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Many people today are not at all concerned with the issue of moral and spiritual defilement. They have chosen to bury their head in the sand of existential pleasures for the moment –ignoring the inner voice of conscience which speaks to their guilt and futility. But people who are religious – like the scribes and Pharisees of Christ’s day – have taken great pains to try to cover over their sins with some form of external self righteousness or system of works to appease God. They have a desire to appear clean before God and before others. They are experts in jumping through the hoops of their legalistic system that deceives them into thinking they are more righteous than the people around them.

Psychologists today who like to study human behavior would have us to believe that man is basically good. They make excuses for our sins and point to all sorts of external influences that could have made Johnny do the bad things that he did.

Jesus strips aside all excuses and exposes the hypocrisy of legalism – as we saw last week. Now He gets to the heart of the problem – and it is not a pretty picture. Many people like “feel-good” messages. I have to warn you up front — this is not a “feel-good” message.

Jesus teaches the general crowd and then His own disciples:


This message was radically different from the common doctrine of the Pharisees – so different that even the disciples had difficulty comprehending the very simple spiritual principle that Jesus was pressing home.



A. (:14) Requirement for Understanding Introduced: Pay Attention

“And after He called the multitude to Him again, He began saying to them,

‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:’”

The crowd had apparently drifted into the background to allow the Pharisees and scribes to have their stage to make accusation against Jesus. But now Jesus makes sure to gather them all around within hearing range for His important lesson.

Lesson is made available to all

What Jesus is about to say is very important

If you miss the point of this key lesson, it will have eternal consequences for your soul.

You can be mistaken about a lot of things … but don’t get this wrong.

B. (:15) Statement of the Key Lesson = Source of True Defilement

1. Negatively: Defilement Does Not Come From What You Eat or Drink

“there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him;”

Scribes and Pharisees had come to challenge Jesus and His disciples on the issue of defilement – claiming that physical contact with something external somehow ended up leading to internal, moral corruption – Jesus took the complete opposite stance

Constable: Obviously Jesus was speaking morally and spiritually, not medically and physiologically. Jesus clarified the intent of the Mosaic laws regarding clean and unclean food (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). The Jew who ate unclean food became unclean because he or she disobeyed God’s Word, not because the food made him or her unclean.

What was the purpose of the Jewish dietary laws regarding ceremonial cleanliness?

MacArthur: And at this point, you know, you’re saying to yourself, if God didn’t want them to get preoccupied with this, why did He institute these in the first place? Because they needed symbols, they needed pictures, they needed types, they needed representations of a spiritual reality. Ceremonies, various kinds of rituals, various kinds of prescriptions with touching and eating and drinking simply were external representations of the fact that God wanted heart cleansing. He wanted the heart to be pure from pollution, corruption and defilement. So the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 8:5, “These things are an example and shadow of heavenly things.” “They are figures for the time then present.” In chapter 9 verse 10, the writer of Hebrews says, “Foods and drinks and various washings and fleshly ordinances were imposed until the time of reformation.” That would be the time of Christ. They had a temporary role to play. They were like the ABC’s, like the primer, like the basics that you teach a child by using illustrations. In Hebrews 10:22 it says, “Let us draw near with a true heart, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.”

Wasn’t this the point of the symbolism in circumcision? God demanded heart cleansing;

Apart from such cleansing, you would remain no different than an uncircumcised Gentile.

2. Positively: Defilement Only Comes From the Rotten Fruit of the Depraved Heart

“but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.”

Understanding of doctrine of Natural Depravity:

The doctrine of total depravity teaches that people are not by very nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, or mind, as He requires, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests, desires, wants, and needs, and to reject the rule of God. . .

(1) man is a sinner; but

(2) he is not nearly as sinful in actual practice as he could be; however

(3) he really is a totally depraved sinner in the sight of God.

Total depravity does not mean, however, that people are as bad as they possibly can be. It does mean that “sin affects every aspect of our person, that our good acts are not done entirely out of love for God, and that we are completely unable to extricate ourselves from this sinful condition. Even the “good” things man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him. The world focuses on the external acts claiming that they are good, while God focuses on both the external and internal acts. His purpose is to determine the motivation that perpetuated the act. If the act goes against God then it demonstrates a rebellious heart, meaning that they are going against Him. They bring no glory to Him. Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” What this demonstrates is the selfishness of man’s intended good deed actually corrupts the act itself.

Total Depravity

Wayne Grudem: In our natures we totally lack spiritual good before God: It is not just that some parts of us are sinful and others are pure. Rather, every part of our being is affected by sin – our intellects, our emotions and desires, our hearts (the center of our desires and decision-making processes), our goals and motives, and even our physical bodies. Paul says, “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18), and, “to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15). Moreover, Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). In these passages Scripture is not denying that unbelievers can do good in human society in some senses. But it is denying that they can do any spiritual good or be good in terms of a relationship with God. Apart from the work of Christ in our lives, we are like all other unbelievers who are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18).

C. (:16) Requirement for Understanding Summarized: Spiritual Discernment

“If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This limits greatly the scope of who gets it

Authenticity of verse is seriously questioned – not in the best manuscripts

Constable: Later copyists may have added it as a result of reading 4:9 and or 4:23. It may be genuine since many early manuscripts contain it. Most modern translators have judged it a later addition to the text.



A. (:17-18a) Lack of Understanding Lamented

1. (:17) Disciples Don’t Get It — Need Help to Understand the Lesson

“And when leaving the multitude, He had entered the house,

His disciples questioned Him about the parable.”

2. (:18a) Disciples Should Get It – Should Not Need Help to Understand the Lesson

“And He said to them, ‘Are you so lacking in understanding also?’”

Constable: Their “hardness of heart” is a prominent theme in 6:31— 8:26 (cf. 6:52; 8:14-21).

Hendriksen: That others – for example, the Pharisees and scribes, the people in general – do not grasp my teaching is not strange, but that you, who have associated with me for so long a period and so closely, are also so dense, that is inexcusable. (cf. John 14:9)

They were so immersed in the doctrine of the Pharisees that they could not grasp this radical concept that Jesus was presenting; thought He was teaching them in the obscure form of a parable when He was simply stating a spiritual principle

The monks never got this concept – thought they could isolate themselves from the world and find a place of peace and communion with God; but they brought their corrupt hearts right into the monastery with them; those who were sincere (like Martin Luther) wrestled with the depths of depravity in their own heart

Christian schools can miss this concept – they have not created a place of spiritual idealism – they have actually intensified the hypocrisy on the part of some of the students – you find that pretty much the same type of behavior exists; not to say that there is not value in Christian education; there is a bad influence of having a peer group that is blatantly and outwardly defiant of God and His standards – but you also need to admit the reality of the more pressing pollution within

B. (:18b-23) Explanation of the Key Lesson = Source of True Defilement

1. (:18b-19) Explained Negatively

a. Principle Stated

“Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him;”

b. Principle Illustrated

“because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?”

Parunak: Gives two reasons that food (or contamination on food) cannot defile a person morally:

a) The organ it affects: it enters the belly, not the heart, and the heart is the seat of purity. This is not a new teaching; the OT knew it well (Prov. 4:23).

b) Its transience. It doesn’t remain in the person, but passes out into the sewer.

c. (:19) Principle Extended

“(Thus He declared all foods clean.)”

Editorial statement inserted by Mark

Thomas Constable: Mark interpreted the significance of Jesus’ teaching for his Gentile readers. Mark meant that Christians need not observe the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law (cf. Rom. 14:14; Gal. 2:11-17; Col. 2:20-22). This was a freedom that Jewish Christians struggled with for many years during the infancy of the church (cf. Acts 10; 11; 15). Later revelation clarified that Jesus terminated the entire Mosaic Law as a code (Rom. 10:4; et al.).

Parunak: The effect of his statement was to render all foods clean, thus overruling the Levitical dietary laws. Thus his statement to the crowds not only invalidates the (human) rabbinical teachings about hand-washing, but has the further implication that a portion of the OT law would no longer be applicable.

Hendriksen: Interpreters may differ on the question exactly when, according to God’s will, the abolition of the ceremonial laws regarding clean and unclean went into effect. Did it take place right now, at the very moment when Jesus spoke these words? Did it occur when Jesus was crucified? See Col. 2:14. On the day of Pentecost? Whatever be the answer, it remains true that in principle all foods were pronounced clean here and now.

Dramatic change from OT Israelite Mosaic law —

Peter had a difficult time grasping this — Acts 10:9ff

Roman Catholics still do not get it

Hiebert: These ceremonial regulations in the law had a function as symbolically teaching the reality and importance of moral purity. They demanded an external separation which pointed to the need for an inner heart condition of separation unto God. But these external regulations in themselves did not convey the purity of heart to which they pointed. They were the shadow and not the substance (Heb. 10:1). When they found their fulfillment in Christ, these ceremonial foreshadowings became obsolete.”

2. (:20-23) Explained Positively

a. (:20) Principle Stated

“And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.’”

b. (:21-22) Principle Illustrated

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed” Laundry list:

Summary: “the evil thoughts,” οἱ διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ

Talking with yourself – internal dialog; cf. Ps. 14:1; Obad. 3

6 plural nouns: sinful actions:

1) “fornications,”

Sexual sins; immoral acts – John 8:41; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess 4:3;

Pornography – any kind of sexual aberration

2) “thefts,”

How about loafing on the job? Not fully paying our taxes? Taking office supplies from work …

The seed of being a thief is in your own heart

3) “murders,”

Hendriksen: It should be made clear, however, that Jesus sharpened the edge of every commandment. He taught that hatred is murder (Matt. 5:21, 22), and that a married man’s lustful look at another woman is adultery (Matt. 5:28).

Have you had anger in your heart?

We are a murderous people – killing unborn babies because they are inconvenient

4) “adulteries,”

The breaking of the marriage covenant; union between husband and wife meant to reflect eternal union between Christ and His church; our day has increasing rate of divorce – almost same rate in the church as without; if you think it you have done it

5) “deeds of coveting”

You see something and you want it

6) “and [deeds of] wickedness,”

Malice; look at how children treat one another

6 singular nouns: sinful attitudes:

7) “as well as deceit,”

Matthew mentions false testimony; trying to cover up our sins; treachery

8) “sensuality”

I Pet. 4:3 – excessive attention to lustful thoughts and sexual impulses; our heart is attracted to the filth the world presents

9) “envy,”

Evil eye; vs unselfishly sharing

10) “slander,”

Cursing; taking God’s name in vain; breaking third commandment; speaking ill of God

11) “pride”

Arrogance; haughtiness

12) “and foolishness”

Anything opposite of wisdom – study through Proverbs

Constable: The list of sins proceeds from six actions to six attitudes (cf. Rom 1:29-31; Gal. 5:19-23). Matthew’s record included only six sins.

MacArthur: the first six are plural, therefore they have to refer to acts. The second six are singular, therefore they refer to attitudes behind the acts.

c. (:23) Principle Restated

“All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Our problem is not primarily our environment; not primarily a devil problem; we have a heart problem which we cannot escape on our own; we don’t have the ability or even the desire to change our hearts – we love the darkness


Understanding the key lesson should drive us to the Savior for cleansing and forgiveness of sins.

Must confess the sinfulness of our own hearts

Legalism doesn’t get us anywhere with God – just confirms our hypocrisy

We need new hearts