That Which Defiles, Part 2 | Mark 7:17–23
And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 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, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
A sign in front of a small church here in Georgia made the bold proclamation—“Alcohol is a demon.” There’s no doubt that alcohol has been instrumental in the destruction of many families and lives, used for demonic purposes in other words, but it’s not an actual demon! There’s nothing intrinsic in the fermentation process that makes it wicked or unholy, resulting in your defilement if consumed. However, alcohol will cause you to relax your inhibitions, meaning that if you lack internal holiness, it helps reveal your sin to the light of day.
Jesus revokes the Old Testament dietary laws. When Peter has his vision of the unclean animals, he hears in Acts 10:15, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” We see an affirmation of Christ’s deity here as well as an explanation of when these foods are sanctified, perhaps Peter himself remembering as Mark wrote. This is why Peter eats with Gentiles in Galatians 2:12 (and why it was wrong for him to stop when noticed by fellow Jews).
The simple fact we find here is that food is food, unable to affect a person’s holiness positively or negatively. No one should judge someone to be a Christian walking in righteousness based solely on what he eats (Col 2:16), and no one should command or submit to commands about food (vv. 20–23). Indeed, it can be a doctrine of demons to create food restrictions for Christians (1 Tm 4:1–5). What is important is the conscience, eating and drinking to the honor and glory of God (Rm 14:6; 1 Cor 10:31).
Jesus still requires cleansing. The Pharisees thought something may have been accomplished through the washing of hands, but only the washing of the Holy Spirit is effective for the uncleanliness of the soul. As we read Scripture, we see ourselves—the behavioral mildew proceeding from the death-rot of the soul (cf. Eph 2:1–3). Even though Christians still fall, the “washing of water with the word” (5:26) will purify remaining spots.