Tradition: Biblical Texts (Epistles)

Study notes 1997
Tags: Tradition; Religious communication; Truth; Christian life; Ministry; Culture
Excerpted from Tradition: Theory & Application

Romans 6.15-18

15   What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

16   Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

17   But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine {didache} which was delivered {paradidomi} you.

18   Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

  • The message of the liberating grace of God is here referred to as tradition, particularly as that body of teaching which is handed over from believer to unbeliever for the purpose of drawing the latter to repentance from sin.
  • In this sense, tradition is God-honoring, and can never justifiably be altered.

1 Corinthians 11.2

2     Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances {paradosis}, as I delivered {paradidomi} [them] to you.

  • Tradition, in the sense here referred to, is worthy of faithful observance. In fact, Paul commends the Corinthians for their adherence to the principles he had taught them.
  • The preservation of God-honoring traditions presupposes a collective memory of that which has been inherited from the past.

1 Corinthians 11.23-25

23   For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered {paradidomi} unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed {paradidomi} took bread:

24   And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25   After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me.

  • The account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper was handed over (as a tradition) from Paul to the Corinthian church. Paul relayed it just as he had received it from the Lord himself. In this case, the “tradition” of a particular historical account was entrusted to man by God. Believers thus became responsible to make remembrance of Christ’s sacrificial offering by means of honoring a God-ordained tradition, the Lord’s Supper.

Galatians 1.11-14

11   But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12   For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

13   For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

14   And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions {paradosis} of my fathers.

  • The beliefs and practices of Judaism, as exemplified in Paul’s life before his conversion to Christ, are referred to as “traditions.”
  • Spiritual zeal for erroneous religious traditions does not diminish the error of such traditions.
  • The superiority of divine revelation to human religious tradition is clearly established. This is particularly true in reference to the gospel.

Colossians 2.6-9

6     As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him:

7     Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

8     Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition {paradosis} of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

9     For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

  • Tradition can be a very negative thing. For example, it can be antagonistic to the faith, to godly teaching, and to Christ himself. Stated from a different perspective, it can be associated with philosophy, vain deceit, and worldly principles.

2 Thessalonians 2.13-15

13   But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

14   Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15   Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions {paradosis} which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

  • There is a vital link between tradition and the teaching of spiritual truth. Traditions that are worth keeping are worth being taught. Conversely, no tradition that lacks a doctrinal (i.e., didactic, teaching) basis should be handed down to successive generations of believers. In other words, traditions should be perpetuated deliberately, not haphazardly. On the other hand, believers are commanded to observe traditions which are based in biblical doctrine.
  • Two sources of doctrine-based tradition are validated here: personal ministry (“by word”) and recorded revelation (“our epistle”).
  • It is implied that God-honoring traditions will bear a close relation to the saving truth of the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 3.6-12

6     Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition {paradosis} which he received of us.

7     For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

8     Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

9     Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

10   For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

11   For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

12   Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

  • The observance of certain traditions is commanded as a necessary part of normal Christian behavior.
  • One tradition that ought to be perpetuated among Christians is that of making an honest living.
  • Tradition is to be handed down by example as well as by direct instruction.

1 Peter 1.18-19

18   Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition {paradosis} from your fathers;

19   But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

  • Tradition is transmitted rather blindly from one generation to the next, with little regard for its relation to spiritual things.
  • Tradition can serve as a binding force, preventing one from experiencing the liberating effects of redemption. As such, it is antagonistic to Christ and his atoning blood.

2 Peter 2.20-22

20   For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

21   For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment {entole} delivered {paradidomi} unto them.

22   But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

  • It is of utmost importance that those who profess to know Christ demonstrate a steadfast commitment to holiness. In other words, they must remain faithful to the holy commandment delivered (as a tradition) to them.

Jude 3-4

3     Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith {pistis} which was once delivered {paradidomi} unto the saints.

4     For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • The faith—that body of doctrine that constitutes the Christian world view—was handed over (as a tradition) to the saints by God. In response to the entrance of ungodly impostors into the church, it is imperative that true believers fight earnestly for the preservation of orthodox doctrine.