Sunday, July 24, 2011 pm
IS TRADITION GOOD OR BAD?
Tonight, I want to deal with the above question from a Biblical standpoint. In actuality, we know that it is a loaded question. Before it can be answered properly we have to define what we mean by tradition. In our lesson tonight we are going to see examples of both good and bad traditions and hopefully gain some insight that will help us to properly discern the two and make application in all that we do.
I. What is tradition?
I. What is tradition?
a. From the Greek word, paradosis which actually means, “a giving over, giving up. 1. The act of giving up, the surrender. 2. A giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing.” (Thayer).
b. The term is found 13 times in the New Testament most of which we will examine as this lesson progresses. 10 times it is used of the traditions of men and 3 times as apostolic traditions (ordinances), with the idea of such in some other passages.
c. It came to be a teaching that was passed down either orally or written (the teaching and not the method of transmission).
As we see religious tradition it applies to something handed down that continued and was expected to be followed. WE need to distinguish that from something we do without binding it on others.
II. The traditions of men
a. Mark 7:1-13 – his account of Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees and scribes (also found in Matt. 15:1-9). In Mark’s account we find a description of some of the traditions they bound and how Jesus responded to them. The term “tradition” is used 5 times in this text.
They did not eat unless
they washed their hands (ceremonially)
and when they purchased food from the market place, they did not
eat it until after they washed their hands.
They also washed cups, pitchers, vessels and couches. While the Old Law did have laws about cleanliness (particularly with unclean things), the traditions of the Jews went further and they were associated with everyday conduct which the Old Law did NOT deal with.
They BOUND these things
upon their brethren. Vs. 2
says they found fault with them.
Vs. 5, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition
of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands.”
According to the ISBE, Jewish theology viewed the oral teachings of the elders as “equally authoritative on matters of belief and conduct.” It further states there are three classes of oral teachings:
1. Oral laws of Moses believed given by him in addition to the written Law.
2. Decisions of judges which became precedent in judicial matters.
3. Interpretations of great Jewish teachers (rabbis) which were reverenced as much as scripture itself.
The Jews referred to
them as “tradition of the elders” (vs. 5), BUT Jesus called them
“tradition of men” (vs. 7) and “your tradition” (vss. 9, 13).
He was CONTRASTING this with “the commandment of God” (vs. 8) and “word of God” (vs. 13)
iv. In this text Jesus REJECTED their traditions and thereby demonstrated that they were NOT to be bound upon anyone.
v. He gave a specific example where they “reinterpreted” a specific command of God and created “loopholes” so that one could set aside that particular command. Namely, “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12, 21:17). They excused it with, in essence, a bribe to the authorities in Jerusalem.
vi. Such things constituted:
1. “vain worship” (vs. 7)
2. Superficial worship with hearts that were far from God (vs. 6)
3. “Laying aside the commandments of God”
4. Rejecting “the commandment of God”
5. They made “The word of God of no effect through your tradition.”
vii. This example alone demonstrates the danger of the traditions of men.
b. Other passages dealing with the traditions of men (specifically Jewish traditions)
i. Gal. 1:14, Paul said, “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” He was a staunch supporter of Jewish traditions before he was converted.
ii. Col 2:8-9, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
iii. 1 Pet. 1:17-19, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” NOTE: “traditions from your fathers” is one word.
c. What about today?
i. Catholicism espouses a similar view of traditions (as the Jews). They consider tradition as equal to written inspiration. Their examples include:
1. The oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles (rather than the written ones)
2. The decrees of various church councils throughout history
3. The decrees of various church leaders, including popes who they profess were inspired and infallible as they spoke “ex cathedra” (from the throne).
ii. Instrumental music is an example of a tradition of men. It cannot be found in early centuries, nor in the New Testament – 9 verses ALL mention singing ONLY (cf. Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, 1 Cor. 14:15, etc.). It was introduced in the 600s AD into the Catholic Church by Pope Vitalian and with such outcry it was removed until the next century where it was again introduced for good (but still rejected by many religions). (James Hasting, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics) It has become a tradition of men that is EXPECTED to be accepted by all professed worshippers of God.
Sprinkling for baptism.
The word “baptism” is a transliterated Greek word which means, “to dip” (Vine’s). For centuries there was not debate about the method of baptism. But today, it is accepted in any form as long as it is called “baptism.” To sprinkle is to invalidate the word of God with man’s traditions.
III. Apostolic traditions
a. There is another sense in which this same term is used. It has reference to the teachings of Christ and His apostles. It is used 3 times in this fashion.
i. 1 Cor. 11:2, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.”
ii. 2 Thess. 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
iii. 2 Thess 3:6-7, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”
Other passages to
1 Cor. 11:23, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…”
1 Cor. 15:3, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.”
b. These texts reference this term in such a way that it describes that which God has bound and is to remain intact throughout the centuries. Thus it is a tradition instituted by God and we must follow it today as exact as possible. NOTICE these thoughts:
i. 2 Thess. 2:15, “stand fast and hold the traditions”
ii. 1 Cor. 11:2, “keep the traditions”
iii. 2 Thess. 3:6-7, “withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and NOT according to the tradition received…”
c. It is because of passages such as these that we strive to:
i. “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13)
ii. do “all in the name of the Lord” by His authority (Col. 3:17)
iii. We have learned, “not to think beyond what is written.” (1 Cor. 4:6)
d. That is why we:
i. Do NOT use instrumental music – it is NOT authorized
ii. DO Immerse for the remission of sins – Acts 2:38
iii. Partake of the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week – Acts 20:7
iv. ONLY “lay by in store as you have prospered” on the first day of the week – 1 Cor. 16:1-2
v. Appeal to Biblical names for ourselves and His church – Ac. 11:26, Rom. 16:16, etc.
vi. Respect and limit the work of the church – to evangelism, edification and limited benevolence.
vii. Reject those who do not follow His pattern in all things – 2 John 9.
viii. Contend earnestly for the faith – Jude 3.
ix. And a host of other passages and teachings which we strive to follow.
IV. How to avoid establishing our own traditions
a. We need to make sure that whatever we do is NOT binding man made traditions. We can become dangerously close to such if we bind “the way we have always done this.”
i. Yes we need to follow the pattern we have established. WE know that.
ii. But “in matters of liberty” we need to “let there be liberty”. While we need not change simply for the sake of change (usually such is VERY dangerous), we need to be willing to consider the suggestions of others if they can be properly authorized in God’s word (i.e. – times of services, what song books we use, order of services, etc.)
b. BE a people of the book – 2 Tim. 2:15, Jude 3, 1 Pet. 3:15, etc. Demand “book, chapter and verse” for all we do. KEEP studying! You can never know too much.
c. Hold fast to God’s traditions – Col. 2:4-8. Don’t let men cheat you
d. Don’t think more highly of men than we ought to – 1 Cor. 4:6 – Don’t think beyond what is written. That statement came after a lengthy discussion which contrasted the wisdom of God with the wisdom of men.
e. Think highly enough of your brethren to respect their liberties – Phil. 2:4 – look out for their interests over yours.
And thus we can see the subject of traditions. It is certainly something to consider in light of God’s words. There are traditions that are absolutely harmless. But when we bind what God has not bound or we lose what He has not loosed, it is no longer harmless. It is a tradition that makes our worship vain, rejects the commandments of God and ultimately will result in His rejection of us. May we never let that happen.