According to Tradition

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They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Mark 7:7 NIV)
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:13 NIV)

Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith and salvation (Heb. 2:12, 12:2), condemned the practice of perpetuating traditions in the form of doctrines bound upon men, as though they were God’s commands (Mark 7:6-13, Matthew 23:4ff). All who profess faith in Christ are duty bound (Luke 17:10) to scrutinize their own “doctrinal” position, and their traditions, in the light of God’s revelation (1 Thessalonians 5:21); to embrace God-given freedom for themselves (James 1:25) and bind nothing else on any other.

Tradition is an inevitable byproduct of human activity, and is not inherently evil (2 Chronicles 35:25, for example), but it has an uncanny potential for blinding people to fundamental truths and stifling growth through habitual repetition not only of actions but also of words and thoughts. Whenever tradition goes unrecognized for what it is, it blinds, and where tradition blinds, it also binds, not only it’s adherents, but also those they influence and try to control. When tradition is recognized for what it is, if it does not conflict with God’s will, it may still be embraced as permissable or expedient, and not blindly followed or bound on anyone else. However, even otherwise permissable traditions become completely unacceptable if they are bound on anyone as though by God’s mandate. Tradition all too easily becomes a yoke of slavery, nullifying the freedom God has called us to stand firm in (Galatians 5:1).

Some of God’s greatest workers have come from a background of repressive tradition, triumphing over the bondage thus imposed only by coming to a vital knowledge of the Son of God (Gal. 1:13-16). Knowing Jesus can and should overthrow repression and release the stranglehold of thoughts and habits that spring from the minds and desires of men rather than the grace of God. Not only great leaders, but every Christian must come to terms with a responsibility for determining when they are listening to God and where they are allowing themselves to be bound by traditions (Col. 2:8).

Those who, like Paul, have made a positive difference in the church have first allowed for a positive change in their own thinking by stepping away from the traditions they had received (Philippians 3:4ff) in order to scrutinize them in the light of Biblical revelation and the knowledge of Christ. The light of God still shines clearly forth from His word and illuminates the affairs of the heart of man, revealing that which endures unto eternal life and that which has a more temporal origin and a less enduring future. Take a look, observe and learn for yourself where doctrine ends and tradition begins, and meet the challenge of walking with the few (Matt. 7:13-14) who walk a road built by God and not by men. And never make the mistake of requiring from others what God has not required of us (Matthew 23:13).

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