Read It! - March 2023
Michael Reeves, Evangelical Pharisees: The Gospel as the Cure for the Church’s Hypocrisy
(Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2023), 112 pp.
Evangelicals can be accused of many things. But of the most offensive things to be accused of is being a Pharisee. These ancient “high-brow theologians” knew their Bibles and worked hard at being religious, yet Jesus called them, “white-washed tombs.” Evangelical Pharisees: The Gospel as a Cure of the Church’s Hypocrisy by Michael Reeves tackles this subject in a straightforward and biblical fashion. The author remarks, “Pharisaism, after all, is the sort of heartless formal religion that marks the first subtle step in the spiritual decline of a church before it ever flies into outright hypocrisy.” Reeves argues that the Pharisee’s primary problem was with the gospel: “The Pharisees were as they were and acted as they did because they denied the gospel … Their character was a manifestation of their theology.”
The critical theological mistakes of the Pharisees lay in three areas: 1) Their approach to Scripture, 2) Their understanding of salvation, and 3) Their disregard of regeneration. The core of the book focuses on these three areas, namely - revelation, redemption, and regeneration. Anyone familiar with Michael Reeves will attest that his treatment of a given topic is always fair, thought-provoking, and most importantly - biblical. After exploring the three theological mistakes of the Pharisees, he summarizes his central argument:
In the gospel we receive the revelation of the Father, the redemption of the
Son, and the regeneration of the Spirit. Through the gospel shines the light
of the knowledge of the glory of a speaking God, a merciful and gracious
God, a God who is love and who therefore looks more on the heart than
the appearance. The gospel brings us to enjoy him.
I’ve never known a Christian who didn’t bristle at the thought of being labeled as a Pharisee. However, Reeve’s book shines the spotlight on sinful hearts and reveals that lurking beneath is the spirit of the ancient Pharisee. Evangelical Pharisees is the proper response to the problem that plagues us all. May we return to the heart of the gospel, which is the cure for our hypocrisy.
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