It’s Not What Goes Into the Mouth That Defiles The Man!
What Proceeds out of the Mouth Defiles the Man
The study today is from Mark 7:1-23. (the parallel account is in Matthew 15:1-20). The anchor verses are Mark 7:20-23.
Mark 7:20-23 “And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Parallel passage in Matthew 15:1-20.
One of the things that we believers must learn how to do is meter what comes out of our mouth. It is clear from the scripture in Mark that Jesus was talking to the disciples about what was in the hearts of the Pharisees. Jesus response was directly addressing the fact that the Pharisees were hung up on the traditions of man and their intent was to controlling others using traditions through verbal coercion. The Lord not only directly confronted the heart of the Pharisees (Mark 7:5-8) but He expanded on it in in a way that is meaningful to believers (Mark 7:20-23).
What We Say both Reflects Relationship and Effects Relationships!
What’s Important to Us? “Personal Preference” or “Biblical Reference”
Conflict between believers almost never happens because of “Doctrinal Error” but most generally over things are are not related to God’s Word at all. Let’s look at the situation in Mark 7. This was a clear example of “Personal Preference” taking precedence over “Biblical Reference” and it caused the Pharisees to sin in their hearts and in their words. Let’s look at the context of the statement that Jesus declared; “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” The Pharisees had condemned the disciples for not “following the traditions of the elders” and Jesus response was to challenge where the heart of the Pharisees was focused. They were more concerned with their own traditions than with the commandments of God. Jesus used the scripture from Isaiah 29:13 which says that they taught these traditions by “rote”.
Mark 7:5-8 The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”
6And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.’
7‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8“Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
Isaiah 29:13 “Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,”
The word used for rote is lamad which means, properly to goad and is used in the context of teaching diligently. What is a goad? They are the “old-timy” form of a cattle prod. The instrument was called an ox-goad which was a long pole with a pointed end, generally a piece of iron. It was used by the master to guide the ox in the proper direction to plow fields. So rather than choosing to “impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul” as they were directed to do in Deuteronomy 11:18, they were vigorously “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”.
Biblical Reference – The commandments of God. Things that God’s Word tells us.
Personal Preference – Anything else.
What We Say Reflects Our Relationship With God!
The Pharisees, who loved to be called teachers, were masters of control using their set of rules and regulations to exert control over people. The Pharisees had taught, as doctrines of God, the precepts of men for so long they really did not understand the difference. In Mark 7:5-8, Jesus tells the Pharisees something very interesting and profound. Then Jesus told the Pharisees, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” In verse 7 “…Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”, the word Jesus used for teaching is same word He used in Matthew 28:19 (didaskontes). Jesus declared that the Pharisees “keep teaching” that the precepts of men are to be held in higher esteem than the commandments of God. This aligns with how Isaiah communicated the degree to which the Jewish nation had embraced the traditions of man rather than the commandments of God. According to Matthew 23:2-3 “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” Jesus tells us in this verse that the Pharisees knew the things that would please God but they did not do the things that please God.
►Four reflections about relationship with God: There are four clear things that Jesus declared about the Pharisees relation with God.
- Lip Service: “This people honors Me with their lips.” In other words, the Pharisees were not focused on pleasing God but upholding the traditions of “the elders”.
- Carnal Heart: “Their heart is far away from Me.” By focusing on the traditions of “the elders” they did not have a close relationship with God.
- Futile Worship: “In vain do they worship Me.” Because the heart of the Pharisees was more concerned about the traditions of “the elders” God considered their worship a superficial display.
- False Doctrine: “Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” The word for teaching here is didaskontes which a is present participle active voice verb which literally means to “keep teaching”. Jesus declared that the Pharisees “keep teaching” as doctrines the precepts of men (Col 2:8; 2 Tim 4:2-4; Titus 1:14).
When believers become focused on the traditions of man rather than the commandments of God all of these things become true of them as well. Mark 7:9 “He was also saying to them, You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” In order to follow after the precepts of men (“Personal Preference”), one must set aside, or relegate to a lesser position, the commandments of God (“Biblical Reference”). When that happens it gives birth to doctrine that is important to man but not commanded by God; False Doctrine!
What We Say Effects Our Relationship With The People Around Us!
When believers begin to aggrandize the precepts of men (“Personal Preference”), it requires that the commandments of God (“Biblical Reference”) be deemphasized or set aside altogether. In order to do this there must be an evangelization of others to facilitate the exaltation of the precepts of men (“Personal Preference”). Galatians 5:9 “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.”
Let’s take a closer look at the verses in Mark 7:20-23: Jesus clearly teaches that it is not “What goes into the mouth that defiles the man” but “What comes out of the mouth that defiles the man.”
►”That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” The Pharisees had judged the disciples of Jesus according the the tradition of man rather than the commandments of God. How did Jesus see this judgment (hint Mark 7:6-8)? He saw that the hearts of the Pharisees were not focused on God but the precepts of men and it obstructed their view of God, drew their heart away from God, hindered their worship of God and effected how they taught others.
►”For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” What was the focus of Jesus correction of the Pharisees (hint Mark 7:7b)? Jesus focus was on what they taught and consequently he shared further that what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart. The most startling thing about these verses is the parallel with Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In Galatians 5, the context is walking according to the Spirit. The apostle Paul is correcting believers in this passage. Paul makes a clear statement in Galatians 5:13-15 “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
They were in disunity because they were not walking according to the Spirit but according to the deeds of the flesh and how did this evidence itself? V15 says “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Clearly the problem here was that which came from their mouth proceeded from the heart which was rooted in the deeds of the flesh. How did Paul describe the things that came from the heart (hint Galatians 5:19-21)?
Note the coextending nature of Galatians 5:19-21 and Mark 7:21-22.
►”All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Jesus did not mince words here. He clearly said what He meant and meant what He said. The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart. If the things that come forth from the mouth are among the things that Jesus listed then they are clearly not of God but out of a selfish and evil heart.
What kind of relationship did the Pharisees have with God? Mark 7:5-8 tells us that they only gave lip service to God, their heart was far from God, their worship was in vain and they were more concerned about their traditions that God’s Word.
What kind of relationship did the Pharisees have with the people? They burdened the people with heavy loads but did not give any grace at all. Matthew 23:4 “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” The Jewish people feared the Pharisees who lorded over the people as unrighteous judges teaching them to obey the traditions of man over the commandments of God.
Jesus went on in Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”
The Pharisees were only righteous in their own eyes but what was in their hearts was displeasing to God. They told the people the right things but it was not in the heart of the Pharisees to do those things themselves. The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is a perfect example of this mentality.
►Three effects on relationships: There are three clear things that Jesus declared to the disciples about the heart of man (not just the heart of the Pharisees).
- Words can defile a believer: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” Jesus flatly states that the things believers say can defile the them. Was He talking only about the Pharisees? No, the word He used for “man” is anthropos which means a human being. So the statement here is applicable to all believers in the past, today and in the future. Believers can defile their witness with others, both with believer and non-believers, by the things they say.
- Words comes from the heart: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed…” Jesus clearly teaches that the things believers say reflect what is truly in their hearts. When believers reflect “Personal Preference” over “Biblical Reference” it is often at the expense of another believer or another person. When the believer begins to associate “Personal Preference” regarding, but not directly relating, “Biblical Reference” this can enter the realm of sin because “Biblical Reference” becomes linked to “Personal Preference” in the mind of the believer. While this may not be bad, over time it becomes a tradition, as was the case with the Pharisees and the “washing of hands”. How many times the statement “that’s the way it has always been” is used to defend a tradition of man (“Personal Preference”).
- When words reflect sin a believer is defiled: “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” When “Personal Preference” has a higher place in the heart of a believer than does God’s Word (“Biblical Reference”) then result is sin.
What is in the heart of a believer is very important in determining how the believer interacts with people, believers or otherwise. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 6:44-45 “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
For believers, the things that are spoken clearly define what fills the heart. Jesus himself declared the words of Luke 6:44-45 and Mark 7:20-23 to insure that it was clear that believers fill their hearts with God’s Word by the power of His Holy Spirit.
“Biblical Reference” through “Holy Spirit Reverence”
Holy Spirit Reverence – walking according to the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,18,25)
God’s Word tells us in James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”
So how do believers insure that their tongue is not “set on fire by hell”? Believers must always fact-check the things they believe against God’s Word to insure that they are not exalting “Personal Preference” (the precepts of men) over “Biblical Reference”. There are two passages that give believers a clear understanding of how to do this.
II Corinthians 10:5-6 “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.”
Ephesians 4:29 ”Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Here, God’s Word clearly lays out a series of checks that can be applied to every word uttered by a believer to insure that the speech of the believer is in coincidence with “Biblical Reference” rather than “Personal Preference”.
►”Biblical Reference” through “Holy Spirit Reverence”; Five Things for Believers to do: There are a series of things that can be gleaned from II Corinthians 10:5-6 and Ephesians 4:29.
- Fact-check things with God’s Word!: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”. Here, in II Corinthians 10:5-6, God’s Word tells us that not must the believer fact-check speculations with God’s Word. The believer must also insure that their heart is oriented toward God’s will. The word used for lofty here is hupsoma which means an elevated place or thing and the word for lofty is epairo means to raise up or more appropriately to poise ones self. Paul give us a further indication here in the next verse(v7): “You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.” Paul was clearly addressing the attitude from which the Corinthians viewed their walk with Christ.
- Take every thought captive to Christ!: “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” The word used for taking is aichmalotizo meaning “to lead away as a captive” and the word for thought is noema which not only means a thought but also perception, purpose, disposition, literally anything that crosses our mind. The word used for obedience here is hupakoe which means “attentive hearkening”, compliance, submission or obedience. How can believers picture this? Joshua 10:24 “When they brought these kings out to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came near and put their feet on their necks.” What a picture of subjecting thoughts to God’s Word.
►Question: Does this only apply to thoughts that are clearly not Biblical, thoughts that unclear from a Biblical perspective or “all” thoughts? II Corinthians 11:14-15 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
When any thought or any emotion enters the mind of a believer there are a couple of choices that believer needs to make.
- The believer can embrace the thought without subjecting it to the authority of God’s Word
- The believer can take that thought and subject it to the authority of God
- Will what we say be wholesome?: ”Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth”. Believers must always be cognizant of the fact their speech reflects what is in their heart. Here the word used for unwholesome is sapros which means rotten, worthless (literally or morally), bad, corrupt and the word for proceed is ekporeuomai is a compound word comprised of ek meaning origin and poreuomai meaning to traverse or travel. Ekporeuomai literally means to depart from, so combined with logos (word, N-NMS) the phrase literally means “Let not a single worthless word depart from your mouth (my lips)!” Can I get an Amen!
- What Wholesome Is!Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;”
- What Wholesome Is Not!Galatians 5:26 “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
Colossians 3:8 “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath,malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
- Will what we say edify to meet needs?: “but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment”. When a believer speaks to others will it meet the needs of the moment with edification? Will it be an encouragement that lifts another’s eyes to the Lord or will it tear them down? The word for edification here is oikodome which is an architectural term. It is a compound word from oikos, or dwelling but the implication is the family home, and doma or a roof or housetop. The picture here is one of building a family home for the protection and comfort of the members of the family. Paul was telling the believers; “only use words that build up the home of the believer based on the need of the moment.”
- What Edification Is!Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
- What Edification Is Not!Galatians 5:15 “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
- Will what we say project grace?: “so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The believer is to speak only that which extends grace in the power of the Holy Spirit. The here for grace is charis or graciousness, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life of the hearer. Here the picture is that of “speaking in a gracious manner that goes right to the heart things such as gratitude, benefit, favor, graciousness, joy, liberality, pleasure, thankfulness.”
- What Grace Is!
Romans 14:19 “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
- What Grace Is Not!
Colossians 2:20-12 “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
- What Grace Is!
►Question: How do we do this? In Galatians 5:16 the apostle Paul gives us the key “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” If we walk by the Spirit, reverencing the power of God’s Holy Spirit above our own desires, we will not act out the deeds of the flesh. There is clearly a battle going on inside our hearts for control. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” There is a constant battle going on between the carnal nature and the Spirit for control. When we begin to adopt “Personal Preference” over “Biblical Reference” we have clearly begun to violate “Holy Spirit Reverence”. What does that mean? Galatians 6:7-8 makes it very clear for us “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Now the phrase “do not be deceived” is actually a single word, planao which means to wander and the implication is self deception. Paul is actually saying “Do not deceive yourself”. this is a vivid picture of the warring that that goes on within our hearts between the carnal nature and the Holy Spirit for control.
Remember, Satan does not come in a red suit with horns, a long forked tail and a pitchfork. He comes as an “angel of light” and his servants (demons) present themselves as ministers of righteousness (II Corinthians 11:14-15). So if the great deceiver comes to whisper in our ear, will be not be something that sounds righteous? How do we know? Again the writer of Hebrews comes to the rescue; Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
Our inclination is to gravitate toward things with which we can easily identify as good or bad. In other words, we begin to yield to our “Personal Preference”. Too often that transitions from “Biblical Reference” is because we have not learned how to walk in “Holy Spirit Reverence” that causes God’s Word to be formed in our hearts. As we do this we begin to align with the precepts of men rather than the commandments of God. When we begin to do that it affects our relationship with God and as our relationship with God deteriorates so does our relationship with others. Eventually this leaves us with a coldhearted, legalistic view of spiritual things and the result is that the body of Christ suffers division, distraction, loss of love and eventually becomes ineffective at projecting the love of God through His blessed Son Jesus Christ.
Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”