Grace Church Southall exists in a part of London that is full of tradition. Some of these traditions are good, some are bad and some are neutral; neither good nor bad. For a Christian coming from a Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or Buddhist background, navigating with these traditions is not always an easy task. What standard should be applied to judge whether a tradition is good, bad or neutral? What does the Bible say about tradition?
I’ve written on this subject in a previous article titled ‘Tradition or Truth: How Jesus Provides a Better Way to be Pure Before God’.
What is tradition?
What is tradition? Should Christians be suspicious of any display of tradition? Or should we approach it with a renewed understanding? I’ve met many Christians who often shirk at the mention of tradition and denounce it as “unbiblical”. However, I argue that tradition is a very Biblical concept and simply needs to be understood in the light and truth of God’s eternal Word. We need to look closely at the Scriptures again to examine the data available.
I have observed that much of the confusion and misunderstanding that exists is amplified when people fail to grasp the basic root meaning of words. Tradition is one example amongst many which falls victim to this.
The English word tradition comes from the old French tradicion, or from Latin tradere. In its most basic form, the word tradition quite literally means to transmit, to hand over or to give for safekeeping. It is the deliberate and intentional passing down of something in order for it to continue.
Tradition and the New Testament
Below are two verses from the New Testament that speak positively about traditions.
To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:14-15 ESV)
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2 ESV)
I guess the most important question one should ask is ‘what are these traditions that are commended by the Apostle Paul?’ Whilst we do not see Paul explicitly spelling out for us the traditions to which he refers to, we can assume that the sum total of his writings, encouragements, commandments and exhortations to the church represent the traditions that he is encouraging the church to stand firm in and hold to. This would include the tradition of passing the Gospel down to the next generation and walking in a way that brings glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul commends the church because they have been hold and maintaining the traditions that he passed down to them. He expects them to now pass them on to the next generation of believers. Perhaps these would include the Biblical tradition of regular fellowship; singing spiritual songs, father’s talking to the children about the holiness of God.
I conclude this short piece by exhorting fellow believers to closely examine the Scriptures and stand firm in Biblical traditions as found in the Scriptures.