Question: Who were the Pharisees?
Answer: The Pharisees were a prominent "sect" of the Jews. There were numerous classes, some closer to the true law of Moses, others extremely distant. The name Pharisee basically means separatists. Most of the Pharisees were enemies of Christ and the apostles (Matt. 21: 33-46; Luke 12: 1).
The Pharisees were legalists. The Pharisees were very concerned about keeping the minute areas of the law (Matt. 23: 23). Christ did not condemn this; rather He endorsed it (Ibid.). The problem with the Pharisees was in their preoccupation with the minute, they had forgotten the " weightier matters of the law" (Ibid.). Jesus said, "...these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." The Pharisees said, but they often did not do (Matt. 23: 3).
Did works to be seen of men. Pretension was a common trait of the Pharisees. Jesus said of them, "But all their works they do for to be seen of men" (Matt. 23: 5). They loved attention and religious titles (Matt. 23: 6-9).
The Pharisees made void the commandments of God. The Pharisees were often more concerned about keeping their own traditions than God's law. Hear Jesus, "Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mk. 7: 9). They made void God's commandments and rendered their worship vain (Mk. 7: 7, 13)
Jesus had many severe confrontations with the Pharisees. On one occasion Jesus said, "let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind..." (Matt. 15: 14). Be it known, however, that Jesus never rebuked any for sincerely keeping His commandments or for teaching God's law, in its purity, to others. Jesus never discouraged good works, but rather endorsed such (Matt. 23: 1-3). The motives of the Pharisees were wrong (Luke 12: 1).