Today it is not uncommon to hear brethren who have been Christians for many years make the claim in business meetings and in classes “Oh, it’s just our tradition”! Why does it bother me and it ought to bother you?
1. It Bothers Me Because: When this statement is made it is implying that the only reason we do the things we do in our worship to Almighty God is because our parents and their parents before them did these things. What message are we sending out to those who hear us make this cry? Someone visiting our service that day (a non-Christian) might hear that statement and think “Well my parents are just as smart as these folks’ parents.” So what if we worship differently than them? After all, “It’s only tradition”!
2. It Bothers Me Because: When that statement is made it is implying that the way we are doing things now needs to change! You see if we are just following our parents and their parents’ example in our worship to God then there would be no harm in changing things to better suit the times we are living in! Let’s add some things next Sunday to our worship service, like a band and liven up things a little! After all, “It’s only tradition”!
3. It Bothers Me Because: When that statement is made it is implying that the Lord’s church is no longer sufficient to accomplish the work for which God gave the church to do! If this be the case then there would be nothing wrong with the social gospel! There would be nothing wrong with other organizations receiving money from churches to do their work! After all, “It’s only tradition”! I ask the question now “What’s wrong with tradition”? The answer lies in understanding the word itself.
Tradition, is simply the passing down or handing down of a teaching from someone to someone else. The truth of the matter is tradition can be good and tradition can be bad! “Can one be handed down a wrong tradition”? Many people are what they are religiously simply because their parents were and their parents before them were! So we see that tradition can be good and bad! Just listen to what the Scriptures declare: The word “tradition” is used eleven times in the King James version.
Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread (Matt. 15:2).
But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Matt 15:3).
And honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition (Matt. 15:6).
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders (Mk 7:3).
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands? (Mark 7:5).
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such like things ye do (Mark 7:8).
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition (Mark 7:9).
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition which ye have delivered; and many such things do ye (Mk 7:13).
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col. 2:8).
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (2 Thess. 3:6).
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers (1 Pet. 1:18).
The word “tradition” is used twice in the plural:
And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (Gal. 1:14).
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Thess. 2:15).
The apostle Paul answers our question for us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 when he told the brethren to stand firm and hold the traditions that they had been taught! Traditions are good when they come from sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is Christ’s doctrine! Christ is the source of all authority. He is God’s spokesman today (Heb. 1:1). He has all authority (Matt. 28:18) and his message is from God (Jn 17:7-8). We are under law to Christ today, not Moses or the prophets (1 Cor. 9:21). Christ gave authority to the apostles who were guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26 ff; Gal. 1:12; 2 Pet.1:20-21) when they gave the world the Bible! We have therefore today the inspired will of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17)! In 2 John 9 we are told through the Holy Spirit through John that if we want to have both the Father and the Son we must “abide” (continue) in the doctrine of Christ!
This means if you are following a tradition which is not the doctrine of Christ, in other words that which has been handed down to you is not the pure doctrine, truth, or gospel of Jesus Christ, then your worship and practice to Almighty God is going to be in vain. Jesus stated this fact very clearly in Matthew 15:9: “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The apostle Paul in his letter to the churches of Galatia told them: “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7).
I ask the question: What’s wrong with human tradition?
Nothing if that tradition handed down to you is indeed the doctrine of Jesus Christ! One doesn’t need a college degree or any special ability to learn this because the Bible was written so all could understand it (Eph. 3:4). If therefore, you have a hunger and thirst for righteousness and a sincere love for God’s word and a burning desire to study and mediate and grow in the grace of God and to speak only the oracles of God, then simply follow Paul’s advice in 2 Timothy 2:15 and “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”! When you have done this and you find no fault in the traditions that have been handed down to you by faithful parents and grandparents and brethren who have long since departed to be with Jesus, then count your blessings and “stand firm, and hold the traditions, which you have been taught whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). However, if the traditions you have been taught are not found in the pages of God’s Holy Word, you need to forsake those man made traditions and begin following the doctrine of Christ and His apostles.