Did the pharisees get rebuked because they obeyed Christ’s teaching or because they disregarded it? Obedience vs. legalism in churches today

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

Mark 7 is just one of those chapters in the Bible that is simply fascinating.  Jesus was (and is) so witty how He knew just what to say and how to say it.  When He answers questions with questions, it is totally mind-boggling (Matthew 21:24).  Jesus, being one with God, is truly and infinitely intelligent and knows just what to say to every single person given the situation.  He speaks with mercy and compassion to His sheep (and potential sheep) but to the wolves He is firm and authoritative.  These are the ones who endanger the sheep with lies, false doctrines, etc.  Here is an interaction He had with the pharisees.  In this passage, the pharisees found fault with the Lord’s disciples.  A disciple from the Greek translated word mathetas means a learner of Christ’s doctrines with life application.  Basically, a “learner and doer”.  Often today, if you find a Christian who is “learning and doing” Christ’s teaching, you can bet that they’ve been called a “goodie two shoes” or a “Jesus freak”, or even a “Holier than thou”, etc.  Why did these leaders, the pharisees, find fault with the Lord’s followers?  Because the disciples were not doing the pharisees’ church traditions (also called “traditions of man”).  These were traditions that the pharisees were doing in an effort to “hold to the traditions of the elders”.  These traditions were not even part of “sound doctrine” or Christ’s teaching.  They were men-pleasers not God-pleasers.

Sometimes the Lord’s disciples are judged in the same way today by church leaders.  When we are judged/condemned by church leaders, we must ask ourselves: Are they finding fault on the basis of their own man-made rules?  Some churches have a “hush hush” policy, a conspiracy of silence that if anyone should question leaders they are outcasted.  This is simply opposite of what the Bible says to do (1 John 4:1; Ephesians 4:32; James 1:19; etc).  When church leaders abuse, I wonder what the King of Kings would say to them.  Would He call them “hypocrites” for holding others to their man-made standard?  Jesus did call the pharisees hypocrites for holding His sheep to their man standard.

It is very true today that many religious establishments “teach as doctrines the commandments of men”, just like our Lord accused the pharisees of doing.  When picking a church, we must be careful that there are not extra or hidden legalistic rules, spoken or unspoken.

What many places do is “lay aside the commandment of God”, and hold to the tradition of men instead.

Then Jesus goes on to say that defilement comes from within.  The words that false teachers say defile them and hurt God’s people.  “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 7:15,16).

The pharisees had a heart issue.  Of course, they said that the disciples had an issue (which was untrue).  Contrary to what many say today, the pharisees were not in trouble by Jesus because they loved/obeyed sound doctrine.  No!  Quite the contrary…Jesus rebuked them because they “nullified the Word of God by their own tradition” (see Mark 7).

Sound Doctrine = Good.

Church Tradition (if it violates the Word) = Evil.

There is so much confusion today about this in evangelical circles.  The pharisees had an issue with Christ’s teaching.  It was a threat to them because it opposed their man-made rules that they were holding everyone else accountable to.  Their real problem was obedience to Christ.  If they were truly obeying Christ, they would do what He taught.  This is called legalism and happens very often in churches today.  Legalism is not obedience to Christ, but putting man-made doctrines above God’s doctrines.  How often today are the Lord’s disciples (who love and obey “sound doctrine” as Christ commands; Hebrews 5:9; 2 Timothy 4:3) labeled as pharisees?  This comes from a lack of study of the scriptures, and is truly a horrible accusation to receive if indeed it is false.

Have you been judged by church leaders?  Was their fault finding rooted in their own church tradition or the teachings of Christ?  May God bless you today with His love, truth and peace.

Mark 7

New King James Version (NKJV)

Defilement Comes from Within

7 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”

He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

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