Enjoying the Journey
There is a tremendous debate in Christian work over whether certain practices are rooted in tradition or truth. Such discussion is not new. In fact, both the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul addressed this issue with the religious leaders of their day.
Case #1: Mark 7:1-13
The Pharisees were consumed with minute details of the ceremonial law. When Christ’s disciples failed to wash their hands before eating bread it raised a serious question among those “holding the tradition of the elders.” The Lord Jesus denounced the religious hypocrisy of caring more for the external than the internal. Quoting the prophet Isaiah (obviously this has been a problem for a long time!) He said, “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (v. 7).
The danger is not in having traditions. We ALL have them. In themselves they are not evil, but they cross a line when they begin to supersede truth. In the words of Jesus, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (v. 9). And again, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…” (vs. 13).
Tradition has become more important than truth when men’s words are more revered than God’s Word. Tradition never saved a soul. Tradition never brought revival. Tradition never changed a life. Truth does all of that and more.
Case #2: 2 Thessalonians 2:15-3:6
The Apostle Paul plainly states, “hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2:15). He warns about those who walk disorderly, “not after the tradition which he received of us” (3:6). How could Paul place such emphasis on tradition?
The tradition he spoke of was tradition built on truth! In the preceding verses he speaks of “the love of the truth” (2:10) and the “belief of the truth” (2:13). The traditions that must be held by men are full of the truth that is given by God. Love and believe the truth and hold to the traditions that are in line with that truth.
There are two extremes today. Some have built their entire faith and practice on traditions while missing the greater thing – the truth! Others, as an overreaction, have thrown out all tradition without realizing the truth that is also being lost. I submit that both extremes are in danger of missing the truth. A man may be a Pharisee on either extreme.
A few observations:
- Tradition is not necessarily the same thing as truth. Just because others have done it, just because you have done it for a long time, just because others expect it, doesn’t mean that it is based on truth.
- Tradition can be helpful. Many people who rejects all tradition do so without ever stopping to learn what truth was behind that tradition. Before you reject a tradition find out where it began. Is there a Scriptural foundation for it? Remember that just because something is not expressly forbidden in Scripture does not mean it is best for a believer.
- Tradition must be measured by truth. The issue is not should we have tradition, but rather are the traditions rooted in truth. Traditions can change. Truth never does. Traditions belong to men, but truth belongs to God. Find His truth and measure every tradition by God’s unchanging standard.
“His truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).