Christ? Or Man-Made Traditions?

Christ? Or Man-Made Traditions?

Gary Pollard

Colossians 2 repeats the confidence theme “I want them to be strengthened and joined together with love, and to have the full confidence that comes from understanding.” We can only get this confidence by sticking to the essentials that Jesus gave us. 

2.4 says, “I tell you this so no one can fool you by giving you ideas that seem good, but are false.” Then 2.7-8, “You must depend on Christ only, drawing life and strength from him. Just as you were taught the truth, continue to grow stronger in your understanding of it. Never stop thanking God. Be sure you aren’t led away by the teaching of those who have nothing worth saying and are only trying to trick you. That teaching isn’t from Christ. It’s only human tradition and comes from the powers that influence this world.” 

Man-made traditions are powerless and often damaging, since they come from the powers that influence this world. But that wasn’t Jesus’s purpose! 

2.13-14 says, “You were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you weren’t free from the power of your sinful self. But God gave you new life with Christ. He forgave all of our sins. Because we broke God’s laws, we owed a debt — a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross.” 

This leads to 2.16 — “So don’t let anyone make rules for you about eating or drinking or about Jewish customs. In the past, these things were like a shadow that showed what was coming. But the new things coming are found in Christ.”

The entire book of Colossians is summarized with 2.18 — “Some people enjoy acting as if they are humble. They worship angels, and they always talk about the visions they’ve seen. Don’t let them cheat you out of your reward. It’s foolish for them to feel any kind of pride because it’s all based on their human ideas.” 

The keyword of 2.18 is καταβραβευετω (translated “cheat” in the verse above) — today we might say something like “umpire”. Don’t let anyone try to force you to observe a man-made tradition and then say “you’re out” if you don’t follow it. Paul lists some specific traditions in Colossians — circumcision (2.11) and prohibitions like “don’t eat that” or “don’t taste that” or “don’t touch that stuff” (2.21). 

This is after he says, “You died with Christ and were made free from the powers that influence this world. So why do you act as if you still belong to the world? I mean, why do you still follow those rules? Those rules are talking about earthly things that are gone after they’re used. They are only human commands and teachings. These rules may seem to be wise as part of a made-up religion in which people pretend to be humble and punish their bodies. But they don’t help people stop doing the evil that our sinful self wants to do.” 

This section reminds us that the power of our faith comes from Jesus, not man-made traditions. In fact, enforcing man-made traditions as important to our faith is sinful. If we follow those enforced traditions, we run the risk of losing our reward. If we want to see God, we need only what Jesus told us and nothing more (2.13-14). 

Jesus Is All You Need

Jesus Is All You Need

Gary Pollard

We’ll spend the next few weeks on an overview of Colossians. The theme of Colossians is simple — Jesus is all you need. You don’t need Jesus, plus some other tradition. 

The letter starts with a reminder of why we live the Christian life. 1.5 says, “Your faith and love continue because you know what is waiting for you in the heavens: the hope you’ve had since you first heard the true message about God’s grace.” This is very similar to 3.1, which says, “You were raised from death with Christ — so live for what is above, which is where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand.” Our hope is in Jesus, who came from above. Our faith and love continue because we know what’s waiting for us when the one who is in the heavens comes back for us. 

1.9-11 promises that God will make us completely sure of what he wants. He will help us live the kind of lives that make him happy. He’ll help us to be productive and expand our knowledge of him. He’ll also give us strength with his own power so we can make it through difficult times. Our response should be happiness (1.12) and gratitude! By helping us live the right kind of life — thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice (1.14) — we’ll be able to get what he promised us, which is immortality and escape from earth’s corruption. 

Understanding Truth

Understanding Truth

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Some things just don’t mix. Milk and orange juice, taxes and freedom, Coca cola and Mentos. But there is one particular mix that can sometimes be fatal. Blood pressure medicine can be a great thing, but when mixed with Advil/Ibuprofen it can harm your body and even give you a brain hemorrhage. If you mix rubbing alcohol and bleach you create chloroform. It’s safe to say that some things in life just don’t mix.

20-30 years after the ascension of Jesus, Paul wrote to a group of Celtic Christians in Galatia warning them of the dangers of mixing two teachings. We find the establishment of these Galatian churches in Acts 13-15 (Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia). In 15:1 Some people came down from Judea teaching that circumcision was required for salvation. This occurred right after Paul had converted them. They are new Christians, and Paul had a “great debate” with them there. In Acts 15:5, the Pharisees who “had believed” were the ones commanding this of Christians. Fast forward a decade, and these teachers are back in Galatia teaching that circumcision is required for salvation.

In Galatians one, the question Paul is trying to answer is, “What is required for a person to be saved?” Forget circumcision, forget additional teachings, what does GOD say? Paul gives his answer by basically saying, “We need nothing other than what is contained in scripture to walk in the light.” There is only ONE gospel. In Verse 6 Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel.” He uses the word “amazed” or thaumazo. 

These were Christians who should’ve known better. Their quick acceptance of this addition to the gospel amazed Paul in a negative sense. In Acts 4:13, this same Greek word is used to describe the scribes and Pharisees’ reaction to the apostles’ teachings. Again in Mark 5:20, we read that people were amazed by Jesus’ teaching. Paul now uses this word to describe his reaction to these Christians deserting the gospel! This word could be accurately translated as “deeply disturbed.” 

If there is anything added to that which is necessary for the maintaining of your walk in the light, it is not necessary for salvation. These Christians should’ve known better, but sadly sometimes we are the same way. We know what’s right and wrong and yet we still choose poorly (speech, actions, thoughts). 

The message that these Christians were to accept was that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the correct way to be saved. Any requirement outside of the plan of salvation is a false doctrine that must be condemned. If that other requirement is the sinner’s prayer, it must be condemned. If that other requirement is a “new wave of salvation,” as some denominations teach, it is to be condemned. If that other requirement is a tradition not necessary for salvation yet is enforced as such, it is to be condemned. We are only compelled to follow what is contained in God’s Holy Word. 

Let’s be careful as Christians to follow and teach solely what God has required of us. 

Carl Pollard
Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments


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).