Gleans from Monday Bible Study with Pastor (Dr) W.F Kumuyi.
DLBC Gbagada HQ
9th September 2019
Study 27 – EXALTING GOD’S ETERNAL WORD ABOVE MAN’S EMPTY TRADITION
Text – Mark 7:1-13
Tonight, we come to an important subject that we need to understand because Jesus Christ confronted the religion of the Jews. They were zealous, passionate and very active in their religion, but the pity of it is that they were not saved and not willing to listen to the word that will get them saved. They thought that their traditions and religion were enough to get them saved. So, when Christ brought the word of salvation to them, they were not willing to listen because they were wedded and attached inseparably to their tradition. In our passage, the Pharisees came to Christ and challenged why His disciples were not keeping to the religious system of washing their hands to the elbow in a sanctimonious way before eating. This was a system that had spread to all the Jews, but Jesus did not teach His disciples to follow this traditional way of washing of their hands. He challenged them that they had abandoned the word of God to keep to their tradition that cannot save.
The tradition was empty, powerless and worthless. It couldn’t cleanse their hearts, change their character, give them relationship with God, save them nor prepare them for heaven. It was empty concerning righteousness and opening their eyes to the word of God and yet they kept at it. How many today go through traditions and never think or examine their benefit, effect, purpose and influence in their lives and relationship with God. But to have the blessings of God and His righteousness, we must go back to the Word of God that enlightens us about salvation and declares to us Christ the Living Word that came to bring redemption, salvation, and righteousness. So, it befits all that call upon the Name of the Lord to exalt God’s living, infallible and eternal Word above any tradition of any man, elder, denomination or religion.
Point 1. THE TRADITION OF WASHED HANDS AND DEFILED HEARTS
This is the tradition of imposed washing of the hands with a defiled heart. “Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem” (Mark 7:1). It could have been wonderful if they came to Christ with the right mind and attitude, to learn and seek, with the prayer and the understanding that Jesus has something for them that will transform and change their lives. But they came for fault finding. They came to look for imperfection in Him that is Perfect; unrighteousness in Him that is Righteous and fault in Him that is Faultless. When you come to the presence of the Lord, come with the right attitude to receive the word of God. “And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault” (Mark 7:2). Fault finders, they were. They did not find any fault in their own lives though unsaved. They thought they were perfect, but their lives were filled with hypocrisy. “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3). There are people who just pick up a tradition without questioning its origin, purpose, transformation, effect and benefits. These Jews washed cups, plates, pots, brazen vessels and tables not for hygiene but for the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:4). There are three we are going to look at:
(i) Religious Tradition that Abandons Salvation – Matthew 13:15; Galatians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:18. They moved their tradition from the Sabbath day to every day: a great burden imposed on themselves that do not bring salvation nor cleansing of their lives. I pray that any tradition that does not bring salvation unto us, the Lord will cleanse out of our hearts and lives in Jesus’ Name. “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15). The Saviour, Healer, the to cleanse, purify and purge them was available for them but they rejected Him. Their religious tradition abandoned the offer of Christ’s salvation for them. The reason was that they had some gains (not eternal life nor salvation) that they were receiving from their tradition. “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:13-14). Here is the testimony of someone who had been in that religious tradition before the Lord confronted him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me. He was religious yet wicked, cruel, killing; an injurious and evil person. But he kept to that religion though his soul was degenerating, because he profited from it. This was the same with all those religious elders, Pharisees and Jews; because of the material gain, they held on to the tradition that cannot save. To be saved, you have to examine your life to see whether the tradition is helping you or not. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers” (1 Peter 1:18). You were not saved by tradition. After all those washings, they still went back to their old sins. They thought the tradition made them acceptable to God. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12). They prided themselves in their traditional worship, yet their hearts and minds were not clean nor were they converted.
(ii) Rigid Tradition that Annuls the Scripture – Mark 7:4; Matthew 15:2-6; Jeremiah 2:22; Acts 8:13,18-22; Matthew 27:24. They were rigid about their traditions for themselves, families, and any other that visited them. It was a religious thing. If you accept it, you are their friend, but if not accept they have nothing to do with you. They compelled everybody to bow to their rigidity. “And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not” (Mark 7:4a). This was something never to be forgotten but to be observed rigidly anywhere they went: yet, it gave them no peace of mind, satisfaction, approval or assurance of heaven if they died in that tradition. How can you be rigid about something that has no effect on your eternal soul, no impact on your heart and life? Are there things we do rigidly, zealously, or passionately and yet they do not profit us or change our lives, neither do they improve us or recommend us to God? “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:2). They counted it an unforgivable sin and transgression if anyone will not keep to the tradition of the elders. The Lord asked them why it was that they kept the traditions of the elders but neglected and rejected the commandments of the Almighty God who holds the breath of man. “For God commanded, saying, HONOUR THY FATHER AND MOTHER: … But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, it is a gift by whatsoever thou mightiest be profited by me; 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” (Matthew 15:4-6). Who is greater, God or these elders, ignorant men not bound for heaven, contradicting the commandment of God because of their rigidity? “For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD” (Jeremiah 2:22). The washing of the hands with the heart and soul dirty, and life still defiled means nothing before God. There are people who believe in the washing of water baptism, with no repentance, new birth nor salvation. This is not acceptable to God. Simon the sorcerer was baptised by Philip, but he was not converted, as was revealed when he offered the apostles money to have power to lay hands on people to receive the Holy Ghost. “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. …… for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness….” (Acts 8:20-22). Water baptism is not enough, your heart must be right with God, cleansed, changed and the inner man converted. “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it” (Matthew 27:24).Pilate thought that by washing of his hands, he was innocent of the blood of Jesus, but no, Pilate was still involved in this (Matthew 27:26). Washing of the hands is not enough; it did not make him innocent nor guiltless. He scourged Jesus and delivered him to be crucified. Such ruin themselves.
(iii) Ruinous Tradition that Alienates the Soul – Romans 10:1-3; Matthew 23:15; Romans 2:28-29. Ruinous tradition that separates the soul from Christ, the Lord and Saviour. The more they washed their hands, the more they had confidence that they were alright before the Lord: But that is a lie. The washing of the hands did not save them, neither does the washing by baptism without baptism. They had zeal but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:1-3). Their thought, minds, actions and behaviours were dirty, and they went about to bring other people into the bondage of their tradition. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). If the washing of the hands and cups had saved them, Christ would not have pronounced woe unto them. They were hypocrites because if they were saved. Instead of teaching their converts the word of God, they taught them their own traditions and those proselytes became hardened and two-fold more the children of hell. Think about this, as we go about making converts, do we show them the word of God, the Truth in Christ, the way of life eternal? (Romans 2:28-29)