Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
Say that three times in a row. Now that you’ve done that, let’s focus on a very important question. Are traditions splitting the church? To answer this we must look at the source of our traditions. As a church we follow both divine and man-made traditions. The ones from God must be followed and taught in the church, but the ones from man have no authority from God.
 
So, are traditions splitting the church? The word “tradition” means to “pass something down.” Galatians 1:14 says, “and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” Were the traditions that Paul was learning about passed down by man or by God? He labels them as being his “ancestors’ traditions.”
 
We must be careful to determine if a tradition that is being taught is divine or was instituted by our “ancestors.” For example, serving the Lord’s Supper from the front of the auditorium on a table that says, “Do This in Remembrance of Me”, and using brass plates are man-made traditions. This is not found in scripture.
 
There’s nothing wrong with practicing this tradition. The problem is when some try to enforce this and say “if you don’t do this for the Lord’s Supper then you haven’t really done what has been commanded.”
 
This teaching of tradition can split the church and we must be careful that we are enforcing God’s tradition and not our own. To do this we should ask, “Is it a violation of Scripture, or is it a tradition?” It’s okay to go along with traditions, but it is not okay to bind human traditions as a salvation issue.
 
There are some in the church that have taken their man-made traditions to heart. So we must ask ourselves, are we binding man-made traditions on others for salvation? Do we get upset if someone changes up the order of worship? Maybe we get mad when there are only two songs between the opening prayer and the sermon?
 
Divine traditions are what we must follow, and we must not force man-made traditions. Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Paul’s point is this: “Who did you receive it from?”
 
1 Corinthians 15:1-3 tells us, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” It is important that we check to see where the tradition came from.
 
Paul got his teachings from Jesus Christ. That is the divine source we must use. Not your preacher or the old wise man. This tradition was divine. Even if it is a tradition that has been around for many years, this does not automatically make it a divine tradition.
 
We must always keep in mind two facts when it comes to tradition.
  1. Divine tradition is binding while man-made is not.
  2. Look for the source of the tradition in order to clarify fact number one.

Traditions Of Men Versus The Word Of God

Traditions Of Men Versus The Word Of God

Neal Pollard

For as long as I have been preaching, I have had at least one copy of the Alvin Jennings’ book bearing the title above. The book was originally printed in 1972, but it has been reprinted several times. Jennings clarifies the way he uses the word “traditions” in his title. Rather than the sense of being a writing handed down from God (2 Th. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Co. 11:2), he used the word to refer to “religious laws and traditions originating from the minds of men and handed down orally and/or in printing from generation to generation” (iv.). He rightly points out that such traditions were condemned by Christ (Mat. 15:2-3,6; Mark 7:3,13; Col. 2:8; 1 Pet. 1:18; Gal. 1:14). Some of the problems with these traditions were that they got in the way of obedience to what God commanded, caused negligence regarding and the setting aside of God’s commands, enslaved one to something or someone other than Christ, and created a zeal that could lead to unhealthy consequences. The traditions Jennings examines substituted  false, human ideas for clearly revealed, divine truth. Anything that binds where God has not bound or gives permission where God doesn’t permit must be rejected. It’s a tradeoff with the gravest consequences (cf. Rev. 22:18-19).

However, I hope that as we strive to follow the pattern for New Testament Christianity we will be careful about elevating any tradition to be on a par with Scripture. There are some traditions we may choose to observe (or not):

  • Offering an invitation after every sermon
  • Having worship leaders, including the preacher, wear suits and/or ties
  • Women wearing dresses to church services
  • Songs or songbooks reflecting a particular time period (whether old or new)
  • Mandating a specific Bible version be utilized in the public assemblies
  • Choosing to have an evening assembly
  • Replicating the format of the morning assembly (in lieu of using the time for class, for example)
  • A particular order of worship (including whether the Lord’s Supper precedes or follows the sermon)
  • Offering the Lord’s Supper on Sunday evening
  • Any practice or tradition that arises from expedience or the realm of judgment, but that is not specifically mandated in Scripture

The church finds itself at a crucial crossroads. Undoubtedly, there is nothing new under the sun, but we do find ourselves at a unique place in cultural history. Since we live in an argumentative, rancorous atmosphere fueled by everything from cable news to social media, we should be careful to maintain a spirit of love and kindness whenever we sort through matters like these. We should never cherish non-binding traditions more than we do people. Those of us who are older and presumably more mature should consider carefully where and when we might compromise regarding matters not tied down in Scripture. More than that, we should foster rather than fear an environment that allows for such discussions to occur—without animosity or distrust. This will mean spending much more time developing our relationships with one another on the local church level (across generations). The better we know each other and the more we grow our love for each other, the better equipped we should be to sort through such things. Coupled with serious Bible study, this will hopefully sharpen our ability to distinguish between traditions and truth. May we have the grace to listen to each other without prejudice or minds already made up. Instead or ridiculing or caricaturizing the church in demeaning ways, let all of us “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone…” (Col. 3:12-13a). 

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