GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 19
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|When we follow man-made traditions over the commands of God, what we are really doing is rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ!|
Beware: The Deception of Man-Made Doctrines – Part 1
The title of the message is this: Beware: The Deception of Man-Made Doctrines. As you read through the gospels, you realize that Jesus was constantly being confronted by the hypocritical Pharisees of his day. They were always arguing and criticizing and they were appalled that Jesus would break their man-made traditions. Why do you do that? Why don’t you do this? Mark 7:1 shows us that, in the process of the Pharisees criticizing Jesus, they were actually condemning themselves. Chapter 7, verse 1:
“Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders [underline that] and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ And he 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; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” You leave the commandment of God and hold [underline this] to the tradition of men.’ And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.” But you say, “If a man tells his father or his mother, ‘Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’” (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void [underline that] the word of God by your tradition [there it is again] that you have handed down. And many such things you do.’”
My goal this morning is simple. I want to expose to you the man-made traditions of Jesus’ day by the Pharisees. Because, when we follow man-made traditions over the commands of God, we actually, believe it or not, reject the Lord. And I want to show you that from the text. Write down this. The first section is The defilement on the outside. Now, this is a two-part message. You have to come next week for the second part and we’ll pick it up in verse 14. But the first part is the defilement on the outside. Let me set up the story for you so you’ll know where we’ve been. Jesus just got finished preaching and teaching on the bread of life. If you remember, he took the five loaves and two fish and broke the bread. He distributed it to the disciples. And then he got up in John and preached that great message and he said, “I am the bread of life.” Go to John 7:1. Let’s see the reaction of the crowd. The question is, are these guys excited about Jesus? Did they recognize him as the Messiah?
Look at John 7:1: “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were trying to crown him as king.” Is that what it says? No. The Jews, can you believe this, “were seeking to kill him.” Not pretty popular at this point.
And so Jesus remains, as the text says, in Galilee and he comes in contact with the scribes and the Pharisees. Listen to me, church, they came to find him and they’ve come to confront him. Write this down. The first point this morning is this: the choice. We see it in the text. Jesus is questioned about man-made tradition. The phrase I want you to cue in on is this. Look at it in verse 3: The tradition of elders. Underline it. Go to verse 5: The tradition of elders. You see it again. Go to verse 8: The tradition of elders. Go to : Your tradition. Go to the final verse, verse 13: You make the word of God void by your tradition.
Now this is different from the Sadducees. See, the Sadducees in Jesus’ day only believed that the Torah was the inspired Word of God. They only took the Torah as being authoritative. The Pharisees, different from the Sadducees, believed that the oral tradition was equal to the scripture. Now, here’s the question. Robby, what is the oral tradition? Here it is. It was a commentary on the Torah. The scribes and Pharisees and the religious leaders of that day, the rabbis, had come up with an explanation of the Torah. Now, it wasn’t officially compiled in the time of Jesus, but the teachings were being taught throughout the town, and so people knew about these teachings.
Eighty years after the fall of the temple of Jerusalem in AD 70 was a man born by the name of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yehuda, in the year of 200 AD, decided to compile all the oral traditions of that day and to put them in one collection called the what? Do you know what the collection is? It was written about the time of 220 AD. What is that called, do you know it, church? The Mishnah. You’ve heard this before. The Mishnah. The Mishnah is a collection of teachings. Basically what it is is it’s judgments of the day on rulings of scripture. You have the Torah and people were asking questions about the Sabbath, about prayers, about blessings. And so the rabbis had this commentary on the Torah. It grew to this huge, massive work. I mean, they had teachings on blessings. They had teachings on prayers. They had laws about the Sabbath. They had laws about marriage. They had laws about divorce. They had laws on agriculture. They had laws on dietary procedure.
They even specifically had laws on purity and impurity, which we see in the text today, on washing and when not to wash one’s hands. Look at verse 3: “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders….” There it is right there. So the tradition of elders, according to the Mishnah, was a series of rules.
Now, to put it into context, let me show you how it happened. There were stipulations on how to wash. In the Mishnah, if you look it up today, there are 30 chapters, can you believe it, on how to wash pots and pans. 30 chapters. Can you believe it? Now why do you need 30 chapters on how to wash a pot? Because we start to realize that it’s not about the physical washing. It’s more about the ceremonial washing. It’s a ritualistic washing of the pots.
The Jewish Talmud or the Jewish Mishnah—equivalent to the Babylonian Mishnah—dwarfs in comparison. So you have the Jerusalem Mishnah and then all of a sudden they started to realize, we need a commentary on the commentary because we have questions about what the rabbis are saying. And so they developed what’s called the Gemara. Have you heard of this? The Gemara. The Gemara is a commentary on the commentary. And then, in about the 6th century AD they decided to take the Mishnah and the commentary, put them into one book and it’s called the Talmud. You’ve heard this before. The Talmud is the Mishnah and the Gemara together.
Not only do you have to know the Torah, but you have to know the Talmud, you have to know the Mishnah and, even though it wasn’t founded back them, the teachings were circulating at this point. Look at the verse 3, what it says. Jesus said not only did the Pharisees believe this, it said all the Jews. You see that phrase there? And it gives us the idea that Jewish people, all Jewish people washed hands, washed pots, and washed vessels. One commentator said, “If Jesus undermines the tradition in the text, he is redefining what it means to be Jewish. Moreover, the disregard of purity is serious because it was assumed that uncleanliness belonged to the realm of death and demons and it breaks fellowship with God. To disregard such concerns means that Jesus redefines what it is that inhabits fellowship with God.” See, the religious leaders had put so many fences around the law—don’t miss this, church—that they had lost the essence of the Torah. They had lost the meaning of the Torah. They had put all these stipulations around it. They had actually lost the significance of it. They were appalled at Jesus, I want to submit to you, because Jesus not only didn’t just wash, he hung out constantly with unclean people.
Go back to Mark 1. Let me give you a running commentary of what they thought of Jesus. Keep in mind, not only were you unclean if you didn’t wash, you were unclean if you hung out with someone who was unclean. Look at Mark 1:40. You know the text. Jesus not only comes in contact with a leper, he what? He touches a leper, immediately unclean. Mark 2:13. Jesus hung out with a tax collector. But not only did he hang out with Matthew, he went and visited the house for a banquet with tax collectors. And then if that’s enough, he goes to this girl’s house who’s dead. And you know what the text says. You should not come in contact with someone who’s dead, much less touch them. What does Jesus do? He says, “Rise, little lamb.” He takes her by the what? By the hand and he touches her. Jesus is actually redefining for them what it means to be a follower of God. That’s the first step.
Secondly, look at the confusion. The first part is the choice. Secondly, notice the confusion in the text. Jesus—and I love this—uses scripture to confront hypocrisy. It’s what he does. Write down, first of all, he come in contact with fraudulent behavior. Verse 6. He said, “Isaiah [prophesied about you] you hypocrites, as it is written [look what it says], ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’” What does that mean? That means on the outside you look good but on the inside you’re far from the Lord. Look at what he says next: “…but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” As Stephen Olford said, “They knew how to honor him outwardly. The leaves were there on the tree. The passion was there, but there was no fruit. The excitement was there. The enthusiasm was there, but their hearts were far from the Lord.”
I love word Jesus uses. He calls them hypocrites in the Greek, which is where we get the English word what? Hypocrite, right? It’s actually word picture that he draws from the Greek theatre. See, back in Jesus’ day, they had the Greek theatre, which was very popular. It is enticed a lot of Jews to go watch it. And what they’d do is they would have these actors. And they would be off to the side of the stage and as they walked onto the stage, there was this big box. And in the box was a series of masks. And as they took the masks out, they would put the masks in front of their face and the mask would allow them to portray a character that they were not. And so they actually portrayed someone or put on an act. They were hypocrites. That’s the word Jesus uses. He said you guys as Pharisees are putting on masks, you’re pretending, you’re entertaining, it’s not who you really are. James Montgomery Boice talks about this and says this is a damning accusation, if you can imagine, to the people who were regarded as the best people of the day. Jesus is calling out the religious leaders of the day and he’s accusing them.
But it was not just a condemnation for a love of tradition more than a genuine love of God always leads to false religion. In fact, it leads to self-righteousness which, in fact, was the chief characteristic of these men. They were puffed up in themselves. Self-righteousness does not bring a person into heaven. Rather, it leads to judgment in death since the only possible way for justification before God is Christ’s righteousness, not our own.
First of all, we see the fraudulent behavior of the men. Secondly, write this down, we see the man-made traditions. Man-made traditions were evident. Verse 8: “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
See, what happens is this: with regard to the oral tradition, the Pharisees had put it equal to or, in some cases, superior to, the law. Basically, the tradition of man was equal to or superior to God’s word. And what Jesus is saying is that’s not the case. Now, don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is not saying that the Pharisees were not committed. Don’t miss this. They were committed. They were enthusiastic. They were passionate. The problem was they were passionate about the wrong things. They were committed and devoted to the wrong tradition. They were committed to the traditions of man and they weren’t committed to the rules and the regulations of God.
But notice this. Jesus is not attacking them because they’re asking questions. Jesus is not mad at them for asking questions. Hey, why do you wash your hands? They’re not asking questions because they want to find an answer. I mean, it’s good for us to ask questions to seek wisdom but do you ever notice how some people ask questions as an indictment? You ever notice that? You ever notice people question you about your faith or about your life and they don’t want to sincerely know about what you think? They want to indict you. They want to accuse you. They want to confront you. That’s what they’re doing to Jesus. They’re trying to roll him under the bus, so to speak. They’re trying to accuse him. They’re trying to discredit him in front of all the religious leaders. And Jesus sees it for what it is.
And I love Jesus. Jesus always responds—get this—with scripture. You ever notice that? You want to go against someone who’s confronting you? Quote scripture. Friends, that’s why we have to know scripture; because when we have scripture in our belt, in our arsenal, we can fire back. Jesus doesn’t quote tradition with tradition. Jesus says, “Well, Isaiah was right. He prophesied about you hypocrites.” And he quotes the word. I love that.
The equivalent of what is happening here would be someone from another denomination coming into our church and basically interrogating us by asking questions like this: Why do you guys not say the sign of the cross before you go into your seat? Why are you guys not kneeling and bowing before you enter your pew? Why are you not putting your fingers into holy water as you walk into the church? Why don’t you bow your head and close your eyes when you pray? Why do we have music that’s upbeat? Why do we have music that’s not upbeat? Why do you raise your hand in church? Why do you not raise your hand in church? Why are you not speaking in tongues every service? Why are you not having a prayer time of healing every week? That would be the question. They would be interrogating us based on the traditions of men.
Now don’t miss it. Jesus is not against tradition. What he’s against is when tradition supersedes the word. That’s the problem. And then we notice the third aspect of the text which is the conflict. We see the conflict. We see the choice. You wrote down secondly the confusion. Write down the conflict, thirdly. The conflict was this: Jesus uses an illustration to reveal hypocrisy. He uses an Old Testament illustration. He quotes scripture and then he goes back to the Old Testament. Look at verses 10-11: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother.”
Now this is kind of confusing. Let me explain it here. In the Decalogue, or the 10 Commandments, the top 10 commandments of the Old Testament, the fifth commandment is “honor your mother and your father.” It’s found four times in the Old Testament. It was a weighty command. And what was happening is this: there were guys in the first century that were claiming this idea of Corban. What is Corban? It’s the Hebrew expression that means offering. It’s the idea to have a delayed offering. It’s the idea that you can commit something to God but not give it to God right now. You can wait and give it to God later when you die. And we do this today. People before they die will set up a will and they’ll say I’m going to donate my belongings to a church or a community center or a ministry or charity but they keep possession of that property until they die.
This Corban is a little different. Not only could you say I’m going to devote my possessions to God and keep them, but you could spend them at will and you did this in order to allow your parents to be disconnected and disqualified from having your possessions. For example, let’s say you have $10,000 in the bank. Your parents are struggling. They come to you because they can’t provide food and they don’t have a place to stay. And they come to you and say, “Son, can you give us some money to help us?” And you say, “Mom, I don’t have any money.” They say, “What are you talking about? You have $10,000 in the bank.” “Oh, no. That’s Corban. See, that’s to God. Don’t you want to leave God’s in money intact? You don’t want to take from God do you, Mom?” And so, that’s Corban.
And you see the hypocrisy in this. They would keep the money, say it’s devoted to God but then, at any moment, they can reverse the vow and they could use it on themselves. T.W. Manson explains it this way: “A man goes through the formality of vowing something to God not that he may give it to God but in order to prevent someone else from getting it from him.” You see the hypocrisy here.
Now the question is, who’s to blame for this? I mean, where did this system of Corban come about? Well, Jesus tells us right in the text. Look at verses 12-13. Jesus says: “…then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Who is the indictment against? It’s actually against the Pharisees and the scribes and the religious leaders.
Jesus says those traditions you came up with actually are circumventing the commands of God, which leads us to the final aspect of the text, probably the most confrontational, and it’s the catastrophe. Look at it in the text. The catastrophe. Jesus gives and reveals the result of hypocrisy; Jesus reveals the result of hypocrisy. Verse 13, “thus making void [that’s the key word] the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
The key term here is void. This term’s used only three times in the New Testament. One time in Galatians, and two times in the gospels. Both times the word void’s used it’s used in the same account; one in Mark, one in Matthew. Matthew has the same account as this. That term void actually means not just void, it means to treat as having no affect. It means to destroy. That word void means to render powerless.
Get this. Jesus is saying when you add anything to the word of God you actually render the word inactive. The word becomes powerless. It has no affect. It has no power in your life. So the very means to salvation, the very means to freedom, you have added man-made traditions, which is a vehicle for bondage. One commentator says to avoid giving up ones possessions in order to support his or her parents he could declare those possessions sacred and unusable. But as soon as he wanted to use them for himself, he could just easily reverse the vow.
The covert purpose of this tradition—don’t miss this—was to invalidate the word of God by circumventing the fifth commandment. Do you see the hypocrisy? See, people were walking around in the first century, I have to believe, saying, “Man, this brother is holy! This brother is righteous! Don’t you see, he’s devoted everything to God. Wow. Look at the purity in this man. This guy’s pious! Mom, don’t get on him! He’s trying to serve the Lord. You don’t want to rob from God, do you?” Can you see the hypocrisy there?
Now you may be saying, “Wow, that’s pretty rough, Robby.” Don’t miss this. Just because it’s an indictment on the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the first century doesn’t mean it doesn’t challenge us today, right? Friends, I want to submit to you that some of the greatest actors in the world are not in Hollywood. They’re in church, right? Some of the greatest actors in the world are in church.
During a violent storm onetime they had a tree, this enormous old tree, that was in a park that had fallen down from the wind. And when they inspected it after the great storm, they realized that the inside of the tree had been eaten by insects and it had literally ripped out the heart of the tree. That’s what Jesus is getting at here. He’s saying your heart is hardened. You put on an appearance that you’re doing well. You shine up the outside. You look good on the outside but inwardly you have a hardened heart to God. You’re not trying to serve the Lord. You just look as you are from the outside.
One rabbi was questioned about hypocrisy and he said there are 10 parts to hypocrisy. Nine of those parts live in Israel, or Jerusalem. I would submit to you today they’re in the church. Many people in the church today have a heart problem, right? They obey all the rules. They believe all the right doctrines. They can say all the right things but inwardly, their heart is hardened.
Let me ask you, is that you? Empty worship every Sunday; thoughtless praise when you sing to the Lord. You just go through the motions just singing to the Lord. Heretical doctrine. You have a love for money rather than a love for God. You have a devotion to success for you and not to see the Lord glorified in praise. You have a desire for people to recognize you. There’s no love for others, right, because you’re always confrontational. “Hey, listen, it’s my way or the highway. It’s going to be done the way I want to do it.”
Let me ask you, dear friend, do you treat others in church with respect but go home and mistreat your wife or your husband? Do you come to church and love the kids in church but then go home and fail to show love to your own kids? Robby, does that actually happen in church? Absolutely. In fact, you may be sitting next to someone who secretly and quietly does that every week. Let me ask you, is that you? Listen, if Jesus didn’t put up with it in the first century, do you think he’s going to put up with it in your life today? I don’t think so.
So, Robby, what do we do? What do we do? You start to question. You know, I was raised in a denomination, I was raised in a religion that put tradition over truth. I was a raised in a denomination that traditions of man superseded the tradition of God or the word of God. When I became a believer and started to read the Bible, I started to realize that there were some inconsistencies from the word and the tradition I was raised in and I started to question them. Listen, you shouldn’t believe me just because I tell it to you. You need to go search it out yourself. Don’t believe a pastor because he told it to you. Don’t believe a priest because he told it to you. Don’t believe a religious leader or even a Sunday School teacher. You study it for yourself. You have to know the word of God, amen? You have to get into the word and understand the word of God.
Some of the greatest debates I’ve ever gotten into with people have been with people who have heard something from a pastor or a teacher years ago and that’s just what they’ve always believed, right? Where did you hear that from? Well, Brother So and So told me that. Have you looked that up? I remember I was at lunch a couple of years ago sitting with a man trying to tell him about the Lord Jesus Christ, trying to lead him to Christ. I said, “What do you believe about God? Do you have a relationship with the Lord?” He said, “Yea, I’m spiritual. I believe the world is this huge energy force and we’re all one with the trees and the stars and the plants. When we die, we’re going to go back into the energy where we came from, we’re going to go back and we’re going to coexist forever.”
With a straight face, I looked at him and said, “Wow. Where did you learn that from?” By the way, that’s a good response. When someone tells you something way off base, you say, “Wow. Where did you learn that from?” He said, “Well, that’s just what I always believed. That just has to be right. I said, “I don’t know about you, but I would rather believe in a book that was written with 66 books by 40 different authors over 1500 years by different people in different places in different times through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It all coincides together and it talks about one man—Jesus—him being the only way, him being the truth, to heaven. I’d rather believe in that than come up with my own idea. Wouldn’t you?” Friends, you’ve got to get into the word until the word gets into you. The problem is they circumvented the word.
What should I do, pastor, if I’ve fallen astray? Pastor, what should I do if I’ve gotten off track? This is what you need to do. You need to do like Paul says. Examine your life to see if you’re in the faith. Hey, you might not even be a believer if you’re caught up in hypocrisy, if you’re caught up in the traditions of man, if you love tradition more than the Lord. Well, how do I know that? Because the Pharisees were lost. You know, Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Many will come to me on that day and say ‘Lord, Lord didn’t I prophesy in your name? Didn’t I heal the sick? Didn’t I preach for you?’’ And Jesus said, “I will look at you and say, ‘Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, you workers of lawlessness. I do not know you.’”
What did Paul do when he realized he was the chief Pharisee? Listen to what Philippians 3:4 and following say: “If anyone has reason to put confidence in the flesh, I have more [Paul said]. I was circumcised on the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the nation of Israel. I was a Hebrew of Hebrews. [When you looked at the poster boy for the Jewish man of the year, that was me. He said,] as for the law, I was a Pharisee, the best of the best. As for zeal, I was a persecutor of the church. As for righteousness to the law, I was blameless, perfect but [verse 7], whatever was to my gain, I now count as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I have counted everything a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord who I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as [what, Paul?], rubbish so that I may know Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own, which comes under the law, but a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, a righteousness that comes from God [here it is] that depends on faith.”
You know what Paul’s saying there? Paul’s saying I was the chief hypocrite. I was a Pharisee to the nth degree; but when I saw the righteousness of Christ and I realized I couldn’t do anything to earn my salvation in God, I came to the Lord Jesus Christ. Is Jesus sufficient for you? Is Jesus enough for you this morning? Have you trusted in the righteousness of God or are you running on the relay race of your own righteousness? Paul said when I looked at all my work, I counted it as rubbish. You know, sometimes when we point the finger at others, we’re actually pointing the finger at ourselves. Jesus said before you can look at the speck in your brother’s eye, why don’t you take the log out of your own?