Mark 7:5-8 ESV
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 to the tradition of men.”
Now the context of this is that of the Pharisees (Jews), along with some scribes (Jews), criticizing Jesus’ disciples (also Jews) for eating with unwashed hands. The Jews at that time were God’s chosen people, although not all of them believed in God with true faith. And some of them, like the Pharisees, were religious hypocrites who were all concerned about externals but who were sinning against God in their hearts and in some of their practices. And they were those who followed after the traditions of men.
But Jesus knew these men, and he knew their hearts, and he knew that they were religious hypocrites who professed one thing while they did another, and who were more concerned about what things looked like on the outside than they were concerned about the conditions of their own hearts. And that rings true of many professing Christians today who are more concerned about outward appearance, and what others will think of them, than they are concerned about the conditions of their own hearts.
Lip Service Only
And what Jesus quoted from Isaiah about these hypocrites back then speaks to the spiritual condition today of many people in America who profess faith in Jesus Christ and who are convinced that heaven is their eternal destiny. Many of them honor Christ with their lips, but their hearts are far from him. So their worship of God/of Christ is in vain, because they are following after the doctrines and teachings of man (humans) instead of after the teachings of Christ and of his New Testament apostles.
They are absolutely leaving (forsaking) the commandments of God, and they are holding on to the traditions of men. And I am not speaking here just of those who are legalistic. I am speaking of those who are party to these modern market-driven “churches” (businesses of men, not the true church). They are marketing “the church” (their businesses) to the world, and so they have altered and diluted the meaning of “church,” and the character of God/Christ, and the truth of the gospel of Christ to appease human flesh.
And sermons preached by men (and some women), and books written by professed Christian authors, and memes on social media, and videos, and movies, and TV programs are replacing the Scriptures for many of them. And so they are following humanistic philosophy with a mixture of psychology mixed in with Scripture taught out of context and made to say what it does not say. And most don’t appear to be testing these teachings against the truth of the Scriptures in context. Many don’t want to.
Many of them like the feel-good messages which are being fed to them, and so they are following them rather than pursuing truth and righteousness. And if you try to point out to them, in love, the error of their ways, and if you attempt to point them to the truth in the Scriptures, many of them will stop up their ears and they will refuse to listen. And if you are on social media with them, they are likely to unfriend and/or to block you. And if they were your friends or family in real life, they may pull away from you.
The False Church
So, the sad reality of much of what is called “church” today here in America is that it isn’t the body of Christ they are speaking of, but it is these businesses of men that they are calling “church.” And it is buildings, some with steeples, and it is church denominations which they are calling “church” instead of the true church, the body of Christ. And so many people have the idea that they are part of Christ’s church merely by attendance in one of these institutions of men, but it doesn’t work that way.
But the saddest of all is how so many of these institutions of men, called “church,” are diluting and altering the character of God/of Christ and of his gospel and they are teaching the people that they can believe in Jesus (not usually biblically defined), have all their sins forgiven (past, present, and future), and now be guaranteed heaven when they die, but regardless of how they live on the earth. So many are honoring Christ with their lips but their hearts are far from Christ for they are following men, not God.
Twelve years ago the Lord gave me a song to write about what I have just been talking about, and it is called “The Train.” And the train is a picture of these modern market-driven churches. And many professing Christians are onboard these “trains.” And what they are following on these trains is man-made religion, whether it is legalism or libertinism. For either one is an alteration of the truth of the gospel. And God is calling his true church to come out from among them so that she doesn’t share in their sins and in their punishment (see Revelation 18:4-5 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
For the true gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that genuine faith in Jesus Christ, which is God-given, results in us being crucified and buried with Christ in death to sin and us being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, no longer as slaves to sin but now as slaves to God and to his righteousness. And it teaches us that if sin is still what we obey, and if righteousness and obedience to our Lord are not what we obey, then we don’t have true faith, and we don’t have salvation and eternal life with God.
[Matt 7:21-23; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 9:23-26; Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14,24; Rom 12:1-2; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; 1 Co 1:18; 1 Co 15:1-2; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Heb 9:28; 1 Pet 1:5; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 2:8-10; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pet 2:24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6,24-25; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Heb 3:6,14-15; Heb 10:23-31; Heb 12:1-2; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
The train is coming down the tracks.
It captures all who in faith lack.
The engine is controlled by man;
Leads each captive to ruin.
The cars, they are God’s holy church,
Which follows men who are on the search
To trap the church in their own snare;
For Christ they do not care.
The track, it leads to God’s judgment
For those who are not repentant,
But follow, each his own stubborn way,
And Jesus they do not obey.
So God is calling to His bride
To turn from sin and in Christ abide;
Stop placing their trust solely in man;
Trust Christ for His forgiveness.
An Original Work / July 17, 2011