What is the Meaning of Mark 7.1-23

“The Heart: The Source of Defilement and of Genuine Worship”

Mark 7:1-23

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 7.1-23

Mark chapter 7. The last time we were in the book of Mark, I started that message with an illustration about a revival that happened in Connecticut through the ministry of George Whitfield. That revival occurred in the 1740s.

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And that was right after the Connecticut school shooting. And so I asked the question, “what happened from the 1740s to today?” And we answer that question by noting how both Christians and culture have moved away from God’s word.

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Now, as we move to our text this morning, we can ask a similar question concerning the nation of Israel. These last four or five weeks we have studied 2 Chronicles together. In our study of this book, we discovered that the book was written for God’s people who were coming back from the Babylonian exile. God’s people, after having disobeyed God for many years, God sent into captivity into the land of Babylon. And now, having been sent back by Cyrus to come back to Jerusalem and restore it to its former glory, the author of Chronicles desires to help God’s people stay true to him and his word. And so as the chronicler writes his book, he shows how God’s people can make sure that they are pleasing to God.

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And so as we’ve seen, the book of 2 Chronicles is full of stories of revivals. If God’s people want to follow God as he desires, and see his great blessings upon his people then they should do what’s found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB) and [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

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And now, having concluded that series, we can ask a similar question as we did before we put down the book of Mark and picked up the book of Chronicles which is, “what happened from the time of the return from the exile to now?” What happened from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, during which 2 Chronicles was written, to the time of the Pharisees? The answer is that the Pharisees did not take the council of 2 Chronicles in order to get God’s blessing.

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Notice Jesus’ indictment of them. Mark 7:6, Jesus calls them hypocrites. He says that their heart is far away from God and that verse seven they worship God in vain. They also neglect God’s commandments, in verse eight. So, we’ll be dealing with how the Pharisees have failed in this way and apply this to our own lives.

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Introduction to Mark 7

The majority of this chapter from verses 1-23 contains the longest confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees in the gospel of Mark. And because of this, we can assume that it has great importance. Typically in gospel literature, the more literary space given to a story, the more important the story is. And what we learn in this section concerns the very heart of true biblical worship. Mark is going to give us a window into the confrontation of Jesus and the Pharisees and highlight the point that true biblical worship is a matter of inward purity, not external defilement.

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Typically how we have studied the gospel of Mark up to this point is to connect the various stories. Unfortunately, this story does not have any obvious connection to previous stories.

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However, Mark’s comments in this section as well as the next story give us a specific point. And his point is to show that Jesus fully intends to include Gentiles in the kingdom of God, not just Jews. Remember, that back before the Messiah, God’s people were identified as a nation, the nation of Israel. But all that is going to change. I want to show you this change in this passage.

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First, notice Marks’ comments that clearly indicate he is writing his gospel to the Gentiles. Verses 3-4, he explains the Pharisees’ tradition of handwashing. That would only be necessary if Mark was writing to Gentiles. And so Mark is writing to Gentiles.

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So, he’s about to make a further point, which is that they too, not just the Jews are included in God’s kingdom. Similarly, Mark has to explain the comment in verse 11. This would be clear to Jews. Notice the word “Corban.” Gentiles would have no idea about this, so they need an explanation. Again, Mark is writing to Gentiles.

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Second, notice Mark’s comment in verse 19. At the end of the verse, “he declared all foods clean.” This has a correlation to Peter’s experience in Acts chapter 10. And remember, who is behind the gospel of Mark. Peter is interviewed by Mark and Mark is penning this gospel. And Peter’s experience in Acts 10 in the vision of the sheet clearly indicates that the Gentiles are included in the kingdom of God. And in Acts chapter 10, the similarity between the all foods being declared clean and Gentiles being declared clean is clearly indicated, so recall the story.

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Peter sees a vision with the sheet and there are unclean animals in it and three times the voice in the vision says, “Arise Peter, kill and eat.” And Peter doesn’t know the meaning of it, but as the story unfolds, Peter ends up sharing the gospel with a Gentile named Cornelius. And Cornelius receives Christ and so we clearly have, through Christ, a Gentile in the kingdom of God. So there we have a vision concerning the dietary laws and how that relates to the Gentiles. We have a vision of ceremonially unclean food related to ceremonially unclean people. And so Mark’s point here in verse 19 is to prepare the reader for the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. If Jesus declares all foods clean, he can include Gentiles in the kingdom of God if he wants to as well.

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Third, notice the next story. Our 3rd point to argue that Mark is preparing the reader for the inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of God is found in Chapter 7 verse 24 when Jesus goes to the Gentile region of Tyre. And we have every reason to believe that the miracle done on the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman in this story was in the same Gentile region as the story found in chapter 8 verse 1, in the feeding of the 4000. So Jesus is working his mighty works among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He heals among the Gentiles and He miraculously feeds the Gentiles too. When you get to the book of Acts, what you discover is that a large portion of the beginning part of the book of Acts is given over to arguing this very case: that God has given to the Gentiles entrance into the kingdom of God. So my point here is that Peter through Mark is arguing in this gospel of Mark that Jesus fully intends to include Gentiles in the kingdom of God.

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But this runs completely contrary to the Jewish mindset of the day. Just to illustrate the kind of confrontation that we’re dealing with here with the Jews, let me point out of teaching from one of their holy books, not found the Old Testament. The Talmud, a collection of Jewish teachings supposedly based on the Old Testament Law, specifically advocates Jewish racial elitism and denigrates non-Jews.

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Sanhedrin 57a

When a Jew murders a Gentile (“Cuthean”), there will be no death penalty.

What a Jew steals from a Gentile he may keep.

A Jew need not pay a Gentile (“Cuthean”) the wages owed him for work.

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This is not in the Bible. And this is just to point out the specific anti-Gentile mentality of the Jews during this time. So with this lengthy confrontation, Mark is arguing that Jesus’ focus is now beginning to move beyond the Jews.

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Since we already went over when we read the passage that the focus of this passage on defilement and tradition, let me just point out one other thing in the passage concerning the heart. Notice verse six and the quotation of Isaiah, that the heart is far away from me. And verse seven concerning worship. God desires worship from the heart. And notice how that is highlighted in verses 19 through 21 when Jesus gives the clear teaching on true defilement. True defilement has reference to the heart, the immaterial part of man. And in verse 21, it’s the heart that is at issue as it concerns defilement.

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So we have the major topic of the heart as it relates to defilement as well as the heart as it relates to true worship.

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So I’d like to preach to you then on “The Heart: The Source of Defilement and of Genuine Worship.”

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What is genuine worship?

Still by way of introduction here, let me ask the question. What is genuine worship? The old and new Testaments are agreed on this. The old Testaments says that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Old Testament worship was from the heart. Jesus as well confirms that same teaching in the Gospels.

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Isaiah 1 describes how, though God’s people were offering their offerings, God had had enough of their religious worship because they were embracing their sin and thinking the offerings would solve all the issues. They did not take to heart in Isaiah’s day, Solomon’s teaching in Proverbs 21:27 (NASB) The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.”

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Likewise, John chapter 4, Jesus teaches that God is seeking worshipers of His that will worship him in spirit and in truth. So true worship is a worship from the heart, from the immaterial part of man, the spirit. It always has been; always will be.

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But this is not what the Pharisees were teaching. They are hypocrites Jesus says. As well see they are focused on the externals of religion.

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  1. Setting up the Confrontation: Introduction to Mark 7:1-23
    1. Pharisees see the disciples eating with unwashed hands (vv.1-2)

    So, we begin our story in chapter 7 verse one. Mark sets up the confrontation by showing here how the Pharisees see the disciples eating with impure hands.

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    Mark 7:1-2 (NASB) 1 The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.

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    And, if you are like us Gentiles, you have no idea why that is important. Who cares if they didn’t wash their hands before they ate food? My kids do that all the time!

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    1. Mark explains Pharisaical practice (vv.3-4)

So Mark feels the need to explain that this is not some issue with hygiene.

Mark 7:3-4 (NASB) 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)

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  1. Specifically “Washing”

Mark’s point here is that they are observing the tradition of the elders, end of verse three when they are focusing in on the need to wash hands before you eat. This was a ceremonial ritual, the, not a hygienic ritual. But the Pharisees are taking this too far!

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In the old covenant, only the priests were required to wash and that, before entering the Tabernacle. That was the only time. The disciples aren’t priests nor are they entering the tabernacle! Other than this, the only other requirement for washing the hands under the old covenant was found in Leviticus 15:11 (NASB) ~’Likewise, whomever the one with the discharge touches without having rinsed his hands in water shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

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So it is clear here that the Pharisees are going beyond what the old covenant teaches. This is not hygiene. Pharisees are not concerned like parents are concerned about their kids that they wash their hands before the eat. No, for the Pharisees, this is a matter of being right with God. Even though the Bible does teach these things, the Pharisees are requiring it in order to be pure. In their minds, this is all about being pure or being defiled before God.

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APP: So they are emphasizing the tradition of the elders. What is tradition of the elders? The tradition of the elders amounts to adhering more strictly to the teaching of man over and above the teaching of God in the Bible. They specifically teach in different ways that the tradition of the elders is more important than the express statements of Scripture. They specifically teach that.

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So we need to apply this. We should not do things just because a mere human has taught me to do this. We need to do things for God because it is expressly biblical. This does not mean that we cannot apply, but what it does mean is that we cannot put application over and above the teaching of Scripture. And we would know that we’re putting our applications above the teaching of Scripture when we neglect God’s commandments by making sure we observe the applications.

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So this does not have anything to do with scriptural standards of living. In other words, if someone chooses not to do this or that as an application of principles of Scripture, that doesn’t mean that they’re being pharisaical. Being pharisaical means that you are adhering to your own applications and as a result you are neglecting God’s word.

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Similarly in verse four when they come from the marketplace, the Pharisees don’t even even eat unless they cleanse themselves. And the reason for this is because in that time, with a lot of non-Jews around, they would consider themselves unclean if they even touched a Gentile. So whenever they went out in public and were around Gentiles, they had to make sure that they came home and washed themselves. But that’s not biblical. Nowhere does the Bible teach that. That’s man’s tradition.

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TRANS: And so is that really defilement? So, the focus here is on defilement. What is defilement, really? And this is what the confrontation is about. The confrontation is about defilement but it is also about the relationship between man’s tradition and God’s commandments; the relationship between the applications of man and the Commandments of God. So now, in verses 5-13, we have the confrontation of the Pharisees.

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  1. The Confrontation of the Pharisees (vv.5-13)
    1. Pharisees confront Jesus (v.5)

First, the Pharisees confront Jesus in verse 5. And then we will see Jesus confronting the Pharisees in verses 6-13.

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The Pharisees say Mark 7:5 (NASB) The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”

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Now, let me show you that they are very serious about their confrontation. A quote from the Talmud, a compilation of Jewish Pharisaical teaching, finalized just after the lifetime of Jesus gives a dialogue concerning this in Erubin 21b. Picture 2 Pharisees dying of thirst and their tradition says that they must wash their hands with what little water they have left.

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  • “Rabbi Akiba says, “Give me some water to wash my hands.”
  • “[But then we wont’ have enough] for drinking,” the other complained, “[should we use it to wash] your hands?”
  • “What can I do?’ the former replied, “when for neglecting the words of the Rabbis one deserves death? It is better that I myself should die than that I transgress against the opinion of my colleagues.”

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So the point of the Talmud here is that it is a serious thing to transgress the tradition of the elders. It is so serious, it very well may be the death penalty for you. And now who are the Pharisees speaking to? Jesus. And if you know the story of Jesus life, you know very well that the Pharisees want to put Jesus to death.

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So they question Jesus why they are doing this, why are they transgressing the tradition of the elders by eating food without having washed their hands?

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  1. Jesus confronts Pharisees (vv.6-13)
    1. “Hypocrites” (v.6a)

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And Jesus confronts them beginning in verse six. And to do so, he quotes Isaiah. But before doing that, he calls the Pharisees “hypocrites.”

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Now, what is a hypocrite? This word hypocrite is taken in from the realm of the theater during that time. And it has the idea of playing a part on a stage. In Greek theater, actors would not play a single part. But they would play multiple parts. And the way that they would distinguish themselves from other parts was to put on different masks. And the masks would correlate to the role of the person they were impersonating. So a hypocrite at this stage in the development of the Greek language has come to mean someone who acts out a role without sincerity. A hypocrite is someone who is a pretender. And when Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 here Jesus is using Isaiah to define even further what he means by a hypocrite.

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Mark 7:6 (NASB) And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.

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A hypocrite is somebody who puts on a front with their words but their heart is not in it. When it comes to someone’s relationship with God, the Pharisees then are the people that honor God with only their words but their heart is not near to God. They may voice lofty and noble words, but those words are entirely divorced from the intent of the heart.

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And so it happens that verse seven now, their worship is vain. That is, their worship is worthless. Worship means to give worth to something. But hypocritical worship turns worship into worthless-ship. It turns worship into worthless worship. And the way this plays out, end of verse seven now, is that they teach as doctrine the precepts of men. That is, they are teaching as God’s truth, the mere Commandments of men.

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And Jesus summarizes this same point in four different ways in this passage beginning at the end of verse seven with a quotation from Isaiah, “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” This hypocrisy is also worded this way in Mark 7:8 (NASB) “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

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Verse nine is very similar as well when he says “setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”

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Also notice Mark 7:13 (NASB) thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down.”

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So you can see then, that in four different ways in verse seven, eight, nine, and verse 13, Jesus elaborates on this issue of the relationship between the commandment of God and the traditions of men.

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Whatever your traditions or your applications of God’s word, the point is, that they should not invalidate the word of God. Your applications should not set aside the commandment of God. In other words, you shouldn’t neglect God’s commandments in order to hold to your pet applications.

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APP: May it never be that we as Northlight Baptist Church ever hold to tradition and applications of God’s word to the neglect of God’s commandments. When we apply God’s word, may it never be, that by doing so, we set aside express statements of God’s word.

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But this is exactly what’s going on in the Roman Catholic Church. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 97, the Catholic Church says, [quote]”Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God…”

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And they reason that since the apostles left successors, that therefore these successors have the same authority as the apostles themselves (Par. 77). And this authority continues and the doctrine of apostolic succession continues. This is what they call their tradition (Par. 78). And therefore, since the tradition comes from those with the same authority as the apostles, [quote]”Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Par. 82).

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But we would interpret any tradition or human teaching in light of Scripture. I hope you’re even doing this with the message this morning. But Catholicism teaches the opposite.

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The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture and one of those is read Scripture within the living tradition of the whole church. They teach that you should read Scripture within the tradition of the whole church. Therefore, they are interpreting Scripture in light of tradition.

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And this clearly goes against what the Bible says not only in this passage, but also in the parallel account of this passage in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 15:3-6. In these passages, Jesus is confronting the Pharisees and the Pharisees are doing the exact same thing. They are setting aside God’s word in order to follow man’s teaching. Colossians 2:8 also condemns this.

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Just because you “sit in Moses seat,” as the Pharisees did and as the Pope supposedly sits in the seat of the apostles as the vicar of Christ, doesn’t mean that the authority of the Pharisees is the same authority as Moses and it doesn’t mean that the authority of the Pope is the same authority as the apostles.

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When it comes down to it, by holding to the traditions of men, the Pharisees are taking impeccably clean hands straight to the pit of hell. And likewise those who hold to Catholic teaching, they can take their apostolic succession as it contradicts scriptural teaching and burn with it.

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And I’m not being mean about this; this is exactly Jesus’ attitude when he says Matthew 23:15 (NASB) “Woe [i.e., damnation] to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

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TRANS: and now, from verses 9-13, Jesus is going to illustrate his point by giving an example of how the Pharisees are negating God’s Word. Here Jesus will demonstrate how the Pharisees neglect or set aside God’s word in order to hold to man’s traditions.

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  1. Jesus illustrates worthless worship (vv.9-13)
    1. Moses’ doctrine (v.10; cf. Ex. 20:12; 21:17)

      And what Jesus does is to quote from Moses in verse 10. He quotes from the 10 Commandments and Exodus 20:12 (NASB) “Honor your father and your mother.

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      As well, Jesus quotes from Exodus 21:17 (NASB) “He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.”

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      These two commandments are to be kept no matter what applications the Pharisees make from other doctrines.

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      And now, in verses 11-12, Jesus gives the Pharisees doctrine.

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    2. Pharisee doctrine (vv.11-12)

    Mark 7:11 gives the first part and verse 12 the second part.

    Mark 7:11 (NASB) but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’

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    Corban means “offering” and Mark’s parenthetical comment I think is clear. This is a man-made tradition.

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    Now the second part: Mark 7:12 (NASB) you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;

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    The picture of verse 11 is of a man in the position to honor his father and mother by helping them materially their old age, and thereby keeping Moses commandment of honoring his father and mother. But instead of doing that, the man says instead that it is given to God. So instead of helping out his parents, he gives the thing to God, supposedly. Sounds pretty noble, right?

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    Basically, the situation back then was similar to today when a person wills over the property to a charity or institution at his death. But while he is alive, he retains possession over his property and can use it as he wants.

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    But the problem comes when the man, after he will his property to the God by probably dedicating it to the temple, instead of using his property now to help his parents, he used it do whatever he wanted to. It basically became an abuse to hypocritically say, “Ah, sorry Mom, this is all God’s. Aren’t I so noble?” And then he just used the stuff for himself and neglected his aging parents. That was one abuse.

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    But the abuse that Jesus really focuses in on in verse 12 is the role of the Pharisee in all this. Once the property had been offered to God, the priests actually discourage anyone from withdrawing it from the state of being in Corban. In other words, after somebody pronounced that their property was given to God, the Pharisees discouraged anyone else, including again parents, from using it. In fact, the priest required payment in order to cancel it so that people could use it.

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    So in other words, when someone pronounced their property as given to God, they were discouraged from honoring their parents with it. So, verse 12, that’s why Jesus says to the Pharisees look, “you no longer permit the man to do anything for his father or his mother” when he has pronounced Corban on his property. When he did that, the priests would not allow him to honor his parents.

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    So the result is verse 13 and that they invalidate the word of God by a man made tradition. The man-made tradition of “Corban” taught that men ought to remove their property that they have dedicated to God from being used by people, including parents. So men who follow their tradition end up being discouraged from helping their parents.  Thus, there were two scenarios with this human tradition.

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    One, resulted in hypocrisy: “Sorry Mom, what I have is given to God and so I can’t honor you with it.” But he says that so he can be a hypocrite and can use it exclusively for himself after paying the penalty.

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    Two, results in the hypocrisy of the Pharisee: “Sorry Mom, what I have is given to God and the Pharisees discourage me from letting you use it.”

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    1. Result: Summary points (v. 13)

    And so we have a principle of worship and human tradition from verse 13 and other verses, Mark 7:13 (NASB) thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

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    Principle of worthless worship and human tradition: Worthless worship invalidates God’s commands for sake of man’s traditions and hypocritically professes spirituality. “What I have has been given to God.” Nice.

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    Principle of genuine worship: Real worship does not invalidate God’s commands for man’s traditions, but genuinely practices them out of love for God and man. “It’s given to God, but here Mom, I want to honor you!”

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I apply this directly to the men in the ministry today. Some men, not all, just some on the mission field today are putting their aging parents in nursing homes. And their reasoning is “Well, I’m serving God on the mission field.” But the Bible expressly states in 1 Ti. 5 that each family is first to take care of their own widows, and then if no one in the family can, then the church is to take care of them.

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Or similarly there have been famous missionaries in the past who have neglected their own wife and children for the sake of “serving God.” William Carey, David Livingstone, John Wesley were all guilty of this. They neglected their families to quote “serve God.” Likewise, the children of the evangelist Billy Sunday, were the most part, left to be raised with strangers? Why? Because as he tells them, “daddy is serving Jesus.” They all end up dead or drunkards.

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TRANS: Clearly then, ceremonialism is not the solution. And the problem is the same, defilement. Defilement, then, whence does it come? Where does evil come from in our world today? How are human beings sinfully defiled; how does that happen?

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Well, if you asked the psychologists of today, he would say that people do bad things because they are ill-trained, or it’s because of their environment. Or, it was because bad things have happened to a person when they were a child.

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But what does Jesus say? Jesus says evil, sin, and defilement all come from the heart.

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And what Jesus is going to do now is transition from his confrontation of the Pharisees, to giving the doctrine to the crowds in verses 14-16, and then give the application to the disciples in verses 17-23. But now, He gives doctrine to the crowd.

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  1. The Doctrine for the Crowd (vv.14-16)
    1. Call to the Crowds (v. 14)
      1. Physical call
      2. Spiritual call

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    He calls the crowd together in verse 14 and he says to them, “listen to me, all of you and understand.” So he calls the crowd to him to gather around him and then he exhorts them to give him their ears. Listen to this!

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  1. Doctrine (v.15)

And in v. 15 Jesus categorically denies that anything exists outside of the man that can succeed in making a man impure, or defiled. And the reason for that is he is already a sinner because of his heart.

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Mark 7:15 (NASB) there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.

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You see, nothing outside of the man can make the man unclean before God. But it’s the things which come out of the man that defile the man.

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And defilement here is the verb of the adjective in v. 2. In verse two, “impure hands,”….impure there is an adjective. The same word is found in verse 15, but it is in the form of a verb. It looks exactly like the word, ‘impure’ in v. 2. And what Jesus teaches here clearly indicates that by defilement what is meant is sin. That’s clear from the lists in verses 21-23.

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But the crowd, listening to this, doesn’t know Jesus’ teachings as they’re found in verses 21-23. The crowd is left with some questions. What are those things that defile and where do they come from?

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TRANS: So, we need more information then. And Jesus gives this information in the next section. Here he applies the teaching to the disciples. So, He confronts the Pharisees first in vv.6-13, then he gives teaching to the crowds in vv.14-16. But now, narrowing in on the disciples, he gives the application to them in vv.17-23. This is where it gets really clear.

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  1. The Application to the Disciples (vv.17-23)

    The scene here is when the disciples and Jesus leave the crowd and entered into a house. In the Greek this is worded kind of funny. Jesus left the ochlos and entered an oikos. Jesus left the crowd entered a house. A little humor for all the Greek scholars out there.

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    So anyway, there in the house and they questioned Jesus about the parable and he says in verse 18, do you not understand this doctrine that I just gave the crowd, that whatever goes into the man from the outside cannot defile him?

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    And now Jesus is going to explain this and give the application. And his point here is graphic as we will see and the point is this, if you want to put it in a memorable way. “The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.” “The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.” And it’s not the hardware! It doesn’t have anything to do with hardware in the sense of physical hands, pots or pans. Defilement has everything to do with the problem of the heart. “The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.”

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  1. What comes in does not defile (vv.18-19)

And of course the heart is the immaterial part of man that may include things like the conscience, the will, or emotions. Jesus explains that whatever goes into the man from the outside defile him and the reason for that is verse 19 because whatever is outside of him does not actually go into his “heart,” that immaterial part of him. But whatever is outside of the man actually just goes into his stomach and after the body is all done with the food, it is eliminated. The idea of elimination there is very clear I think.

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And so, what Jesus does here is to graphically compare bodily elimination to the sin that comes out of man. Elimination from the body is similar to the elimination from the heart of man. It is just as…no … it is more disgusting than this. Illumination from the heart, that is the sins that are in the heart of man, are more disgusting than the elimination of the body.

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Verse 19, food and whatever else man swallows goes into the man’s stomach and is eliminated… That’s not what defiles of man. Verse 20, what defiles the man…. which is similar to the disgusting nature of elimination of the body, what defiles the man is what proceeds out of the man, that is verse 21, what proceeds from within out of the heart.

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Out of the heart of man comes those disgusting elements that are found in this list from verses 21-22.

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  • Jesus’ declaration of all foods being clean (v.19b).

And the end of verse 19 has Mark’s parenthetical statement. By saying what He did in verse 19, Jesus declared all foods to be clean. And there is a lot of theology wrapped up in that last phrase, which we will get to this next fall when I teach the class called Dispensationalism. I will be teaching this class for the college, Foundation Baptist College, in July.

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However, suffice it to say, that the NT has done away with ritualism. Like the author to the Hebrews says…

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Hebrews 6:1-2 (NASB) 1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

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Colossians 2:20-21 (NASB) 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” It’s not about ritualism any longer.

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Romans 14:14 (NASB) I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

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So it is not the things that are without that defile, but it is those things which are within that defile.

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  1. What comes out defiles (vv.20-23)

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The way these are put together from verses 21-22 indicate that that the first 6 are sinful acts and the last six are sinful attitudes. We know that because those sins in v. 21 as well as the first 2 in v. 22. are plural. But the last six are singular, from deceit in v22 to the end. And what this means is that the first six are evil acts, while the last six are evil attitudes.

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The evil acts

The evil acts include things like fornications, or sexual immorality.

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This refers to anything immoral, including adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality. It’s a general term.

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The evil attitudes

All the other terms are pretty much self-explanatory. But all these things are that which defile the man. It’s those things that are from within that defile the man. Man’s heart is desperately wicked who can know it?

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So, Jesus compares man’s depraved heart to the human body’s ability to produce excrement. Hardly a tasteful thing.

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And so the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart!

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Every human being is a wretched sinner, dirty and filthy before of all holy and Almighty God! And so the application for the unbeliever is that he needs a new heart. You have a rotten defiled heart if you have not trusted in Christ for salvation from sin. And you need a new one!

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And this is part of the New Covenant. Ezekiel 36:26 promises a new heart for those in the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:26 (NASB) “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

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And this is what we call Jesus’ requirement of being born again. What you need is regeneration. Your heart… yes your heart…. is absolutely filthy without your heart being regenerated. You need to die to self and to become alive to God.

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You must turn and repent of your sin, and trust in the one who died on behalf of your sin on the cross so that you do not have to pay the penalty of your sin. And trust in, give over your life to, the one who raised Jesus from the dead, bodily from the grave.

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And for the believer, you must draw near to God, James 4:8.

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Like Jesus quotation of Isaiah in v. 6, you must make sure that your heart is not far away from God and that you do not worship God worthlessly.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Mark 7.1-23

And it’s this gospel of Jesus Christ that motivates our godliness. We cannot earn our righteousness by doing good works Titus 3:5; it’s not by works of righteousness which we have done, but it is according to his mercy that he saves us.

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And we also can’t earn our sanctification. We can’t earn our salvation and we cannot earn our sanctification. By sanctification I mean our growth in Christ. We can’t merely reform ourselves after we do trust Christ.

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It’s the gospel that sanctifies us. It’s the power of the gospel that makes us more like Christ. It will motivate us as we meditate on it. But it will also transform us by the power that it has in itself. It’s the gospel of Christ that the Christian focuses on to become more like Christ. We are free from the law as Christians. We no longer have to follow strict adherence to the Old Testament demands and by following the moral code, we do not earn our sanctification.

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Becoming more like Christ is from within; it happens inside the heart. And it happens inside the heart when the heart considers to greater and greater degrees the gospel that saved him.

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So, let’s sing about that now. Number 279, “Free from the law.”

Are you glad that you no longer have to follow the Old Testament law and aren’t you glad that works of righteousness don’t save you? Aren’t you glad that is the gospel that saves you? Number 279.

Let’s look at some of these stanzas and chorus.

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Go to Mark Main Page

Go To New Testament Books

Go To BibleTrove Home Page

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