And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
A tradition is that which is handed down, something that is transmitted from one to another. The dictionary says a tradition is “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice” (dictionary.com). Traditions are not inherently bad. Indeed, they serve various helpful purposes. We have family traditions, holiday traditions, social traditions, and many other such things we hand down.
The New Testament speaks of the traditions of the elders and of the fathers (Mk. 7:3-4; Gal. 1:14), the traditions of men (Col. 2:8), and the traditions of the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15). Importantly, we never read of “church traditions” in the Scriptures.
Concerning apostolic tradition, Christians are instructed to keep them just as they were delivered (1 Cor. 11:2). Christians are exhorted to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). The traditions delivered by the apostles are synonymous with “the word of the Lord” and “the things we command you” (2 Thess. 3:1, 4). The apostolic traditions are so essential that we must withdraw ourselves “from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6). To hold the apostolic traditions means to “follow” the apostles and the pattern of truth they preached and lived (2 Thess. 3:7; Phil. 3:17; 4:9).
From time to time brethren warn us against “church of Christ tradition.” We accept their warning with a hearty “amen,” since “church tradition” is not taught in the word of God. We must not lay upon others the heavy burden of human traditions and call it God’s will (Matt. 23:4).
Sometimes the warning against “church of Christ tradition” fails to distinguish between apostolic traditions (revealed truth) and “the traditional way we do things in churches of Christ.” We are warned not to become “traditionalists” (i.e., doing things the way churches of Christ have always done them), yet, are not being taught to be traditionalists of the apostolic sort. Without clearly distinguishing apostolic tradition from “the traditional way we do things in churches of Christ,” we run the definite risk of invalidating a God-revealed teaching or practice on no other basis except that we have traditionally done it. We become iconoclasts, intent on destroying every trace of so called “church of Christ tradition.” When the objective is to remove every tradition without regard to its source, trust in and commitment to absolute truth is diminished. Doubt in our ability to confidently know, teach, and obey truth occurs. So that eventually our faith is defined the very way we warn against as “the way we have always done things.” We will start speaking of “our faith tradition” or “church of Christ tradition” (this language has already appeared). No, there is “one faith,” and it relies on a “thus saith the Lord” (Eph. 4:5).
If what we teach and do is just “our way of doing things,” then “who are we to expect it of others?” We will start objecting to the binding nature of Bible patterns and reject necessary inferences to know and follow truth (Lk. 12:54-57). Our interpretation of the Bible becomes the best we can answer when asked, “what is truth?” Bold gospel preaching will be replaced with the gospel of positivism, interpretive narratives, and various views of equal validity (2 Tim. 4:2-5). Eventually, we will never be so bold as to say we can know anything from the Bible with absolute certainty! (Even though Jesus said we can know and abide in truth, Jno. 8:31-32; Eph. 5:17; 2 Jno. 2, 4; 3 Jno. 3-4.)
Here are a few examples of things being called “church of Christ tradition” by some.
The five-step plan of salvation. Some bristle against “tradition” when we speak of the five steps of salvation. Yet, when we learn what one must do to be saved, five things are necessary: Hear (Jno. 6:44-45), believe (Jno. 8:24), confess faith (Rom. 10:9-10), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), and be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:16). The apostles handed down this plan of salvation. A memory tool (like 5-steps) does not negate the validity of the Bible pattern. We absolutely know and teach the plan of salvation, not because it is “our tradition,” but because it is apostolic.
Three ways to establish Bible authority. The Bible shows God’s authority being revealed by means of 1) Divine commands or direct statements of Scripture (1 Cor. 14:37), 2) Apostolic approved examples (Phil. 4:9), and 3) Necessary inferences (Acts 20:7; cf. Exo. 20:8). These three were used by the apostles and prophets of Christ in Acts 15:7-21 to show that keeping the law of Moses was not necessary for salvation. The fact that brethren hand down these apostolic ways to establish Bible authority does not mean they originated with the church of Christ. It is not simply “church of Christ tradition,” it is the way God’s people defined and applied Bible authority under apostolic direction. We confidently teach this truth about Bible authority because it is apostolic, not church, tradition (Col. 3:17; Matt. 28:20).
Gospel invitations. How can preaching that does not include calling sinners to salvation be gospel preaching? When Christ preached the gospel He preached liberty from sin, and He invited sinners to come to Him for it (Luke 4:17-21; Matt. 11:28-30). His apostles preached in the same manner (Acts 2:21, 36-40; 3:19; 13:38-43). It is not a “church of Christ” tradition to encourage sinners to respond to the gospel call, it is the essence of apostolic gospel preaching. How does one “make disciples” (teach) without inviting, encouraging, and persuading sinners to obey the gospel (Matt. 28:19; Acts 8:35-37)? Let us not overlook the apostolic tradition that calls on sinners to respond to the gospel. When sinners hear they are sinners, they must also hear what to do to be saved. That is apostolic tradition.
Singing only as our worship music. Is this apostolic or church of Christ tradition? When we sing, we follow what the apostles revealed and handed down (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Centuries later, men added playing as their tradition.
We must not hold and demand human traditions as the standard by which to determine faithfulness to the Lord. And, we must not undermine apostolic truth by automatically calling what is handed down from them to us as “church of Christ tradition” (2 Thess. 2:15).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:18-25
1. The sacrifice of Jesus is the
supreme example of acting under “conscience toward God” (2:19). He made many
I. JESUS SACRIFICED HEAVEN’S GLORY.
A. He Emptied Himself of the
Glory, Honor and Majesty of Deity, Phil. 2:5-8; Jno. 17:5; Isa. 6:1-5; Jno.
12:37-41; 2 Pet. 1: 16-18.
II. JESUS SACRIFICED EARTH’S COMFORT, 2 Cor. 8:9.
A. Life of Jesus was Difficult,
Demanding and Dependent On Others.
III. JESUS SACRIFICED HUMAN JUSTICE.
A. He was Treated Unjustly:
Despised, Rejected, Oppressed, and Humiliated, Isa. 53:3-8; Jno. 1:10-11;
Acts 8:32-33; Jno. 15:25.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: John 6:60-68
1. Not everyone who heard Jesus
believed Him. And, not all who started following Him remained a loyal
follower, Jno. 6:67.
I. OFFENDED BY THE TRUTH, Jno. 6:60-67.
A. The Gospel is Too Demanding, too Stern for Many, Jno. 6:63-64.
II. FEAR, Matt. 26:31-33, 56 (69-75).
A. Of What Others Will Say or Do if One is Faithful to Christ, Matt. 10:28, 31, 34-39; Rev. 13:16-17 (2:10); Heb. 10:32-36.
III. LOVE OF PRESENT WORLD, 2 Tim. 4:10.
A. Attraction and Affection for Physical Pleasure, Pursuits and Preferences, 1 Jno. 2:15-17; Mk. 4:18-19; 2 Thess. 2:11-12.
IV. HARDENED HEARTS, Acts 28:23-29.
A. Hearts Can Be Hardened.
V. REFUSAL TO SACRIFICE TO PUT CHRIST FIRST, Matt. 19:16-22.
A. Failure to Put Christ First in
Everything, Matt. 19:23-26; Lk. 14:25-27; 9:23.
VI. DISCOURAGED AND WEARY, Gal. 6:9.
A. Of Doing Good, 2 Thess. 3:13.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Self-Defense in the Face of Violence
Forty-nine killed by gunmen at mosques in New Zealand. One killed by a gunman at a synagogue in Poway, CA. Six killed by a dozen gunmen at an Assemblies of God congregation in the west African country of Burkina Faso. Hatred and murder in the name of the Almighty.
Places of worship are soft targets for terrorists and radicals bent on advancing their agendas at the expense of others. What are Christians to do? Do we have a right to defend ourselves? What about where we worship? The Bible answer to both these questions is, “Yes, we do.”
Jesus approved self-defense in Luke 22:33-38, when He advised His apostles, “and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Danger lies ahead as they would travel the world preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 11:26). Two swords were enough to protect them. An armed garrison would not be necessary, since His gospel would advance by proclaiming a message, not by threat of force or actual violence (Jno. 18:36; Matt. 28:18-20).
Jesus also approved of His disciples protecting themselves when they gathered in worship. When Jesus first appeared to His disciples, “the door was shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews” (Jno. 20:19). Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” but He did not say, “unlock the door” (and expose yourself to danger needlessly). After Herod murdered the apostle James and arrested Peter (for a similar fate), “many were gathered together praying” for Peter at Mary’s house (where the gate of apparently locked, Acts 12:12-14). Could saints worship behind locked doors today? We know of no Biblical teaching or precedent to prevent the prudent protection of worshipers when danger is imminent.
We pray for an end of all the senseless violence in the world (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We seek to live peaceably with all men (Rom. 12:17-18).The gospel of Christ, when put into the heart, drives out murderous hatred and deposits in its place faith, hope, love, and peace (cf. Saul, Acts 26:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:12-17; Eph. 3:14-21).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 05/06/2019
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA