The Pharisees began their assault on grace during Jesus’ ministry by dismissing the message of repentance by John the Baptist. They thought they were saved and sanctified due to their heritage.
“And when all the people heard him (John the Baptist), even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” Luke 7:29-30
The Pharisees were self righteous and outwardly moral. Their appearance was deceiving. Jesus warned His disciples about them repeatedly.
“Also He spoke this parable…: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector’.” Luke 18:9-12
The tax collector, however, recognized his helplessness and begged for mercy.
“…God, be merciful to me a sinner’! Luke 18:13b
Jesus summarized His parable by comparing the self righteous with the one who confessed his sin.
“I tell you, this man (tax collector) went down to his house justified rather than the other (Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
The Pharisees never seemed to recognize the similarities between self righteousness and depravation.
The Pharisees sought recognition and approval from other men. They were entirely politically correct in this manner.
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that…do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men…’.” Matthew 23:1-4
Jesus said to the people to do as they were instructed by the scribes if it was truly in accordance with the Mosaic Law. That was the basic duty of the scribes to interpret the law to the people. But then the Pharisees gave instructions for the people to obey their traditions which they themselves had no intention of doing. Jesus told the people to ignore such instructions.
It reminds one of our ‘regulation nation’ and the Affordable Care Act in which the drafters are exempt from its requirements.
But note in particular the last part of the above scripture passage, i.e. ‘all their works they do to be seen by men’.
Paul, once again, addressed that very issue.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.” Galatians 1:10-11
Paul taught that the choice to please men or God is mutually exclusive, i.e. one cannot have it both ways. He stated that if his teaching was for the purpose of pleasing men, he would be forfeiting his relationship to Christ.
Paul taught a similar message to the church at Thessalonica.
“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words…Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6
And then it can’t be overlooked that the Pharisees loved money.
“Now the Pharisee, who were lovers of money…derided Him. And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God’.” Luke 16:14-15
Thus it can be seen that the Pharisees were/are more interested in pleasing men than God.