Matthew 15:1-20 Part 5

As you may remember, Jesus has condemned the Pharisees as hypocrites, and He has made direct reference to Isaiah chapter twenty-nine where the leadership of Israel has turned everything “upside down” because they were pretending to follow God, but were not.  And they believed their own pretense!  He applies those words of Isaiah directly to the Pharisees of this day.  Just like their forefathers, they had reworded God’s Word with their own man-made law.

Then He turns to the crowds in front of whom He has publicly condemned these Pharisees, and He corrects the false teaching that has so led them to be scattered and blind and deaf and sick.  “It’s not that which enters the mouth that makes the man profane, but that which proceeds from the mouth!”  (verse eleven)  A man isn’t made  unclean by coming into contact with the physical world!  And neither is he made ceremonially clean by some man-made sacrament of washing!  Or by being cleaned by education!

Man is that which is unclean.  He isn’t defiled by the creation around him.  He is defilement!  And what’s inside is that which comes out!

Then Jesus goes on to link the nation’s leadership with the zizanium in the field.  They are the ones who have been “oversown” in Israel – God’s Garden.  They are blind guides and alien seed who will be bundled up (bound) and thrown into the fire in the harvest.  But the lost sheep will be restored by the Good Shepherd.

“It is not that which enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds from the mouth – this defiles the man.”  That’s what Jesus said to the crowds in response to the Pharisee’s accusations against Him and His disciples that they weren’t observing the traditions of the elders.  The sacramental rite of baptizing hands and pots and utensils was upside down!

And Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand the parable either.  Peter comes to Jesus and asks Him to explain it.  Verse fifteen.  The Gospel of Mark has Jesus back at His house in Capernaum, but Matthew considers this detail unimportant.  What is important to him is this issue of depravity.  So he passes directly to Peter’s question and the explanation.

But first Jesus gives them a little chastening.  “Even yet are you, too, without understanding?”  Verse sixteen.  That’s plural, so He’s speaking to the whole group and not just to Peter.  Having been raised in Judaism, and having not yet received the Spirit, they were still confused about the nature of man.  They had been taught that God’s covenant people were fundamentally good – but the rest of the world was evil.  And they were dulled in their ability to conceive the real issue here.  Surely they knew that food passes into the belly and is digested there for the sake of refueling the body.  And the waste material is passed out into a privy.  (The word there is “seat” – or a place for that purpose.)  And that food doesn’t involve the “heart”.  But they couldn’t conceive the real issue!

Again, the physical organ of the heart isn’t what is meant here.  That organ is used to define the center of man himself.  His nature – his being – what he is at the very core.  And that which enters the mouth and passes, by digestion, into privy, doesn’t affect the nature of man!  His nature remains the same no matter what goes in to his mouth – whether it’s ceremonially clean or not!

The Pharisees and their esteemed forebears – the writers of the Talmud and the Midrashim – notwithstanding, ceremonial cleansing has no effect upon the man!

Now, before we go on I might make mention of two so-called Christian Churches who require baptism in order for a person to be saved.  The Church of Christ and Roman Catholicism both insist that water baptism is a necessity for salvation.  But that comes very close, as you can see, to ancient Judaism in that an external ritual is added to God’s Law as essential – the very essence – of cleansing itself!

But as we know from Scripture itself, water baptism although required by all Christian Churches, is a sign – commanded by God – that He has provided an expiatory cleansing for all His covenant people!  It was never meant to be the cleansing itself – but a sign and seal of that cleansing.  Again, the Pharisees had it upside down.  And so do those today who deny the depravity of man by requiring an outward water ritual as a means of salvation.

But a man isn’t unclean – or defiled – by that world which he has touched with his hands; or by the world order which has come in contact with his food; or by the fact that he hasn’t been ritually cleansed with water!  Jesus says it is not that which goes into the mouth that defiles the man; but, (verse eighteen) “that which proceeds from the mouth comes out from the heart; and those defile the man.”

You see, matters which come from man’s mouth are entirely different.  They come from within!  They originate from the man!  There is where the defilement is to be found.

Now, there is no implication here that defilement occurs when the contents of the man are spewed out through the mouth!  Jesus is not preaching a false doctrine –that the man becomes sinful when he sins!  But He is preaching that a man sins because he’s sinful!  These matters are what they are – before they come forth from the man.  The sin issues forth from a defiled nature!

The Pharisees located uncleanness externally from themselves.  And they were judged by Jesus as hypocrites and blind guides of the nation of Israel.  But, you see, that false doctrine isn’t peculiar to the Pharisees!  We’ve already observed that two “denominations of modern Christianity” require a ritual which manifests that false doctrine to the world!  But even though the remainder of Christendom would deny the false ritual of salvation by water baptism, it still believes the doctrine which underlies that ritual!  Modern Christianity believes, with all its heart, that sin is located externally from man!  It denies our innate depravity!

One very large segment of the “believing” population teaches that the “signs and wonders” of healing and tongue-speaking and exorcisms are the “magic” powers that keep away the devil from us.  And if we can keep him away by this “power”, then we’ll be safe!  The devil, then, is this external power of evil that causes us to sin.

While another system of thought, which also involves huge segments of the “Church” population, teaches that immorality – the world – is the source of sin.  If one remains separated from these awful things that people do, then one isn’t a sinner!  Since the sin is “out there”, one is good if one doesn’t participate!  This idea will come up often when people are asked about their status before God.  The answers usually center around doing good things and not doing too many bad things.  “I’ve been a pretty good person.”  People are good when they do good things; and they are sinners when they do evil things.  So the sin is someplace other that in us!

Now, these two very large groups of “Churched” people are being moved farther and farther away from true Biblical doctrine by the general population which is seeking to destroy any notion of sin at all!  From people like Karl Marx and Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud, there has been a concentrated effort, supported by many others such as John Dewey, to eliminate the very concept of sin!

Marx said that opposition to the state was the only thing holding men back from a perfect society; Darwin said that there was no evil – only a process toward perfection; Freud said there was no sin – only mal-formed psyches.  And Dewey put all those concepts into effect in the state school system, so that the children now are taught that the only sin is the belief in sin!  And that education is the salvation of mankind.  (This is the integral ingredient toward evolved perfection.)

Now we have what is commonly called a “new morality” in American society.  The concept of sin has been ridiculed out by education and the media; and now the only word no one dares mention in public is “sin”.  Even those who challenge this new morality in public will not use it!  A good example of that is the outcry against the state for its teaching school children the use of protective devices for deviant sexual activity.  They will go so far as to reprimand the state for not teaching abstinence, but I have yet to hear one person publicly call illicit sexual behavior – sin!  They are afraid of the outcry from a society which has embraced obscenity, pornography, violence and deviant behavior as simply a temporary – or transient – departure from the common good.  And people who do “depart from the common good” can then be rehabilitated by better living conditions, psychological re-orientation and behavioral modification.  All of the problems are all outside of man!  Any idea that “sin” might be the problem is completely gone from the language of analysis and solution.

Like the Pharisees, they have it upside down.  Jesus says, verse eighteen:


“But that which proceeds from the mouth comes out from the heart; and those defile the man.  For out of the heart come evil matters, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies.”


These things He says, originate in the heart – the center of man; that which makes man – man!  For the heart – the nature of man – is a cesspool filled with dialogismoi poneroi – evil matters, evil deliberations; the human faculty itself operates on the basis of evil.  Although man is endowed with intellect – after the image of his Creator – the intellect now operates on the basis of evil.  Although man is endowed with communicative capabilities – after the image of His Creator – that capability now operates on the basis of evil.  Although man is endowed with emotion – after the image of His Creator – his emotion now operates on the basis of evil.  Although man is endowed as “psuche” – soul, after the image of His Creator – the human soul itself now operates on the basis of evil.

And, Pharisees, your man-made religious sacrament of washing makes no difference at all with respect to it.  Twentieth century Pharisees, your man-made “signs and wonders” make no difference at all with respect to it.  Modern Pharisees, your man-made laws erected as a barrier for you to hide behind makes no difference at all with respect to it.  You philosophers, your wisdom and your thought make not one iota of difference with respect to it!  Your education, your system of salvation makes no difference!

You cannot change the human heart by washing off external uncleanness!  You can’t change the human heart with religious orgies.  You can’t change the nature of man by building a shield of man-made law against the encroachment of all that external evil.  You cannot re-make man by philosophically and psychologically changing his environment and his behavior.  And your education does not move man’s heart closer to perfection!  Not one inch closer.

You know, the Greek philosophers indicated that thought was that which differentiated man from the animals.  And that philosophy prevails today in the evolutionary proclamations of those four men mentioned earlier.  And the idea (religion) that man is a specie of animal which has developed its own reasoning over millions of years is that pot which says to its potter, “You did not make me – I am here in and of myself.”  It’s upside down!!

Man is not a specie of animal.  There are many species of animals, but man isn’t one of them!  All the animals were created before man; and man was created separately as the crowning glory of the entirety!  So there is no progression from the lower to the higher; and, therefore, there is no salvation of perfection in human thought or education!  Man is human – not animal; and he was made separately in order to commune with God His Creator intellectually, emotionally and conversationally!  But since we rebelled against our own Maker and received His curse of death, we have been viciously wicked.  And nothing but spontaneous wickedness comes out of our hearts continuously!  And that’s what comes out, because that’s what’s there!

Listen.  Here’s the nature of man – from Paul in Romans one:


“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful….”


Here is Peter describing man’s life before being restored in the body of Christ.  First Peter chapter four:


“For the time past of life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the pagans, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries….”


And here is John the apostle describing those who are outside the New Jerusalem.  Revelation chapter twenty-two, verse fifteen:


“For outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loves and does a lie….”


As Jesus says in our text this morning – verse nineteen:


“For out of the heart come evil matters – thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies….” 


Matthew mentions six things here.  Mark lists twelve.  But the extended list isn’t the primary emphasis for Matthew – it is the innate wickedness of the man that is primary!  It is man that is intrinsically evil – not the created world around him!  Sin is not located externally to man – he has only to look at his own being!  He can look at all else around him to find the problem, and do all else to find the solution.  But he has the nature of his own father Adam.  And that nature is a cursed, sin nature.  And it must be rebirthed and become a new nature – not after our father Adam, but after our Savior Jesus!  Outside of Christ is the old humanity – the sin nature; but IN HIM is the new humanity – the nature of God’s Son the Messiah.

Let’s give this list some consideration, now.  And, as we do that, let’s be aware of two things in particular.  And that is, first, that each one breaks the Commandment of God which is the Revelation of His character.  And, second, each one is specifically aimed at the Talmud and Midrashim which the Pharisees use to free themselves, hypocritically, from the demands of God’s Law!  And since God’s Law perfectly delineates (distinguishes) the Creator from the creature, the Pharisees’ man-made law blurs that distinction and makes them as gods – as their father Adam attempted to do.

The first of these “evil matters” which come out from the heart of man is “adulteries”, calling attention to the seventh Commandment of God concerning the inviolability of marriage.  Now, the writings of the rabbis sought to “more precisely” define God’s Law concerning adultery, so as to evade the definition of their own hearts and to evade the death penalty for themselves!  For example, in the man-made law, the Midrashim, there was no penalty for intercourse with a non-Israelite.  And there was no penalty for adultery that wasn’t planned, but only spontaneous.  And there was no guilt if there were no witnesses.  And only a married woman was subject to the full threat of the death penalty!  But, in the Scriptures, marriage is the image of fidelity to God and the union of Christ and the Church.  And it means exclusive loyalty!  And in places such as the prophecy of Hosea, God used the adulterous wife of Hosea as a representation (analogy) of the adultery of the nation as it co-mingled with the world order and its alien cults.  And God there prophesied that Israel would suffer the penalty of its adultery.

But all through the Scriptures, the Law is absolute.  You will not violate your marriage with adultery.  But man is an adulterous creature, isn’t he?  “Out of the heart come evil matters – adulteries….”  Man is inherently adulterous, for it comes out of his heart!  It’s his nature to be adulterous!  This is exactly what Jesus means in another place when, in defining the heart of man, He says, “If you’ve lusted after a woman in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery!”  In other words adultery comes out of the heart because it’s already there!  The sin is there – in rebellion against God.  And when the Law came, it had the effect of potentiating that rebellion!  Man rebels against the character and image of God around him and in him; but when the specific Word came from God about the sin in his heart, his rebellion became incensed and highly activated!

The second of the list of sins which come out of the heart of man is murders, which has to do with the sixth Commandment of God’s Law.  Note that the Pharisees had thought up a lot of ways, legally, to destroy a man they hated without suffering the penalty which came with killing him!  But Jesus clearly exposed the murderous intent of the heart when He said that if you hated another you had already committed murder.  The murderous heart is the very essence of fallen man.  Murders come out of there because that’s what’s in there!

And the third is Porneia – fornications.  This is the word from which comes our word “pornographic” (fornication in print, or on TV, or in movies, or on the internet)  And it corresponds to the Hebrew word for “unclean (abominable; defilement) thing”.  And naturally the laws which were developed for the rabbis redefined the “unclean thing” to mean almost anything a wife might do to anger her husband and cause him to divorce her in order to satisfy his own lusts elsewhere!  “Any cause” was the Pharisees cry! 

But “Porneia” is a much broader word than is adultery.  It includes adultery, but it also includes all other appetites of the flesh outside marriage which have to do with a sexual focus.  And it all arises from the center of man’s being; because he is, essentially, “porno”.  He is unclean – defiled.  And sexual sin is a “rallying point” for the nature of man!  Anything which is opposed to God’s intent for human sexuality is extremely attractive because it defies God’s Law.  Sexual sin, “porno” is abhorrent and abominable to God, and, therefore, men love it, and it is rampant now, because there are no sanctions in our society!

Fourthly, the Pharisees, being the experts in the law, were the most adept at using it for their own greedy purposes!  The sin is “kloptai” – thefts – from which comes our word “cleptomaniac:  one who incessantly steals”.  And it includes embezzling and appropriating the property of others by legal means, and ruthless self-seeking, and greed and selfishness, and craftiness and secrecy for the purpose of gain – unfulfilled promises and contracts.  All of this comes out of the heart of man, for it is his nature to do it.  And God gave us His eighth Commandment to condemn it.

Then Jesus says “pseudomarturai” – false witnesses.  In its basic meaning it is attesting to something that isn’t true.  But Pseudo isn’t merely the opposite of what is factual!  The fact is that sinful humanity exchanges the truth for a lie. (Romans chapter one)  Sin came into the world through man; and when the truth of God is manifested, every man becomes a liar!  They exchange the truth for a lie.  It’s his nature!  He’s deceitful!  The spirit of antichrist manifests itself in deceitful signs.  Therefore Pseudo is an active contesting of the truth.  It’s a fight – or a battle – for superiority.  The false witness shows himself to be, not just scuffling or scrimmaging with truth, but to be antithetical to God – in pitched battle to the death!  This is what man is inside – he’s full of dedeitful false witnesses!  On the other hand, the Pharisees’ law allowed them to lie under oath unless they used the name of God.  Only then they couldn’t lie!  They turned it upside down!  They could lie, legally!

And, lastly, Jesus says that blasphemings come out from that original place – the hearts of men.  This is one of the most serious sins in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  God gave us His second Commandment to condemn it.  It involves not only denying, but mocking God and His covenant!  And its punishment is death!  Reviling of Christ by His enemies was blasphemy (Matthew chapter twenty-seven).  Paul was a blasphemer because he persecuted the Church of Christ (First Timothy one).  He even attempted to have the ones he persecuted to blaspheme (Acts twenty-six) by renouncing their acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ!

When people rejected the preaching of Paul they blasphemed the One he preached (Acts thirteen).  So, doing slanderous injury to the providential governing of God of His Creation and salvation, is blasphemy.  And so is opposition to and rejection of the purpose of God in bringing the fullness of His Kingdom and glory.  It includes reviling and despising, and taunting; also, reproach and insult and cursing.  Or any attempt to bless the opposite of God and His purposes!  So rejection of God’s salvation of the world in Christ – and the blessing of any other attempt at human salvation – is blasphemy!

And these are the things that come out, naturally, from the heart of fallen mankind.  Evil matters, indeed.  And eating with unwashed hands makes not one whit of a difference.  You were born that way.  Not with the capacity to sin – but with a porno nature.  With hatreds and basphemings and deceptions and adulterings.  And you can’t change God’s Moral character by redefining His Word, nor by washing off external dirt!

Now, if we never hear anything about the word “sin”, just how often do you think we hear about God’s wrath against it?  The experts in Church growth advise against such a negative message.  In order to grow a Church you must only say “positive” things.  Churches prefer a reputation as entertainment centers rather than a fellowship of human beings who have been redeemed of sin and its death penalty.  But sin is real.  And it is very serious.  Serious enough to be worthy of death.  Final death.  And Churches can’t change the evil nature of man – nor God’s wrath against us – by ignoring the issue.

The only One Who can deal with that cesspool of adulteries and murders and uncleanness and deception and blasphemings that come out of the hearts of all people – is Christ.  Since we rebelled and received the curse from God there’s nothing we can do to change the “porno” nature.

But Christ is the New Perfect Humanity.  And to stand before God with a “clean” heart requires us to be reborn in Him!  We must die to the old nature and be rebirthed into the new! 

That’s what the Lord’s Table is all about.  It is an indication of “the Way”.  And the “way” is to be in union with Him.  And that intimate union is indicated by this “sign” of eating Hid body and drinking His blood.  The “flesh and blood of humanity” in Adam must become “flesh and blood humanity” in Christ.