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The Tradition

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If you have taken part in doctrinal discussions and debates about the relative merits of one denomination over another, the term ‘traditional church’ will have popped up in the discussion somewhere along the line.  It is a term used by those to refer to an older, more historical denomination like the Roman Catholic is the traditional church for a Lutheran; a Lutheran is a traditional church for a Baptist; and a Baptist and in the 21st century, everyone else are a traditional church compared to a Pentecostal church, and so on.  Traditional because each one has ‘traditions’ and ‘practices’ that the ‘non’-traditional church rejects as ‘old fashioned’ or no longer valid or inappropriate.

However, is there a church that is the traditional church, the original, the one that was started by the Founder without any alterations and changes by the subsequent generations, and if there is, what does it look like?  If a tradition is a practice that was established by a predecessor, which is handed down to successors, then truly there is such a thing as the traditional church – the church started, founded and established by Jesus Christ who passed on His practices to the disciples.

As such, the true traditions of the church, the original traditions, are surely the teachings and practices of Jesus, and all subsequent additional teachings and practices are innovations.  Innovations are not necessarily bad or evil if they take the original to even higher levels… but where innovations or changes detract from the original and turn it into something it was never intended to be, then such innovations must be rejected and discarded.

So what are some of the traditions established by Jesus for His church from the beginning when He chose from believers those He would make into disciples, and when to the disciples He said, “Follow Me”?  Then the first tradition is to take God fearing and believing men like Andrew and Philip and turn them into disciples…  a discipleship based on following Jesus and Jesus only, leaving Moses behind.

The second tradition that Jesus laid down for His disciples and all who hear Him is the practice of His words that they have heard and the training, not just the believing of this practice, which is why He sent the twelve out again and again on their own as well as the 72 in pairs to practise doing what He had been doing in their presence – healing the sick, driving out demons, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

So well pleasing was the programme that Jesus laid out for the disciples that the Father told James, Peter and John, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him!” [Luke 9.35] as they reached the three quarter way mark of their training with Jesus… so that the Father Himself commanded that the third tradition for the church of Jesus Christ is to listen to Jesus.

As Jesus continued to teach and train those who followed Him in the final hours before He was handed over to be tortured and killed, He established the fourth tradition for His church… that every disciple should receive and be taught by the Holy Spirit in His absence until He returned.

As such, THE TRADITIONAL CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST can be defined by these four cornerstones:

  • “Follow Me.”
  • “…hears My words and puts them into practice…” [Luke 6.47; Matthew 7.24]
  • “Listen to Him.”
  • “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20.22]

Disciples are to follow Jesus, practise His words and listen to Him under the counsel of the Holy Spirit until there would appear a fellowship whose traditional practices are to “…do what I have been doing… even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” [John 14.12]

Whether the disciples held to these traditions or deviated from them is irrelevant to the definition to what is the traditional church.  As such, there are churches that hold to the tradition of Jesus, and there are churches that hold onto the innovations of the disciples as their tradition.  Whereas some of the innovations of the disciples may appear to be good, they are inevitably imperfect compared to the original as laid down by Jesus Christ.  An example of this is the classic Capernaum innovation when the twelve chose to wait until dusk and then set off for Capernaum instead of going immediately to Bethsaida as Jesus had told them to when He made them get into the boat immediately.  We all know where that ‘innovation’ got them – in the middle of the lake going nowhere fast until Jesus came.

And in the midst of all that, they introduced minor innovations like boisterous demonstrations of faith such as Peter’s walking on water, which resulted in His water baptism again, and the replacement of repentance for disobedience with worship as Jesus got into the boat.  The result of these two apostolic innovations resulted in them landing at Gennesaret instead of Bethsaida where Jesus commanded them to go, or Capernaum where they had intended to go.

As such, as respected as the apostles and forefathers of the church should be, the innovations they introduced to the traditions established by Jesus Christ can have you floundering in the dark going nowhere, and if you do get somewhere, you end up where neither you nor God intended!

As such, let the history of the church teach you, and with eyes open to see and ears to hear, hold onto the traditions established by Jesus until you have mastered them before you listen to others with their suggestions, judgments and knowledge of the deep secrets of the enemy.

And by what standard can we assess if a church is the one that Jesus has sent?  A simple way to do that is to use the standard Jesus gave to the disciples of John the Baptist when He was asked, “Are You the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” [Luke 7.20; Matthew 11.3] and Jesus answered, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.” [Luke 7.22-23; Matthew 11.4-6]

As such, judge for yourselves… does the traditions and practices of your church allow you to SEE and HEAR the blind seeing, the lame walking, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing and the dead raised?  For the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf and the dead make a very unusual noise when they see, run, feel, hear and live again – the noise of unsurpassable joy and thanksgiving!  Do you see and hear that in your church?

And the gospel that is preached to the poor is a peculiar gospel.  It is the gospel of the Kingdom of God, for Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” [Luke 6.20] So what do you hear preached in your church?

If such sights and sounds are missing from your fellowship, it may well be due to the innovations introduced by the apostles and those who came after them… those who are by reputation pillars of the church.  In particular, the apostolic innovation of changing the place where Jesus told them to go, such as they did with Bethsaida to Capernaum, and later Jerusalem instead of Galilee on resurrection morning and missed out on what God had prepared for them that morning in Galilee.  Or the Matthian innovation when at Peter’s suggestion they selected Matthias by lot to replace Judas without waiting for the Holy Spirit [Acts 1.15-26], thus ensuring that the apostolic ministry would never be at full strength.  Or the Jamesonian innovation when the partial practice of the Mosaic Law was introduced and so put anyone who concurred back under the curse of the Law, and by their letter inferred that the Holy Spirit would condone practices that were against the teachings of Jesus. [Acts 15.13-31] Or the Nicolaitan innovation, which reinforced the Jamesonian innovation with even more practices that infused Judaism into the church. [Acts 6.5; Revelation 2.15] Or the Balaamite innovation, which brought in the practice of Balaam, so that the church turned to an alliance with mammon (money). [Joshua 13.22; Peter 2.15; Revelation 2.14] Or the Jezebellian innovation where the church turned to learning the so-called deep secrets of Satan [Revelation 2.20] rather than the evident truth of Jesus.  All of which laid the foundation for more and more innovations until the Constantine innovation, which changed even the date of the birth of Christ until it was forgotten.  Not to mention the countless others like infant baptism, clergy and laypersons, hymnals, formalised services… until the traditional, the original, the one Jesus started can no longer be seen or heard… buried under, covered over, by generation after generation of innovations like the simple bare walls of the places of fellowship during Christ’s time can no longer be seen because of the gilded altars, golden icons, the wax and smoke of candles, surrounding groups of men in robes whose rituals leave the blind blind, the lame crippled, the lepers unclean, the deaf deaf and the dead dead, the poor hear no gospel but are told only of the need to pay more taxes to God before He will bless them.

So is there a traditional church?  Yes, there is, elect.  There is a church that follows Jesus and practises His words as they listen to Him under the counsel of the Holy Spirit.

Now, dear reader, if the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor can multiply their food, change water to wine and stop the storm… what innovations do we need from the mouth and minds of men who have good ideas to make it easier for us?  No, we contend that the lightness of the burden and the easiness of the yoke that Jesus has laid on His church are too comfortable for us to consider any man’s judgment that seeks to make it easier for us.

Whoever you are who suggested that we should go across the lake to Capernaum when Christ made us get into the boat to go across the river to Bethsaida, we say, “No, thank you,” for a warm heath and a soft bed in Bethsaida is far better than a pointless endeavour that will have us soaked to the bones, struggling against the wind in the darkness going nowhere!

Thank You Jesus for the traditions You have taught us.  Amen.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are
taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®,
NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved


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