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The Life of Christ

Tradition

 

Volume 23

 

This volume is based on:-

Matthew 13:44; 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23

It is recommended that you read these verses before you read the book.

 

You may freely copy this book as you desire.

The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.


 

The place of tradition

The scribes and Pharisees, expecting to see Jesus at the Passover, had laid a trap for Him. But Jesus, knowing their purpose, had absented Himself from this gathering. "Then came together to Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes." As He did not go to them, they came to Him.

For a time it had seemed that the people of Galilee would receive Jesus as the Messiah, and that the power of the hierarchy in that region would be broken. The mission of the twelve, indicating the extension of Christ's work, and bringing the disciples more directly into conflict with the rabbis, had excited anew the jealousy of the leaders at Jerusalem. The spies they sent to Capernaum in the early part of His ministry, who had tried to fix on Him the charge of Sabbathbreaking, had been put to confusion; but the rabbis were bent on carrying out their purpose. Now another deputation was sent to watch His movements, and find some accusation against Him.

As before, the ground of complaint was His disregard of the traditional precepts that encumbered the law of God. These were professedly designed to guard the observance of the law, but they were regarded as more sacred than the law itself. When they came in collision with the commandments given from Sinai, preference was given to the rabbinical precepts.

The rituals of cleansing

Among the observances most strenuously enforced was that of ceremonial purification. A neglect of the forms to be observed before eating was accounted a shocking sin, to be punished both in this world and in the next; and it was regarded as a virtue to destroy the transgressor.

The rules in regard to purification were numberless. The period of a lifetime was scarcely sufficient for one to learn them all. The life of those who tried to observe the rabbinical requirements was one long struggle against ceremonial defilement, an endless round of washings and purifications.

While the people were occupied with trifling distinctions, and observances which God had not required, their attention was turned away from the great principles of His law.

Criticism

Christ and His disciples did not observe these ceremonial washings, and the spies made this neglect the ground of their accusation. They did not, however, make a direct attack on Christ, but came to Him with criticism of His disciples. In the presence of the multitude they said, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands [ceremonially] when they eat bread."

Minor points

Whenever the message of truth comes home to souls with special power, Satan stirs up his agents to start a dispute over some minor question. Thus he seeks to attract attention from the real issue. Whenever a good work is begun, there are quibblers ready to enter into dispute over forms or technicalities, to draw minds away from the living realities.

When it appears that God is about to work in a special manner for His people, we should not be enticed into a controversy that will work only ruin of souls.

The questions that most concern us are,

Do I believe with saving faith on the Son of God?

Is my life in harmony with the divine law?

"He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life." John 3:36.

"And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments." 1 John 2:3.

No defence required

Jesus made no attempt to defend Himself or His disciples. He made no reference to the charges against Him, but proceeded to show the spirit that actuated these sticklers for human rites.

He gave them an example of what they were repeatedly doing, and had done just before coming in search of Him. "Full well you reject the commandment of God," He said, "that you may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour your father and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death [of a sinner]: but you say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is ‘Corban’, that is to say, a ‘gift’ [to the church], by whatever you might be profited by me; he shall be free. And you allow him no more to do anything for his father or his mother."

To them the church organisation
was more important
than the people in it

They set aside the fifth commandment as of no consequence, but were very exact in carrying out the traditions of the elders. They taught the people that the devotion of their property to the temple was a duty more sacred than even the support of their parents; and that, however great the necessity, it was sacrilege to impart to father or mother any part of what had been thus consecrated.

An undutiful child had only to pronounce the Hebrew word "Corban" over his property, thus devoting it to God, and he could retain it for his own use during his lifetime, and after his death it was to be appropriated to the temple service. Thus he was at liberty, both in life and in death, to dishonour and defraud his parents, under cover of a pretended devotion to God.

Offerings are good

Never, by word or deed, did Jesus lessen man's obligation to present gifts and offerings to God. See Deuteronomy 12:5-6; Malachi 3:10-12.

It was Christ who gave all the directions of the law in regard to tithes and offerings. When on earth He commended the poor woman who gave her all to the temple treasury. But the apparent zeal for God on the part of the priests and rabbis was a pretence to cover their desire for self-importance. The people were deceived by them.

They were bearing heavy burdens which God had not imposed. Even the disciples of Christ were not wholly free from the yoke that had been bound upon them by inherited prejudice and church authority.

Now, under the guidance of the Spirit, by revealing the true spirit of the rabbis, Jesus sought to free from the bondage of tradition all who were really desirous of serving God.

"You hypocrites," He said, addressing the wily spies, "well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

The words of Christ were an indictment of the whole system of Pharisaism. He declared that by placing their requirements above the divine precepts the rabbis were setting themselves above God.

The evil is within

The deputies from Jerusalem were filled with rage. They could not accuse Christ as a violator of the law given from Sinai, for He spoke as its defender against their traditions. The great precepts of the law, which He had presented, appeared in striking contrast to the petty rules that religious men had devised.

To the multitude, and afterward more fully to His disciples, Jesus explained that defilement comes not from without, but from within.
Purity and impurity pertain to the soul. It is the evil deed, the evil word, the evil thought, the transgression of the law of God, not the neglect of external, man-made ceremonies, that defiles a man or a woman. See Matthew chapter 5.

The truth arouses anger

The disciples noted the rage of the spies as their false teaching was exposed. They saw the angry looks, and heard the half-muttered words of dissatisfaction and revenge. Forgetting how often Christ had given evidence that He read their hearts as an open book, they told Him of their effect of His words. Hoping that He might conciliate the enraged officials, they said to Jesus, "Know You that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?"

He answered, "Every plant, which My heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up."

The customs and traditions so highly valued by the rabbis were of this world, not from heaven. However great their authority with the people, they could not endure the testing of God. Every human invention that has been substituted for the commandments of God will be found worthless in that day when "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14.

Tradition is still with us

The substitution of the precepts of men for the commandments of God has not ceased. Even among Christians are found institutions and usages that have no better foundation than the traditions of the fathers. Such institutions, resting upon mere human authority, have supplanted those of divine appointment. Men cling to their traditions, and revere their customs, and cherish hatred against those who seek to show them their error. In this day, when we are bidden to call attention to the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, we see the same enmity as was manifested in the days of Christ.

Of the remnant people of God it is written,

"The dragon was wroth [angry] with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 12:17.

But "every plant, which My heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up." In place of the authority of the so-called fathers of the church, God bids us accept the word of the eternal Father, the Lord of heaven and earth. Here alone is truth unmixed with error. David said, "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancient/s, because
I keep Your precepts.
" Psalm 119:99-100.

Let all who accept human authority, the customs of the church, or the traditions of the fathers, take heed to the warning conveyed in the words of Christ, "In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

The teachers

The priests and Pharisees thought they were doing great things as teachers by putting their own interpretation upon the word of God, but Christ said of them, "You know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God." Mark 12:24.

He charged them with the guilt of "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Mark 7:7. Though they were the teachers of the oracles of God, though they were supposed to understand His word, they were not doers of the word. Satan had blinded their eyes that they should not see its true import.

This is the work of many in our day.

Many churches are guilty of this sin.

There is danger, great danger, that the supposed wise men of today will repeat the experience of the Jewish teachers. They falsely interpret the divine oracles, and souls are brought into perplexity and shrouded in darkness because of their misconception of divine truth.

The ‘Sun’ of righteousness

The Scriptures need not be read by the dim light of tradition or human speculation. As well might we try to give light to the sun with a torch as to explain the Scriptures by human tradition or imagination. God's holy word needs not the torchlight glimmer of earth to make its glories distinguishable. It is light in itself - the glory of God revealed, and beside it every other light is dim. But there must be earnest study and close investigation. Sharp, clear perceptions of truth will never be the reward of laziness.

We must work for it

No earthy blessing can be obtained without earnest, patient, persevering effort. If men attain success in business, they must have a will to do and a faith to look for results. And we cannot expect to gain spiritual knowledge without earnest toil. Those who desire to find the treasures of truth must dig for them as the miner digs for the treasure hidden in the earth.

No half-hearted, indifferent work will avail.

It is essential for old and young, not only to read God's word, but to study it with wholehearted earnestness, praying and searching for truth as for hidden treasure. Those who do this will be rewarded, for Christ will quicken the understanding.

The truth sets us free in this world

Our salvation depends on a knowledge of the truth contained in the Scriptures. It is God's will that we should possess this. Search, O search the precious Bible with hungry hearts. Explore God's word as the miner explores the earth to find veins of gold. Never give up the search until you have ascertained your relation to God and His will in regard to you.

Christ declared, "Whatsoever you shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in My name, I will do it." John 14:13, 14.

Turn away from the world

Men of piety and talent catch views of eternal realities, but often they fail of understanding, because the things that are seen eclipse the glory of the unseen. He who would seek successfully for the hidden treasure must rise to higher pursuits than the things of this world.
His affections and all His capabilities must be consecrated to the search.

Be obedient to all you read

Disobedience has closed the door to a vast amount of knowledge that might have been gained from the Scriptures. Understanding means obedience to God's commandments. The Scriptures are not to be adapted to meet the prejudice and jealousy of men. They can be understood only by those who are humbly seeking for a knowledge of the truth that they may obey it.

Do you ask, What shall I do to be saved?

You must lay your preconceived opinions, your hereditary and cultivated ideas, at the door of investigation. If you search the Scriptures to vindicate your own opinions, you will never reach the truth.

Search in order to learn what the Lord says.

If conviction comes as you search, if you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the truth, do not misinterpret the truth in order to suit your own belief, but accept the light given.

Open your mind and heart that you may behold wondrous things out of God's word.

Have faith in Christ

Faith in Christ as the world's Redeemer calls for an acknowledgement of the enlightened intellect controlled by a heart that can discern and appreciate the heavenly treasure. We must see in our mind and obey from our heart.

This faith is inseparable from repentance and transformation of character. To have faith means to find and accept the gospel treasure, with all the obligations which it imposes.

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. We may conjecture and imagine, but without the eye of faith we cannot see the treasure.

Christ gave His life to secure for us this priceless benefit; but without regeneration through faith in His death, there is no remission of sins,
no treasure for any perishing soul.

The Spirit’s part

We need the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in order to discern the truths in God's word.

The lovely things of the natural world are not seen until the sun, dispelling the darkness, floods them with its light. So the treasures in the word of God are not appreciated until they are revealed by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness.

The Holy Spirit, sent from heaven by the benevolence of infinite love, takes the things of God and reveals them to every soul that has an implicit faith in Christ. By His power the vital truths upon which the salvation of the soul depends are impressed upon the mind, and the way of life is made so plain that none need err therein.

As we study the Scriptures, we should pray for the light of God's Holy Spirit to shine upon the word, that we may see and appreciate its treasures.

The reward of searching

Let none think that there is no more knowledge for them to gain. The depth of human intellect may be measured; the works of human authors may be mastered; but the highest, deepest, broadest flight of the imagination cannot find out God. There is infinity beyond all that we can comprehend.

We have seen only the glimmering of divine glory and of the infinitude of knowledge and wisdom; we have, as it were, been working on the surface of the mine, when rich golden ore is beneath the surface, to reward the one who will dig for it. The shaft must be sunk deeper and yet deeper in the mine, and the result will be glorious treasure. Through a correct faith, divine knowledge will become human knowledge.

No one can search the Scriptures in the spirit of Christ without being rewarded. When we are willing to be instructed as little children, when we submit wholly to God, we will find the truth in His word.

If we are obedient, we would understand the plan of God's government. The heavenly world would open its chambers of grace and glory for exploration. Human beings would be altogether different from what they now are, for by exploring the mines of truth men and women would be ennobled. The mystery of redemption, the incarnation of Christ, His atoning sacrifice, would not be as they are now, vague in our minds.

They would be not only better understood, but altogether more highly appreciated.

True education

In His prayer to the Father, Christ gave to the world a lesson which should be engraved on mind and soul. "This is life eternal," He said, "that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." John 17:3. This is true education. It imparts power.

The experimental, or working, knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent, transforms us into the image of God. It gives to us the mastery of ourselves, bringing every impulse and passion of our lower natures under the control of the higher powers of the mind.

It makes its possessor a son or daughter of God and an heir of heaven.

It brings us into communion with the mind of the Infinite, and opens to us the rich treasures of the universe.

This is the knowledge which is obtained by searching the word of God. And this treasure may be found by every soul who will give all to obtain it.

"If you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; then shall you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:3-5.

 

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