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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apostolic Traditions (Part One)

I was raised, trained, schooled, “ordained” and served as a “church planting missionary” within religious traditions of men which I believed were truly scriptural. But a serious reading and study of the New Covenant scriptures, especially the Book of Acts, shook my religious beliefs to the core in 1978. Since then, I have been on an ongoing journey seeking to learn and practice apostolic traditions.

Apostolic Traditions vs. Man-made Traditions

Most Christians, like myself at one time, firmly believe that what their church teaches and practices is truly scriptural. But the fact of the matter is that many, if not most, church practices have been derived from traditions of men over the centuries since the apostles first taught the early church how God wanted churches to function. Until we actually search the scriptures and compare apostolic teachings with our own practices, we have no clue whether our practices are truly Biblical or not!
Most Christians believe that Christ is Head of the church, but yet His headship and lordship are actually denied by practices we have embraced which are contrary to His own instructions! How can we truly embrace Christ as Head apart from rejecting religious traditions that are contrary to His commands? We will acknowledge Him as our Head only when we fully embrace the simple yet dynamic practices which the Lord Jesus commanded the apostles to teach.

What is God’s Eternal Purpose?

God has an overriding purpose in Christ Jesus, but it is not simply the salvation of lost sinners! God’s purpose is not man-centered, but it certainly does include us. God loved us so much that Jesus died to save the world (John 3:16). Jesus said that he came into this world to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). And God is certainly not willing that anyone should perish (2 Pet.3:9)

But, Paul clearly informs us in Ephesians 3 about God’s “big picture” goal according to his eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord. God’s eternal purpose is “that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold [i.e. many-sided] wisdom of God.” (Eph.3:10). This will only be accomplished as we obey Jesus’ commandments given to the apostles (Matt.28:18-20; 1 Cor.11:1,2; 14:37).

What’s the Relationship between Head and Body?

A brain surgeon, for example, can only show his many-sided wisdom as each member of his body obeys the instructions from his head. If his body is healthy, his members instantly obey directions from his head. But, if he is paralyzed or stricken with Alzheimer’s, his body parts will not obey his head as he would desire. Thus, his wisdom and skill will be obscured, rather than manifested.

So too when we, the members of Christ’s Body, are bound by unscriptural traditions, dysfunctional practices, and false teaching, God’s manifold wisdom is obscured, rather than manifested. In Christ’s Body, we can only function properly as we hear and obey the Lord Jesus’ commands to the apostles to be obeyed by all his disciples. Unfortunately, all of us have been “afflicted” by many religious traditions which are contrary to apostolic traditions. In the measure this is true of us, we are disobedient, in opposition to Jesus, and cannot minister as Christ desires!

Did Jesus and Paul believe in Traditions?

The Lord Jesus said, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?... Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition…. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt.15:3,6,9).

The apostle Paul instructed the first-century saints with many similar words. To the Corinthians he wrote, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (traditions), as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor.11:2). Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15).

And Paul told the Philippians, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do.” (Philip 4:9). Paul went further and said, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” (2 Thess.3:6).

Examples of Apostolic Traditions

Although I cannot give a detailed list in this post, here are just a few  (two in this post and others to follow) examples of dynamic apostolic traditions vs. the “man-made” traditions often practiced.

Baptizing Believers vs. Baptizing Infants. We are to practice baptism of believers/disciples who have made a conscious decision to follow Christ, rather than baptizing infants or unsaved church “members.” (Matt.28:18,19; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38). 

Baptizing Done by Believers vs. Baptizing Done Exclusively by “Clergy”. Disciples who make other disciples are commanded by the Lord to baptize them, rather than limiting the act of baptizing new believers to a credentialed clergy caste (Matt.28:18,19; Acts 8:30-38).

To be continued in subsequent posts

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