Can God Be Deceived?
Translated by Allan Liang
Mark 7:1-13 As a pastor, I am often asked this question: “how do I know if I am truly saved”. We can answer this question from many perspectives. But today I want to share this particular point: a truly saved person is one who truly believes in the LORD. A person who believes in the LORD fears God and will not dare to act in a hypocritical fashion. Because the God whom we believe in is a jealous God, a God who searches the heart of man, and sees all our sins and iniquities, though for those who are saved, He too sees the righteousness of Christ in us, which covers our sins. Consequently, a person who is truly saved will daily rely on the grace of God for forgiveness and guidance, and on the path of sanctification, take off the old self and put on the new self, and “with fear and trembling, work out our salvation”. Yet the Pharisees did not receive God's redemptive grace and true knowledge. Their greatest ignorance before God was “attempting to erect their righteousness and refusing to submit to God’s righteousness.” The passage of scripture we read today (Mark 7:1-13), speaks of the Pharisees and scribes coming to Judaism (probably after being alerted), to spectate Jesus' gatherings, and find evidence to accuse Jesus of breaking the law. In the end, they indeed did find some “true” evidence, that is, Jesus and his apostles did not wash their hands before eating. It seems like this practice may not be the most hygienic. I suppose it would be a good reminder for us to wash our hands in this season of the coronavirus. But this seems completely unrelated to matters of keeping the law. If we are to flip through the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), we will not find any mention of such laws. Therefore, what is the basis of the accusations of the Pharisee? This is a great question! Actually, this statute was invented by the Pharisees themselves. They expanded, by their own unauthorized decision, the law for priests to wash hands prior to sacrifice offerings, to the entire Jewish community and to all aspects of life. This was to make known their zeal for obeying the law, appearing to go above and beyond the requirements of God for man. In their arrogant and blind eyes, merely keeping the law was insufficient (Luke 18:21). The legal requirements of God for man were set too low, which was simply incomparable to the righteous standards in their eyes, which manifested in outward behaviors. The rebellious and sinful self-righteousness of the Pharisees was frightening in nature. Their self righteousness truly was stained with sins and lusts of all sorts, daring to use their own man made rules to artificially change the clear teachings of the law. Furthermore, they misused the authority of God, forcing people to obey their rules. This was why Jesus gave them the strongest rebuke, that is, “hypocrites and those without sight lead the way.” (Mathew 23:1-36). Next, Jesus proceeded to point out a tradition conceived out of the deceitfulness of the Pharisees which directly nullified the commandment to love one’s father and mother. The Pharisees established a system called “Corban” that allowed a person to simply say a vow and donate some money to the temple, and would allow them to be free from any obligation of providing for his father and mother, for the vow to the Lord could not be broken. (Numbers 30:2). Now, whether or not that vow was fulfilled, there was little concern. This way, the Pharisees thought that they had succeeded, for through this manner of lawmaking, both the parents would be unable to speak a word and the vow maker would enjoy the good name of loving God more than man. But can the God who sees the thoughts and motivations of man, be deluded like this? Woe to those who “use human traditions to nullify the Word of God.” Dear brother and sisters, let us meditate, reflect upon, and pray about the following: Were we like the Pharisees before accepting Christ, believing ourselves to be a good person? After accepting Christ, is the pride and and self righteousness of the old self being steadily eroded by the light of God’s Word? Are we often alert that some of our thoughts and attitudes are not from God, but are from the traditions of man, from the value systems of this world? Or are we completely unaware of the fact that our submission to and pleasure from the Word of God is being affected by all sorts of worldly ideas? May God give us a humble and self-reflecting heart, so that we may understand more deeply the preciousness of the guidance of God’s grace, and treasure all the spiritual resources God has provided for us through his church. Let us walk with Christ each day, and though Him, be built up together. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”(1 John 1:8)