03: Christ and Religious Tradition – Hit the Mark

Escape (282x300)So He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Luke 4:16-19

In the parables which Christ had spoken, it was His purpose both to warn the rulers and to instruct the people who were willing to be taught. But there was need to speak yet more plainly. Through their reverence for tradition and their blind faith in a corrupt priesthood, the people were enslaved. These chains Christ must break. Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p 611, 612

How tragically ironic that a people who religiously observed the Passover representing God’s deliverance of an enslaved people from Egypt could not comprehend they were just as enslaved to false teachings and needless traditions of men. Christ came to set them free from traditions that under a guise of righteousness were nothing more than cunningly devised methods of control that led away from the truth.

The religious rulers who longed to be free from the dominance of the Roman power were meanwhile unscrupulously dominating those that revered them as godly leaders. While they were looking for a Messiah to deliver them from bondage they would plot to kill the Messiah who came to deliver them from sin.

This week as we look at Christ and Religious Tradition we come face to face with one of the greatest helps or hindrances to spiritual growth. As recorded in Matthew 23 Christ pulls back the curtain on the Pharisees who sat in Moses’ seat. He revealed the hypocrisy that ran rampant through the leadership. He exposed the pride of the natural heart that found its way of expression through so-called prayers and public exhortations.

Christ’s full assault against the debilitating traditions of the Pharisees was more than a discussion over preferences to worship styles and practices that governed society. This was not a matter of finding more modern relevant ways of serving and worshiping God. This indictment of their traditions was deeper than that. Eternal life weighed in the balance.

 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.” Matthew 23:13 The Message

It’s really quite stunning when you think about it. Instead of being seduced by heathen gods and practices, the people were being seduced by their own. The enemy was within the camp. But thanks be to God who provides salvation to all, including those who thought they didn’t need it, Christ came to set captives free.

What about today? What about our religious traditions and maxims of man? Are they roadblocks to God’s kingdom or helps? Are we fostering godliness or creating incubators for spiritual pride? Will we debate style over substance? Sabbath school should be very interesting this week!

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does “tradition” mean to you?
  • What is the difference between a good tradition and a bad tradition?
  • Some say Jesus left us an example of compliance to religious laws and norms and traditions. Is that true? Why or why not?
  • Isn’t it true that unless a religious tradition clearly violates principle we should comply? Why or why not?
  • Isn’t it true that we should discard traditions that are not relevant to today’s society, i.e. young people and unchurched? Why or why not?
  • Isn’t it true that the best way to attract new members is to make our church traditions and practices more modern? Why or why not?

We close this week with an insightful exchange over the role of highly-regarded traditions alarmingly disregarded by Christ and His disciples:

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. Mark 7:5-9

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!



03: Christ and Religious Tradition – Hit the Mark — 8 Comments

  1. It seems to me my SDA faith also follows some traditions of men. Excommunication is a tradition following the first church (Catholic) and their practice. Sin is sin, which we all seem to be under, but through the blood of our Savior and His love, we can ask and have forgiveness. You break one Law of our Lord we have defiled all Ten. So this brings me to this one fact we have all sinned,and our church is a house for sinners and Saints. The church cannot save us only Jesus can. We should not judge anyone, but love everyone no matter their status, or life style. When we do judging we are doing a job which is only Jesus job,for it it His blood. AMEN

    • Dennis, I certainly agree that we are to love everyone. However, the Bible makes clear that everything is not to be tolerated among believers. Check out these examples: 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, Romans 16:17.
      Let me know what you think. Thanks!

      • Thank you Curtis.
        We can distinguish judging in the sense that is due to God alone from judging in the sense of determining what is right and wrong and taking necessary steps to save the sinner and the church. 2 Timothy 4:2 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." That is why the church is called out to preach the 3 Angels Messages to point our errors of the world and warn people to repent of their sins and come to Jesus.

  2. The fourth commandment says, "KEEP THE SABBATH HOLY". To follow this commandment, like the Pharisees we surrounded it with minor laws ,(we call them traditions now) like, You shall not cook on Sabbath, you shall not play, you shall not travel, you shall go to church, you shall not buy, you shall not fetch water, you shall not take a bath, you shall not iron, you shall not go to school, you shall not read other books other than the Bible, you shall not sweep, you can add to the list.

    "Thou shalt not kill". Because we consider our bodies as the temple of God, we surrounded again this law with minor laws like you shall not smoke, you shall not drink intoxicating liquors, you shall not overeat, you shall not eat between meals, you shall not drink coffee, tea, softdrinks...you can add again to the list.

    If we make a list of these minor laws, I think we will also come up with maybe not 613 but at least a hundred.

    These are the GOOD traditions that our lesson is talking about that help us follow more faithfully the laws of God.

    I think, The idea of having these traditions came from the writings of Mrs. White but the difference now is, Mrs. White is different from the Pharisees because not like them she had a direct instruction from God to do what she was doing as she always says, 'I was instructed by God". And therefore we can say that the instructions Mrs. White is giving us are instructions coming directly from God. In spite of this, we are not allowed to put these writings equally on the level of the Bible.

    As I understand, Laws have nothing to do with our sanctification now in the New Covenant. So what do you think are we getting from these traditions, more of benefits or more of dangers? Are we going to disassemble these laws or add some more?

    • Mervin, you said, "As I understand, Laws have nothing to do with our sanctification now in the New Covenant."

      I look at it quite a bit differently even though I do realize that God is the one promising everything not us. The covenant as stated in Hebrews is:

      "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Heb. 8:10 NKJV).

      Notice here that God's laws are still involved. Sanctification is the process of growing up into Christ, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4 NKJV). That doesn't mean that the law was done away with but that Christ is the end goal of the law because it is a transcript of His character.

      The word "sanctification" is found five times in the New Testament. The first text states that Christ has become everything for us including sanctification - He is the forerunner, the example who sets the standard (1 Cor 1:30). The next text which uses the word twice gives an example of what sanctification involves:

      "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God" (1 Thess. 4:3-5 NKJV).

      That takes in adultery but goes way beyond that. It includes any kind sexual immorality for instance, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness" (Gal. 5:19 NKJV), etc.

      The third use of the word is found in 2 Thesselonians, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13 NKJV). Here it becomes obvious that salvation isn't only just belief but also includes something we are actively involved in that includes the working of the Holy Spirit (I would suggest things like what Paul says in 1 Thess 4:3-5 above).

      The last place is, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2 NKJV). What is it for, Obedience and the application of the blood of the cross. I think you can easily see here why I feel that God's laws are absolutely involved in sanctification. It is the promises that make the new covenant different than the old covenant not what we do as saved people.

  3. For our church to be an orderly organization (the body of Christ) we must have rules and guidelines. God always works through organization. The challenges comes when we do not all submit to the rules ourselves but enforced those rules to the letter of the law. Christ's mission was fulfilled when He demonstrated and fulfilled all the laws in the spirit of the law. The Sermon on the Mount embodies how we must treat others to live out the spirit of the law. God has granted us everything we need to live for Him and live like Him. The church must take on the challenges of discipline, but before we make any decision, each decision maker must place ourselves in the position erring one, and beg God for us to be merciful and kind in dealing with our erring brother or sister with compassion and love. If discipline is done in love, most time the erring child of God will be remorseful and accept the decision. Discipline is a tough challenge to deal with, when all the evidence of the erring one is available and there is no remorse. We must still pray for that erring one and always lift that soul up with prayers to the Lord. Remember the early church had to deal with it and we also have to deal with also. The best advice is to err on the side of mercy.

  4. Let scrutinise what makes a person to be
    The Pharisees were good to keep in
    mind the tradition laws that have made
    them to cease obeying God's commandments.

    When we read the bible in book of
    Matthews 15:20, Jesus Christ is detailising the parable of what makes us to be defiled.
    We have find that to eat food without washing hands can't defile us, but what we can think and do according our heart it defile us, how and why?

    For out of the heart is where evil thoughts,
    murders, adulteries,fornication, thefts,
    false witness and blasphemies comes from.

    Mind you my brothers and sisters in Christ,
    this verse is the one which is used by some other churchs to pursued people and giving them the option to eat and drink what their body accept. But the bible is directly telling us that we shouldn't take this food for instance( poke).
    The words of God should not be excluded and added because every word recorded their is from Our heavenly Father.


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