Sabbath, September 10, 2011
“The most careful cultivation of the outward proprieties of life is not sufficient to shut out all fretfulness, harsh judgment, and unbecoming speech. True refinement will never be revealed so long as self is considered as the supreme object. Love must dwell in the heart. A thoroughgoing Christian draws his motives of action from his deep heart-love for his Master. Up through the roots of his affection for Christ springs an unselfish interest in his brethren.
“Of all things that are sought, cherished, and cultivated, there is nothing so valuable in the sight of God as a pure heart, a disposition imbued with thankfulness and peace.” –The Adventist Home, p. 425.
1. What did the Pharisees require of the people? Of what did they accuse the disciples and Jesus Himself?
Mark 7:1, 2 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
Mark 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
“Christ and His disciples did not observe these ceremonial washings, and the spies made this neglect the ground of their accusation. They did not, however, make a direct attack on Christ, but came to Him with criticism of His disciples….
“Whenever the message of truth comes home to souls with special power, Satan stirs up his agents to start a dispute over some minor question. Thus he seeks to attract attention from the real issue. Whenever a good work is begun, there are cavilers ready to enter into dispute over forms or technicalities, to draw minds away from the living realities. When it appears that God is about to work in a special manner for His people, let them not be enticed into a controversy that will work only ruin of souls. The questions that most concern us are, Do I believe with saving faith on the Son of God? Is my life in harmony with the divine law? ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.’ ‘And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.’ John 3:36; 1 John 2:3.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 396.
2. What customs were observed especially by the Pharisees before eating?
Mark 7:3, 4 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.
“As before, the ground of complaint was His disregard of the traditional precepts that encumbered the law of God. These were professedly designed to guard the observance of the law, but they were regarded as more sacred than the law itself. When they came in collision with the commandments given from Sinai, preference was given to the rabbinical precepts.
“Among the observances most strenuously enforced was that of ceremonial purification. A neglect of the forms to be observed before eating was accounted a heinous sin, to be punished both in this world and in the next; and it was regarded as a virtue to destroy the transgressor.
“The rules in regard to purification were numberless. The period of a lifetime was scarcely sufficient for one to learn them all. The life of those who tried to observe the rabbinical requirements was one long struggle against ceremonial defilement, an endless round of washings and purifications. While the people were occupied with trifling distinctions, and observances which God had not required, their attention was turned away from the great principles of His law.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 395, 396.
Lack of respect for God’s law
3. While the Jews were extremely particular about observing human traditions, what was their attitude toward God’s holy law–in this case, the fifth commandment?
Mark 7:9-13 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
“They set aside the fifth commandment as of no consequence, but were very exact in carrying out the traditions of the elders. They taught the people that the devotion of their property to the temple was a duty more sacred than even the support of their parents; and that, however great the necessity, it was sacrilege to impart to father or mother any part of what had been thus consecrated. An undutiful child had only to pronounce the word ‘Corban’ over his property, thus devoting it to God, and he could retain it for his own use during his lifetime, and after his death it was to be appropriated to the temple service. Thus he was at liberty, both in life and in death, to dishonor and defraud his parents, under cover of a pretended devotion to God.
“Never, by word or deed, did Jesus lessen man’s obligation to present gifts and offerings to God. It was Christ who gave all the directions of the law in regard to tithes and offerings…. The people were deceived by them. They were bearing heavy burdens which God had not imposed. Even the disciples of Christ were not wholly free from the yoke that had been bound upon them by inherited prejudice and rabbinical authority. Now, by revealing the true spirit of the rabbis, Jesus sought to free from the bondage of tradition all who were really desirous of serving God.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 396, 397.
4. Whenever human ideas, wishes, or customs have the preeminence, what happens to the principles of God’s holy law? How does the Lord consider such attitudes?
Mark 7:6-8 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
“The words of Christ were an arraignment of the whole system of Pharisaism. He declared that by placing their requirements above the divine precepts the rabbis were setting themselves above God.
“The deputies from Jerusalem were filled with rage. They could not accuse Christ as a violator of the law given from Sinai, for He spoke as its defender against their traditions. The great precepts of the law, which He had presented, appeared in striking contrast to the petty rules that men had devised.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 397.
5. What did the Pharisees consider as defiling a person? What did Jesus teach regarding external things, as well as that which is moral and spiritual?
Matthew 15:10, 11 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Emphasizing where spiritual defilement comes from, one Bible version gives the following translation of Mark 7:15: “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are spiritually defiled by what comes from your heart.” –New Living Translation.
“To the multitude, and afterward more fully to His disciples, Jesus explained that defilement comes not from without, but from within. Purity and impurity pertain to the soul. It is the evil deed, the evil word, the evil thought, the transgression of the law of God, not the neglect of external, man-made ceremonies, that defiles a man.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 397.
Source and cleansing of defilement
6. Ultimately, what will happen with every precept, tradition, or custom that is contrary to God’s law? What is the difference between physical pollution and spiritual defilement?
Matthew 15:13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
Matthew 15:15-20 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
Mark 7:17-23 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
“The customs and traditions so highly valued by the rabbis were of this world, not from heaven…. Every human invention that has been substituted for the commandments of God will be found worthless in that day when ‘God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.’ Ecclesiastes 12:14.
“The substitution of the precepts of men for the commandments of God has not ceased. Even among Christians are found institutions and usages that have no better foundation than the traditions of the fathers. Such institutions, resting upon mere human authority, have supplanted those of divine appointment. Men cling to their traditions, and revere their customs, and cherish hatred against those who seek to show them their error. In this day, when we are bidden to call attention to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, we see the same enmity as was manifested in the days of Christ….
“Let all who accept human authority, the customs of the church, or the traditions of the fathers, take heed to the warning conveyed in the words of Christ, ‘In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’” –The Desire of Ages, p. 398.
7. In the light of Jesus’ teaching, what is more important–external things, or moral and spiritual purity of heart and mind? How alone is it possible to have right priorities?
Matthew 23:24-26 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Psalm 24:4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“These denunciations are given as a warning to all who ‘outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within’ ‘are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.’ They say, We are delivered to do all these things.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 79.
“Not long since I heard a mother say that she liked to see a house fitly constructed, that defects in the arrangement and mismatched woodwork in the finishing annoyed her. I do not condemn nice taste in this respect, but as I listened to her, I regretted that this nicety could not have been brought into her methods of managing her children. These were buildings for whose framing she was responsible; yet their rough, uncourteous ways, their passionate, selfish natures, and uncontrolled wills, were painfully apparent to others. Ill-formed characters, mismatched pieces of humanity, indeed they were, yet the mother was blind to it all. The arrangement of her house was of more consequence to her than the symmetry of her children’s character.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 157.
“God has a special work for the men of experience to do. They are to guard the cause of God. They are to see that the work of God is not committed to men who feel it their privilege to move out on their own independent judgment, to preach whatever they please, and to be responsible to no one for their instructions or work. Let this spirit of self-sufficiency once rule in our midst, and there will be no harmony of action, no unity of spirit, no safety for the work, and no healthful growth in the cause. There will be false teachers, evil workers who will, by insinuating error, draw away souls from the truth. Christ prayed that His followers might be one as He and the Father were one.” –(The Review and Herald, May 29, 1888) Evangelism, pp. 212, 213.
For additional study
• Luke 11:37-40
• Psalms 24:5; 51:2
• The Desire of Ages, pp. 395-398
Testing our conscience
• Where do many defiling problems originate–within or outside of us?
• How may we have a clean conscience?