Relationships of the Believer
LESSON EIGHT – CLEAN/UNCLEAN
Lesson Goal: Our goal in this lesson is to better understand from Allah’s perspective what clean and unclean really means.
Introduction: In our daily lives we can put our emphasis on externals or on internals. Thus, the person who focuses on externals will, when being introduced to someone he has not met before, pay particular attention to such things as the clothes they wear, their hair style, and other external elements of the person they are meeting. The person concerned with internals, however, will notice such things as the person’s attitude – is he proud or humble – and will evaluate what they say as being wise or not, and whether their words agree with their actions.
In the same way, in the religious area we are able to focus on either of these two extremes. Thus, in thinking about prayer, our focus can be on such things as the clothes worn when praying, the place of prayer, the direction faced when praying, the physical posture in prayer, the language used in prayer, etc. By contrast, another person can think as follows: “I am going to be worshiping Allah in prayer now. Thus, I had better examine myself to see whether there is any pride or sin in my life that offends Allah and needs to be repented of. I must make myself ready to worship Allah?” It is clear that of the two described, the first is concerned with externals while the second with internals.
In this lesson we are going to be looking both at Allah’s Word and at your own experience as we seek to determine where the disciples of prophets Musa, Isa, and Muhammad have their focus – on the internal or the external.
1. THE DISCIPLES OF PROPHET MUSA
a. Glance briefly at the topics covered in Leviticus 6:8-30–8 Allah said to Musa: 9 “Give Harun and his sons this command: `These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar. 10 The priest shall then put on his linen clothes, with linen undergarments next to his body, and shall remove the ashes of the burnt offering that the fire has consumed on the altar and place them beside the altar. 11 Then he is to take off these clothes and put on others, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a place that is ceremonially clean. 12 The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. 13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out. 14 ” `These are the regulations for the grain offering: Harun’s sons are to bring it before Allah, in front of the altar. 15 The priest is to take a handful of fine flour and oil, together with all the incense on the grain offering, and burn the memorial portion on the altar as an aroma pleasing to Allah. 16 Harun and his sons shall eat the rest of it, but it is to be eaten without yeast in a holy place; they are to eat it in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. 17 It must not be baked with yeast; I have given it as their share of the offerings made to me by fire. Like the sin offering and the guilt offering, it is most holy. 18 Any male descendant of Harun may eat it. It is his regular share of the offerings made to Allah by fire for the generations to come. Whatever touches them will become holy. ‘ ” 19 Allah also said to Musa, 20 “This is the offering Harun and his sons are to bring to Allah on the day he is anointed: a tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a regular grain offering, half of it in the morning and half in the evening. 21 Prepare it with oil on a griddle; bring it well-mixed and present the grain offering broken in pieces as an aroma pleasing to Allah. 22 The son who is to succeed him as anointed priest shall prepare it. It is Allah’s regular share and is to be burned completely. 23 Every grain offering of a priest shall be burned completely; it must not be eaten.” 24 Allah said to Musa, 25 “Say to Harun and his sons: `These are the regulations for the sin offering: The sin offering is to be slaughtered before Allah in the place the burnt offering is slaughtered; it is most holy. 26 The priest who offers it shall eat it; it is to be eaten in a holy place, in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. 27 Whatever touches any of the flesh will become holy, and if any of the blood is spattered on a garment, you must wash it in a holy place. 28 The clay pot the meat is cooked in must be broken; but if it is cooked in a bronze pot, the pot is to be scoured and rinsed with water. 29 Any male in a priest’s family may eat it; it is most holy. 30 But any sin offering whose blood is brought into the Tent of Meeting to make atonement in the Holy Place must not be eaten; it must be burned.
1) The passage deals with different kinds of what?
2) In this passage, all the details of offerings are set forth – when they are to be given, how, where, etc. Are these matters that relate to externals or internals?
b. Look at Leviticus chapter 11– Allah said to Musa and Harun, 2 “Say to the Israelites: `Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: 3 You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.
4 ” `There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. 5 The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. 6 The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. 7 And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. 8 You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
9 ” `Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams, you may eat any that have fins and scales. 10 But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales–whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water–you are to detest. 11 And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses. 12 Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you.
13 ” `These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.
20 ” `All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. 21 There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. 22 Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. 23 But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest.
24 ” `You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 25 Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening.
26 ” `Every animal that has a split hoof not completely divided or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. 27 Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 28 Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. They are unclean for you.
29 ” `Of the animals that move about on the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. 31 Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening. 32 When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean. 33 If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. 34 Any food that could be eaten but has water on it from such a pot is unclean, and any liquid that could be drunk from it is unclean. 35 Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean. 36 A spring, however, or a cistern for collecting water remains clean, but anyone who touches one of these carcasses is unclean. 37 If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. 38 But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.
39 ” `If an animal that you are allowed to eat dies, anyone who touches the carcass will be unclean till evening. 40 Anyone who eats some of the carcass must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening.
41 ” `Every creature that moves about on the ground is detestable; it is not to be eaten. 42 You are not to eat any creature that moves about on the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is detestable. 43 Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. 44 I am Allah your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. 45 I am Allah who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
46 ” `These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. 47 You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.’ ”
1) What is the topic of this chapter?
2) Are verses 24 and 25, for example, dealing with externals or internals?
c. Look at Leviticus chapter 13–1 Allah said to Musa and Harun, 2 “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Harun the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. 3 The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious skin disease. When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean. 4 If the spot on his skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days. 5 On the seventh day the priest is to examine him, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to keep him in isolation another seven days. 6 On the seventh day the priest is to examine him again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a rash. The man must wash his clothes, and he will be clean. 7 But if the rash does spread in his skin after he has shown himself to the priest to be pronounced clean, he must appear before the priest again. 8 The priest is to examine him, and if the rash has spread in the skin, he shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infectious disease.
9 “When anyone has an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to the priest. 10 The priest is to examine him, and if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and if there is raw flesh in the swelling, 11 it is a chronic skin disease and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. He is not to put him in isolation, because he is already unclean.
12 “If the disease breaks out all over his skin and, so far as the priest can see, it covers all the skin of the infected person from head to foot, 13 the priest is to examine him, and if the disease has covered his whole body, he shall pronounce that person clean. Since it has all turned white, he is clean. 14 But whenever raw flesh appears on him, he will be unclean. 15 When the priest sees the raw flesh, he shall pronounce him unclean. The raw flesh is unclean; he has an infectious disease. 16 Should the raw flesh change and turn white, he must go to the priest. 17 The priest is to examine him, and if the sores have turned white, the priest shall pronounce the infected person clean; then he will be clean.
18 “When someone has a boil on his skin and it heals, 19 and in the place where the boil was, a white swelling or reddish-white spot appears, he must present himself to the priest. 20 The priest is to examine it, and if it appears to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has turned white, the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is an infectious skin disease that has broken out where the boil was. 21 But if, when the priest examines it, there is no white hair in it and it is not more than skin deep and has faded, then the priest is to put him in isolation for seven days. 22 If it is spreading in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is infectious. 23 But if the spot is unchanged and has not spread, it is only a scar from the boil, and the priest shall pronounce him clean.
24 “When someone has a burn on his skin and a reddish-white or white spot appears in the raw flesh of the burn, 25 the priest is to examine the spot, and if the hair in it has turned white, and it appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious disease that has broken out in the burn. The priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infectious skin disease. 26 But if the priest examines it and there is no white hair in the spot and if it is not more than skin deep and has faded, then the priest is to put him in isolation for seven days. 27 On the seventh day the priest is to examine him, and if it is spreading in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is an infectious skin disease. 28 If, however, the spot is unchanged and has not spread in the skin but has faded, it is a swelling from the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scar from the burn.
29 “If a man or woman has a sore on the head or on the chin, 30 the priest is to examine the sore, and if it appears to be more than skin deep and the hair in it is yellow and thin, the priest shall pronounce that person unclean; it is an itch, an infectious disease of the head or chin. 31 But if, when the priest examines this kind of sore, it does not seem to be more than skin deep and there is no black hair in it, then the priest is to put the infected person in isolation for seven days. 32 On the seventh day the priest is to examine the sore, and if the itch has not spread and there is no yellow hair in it and it does not appear to be more than skin deep, 33 he must be shaved except for the diseased area, and the priest is to keep him in isolation another seven days. 34 On the seventh day the priest is to examine the itch, and if it has not spread in the skin and appears to be no more than skin deep, the priest shall pronounce him clean. He must wash his clothes, and he will be clean. 35 But if the itch does spread in the skin after he is pronounced clean, 36 the priest is to examine him, and if the itch has spread in the skin, the priest does not need to look for yellow hair; the person is unclean. 37 If, however, in his judgment it is unchanged and black hair has grown in it, the itch is healed. He is clean, and the priest shall pronounce him clean.
38 “When a man or woman has white spots on the skin, 39 the priest is to examine them, and if the spots are dull white, it is a harmless rash that has broken out on the skin; that person is clean.
40 “When a man has lost his hair and is bald, he is clean. 41 If he has lost his hair from the front of his scalp and has a bald forehead, he is clean. 42 But if he has a reddish-white sore on his bald head or forehead, it is an infectious disease breaking out on his head or forehead. 43 The priest is to examine him, and if the swollen sore on his head or forehead is reddish-white like an infectious skin disease, 44 the man is diseased and is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean because of the sore on his head.
45 “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, `Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.
47 “If any clothing is contaminated with mildew–any woolen or linen clothing, 48 any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather– 49 and if the contamination in the clothing, or leather, or woven or knitted material, or any leather article, is greenish or reddish, it is a spreading mildew and must be shown to the priest. 50 The priest is to examine the mildew and isolate the affected article for seven days. 51 On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mildew has spread in the clothing, or the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a destructive mildew; the article is unclean. 52 He must burn up the clothing, or the woven or knitted material of wool or linen, or any leather article that has the contamination in it, because the mildew is destructive; the article must be burned up.
53 “But if, when the priest examines it, the mildew has not spread in the clothing, or the woven or knitted material, or the leather article, 54 he shall order that the contaminated article be washed. Then he is to isolate it for another seven days. 55 After the affected article has been washed, the priest is to examine it, and if the mildew has not changed its appearance, even though it has not spread, it is unclean. Burn it with fire, whether the mildew has affected one side or the other. 56 If, when the priest examines it, the mildew has faded after the article has been washed, he is to tear the contaminated part out of the clothing, or the leather, or the woven or knitted material. 57 But if it reappears in the clothing, or in the woven or knitted material, or in the leather article, it is spreading, and whatever has the mildew must be burned with fire. 58 The clothing, or the woven or knitted material, or any leather article that has been washed and is rid of the mildew, must be washed again, and it will be clean.”
59 These are the regulations concerning contamination by mildew in woolen or linen clothing, woven or knitted material, or any leather article, for pronouncing them clean or unclean.
1) What is the main topic of this chapter?
2) Is this chapter focused on externals or internals
We see from the above that in the law of Musa there was a strong focus on external matters.
d. Read Hosea 6:6– For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of Allah rather than burnt offerings.
1) What does Allah prefer to sacrifice?
2) Are mercy and the knowledge of Allah external or internal matters?
e. Read Amos 5:21-24– “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
In this section we see that Allah refuses to accept the offerings and sacrifices of Israel because of their oppression and injustice.
1) Is righteousness and justice external or internal? To answer, reflect on the fact that if a person is just and righteous, it will certainly have ramifications in his external actions and behavior. However, what is the crucial matter – his internal attitudes or the external actions growing out of those attitudes?
2) Which would you say is more important to Allah, external or internal matters?
f. 1) According to the above passages, which matter(s) were important for the disciples of Musa?
a) Only the external.
b) Only the internal.
c) Both the internal and external.
d) Neither the internal nor the external.
2) Even though both the internal and the external were important for the disciples of Musa, considering such passages as Hosea 6:6, which would you say was more important?
2. THE DISCIPLES OF ISA
a) Read Mark 7:1-23– 1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Isa and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. ) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Isa, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with `unclean’ hands?” 6 He replied, “Shaya was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ” `These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of Allah and are holding on to the traditions of men.” 9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of Allah in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Musa said, `Honor your father and your mother,’ and, `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Qurban’ (that is, a gift devoted to Allah), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of Allah by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” 14 Again Isa called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean.’ ” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him `unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Isa declared all foods “clean.”) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.’ ”
1) In this passage were the Pharisees concerned with external or internal issues? (See vss. 3 & 4)
2) According to Isa’s teaching, how does a person become unclean? (See Vss. 17-23)
3) Thus, does a person become unclean through external or internal pollutions?
b) Read Acts 10:1-29– 1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to Allah regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of Allah, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before Allah. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. 9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that Allah has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. 17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” 22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” 27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But Allah has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
1) According to verse 28, the Jews believed that the Gentiles (i.e. non-Jewish people) were and therefore would not enter their homes.
2) The Apostle Peter also initially believed that Cornelius was unclean. He believed so because Cornelius was not a Jew, but rather a .
3) However, according to verse 2, what kind of character did Cornelius have?
4) Thus, was Cornelius unclean in Allah’s eyes?
5) Peter learns in this passage that Allah considers which more important – the external or the internal?
c) Read Romans 14:1-8– 1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for Allah has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to Allah; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to Allah. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
1) Are there any strict rules given in the passage about what food is ritually clean and what days are religiously sacred?
2) Whatever we do, we should do it as unto whom?
3) Is the stress in this passage on the external or internal?
d) In Lesson 7 on “True Worship,” you studied Isa’s teaching in Matthew 6 on religious works. In that passage did Isa stress external activities or internal attitudes as most important?
3. THE PHARISEES. You have read about the Pharisees in the Injil. Reflect back over what they considered important and were concerned about. Where do you think their stress was placed, on the internal or the external?
4. Where do you feel the followers of Muhammad (PBUH) place their stress in religious matters – on the external or the internal? Give some examples.
5. Read Philippians 3:5,6–circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the ummah; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
a) In this passage the Apostle Paul describes his own condition before becoming a follower of Isa. How zealous and faithful in following the law of Musa was Paul?
b) Paul here describes his earlier zeal for keeping the external aspects of the law. He says that he was faultless. Thus, would you say that a person is able to follow external religious rules and regulations in his own strength – things such as fasting, doing prayers, ritual cleansing, etc.? Why or why not?
6. Read 1 Timothy 1:14-16– The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in al-Masih Isa. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: al-Masih Isa came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, al-Masih Isa might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
a) In this passage, Paul states that before receiving Allah’s grace he was what kind of a sinner?
b) We find here an amazing fact. Before coming to faith in Isa, Paul had been extremely zealous in following all the external rules of the law of Musa. However, despite being ‘faultless’ in keeping all those rules, he eventually came to realize that he was the worst of sinners. What, then, would you conclude his sin was related to, his external religious activities or his internal attitudes and motives?
c) Before coming to faith, Paul had been a Pharisee. From what is written of the Pharisees in the Injil, what was their most notable characteristic – humility or pride?
d) Reflecting on the above, what do you think might have been the basic nature of Paul’s sin as a Pharisee for which he calls himself “the worst of sinners”?
e) Paul said he had been faultless in keeping external rules and regulations. The same is true today of someone who desires to keep the external rules of the Shariah. Howver, do you think a person is also able to be faultless before Allah in the matter of internal attitudes and motives? Why or why not?
CONCLUSION: If a person desires, he may do salat and other religious activities regularly. In fact, those who are especially zealous like the Apostle Paul was while still a Pharisee are able to keep an enormous number of external rules and regulations faultlessly. However, no one in their own strength is able to keep their own mind and attitudes pure and blameless. As Isa described, inside each person dwells such things as anger, jealousy, pride, resentment, selfishness, etc. And it is those things that makes people unclean before Allah.
In Lesson Five we studied about the Holy Spirit. We saw that one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to convict men of their sins. And when a person repents of his sin and comes to believe in Isa as his savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in that person’s life. The Holy Spirit then directs the person and gives him the strength needed to be cleansed and internally transformed. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Now we are in a position to understand why Isa was able to place a greater stress on the internal than had been done by earlier prophets. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s help, no one is able to control and cleanse their heart and mind. Yet, before Isa’s coming, the Holy Spirit did not dwell with any believer permanently. He came into people’s lives for specific purposes and for specific periods only. And thus, in order to maintain order and control, external rules such as are found in the Law of Musa, were necessary.
Now, however, as disciples of Isa, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us permanently. And since He is able to give us direction and strength, the external rules are no longer of such significance. It is not that such outward actions and behavior are not important – they are. Rather, as Isa taught his disciples, we can now place our focus on the even more important matter of internal attitudes and motives. And when the internal attitudes and motives are right and pure, the external actions will always follow.
7. Think now briefly about your own life. Is the Holy Spirit directing your life? Are the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) evident in your life? What receives the most attention in your life, external matters or internal matters?
TO MEMORIZE – MARK 7:20-23
20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.’ “