Were the Pharisees Jesus confronted concerned with keeping God’s law and doing good as some people think? According to Brandon Hines of Pulpit & Pen, that isn’t necessarily the case. He writes:
Whenever someone plays the Pharisee Card, they often seem to think that the Pharisees were more concerned with sound doctrine and personal holiness than loving God and loving people. For one thing, loving God and loving people is a part of personal holiness, so this idea is already a self-refuting idea. However, if we look deeper into Scripture, we can see that the Pharisees, for the most part, were not doctrinally sound at all.
The Pharisees Did Not Understand Regeneration
In John 3, Jesus famously expresses the doctrine of Regeneration and being born again to the Pharisee named Nicodemus. When Jesus says in verse 3 (ESV), “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” Nicodemus responds by asking, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Interestingly enough, it is actually Jesus who seems more concerned with doctrinal accuracy. In verse 10 (ESV), Jesus says, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” implying both that regeneration is a doctrine that should’ve been understood even at that time and that Nicodemus, a Pharisee, did not know it.