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Mark 7:7

ESV in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
NIV They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’
CSB They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands.
NLT Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
KJV Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
NKJV And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

What does Mark 7:7 mean?

The Pharisees and Jewish leaders think that following the traditions of the elders (Mark 7:5) will ensure their close relationship with God. Jesus tells them the opposite—the pride and control that impels them to demand adherence to their extra-scriptural rules is what keeps them from God. Isaiah, whom Jesus paraphrases, equates such hubris with a man thinking his actions are hidden from the Lord and the clay questioning the wisdom of the potter (Isaiah 29:15–16).

Later, Peter will discover that Jesus revoked the Jewish dietary law (Acts 10:9–16), and James, Jesus' half-brother and pastor of the church in Jerusalem, will affirm that Gentile believers should not be held to the Jewish law of circumcision (Acts 15:1–21). Paul will warn Christians against getting caught up in "Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth" (Titus 1:14). Today, that can include insisting that Jesus will return during the Day of Atonement or other significant Jewish date, or being dogmatic about other end-times predictions.

Orthodox Jews still follow much of the traditions of the elders, including ceremonial hand-washing. David, however, said that God's law is complete, by which he meant the written Word (Psalm 19:7). Jesus affirms that while the Pharisees "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders" (Matthew 23:4), God meant for the burden of His law to be light (Matthew 11:30).

The church today is often guilty of trying to enforce similar traditions. Tithing, for instance, is not a command meant for the church age. Speaking in tongues is not evidence of having the Holy Spirit. Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath to the point that we are not required to observe it. Some of our modern church traditions are useful and some are harmful, but none of them is necessary for salvation.
What is the Gospel?
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