Let them alone - Αφετε αυτους, give them up, or leave them. These words have been sadly misunderstood. Some have quoted them to prove that blind and deceitful teachers should not be pointed out to the people, nor the people warned against them; and that men should abide in the communion of a corrupt Church, because that Church had once been the Church of God, and in it they had been brought up; and to prove this they bring Scripture, for, in our present translation, the words are rendered, let them alone: but the whole connection of the place evidently proves that our blessed Lord meant, give them up, have no kind of religious connection with them, and the strong reason for which he immediately adds, because they are blind leaders. This passage does not at all mean that blind leaders should not be pointed out to the people, that they may avoid being deceived by them; for this our Lord does frequently, and warns his disciples, and the people in general, against all such false teachers as the scribes and Pharisees were; and though he bids men do that they heard those say, while they sat in the chair of Moses, yet he certainly meant no more than that they should be observant of the moral law when read to them out of the sacred book: yet neither does he tell them to do all these false teachers said; for he testifies in Matthew 15:6, that they had put such false glosses on the law, that, if followed, would endanger the salvation of their souls. The Codex Bezae, for αφετε αυτους, has αφετε τους τυφλους, give up these blind men. Amen! A literal attention to these words of our Lord produced the Reformation.
Probably the words may be understood as a sort of proverbial expression for - Don't mind them: pay no regard to them. - "They are altogether unworthy of notice."
And if the blind lead the blind - This was so self-evident a case that an apter parallel could not be found - if the blind lead the blind, both must fall into the ditch. Alas, for the blind teachers, who not only destroy their own souls, but those also of their flocks! Like priest, like people. If the minister be ignorant, he cannot teach what he does not know; and the people cannot become wise unto salvation under such a ministry - he is ignorant and wicked, and they are profligate. They who even wish such God speed; are partakers of their evil deeds. But shall not the poor deceived people escape? No: both shall fall into the pit of perdition together; for they should have searched the Scriptures, and not trusted to the ignorant sayings of corrupt men, no matter of what sect or party. He who has the Bible in his hand, or within his reach, and can read it, has no excuse.
See also Mark 7:15-17.
And he called the multitude - In opposition to the doctrines of the Pharisees, the Saviour took occasion to show them that the great source of pollution was the heart. They supposed that external things chiefly defiled a man. On this all their doctrines about purification were founded. This opinion of the Jews it was of great importance to correct. The Saviour took occasion, therefore, to direct the people to the true source of defilement - their own hearts. He particularly directed them to it as of importance - “Hear and understand.”
Not that which goeth into the mouth - The disciples were charged with being sinners for transgressing the tradition of the elders in eating with unwashed hands.
Christ replies that what they should eat could not render them sinners. The man, the moral agent, the soul, could not be polluted by anything that was eaten. What proceeds from the man himself, from his heart, would defile him.
Defileth - Pollutes, corrupts, or renders sinful.
The Pharisees were offended - They were so zealous of their traditions that they could not endure that their absurdities should be exposed.
Every plant - Religious doctrine is not inaptly compared to a plant. See 1 Corinthians 3:6-8. It is planted in the mind for the purpose of producing fruit in the life, or right conduct. Jesus here says that all those doctrines of which his Father was not the author must be rooted up or corrected. The false doctrines of the Pharisees, therefore, must be attacked, and it was no wonder if they were indignant. It could not be helped. It was his duty to attack them. He was not surprised that they were enraged; but, notwithstanding their opposition, their doctrine should be destroyed.
Let them alone - That is, do not be troubled at their rage.
Be not anxious about it. This result is to be expected. They are greatly attached to their traditions, and you are not to wonder that they are indignant. They lead, also, the blind. They have a vast influence over the multitude, and it is to be expected that they will be enraged at any doctrines that go to lessen their authority or influence. By commanding them “to let them alone,” Christ does not mean that they were to be suffered to remain in error without any attempt to refute or correct them, for this he was doing then; but he meant to charge his disciples not to mind them or to regard their opposition - it was to be expected.
If the blind lead the blind - This was a plain proposition. A blind man, attempting to conduct blind men, would fall into every ditch that was in the way. So with religious teachers. If these Pharisees, themselves ignorant and blind, should be suffered to lead the ignorant multitude, both would be destroyed. This was another reason for confuting their errors, or for rooting up the plants which God had not planted. He wished, by doing it, to save the deluded multitude.
God often suffers one man to lead many to ruin. A rich and profligate man, an infidel, a man of learning, a politician, or a teacher, is allowed to sweep multitudes to ruin. This is not unjust, for those who are led are not compelled to follow such people. They are free in choosing such leaders, and they are answerable for being led to ruin.
Never, by word or deed, did Jesus lessen man's obligation to present gifts and offerings to God. It was Christ who gave all the directions of the law in regard to tithes and offerings. When on earth He commended the poor woman who gave her all to the temple treasury. But the apparent zeal for God on the part of the priests and rabbis was a pretense to cover their desire for self-aggrandizement. The people were deceived by them. They were bearing heavy burdens which God had not imposed. Even the disciples of Christ were not wholly free from the yoke that had been bound upon them by inherited prejudice and rabbinical authority. Now, by revealing the true spirit of the rabbis, Jesus sought to free from the bondage of tradition all who were really desirous of serving God. DA 397.1
“Ye hypocrites,” He said, addressing the wily spies, “well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The words of Christ were an arraignment of the whole system of Pharisaism. He declared that by placing their requirements above the divine precepts the rabbis were setting themselves above God. DA 397.2
The deputies from Jerusalem were filled with rage. They could not accuse Christ as a violator of the law given from Sinai, for He spoke as its defender against their traditions. The great precepts of the law, which He had presented, appeared in striking contrast to the petty rules that men had devised. DA 397.3Read in context »
If ministers who preach the gospel would do their duty, and would also be ensamples to the flock of God, their voices would be lifted up like a trumpet to show the people their transgressions and the house of Israel their sins. Ministers who exhort sinners to be converted should distinctly define what sin is and what conversion from sin is. Sin is the transgression of the law. The convicted sinner must exercise repentance toward God for the transgression of His law, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Con 75.1
The apostle gives us the true definition of sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” The largest class of Christ's professed ambassadors are blind guides. They lead the people away from the path of safety by representing the requirements and prohibitions of the ancient law of Jehovah as arbitrary and severe. They give the sinner license to overstep the limits of God's law. In this they are like the great adversary of souls, opening before them a life of freedom in violation of God's commandments. With this lawless freedom the basis of moral responsibility is gone. Con 75.2
Those who follow these blind leaders close the avenues of their souls to the reception of truth. They will not allow the truth with its practical bearings to affect their hearts. The largest number brace their souls with prejudice against new truths, and also against the clearest light which shows the correct application of an old truth, the law of God, which is as old as the world. The intemperate and licentious delight in the oft-repeated assertion that the law of the ten commandments is not binding in this dispensation. Avarice, thefts, perjuries, and crimes of every description are carried on under the cloak of Christianity. Con 75.3Read in context »
The Scriptures are indeed fulfilled in this, that the blind are leading the blind. For by whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. These deluded souls are under the most abject slavery to the will of demons. They have allied themselves to the powers of darkness and have no strength to go contrary to the will of demons. This is their boasted liberty. By Satan are they overcome and brought into bondage, and the great liberty promised to those they deceive is helpless slavery to sin and Satan. Con 90.4Read in context »
I have seen how the blind guides were laboring to make souls as blind as themselves, little realizing what is coming upon them. They are exalting themselves against the truth, and as it triumphs, many who have looked on these teachers as men of God and have looked to them for light, are troubled. They inquire of these leaders relative to the Sabbath, and they, with the object of getting rid of the fourth commandment, will answer them thereto. I saw that real honesty was not regarded in taking the many positions that were taken against the Sabbath. The main object is to get around the Sabbath of the Lord and observe another day than that sanctified and hallowed by Jehovah. If they are driven from one position, they take an opposite one, even a position that they had but just before condemned as unsound. EW 68.1
God's people are coming into the unity of the faith. Those who observe the Sabbath of the Bible are united in their views of Bible truth. But those who oppose the Sabbath among the Advent people are disunited and strangely divided. One comes forward in opposition to the Sabbath and declares it to be thus and so, and at the conclusion calls it settled. But as his effort does not put the question to rest, and as the Sabbath cause progresses and the children of the Lord still embrace it, another comes forward to overthrow it. But in presenting his views to get around the Sabbath, he entirely tears down the arguments of him who made the first effort against the truth, and presents a theory as opposite to his as to ours. So with the third and the fourth; but none of them will have it as it stands in the Word of God: “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” EW 68.2Read in context »