Tuesday: Traditions of the Elders

As we saw, some of the rabbis paid so much attention to the rules and traditions created to assist in the keeping of the law of Moses that they failed to distinguish between the two. After a while, the words of the rabbis gained canonical status; people thought they were as binding as Scripture. In all probability, when the rabbis originally wrote their commentaries, they had no intention of adding to the pages of Scripture. However, their devoted disciples probably saw it as their duty to share these unique interpretations with the general populace.

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Read again Matthew 15:1-2. The tradition is based on what text in the first five books of Moses? What is the significance of your answer? See also Mark 7:3-4 and Matt. 15:11.

One is hard pressed to find a biblical text that commands, Thou shalt wash thy hands before thou eatest. However, this injunction would not have surprised the scribes and Pharisees as they confronted Jesus, for they made it clear that the disciples were not in violation of Mosaic law but the tradition of the elders. The intensity with which they asked the question makes it seem that, for the Pharisees, this was a serious religious violation.

Health professionals and parents would probably like to provide a hygienic or psychological rationale for the Pharisees’ apparent obsessive compulsion with hand-washing. However, scholars believe that the issue was really about ceremonial uncleanliness. Apparently, the Pharisees were concerned that as people went about their daily business they would touch items that had been defiled. Consequently, if they ate without washing, they would contaminate themselves ceremonially by touching the food.

Given the fact that they levied their charge against Jesus’ disciples, we might conclude that Jesus Himself was not in violation of the well-known tradition (Mark 7:3). Nonetheless, He was well aware that the Pharisees were majoring in minors.

Read Isaiah 29:13. What crucial biblical principles are revealed here? Why are they so important for us to remember?



Tuesday: Traditions of the Elders — 24 Comments

  1. I was born a 4th Generation Seventh-Day Adventist who never opened up my heart to Jesus until 5 yrs ago at 48 yrs old! These kinds of lessons make me painfully aware that any attempt to get anyone to "properly" follow any kind of ritual, rule, regulation or law of God, can only be done with a converted heart and one that is willing to obey out of LOVE. The focus should always be for people to accept Christ FIRST, to grow to love him and to allow him to show them what needs to change. Otherwise we are wasting our time. I know. I've been there.

    • I also knew what you are saying. I like what you said "can only be done with a converted heart and one that is willing to obey out of LOVE". I posted a testimony about myself but never saw it came to the public. Testimonies were made for encouragement, to encourage each other so we do not have to go down the wrong path. Don't matter what the church or bible may say, it takes a heart of love for Jesus to obey.

      • We who are born in an Adventist family can relate to what Barbara and Marva are saying because we grow up legalistic and are hard up understanding grace. Christ FIRST, that's the point.

        "Thou shalt wash thy hands before thou eatest." Christ followed and the disciples did not. If they were complete, then there were twelve who violated the law. It's puzzling. The Pharisees were so strict with the law but here comes the twelve who seemed to be not aware of the law, or may be they were just hard-headed, or they were just living the principle "I ought to obey God rather than man", or they were just playing with the Pharisees. What do you think?

        What biblical principle is revealed in Isaiah 29: 13.
        The lesson I think is, we cannot make our own laws to please God.

        What other principle is revealed in the following of Christ of the law on washing of hands?
        I don't know if it is also a principle that we can learn from this lesson. In last weeks lesson there was a question there, If faced with this kind of situation, "what side are we going to err?" (I think err should not be the right word as if it is suggesting choosing lesser evil over the bigger one.)To wash our hands or not to wash? For the sake of the weak, we will wash our hands anyway it's not a matter of life and death. What I mean is it is not a choice between good and evil. If it is between good and evil, I think we should stand on our ground, we should always do what is right no matter what the consequence may be.

        If we are vegetarians for example and are invited in a party and after examining the foods prepared we found out that we cannot eat all those foods, only a glass of water can be.

        For the sake of the family who prepared, we will eat to prevent him from being insulted, stumbled and from backsliding later. The adjustment will always come from the strong. I hope I'm not going farther from the lesson.

        • @Merwin Judan: On the case of a vegetarian attending a party, I'd rather advise the host in advance for availability of a vegetarian option. I need to be consistent without necessarily making my preferences a burden to hosts or anyone for that matter.

  2. My brethren I truly love Jesus. I also love my church members, this online class, my work mates and all who I met daily. Why? because you drive me to my knees. You make me want to study my bible more. But we have to be careful we are not like them.(one finger to them, and four to us). CAN WE ORGANIZE A SESSION OF PRAYING AND FASTING SO THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN GUIDE US ARIGHT. I came to realized the Scribes and Pharisees despite what truth were brought to them did not listened to Jesus, the were set in their own ways,(our way or the high way).
    Oh wise Jesus, how wise you are. The asked Jesus a question about hand washing and that was originated by the elders. Jesus asked them about children disobeying parents and that came from the commandment. He asked which is above? None of us can solve all the problems facing the churches, let us pray for what we want the Holy Ghost to FIX IN US. He will give us a heart of flesh and remove the heart of stone. That morning the my meditation hymn was 258 Baptise us anew with power from on high.

  3. The problem of traditions and hypocrisy Is that its dificult to discern, more especially when one is a leader,elder,pastor or president.
    It also cames as a snare to reap off leaders that are canally minded meaning you have to be spiritually minded, ready to submit and listen
    To others with sound judgement not in the cloths pride or personal interests. Zambia.

  4. As SDA we wash feet in the ordinance of humility as Christ washed his disciples feet. this was done to be an example for us to follow.

  5. I have been in SDA churches where elders have made up ''rules'' for Sabbath Keeping which had nothing to do with Jesus. Only after many years did one of those elders decided he wanted to apologize to the church, but the damage was done. Elders, leaders in their misguided 'zeal' do many things which they think are 'right' when its only their 'zeal without knowledge'. The Church belongs to God, and the elders are only 'stewards'. They should be constantly asking Jesus for direction and guidance on how to lead His church.

    • Amen, i infact witnessed the same thing at my church, fortunately the person was baptised even though he smoked , Jesus said come to me as you are, my friend died of cancer shortly after and i seen on his face the day he died a peace that goes beyond human understanding, he was baptised in love and according to the words of God, not the thoughts of man.

  6. I like Chansa comments. Our church organized a 40 days prayer session and we were to pray and ask Jesus to remove from us one of our personal problem. Some might say the have no personal problem because it is not them but others. I realized one of my problem was having a angry spirit. I was always angry with others for a good reason. As I prayed the Holy Spirit helped me, now I am still working on it. The elders at that time did not realized the had a problem but the did.

  7. If we're led by the Spirit of God, will He not transform us into the image of Christ? Sometimes we receive instruction and edification from each other, but isn't Christ our supreme love? Aren't we trying to reflect Him? If He is our focus He will lead us into all truth. As the Jews we get off the path forgetting the weightier parts of the law because our 'right acts' based on traditional practices impresses us. We're spiritually blind yet think we are rich in goodness.


  8. Hi,
    I work at the hospital. I love how everything is so neatly organized and it has it's place. We know who does what. Everyone obeys high standard of rules and we know that overall it's for the benefit of the patients and for ours. Safety is our priority. We also wash hands, wear certain cloths, look certain way and we speak in certain formats to achieve the goals of the hospital. As a young SDA I felt safe in rules. My family were not SDA and did not provide me with any guidance. As a young person when started going to church I felt safe in these. I knew where I was coming and I knew where I was going. I knew my purpose and meaning. Now that I am older I miss those times. I moved to US and Adventism is different. It's more secular. At first I tried to keep my young faith strong. With time I gave up. Now I am on the edge. I can't be wishy washy SDA but it's also so hard being a faithful SDA who actually believes in all the fundamentals of our faith. I don't know what to do. I stopped praying and reading the Bible. I almost don't go to church anymore. It started with a pastor telling me few years ago that it's ok if people smoke when he Baptizes them because baptism and church membership are two different things. Then there was an Easter program on Sunday. Then Christmas. And I think I am done, I don't think I belong to SDA church anymore though I really wanted to.

    • Sarah,
      I feel for you and your frustrations. Please don't give up on reading the Bible and praying. Find those special promises in the Word (such as Is.41:10 and 13) and cling to them. Remember that the most important thing is our relationship with Jesus. When we look at others, it is so easy to become discouraged. Sarah, starting today, start reading your Bible and praying once again. You will be so glad you did!!

    • My dear beloved sister, I love your name because it is biblical. But I must let you know the God of your 1st culture is the same God of your 2nd culture. (I posted before that I am living in my 3rd culture). Every culture is different but the bible remains the same. Culture, tradition, and men' precepts should not get in your way or get between you and your God. I am seeing a God who is now closer to you now although you are drifting, than when you were in your 1st culture. My God, I say my God will not leave you nor forsake you, He will chase you down until He wins your heart back to him. I am not a teenager now, but I posted a testimony of myself when I was a teenager. Keep reading your bible, go back to church and keep your eyes on Jesus, see if you can do couple hrs of praying and fasting and write back to us to let us know how God is changing you. I am sure He will help you. I have tasted and see that He is good, wouldn't you. I will pray for you and ask at prayer meeting to pray for you.

    • Dear Sarah,

      Yes, rules can tend to make people feel safe because they know exactly what to expect. But please realize that the rules of your first culture were cultural rules, not necessarily part of the Bible.

      However, prayer and Bible reading is absolutely essential to Christianity. Being a Christian is all about having a relationship with Christ, and that is nurtured like any other relationship - by spending time talking to Him (prayer), listening to Him (Bible reading and voice of the Spirit) and working with Him (sharing with others).

      It is easy to feel safe in rules and think we are Christians when we may not know Christ at all.

      Consider this an opportunity to really get to know Christ for yourself. Search for Him with all your heart, and He will surely reveal Himself to you.

      Rules don't save us. Christ does. So we need to focus first and foremost on a relationship with Chirst.

  9. Also it pains me to see when people say how awful their life was because they were raised 5th generation Adventist and had to obey the rules and not from love. I know that you have right to your own feelings. But also try to imagine growing up without these rules. I so wish I was in your place! Growing up without Biblical values means being exposed to violence, abuse, poverty, pain, hunger, homelessness, sickness, loneliness, hopelessness. If you would just see the gift you were giving growing up, I think many kids would exchange their lives to have to live under "the rules."

    • Sarah, you are quite correct that growing up with Biblical values is a blessing; however, this does not mean that one's life will be perfect.
      It's even more complicated for people who grew up in churchgoing households--but who have suffered abuse or neglect.

      They have a different perspective to yours which is just as real.

      What is nice is that you can remind them of the positive things that they may have overlooked growing up and they may be able to provide insight into avoiding some of the pitfalls of outward/show religiosity.

  10. Sarah Bozen DEREK-glover I go to church because I love god and because he promises that where two or three are gathered he will be there also. ihave been out in the world and was never happy I'm content now because I have a hope of eternal salvation please don't let what human beings set an examples for you, look to god, read your bible and pray please a pastor is human just like you and me we make mistakes don't let tto gain.hat keep you out of the kingdom of heaven. I will be praying for you please start praying again remember the devil is like a roaring lion in these last days, don't give in to him think of what you have to gain. what you have to gain.........

  11. Dear Sarah,
    Please do notgive up on the Lord. I know that there is a difference in the attitudes of Adventists here in the US than in other countries. But, there are still faithful members. Keep reading your Bible. Do not look at others in the church for help, look to God. If you need the companionship of a faithful member pray to Him he will send someone to assist you.

  12. I pray seriously that in most of our churches we stop chasing shadow, I have come to observe that the church is becoming worldly, We need Jesus, We need the holy spirit. Some policies in the church are taken the position of Gods commandments. We are intrested in churc policis than becoming more like Jesus, Some of the so caled leaders are the problems we have too. let us lead by example.May the LORD be with us.

    • As I read comments of other brothers and sisters, I come across words such as culture, rules, traditions. Then I start to ponder the meanings of these in reference to being a follower of Jesus. If we worship the same God, believe the same Bible as the word of God, and the same Holy Spirit impressing our hearts and minds, shouldn't this alone be our universal culture? Growing up mother used to tell us her children that in the Bible are God's principles (rules as I may say) to guide and influence our decision making as Christians, to give us courage where there is doubt clarity when there chaos or confusion, and hope when everything seem to fall apart. As SDA group of Christian our culture, rules, or traditions are and should be aligned with what the bible says. I strongly believe God's principles or rules are complete. We find principles about falling in love, bringing up children, running a business, conducting a worship service. God has principles to guide our eating habits, how to dress up when we are going to commune with God in the sanctuary. God's principles are complete with the ultimate health care system that never fails (Genesis 1:29). Just to name a few. When our eyes are fixed up to the heavens we cannot look down because down here are humans who sinful, faulty, and in need of a Savior.


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