Mark 7:8 – For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
There are a plethora of church types each with its own doctrine, dogma, and interpretations. I often wondered why there were so many different denominations when we were in fact to be one body of Christ. However, I realized that people tend to congregate with those who share the same views. For example, there are some who prefer an upbeat service and they will tend to attend a church that has that. Others prefer a more academic service and gravitate to that type of church.
However, another thing that sets churches apart besides “type of service” is the underlying doctrine and especially their traditions. By traditions I mean the accepted dogma of that particular denomination. Many times these traditions supersede the actual word of God. People then heed the tradition and neglect the word of God. This truly is a problem in the body of Christ and the consequences of it are devastating, to say the least.
Jesus dealt with this same issue with the religious leaders of his day when they upheld a tradition and neglected the will of God from His word.
Traditions versus the Word of God
Read Mark 7:1-8, Matthew 15:1-9
Some of the religious leaders (Pharisees and Scribes) came to Jesus and asked him why his disciples were eating their bread without ritually washing their hands, which was part of the traditions of the elders. There are similar customs such as washing of cups, jugs, copper utensils, and dining couches.
Mark 7:5 – Then the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why don’t Your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ritually unclean hands?”
What is the “tradition of the elders?” The tradition of the elders were oral laws/traditions passed down from generation to generation in addition to the written law. They included the explanations of the law and were considered just as authoritative as the written Law. Over time the explanations increased and various customs and rituals evolved such as ceremonially washing of hands.
Mark 7:6-8 – He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men. Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.”
Jesus also gives them an illustration of how they neglect the word of God to follow their own tradition regarding honoring one’s parents. The point is that the people were obeying the traditions and neglecting the word of God.
Consider the following passage of scripture, which took place in the first century.
Galatians 1:6-7 (HCSB) – 6I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ, ⌊and are turning⌋ to a different gospel— 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the gospel of Christ.
The gospel was preached to the Galatian church (Christians at Galatia). However, they were heeding the teachings of the Judaizers who said that one must follow the law in addition to believing in Christ in order to be saved. They were teaching that the Gentiles had to be circumcised among other things, i.e., become like Jews in order to receive salvation.
We too can get so caught up in what we hear in church, on television, etc. that we forget about the canon, i.e., the standard of the Christian faith. We forget about the Bible and instead strive to adhere to man-made rules and regulations.
The end result of this is devastating. People effectively don’t pursue God and therefore don’t get the opportunity to know him through His word.
Some other scriptures to consider
- Titus 1:16
- Matthew 23:13-36
- Matthew 7:15-23
As a side note, the Bible reveals the following about what true religion is.
James 1:27 – Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
We see in this lesson how Jesus not only went around preaching the Kingdom of God and repentance, but he also instructed his disciples to do the same. Jesus’ response to sickness was healing. Jesus’ response to people’s plight was the kingdom of God. There are two things that Jesus did consistently in his ministry.
- Preach the kingdom of God and repentance
- Healed the sick and cast out demons
He also instructed his disciples to do the same.
This suggests that perhaps we have the authority to heal the sick and preach the kingdom of God to others. Perhaps we have more power than we think because Christ lives within us.
Colossians 1:27 – For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you the assurance of sharing his glory.
So let’s strive to mimic Jesus and do what he has called us to do in the real world and not merely within the four walls of a church building so to speak. Let’s truly be Christians, i.e., like Christ.