By Larry Ray Hafley
The apostle Paul once ardently advocated and passionately pursued “the traditions of my fathers,” but in the grace of Christ, he could hold only to the guaranteed gospel, the revelation of Jesus Christ. All else was a perversion to be accursed (Gal. 1:6-12). But what will men, what will family and friends say if I cast aside the heirlooms of pious tradition? “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). This constant choice confronts sincere hearts anew in every generation. A central point, therefore, looms like the shadow of a giant oak across the path of pure truth-what shall one retain of traditions both old and new? How can he decide what to accurse and what to espouse?
The Baptism Of John
The baptism of John had not always been of God, that is, it had not been part of the law and the prophets. So, John came with a new innovation. The question of whether it should be snubbed or submitted to revolved and turned on the issue of its source, hence, Jesus inquired, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” The answer to that question directs and determines ones attitude and action with respect to any teaching or tradition. It matters not whether it is a tradition of your fathers. Is it of God, or is it of men? When tile problem of source is solved concerning any belief or practice that is the end of all controversy.
Common Or Unclean
In Acts 10, Peter was commanded to raise kill, and eat all manner of beasts. Peter objected in abhorrence, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” Certain deeds, once common and unclean, have been cleansed. Peter learned that God had cleansed tile unlawful acts of keeping company or coming unto one of another nation (Acts 10:28). What dissolved and resolved the question in Peters mind? “God hath shewed me” (Acts 10:28). In no other way could Peter rightfully alter his faith and habit. Hath “God sliewed” you your course and the traditions of your fathers?
Things once common or unclean were cleansed under the New Testament order. But the reverse is equally true. Things once cleansed are now “common and unclean.” Circumcision, Sabbath keeping and mechanical instruments are examples of this. Though once authorized of God, they are no longer cleansed. “God hath shewed” us this in Galatians 5:1-4. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” And again in Colossians 2:14,16. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. . . . Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”
What then prevents us today from instituting new tradition comparable to the baptism of John, or what precludes us from now cleansing things formerly held as unclean? Those are excellent questions. The answer is found in the finality and authority of the revelation of Jesus Christ. The apostles were guided into “all truth” (Jn. 16:13). The faith, tile traditions, have been “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 31. Tile Scriptures completely equip us unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16. 17), and all that is new or that differs is to be accursed and assaulted (Gal. 1:8, 9; 2 Cor. 10:3-5).
Therefore. we cannot (1) account traditions instituted since tile New Testament as cleansed, nor can we (2) call things common or unclean that were cleansed in the teaching of the New Testament. Consequently, one who clings to such doctrines and deeds as infant sprinkling or baby baptism is cleaving to an unclean human tradition or teaching. Conversely, those who scoff at the New Testaments mold or pattern for the work, worship and organization of the church are guilty of calling common and unclean that which God has cleansed. Both postures, however piously they stand, must be reverently and indignantly despised and disposed of by those who love and hold the truth as it is in Jesus.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 13, pp. 6-7
February 1, 1973