“Traditions” or Divine Traditions
The Bible speaks so clearly about the place of traditions in our service to the Lord. Jesus lived in a world which was beset with Jewish “traditions,” which were so embedded in daily living that they often kept men from serving God. On the other hand, there are verses which clearly tell us we must keep traditions and never depart from them. How can this be? How do we distinguish between “traditions” which keep us from God and the Divine traditions we must embrace?
The clearest understanding of the difference comes from a careful reading of Mark chapter seven. Jesus’ disciples were criticized because they violated the “traditions” regarding eating with unwashed hands and ignored the “traditions” regarding the cleansing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches (verse 4). Look carefully how Jesus delineates between “traditions” which are not binding and those which are.
The Holy Spirit describes the Jewish “traditions” as being the “traditions” of the elders (v. 3), and the Pharisees referred to them in the same way—the “traditions” of the elders (v. 5). Jesus called them the “traditions” of men (v. 8) and the your “traditions” (v. 9). He then sets before them that which supersedes all “traditions.” He rebuked these religious leaders for elevating their “traditions” above the commandments of God and specifically stated in their elevations of their “traditions” they had laid aside the commandments of God and rejected these Divine commands (vv. 8-9). Look at the results of such action: “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (v. 7).
Some “traditions” make little difference. Whether one eats with unwashed hands or washed hands does not defile a man (vv. 18-19). However, when such are elevated to the same level as Divine teaching, worship becomes vain.
Think of this application in reference to our worship. Congregational singing is not a tradition in the church. It is precisely what the Lord commanded. The number of songs we use and the order of worship may be “traditional,” but acapella singing is not traditional—it is a commandment of God.
The Holy Spirit says, “Stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught” (2 Thess. 2:15). He says to keep the traditions just as they were delivered (1 Cor. 11:2) and withdraw from those who do not walk after the traditions they received (2 Thess. 3:6). There is a difference between “traditions” and tradition.