Christian Traditions, Pt. 1

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Mark 7:7-9, Matthew 4:4
A common question that non-Christians level against Christians is the great division among them. There are so many different denominations. There is an attempt to bring them all together. Is this good? Using a pope's encyclical, this is the first in a series that looks at points that need to be agreed upon.
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's word.


John Bradshaw: Hi, and welcome to Bible talk where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects us today. I'm John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: And I'm Gary Gibbs.

John: And this might be a good program, Gary, to talk about how the Bible affects us today. As you look around Christianity, we apparently worship the same Christ. We apparently read from the same Bible, taking into account various translations.

One of the charges leveled against Christianity is that it is so fractured, so divisive. Christians just don't agree. Non-Christians love to fire this off at Christians and say, "You're so divided, so divisive. One Christ and thousands of different Churches."

Now, there is something to that charge aimed at the church.

Gary: There really is. I've traveled over in India and other places in the world, and the non-Christian religions. They do look at us and they say, "How is it that you Christians, you read one Bible and yet you have so many different sects, so many different divisions. Will the real Christian stand up, please."

John: I've got to say this before we go on. You can look at almost any of the major religious systems in the world, not just Christianity, Many of them are fractured and divided. They have their schisms and I forget the word I'm looking for there. They have their little cliques and little branches and versions. This thing that afflicts Christianity... Factions is the word I was looking for. This thing that afflicts Christianity, it is common in other religious systems, as well.

But it's true that Christianity is far more divided than it ought to be. In fact, it should be divided at all. Jesus prayed to his Father that we may all be one.

Gary: That reminds me of something Pope John Paul came out with several years ago. It's twelfth and cyclical. He actually used that phrase, "Et unum sint" in the Latin. "May they all be one."

His appeal to the Christian church was that we all should come together again. He said he wants to increase the unity of all Christians until they reach full communion. It's a worthy goal. It's Jesus' goal, in fact.

John: I know that very recently, around the world, there have been large calls within Christianity for unity. There's a big ecumenical push that has been going on for years and is gathering steam. The attempt is to bring Christians back together. It's a great goal. We ought to be together. Yet, we need to consider how unity ought to take place.

Now, with this in mind, let me remind you now that today, we have a tremendous free offer for you with a little book written by Gary Gibbs. It's called "Coming: One-world Church." You want to get your hands on this book, "Coming: One-world Church." We'll give you a mailing address, emailing address, phone number at the end of the program. You get that. We'll give you "Coming: One-world Church." This will really be a blessing to you.

Gary: Well, if you look Christianity today, you have the mainline churches. You have the Catholic churches, the Anglican, the Episcopalian. There have been some moves toward unity in those churches I've mentioned.

But you also have the evangelical churches. You have the Baptist churches. You have the charismatic churches, all these different branches of Christianity. How are they going to come together?

Pope John Paul, the former pope, in his, "May they all be one encyclical." He's identified five key points, because this was a big part of his papacy was to try to bring us all back together again. And from his position of being able to talk to the different leaders of the churches around the world, he determined there were five key doctrines that needed further study, before we could reach full communion.

Here they are, John. Scripture and tradition. The relationship of scripture and tradition. Really, that's the foundation of all this because you have to determine what your authority is when you're going to determine what is right.

The other one, the church's authority, the ordination of priests, the sacrament of the Eucharist and the role of the virgin Mary.

It would be good for us just to use his outline as a world leaders who was in touch with all the different churches, and use his outline. Go through it as he encourages us to do this if we're going to come together in one as Jesus prayed in John 17.

John: Maybe that first point is worth looking at. It's a big one. Something he said needs to be studied further, the relationship of scripture and tradition.

It might be that tradition is one of the major stumbling blocks. I didn't say it's bad. And I didn't say it's good. But a stumbling block in coming together because we talk about the Bible. Yes, let's rally around the Bible. But a lot of people have difficulty doing that. Because in their faith tradition, there are traditions that they feel are very important, maybe even supersede the Bible.

As we push forward here today in Bible Talk, we want to say, "Let the Bible be the standard. Let the Bible be the final authority." It's fair to do that.

Gary: It is. I look at my own church and I've seen we do certain things because they're traditional things. Now, they might not be against the Bible, but they're traditional things. I as a pastor, have gone in and as we've discussed how we worship or something, we might want to move a prayer in the service to a different place. Or, we might want to change where the children's story is located in the service.

Well, boy! You thought you were starting world war three to move anything in that church service because the tradition was, "That's the way we always do it."

John: That's right. "Things have always been done like this!"

Maybe the human animal just gets comfortable with certain routines. There's some people who have been going to church who have been sitting in the same spot for 20, 30, 40, 50 years.

Now, nothing wrong with that, and I'm not saying that there is.

Gary: We'll be the guest that comes in and sits in their spot.

John: Yeah, sure. That's right. I know that that happens. But it goes to show that we are creatures of habit and we love that familiarity and that routine.

There's some traditions that have come into Christianity that probably need some investigating. It needs to be resolved in our minds whether we want to follow the Bible or whether we want to follow tradition.

Gary: Now, it really gets back to the authority that we have. Now here is how the Roman church teaches on this. This is official Roman church teaching on this topic and this is why the Pope said, "Here's why we have to study this."

"We find the truths," I'm quoting, "revealed by God in sacred scripture and sacred tradition. Both sacred scripture and sacred tradition are the inspired word of God and both are forms of divine revelation.

So the church says that scripture and tradition actually constitute divine revelation. Now, that became a big problem with some of the believers in the Middle Ages. Members of the church like Martin Luther, Zwingli, Husk, Jerome. They said, "No, it's not tradition and scripture. It is Scripture. Scripture always trumps tradition if tradition and Scripture conflict with one another.

That issue right there has been the major issue dividing the Catholic, the Orthodox churches from your Evangelical, Protestant churches for centuries. It's one of the biggest divisions that ever came into the church on this very point.

John: It was the protestant reformers who coined the phrase, "Sola scriptura. Scripture alone."

If that is your basis, sooner or later you're going to run into some of these questions that are going to be sticky and problematic.

I've got a question for you, could we say sacred tradition and sacred scripture go together? I believe we could, if that tradition did not contradict what was written in the Bible already.

Gary: I'll give you a Bible text. Second Thessalonians 2:15, "Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold to traditions which you've been taught, whether by work or our Epistle."

These are traditions that came from God's inspired apostles that do not contradict the rest of the Bible. And yes, we're to hold those fast.

John: Now, when I was a child, I was taught if you're good, you go to Heaven. If you're bad, you go to Hell. If you're not real good but you're not real bad, you go to Purgatory. You stay there a while and atone for your sins. Your time there could be shortened, it could be lengthened, depending on the prayers prayed and the offerings made for you in your behalf by others.

Now Purgatory did not appeal to me as an idea. I didn't like it. Somebody told me it would be hot.

Gary: Well, that's better than Hell.

John: Well, only just was the way it was put to me. I thought, "For one, I don't really like this." But the more I thought about and read about and asked about this thing, I discovered that according to the Bible, at least, there's no such place. According to the Bible.

I'm not talking about the Apocryphal books. There are those books of the Apocrypha that the biblical scholar really doesn't really want to have. The Bible student doesn't really want to have anything, any time for.

You can't really believe in those things as being inspired. We talk about the Maccabees, Wisdom, Tobit and the 13th chapter of Daniel. You and I both know there's only 12. Sometimes the Apocryphal books are appealed to as a reason to believe these things that are traditions.

But I got into the Bible and I was quite glad to know that, as far as Purgatory went, no such place, not at all. If you're going to believe the traditions, you get bound to that and maybe caught up in that. But if the Bible will be your final authority, then it's nothing that you need to worry about.

Gary: And this are the traditions that are condemned in the Bible. In Mark 7:7-9, Jesus said, "How be it vain that they do worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, full well you reject the commandment of God that you might keep your own traditions."

These are traditions that replace the clear teachings of God's word.

John: There are others, too. I know of some Christians who like to keep the feast days. Feast day keepers. They think that somehow there's some merit in keeping those today.

They were enforced at one time. They were to be kept once. God asked the Israelites to honor these and observe these and keep these. When Jesus died, they were no longer kept. You get into Colossians chapter two, and Paul plainly talks about these things and says straight out, that these are traditions. Once God required them. When God did not require them, they were simply traditions and, therefore, weren't binding on people anymore.

Gary: The vain traditions of this world.

When we come down to scripture versus tradition, we have to say we know God inspired the writers of the Bible. The Bible says that. The Holy Spirit inspired these writers. If we want to learn truth, what we need to do is compare Scripture with Scripture. You can find the truth on any given topic by just looking up every Scripture that deals with that topic.

If you want to know the truth about what happens at death, whether you go to Purgatory, Hell or Heaven, look up every text in the Bible that says death or connected to that topic.

Baptism. Look up every word in the bible that says baptism. You find the truth, Bible truth, on baptism.

Scripture is all we need. Now, we ought to test every tradition that we're given from the church against those scriptures. If it doesn't contradict the scripture, then hold onto that tradition. But it's a tradition that you don't find any root in scripture, then you need to get rid of it because those traditions will actually lead you away from scripture.

John: I'm glad God didn't leave us to be the authority of what to believe and what not to believe. He said, "I've given you the Bible as my fail safe guide."

If you were going to appeal to the traditions of your church, then I might as well appeal to the traditions of my church and someone else to the traditions of their church. The question is, who's traditions are the ones that we ought to follow?

The answer is follow God's traditions. Follow the word of God. Look to the holy Bible. If you follow that, you will not go wrong.

Gary: The best counsel to follow is Jesus' own words in Matthew 4:4. He said, "Live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

John: Friend, I hope you will purpose in your heart to have that experience. What a blessing.

God didn't ask us to figure all of this out. He's done the figuring out and he says to us, "This is the way. Walk ye in it. Let's walk in that way."

Thanks for spending time with us, this time. We'll look for you next time on Bible Talk.


John: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide. We'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study included many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject, including information you'll want to know. To receive this free and informative Bible study guide, simply call. Write or email. And ask for "Coming-One World Church."

The toll-free number is 866-BIBLESC. That's 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, California, 95678. That's P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, California 95678. Or, email us at Bible Talk is being produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of Lifetalk Radio.

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