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Text: Galatians 1:13-14
1. A challenge the church faces today that has a long history is traditionalism
a. Jesus often conflicted with traditions in His day
b. Traditions have often been a major factor in causing division among churches
2. What are traditions?
3. Are traditions always wrong? If not, when does a tradition become wrong?
4. How can we be guilty of traditionalism?
I. THE MEANING OF TRADITION
1. The Greek word is paradosis, which means giving over or handing down
2. It refers to teaching that is handed down either by word or in writing
B. AS UNDERSTOOD BY THE JEWS
1. It applied to the oral teachings of the elders (Distinguished elders from Moses on down)
2. These traditions were often divided into three classes
a. Oral laws supposedly given by Moses in addition to the written laws
b. Decisions of various judges which became precedents in judicial matters
c. Interpretations of highly respected rabbis held in reverence along with the OT scriptures
3. Prior to his conversion, Paul was a staunch supporter of Jewish tradition – Galatians 1:13-14
C. AS UNDERSTOOD BY ROMAN AND GREEK CATHOLICS
1. Their views appear to be parallel to that of the Jews
2. What they consider Tradition is what they believe to be the teachings:
a. Of Jesus or His apostles, persevered orally rather than through writing
b. Of various church councils which have left various decrees
c. Of various church leaders (Such as the pope) considered to be inspired with later revelations from God
3. One is expected to take their word for it that these traditions were truly from God and have been faithfully transmitted
D. AS FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES
1. The word tradition as such is not found in the Old Testament
2. It is found thirteen (13) times in New Testament
a. Three times referring to apostolic teaching – 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6
b. Ten times referring to the tradition of the elders or the traditions of men in a dangerous way – Mark 7:3-13; Matthew 15:2-6; Colossians 2:8; 1Peter 1:18; Galatians 1:14
3. Jesus did not feel bound to abide by the traditions of the elders
a. Some traditions He had no problem with keeping
1) Such as going to a wedding feast – John 2:1-2
2) Or attending the Feast Of Dedication – John 10:22-23
b. He just as easily had no problem with violating other traditions
1) Plucking grain on the Sabbath – Mark 2:23-28
2) Eating with unwashed hands – Mark 7:1-5
4. Jesus evidently did not subscribe to the view of traditions handed down orally
a. He never appealed to the traditions of the elders
b. He either appealed to the authority of the written Word (The Law of Moses), or to His own authority as the Son of God
5. Note well: We have seen that not all traditions are wrong
a. If they are handed down by inspired men, they are to be heeded – 2 Thessalonians 2:15
b. If they are doctrines or interpretations handed down by uninspired men (Like the traditions of the Jews) they are suspect
c. But in some cases uninspired traditions of men might be observed
6. So traditions of men can be dangerous, or they can be harmless. How can we distinguish between those that are dangerous and those that are harmless?
II. THE DANGER OF TRADITIONS OF MEN – Mark 7:1-13
A. THEY CAN LEAD TO HYPOCRITICAL WORSHIP
1. Traditions of men tend toward ritualism (Just look at the rituals found in many religions that have no scriptural basis)
2. Such ritualism is often done repeatedly, with little thought as to its origin and purpose
3. It is easy to go through such rituals, with the heart and mind on other things
4. Worship without the heart (Or mind) of man is hypocritical worship! – Mark 7:6
B. THEY CAN LEAD TO VAIN WORSHIP
1. When traditions of men are taught on the same level as the commands of God, it leads to vain worship – Mark 7:7
2. Such worship may appear to be impressive, but it in actually empty, worthless
a. First, because God did not command it
b. Second, because it does not accomplish the good we really need – Colossians 2:18-23
C. THEY CAN MAKE THE WORD OF GOD VOID
1. Jesus gave the example of honoring one’s parents – Mark 7:10-12
a. The elders’ tradition taught giving to the temple freed one from giving to one’s parents
b. Thus rendering the command of God of no effect
2. There are traditions of men today with similar affect
a. Such as the practice of sprinkling for baptism, a tradition of man
b. When one keeps the tradition of sprinkling, they make the command of God to be baptized of no effect!
3. Such traditions are actually rejecting the command of God! – Mark 7:8-9, 13
III. TRADITIONS AND TRADITIONALISM: A SUMMARY
1. Traditions of God, handed down by Christ and His apostles through the Written Word, are necessary for our salvation!
2. Traditions of men, handed down by uninspired men, are dangerous and sinful, when they:
a. Lead to hypocritical worship
b. Lead to vain worship
c. Make the Word of God void
3. Traditions of men can be harmless, but they become sinful if they:
a. Are taught as doctrines – Mark 7:7
b. Make the commandments of God of no effect – Mark 7:9,13
1. Defined: the systematic emphasis on the value of tradition
2. Exemplified by Jewish, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant religions
3. But can also be manifested in churches of Christ
a. Doing things a certain way, just because that is how it has always been done
b. Binding practices without scriptural basis, because we’ve always done it that way
1. Traditionalism can be viewed as the abuse of tradition
a. Where traditions of men are bound, made equivalent to the traditions of God
b. Where traditions of men are kept, even if it makes the commands of God of no effect
2. To avoid traditionalism, we need to be well grounded in the Word of God
a. By which we can examine any tradition being proposed as necessary
b. Asking as Jesus did, From heaven, or from men? – Matthew 21:25
c. Careful not to bind where God has not bound
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Text: Galatians 2:1-5
1. Paul’s primary purpose in writing to the Galatians was to defend
a. His apostleship – Galatians 1:1
b. His gospel – Galatians 1:11-12
2. In doing so, he recounts a meeting that took place in Jerusalem, in which
a. He, Barnabas, and Titus attended – Galatians 2:1
b. He had the opportunity to relate the gospel he preached – Galatians 2:2
c. Some tried to compel Titus (a Greek) to be circumcised – Galatians 2:3-5
3. The issue of circumcision and the gospel was a major concern in the first century
a. Did Gentiles who became Christians have to be circumcised as per the Law?
b. The question preoccupied many churches, and much of Paul’s ministry
4. While the issue was resolved sufficiently that it is rarely a problem today, there are important lessons to be learned from a study of “Circumcision and the Gospel”.
I. THE PRACTICE OF CIRCUMCISION
A. IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. As a sign of a covenant, it began with Abraham – Genesis 17:9-14, 23-27; Romans 4:11
2. It continued with Isaac, Jacob and his sons – Genesis 21:4; 34:14-17
3. Moses circumcised his sons, and gave the ordinance to Israel – Exodus 4:26;
4. It was required to observe the Passover – Exodus 12:48
5. Male children were to be circumcised the eighth day – Leviticus 12:1-3
6. The Jews born in the wilderness had not been circumcised, but were after they crossed the Jordan River – Joshua 5:1-8
B. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. John the Baptist was circumcised as an infant – Luke 1:59
2. Jesus was likewise circumcised on the eighth day – Luke 2:21
3. It became an issue when the gospel was first preached to Gentiles – Acts 11:1-3
4. It was the focus of controversy in Antioch and Jerusalem – Acts 15:1-2, 4-6
5. Paul had Timothy circumcised – Acts 16:1-3
6. It was rumored that Paul taught Jews not to be circumcised – Acts 21:18-21
7. It was certainly a frequent subject in Paul’s epistles
a. To the Romans – Romans 2:25-29; 3:1,30; 4:9-12; 15:8
b. To the Corinthians – 1 Corinthians 7:18-19
c. Especially to the Galatians – Galatians 2:1-9, 12; 5:2-6,11; 6:12-15
d. Mentioned in Ephesians – Ephesians 2:11
e. Also to the Colossians – Colossians 2:11; 3:11; 4:11
8. Because of the role of circumcision in Israel’s history, and its significance in early history of the church, it is important that we properly understand it in relation to:
II. THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
A. PHYSICAL CIRCUMCISION NOT REQUIRED
1. Evidenced by the conversion of Cornelius and his family – Acts 10:44-48; 11:17- 18
2. Confirmed at that conference in Jerusalem – Acts 15:7-21
3. Proclaimed by the letter sent by the apostles and elders – Acts 15:22-31
4. Expounded upon by Paul in his letters – Romans 4:8-12; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:1-6; 6:15
B. SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION NOW AVAILABLE
1. A circumcision made without hands, in which sins are cut away – Colossians 2:11
2. Which occurs when we buried with Christ in baptism, then raised with Him – Colossians 2:12
3. When God makes us alive with Christ, forgiving our sins – Colossians 2:13
4. The physical rite of circumcision has become a matter of indifference to God, though it can be used and misused. From both the practice of circumcision and the truth of the gospel as revealed in the Bible, let’s summarize.
III. THE LESSONS FROM CIRCUMCISION
A. RITUAL ALONE NOT ADEQUATE…
1. This was true even when circumcision was required of Israel
2. God desired circumcision of the heart as well as of the flesh – Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4
3. Paul explained that the true Jew was the one circumcised in heart – Romans 2:28-29
4. The same is true of baptism; it must be accompanied with faith and repentance – Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-37; Colossians 2:12
B. THE LAW HAS PASSED AWAY
1. Jesus said not one jot or tittle of the Law would pass until all was fulfilled – Matthew 5:17-18
2. Circumcision was required by the Law – Exodus 12:48; Leviticus 12:1-3
3. If circumcision is no longer binding, the change implies the passing away of the Law
4. A similar point is made with reference to the priesthood of Christ – Hebrews 7:12-19
C. ‘EVERLASTING’ MAY NOT MEAN ‘LASTING FOREVER’
1. Circumcision was described as the sign of an ‘everlasting covenant’ – Genesis 17:10-14
2. In the case of circumcision, ‘everlasting’ (Heb., olam) did not mean ‘lasting forever’
a. BDB defines olam as “long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, ever more, perpetual, old, ancient, world”
b. The Complete Word Study Dictionary defines olam as “meaning a very long time.”
c. “The term also applies to many things associated with God, such as His decrees, His covenants, and the Messiah (Genesis 9:16; Exodus 12:14; Micah 5:2).”
3. If ‘everlasting’ always meant ‘lasting forever’, then we should still be observing:
a. The Passover – Exodus 12:14
b. The Feast of Unleavened Bread – Exodus 12:17
c. The priesthood of Aaron – Exodus 29:9
d. The Sabbath – Exodus 31:16-17
e. The sacrifices, with their portions for the priests – Leviticus 6:18; 7:34-36; 10:15
f. Fasting and animal sacrifices on the Day of Atonement – Leviticus 16:29-34
g. The Feast of Tabernacles – Leviticus 23:39-42
h. …and many other elements of the Law described as ‘everlasting ordinances’
4. From the context of the Scriptures, one discerns when ‘everlasting’ means ‘lasting forever’
5. Since circumcision is no longer binding, we should not be surprised such is true with other elements of the Law – cf. Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 9:10
D. WHEN TRADITION BECOMES SINFUL
1. Paul did not hesitate to use the tradition of circumcision when expedient – Acts 16:3
a. The same with other Jewish traditions – Acts 18:18,21
b. Even some that involved animal sacrifices – Acts 21:18-26
2. Yet he opposed circumcision (and other elements of the Law) when people attempted to:
a. Bind it on Gentiles, as in the case of Titus – Galatians 2:3-5
b. Use it for the purpose of justification – Galatians 5:2-4
3. Thus Jesus also condemned traditions of men when they:
a. Are taught as commandments to be bound on others – Mark 7:6-7
b. By their observance prevent keeping the commandments of God – Mark 7:8-13
4. Under the right circumstances, traditions may be observed – cf. Romans 14:5-6
1. The issue of circumcision may seem antiquated and unimportant
a. It certainly is not one of the ‘hot issues’ of our day
b. Yet lessons learned from studying the issue can be very helpful
2. Understanding the issue of circumcision can help us preserve the truth of the gospel
a. We are saved by an obedient faith in Christ, not by keeping the Law of Moses
b. The Law as a system of justification came to an end at the cross of Christ
c. Elements of the Law, such as circumcision, the Passover, Sabbath, etc., are not binding today
d. Traditions of the Law might be observed on a personal level, but it is a sin to base one’s salvation on them, or to bind them on other people
3. While circumcision of the flesh is nonessential, the circumcision ‘without hands’ is certainly necessary if we are to have our sins ‘cut away’ Colossians 2:11-13
(Taking a Hard Look at Our Own Convictions)
Text: Hebrews 11:6
A. In this series of lessons, we are emphasizing the need to take God more seriously. There is not a single one of us who does not need to do this!
B. In the last lesson, we saw that it’s possible for us to actually PLEASE God. That ought to be our confident hope and our highest aim.
C. In this lesson, we’ll look at FAITH — “for he who comes to God must believe that He is.”
D. Do we believe that God is? Let’s take a hard look at our own convictions.
I. DO WE NEED THIS LESSON?
A. Some will already have said they don’t need to ask whether God is. They say, “of course we believe that God is!”
1. Well, perhaps we do, but in all honesty, the “faith” that many of us have is little more than a hand-me-down religion. Some indications:
(1) carnal attitudes and worldly lifestyles
(2) non-involvement in congregational life
(3) ignorance of the Scriptures
(4) vulnerability to temptation.
2. Ours may be a “Christian” nation — but few may really believe that God is.
3. And ours may be a faithful congregation but real, personal faith may be in short supply
B. The Scriptures speak of things like a “sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5) and a “genuine faith” (2 Timothy 1:5)
C. As individuals, our faith is somewhere on a continuum between the faith of others and a faith that is our own. The question is: what can we do to move toward a faith that is more our own?
D. Let’s look first at the difference between these two kinds of faith, starting with the one that we’re striving for: a truly genuine, personal faith.
II. THE INGREDIENTS OF PERSONAL FAITH
A. Genuine, personal faith has three basic elements:
1. Credence (belief) – John 8:24 – This includes not only the what but also the why – 1 Peter 3:15.
2. Confidence (trust) – 2 Timothy 1:12 – Real trust produces unconditional obedience: trust = obey.
3. Constancy (faithful unto death) – 2 Timothy 4:7-8 – Faith = Faithfulness – Revelation 2:10.
B. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your own faith in these three areas?
III. THE TRAITS OF MERE TRADITION
A. Definition: “tradition” simply refers to that which has been “received.”
B. In religion, some people’s faith is nothing more than tradition. They’ve simply been going with the flow, and their convictions are nothing more than those of the “chameleon.” Their faith is not really their own. It is a matter of convenience rather than conviction.
C. Now, what is wrong here is not tradition itself. There is nothing wrong with tradition! We are fools if we throw things away simply because they are traditional – 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15.
D. Our point is not that faith and tradition are opposites, but that real faith is MORE than tradition!
E. The difference is not in the CONTENT, but in the QUALITY of our faith.
1. If our faith is mere tradition, then it’s probably very weak.
2. We’ve probably never examined it or thought it through.
3. It’s probably never been seriously tested. Cf. James 1:2, 3; 1 Peter 1:6-7.
4. It’s probably quite abstract & impersonal — God is little more than an idea to talk about.
5. Worst of all, we’re probably not able to give a reason for the hope that is within us – 1 Peter 3:15 — we don’t know why we believe.
F. Three dangers of a faith that is mere tradition:
1. It won’t stand the test of temptation.
2. It won’t stand the test of hardship.
3. It won’t stand the test of judgment – Matthew 7:22-23; Matthew 15:8-9
IV. STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO GROW IN OUR FAITH
A. Many never really confront the issue of real faith until they’re faced with some serious crisis in life. Yet this is too IMPORTANT an issue to postpone until a crisis makes it URGENT.
B. Can’t we decide right now to move from “hand-me-down religion” to a deeper, more genuine faith? What practical steps can we take?
1. First, we can be honest about our faith – Mark 9:24, 2 Corinthians 13:5.
2. Then we can:
a. Feed it.
b. Challenge it.
c. Refresh it.
C. Like most valuable things, real faith has to be grown. There is no “get faithful quick” scheme – 1 Timothy 4:15-16 – We need incremental growth, little investments in our faith day by day.
A. We say we “believe that God is,” but how much do we trust Him in making real-life decisions?
1. Do you believe that somebody could walk over Niagara Falls on a tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow? Many might say they believed it, but how many would . . . get into the wheelbarrow?
2. When tough, real-world decisions have to be made we find out whether we truly “believe that God is.”
B. The goal of gospel teaching is to produce love out of:
(1) a pure heart
(2) a good conscience
(3) a “faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5 KJV)
(4) what we want is a faith that is the “real deal.”