and then goes on to show why. The veil over the heart represents a blind mind, one that cannot understand the Scriptures. The first idea expressed here is “the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament” and “when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.” Obviously God is not telling us that just reading the Old Testament causes a veil to remain unlifted. That wouldn’t make sense. The second part tells us that it is specifically when Moses, or the Law of Moses, is read. But does reading the Old Testament or even the Law of Moses cause a veil to be over our hearts? Let’s look at the other thought here to find out. Now we see that “the veil is taken away in Christ” and “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” When we turn to the Lord, when we are in Christ, the veil is taken away and our minds are no longer blind. Would it mean that when we became a Christian that we would still have a veil over our heart when we read the Law of Moses? No. Of course not. So, it seems to me that since the whole chapter is talking about comparing and contrasting the Old Covenant, that ministry of death and condemnation, with the New Covenant, the ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness, that that contrast is continued in these verses. When we turn to Christ, we are under the New Covenant; we are no longer under the Old Covenant. The veil of the Old Covenant is taken away in Christ. The veil of the ministry of death and condemnation is lifted when one turns to the Lord of the New Covenant.
So what am I saying? I now know that I lived under the Law of Moses. I tried to keep that Law. Even though that Law had no authority over me, no jurisdiction over me, I wanted to obey that Law of Moses anyway. I put myself under the Law of Moses and that is what this passage is referring to when it says “when Moses is read.” And so my mind was blinded. I could not understand the Scriptures. I thought I understood them, but Mike kept assuring me that I did not. And then, all of a sudden, that veil was lifted and my mind was no longer blind. I could see! I could understand! When? When I turned to the Lord. The passage tells us that the veil is lifted when we turn to the Lord, that our minds are no longer blind when we are in Christ.
Was I truly saved before that day? Maybe. Maybe not. I thought I was. I loved God with all my heart and I desired to please him. But I know of another Pharisee who loved God with all his heart and desired to obey God also — Saul, before he became Paul. And after his conversion, it was as if scales fell from his eyes and his mind was no longer blinded. He, too, was living under that old Law, the ministry of death and condemnation.
Legalism brings a lot of condemnation. Legalism is adding to what God has told us to do. Legalism places heavy burdens on us that God never intended us to carry. Legalism is the burden of the Pharisees. Just as Saul was a Pharisee before he came to Christ, so I was a Pharisee. The verse I began with in this article says that Pharisees make their converts into two-fold sons of hell. That simply means that the new Pharisees are twice as fit for judgment as those who taught them to be so legalistic. Why am I so dedicated to exposing extra-biblical Patriarchy? Because I am concerned about all the two-fold sons of hell that are being converted along the way. And sometimes, when we overcome particular sins of our past, we become zealous with a zeal against what we ourselves were bound up in. I was bound up in Patriarchy and I was bound up in legalism, and now God is birthing a zealousness in me to help free those who are bound, but don’t even realize it. I don’t have all the answers for those who are in bondage, but I’m willing to share what I know so far. Liberty is too sweet to keep it all to myself!