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What Did Jesus Mean by Mercy that Pharisees did Not Teach?

Jesus said in Matthew 23:23 that the Pharisees were shallow teachers of the Law, teaching only tithing but ignoring the "weightier matters of the Law" --  the judgments (right and wrong), "mercy" (KJV) and "pistis" (Greek for obedient "faithfulness" or faith)

What did Jesus have in mind for "Mercy" in the Law?

As we have explained elsewhere, the Gospel of Mercy also translatable as Grace in the Original Bible was predicated not on atonement alone, but first and foremost upon works worthy repentance and a turn toward obedience. This rendered you forgivable, and now God allowed you to bring an atonement gift offering and ask for forgiveness.

This true Gospel of Mercy and Grace was stated in the Ten Commandments. Jesus' messages repeatedly hit on this statement in that section of the Law. In Exodus 20:6 KJV, we read just before the second commandment:

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments

The same Exodus verse is quoted at Qumram, and is translated in The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians (2004) at page 314 by non-Christian scholars (hence unbiased scholars who do not have an agenda to obscure the truth) as God "showing GRACE" unto thousands, etc. "Grace" is a synonymn today for "mercy."

The famous prayer of the prophet Daniel in his chapter 9 likewise reveals the link between this Mercy passage of the Ten Commandments and the Messiah's atonement. In this prayer by Daniel, he first confesses sin for himself and his people, and admits disobedience, etc. He then quotes the same principle of mercy from the Ten Commandments as he next pleas for mercy, wherepon God hears and a spiritual door opens.  The door opens to a prophecy every Christian should read regularly. It was a promise by God to send a Messiah to "make atonement for iniquity."

What was the principle of Daniel's prayer of mercy that God responded to with this offer of a future atonement by a Messiah as a payment for sin?

Daniel quoted from the Ten Commandments -- Exodus 20:6 -- wherein God gives His principle of mercy and grace: 

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; (Daniel 9:4 KJV)

The bolded portion is Daniel quoting Exodus 20:6. 

So how did you, and Daniel and the people of Israel get mercy? By calling on atonement? No. By bringing a sacrifice? No. You and anyone else who seeks to use atonement obtains mercy only by first loving Yahweh, and obeying Yahweh's commands. You do so by praying Daniel's prayer for yourself and everyone around you FIRST -- confessing and acknowledging sin (Nu 5:7; Lev 5:5) -- and doing the works of repentance consistent with that. This is what the Pharisees failed to teach.

What did they teach instead. They obviously did not teach Mercy on both these principles. What did they teach to supplant this? We independently know they taught all Israel was predestined to salvation, regardless of repentance -- something that Paul repeats in Romans when he says in contrast to his mission to Gentiles that there is no worry about Sons of Israel, for "all Israel will be saved." For background, let's turn to what John the Baptist said was flawed in Pharisee doctrine.

 

John the Baptist Tells Us the Wrong Salvation Doctrine

of  Pharisees 

 

John the Baptist — whom Jesus called the Greatest Prophet (Matt 11:11), -- excoriated the Pharisees for teaching a doctrine of election that discounted the need for any repentance to obain mercy, as we shall explain here. John proclaimed:

 


(7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come from God? (8) Produce the fruits of perfect repentance. (9) And do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father,’ for I tell you, that God is able to raise up his son Abraham from these stones. (10) And even now the axe lies at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that does not produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.” (Matt 3:7-10 OGM.)

 

What was John meaning by saying God could make stones into sons of Abraham? And in context, why is this contrasted with the Pharisees who resisted true repentance? John was making a rhetorical point about the Pharisees' doctrine of election. If God is simply unconcerned with a person’s heart, and would show mercy to "the elect" of Israel despite disobedience, then God could simply make stones into sons of Abraham. It would be all the same to God. But of course God does not want to save stones — heartless, emotionless and repentant-free stones. He wants loving obedient children who obtain mercy instead as outlined in the Ten Commandments -- in Exodus 20:6 -- by the fact one "loves me and obeys my commandments."

 

To understand John's point in context, one has to know the doctrine of election and predestination that John and Jesus too were battling against. As Ebinezer Ireson in The Methodist Preacher (Putnam: 1833) at 160 wrote:

 


The Pharisees were, at that time, the most rigid predestinarians in the world, and believed (as a matter of course) in the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation; and believed, also (as all do who credit the doctrine) that they were elect, because they were descendants of Abraham…. (Emphasis added.)

 


     Paul, a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) himself, never gave up on this doctrine, oddly enough. Paul says “All Israel will be saved.” (Rom. 11:26.) The wider context makes clear that Paul means this is an “election” and “mercy” of God, having nothing to do with a change in belief or "repentance.” Rather, it was to fulfill a supposed unconditional promise toward sons of Abraham through his son Jacob later named Israel. In Romans 11:26 we read:

 


25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (Romans 11:25-32.)


Paul thus believes "all Israel is in unbelief" but “all Israel will be saved” and God will have "mercy upon all [of them]." How does this salvation come about? Paul claims it is based upon an “election” and “calling” of Israel that is made “without repentance.” They will receive “mercy” through the “mercy” God bestows on Gentiles who “believed” which came about due to Israelite “unbelief.” How is this just? Supposedly because by the “unbelief” of Israel, the Gentiles received mercy. Now the belief of the Gentiles will allegedly -- per Paul -- impart mercy “upon all” of Israel — and thus “all Israel will be saved.”  

 

Thus while Paul's reasoning -- seemingly bizarre -- is likely his own explanation, the result was the same as Pharisee doctrine: all Israel would be saved by predestination.

 


What did John the Baptist say instead is the true basis of mercy and salvation for Israel or anyone else? He said “God wants works worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8.) You cannot rely upon election and predestination to excuse the requirement.


Oddly enough, Paul's doctrines then extended an election and predestination to Gentiles, equally without the "works worthy of repentance" necessary. Eph. 2:8-9.

 

So the cure to that doctrine of election and predestination of the Pharisees which supplanted God's principle of mercy was, John says, to have "works worthy of repentance." God's promises of blessings to Abraham and his seed are not to each specific individual from physical birth, thus guaranteeing salvation, but only those sons of Abraham who love and obey Yahweh as did Abraham. Their national blessing would be the Torah that would guide them to all blessings. The blessing was not a universalist salvation for sons of Israel.

 

Jesus in the same chapter of Matthew then repeats the gospel of Works Worthy of Repentance. This lets us know Jesus likely was teaching this so as to reject and make clear that unconditional election and predestination are invalid doctrines, as they wrongly dispense with the necessity of repentance, including works worthy of repentance, for mercy. See our article Works Worthy of Repentance.

(Adapted 5/15/2020 from our article on Paul Errs that those Not Under the Law Can Invoke Atonement of Jesus Made under the Law.)