Thoughts on Tradition

Read Acts 6:14 - “We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

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.”

Matthew 23:27-28 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

     The Jewish leaders accusation against Stephen was that he was insisting that Jesus would destroy the temple as well as change the customs that Moses had delivered to them. The issue of customs and/or traditions is a struggle in the Church still today. Some Christian denominations have taught that God demands strict conformity to dress codes, condemning makeup, jewelry, pants and short hair for women. Others taught it was wrong for Christians to play sports, play cards, dance, wear wedding rings, go to movies, wear jeans in church or even own a television! Then there are the broader, more common issues like order of worship service, worship and music style, and methods of church government.  All you need to do to see how divisive an issue this is among Christian churches, is to google the topic and read the many varied opinions on tradition and customs in the Christian church.

     Customs and tradition, in and of themselves, are not inherently good or bad. Its value or its distraction really depends on the treatment of the traditions by the church members. Of course, there is the issue of biblical foundation, but that's another topic altogether. Without fail, we want everything we do in and out of church to be rooted in the Truth of God's word. In order to know whether our church customs are a value or a distraction to other believers, especially visitors in our churches, we must allow the Holy Spirit's leadership in making those decisions of changing customs or continuing the tradition. In studying Jesus' life, we will see that He emphasizes inner holiness rather than outward conformity. When you walk in the Spirit, He will lead you to dress and act in a way that honors Him, but this will not conform to a man-made religious code. If we submit our lives, individually to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and then corporately as a church in the same manner, we will be living "according to Christ."

How do customs and/or traditions affect our faith in God? In what way would our customs affect other people's faith in God?

What customs do we tend to struggle against? Spend time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to put off any customs or traditions that may be impeding yours or someone else's relationship with God. As well, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to the traditions that are helpful and valuable in doing His kingdom work and bringing God glory.