Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 7

Let’s get to work and jump into this verse immediately. I am looking forward to a mental exercise, a good work out, trying to understand Paul’s command to the believers in Thessalonian 2,000 years ago and to us today.

Let’s hope we can provide something of benefit to those dear readers who spend a few moments with me.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Traditions, we learn from this short passage are taught. Taught by communication, that is through talking or reading/writing. Traditions are not instinctual, or merely a result of some internal thought process. Traditions are handed down, and this is actually one of the defining actions that produces a tradition.

Paul doesn’t directly speak of specific traditions he had handed down to this church in this passage. He does bring up the topic in 3:6. A definite link with 2:5! Ok Paul, thanks for the clarification, but this creates a bit of a confusion. When was the last time you thought of a tradition within the Christian church as a “willingness to work”.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

Idleness is against the tradition Paul provided to this church, and a good work ethic, if I am reading this passage correctly, is a Christian tradition/practice. This tradition is seemingly so sensitive to wrong influence, that Paul commands those with a work ethic to keep away from idle brothers. This is truly shocking to my mind, since I don’t usually consider idleness as a reason to avoid a brother.

But let us think on this for a moment. Does not the Word teach us to “not covet”? Idleness produces a spirit of covetousness, for an idle man is usually in need. Now I need to be careful to note that the command does not refer to those who cannot work, but to those who will not work. To those who are incapacitated, truly without the ability to perform some type of task to add to the community, the believer is to come along side and provide encouragement, financial assistance and support. To the one who refuses to work though able, Paul commands – STAY AWAY!

This is not, for the believer, a requirement to determine another persons motivations, intentions or desires, but his or her abilities. A man or woman who wants to produce, though incapacitated in some form, may find many hurdles to be productive, but may produce and find purpose. A man or woman who is able and makes excuses – Paul commands – STAY AWAY.

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 

2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10

But Paul – that is so unloving, so uncompassionate, that is, to let a brother or sister to go hungry. How heartless! Are you actually commanding believers to allow others to go hungry? Are believers to refuse to feed an idle brother?

In my opinion (careful dear reader – this is opinion!) to provide funds or gifts for those who will not work is foolish, since the limited funds we have in order to help truly needful souls is being misdirected. The idle able person receiving the funds could be a positive influence in the community, but is allowed to remain useless. No one wants to be useless, unless they are content with simply being a leach.

My wife and I speak of this compassion as “enabling” a sinful life. We have become somewhat “heartless”, in some peoples thinking, but have found folks that were idle (relatively) to become solid workers, building a work ethic that is positive financially, emotionally and physically.

What brings a person to a level of idleness? For the Thessalonians, it was a misunderstanding of the coming of the Lord. Some thought that since He may appear in a few weeks or months, working at a “9 to 5” was foolish. Why work when you can literally just wait? Bad theology creates wrong living!

What can bring a person out of this condition? Man shall not live by bread alone, but dag nab it, he certainly needs bread to live! Without bread, the motivation to work overcomes the desire to be idle, and the brother may become a positive influence for the community.

My friends, if you see a brother being idle, consider Paul’s command. Others may provide for the idle man or woman, enabling their life of ease and causing unnecessary suffering for those who truly have a need. To the extent you have in exercising your decisions, do not encourage a life of idleness.

It is not traditional!

Thanks for joining me in this short series on traditions. Much more may be spoken of on this topic but hopefully the few thoughts shared have produced some trigger to further read the Word and figger it out. A little work in the word would not cause any complaint from the Father, for He loves one who digs and seeks the truth. But it will require some work, and we know now that work is NOT a dirty word when it comes to the will of God!

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 6

Earlier on in my blogging efforts, I posted a short note on the following verse, and linked an essay I found that challenged me on the meaning of “elemental”.

If interested, see Elements – Stoicheia. For this post, we will address the topic of human tradition.

Let’s read the passage and consider.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:8

Paul is giving a command (See to it…) in this verse, that a believer is to not be taken captive. This is a warning to believers that we have the capacity to fall victim to falsehoods and lies. He is providing the method of captivity, when He speaks of “according to human tradition”. This captivity Paul refers to depends on human tradition, is in conformity with human tradition.

So, what might we glean from this framing of a real danger Paul is warning us of? Is there a certain method or process that human tradition provides that will give us ample warning that we are slipping into dangerous territory? Maybe.

First off, let’s consider how traditions are handed down? This is the second aspect discussed in our opening post on this topic, that is, the faithfulness of the followers in continuing a tradition. Our first aspect was, as you may remember, the authority establishing the tradition, and of course, when Paul speaks of human traditions, he may be hinting at the source of authority of the tradition as being human. This definitely may be his intent, and is to be considered.

But my take on this verse is considering the method used when these practices are handed down. When Paul brings in the terms philosophy and deceit, I again lean to the opinion that this is describing a method of handing down a practice or tradition to the next generation. This method of handing down a practice to the next generation may include twisting of the tradition that was originally of the Lord, until it slowly becomes a tradition rooted in human authority.

But I digress again. The method, I suppose is my concern in this verse. The method! According to human tradition. Two items for you to consider, and remember my friend, as I sometimes suggest in this blog, we are dealing with my thoughts and extra-biblical research and not necessarily anything directly from the Scripture, so beware!

Slight Revisions to the Original Tradition/Practice

These slight revisions are often a result of using a thesis/antithesis argument, which inevitably produces a result, called the synthesis, which holds strictly to neither position, but finds a middle ground. This is an acceptable, convenient, and logic based way to move from the original intent, to a watered down message. Without a commitment to the authority of the Scripture, human logic allows for this movement, and therefore a sliding away from the original intent of the command. As the tradition veers from the original intent, there is no way to return to the original command using this philosophy. There always has to be a consideration of the opposing view, which humanly speaking is opposing to the Scripture.

A formal logic of this philosophy follows

  • A thesis is a proposition
    • In this case, the original intent of the tradition/practice given by God. Let’s remember Exodus 20 where the original intent is to honor your parents.
  • The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition
    • Let’s consider Matthew 15, where the giving of money to God through the temple is a tradition negating the command to honor a father or mother.
  • The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths, and forming a new proposition a new basis for the tradition.
    • The synthesis might be an allowance of both, giving a nod to the original intent of the Word, but not condemning the alternative option. It seems Jesus did not accept this as an alternative option.

A Dependence on Historical Precedent

Once this drift from the truth occurs, human tradition uses the historical precedent of this practice to support the practice. How often have you heard the saying – But we have always done it this way, to justify a certain action or practice. When you think of it, this argument completely ignores the importance of the original authority the practice is hopefully based on.

This post highlights, hopefully our dire need to always go back to the original commands from the Giver of truth. Logic and time may not provide us a basis upon which to depend on for traditions we exercise in our lives.

Let me finish this wordy post with a challenging passage from the Word.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. – Psalm 62:5-7

God alone is our source authority, He is our rock, our salvation, our fortress, our glory and refuge. He is the only One we can truly trust. Don’t argue against His word, trying to justify an alternate thinking. Be quiet and wait for Him.

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 5

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. – Gal 1:13-14

Paul speaks of his history, of his past desire to practice the traditions of the religion of Judaism. Of the persecution of the church of God as a result of his former life in Judaism. He was zealous. He was advancing in the traditions, seemingly due to his persecuting the church of God, trying to destroy it.

Two issues erupt in my thinking with this passage, in relation to traditions.

First, the traditions were bad! Very bad! The fruit of these traditions produced a murderous man, intent on destroying the work of God. This is an additional text in the New Testament that speaks to the negativity of traditions, religious traditions that were running amok.

In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of “wisdom being justified by all her children”. No matter the appearance or method of the delivering agent (whether it be by Moses, Jesus or John the Baptist), the fruit of a teaching is how it is worked out in those who hear it, the children of the wisdom. The appearance can be ridiculed, mocked and condemned. The children of the wisdom will justify the wisdom being taught and received.

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” – Luke 7:33-35

In this regard, Paul’s desire to kill others is the fruit of a tradition that completely removed the intent of the commandments. For you see, the original intent of the Word of God was to save lives not kill. How can a man honor God by dishonoring his command not to kill?

God want’s us to honor our parents. How can I honor my parents if I become a murderous man?

God wants us to not covet. How can I love God if my motivation is to kill in order to maintain my own religion, covet my own faith?

No my friends, this tradition produced a fruit that was poisonous. Let us consider the wisdom we are consuming, in order to reflect our lives as being of the Lord, and not of some tradition that is of another intent!

Secondly, these traditions, many many moons back, were based on the Word of God. Now the iterations to take the holy commandments of God and to turn them into a belief that encourages persecution of the very followers of God, is an exercise in manipulation far beyond my understanding.

It took centuries to slip into a tradition that became a prevailing faith, and we have certainly experienced centuries of tradition within the life of the church. Over 2,000 years of manipulation by teachers and enemies within the church. This is the reason we need to refer to the Word and not depend on what a man says, even a well intentioned and or highly trained man may teach. Will we always be right if we turn to the Scriptures as our primary source. Absolutely not, for we are a weak, biased and selfish people, but we may find we are approaching a closer walk with the Master, a closer understanding of the intent of God in providing traditions for our lives.

Suffice it to say, let us depart from the “traditions of our fathers” and seek to follow the One who is worthy, who provided instruction in His Word. As Paul states just a verse later, God was pleased to reveal His Son in him. Traditions needed to be set aside in this revealing, traditions that were against God’s word and will.

Can you think of any traditions that may be causing you to loose out on God’s will?

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 4

In our last post on Traditions, we suggested that the apostle Paul referred to “traditions” in the beginning of the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, and to the

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. – 1 Corinthians 11:2

Fifteen verses later, the apostle writes

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. – 1Co 11:17 ESV

Paul commended the church for “maintaining the traditions”, yet needed to correct the Corinthians in the understanding of the head covering practice (tradition), and with regards to the Lord’s supper, he does not commend them (I do not commend you).

So Paul, when you say the church is maintaining the traditions in verse 2, I am beginning to wonder if you are referring to other traditions beyond the two you speak of in this chapter. Both the head coverings and the Lord Supper is requiring correction.

Is “to maintain” a polite way of saying the Christian church is keeping all the traditions alive with some correction needed in two of them? Is Paul speaking with grace towards this church, seeking to find something good to speak of prior to correcting them?

Nevertheless, we enter into the second tradition that many churches classify as an ordinance. The Lord’s Supper will be the subject of this post.

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. – 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 ESV

Divisions in the church. Paul’s first concerns in dealing with the Lord’s Supper is unity in the Body. Paul does not address what may be a fevered discussion in you church, whether you have wine of grape juice, leavened or unleavened bread, one cup or many cups, once a week or quarterly, beginning of the service or end of the service. The arguments go on ad nauseum, and prove the very point of the apostle. He called this church immature, and detailed numerous problems throughout this letter, exposing their childishness.

Of course this immaturity is what causes divisions, and Paul understands this better than most, but again, he is looking for something amongst the mess to speak well of. Check out verse 19, where the factions in the church actually expose the mature members, the genuine followers.

there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized

He finds some glimmer of reality in this debauched church, but immediately corrects the body, staing the divisions they live in expose the churches intentions, for in their actions they expose what they want, what they are looking to enjoy during the Lord’s Supper. Satisfying their gluttony. Serving their self. I have wondered in the past that the ones who are genuine, who are recognized, are the same group who Paul later on speaks of going hungry, and are humiliated during the Lord’s supper in having nothing.

Might this teaching of division have more to do with class structure as opposed to a doctrinal difference?

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV

Paul gives a history lesson, providing what the apostles must have supplied him, as the Lord established this tradition amongst His followers. So many things to consider in this passage, but I need to focus on the tradition topic within the church for this blog. Notice this practice/tradition/ordinance is to be practiced until He comes. No mention of scheduled rules or cycles to practice this tradition. This eating and drinking had a purpose, that is to proclaim the Lord’s death. The eating and drinking was not to provide an opportunity to gorge my appetite.

In every church I have ever attended, the opportunity to gorge my appetite has been completely removed. Usually a portion of a cracker and a few drops of grape juice are provided in a structured environment, controlled by sober men with deliberate actions in front of the group. This is not what I seem to read in this passage. It seems the Corinthians, in exercising this tradition, were coming together for what appears to be more like a pot luck with the body, as opposed to a structured ceremony.

Could this tradition be more about sharing of our goods, of providing a meal, of breaking bread with those we have fellowship with and recognizing the Lord’s death as opposed to a ceremony?

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another– if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home–so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-34

When the Corinthians came together to remember the Lord’s death, was it with an attitude of self serving gluttony, or with a proper reflection of the self giving sacrifice of the Lord in His death?

Jesus gave. We consume.

When Paul speaks verse 29, I am torn as to whether he speaks of the Lord’s body (Jesus physical body in the heavens) or the Lord’s body (Jesus mystical body, the church)

For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

But Carl – read the passage. Paul speaks of “the body”. Not necessarily the Lord’s body, i.e. as some may have thought of earlier, thinking Paul is speaking of the Lord’s physical body in the heavens, the body that was broken and torn for our salvation.

I sense that Paul’s primary concern in this tradition is the unity of the group, unity of the body of believers. The body he speaks of is the church itself.

Love the body, in practical ways. Be harsh on yourself in your self judgement, and gracious to those who also trust in the living God. Wait for your brother. Satisfy your cravings in private in order to serve your brother in public. Don’t bring judgement to the church.

Give – don’t consume.

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 3

In our last two passages in Matthew and Mark, we looked at the corruption of a tradition by the elders. A tradition based on the fifth commandment, relating to honoring your parents. Jesus brought us back to the original authority, and put the religious leaders in their place.

Prior to Jesus rebuke, many may have considered the ongoing tradition of the elders as being an acceptable method of worshipping God. Jesus laid that idea to rest. This leads my suspicious mind to consider whether some of our current practices are actually creating traditions that may be avoiding teaching of the Apostles for the church.

Hopefully we will gain some understanding from the remaining passages that speak of traditions provided to the church.

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. – 1 Corinthians 11:2

Ok, so this passage from Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, is commending the Corinthian church that they are maintaining the traditions he had delivered unto the church. A promising start in this study. Interesting that Paul provided a tradition (or multiple traditions) that he expected them to follow. But our question has to be – What were these traditions?

Immediately after this verse, Paul delves into the controversial head covering teaching, which speaks of authority, headship and honor. Fifteen verses later, he speaks of instructions (traditions?) that he does not commend the church for, that is, in their keeping of the Lord’s Supper. At the turn of the page, in the beginning of the next chapter, Paul makes a topical shift to spiritual gifts. Therefore, I would suggest Paul refers to two traditions in chapter 11.

Head Covering

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a post supplied on May 21st, where I provided a link for some teaching on 1 Corinthians 11:13-15. (See Let Me Tell You a Story – Head Coverings). In that post I spoke of my own struggle with this topic of head covering and found some answers in the link provided. Nevertheless, the intent of this post is to consider the tradition Paul handed down to the Corinthian church, what it was, was it cultural and are we to follow this tradition even today.

After the last two posts, where Jesus corrected the religious teachers and brought them back to the original authority, I am fearful of finding some excuse or reason to avoid this teaching. I suppose my concern is that I don’t quite understand this teaching.

Is it a tradition that emphasizes headship and honor, using a culturally accepted practice (long hair on a woman) to indicate submission and honor to her head? Or is it a tradition that is non-cultural, that is every lady in all of the churches worldwide, needs to have a covering in order to honor her head, her husband.

In two verses prior to 1 Corinthians 11:5, where a covering of the wife’s head is referred to, note that the submission of Christ to God is not described “visually”, i.e. with or without a covering on His head.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3

but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. – 1 Corinthians 11:5

As I mentioned in the linked post above, my family and I attended a brethren chapel for years where this passage was referred to in order to justify coverings on ladies heads while in worship. As a baptist entering into this environment, I had many questions, and struggled with it for quite a while. One fine believer told me that the entire passage made sense when he read the last phrase in the tenth verse.

That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. – 1 Corinthians 11:10

His logic seemed irrefutable. The angels would have no concern for cultural practices, so this practice, that of covering a wife’s head in honor of her husband must be universal and not simply cultural.

This argument was convincing and nearly tipped me into accepting this as God’s intent, until I did a bit of digging and found that “angels” could be translated as messengers and may be simply referring to a company of men attending the church service.

In this passage, headship and authority is the principal theme, and my understanding is that the covering/veil used by the Corinthians was their culturally acceptable manner of displaying who was head and who wasn’t head. A definite order of responsibility (not of worth) is addressed in this passage.

This tradition, of headship, and of displaying the headship within the church has become derelict with our modern Christian lives. The modern church rebels against any hint of a man being the head, and of the woman honoring the husband. A full front attack on manhood has been active for decades, and the church, except for a small minority, has faithfully followed this tempting teaching.

It is a rare family that exercises this tradition, and that has a family order of a male head, with a submissive wife and obedient children. This, I believe is the intent of this tradition Paul speaks of within the church, and it’s natural outflow into all of the believers life.

Now before you claim I am some misogynistic woman hater, please slow down. I love women. I personally have hung out with a lovely person who is a woman for over forty years. She is truly my help meet and my best friend. I would be lost without her. Beyond my biased feelings toward this lady I know, I have also found that that some of the most spiritual people I have met happen to be women.

You see, sometimes folk get confused when dealing with this topic. They think the spirituality of a person is dependent on outward position or visibility. But this is not so! A quiet woman may have more influence with God than some flamboyant “in your face” preacher. Remember we are dealing with the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that, in the world’s eyes, is completely upside down.

I seem to remember a passage in the word which speaks of the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. – 1 Peter 3:4

Consider your family order. If you are a man in the family, love your wife, cherish her, team with her, talk with her (not at her!) and give yourself for her. Lead her into godly decisions and encourage her.

If you are a lady who seeks to honor God, honor your husband. Give him the freedom to make mistakes, support him when you “know” he is wrong. Discuss the issues with him, and trust God in your husbands discussions. (Yelling “I told you so” is not a godly action!) Don’t emasculate him! He desperately needs your support! And, by the way, the Lord is looking for a gentle and quiet (not a forceful and argumentative) spirit in supporting your mate.

As an aside, and for your reference, I am supplying a few verses of Paul’s teaching regarding headship. It may be of some use in helping you understand the apostles teaching, and in defending the order of headship (authority and accountability) within a church, and a family.

Head of every woman is man

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corinthians 11:3

Woman is the glory of man

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. – 1 Corinthians 11:7

Woman was created from the man

For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. – 1 Corinthians 11:8

Woman was created for the man

Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. – 1 Corinthians 11:9

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, I believe the apostle addresses two traditions for the church in this chapter, and since I am a bit long in the tooth with this post, will defer to the next one to discuss the Lord’s Supper as a tradition

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 2

In our last post we looked at Matthew 15:1-9 and shared a personal story that brought the concept of conflicting authority to the fore front. As we mentioned, traditions have two core components, that of an authority establishing the practice, and followers faithfully following the practice, of handing the practice down to the next generation.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”- Mark 7:1-13 ESV

Mark spends a bit of time explaining the traditions of the elders, since his audience is Greek, and not Jewish as Matthew’s. The two quotes of Exodus Jesus uses are identical, and Mark also directs our attention to Jesus recitation of Isaiah 29:13

And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, – Isaiah 29:13 ESV

Traditions are based on two foundations, that of an authority and of consistency. Authority was addressed under Matthew 15, where as this passage, this passage actually speaks of both, especially the last phrase.

Their fear of me is a commandment taught by men

Whatever fear the masses had of God was based on the elders teaching, of the elders slight twist on the command, that muddied the water and nullified God’s intent. The elders claimed the authority, rejecting the command of God, and the tradition was replaced with vain worship. Empty worship. No one was practicing the original tradition, and it had effectively been replaced by the error of well-meaning(?) elders.

The last phrase of this passage has intrigued me, not necessarily as a summary statement, but that I hear a bit of sarcasm in Jesus voice.

You have a fine way….

Is Jesus speaking with a bit of sarcasm in His voice? He is the Master Teacher, and effectively uses multiple manners of teaching. Is He commending them in their sin? As if saying … You have expertly performed the duties of nullifying the commandment of God in order to gain for yourselves. You are practiced and skilled teachers, you are very good at rejecting the commandment of God!

Can you imagine an itinerant preacher silencing the religious professionals in such a way? He is so awesome.

Mark continues with his recitation of the discourse and it seems to be harsher, as if he is not pulling any punches. Notice that while Matthew speaks of “not needing to honor his father”, Mark has it as “you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother”

Both Matthew and Mark give us Jesus teaching on traditions, at least a teaching on the corruption of a tradition that was established by God, but had been hi-jacked by others.

It is instructive that this passage, along the the Matthew recounting, speaks of the dangers of simply following religious traditions without going to the foundation, the original authority and intent of that authority. Religious professionals provide revisions and refinements to the original command in order to assist us, and in turn, actually assist us in turning away from God. (As if we need any help in turning away!)

Take some time during your busy day today, to ask the Lord to expose an area of your religious life, just one area or teaching that may be distracting you from following God’s commands. As mentioned in the previous post, one area of authority conflict opened my eyes to many other areas, and has revolutionized my understanding of faith, love and walking properly before God.

Please join me in our next post where we begin to look at traditions that have been established for the church. I am looking forward to learning with you.

May God bless you and keep you in the love of Jesus and the fellowship of His Spirit.

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – 1

In our introductory post, we spoke of our families traditional Christmas celebrations in order to establish an understanding of what a tradition is, and to offer my understanding of a traditions flexibility. Some of my readers may have read of our historical changes during the traditional gift giving in our home as an unwillingness to maintain a tradition, to create a tradition that would be longstanding and annually honored. This may be true.

But we all must agree that traditions start at a point in time, and are handed down to the next generation, and so on until they become “traditional”. Think of the many nations in this world and each nation having distinct traditions. Every tradition is started by an authority, possibly based on a historical happening.

For some practice to become a tradition, it must originate from an authority, who establishes the practice as worthy of repeating, and by a group of followers who consistently exercise that practice through a period of time. Within the Bible, the authority usually is God of course (there are exceptions), and the repeating of the practice is dependent on the faithful.

Traditions, based on the instruction of an authority and if practiced accurately, are worthy of maintaining. Traditions based on the instruction of an authority but not practiced accurately, are worthy or rejecting, and to return to practicing per the original intent of the instruction. Unless of course the authority repeals the practice.

Given this basis of understanding a “tradition”, lets consider Matthew 15:1-9, where Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees and scribes concerning His disciples breaking of a tradition.

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” – Mat 15:1-9 ESV

First off, let’s establish the authority of the tradition. In this passage, the Pharisees tell us the authority over this tradition of washing hands is that of the elders. The religious leaders readily admit the source of authority is mankind and not God.

Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter by returning to the ultimate authority, and also informs us of the conflict that human authority creates when introduced to assist in obeying the commandments of the true Authority. Jesus asks one tough question, centered on the authority giving the command.

Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

The Pharisees are whining about clean hands. Jesus goes for the jugular, and focuses on the fifth commandment of God, (without the resultant blessing if obeyed.)

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

No blessing is included in the passage Jesus quotes, yet Exodus provides the promise of long days in the land. No promise, but He does include Exodus 21:17, defining the judgement if the commandment is broken.

Exodus 21:17 Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.

Jesus then describes the elders efforts to “clarify the commandment” for the masses, but masterfully brings to the Pharisees (and any who may listen) the effect of modifying Gods commandments with a human tradition.

If the believer sought to honor their parents with a gift, the elders allowed that believer an exception, in order to receive the funds themselves. I am of the opinion that Jesus is actually quoting the elders instructions in the 6th verse, where the allowance to disobey is clearly offered.

he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. – Mat 15:6 ESV

Are clean hands an issue in your life? Is outward appearance a priority for you? Do you watch for insignificant rule breaking of others? In your rule keeping, do you dishonor God?

A quick story that brought this passage to life for my wife and I.

We were attending a church years ago, when a close friend and his family were seeking to enter into missionary work. I informed the leadership of our desire to divert our giving’s to this family. This was acceptable to the leadership, although they did ask for a period of time to be defined, so that the funds would begin returning to their coffers. This I gladly provided and we rejoiced in giving to this family on their way to Indonesia with the gospel.

Not long after this, my father-in-law passed away, leaving my mother-in-law a widow. Things became desperate for this sweet woman and we needed/wanted to help. This did not go over well with the church leadership, with their counsel being that we should give above and beyond the tithe to the church in order to help mom. But the tithe was to take a priority.

Eventually, after prayer one morning I landed on the passage above, and it became crystal clear as to what we were to do. Honor our parent.

Eventually this decision became a point of tension with the religious leadership. This authority conflict between the Word and the religious leaders counsel led me to study the teaching of tithing in the church, and a believers responsibility in giving. Eventually, the religious leadership asked us to leave.

Friends – religious organizations have many ways of twisting a believers obligation that negate a commandment of God. Traditions are one way these obligations are nullified. Though many traditions are established with good intentions, it seems it is inevitable that the tradition is followed without thinking, and sometimes becomes a stumbling stones for the believer.

Traditions of men, or in other words, religious requirements to “please God”, beyond the Word either become a conflict and needs to be rejected, or a repetition of the commandment in a different context.

It is safe to consider the Word only as our final authority, since the One who saved us lived and died under it’s authority and provided the church the full orbed teaching of grace and truth for us to understand.

Our next post will consider the same incident with the Pharisees, but from Mark’s perspective. Hope you can join me.

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Bible · Church · Church Authority · Commandments · Traditions

Traditions – Introduction

What is a tradition?

Do traditions help or hinder us?

Traditions give us a sense of community, of belonging and expectations, a certain rhythm in life.

Consider the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas day. This tradition in our home has went through a number of iterations, which to be honest, argues against the “expectations” concept above. But nevertheless, as our children grew, we introduced different methods of celebrating the Christmas gift opening event.

First it was a conventional delegated gift giver at the base of the tree, picking gifts for each child and waiting as we all watched them receive it and express their gratitude. Soon, the tradition became more of a game, with my wife and I staying up Christmas night and hiding all the gifts, writing out a list of riddles for each gift and which child the gift was meant for. This extended the celebration, and we found that the chillun actually worked together for the hunting. In my opinion, it was a hit with the kids. (Mom and dad were a bit tired, but hey – memories were made!)

Lately, we have considered the materialism of Christmas, and as the children matured into adults, considered the intent of the gifts in the celebration. We tended to pull away from material gifting, and moved over to creating memories for us as a family.

Suffice it to say, traditions such our gift giving at Christmas (fluid as it was), birthday parties, wedding customs and even sports events have been woven into our lives.

This short series on traditions will consider what the Word provides as guidance in the believers life. We will follow the primary Greek word “paradosis” the New Testament writers used that we understand as “tradition”. Below, find the proverbial Vines Expository definition of the term we will be looking into during our time together. Sure hope to see you at our next post as we dive into Matthew 15.

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Church Authority · Deacons · Elders · Pastors

Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds as Rulers – 9

shepherd-carrying-sheepGood Shepherds Rule the Flock?

with force and harshness you have ruled them

Two leadership characteristics define the shepherds that tick off Ezekiel

Ezek 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

First off lets define the characteristics Ezekiel accuses the shepherds of.


חׇזְקָה chozqâh, khoz-kaw’; feminine of H2392; vehemence (usually in a bad sense):—force, mightily, repair, sharply.


פֶּרֶךְ perek, peh’-rek; from an unused root meaning to break apart; fracture, i.e. severity:—cruelty, rigour.

Seems these shepherds were being kinda nasty with the way they were shepherding the flock. Descriptions such as force, cruelty, rigour – these are simply negative terms. These shepherds were ‘ruling” as a king, or in my mind, like the typical worldly minded boss that has authority issues in his life (Those type were probably bullied in thier childhood, if you ask me.)

Hebrews 13 7

As always, there are exceptions to the “rule” – The New Testament freely revises the method of shepherding, since Hebrews 13:17, (at least in the ol’ KJV), allows for shepherds to rule over thier flock. (Hellooo – I am being waggish here!!!)

I have addressed the ruling of shepherds discussed in Hebrews 13:17 in five posts, called “Christian Accountability” Check it out when you have a chance.

Let’s look at the definition for rule in the Ezekiel passage


רָדָה râdâh, raw-daw’; a primitive root; to tread down, i.e. subjugate; specifically, to crumble off:—(come to, make to) have dominion, prevail against, reign, (bear, make to) rule,(-r, over), take.

Wow – these shepherds were actings as kings! Ruling with dominion, prevailing against the sheep, reigning!

No wonder the shepherds crucified the good Shepherd. He was atypical, and the light of His life shone on the bad shepherds, exposing thier cruel manner of shepherding.

The rub comes when I look around today. Do we see Ezekiel’s type of shepherd still reigning over God’s people? Of course.

Superiority of the Professional Shepherd


There are many instances of the superiority of the Shepherd in this culture, those who demand respect from thier flock. Fellowship of the Spirit has been replaced with faithfulness to the Pastor/Priest/Minister. Submission to the will of God has been replaced with subservience to the vision of the Pastor/Priest/Minister.

Don’t get me wrong – We are to submit to one another. That is clear from the book of Ephesians 5:21 .. submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Professional Cross

My concern is the superiority of the professional christian, and the desire of christendom to have it so.

We want a man (or woman) to tell us what God wants. But He has given the Spirit of God to believers for (subjective) guidance, and the Word of God for (objective) guidance. What a blessing to have both the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit of God will not guide you where the Word of God restricts! (Is that news to anyone out there?)

The Apostle Paul’s Superiority

Let’s check out the superiority of the Apostle Paul. Surely if any believer could demand obedience and respect, it would be the apostle Paul. But this concept took a hit in my thinking when I came across 1 Corinthians 16:12.

1 Corinthians 16:12

Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

Did you catch that? How audacious is that Apollos?!
First off, this is the urging of the Apostle Paul, a man who has seen the Lord, and been given revelations he isn’t allowed to speak of. How dare Apollos refuse a request, a strong urging of the Apostle. contumacious

OK – here comes one of my rants!
I tell you, if I was the Apostle, I would have strictly censored Apollos, brought him before the church leadership, stripped him of all fellowship, taken him to the middle of the town and placed him in stocks, with a sign over his head “CONTUMACIOUS” (a wee bit waggish don’t you know!)

What did Paul do? The Apostle of the Gentiles submitted(?) to Apollos’ will – Apollos will come when he has opportunity. How outrageous! How can Paul’s ministry withstand such an insult, such a shaming of authority?

Secondly, I myself wouldn’t have informed the Corinthians of the lack of influence I had over Apollos. Such weakness on Paul’s part. Doesn’t leadership demand obedience?

Unless there was a greater lesson. Hmmmmm.

Self Appointed Apostles & Prophets

Joe the Apostle

The superiority of the professional christian seems to be in full bloom in my neck of the woods. A current fad that has erupted recently in my city is the self proclaimed apostle or prophet. Signs (I mean advertising signs) are all over the city touting of the glorious ministry these apostles and prophets are displaying. Thier billboards and signs have glossy pics of thier person, with crowds feigning at thier presence, with airbrushed highlights and endorsements from other self proclaimed apostles or prophets.

For some reason I fear these “great” christians may never discuss thier weakness and frailty, or the time they had to escape the city in a basket. (Read the last post if this makes no sense)


My friend, if you are under a professional christian that is forcing his way on your life with harshness, run away. Save your soul from the destruction he or she is inflicting on you.

On the other hand, if you currently have found a shepherd that exhibits the humility of the Lord Jesus, and is a man of like passions as yourself, honouring God in his weakness, you have found a blessing. A rare blessing. Let him know, and he just might blush.

Give thanks to the Good Shepherd for your human shepherd.

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Church Authority · Deacons · Elders · Pastors

Ezekiel 34 – Shepherds & The Lost – 8

shepherd-carrying-sheepTrue Shepherds Seek the Flock

the lost you have not sought

In our last post, that is on those sheep that were straying, we found that the shepherds were acting on the sheep, forcing them out, banishing them, thrusting the sheep away. The sheep were straying away from the flock due to the active work of the shepherds.

No so in this instance. But first, lets read the passage.

Ezek 34 :4
The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Let’s define the term “sought” first. The Hebrew word is baqash. The definition is as follows
בָּקַשׁ bâqash, baw-kash’;

  • to search out (by any method, specifically in worship or prayer); by implication, to strive after:
    • ask,
    • beg,
    • beseech,
    • desire,
    • enquire,
    • get,
    • make inquisition,
    • procure,
    • (make) request,
    • require,
    • seek (for).

I hope you get the impression that this seeking represents a drawing action on the part of the shepherd, a rescuing effort.
It may seem I am laboring an obvious point, but these last two terms represent a duality that the bad shepherds were getting completely backwards.
The previous blog described the shepherds as actively rejecting the sheep. Not so in this phrase. The shepherds were simply indifferent. The shepherds were acting passively in regards to the sheep they were responsible for.

True Shepherds Seek the Flock

Luke is the gospel that displays the seeking heart of the Messiah. His life and character stand in stark contrast to the shepherds Ezekiel is describing

Luke 5:31 – 32

31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Again, the Master is describing His heart, and the extent of effort and risk He will undergo to find that one sheep, and to rescue it, bring it home and celebrate with His loved ones.

Good Shepherd seeking lost sheep

Luke 15:4 – 74 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Note that the shepherd lays the sheep on His shoulders. I have heard that shepherds, when finding a lost sheep, will break one of the sheeps legs, to dissuade the sheep of ever leaving again. I don’t know if this was common practice in Jesus day. No matter, it is the Shepherds perogative to disciplinie His sheep, and He does so with our benefit in mind.

The truth that stands out for me, is that the Shepherd carried the sheep, the wandering sheep that caused ths shepherd to leave the comfort of His home, and to search, search search. He carries the sheep, and that with rejoicing, not anger or resentment over having to search all day, possibly missing the football game after church, or loosing out on the bbq over at Sally’s home.

One of the first Bible verses I memorized speaks of this intent of the Messiah. His desire to not only save the lost, but to seek them. He is actively searching.

seeking the lost

Luke 19:10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

This verse actually confused me for many years. I was considering a popular teaching of how Jesus’ mission was to save only those He knew would trust Him, those that, from the foundation of the world, would be destined to believe and be saved.

In my opinion, seeking them seemed to be unneccessary since they would come to faith no matter. Currently, I understand the seeking is the first step, an effort independant of the saving effort. He seeks. And He saves.

Back to Ezekiel 34. From verse 5 – 6, the Lord describes the current condition of the sheep. And what is that condition? The sheep were scattered, dispersed, strewn about.

scattered sheep

Ezekiel 34:5-6

5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

The sheep were scattered due to the shepherds actions (or inactions)!

Verses 7-10, the Lord speaks of the sheep becoming prey for beasts, while the shepherds lived a life of self indulgence.

The Lord states He is against the shepherds. The shepherds are the enemy. He will rescue the sheep from these shepherds. Rescuing speaks of danger, danger at the hands of the shepherds that the Lord has declared to be the enemy.

He is against the shepherds, and will no longer allow the sheep to be food for the shepherds.

Current Conditions

Times have not changed. During the apostle Paul’s ministry, false apostles in the Corinthian church brought believers into bondage, exalting themselves, taking advantage of the sheep, and speaking of how important they were as shepherds.

2 Corinthians 11:19-20
19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!
20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

Does this not smack of the same attitude, the same superiority, and abuse that Ezekiel was confronting? Is not this an all too common condition of the western church?

Don’t get me started!

Paul tries to shame the believers in this passage, but it also reveals that false teachers/shepherds are a constant problem for the people of God, no matter what time we live in!

How did Paul exhibit his authority? By the shameful (cowardly?) escape from Damascus.

Paul in basket

Paul was a man of like passions, with fear and weakness. He regretfully boasted of the sufferings for the Lord in the previous verses – he was forced to speak of it.
He would rather have “boasted” of his humanity and exalted the Lord in his life.
Strange credentials to say the least!
Lets get back to Ezekiel, and end this post on a positive note!

Ezekiel 34:15-16

15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD.

16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

Parable of lost sheep

The Lord Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ

  • will make them (the sheep) lie down
  • will seek the lost
  • will bring back the strayed
  • will bind up the injured
  • will strengthen the weak

He is the Good Shepherd!

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