Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1193 MP3 Audio File Video File

An Apparent Contradiction

(Mark 7:18 & Matthew 5:18)

Delivered 11/19/23

Good morning, Bereans. This morning we are going to look at two statements that Christ made that seem very contradictory. Hopefully by the time we are done this morning, you will see that they are not contradictory at all.

Let's begin by looking at a statement that Yeshua makes in the Gospel of Mark early on in his ministry. In the beginning of Mark 7, we see Yeshua engaging the Pharisees and scribes in a conversation about tradition. They were upset because Yeshua's disciples didn't observe the tradition of the elders.

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?"  Mark 7:5 ESV

The word for "defiled" does not refer to hygiene, but, rather, to hands that are ceremonially washed as a religious ritual. This particular ritual washing described here was an addition to the Law because it was nowhere commanded in the Tanakh.

The disciples were not observing the outward rituals, which these Jews felt were vitally important. The disciples were not observing the ceremonial washing of hands before they ate. The Jews were very particular about this. They were afraid of any uncleanness and felt that washing their hands in this manner would protect them from it. They put great stock in the outward observance of certain traditions and ceremonies.

Yeshua confronted them on the fact that some of their traditions violated the commands of God. He called them hypocrites!

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." Mark 7:7-8 ESV

Having finished His conversation with the scribes and the Pharisees, Yeshua returned to address the multitude.

And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand:  Mark 7:14 ESV

Apparently, they had retreated from the presence of the delegation. Perhaps they had been intimidated by these pious Jerusalem officials. Yeshua speaks to the multitude concerning the false ideas of the scribes and the Pharisees. I assume that the Pharisees were still there listening to Yeshua. But He is now talking to the crowd.

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."  Mark 7:15 ESV

Do you understand how radical this statement is? Why is this statement so radical? To the Pharisees and any Jew, this statement went against their dietary laws. This would be similar to my teaching you today that we are saved by our works, and that the only way for man to be right in the sight of God is for him to work very hard at keeping the law of God. Faith alone can't save you; you must keep the law.

How would you respond to that? Would you get up and walk out? Would you stand up and shout? That would be so totally radical and heretical to you that I hope it would get some kind of response. Well, that's about how radical this saying of Yeshua was.

Up to this point in Mark, Yeshua had shaken them up with His seeming disregard of the Law of God. This was evidenced when He touched the leper.

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean." Mark 1:40-41 ESV

Any Israelite knew that it was a violation of God's Law to touch a leper. This, I'm sure, caused many questions. Then Yeshua seems to go against their view of the Sabbath.

And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." Mark 2:27-28 ESV

But now in our text, Yeshua directly speaks against the dietary laws:

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."  Mark 7:15 ESV

Let's keep reading.

And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. Mark 7:17 ESV

His disciples obviously didn't understand. He couldn't be saying that food didn't matter, could he?

And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, Mark 7:18 ESV

The word "defile" refers to that which is common as opposed to that which is set aside for God's use. The Lord is referring to food and drink. When it enters a man, it cannot make him common or defiled.

since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  Mark 7:19 ESV

What Yeshua is saying in this parable deals with the issue of the heart. The real problem with man is his heart and not his diet. It's this that makes him unable to stand before God as clean and acceptable without some fairly radical heart surgery.

"Thus, he declared all foods clean." Just in case you missed what it was that Yeshua meant when he said, "there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him," Mark makes it very clear. It should be noted that in this instance in Mark Yeshua is more radical than He is in Matthew, whose parallel story (chapter 15) does not include this phrase. And Mark is more radical also than He is in Luke. Luke does not have this story or these sayings of Yeshua. It is only in Acts 10 that it is revealed to Peter in a dream that foods traditionally deemed "profane" or "unclean" should not be so deemed.

This was quite a shocking statement to the Jews. Food was a major consideration under the Old Covenant. This is clear from even a superficial reading of Leviticus 11.

And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, "Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Leviticus 11:1-3 ESV
"These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you. Leviticus 11:9-12 ESV

The Hebrew word translated "detestable" here is sheqets. The BDB definition is "detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation." Strong's defines it as "filth."

So, there were certain laws in the Tanakh that God had given relative to eating. The purpose of those laws was either to create a unique situation or to keep the people from eating something that would be harmful to them nutritionally. But the primary issue in the Tanakh was that God wanted a peculiar people. God wanted His people set apart in certain ways and from certain things. By virtue of the kind of diet God had prescribed, Israel had a hard time having relationships with the peoples of the country in which they lived because they couldn't eat together. God wanted it that way; He didn't want them to intermingle.

"And by these you shall become unclean. Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, Leviticus 11:24 ESV

The word "unclean" is the Hebrew word tame which means "foul in a religious sense; defiled; polluted." So, the law said you would be defiled if you ate unclean things. But Yeshua says it is not what goes into your mouth that defiles you.

There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."  Mark 7:15 ESV

This is radical! Yeshua is setting aside the dietary laws of the Mosaic covenant. This word "defile" is from the Greek word koinoo, which means "to make common, defile, pollute, unclean." It is used 16 times in 12 verses in the New Testament. It is used 13 times in relation to food defiling a person. Koinoo is used in Acts 10.

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common [koinoo]." Acts 10:9-15 ESV

The word "common" in verse 15 is the Greek word koinoo. Peter says, "I don't want to become unholy by eating the wrong foods." And God replies to Peter, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider common or unholy." So, here God is teaching Peter the same thing that Yeshua taught him about 10 years earlier: all food is now clean.

Many believe that the Law ended at the cross and would use verses such as these in Acts to prove their theory. But what do you do with Yeshua's words in our text in Mark that were spoken years before the cross? Yeshua hadn't even died yet, and He seems to be setting aside the dietary laws. How do we reconcile this with what Yeshua said in Matthew 5.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 ESV

The use of the terms "the law" and "the prophets" indicates that what the Lord is speaking of in these verses is the whole of the Tanakh. If you trace these terms throughout your Bible, you will find that wherever this expression is used, it includes the entire Tanakh. The rabbis had gone through the Torah and codified all of the Scriptures and they came up with a total of 613 laws. So, all 613 laws are in effect until heaven and earth passes away.

The word "iota" in form was like an apostrophe. Presuming that Yeshua originally made the statement in Hebrew, iota would stand for י (yod), the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

The "dot" is the little projecting part at the foot of a letter, the little line at each side of the foot of, for example, the letter "t." The message is clear. Not even the smallest part of the law will be abolished until heaven and earth passes away.

The phrase "until heaven and earth pass away" refers to the duration of the whole Tanakh's authority. Yeshua is saying that not a single item of the Law, the Tanakh, will ever be changed until heaven and earth pass away. Is that what Yeshua said? Please notice that the word "until" occurs twice. And it is the first "until" that most people ignore.

So, if "heaven and earth" have not passed away, as the majority of the church teaches, then all of the Law, all 613 commands are still in effect. Every bit of it. Who is under these 613 Laws? Israel. Are all these 613 Laws still being obeyed by Israel today? Not at all. When did Israel stop obeying these 613 Laws? In AD 70 when their Temple was destroyed. Do you see the problem here?

Believers, here is what we need to understand. As Gentiles, we are not and never have been under the Law/Torah. Look at what Paul wrote to the Romans.

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. Romans 2:12 ESV

The "Law" here is the Torah—the Jewish Law of Moses, the Writings and the Prophets. "All who have sinned without the Law"—simply means Gentiles. And "All who have sinned under the Law"—refers to the Jews. The Gentiles did not have Torah. They had no prophets, they had no biblical writers, and they did not have the written revelation of God, the Law of God. Only Israel did. Look at what Paul says in verse 14.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. Romans 2:14 ESV

The misinterpretation of this verse has led to great misunderstanding. Many see this verse as saying that God has written on the heart of every man a basic moral code. That code is similar to the things contained in the Ten Commandments. This universal moral code consists of things like "Do not steal," "Do not cheat," "Tell the truth," "Honor your parents," "Keep your word," "Help the poor," "Do not kill," and so on. That is not what this verse is saying.

The key to understanding this verse is translation. Most of the major translations have missed it here and their mistake has led to a faulty view that all men have an innate knowledge of God. The Christian Standard Bible got this right.

So, when Gentiles, who do not by nature have the law, do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. Romans 2:14 CSB

N.T. Wright says, "The phrase 'by nature' goes with the possession of the Law, not with the doing of the Law." Those who do not have the Law by nature were the Gentiles. Paul is here distinguishing between Jews who are born with Torah and Gentiles who by nature or birth do not have the Law. Yet these Gentiles are doing the things of the Law.

The ESV's "by nature" is from the Greek word phusis. That Paul uses this word to refer to the possession of the Law is clear from his use of phusis in Romans 2.

Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. Romans 2:27 ESV

The word "physically" here is phusis. This is almost identical to the point that Paul makes in verse 14. Here the "physically uncircumcised" who keep the Torah refers to Gentiles. This cannot refer to people who are "naturally" or "innately" circumcised but refers to those who do not physically have the Law. We could translate verse 14 as: "To those who do not physically have the Law, do the things of the Law."

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. Romans 2:14 ESV

Who are these Gentile law keepers? They are Gentile Christians! Cranfield says, "This view [that they are Gentile Christians] is found in Augustine and in the earliest Latin commentary which has come down to us."

We could translate it, "For when Gentiles who by nature do not have the Law, do what the Law requires, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves." They don't have the Law, but they do the things of the Law. How is that possible? They are Christian Gentiles, they have trusted Christ, and the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in them.

Look at what Paul writes to the Corinthians.

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 ESV

Gentiles are not under the Law and never have been. Notice what Paul says here about himself: though not being myself under the law. Hang on to that! We'll come back to it in a few minutes.

But how do we reconcile what Yeshua says in Mark, "There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him… Thus, he declared all foods clean." With what he says in Matthew 5, "Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."  Which was it? Was the Law still in effect, or was it cancelled? When Yeshua spoke these words in Mark 7, heaven and earth hadn't passed away. He hadn't even gone to the cross yet. This poses a dilemma.

We know that "heaven and earth" did not pass away until AD 70.

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13 ESV

Notice that the text says, "…is becoming obsolete … ready to vanish away." This is written to the first-century Hebrew believers. As of AD 65, the Old Covenant had not yet become obsolete, but it was about to. The Old Covenant did not become obsolete until the temple was destroyed in AD 70. The old heaven and earth were becoming obsolete while the New Covenant, the church, was growing to maturity.

So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

The process was still occurring. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. But the clear blessing of the New Covenant was that God would dwell with His people. But man's access to God—the consummation of the New Covenant—did not take place until the Old Covenant tabernacle was destroyed.

By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing Hebrews 9:8 ESV

The words "as long as the first section is still standing" might better be translated, "while the first tabernacle still has any standing,"—in other words, while the Old Covenant was still in force. As long as the Old Covenant was still in effect, men did not have access to the presence of God. Prior to Yeshua's Second Coming, at which time He destroyed the temple and the Old Covenant, no one went to Heaven.

OK, so Gentiles were never under the Law. But it is not only Yeshua who teaches that Jews were free from the Law. Paul taught this as well.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 ESV

Paul admonishes against allowing anyone to judge them in regard to Old Covenant shadows. He is making it clear to them that they are under the New Covenant and are free from Old Covenant laws. How? If AD 70 had not come, how could Jews be free from the Law? There was another event which ended the Law on an individual level before AD 70. It was the New Birth.

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 7:1-4 ESV

The Law here is Torah. Paul is dealing specifically here with the Jewish believers. Gentiles were never under the Law of Moses.

Paul says, "the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives "—the word "binding" here and the word "master" in 6:14 are the same Greek word kurieuo, which means "to have dominion over, to exercise lordship over." This is a simple axiomatic truth. Death breaks all dominion of the law. That's simple!

What is important to understand here is that the apostle is not embarking on a discussion of marriage and remarriage. If we try to make it into such, then we miss the point that he makes. He speaks of fidelity in marriage elsewhere. He is merely using this as an illustration or metaphor to make his point. What is his point? Jewish marital law declared a married woman bound to her husband as long as he lived. This is a very simple analogy to help us understand the axiom that the law only applies when people are alive. The point here is that death ends the law that binds two people permanently together in marriage. Everybody understands this. It is a very simple analogy.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4 ESV

Just like the husband died in the previous verses, "you also have died." "Died" is a passive indicative giving the meaning that you were "made dead" to the Law. The passive voice points to the sovereign, gracious work of God in applying the work of Christ to them regarding the reign of sin and jurisdiction of the Law. It points back to our having become united with Christ in His death.

You used to be in a covenant relationship with the Law, you used to have this obligation to which you were mandated to bring about fulfillment. But, that's changed. You were made to die to the Law. Literally, you were put to death, you were killed in regard to the Law. The death is clear. It's their co-crucifixion with the Lord Yeshua when he, as their representative, died on the cross.

By faith, believers have been united with Christ (as 6:5 says) so that His death becomes our death. And therefore, Paul says "You have died to the Law." Christ bore the punishment that the Law required, and Christ fulfilled the perfect obedience that the Law demanded. So, in Him they were released from the Law. Which means our salvation is eternal; it is secure.

"So that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead "—the "so that" is a purpose clause, which shows us the reason for the death to the Law is "so that" they would be married to another. But how can they marry another if they have died?

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:5 ESV

They not only shared in His death, but also in His resurrection. They no longer have obligations to their old husband.

The Jews were married to the Law. That is, they were bound to the Law, in other words, they were bound to the obligation the Law demanded from them. They were bound to maintain the Law—to keep it.  And they would be judged on their faithfulness in doing so. But when they died in Christ, the Law no longer had any hold on them. It could no longer condemn them because it had been satisfied. The punishment had been rendered in full, and they now had a whole New Covenant relationship. They had a new husband—the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

This is why Paul says,

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 1 Corinthians 9:20 ESV

Paul himself was not under the Law because he had died to it when he trusted Christ. First-century Jewish believers died to the Law, but in AD 70 the Law died with the destruction of the Jewish temple, which was the old heaven and earth. So, when a Jew trusted in Christ, he died to the Law and all its demands. Notice what we see in Acts.

When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, Acts 21:17-20 ESV

Notice what we have here—believing Jews who are zealous for the law. These were Jews who were living in Jerusalem. Apparently, the Christian Jews who lived in Jerusalem continued to keep the law. We also see this idea in Galatians 2.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:11-13 ESV

Peter is in Antioch having a good time eating Lobster and ham until some Jewish believers from James show up. Then, because of fear of these men, Peter quits eating with the Gentiles and begins to eat only what the Jewish law allowed him to.

James was a leader in the Jewish church in Jerusalem. He was a notably godly man who was meticulous in his following after righteousness. Because he ministered among Jews, following after righteousness meant giving no offense to the Jews. That, in turn, meant that he was a close adherent to the customs of the Jews. If he had not been a minister to the Jews, he would not have been so meticulous about Jewish customs. So, these men from James would no doubt have also followed the Jewish dietary laws.

Now let's go back to our story in Acts:

and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. Acts 21:21 ESV

Was Paul doing this? Yes!

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. Colossians 2:16 ESV

Back to Acts:

What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality." Acts 21:22-25 ESV

What was Paul's response? Did he say, "You guys are nuts. I'm not going to observe the law. That is all over. You are not going to judge me." No. This was his response:

Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them. Acts 21:26 ESV

Paul went through the Jewish purification and offered a sacrifice. Why did Paul do this? Because he was in Jerusalem! He was trying to win the Jews, so he had to be careful not to offend them.

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 1 Corinthians 9:20 ESV

So, there is no contradiction between Yeshua's saying dietary laws didn't matter and what He said about all the law would remain in tack until heaven and earth passed away. The Law remained in effect until AD 70 when the Temple was destroyed. But any Israelite that came to faith in Christ died to the Law and its demands.

Some see Yeshua's statement in Mark 7 as a prolepsis. A prolepsis is the representation or assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished. This makes sense. What Yeshua was teaching was that the law was beginning to fade away. The process had started and Heaven and earth were passing away. At the same time, the church was growing to maturity, and it would all culminate in the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70.

Yeshua spoke of this process of the Law going out and the Church growing to maturity early in His ministry. Speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees He said:

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10 ESV

This axe speaks of the judgment that was to come upon Jerusalem in forty years. Yeshua said the axe was already coming down. The process had started. So, when Yeshua speaks of the abolishment of the dietary laws, He is saying that the process has already begun.

The Law had no jurisdiction over any believer after Pentecost. The Jewish believers were free from the Law "through the body of Christ." During the transition period, Old Covenant Judaism was still a veritable religion, and the Jews were still "under the Law," because the old covenant was still in effect. However, Jewish and Gentile Christians were not "under the Law" (old covenant) but under the New Covenant" made in Christ's blood on the cross.

The ending of the Law in AD 70 does not mean that we are lawless today. As Paul said to the Corinthians"

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV

All believers are under the law of Christ which is New Covenant law. We are under this law not as a means of salvation but as a way of life. Believers are to live their lives in obedience to the law of Christ. What is the "law of Christ"? The law of Christ is the law of love. These laws that tell us how to love are laid out for us in the New Testament.

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