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Christ and Religious Tradition


"Christ and Religious Tradition"

April 19, 2014


Tradition: a doctrine or custom believed to have divine authority though not explicit in the Bible.

All major religions have traditions.  While Jesus consistently confronted them during His earthly mission, He didn’t declare war on all traditions.  Christ honored and improved upon those that were helpful (John 2:10). Most of the time, however, whether by precept or example, Jesus exposed many of Judaism’s highly prized traditions as poisonous weeds to be rooted out of His Father’s garden (Matt. 15:13).

Jerusalem fell, not long after Christ’s ascension, because she had imbibed the spirit of Babylon. The “gospel” prophet queried, “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers” (Isa. 1:21).  Thus the vast majorities of her traditions led men away from “the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ” (Rev. 12:10) and made these proselytes “twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:14) - murderers indeed! When religious traditions make its adherents twice as likely to be lost than before these souls were “found,” the Savior would not and will not remain silent.

“By loving words and by works of mercy, Christ bore down old traditions and man-made commandments, and presented the love of the Father in its exhaustless fullness.... He was revealing the image of God mirrored in himself. He presented to His hearers the truths of the prophecies, separating them from the obscure interpretations which the scribes and Pharisees had attached to them.” {RH, March 5, 1901 par. 2}

This testimony of Jesus opens at least two major areas of concern that He had with the religious traditions of His day: Those that affected the people’s view of the Father’s character, and traditional but erroneous interpretations of Scripture. Confront these traditions He must, for confusion in these areas would be deadly.

Again, the problem with Judaism’s weed-like traditions was that they choked out the truth (Matt. 15:3) and they sought to impose a system of securing righteousness which was both hypocritical and fatal (Matt. 15:6).

We may smugly chuckle at the traditions of old such as, “the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things” (Mark 7:8) but sadly the Savior’s concern in this area is not just a thing of the past for the past:

“Beware lest you read the word of God in the light of erroneous teaching. It was on this very ground that the Jews made their fatal mistake. They declared that there must be no different interpretation placed upon the Scriptures than that which had been given by the rabbis in former years; and as they had multiplied their traditions and maxims, and had clothed them with sacredness, the word of God was made of no effect through their traditions.”  {RH, March 25, 1902 par. 4}

In towns that look perfectly healthy, many an epidemic “has been traced to decaying matter about the dwelling of some careless householder” (M.H. 276.4). Is it possible that the Laodicean malaise afflicting us is traceable to some mass of rotting theological traditions that have been carefully protected from the cleansing power of Scripture because they came down to us from great men of yore?

“Many who read and even teach the Bible, do not comprehend the precious truth they are teaching or studying. Men entertain errors, when the truth is clearly marked out, and if they would but bring their doctrines to the word of God, and not read the word of God in the light of their doctrines, to prove their ideas right, they would not walk in darkness and blindness, or cherish error...  As we take up the study of God's word, we should do so with humble hearts. All selfishness, all love of originality, should be laid aside. Long-cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible. It was the unwillingness of the Jews to give up their long established traditions that proved their ruin. They were determined not to see any flaw in their own opinions or in their expositions of the Scriptures; but however long men may have entertained certain views, if they are not clearly sustained by the written word, they should be discarded.”  {RH, July 26, 1892 par. 3}

It appears that many dangerous, even damnable traditions, church policies, etc are linked by the testimony of Jesus to “selfishness” and “love of originality.” Thus they arise from that foul source of Babylon’s intoxicating teachings, traditions, maxims, and policies -- pride.  No teaching, long held idea, institution, nation or intelligent being can stand on the very thing that causes the fall (Prov. 16:8).

Let’s bring it closer to home, shall we?

“The gospel of Christ, His lessons, His teachings, have had but very little place in the experience and the discourses of those who claim to believe the truth. Any pet theory, any human idea, becomes of the gravest importance and as sacred as an idol to which everything must bow.”  {9MR 183.1}  
“This has verily been the case in the theory of the law in Galatians (note: replace with the theories of today). Anything that becomes such a hobby as to usurp the place of Christ, any idea so exalted as to be placed where nothing of light or evidence can find a lodgment in the mind, takes the form of an idol, to which everything is sacrificed.” {9MR 183.2}  

Let us humbly pray that Jesus will weed out of our minds and hearts all “pet ideas”, traditions and theories concerning salvation, God’s character, “old landmarks”, etc. replacing them with the eternal truths of God’s word. For “those who believe the Word of God as it reads are walking in the light; for the Bible is its own interpreter.”  {18MR 145.2}
-William Pergerson