By Larry Ray Hafley
Two systems of religion vie for the service of pious hearts. These are the traditions of men and the revelation of God. Not infrequently do reverent minds seek to mix and mingle human tradition with Divine teaching. In the Galatian letter, the apostle to the Gentiles reproved, rebuked and exhorted those who sought to return to their vain manner of life received by tradition from their fathers. In this epistle of the apostle the idea that one can serve God acceptably while clinging and cleaving to ancestral religious relics is forever dispelled.
The Galatians had been “called into the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1: 6). They were “children of God by faith,” having been “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:26, 27); thus, belonging to Christ, they were Abrahams seed and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:29; Rom. 2:28,29). But now they were being “removed” from God (Gal. 1: 6). How was this occurring? They were striving by the law and the traditions of their fathers to be approved of God (Gal. 4: 10; 5:1-4). The source of their authority defiled the sincerity of their service.
Paul, with much personal anguish of spirit, refers to his own past “in the Jews religion.” He recounts and recalls the reasons for his extraordinary success when with exceeding zeal he persecuted the church and the faith. He styles the object of his affections as “the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1: 13, 14). One cannot be in the grace of Christ while serving the faith of his family and friends. It remains to this day a choice to all. Choose this day whom ye will serve, whether the tradition of time past or the Leaching of Christ in the present. How long will some stall between their fathers traditions and the Lords teaching? If the Lord be God, follow him!
The Problem Of Source
Are not the teachings of Christ traditions? Yes, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). Christians are to “hold” to “traditions” which they have been taught. The question is not shall we disdain all tradition. The issue is one of source. From whence does the tradition
come? If it comes from the word or the letter of the apostles and prophets, we must hold it, but if it does not, we must banish it. A tradition can come from only two sources. Either it is of God or it is of men.
Colossians 2:8 deals with this problem of source. After exhorting them to be “established in the faith,” Paul Fays, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Note that the source is the key to Pauls admonition. If an item of doctrine or practice originates from men, it is not “after Christ.” if, however, it comes from the teachings of Christ through the apostles, then hold it fast. The word or tradition which the Thessalonians and the Colossians received was not “the word of men,” but “the word of God,” the gospel (1 Thess. 2:13; Col 1: 5). The traditions they were to beware of and to accurse were those authored by men.
1 John 4:1, 6, is a witness to this problem of source as it affects traditions or teachings. John says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.” The source of the tradition is again given emphasis. Is it “of God?” So, how can we know whether a tradition is “of God?” John answers, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” One who will hear the apostles doctrine, ordinance or tradition is of God and knows God. He that will not hear is the spirit or teacher of error. That is exactly parallel to 2 Thess. 2:15 and 2 Tim. 1: 13-hold the traditions which ye have heard of the apostles.
Can you find the tradition of your fathers in the Scriptures? If so, hold it, for it is “of God ” and “after Christ.” If not, “believe (it) not,” for it is error that will corrupt or spoil your soul (Col. 2:8; Jas. 5: 19, 20).
“It Is Easy To Scoff At Truth As Mere Tradition.”
A.T. Robertson, author of the above quote, stroked a string that needs to be strummed. With an utter distaste for human barriers of fellowship and with a total disdain for articles of faith authored by men, “It is easy to scoff at truth as mere tradition.” All saints deplore and despise denominational sects and parties whether they be in or out of the faith. But let no one in his sincerity or in his yearning for unity be led into scoffing at truth as mere human tradition. Not all walls of fellowship are built by men. Some traditions are of God, and when it is determined that a practice is an ordinance delivered by the apostles, let it be kept and defended (1 Cor. 11: 2). Human traditions must be pulled and cast down (2 Cor. 10: 3-5). Every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God must be destroyed. Beware, however, lest you sneer and jeer at the high things of God.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 12, pp.12-13
January 25, 1973