by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: II Thessalonians 2:13-15
I. When two people have a disagreement, there is a strong desire to label the position of the other person.
A. Often this makes the discussion easier. A word or short phrase is easier to repeat than a long detailed description of the exact belief.
B. The problem though is that people tend to forget the details and focus on the simple phrase.
C. There have been several pushes by various groups to change different aspects of the Lord’s church
1. There are people who want to partake of the Lord’s Supper whenever they please. They do not want to be restricted to the tradition of partaking only on the first day of the week.
2. There are people who want be able to divorce their spouses for any reason. They don’t want to be restricted to the tradition of allowing divorce only for marital unfaithfulness.
3. There are people who want to use musical instruments in the worship service. They don’t want to be restricted to the tradition of only a-capella singing.
4. There are people who don’t want to bind the teachings of Christ from the Gospels. They feel the acceptance of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as books of the New Testament is only a tradition.
D. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a traditionalist because I have opposed these and similar innovations.
II. Traditions are condemned in the Bible
A. The word tradition is used to translate the Greek word paradosis, which means a handing down or handing over.
B. Mark 7:1-13
1. Jesus condemned the Jewish traditions of requiring the washing of hands
a. Not that washing is wrong, but the Jews felt it was a sin if you did not wash your hands before eating.
2. Jesus pointed out that their traditions, at times, contradicted the laws of God.
C. However, carefully consider this: What made their traditions wrong?
1. Their traditions were derived from the wrong source
a. Notice how often the phrases are used “traditions of our elders” and “traditions of men” are used.
b. When a practice is justified because this is the way they did things, then we are appealing to the wrong source.
c. When a practice is justified because this is the way we did things when I was growing up, then we are appealing to the wrong source.
d. Right and wrong is not determined by the beliefs of men
(1) Jeremiah 10:23 - Man cannot direct his own steps.
(2) We are finite. We do not see or understand all the ramifications of our actions.
2. Their traditions were wrong because they disagreed with the teachings of God
a. Notice Mark 7:8 - They placed their traditions over the commandments of God.
b. In a contest between man and God, God always wins - Acts 5:29
c. Don’t follow the traditions of men instead of God - Colossians 2:8
III. Traditions are approved of in the Bible
A. It is a mistake to assume any tradition is wrong.
1. Paul tells the Corinthians to hold firmly to the traditions just as Paul taught them - I Corinthians 11:2
2. Stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught - II Thessalonians 2:15
3. Stay away from those who do not live according to the traditions - II Thessalonians 3:6
B. What makes Paul’s traditions better than the Jews’ traditions?
1. It is, once again, the source!
2. Paul carefully taught the early Christians God’s words
a. Paul did not boast in other men’s labor but in the Lord - II Corinthians 10:13-18
b. The only foundation is Christ - I Corinthians 3:10-11
c. Everything belongs to God - I Corinthians 3:20-23
d. He taught what God revealed - I Corinthians 2:12-13
3. God’s words, His teachings, His thoughts have been handed down by Paul to the early Christians and to us.
a. But handed down is the meaning of traditions.
b. When we stay within the teachings of the Bible we are following the traditions of God
IV. What kind of traditionalist are you?
A. When people are labeled “traditionalist,” the word in and of itself does not tell you whether they are following truth or error.
1. Yet the implication and assumption are that any tradition is wrong.
2. But that implies we must always change. We could not continue to do what we have been doing even if it was right in the past - Proverbs 24:21
B. What is taught by God is that we find the truth and then stand firm in it.
1. Practicing righteousness should become a habit
2. Sure it is a rut, but it a rut heading in the right direction!
C. Similarly, we need to realize that traditions are not a justification for any practice.
1. Too often people will site past practices to prove continuance.
2. It may be interesting to note if others have come to the same conclusion, but it is not proof.
3. Only God’s Word establishes if a matter is right or wrong.
V. Don’t let traditions keep you from thinking.
A. Can you prove, if necessary, why you do the things you do? - I Peter 3:15
1. If someone proposed to put a steeple on this building, would it be right or wrong?
2. If someone proposed using another designation for this group – other than “church of Christ” – would it be right or wrong?
3. Could the Lord’s supper be taken on Saturday?
4. Could we gather to worship on Friday?
5. Could we take up a collection on Wednesday?
6. Is it wrong to take up multiple collections for different purposes?
B. Most of us have knee-jerk reactions to these kinds of questions
1. However, the only good answer is, “over in the book of ... it says ...”
2. Too often we feel tradition and “I think” are sufficient reasons.