📄 Scripture or Tradition

Rev. Dr. Michael H. Koplitz

Mark 7:1-8

1 The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with pure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”  6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 7  ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ 8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”   

For 2000 years, the church has been creating ordinances for the people of God to follow. Many of these ordinances are not based on biblical Scripture but on the theological beliefs developed over the centuries. 

For example, in the Catholic Church a priest cannot be married. This ordinance came from feudalism when the inheritance was given to the firstborn male of the family. When priests had children, the church building and its property could be passed down to the firstborn child; thus, the church would lose income. To stop this income loss, an ordinance was created that prevents priests from marrying. In those days, illegitimate children could not inherit property. 

Today the commandment that priests cannot marry is a tradition of the church. There is no commandment in the Scripture that says the servants of God cannot be married. This is just one example of many places where the church has created ordinances to control people and often obscures the Scripture’s true meaning.

Martin Luther, in 1517 CE, started what is known as the Reformation. He was not the first reformer but rather the first reformer who was not killed by the church. Luther’s first attack against the church was over the paying of indulgences for the forgiveness of sin. 

When Luther started to translate the New Testament into German, he realized there were many ordinances the church had created that were not biblical. Furthermore, the church was claiming that tradition takes precedence over the Bible because it explains the Bible. 

Protestant churches that grew during the Reformation promoted Luther’s belief that the Bible must be first. However, we have a problem today. Many Protestant churches will say that the Bible comes first but they have put their ordinance books and regulations ahead of the Scripture. When a Protestant denomination places its ordinances before the Bible, then I suggest that the denomination is no longer Protestant.

Traditions are important and should not be discarded quickly. However, traditions of the church that are in direct conflict with the Scripture must be removed. Traditions that are not biblically based should have their foundation examined as to the motive for creating the tradition. In Jesus’ day, the Temple leaders were using their traditions and regulations to control the people’s lives. Jesus said this was wrong. The LORD’s Law is all that the people need to live a life that pleases the LORD. 

If the church is promoting anything contrary to the words and teachings of Jesus, we must resist those teachings. Jesus was clearly against the church creating traditions and regulations that prevented the people from living lives that were biblically based.  

We must start asking the question, “Why are church leaders doing what Jesus condemned?” That is a profound statement to make and will upset many church leaders. Organizations create hierarchy, and people in leadership positions in that hierarchy like being there. They are not going to give up the power easily that they have accumulated over the centuries through non-biblical traditions and regulations.  

The last time the people revolted was in 1517. It is time for a NEW REFORMATION!

May the LORD bless you in your learning and studying of His Word.

For 2000 years, the church has been creating ordinances for the people of God to follow. Many of these ordinances are not based on biblical Scripture but on the theological beliefs developed over the centuries. 

Pastor Michael H. Koplitz, D.Min., Ph.D. is an ordained minister, author, teacher, and webmaster at BibleInteract. He currently lives in York Pennsylvania with his wife, Sandy, where he has been a pastor at the United Methodist Church for over 18 years.

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