Thursday, February 4, 2010
2/5/10 Matthew 15:1-9 Additions to the Word of God
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" 3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is 'devoted to God,' 6 they are not to 'honor their father or mother' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'
Calvin abridged: People are perpetually contriving new modes of worship, and when anyone wishes to be thought wiser than others, they display their ingenuity on the subject. God has laid down the manner in which he desires us to worship him, yet we add things to worship on every opportunity. Those in authority over such things in the church think they have a perfection above God’s Word. Then they demand rigid adherence to their additions. This is an example of the world’s rebellion against God’s yoke. When the inventions of humans in worship are highly exalted the majesty of the law is lowered. Our Lord did not forbid washings (as he allowed the washing pots at Cana), but these Pharisees made this secondary law essential. Christ answers them with two points: 1) They relied on outward ceremonies alone and set no value on true holiness. 2) They are concerned with the commandments of people but they ignore the commandment of God. It would not be wrong to honor God with our lips if our hearts were right first, but their lips did not reflect their spiritual worship.
Thoughts: The Reformation was about cutting through the layers and layers of traditions of scholars (which had gained the same authority as scripture) to get back to the Bible alone. The watchwords of the Reformation were grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone and the priesthood of all believers. Today, the ancestors of the Reformation are in danger of letting the scholars steal the meaning and interpretation of scripture from the common person. Today scholars take the common sense interpretation of the scriptures away. I have heard scholars say that Judas was good, that the Pharisees whom Jesus called whitewashed walls or a brood of vipers and who plotted to kill Jesus were as a group Jesus’ friends. Such interpretations tends to confuse the laity and put scholars on a pedestal (for who but a brilliant person could reach the unbelievable conclusion that Judas was good?). There is a wonderful place for scholarship, but it is not to make it harder to interpret scripture by the common person, but easier. Too many Christian scholars are so skeptical of the basic meaning of scripture or the authority of scripture that they add confusion. I heard one Calvin scholar advocate that we need to listen more to the experts of seminary to interpret scripture for the plain meanings of scripture were just too complex for the common person. This is pharisaical nonsense that takes away from the ideas of scripture alone and the priesthood of all believers. There is a tendency, even among scholars, to rebel against God’s Word. This tendency can also be among non-scholars- but a tendency toward unbelief is especially deadly among scholars.
Prayer: Open my eyes to your pure Word, O Lord. Help me to hear your word freely, and apart from those who would have me listen to them rather than you.