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Plagued. We are plagued with tradition.
This article will not be in support of “cultural Christianity” though, nor will it promote the lukewarm anti-revival that has swept our country, and lastly, it most certainly won’t propagate a relativistic approach to the Bible.
I detest the aforementioned things.
But, tradition has overwhelmed us so much. And I’ll make the statement that legalism has choked us just as much as “cheap grace” has. Both are killers roaming under too many of our steeples.
We plague so much of our doctrine with tradition. But, the only “tradition” that really matters is the truth given to us in the Holy Scriptures. Yet we stray so far. We have become as the Pharisees were, as those condemned to Hell for their heresy.
And [Jesus] said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!Mark 7:9
And I will be honest: it is a frightening thing to stand against the traditions of man when it is all that you know. It is a hard, hard thing to stand against them when your most beloved teachers and preachers and pastors and evangelists stand for them.
It’s disturbing though how much we live by our traditions. And I do it too. I’ll raise my hand up high, ashamed but willing to admit how I myself live by traditions all too often.
There are taboo things and taboo subjects, and there are condemned things and condemned subjects. These things mainly come about because of “principles of Scripture.” Drawing principles based on Scripture apart from direct biblical commands can be very good for decision-making and being wise. The issue is when principles that are based on things in the Bible are taken and applied to something to completely condemn it as a sin or call it always good when that should not be happening. These are normally called “sacred cows.” Many churches have far too many of them.
This happens for a variety of things, and a diverse number of “sacred cows” exist. It’s how you get churches that only do a capella worship and people who think all rock music is demonic.
Churches frequently take principles based on Scripture and apply them to a certain thing on which they make a decision for everyone whether this thing is good, bad, sin, etc.
But Paul said,
‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.1 Corinthians 6:12
There’s this idea in Scripture that we ought to obey the commandments of Christ, and we should still obey the moral laws given to Israel in the Old Testament. But, there’s also this idea about the conscience presented in Romans 14, which you should go read right now. Like, actually go read it right now, please.
The moral law of God given to Israel outlines what is objectively sin, and Christ said He came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it (Matthew 5:17). Romans 8:7 and 1 John 3:4 also make it clear that we must obey the commands of God. Romans discusses the idea that we should be convinced of whether something is right if we approve of it. But it also tells us not to fight over mere opinions, like eating habits, holy days, etc. We sin because we have not loved someone well because we’ve caused them to sin. Or, we sin because what we do doesn’t come from faith (Romans 14:23).
This does NOT mean whatever we believe is right is right. God makes the laws and we are held accountable by Him. For example, just because you believe practicing homosexuality is okay doesn’t make it okay (see 1 Corinthians 6:9).
So, there are certain things we must obey and then general Scriptural principles we must obey, like loving God and loving one another (Matthew 22:36-39). There are direct commands in Scripture. There are also what are known as “disputable matters,” as discussed in Romans 14. “Opinions.”
There are also pieces of advice and wisdom in Scripture that are often made up of statements that are at least generally true in the book of Proverbs.
The Scriptures make clear what God wanted to be made clear as laws and principles for Christians to follow. There are other things, though, that are not even spoken of with clear laws. This is where the traditions of man come in way too much in stopping people from doing certain things, which tends to frustrate me.
For instance, try looking up, “Is gambling a sin?” Nowhere in Scripture are we told it’s wrong or a sin, yet many websites or organizations will condemn it as sin. They look at some biblical principles and say that gambling can become addictive, so it’s a sin in any form. This is not true.
We must not look at some general principles in Scripture and then apply them inappropriately. For example, Scripture is clear that we are to be self-controlled, but that doesn’t mean we condemn gambling as bad because it can lead to lack of self-control. Or, because gambling could be seen as wasteful, we shouldn’t do it because we obviously aren’t glorifying God.
Things like this get applied to smoking, vaping, marijuna, etc. These items aren’t inherently evil. It’s not a commandment in the Bible not to vape or smoke. But, individuals will draw on Scriptures like “your body is a temple” (1 Corinthians 6:19) to condemn any of these activities at any time as a sin.
We need to be wary of our traditions and what we’ve let creep into our minds and morals. Personal conviction over certain things is very real and biblical.
And I hold to the fact that objective truth does exist. I hold to the fact that the Scriptures are inerrant, inspired, sufficient, and not up for our own interpretation.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!Isaiah 5:20-21
Remember that Scripture doesn’t only warn “those who call evil good.” It also warns those who call good evil. Let’s be very careful with how we judge and with what we say God has said.
All direct verse quotations are taken from the ESV
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