Are we to hold fast to traditions?
Are we to do away with them altogether?
What does the bible say on the topic?
Tradition is any kind of teaching, written or spoken, handed down from generation to generation.
Tradition in and of itself is not bad, in fact in the book of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 it says as follows, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” Here, Paul is telling the Thessalonian church, to hold on to the teachings that he had taught them which we now know some of those teachings to be found in 1 Thessalonian and in the other letters that were passed on from church to church. Paul was not telling the church to hold on to the traditions of the Jewish law (old testament), rather to the New Testament teaching that was being revealed through him, to write to the churches.
We ourselves hold on to some traditions that were passed on from generations that aren’t necessarily bad. For example, Bar Mitzvah’s, who put the start on the Christmas Tree, who always prays at the dinner table, etc; pretty much anything that has been passed on from generation to generation. Some traditions, we can date back to thousands of years ago, others just recently. The point is, we all hold on to traditions we were taught or learned.
When it comes to going to church, some people hold their traditions as the only way to please God.
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”a]”>[a] 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the wordb]”>[b] of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
1 Corinthians 11:1-2
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
1 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
Now traditions become sinful when we hold on to them as truth! When we teach them as truth! When our traditions hold more weight than the word of God! In Jesus’s time, the Pharisees and Scribes had a list or maybe even books, that had many doctrines and commandments that were not bad necessarily, but for the sake of their traditions, they were “breaking the laws of God”.
In many churches across America, we see that many holds on to the “traditional” ways of praise music, the “traditional” way of preaching a sermon, the days when communion should be taken, the “traditional” way the order of services should be, and the list goes on.
These type of traditions is very damaging to the body of Christ. These traditions can lead people to become religious, legalistic, and deceived in where people will start to think that this is the only way that God approves something to be done because it has been done for centuries.
Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Colossians 2:20-22 “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?”
Human traditions are based on the “elemental spirits” of this world, meaning things done or taught according to the human way of thinking, not Christ’s. They are philosophies and empty deceit made to capture your thinking and ultimately lead you away from the truth because they are not rooted in sound doctrine.
As believers, we are to die to the elementary principles of this world. Our new life does not consist of rules and regulations to follow and achieve, but rather we are to live out our lives as Jesus modeled it for us. He didn’t submit to the traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes, because they had made their walk with God all about following human standards.
The point is this! When it comes to traditions in the church, we have to be careful we don’t make what we hold dear or was brought up in, as a rule for everyone else to follow. We also have to make sure we are not adding to the word of God because we feel that our cleaver way of doing things is better. Jesus is the head of the Church and the ultimate authority as to how He would like us to behave when we gather together. We should always look to God’s word to see whether what we believe or are being taught, matches with the word of God as not to be deceived.
**Now I want to be clear that what the Catholic Church does with the kissing of relics and smoke, and bowing down to saints and altar boys are not traditions, they’re rituals. Jesus never taught us to do this.**