OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew

     Webster defines “tradition” as follows:  “action  of handing over… 1: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.  2: an inherited pattern of thought or action (as a religious doctrine or practice or a social custom).”  Note that Webster includes religious practices within his definition of tradition.  Is Mr. Webster correct in doing this?  Does religion involve tradition?  The answer is, “Yes.”  Our question for this article is:  “Are we stuck in our tradition?”  If so, should we be?

     There are two broad kinds of traditions in the religious realm.  One of these is called “apostolic tradition.”  The traditions found in this category have been handed down to us by inspired men.  These “hand me downs” involve the regulations from God to man.  Paul tells us what we are to do with these traditions in II Thessalonians 2:15.  “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”  Paul exhorts us to “hold” to apostolic tradition.  The word “hold” literally means “to use strength.”  In other words, Paul tells us to seize the traditions that God has given with all our strength and do not let them go.  They are to be retained from generation to generation.  They are to be kept carefully and faithfully.  In essence, Paul is telling us to be steadfastly stuck in the divine traditions.

     The second type of tradition involves the traditions of men.  These traditions originate with man and not with God.  These traditions fall into two categories.  One category involves traditions that are lawful to be done.  The practice of these man-made traditions does not violate the apostolic traditions laid down in the Word of God.  Let’s look at an example.  Apostolic tradition commands us to assemble on the first day of the week (Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7).  The precise time of our meeting, however, is not specified.  Each congregation is free to select the time it will meet for the assembly on the first day of the week.  OceanSide has chosen 11:00 a.m.  As we pass this time down from year to year and generation to generation, it becomes a tradition.  Could someone say we are “stuck” in this tradition?  Yes.  However, there is nothing sinful about this.  Could we change the time of meeting?  Absolutely!  Do we have to change the time?  Absolutely not!  If we changed the time, to say, 10:00 a.m., and practiced that for several years, it would become our tradition.  Many have grown tired of some lawful man-made traditions.  They want change.  This is fine.  However, what they fail to realize is that they are only changing one tradition for another.

     Another type of man-made tradition is one that violates, or makes null, the Word of God.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had some traditions that did this.  Jesus exposed their tradition as error.  “But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother:  and, he that curseth father or mother let him die the death.  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.  Thus ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matt. 15:3-6).  Traditions that violate God’s will and make null the commands of God are sinful.  They keep men from obeying divine traditions.  These traditions should never be developed much less kept to the point of being stuck in them.

     What have we seen in this article?  First, there is divine tradition and man-made tradition.  Divine tradition is to be held.  We cannot change it.  Sadly, many of the change agents in the church are doing exactly that.  Second, there are man-made traditions that are lawful.  They do not violate the commands of God.  They can be changed, but they are only exchanged for more man-made tradition.  Third, there is a set of man-made traditions that can violate God’s Word.  If followed, it will condemn the soul.  It must be omitted at all costs.  Are we stuck in our traditions?  If divine, yes.  If lawful man-made traditions, possibly.  If unlawful man-made traditions, never!