Tradition vs Scripture

The argument on whether we should obey and follow only the written Word of God (Scripture) or traditions that have been handed down also has been going on between the Protestants and Catholics (and probably other traditional churches) for a long while. The Protestants would say only the scriptures , the ‘written word’, and the Catholics would say, ‘traditions also’ as the Bible refers to oral traditions also having to be followed besides the scriptures. But what does the Bible really say? Does the Bible say that scripture, the written word is our only authority or does it say something about following traditions also? Is it bible or tradition or both?

TWO KINDS OF TRADITIONS IN SCRIPTURE

What most people don’t understand is that the Bible talks about two kinds of traditions. The Word of God clearly states that there are certain traditions that we can practice:

‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle’.(1 Thess 2:15)

‘But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us’. (1 Thess 3:6)

‘Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you’. (1 Cor 11:2)

Looking at the above scriptures it is quite obvious that traditions by themselves are all fine. Some are quick in quoting these scriptures and saying that all tradition is fine.

But, let’s look at another portion of scripture in which Jesus Himself talks about traditions. This is from Mark 7:1-13:

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

   6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:                                  ‘These people honor me with their lips,  but their hearts are far from me.
             7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

          8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.e 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

In this portion of scripture Jesus is clearly teaching that there are certain traditions that we should not keep or practice and also that the written scripture is more important than traditions. So, studying the scriptures as a whole, we understand that there are traditions that are right and can be kept, but also traditions that are wrong and should not be followed.

How do we decide what traditions can be followed and what should be avoided?

In the first three verses here, Apostle Paul refers to traditions that were handed down by word of mouth, which were traditions that were entirely in line with the written scriptures, because you never find Apostle Paul doing something that is not in line with the rest of the scriptures, and hence can be practiced,. But, Jesus is speaking against those traditions that nullify the Scriptures as they are directly against the Word of God and the command of God.

THE CONFLICT

The primary issue in Mark 7:1-13, as Jesus our Lord states, is the conflict between the traditions of men (tradition of elders/forefathers) and the written Scriptures (the command of God). The Pharisees were more concerned about their traditions than what God had already spoken through His Prophets in the scriptures. The Pharisees approached Jesus complaining of the fact that the disciples were not keeping the traditions of the forefathers. The Pharisees had a book called ‘Mishnah’, which contained the ‘oral traditions’ that had been handed down through generations; these were not part of the original commandmentds God had given to Moses (the clear word of God and the command of God) but were their own set of rules, regulations and practices. And the practice of washing hands as in the above instance was one of them. And, Jesus emphatically stated that it is wrong to nullify the Word of God for the sake of any man made tradition (Mark 7:13).

In any Christian denomination, there are traditions that have been handed down that may not in any way go against the written Scriptures. But, the problem is when a particular tradition is against what is very clearly written in the Bible. What’s the point when the Church, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has agreed upon the books of the Bible, and declared it to be the WORD OF GOD, and then introduces practices that go against it? Does the Holy Spirit say something once and then later inspire something else exactly opposite?

UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE

We should always understand what the scripture says as a ‘whole’ and should never build doctrines based on just one or two verses of the Bible. Most of the practices in the Catholic Church are directly in opposition to the written Scriptures. Many doctrines are based on a misunderstanding of one or two scriptures, ignoring completely what the Bible teaches as a ‘whole’ (Ex. Confession of sins to a priest for forgiveness). As the Pharisees had a separate book related to their practices, the Catholic Church seems to be having a separate book of traditions that are not in the Bible – Infant baptism, the mass as a sacrifice of Jesus again and again, keeping of and bowing down before statues, praying to Mary and the saints, confessions, the teaching that Mary remained a virgin even after the birth to Jesus, purgatory and so many more – are all directly against the Word of God and more importantly, against the very purpose of God. These can be said to be scriptural teachings only if we misinterpret or misunderstand the scriptures.

Just to take an example here, infant Baptism is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Firstly, Baptism has to be by ‘immersing’ an individual fully in water, because the very meaning of the word Baptism is ‘IMMERSE’. A child cannot be immersed. And, if an infant is sprinkled with water it is only ‘sprinkling of water’ and not baptism! In this, the Catholic Church (and certain other churches), is in a ‘fine way’ setting aside the command of God in order to keep their tradition (Mark 7:9). Secondly, it is very clear through the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles and the other letters that Baptism is to be taken only by a person who has repented of his sins and has believed in Jesus as His personal savior (Mt 3:13 -17,  Mt 28:19, Mk 16,16, Acts 2:37, Acts 2:38,Acts 8:12,13, Acts 8:26-38, Acts 9:17,18,Acts 10:44-48,Acts 16:13-15, Acts 16:30-34, Acts 18:8, Romans 6:3-4 ). And the only scriptures the Catholic Church uses to justify infant Baptism, are the 4 scriptures (Acts 16:25, Acts 16:33-34, Acts 18:8, 1Cor 1:16), that state that entire households (families) were baptized, making an inference from those verses that the families had infants. In the light of plain understanding of what Baptism is and the magnitude of scripture references that show that an individual has to repent and believe in order to be baptized, how can the above scriptures, referring to households, be conclusive evidence?  There are so many thousands of households where there are no infants! Moreover, 2 of the above stated 4 scriptures say that ‘all in the household ‘believed’’, which means that none of those who heard were infants! Therefore, this is a misinterpretation for convenience sake.

Then there are some others who believe that just as infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant now infants can be baptized,! This reason stated by some is a clear misunderstanding of the work and the very purpose of God. Circumcision in the Old Testament does not equal to baptism in the New Testament!

Firstly, in the Old Testament, by God’s explicit command to Abraham, the children of Israel were required to enter into a covenant with God through circumcision; but in the New Covenant, the ONLY way of entering into a covenant with God is through the Blood of Jesus. Once an individual has repented and believed in Jesus, and enters into a covenant with God by the washing away of his sins by the precious Blood of Jesus, then he/she needs to be baptized in obedience to God’s command. Secondly, we can never once find Baptism standing by itself in the New Testament; it always follows repentance. There was no such pre-requisite for circumcision; it was always an isolated event. The fact that many Christians have been preaching and teaching for hundreds of years that baptism is the means to enter into the covenant with God does not make it true; the truth is there for any sincere Bible reader to see in the Bible.

Therefore this tradition of infant baptism is in direct opposition to the word and command of God. Jesus said that we cannot let go of the command of God and hold on to the tradition of men (v 8)…no matter how many hundreds of years it has been practiced.

HONORING GOD’S WORD ABOVE ALL ELSE

Each of the traditions mentioned earlier can be studied with the Bible this way and we will find each of it is completely against what the Scripture says. Jesus said that ‘you have a fine way of setting aside the command of God in order to observe your own traditions!’ We cannot just quietly, shrewdly, through ignorance or indifference set aside the Command of God. We cannot play around with what God has said, because Jesus said in John 12:48,

 ‘He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have                                                                  spoken will judge him in the last day.

Please remember, that on the day of Judgment you and I will be judged by God’s word, the Scriptures, and not by the traditions passed over to us; because, the written word never changes. Mathew 24:35,

                    ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

We need to understand that the Church fathers (Leaders of the early Church up to the fourth century AD) by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit acknowledged the books we find in the Bible to be the Word of God;  so, it’s absolutely foolish for us now to be following practices that are against it. The Church is not above the Bible, just as the government is not above the constitution. God and His word are above the Church.

Most people are not bothered about whether a particular practice is in the Word of God at all; they just choose to ignore it. As the Pharisees did they are just blindly following everything that has been handed down to them by their forefathers. They feel it is more important to do what their parents, elders and leaders have taught them than what God Himself states.  Look at what Jesus said in Mark 7:6-7,

  6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

Every time we pray and worship, God looks at us and judges whether we are doing it from our hearts or just with our lips. If our hearts  are sincere and yielded to Him in truth, then we will obey His word, the Scriptures, rather than the teachings of men, whether it be our parents, forefathers or leaders. Jesus said, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’ (John 14:15).  If our concern is only about following rules and rituals taught by men and our hearts are not inclined to obeying His word above all else then He will hear us pray and worship and then declare that our worship is useless and in vain! None of us would want that, would we? Sincerity and devotion in prayer alone is insufficient, we need to hear and obey what God has said in the Bible; it is not enough to read the Bible, we have to obey it!. Jesus said,

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…(John 14:21)

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…(John 14:21)

 You may be faced today with this conflict if you have been born and brought up as a Catholic or in any other form of traditional Christianity; I urge you earnestly choose God and His word above all else. Don’t nullify the Word of God by the tradition that has been handed down to you. Don’t honor men above God. There were many people who believed in Jesus but would not follow Him for the fear of being thrown out of the synagogue.  In John 12:42-43, we read,

42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

When you understand what is true, stand for Jesus Christ and His word. People around might insult you, persecute you and even laugh at you; don’t give in. Don’t be fearful of men don’t look for the praise of MEN rather fear God and look for praise from Him. Only what He thinks about you matters on the Day of Judgment!

‘…Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”’ (Acts 4:19,20)

‘Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.’ (Acts 5:29)

Whom will you please? Who will you obey?

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What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

Most of us do not give careful thought to our lives. We just live day-day, month-month and year-year, rarely even asking ourselves, ‘What am I living for’? ‘What is the purpose of my life’? We work so hard to make our lives secure that we hardly even think of the reason for our lives. We live as though we would spend an eternity on this earth. The span of our lives is 70 or 80 years (maybe much lesser!!). And what after that? Have you considered the fact that you have a soul? Certain decisions you make while you are still alive will determine the fate of your soul? When you die your body goes to the grave but your soul lives on to receive an eternal reward – heaven or an eternal punishment – hell. Our life on the earth is not eternal; it’s just a temporary place.

Friend, what does it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your soul? What does it profit you if you gain a lot of wealth, riches and property but lose your soul in the end? What does it profit if you gain name and fame and a very high social status but lose your soul in hell? What does it profit you if all the people around you are happy with you and all of them praise you but lose your soul? What does it profit you if you are very satisfied with your life and everyone around is satisfied with your life and you are very happy with what you’ve achieved but lose your soul in the end? What does it profit you if after you die people remember you and speak wonderful things about you and make a wonderful tombstone for you but you lose your soul in hell?

You may be so preoccupied with satisfying the needs of your body and the needs of your everyday life that you’ve neglected the deeper aspect of your soul. Life is so fast paced that you may never get time to really consider this issue. And when you do get time you feel you would rather not think of such things. Is it wise to put off such an important issue for another day????? You say, “I’m too young now, I’ll think of that when I’m closer to the grave. When I’m sixty or seventy I’ll give it a careful thought.” What if you do not live till then? How sure are you that you will live another day? We have a glorious future to look ahead to with God if we make the right choices.

Everyone- great and small, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, famous and infamous, wise and foolish – has a common end: DEATH and then the grave. The worms that eat our bodies in the grave will make no distinction between the rich and the poor, beautiful and ugly. So, in the end the only thing that matters is your soul. God sets such a high price on us that He came into the world in the form of man. His name was Jesus. Jesus, shed His blood and died on the cross to save us. That’s how important we are. It cost Jesus every drop of His blood and His very life. That is why Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

So make the right choice today. Turn away from your focus on just this life and focus on things of eternal value . We can save our souls from hell and eternal punishment only by being in the right relationship with God. Sin separates us from God and will keep us out of heaven. Sin is anything that is displeasing in God’s eyes We cannot give excuses for our sin or say it is o.k. just because people around us say it is o.k.; it will destroy us in the end. Rituals, traditions and good works cannot remove our sin or change us; but Jesus can! Jesus came into the world and died for us on the cross to remove our sin and to bring us back into the right relationship with God. He took the punishment that we deserve for our sins that we might not be punished; and on the third day after His death, He rose again, to give us new life.

No sin is too big for Him to forgive. He loves you. If you are sincerely sorry for the wrong you’ve done and ask for forgiveness, HE WILL FORGIVE YOU and make you a new person. He died to pay the price for every one of our sins. No matter what we do we can never make up for our sins, we will always come up short. So don’t wait to do a whole lot of good works and acts of charity to remove your sins and to have them forgiven… just repent and believe in Jesus. The bible says that we are forgiven of our sins by our faith in Jesus and not by our good works. Believe in Jesus who died for you and invite Him into your life; and you will begin to have a relationship with God; then you will enjoy this life to the full, you will have all that you need for this life and when you die…you will be in heaven…ENJOYING ITS RICHES.

  • Listen To Related Audio Sermons:

Born Again – Part 1,

Salvation Through Jesus,

Second Death,

The Reality Of Hell – Part 1

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Finding True And Lasting Satisfaction

Why am I still unsatisfied ?

Is that the question you are asking yourself?

After achieving all that you wanted to achieve, after reaching the place and position in your life that you wanted to reach, after having the money you always wanted to have, after having a name and a fair amount of fame in your life, after having tried all that you wanted to try to make your life happier – are you still unsatisfied? Or maybe you have achieved nothing in life and feel you are a ‘nobody’ in this life and so are unsatisfied. In pursuit of satisfaction you may have tried everything possible – being with family, hanging out for endless hours with friends, movies, drinking, smoking, drugs, pornography and maybe even sex! But you still feel an emptiness that nothing can fill, a longing no one can satisfy. You feel you are still missing something. You feel that your life is worse now than before and there seems to be no purpose or meaning to your life!

THE REASON 

Our Hearts are made for God. Our lives are made for God, our creator. Nothing that we do can ever satisfy our hearts fully…because it was made for God and God alone can satisfy us. He created us and we were made for Him, to love Him and worship Him but instead we just ‘use’ Him for our benefits – all we want from Him is blessing, protection and prosperity! As long as we stay that way we will continue to be empty, lonely and unsatisfied. In the Bible, in Jeremiah chapter 2 and verse 13 God says,

                  ’My people have committed two sins: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water.                                                                                         And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that hold no water at all’.

God our maker is the fountain of our joy, peace, hope and satisfaction. When we give Him a place in our hearts and obey Him, joy and peace will flow like a fountain continually from our hearts. But if we do not love Him, do not obey Him and do not have a relationship with Him, then we are in truth abandoning Him and all the joy, peace, hope, prosperity and whatever else we may have, will all leak out eventually as water from a broken cistern…nothing will last, everything will be very temporary! And that is why in spite of having everything in life and having tried everything else we still remain unsatisfied. God loves us as a father loves his children. When we stop running our lives the way we want and start yielding to His tender love and the direction He has for us, our lives change. The Bible shows us that God wants us to enjoy our lives on the earth and be satisfied. In Isaiah chapter 48 verses 17 and 18 God says,

…“I am the LORD your God,    who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,  your peace would have been like a river…

 We are incomplete without our Father and Maker. Our hearts are satisfied when we understand His love and start experiencing His love.

 EXPERIENCING THE LOVE OF GOD

God has demonstrated His tremendous love for us by sending His Son, Jesus into the world to be a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus came into the world, lived for you, died for you on the cross to take away your sorrow, your sicknesses and your sin, and He rose again from the dead on the third day to give you new life – life in its fullness on the earth and eternal life once you have drawn your last breath on the earth!. It’s through Him that we experience the love of God.

Jesus said in John chapter 10 and verse 10,  ”I have come to give you life, life in all its fullness“.

Giving us life in fullness was the purpose for which Jesus came to the earth. Is that not what we all long for? But this fullness of life that we long for does not begin by going after the things in the world, no matter how appealing they may be. Religion and rituals can never satisfy us or give us fullness of life, it only produces emptiness. Life in fullness begins when you have a relationship with God, who is the source of your joy, peace, happiness, prosperity and life itself. And your relationship with Him begins not by just hoping for it or by praying vaguely, but when you sincerely ask forgiveness from Him for your wrong doing (SIN), for doing things in your life your own way, and when you start believing in Jesus Christ, the One He has sent for you, and in what he has done for you – His death on the Cross for the forgiveness of your sins and His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ is the DIVINE BRIDGE between sinful man and the HOLY GOD.  Then God comes into your heart, which was made for Him from the beginning, His love, grace, peace and strength will start flooding your heart, your life will become new and you will find the satisfaction you are looking for!

A NEW BEGINNING

So, dear friend,  you don’t have to go through life empty, unhappy and unsatisfied. You don’t have to think of destroying yourself because of your sadness, mistakes or failures. JESUS CAN SATISFY. No matter how great a sinner you are or how far away you are from Him, He came for you, you can repent and come back to Him. He did not come only for the Christians; He came for everyone in the world. He loves you. Invite Him into your heart. He loves you more than you can imagine and wants to fill you with joy and peace that will surpass your understanding. If you come to Him He will never cast you away. He loves you too much to just leave you where you are.

Jesus can make everything new if you would just believe and give Him a chance. What nothing else in this world can do, Jesus can do. What no one else in the world can do for you, Jesus can do. If you have no other reason to live, live for Jesus. He will give purpose and meaning to your life. He has changed millions of lives over the years he can change yours too. He will give you the satisfaction you are looking for.

So, invite Him and welcome Him into your life and ask Him to change it forever and He will do it. Trust Him… He is God.

Please pray this prayer:

  ‘ Jesus, I welcome you into my life. I accept and believe that you died on the cross to save me, shed your blood to forgive my sins and rose on the third day to give me new life. I believe you are the Son of God. I believe you can change my life forever and give me Life In Its Fullness. I need you Jesus. Come and fill the emptiness in my life and satisfy the longing of my heart. Thank you, Jesus. I love you Jesus. Jesus, lead me and guide me all through my life’.

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