Where do traditions get started? Cutting the end off the ham.
A tradition is a long-established custom or belief that has been passed down from one generation to another. Traditions are a reason behind why we do some things that has no other foundation than: that’s how we’ve always done it. What we do on holidays is more often than not based on tradition.
Going to church can be a tradition. Many of our beliefs and even convictions are shaped by tradition.
Where are they supposed to come from? Scripture. But that Scripture is often shaped by current opinion, traditional understanding of that Scripture, or on the explanation by a respected authority. These shaping factors can hold a higher value than what Scripture says.
Josh 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
This law was written down as the Torah. The other books were added later to produce the Jewish Bible. But there was also the Oral Tradition called the Mishnah and the instruction based on that tradition added to the Mishnah became the Talmud. Though it wasn’t written down until around 200 A.D., these Traditions went as far back as Moses.
But though God told Joshua to build his life on the Law, much of Jewish life is based upon the traditions.
In Christianity, we have the same thing. We have the Scripture and then we have opinion or explanation of that Scripture. Typically, those opinions or explanations are based upon traditions. What our parents believed. What our church taught us. Or what we decided along the way. Our beliefs in End Times and Heaven and Hell have much to do with opinion rather than Scripture.
As a result of opinions and explanation, we have denominations. The World Christian Encyclopedia lists up to 33,000 different segments of Christianity around the world. There are 6 major Christian categories, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries, these denominational distinctives being expressed in 3.4 million worship centers, churches or congregations. And just because they go by the title Christian, most are not biblically based and you wouldn’t agree with their teaching if you tried to worship with them.
How can there be 33,000 different opinions as to how Christianity is to be lived, the Bible believed, and the church to operate? Tradition.
When people are asked why they believe what they believe, more often than not, they draw upon some traditional explanation rather than point to specific Scripture. It’s always been that way.
The greatest obstacle in the first century of communicating the Gospel was fighting through the traditional beliefs of the people. Instead of seeking for truth, they only wanted to support what they have always believed.
Act 17:10-11 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
The Bereans were noble-minded. They wanted to know what was so, so if found to be true, they could adjust their lives to it. They were not open-minded to swallow whatever they were told, but they were noble-minded – responsible thinkers.
Then why were the Jewish leaders not more Berean in their approach to Jesus? He didn’t fit their traditional beliefs of what the Messiah would be like. He was to be a mighty warrior who would bring a military assault against whoever opposed Israel, work with the religious establishment to restore the authority it had in past days and make Israel the crown jewel of the world. Jesus just didn’t fit the profile.
In Judaism 101: The word "messiah" doesn’t mean "savior." The notion of an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who will sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences of our own sins is a purely Christian concept that has no basis in Jewish thought.
Isn’t that interesting, since so much was written about One who would sacrifice Himself for Sin.
Isa 53:5-6 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Even on the day they knew the Messiah would present Himself to the nation, they rejected Jesus because they didn’t want Him to be the One. Why? He didn’t fit their traditional expectations.
Dan 9:25-26 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing…
And: Zech 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Guess what happened on the day that the Messiah was to enter Jerusalem:
Luke 19:30-40 Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord has need of it." They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
Why was this such a problem?
Ps 118:22-24 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
What kept them from connecting the dots? Expectations based on Tradition.
Luke 24:13-27 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" And they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see." And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ [messiah – anointed One] to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Why? To challenge them to have the right authority for why and what they believed. Everything Jesus said relating to His death was backed up by Scripture:
Luke 23:46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last.
Ps 31:5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.
Matt 27:34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
Ps 69:19-21 You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before You. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
John 19:28-30 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Ps 22:30-31 Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.
Throughout and after the crucifixion, Jesus was explaining what was going on by sending His followers back to Scripture. Why? Because tradition didn’t tell the truth. It was tainted by expectations, opinion and explanations that these circumstances couldn’t support.
What do people say who don’t want something to be true? I don’t believe that. As though their belief can change truth. I don’t want there to be a Hell so, I don’t believe it. I don’t want any accountability to God, so I don’t believe in Him.
John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
Tradition manipulates Scripture. This is what I want to be true, so I will bend Scripture until it says what I want it to say.
Jesus says: It all speaks of Me. It describes a plan created from before the foundation of the earth was laid all the way until the ultimate end. And I have included you.
Act 2:16-18, 21 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: and it shall be in the last days,' God says, 'that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit…and it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
Rom 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."
But my tradition teaches that differently. Tradition isn’t what God uses as criteria to fulfill His word. Just do what the Scripture says.
- What we believe is very important; it shapes how we live.
- Believing the right thing is most important; it shapes us according to how God wants us to live.
- Whenever we find in our thoughts or actions that we believe something contrary to Scripture, we must change.
- We may be sincere in our beliefs, but we can be sincerely wrong.
- When in doubt, go with the Word of God.