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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Apostolic Traditions (Part Two)

Today we consider a numnber of other apostolic traditions which are still God's design for believers and His churches/assemblies/ekklesias today.  I don't expect to win a popularity contest with these posts as I know they are at odds with many firmly held church traditions today! But I simply ask you to see if they are really what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught. If you find that they are, I encourage you to embrace them wholeheartedly!

Baptizing Done immediately upon conversion vs. Delaying baptism for any of a wide variety of traditional reasons.  Disciples, those who profess faith in the Lord Jesus, are to be baptized and then taught! (Matthew 28:19,20)  In every case of baptism in the scriptures, believers were baptized immediately. The longest delay (on scriptural record) was three days between Saul’s conversion and his baptism! When Ananias came to him he asked, “Why tarriest thou?” and then commanded him, “Arise and be baptized!” (Acts 22:16)

“Clergy” and “Laity” are the Same People vs. “Clergy/Laity” Distinction. The apostle Peter taught that all believers are the “people” of God (Greek = laos or “laity”) (1 Pet.2:9,10). As an elder himself, Peter taught that elders are never to lord it over God’s “heritage” (Greek = kleros or “clergy”) (1 Pet.5:3). Thus, “clergy” and “laity” are one and the same, and they do not refer to church leaders vs. ordinary believers! This false distinction among the people of God has been promoted and accepted for centuries as a result of religious traditions of men and has wreaked untold havoc among “clergymen” and those that they so often designate as the “laity”!

Elders Appointed by God vs. Elders Hired by Sheep. Local church leaders were interchangeably called “elders/presbyters”, “pastors/shepherds”, or “bishops/overseers” (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Pet.5:1-3). These elders were appointed by apostles (Acts 14:23) or those they had trained (Titus 1:5) according to God’s requirements (1 Tim 3 and Titus 1). These men (a plurality of males Acts 20:30; I Tim.3:2, Tit.1:6) from within the flock, were appointed by and accountable to God (Acts 20:28; Heb13:17; 1 Pet 5:1,4). But unbiblical religious traditions teach that a lone shepherd, male or female, is called from outside the flock based on qualifications determined by the sheep, is accountable to the sheep, and is hired, salaried, and may even be fired by the sheep!

Unpaid Ministry vs. Salaried “Clergy.” Itinerant apostles worked with their hands to support the weak and taught local elders and all believers to do the same. (Acts 18:3; 20:33-35; 2 Cor.12:14-19; 1 Thess.2:7-9; 2 Thess.3:6-12). Believers who preach the Gospel and teach others rightfully receive gifts from those blessed by their labors (1 Cor. 9; Gal 6:6-10; Phil 4:11-18; 1 Tim 5:17,18; 3 John 1:5-8), but neither missionaries nor elders were paid for their ministries. They labored with their hands (Acts 20:33-35, served freely (Matt.10:8), preached the Gospel without charge (1 Cor.9:18), and served willingly and not for filthy lucre or sordid gain (1 Pet.5:2). So today, missionaries, elders of assemblies of God’s people, and all believers are to have their daily needs met in the same way because all are members in the same body.

Ministry by Every believer vs. A One-man Show. The apostles taught and modeled ministry by all, not by a few ministering to the many!(Acts 1:12-2:47, 4:23-33, 6:1-6, 13:1-3, 15:4-32, 20:7-12; 1 Cor. 5:4-13, 11:20-34, 14:23-40; Heb 10:24,25; I Peter 4:10,11). “Preaching” to believers was always by dialogue and discussion, rather than lecturing. Paul’s “preaching” in Acts 20 was the Greek word “dialegomai” or dialogue. Also, while religious tradition says that “homilies” (Greek = homileo) are monologue sermons, scriptural “homilies” are always conversations among a number of people! The word homileo is found 4 times in the New Testament and is translated “talked together”, “communed together”, “talked”, and “communed” (Luke 24:14,15; Acts 20:11, 24:26). Although one-way communication was done to evangelize unbelievers (Acts 2:14-40, 7:2-53, 17:22-31), sermonizing to saints is foreign to the New Testament! This is one major reason why the apostles never taught the early saints to buy, own, rent or acquire special church buildings! Believers most often gathered in homes (Acts 2:46, 20:20; Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philem 1:2). Even when the whole church in a city gathered together, their venue was not owned by the church! (Acts 2:46, 5:12, 15:12,22,30;  19:9; 1 Cor.11:20 KJV & 14:23 KJV).

Generous Giving vs. Mandatory Tithing. Every believer should set aside and save money as God has prospered them, so they will have resources to give to those in need, rather than being obliged to give a “tithe” or contribute to a collection which is spent on salaries, mortgages, utilities, etc! (1 Cor.16:1,2). We are now the house in whom God dwells (Eph.2:19-22) and are to give to poor saints, rather than giving tithes to maintain an unscriptural clergy class and offerings to maintain “sanctuaries” in which God does not dwell!! (Acts 7:48; 17:24; Heb.3:5,6). 

Giving to the poor vs. Fundraising for the “clergy”, “full-time Christian workers”, or “denominational hierarchies”.  Christendom today has become just as commercialized as the secular business world as traditions of men have usurped divinely given instructions regarding giving and how the needs of God’s people are to be met! (Luke 6:38; I Corinthians 16:1,2; II Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.) But the apostles’ consistent instructions on these matters focus our attention rather on giving to the poor, the needy, the weak, the widow and the orphan.

The Lord’s Supper vs. The Lord’s Snack. We are to remember the Lord as often as we eat our daily meals, rather than practicing a “bite and sip” ritual administered by “clergy” to the “laity” (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42,46; 1 Cor.11:24-26). Early believers “continued steadfastly” in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers (Acts 2:41-47). If we only prayed once a year, once a quarter, once a month, or even once a week, would we really be “continuing steadfastly” in prayer? If not, can we claim to be “continuing steadfastly” in breaking of bread if we do it only annually, quarterly, monthly, or weekly?

Unity vs. Denominations. We are to designate God’s people simply as “brethren”, “disciples”, “saints”, “Christians”, “believers”, “children of God” and “sons of God.” This promotes unity, fellowship, and mutual ministry. But names that religious organizations use, intentionally distinguish them from others. The very essence of “denominationalism” is taking names which distinguish one group from others. Apostolic tradition refutes such practices (Rom 15:7; 1 Cor.1:9-13) and commands us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph.4:2).

Scattering into the world vs. Assembling together for Gospel preaching. The Lord Jesus sent his disciples out by twos and commanded them to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel”. (Luke 10:1; Mark 16:15) He met unconverted people “on their own turf” and taught his disciples to do the same. The apostles did the same and the early churches followed their example. The world was “turned upside down” as the Gospel was proclaimed by the seaside, in markets, in public forums, in courtrooms, in prisons and in homes. As a result, “evangelistic efforts” which are so common in our day were totally foreign to the early churches!! The New Covenant scriptures are entirely void of any “gospel meetings” which were advertised and convened by believers in places where the saints were accustomed to assemble or in places which they owned or rented.

The above are certainly not an exhaustive list of all apostolic traditions! I have simply noted some main ones in a very brief format. I plan to deal with them in more detail in subsequent posts. But if you have difficulties, questions, comments to make regarding any of the above, please do so below and I'll seek to respond to your comments in upcoming posts.

So, What Now?

Throughout church history, whenever believers turned from religion and returned to apostolic traditions, they faced persecution from those who treasured men’s traditions above God’s Word. But they also experienced rich blessings from God for their costly obedience, and the church was reformed, revived, and renewed. How will our generation be remembered, and how will our choice of traditions affect future generations?        
Are we willing to turn from anti-scriptural traditions, inherited from denominations and families, to embrace the traditions modeled and mandated by the Lord Jesus and his apostles? Our behaviour with other saints, in response to this question, will clearly show whether or not we acknowledge Christ as our Head?

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