By James Fire
If you were to examine the professing church (and by professing, I refer to the entirety of Christendom and not the actual body of Christ which is composed of born again believers), including the evangelical division, what would be the two greatest blemishes in your view?
For me it would be religious externalism coupled with hypocrisy and greed or covetousness. Religious externalism without true biblical spirituality is rampant among the Protestant denominations (in the majority) as well as in the Roman Catholic church, and even among some of the long standing evangelical fellowships.
Also in too many evangelical circles, particularly the 'televangelists' we see rampant and flagrant greed as they shear the sheep of their money, even senior citizens whose livelihood depends on their Social Security and retirement funds! They even go so far as make claims that visions of 600 feet tall Jesus' order them to raise millions of dollars to build Christian hospitals, otherwise He will “take [them] home” or that God wants them to have a Lear Jet, a mansion and a yacht! Much of this can be pinned on the WORD-FAITH Movement advocates and followers.
In so many churches today, there is wholesale hypocrisy that's turned many sinners as well as children of church-going-parents away from the faith.
Here in MATTHEW Ch. 15 we will examine all of this and more as we listen at the feet of The MESSIAH and learn of His KINGDOM MESSAGE!
It was time for a meal, and the disciples of Jesus sat down to eat. The Pharisees and scribes who were present took note of something that troubled, perhaps even offended them. They went directly to Jesus and asked Him to give account for this rudeness on the part of the disciples:
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
There's an issue here about hand washing, and we understand that sanitary cleanliness and hygiene are very important when dealing with food, but how much of this did the people of that day understand is uncertain. For them, it was merely a custom that the elders of Israel developed. Wikipedia has some information about this:
“References to ritual washing are found in the Hebrew Bible, and are elaborated in the Mishnah and Talmud. They have been codified in various codes of Jewish law and tradition, such as Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (12th century) and Joseph Karo's Shulchan Aruch (16th century.) These customs are most commonly observed within Orthodox Judaism . . .
Both traditional religious and secular scholars agree that ritual washing in Judaism was derived by the Rabbis of the Talmud from a more extensive set of ritual washing and purity practices in use in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, based on various verses in the Hebrew Bible and received traditions. There is disagreement, however, about the origins and meanings of these practices.”
For the full article, go here.
Suffice it to say, this ritual didn't seem to impress the LORD enough to enforce it among His followers – and this to prove a point. He knew that the Jews would be paying attention to see if He would instruct His disciples to maintain the traditions of the elders, and when He didn't they called Him on it. This is when He nailed these religious leaders with some scathing truth!
He turned the question around and accused these religious leaders of transgressing the very Commandment of God by such traditions of mere men!
4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
The religious leaders justified the children of parents who didn't care for them financially because they offered the money 'to God' instead – which of course meant that they gave money to the Temple, which ended up where? No doubt in the pockets of the religious hierarchy. The Pharisees worked a deal with the Temple authorities and exploited people's desire to worship the LORD to make money off of them, embellishing their own banks while leaving even widows destitute (MATT. 23:14)! In this way, the Temple meant to worship God was perverted into a den of thieves!
The LORD would have parents care for their children while they are young, but when the parents become aged, the children should in turn care for them. While we should give offerings to the LORD sacrificially, we shouldn't ignore our familial obligations to care for our elderly parents, especially any who are widowed parents. While the Pharisees were offended that the traditions of the elders weren't being followed by Jesus, the WORD Incarnate was offended that the commandments of God were being overridden by the traditions of mere men! See MATTHEW 16:10-12.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
It is the meek and humble that will fear the LORD, and hear and obey His Word (PSALM 25:9; 149:4; ISAIAH 61:1; JAMES 1:21; 3:13). The spiritually proud will create, promote and enforce their own religious dogmas and find a following that will flatter their egos. Corrupt religion is as much a source of bondage in its practices and its oppression of 'lessers' as is corrupt government. Enacting religious dogmas and protocols created by men is a form of self-deification as souls are subject to those dogmas and protocols.
It is in a very real sense, idolatry!
There are three sources of doctrine: God, humanity, and Satan. It is vital that as Christians we exercise discernment and know the source of any particular doctrine (2 TIM. 3:16; COL. 2:22; 1 TIM. 4:1). The LORD desires that we walk in truth (2 JOHN 1:4), that we express truth in the “inward parts” (PSALM 51:6). This is spiritual integrity and something that the LORD esteems, as it means that we are yielding our will and life to the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ.
Scripture has some very dire and somber warnings against hypocrisy:
6 For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.
7 The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.
1 TIM. 4:1-2
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
See also: MATTHEW 6:2-16; 23:13-29.
Now the LORD is going to explain to the multitudes about the consequences of eating with unwashed hands, as opposed to what really defiles a person:
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
No doubt this greatly offended the Pharisees, and the disciples told the LORD so!
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
The LORD replies with the proclamation that anything which was not established by the Father will be destroyed, including every brand and breed of false religious systems and institutions. Remember how John the Baptist (in Chapter 3) had very much the same admonition and rebuke against the religious leaders of Israel:
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Thus the vital and imperative distinction between every false religion (that's 99.9% of all religions) and the one true 'religion' of God must be discerned. I am reminded of this truth from something that John MacArthur once taught on the subject of only “Two Religions”.
This is the true nature of conflict in this world, a warfare of Light vs. darkness, of true religion based solely on Christ and His glorification led by the Spirit and false religion based upon man and his glorification, led by the spirit of Satan. In God's time, false religion will be summarily uprooted and burned to ashes!
There is of course a Day coming when everything not founded upon Christ, His truth and righteousness, His grace and holiness will be summarily destroyed with nothing whatsoever left of this old world (MATT. 13:40-42). The new world based upon the ROCK of our salvation will be a world without falseness and hypocrisy and pride and anything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God much in the same way that we now are to bring every thought (whether our own or Satan's demonic fiery darts) into captivity that would exalt itself and stand opposed to God's will in our lives (2 COR. 10:4-6).
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
Peter wrongly assumed that the LORD was speaking in parables; He had done so before on many occasions, and because Peter and the other disciples didn't comprehend the meaning behind the LORD's words, they thought, “Oh, another parable.”
But the LORD was simply contrasting the physical with the spiritual; such dietary laws and customs revolving around food, and various vessels associated with eating them was what the Jews focused on, declaring someone in violation of the Law if they didn't wash before eating.
The LORD was emphasizing that real defilement has little to do with physical matters, but with spiritual matters . . . again, as before in verses 7 and 8, this is dealing with the heart (not the stomach).
Christians also have a tendency of focusing on the physical rather than the spiritual. Tattoos are a rage these days, and some Christians believe it's a sin to have one (and depending on the subject matter, it very well could be! Personally speaking, I don't have one.); smoking tobacco is another issue as is the consumption of alcohol.
In prior generations Christians thought that brass buttons on clothing was excessive and therefore sinful (rather than humble wooden buttons) or braided hair rather than plain hair, and many other things. Certainly excess in any amount is sinful: excess of food is gluttony, excess in alcohol is drunkenness; excess is cigarette smoking is life threatening and contrary to God's will.
Christians are sometimes quick to point out the sin of others, while ignoring their own; I am reminded of a story involving D.L. Moody of Chicago, founder of the Moody Institute. He had read countless sermons by C.H. Spurgeon and had the opportunity to meet with him in England. Upon opening the door, Spurgeon with cigar in hand was met by a stunned fellow preacher. Moody was taken aback by the sight and asked, “How could you do such a thing?” To which Spurgeon replied as he patted Moody's wide-girth belly, “The same way that you can do that, my brother!”
It would be highly conducive for the saint to strip away any form of worldliness of course because we are called to follow Christ, not the customs, excesses and practices of the world. Yet I believe, according to what the LORD is addressing here, that He is far more concerned about the heart (MATT. 12:34), rather than external issues – what we eat, what we drink, what we wear; those being “ . . . evil thinking, murders (remember these are heart issues), adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness and blasphemies . . .”
If I have an occasional beer, but in my heart I have no malice, or deceit or hatred towards any one – would the LORD find my conduct more offensive than someone who never drank alcohol a day in their life, but whose heart held such things? Please don't misunderstand me, I am not by any means encouraging the use of the aforementioned 'externals' – merely prioritizing these issues according to what the LORD is saying here.
Since we bear the sin nature, our hearts are corrupt and defiled, and because of this, our conduct is likewise defiled and such excesses here examined are engaged in to the point of transgressions and trespasses.
21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
Now we see a Gentile woman coming to the LORD, who recognizes Him as the Messiah of Israel (for she uses the title “Son of David”) for the dire need of her daughter, tormented by demonic spirits. As expressed in JOHN Ch. 4, the Samaritan woman stated that the “Jews have no dealings [with Gentiles (Samaritans considered as such by full blooded Jews)]” - and this is why the disciples urged the LORD Jesus to 'shoo her away'. And this is seemingly what He attempts to do, but the LORD was actually after something else entirely.
After His first 'rebuff' she then bows down to Him and beseeches Him further. Yet He rebuffs her a second time with this remark about giving the children's bread to dogs! The Jews were considered the “sheep of [God's] pasture (PSALM 100:3)” and referred to Gentiles as “dogs” - which could be seen as a derogatory remark. This might have caused some other Gentile mother to take offense, but not this woman:
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
She readily and humbly agrees with the LORD, but then points out that even the dogs are allowed the crumbs that fall from the master's table! I can almost picture the LORD Jesus smiling inwardly for the humble woman's remark.
Faith will persist and will never let go, even if one must humble oneself in doing so, but such a humble heart is heard by God and He responds to such. Examine the Scriptures and see how God esteems those of a humble heart and is near to their cry (See PSALM 10:12, 17; 34:2; ISAIAH 57:15; JAMES 4:10).
Our LORD Jesus will always deliver us, and our loved ones, when we approach Him in faith and humbleness of heart! And just as He shall bequeath blessings to Israel in His coming Kingdom, so too the Gentiles shall come to His light and likewise find blessings (ISAIAH 11:10; 49:6; 60:2-3)!
29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.
30 And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them:
31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.
32 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
The LORD's objective was to always see the Father glorified, never Himself. Yet the Father brought glory to the Son and will glorify His Name all the more so when He returns to this world. We likewise ought to always concern ourselves with the LORD's name being glorified, never wanting any of the limelight for ourselves. A basic truth, I know, but with the deceitful nature of our sinful self, this needs to be a constant reminder.
His fluent healing of the masses was a strong indication, as we have seen before in prior chapters, of Messianic prophecies such as was foretold (Read ISAIAH 35 for example and PSALM 24) when the KING of Israel would return to His people. Yet, as we have also seen before, Israel as a nation rejected their KING, and so the time of the KINGDOM of Heaven is postponed (until the Second Coming) when Israel will receive her KING!
His ministry entailed more than healing however; in His compassion, He wanted to provide them with sustenance.
Let us regard this blessed truth, that our LORD is aware of every single need, and is concerned as any loving father would be, that we are provided for. At the same time, let us not despair or feel rejected if such care, for whatever reason, seems neglected. Like the Gentile woman, cleave to the LORD, never give up your hope in Him – in HIS time, He will prove faithful!
33 And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
39 And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.
One would suppose that the disciples would keenly remember that time previously when there were more than five thousand hungry men (and their families!) who were fed by the LORD with nothing more than a few small fish and loaves of bread.
However, how often does the LORD have to rehearse for us lessons He already taught us: lovingly, patiently, faithfully (EXOD. 17:14; PHIL. 3:1). And here He is again, multiplying the loaves and fish for another massive group of four thousand men (and their families!). Not only they, but the disciples themselves were provided for with an extra seven baskets worth of food.
By way of reminder, we can minister nothing to others, until we have received from the LORD ourselves. Certainly our focus needs to be 'Jesus-centered' first and then 'others-centered' but until we first come to the LORD and allow Him to minister to us, with every provision required for true servant-hood made available. Remember the secret to J.O.Y. is JESUS first, OTHERS second and YOURSELF last.
The LORD is a faithful provider, for all of our needs and ministry requirements – it's never about being qualified, other than simply having a humble and willing heart, to be used of the LORD. As has been said many times before: “God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”
So if you believe that the LORD is calling you to any area of service in the Kingdom of God (and He is, for every member of the body of Christ!), remember not to focus on whatever it is you lack (education, finances, etc), your weaknesses, your inabilities: focus on the One that has called you, for in Him we have all that we need!
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
See also EPH. 3:16; PHIL. 4:19.
Here ends the study for today; we shall proceed on to Chapter 16 in the LORD's time. Until then, may the LORD bless and keep you, and make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and grant you His peace (NUM. 6:24-26)! And keep your eyes on the skies, for JESUS returns soon from on high!