October 12, 2003


Word reached Jerusalem concerning the numerous miracles Jesus was working in Galilee. "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches. (Mark 7:1-4).

It is not surprising that the Pharisees and scribes who had come from Jerusalem found fault with Jesus and His disciples. In fact, it is most likely that they had come to Galilee for that very purpose.

Scholars have long believed that Mark's account of the gospel was written initially for a Gentile readership, especially for Romans. This passage adds much weight to that suggestion. Mark goes into quite a bit of detail in explaining Jewish traditions --explanation that would not be necessary if he were writing to his fellow Jews.

In verse three, the King James translation indicates the Jews wash their hands often. The New King James translates the Greek phrase they wash "in a special way." Actually, the Greek literally says "with the fist." The reference is to rubbing the fist of one hand in the palm of the other while washing. This was but one of the many "traditions of the elders" which had been passed on from generation to generation among the Jews. This was a part of an unwritten "law" formulated by the rabbis of the past, a body of 613 rules designed to regulate every aspect of Jewish life. But these unwritten traditions had not come from God.

Mark goes on to tell us that the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus, "'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?' He answered and 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. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men -- the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.'" (Mark 7:6).

Today, many churches put as much emphasis on their long held traditions as on the word of God. One large religious group loudly proclaims that their traditions are every bit as authoritative as the Bible itself. Jesus, of course, indicates that such is not the case. And traditions that contradict Scripture are clearly wrong. 

--Clarence R. Johnson


Paul was under house arrest as the book of Acts comes to a close, and constantly guarded by armed Roman soldiers. While there, he wrote letters to the Philippians, the Colossians, the Ephesians, and to Philemon. In the Ephesian letter, Paul compared God's word to the sword of the Roman soldier (Eph. 6:17) as did the Hebrew writer in Heb. 4:12. The Lord Jesus compared the gospel to a seed planted in expectation of a good harvest (Luke 8:11). Such is the power of the gospel to perform and transform, Rom. 1:16. Let us notice a few of the many things God's powerful word can do for us.

1. The scripture contains all that is needed to completely furnish us and instruct us with regard to everything that God considers to be a good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17. There are, of course, other plans, works, and ideas that seem good to man, but they only result in spiritual death, Prov. 14:12.

2. God's word is total truth, and contains the power to free man from sin and error. Jesus said to the heavenly Father, "Your word is truth" (John 8:32). He said to those who would listen to Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32).

3. The Bible supplies us with all things that pertain to life and godliness, 1 Peter 1:3. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3).

4. The word of God makes known to us the means and methods of our eternal salvation. It is in a study of the Bible that we learn the conditions we must meet to benefit from what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:16-17). When Paul tells us that God's righteousness is revealed in the gospel, he has reference to God's plan for making men righteous. Therein God reveals to us the necessity of faith (Heb. 11:6), repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), public acknowledgment of Christ (Rom 10:10, and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38). Those who submit to these conditions will be saved from their past sins (Mark 16:15-16), and by continuing in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:10) they will finally be saved eternally in heaven (Mark 10:30).

--Clarence R. Johnson


When someone's sinful conduct rebounded upon him, my dad would sometimes say, "He is stewing in his own juice." Dad meant he was reaping what he had sown. This is a Bible concept, in both the good and bad sense. We do not really get away" with anything. Our deeds and thoughts are "naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13). Since we are in God's world, where the very character of God is manifested in His creation; and since we will be eventually judged by our Creator; we should know that our well-being, now and in eternity, depends upon our living according to His rules. Three times in the first chapter of the Roman letter Paul indicates "God gave up" the pagan world to the consequences of their own conduct. He allowed them to "stew in their own juice." There is a practical principle here for all of us: we carry in ourselves the seed of harvest, both temporal and eternal.

We are often self-deceived: thinking possessions can make us happy; our cunningness can reap the benefits of true wisdom; the snares we set for others can give us freedom. This is to proceed without reckoning with God and his principles of righteousness. Greed only heaps up treasures that "moth and rust corrupt." The cunning are caught by others more cunning, and are usually overcome by the strength of honorable wisdom. The book of Proverbs is literally filled with such admonitions. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city " but the destruction of the poor (by which he gained his wealth) eventually becomes his poverty (Prov. 10:15). "The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them" (11:3). If evil-doers seem to prosper (as indeed they do) remember the advice of the Psalmist: "Fret not thyself. "Evil-doers shall be cut off" (Psa. 37:7-11).

The prophet Habakkuk affords an excellent example of the principle we are discussing. Habakkuk recognized the sins of his people and cried out to God to do something about them. God revealed he was sending the Chaldeans to overrun and punish Judah for her sins. Habakkuk objected, "Holdest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he?" (1:13) He was told "the righteous shall live by his faith" (f.n. "in his faithfulness," 2:4). God has not forgotten His own.

But that is not all. The wicked Chaldeans, used by God to punish Judah, were still accountable for their deeds. The wine (of greed and pride) is treacherous. The very nations they had conquered would "take up a parable a taunting proverb" against them (2:5f). There follows five "woes" promising them the fruit of their own wickedness. Habakkuk learned the true meaning of faith. He waited patiently for the punishment due Judah's wickedness, and said, "Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (3:16f). He was now attuned to God's judgments.

Reaping what we sow is also applicable in far less dramatic cases. Some girls use extreme makeup and tight clothing to throw themselves at the boys. They get a cheap date, cheap popularity, and eventually a cheap husband who likely holds marriage as a "cheap" arrangement. Later the divorced mother with children to support "stews in her own juice," and just can't figure out why it happened. I remember talking with a divorcee who told me each of her three husbands were alcoholics. I asked, "Where do you get your husbands?" and was told she met them where she worked -- in a bar. I do not say all divorces have such obvious cause-effect relations, but the general principle remains true: we sow the seed of our own harvest. The boy who is lazy, changes jobs often, does sloppy work, and is a "clock watcher," finds it hard to understand why he finally runs out of jobs. The world does not treat him fairly; or does it?

Preachers try to "win debates" with trickery, character assassination, or unfair use of papers or pulpit -- and are shunned or held at arms length by many brethren. Of course they can always say those brethren can not take "sound" teaching, but I wonder if they never take a look deep inside themselves. It is equally true that those who compromise truth and repeatedly excuse ungodly conduct may finally find themselves in the "liberal" camp. How did they get there? The "seed" produced their fruit. They may not feel the "stewing" now, but ultimate consequences are inevitable.

Retribution and judgment lie woven into the nature of creation, and are an integral part of God's revealed will. We "program" our own destinies far more than we may realize and we should not have to wait for the unchangeable final judgment to do something about it. Instead of blaming fate or "others" for our plight, we should take a hard look at our past, the seed of our present. In our yesterdays we were mixing the ingredients of today. We are storing up our eternal future by present lifestyles and response to God. That is one reason it is so hard to truly repent, to turn about, to "kill the old man." But God's goodness can have a great influence if we but give it consideration (Rom. 2:4f). We still have life, and with Christ that means hope. It is up to each of us to trust Him, and begin sowing the seeds of an eternal inheritance. 

--Robert F. Turner, Guardian of Truth, 8/6/87.



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