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Proper Regard for God's Word

(Mark 7:1-13)

Lesson 11 -- second quarter 1998
May 10, 1998

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

The place of tradition in the life of the church has brought about many a passionate discussion. And well it should, for our view of and attitude toward tradition can make or break us spiritually.

Should tradition find sanctuary in our lives and in the life of the church? Yes. Should tradition then be received and passed along with dedicated enthusiasm? Not necessarily.

Today's lesson brings tradition into very uncomplimentary perspective. Verses six, seven and thirteen should give pause to any traditionalist. But we must also consider other passages before we hasten to the conclusion that tradition is utterly wrong.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 we are commanded to "stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." In other words, there is room for both written and oral tradition. Then in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 we find how we ought to relate to one who "walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (And for a sobering shock, note that on one occasion, the KJV uses a different English term for the Greek word usually translated as "tradition"--ordinances in 1 Corinthians 11:2.)

The upshot of this has to be that we cannot be lazy when it comes to traditions. God expects us to be pure, godly, committed and discerning. Whatever we do or speak should be done consciously and conscientiously for the glory of God. Beware of the desire to do away with "ancient landmarks" when it comes to traditions. Also beware of the inclination to hang on to "ancient landmarks" that the Surveyor has moved or replaced. Now we have arrived at a good place to pause to meditate on the applicability of verses like Romans 14:6; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17,23; and 1 Thessalonians 4:1.

Every individual, every congregation, every generation must decide about traditions--which ones to keep, which ones to drop, which ones to start. As you wonder how to know these things, I urge you consider a few questions. The ones I present below certainly are not the only ones, so add your own and ask around for the input of others.

- Does the Bible speak to this at all?

- What have been the historical results of doing this?

- Have others who have done this later changed their minds?

- Why do I want to do this?

- What are my attitudes toward and beliefs about the church?

- Is my life one of unquestionable commitment?

- How do I relate to authority?

- What is the state of my personal relationship to Jesus?

- Whom am I following and what are they like? Why (twice)?

Ponder one other element in this whole subject of tradition. Traditions change, and change can make us feel threatened or it can make us feel carelessly giddy. We may feel threatened if we see change leading us down the wrong path or unsettling the way we have lived for so long. We may feel carelessly giddy if we see ourselves as being on the cutting edge of improvement. While feelings have a strong, necessary, legitimate place in our lives, we must anchor our lives on that which is more substantial than mere feelings. So I plead with you, as you work with traditions, don't make feelings your primary tool!

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