In Mark 7, the Pharisees spoke against the Lord when they saw His disciples eating food without washing their hands. These men were so hypocritical and legalistic that they considered such an act to be defiling. We read in verse 5, “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” After rebuking them for their empty traditions, the Lord said in verse 15, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” The Lord explained His words to His disciples in Mark 7:18-23, “Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

The Lord explained that defilement comes from within. Defilement comes from the heart! In the parallel portion in Matthew 15, the Lord said plainly in verse 20, “…to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” It is from the heart, the inner being, that a man is led to sin. We read in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” So, it is out of the heart a man desires to have and do those things which are contrary to the will of God. As I said before, defilement comes from the heart.

With that in mind, let’s read Acts 21:25, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.” These words are in reference to the ‘Jerusalem Counsel’ in Acts 15, where the Lord’s people came together to determine how they should react to all these new Gentile believers. What should they be taught? What should be required of them? While they were wise enough to know they should not try to put these Gentile believers under the requirements of the law, they did require that they abstain from any practice that might be perceived as being pagan. Things such as eating meat that had been offered to idols, eating blood, eating animals that had been strangled, and to keep themselves pure from fornication. To claim the name of Christ, yet continue on in behavior that reflected the customs of the pagans would cause harm to the name and cause of Christ. It would be a dishonor the Lord. If anyone should be defiant and partake of these things anyway, the defilement began in their hearts long before it reached their hands, feet, or lips. The meat meant nothing. Eating blood or animals that had been strangled had no spiritual significance, although it may have been physically unsafe.

Fornication, however, was expressly sinful. There was no mistake about that. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” To commit fornication is a serious offense to the Lord. Does fornication defile a man? The act of fornication is born in the heart when a man begins to consider being with another woman, rather than his wife. That very thought is defiling. So, when we read these two portions and consider the context of these verses, we can see the value in both of these verses. To the natural man, we often realize defilement when we learn about the act. To the Lord, who sees the heart, defilement is found in the heart, where defilement has been seen of the Lord. Yet He loves us anyway and seeks to restore us to Himself. (229.2)