This week at BBC, Pastor George preached a sermon called “Teaching as Doctrines the Commandments of Men” from Matthew 15:1-20:
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
Pastor George outlined the text by asking several questions regarding religious traditions. First, “Are you bound by religious traditions or the Word of God?” In verses 1-2 the Pharisees have called in back-up from Jerusalem to try to trap and accuse Jesus. They can’t accuse Him of violating the Word of God, so they turn to extra-biblical traditions of ceremonial cleansing. Jesus doesn’t apologize or try to justify Himself. Instead, Jesus attacks the very foundation they are resting on. The religious rulers were bound by heavy burdens of man-made law and bound others to them also (Matt. 23). However, loyalty to God is obedience to His word, not to the traditions of man.
The second question is “Does your religious tradition violate God’s word?” The Pharisees were resting on a false authority. Mark 7:11-13 further describes the way they circumvented the commands of God by making loopholes with their traditions. They were inconsistent. By calling their money “dedicated to God” they got out of their obligations to their parents and those in need. Their hypocrisy was not hidden from Christ or the Father (Is. 29:15).
The third questions is “Does your religious tradition agree with Christ?” In verse 10, Christ declares “Hear and understand.” Christ identifies Himself as the ultimate interpreter of the Law. He is the standard of Truth, the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). Because of this, we are complete in Christ and need no man-made standards or laws to please the Father or to be saved (Col. 2:6-10). Any tradition or religious practice that seeks to replace or make little of Christ’s work must be forsaken.
The fourth question: “Is your religious tradition concerned with being rooted in God or in offending men?” In verse 12, the disciples come to Jesus seemingly nervous about having offended the religious leaders. Christ replies with a shocking statement, “My heavenly Father didn’t plant them and they will be uprooted.” Christ wasn’t concerned with being on the good side of the religious leaders because he saw their falsehood and knew what was coming for them. He wasn’t offended by God’s Word and prioritized obeying and cherishing it.
Next week, we will look more at the fifth question, “Is your religious tradition more concerned with what’s on the outside than what’s on the inside?” from Matthew 15:15-20 and further examine the sufficiency of Christ and God’s Word for salvation and all that we need for life and godliness.