Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.2 Thessalonians 2:15 (KJV)
Searching for a new church to attend, or a job in ministry is no easy task. There’s a lot to consider. Biblical fidelity, doctrinal purity, fiscal transparency, and location are just some of the things that make the decision difficult.
Adding to the challenge is our tendency to major on minors, that is making a bigger deal out of small things while being blind to bigger things.
For instance, in an effort to find the right place, we can quickly find ourselves lost in the theological weeds which puts us at risk of missing out on the more important and obvious components of what makes a church or ministry one worthy for us to call home.
One such thing that is easy to overlook is how committed or not a church or ministry is to the Christian tradition.“Just because you teach from the Bible does not mean that you preach or teach the Bible.”
In fact, we often assume that most churches and ministries that proclaim an allegiance to God are committed to God’s word. Yet such an approach is dangerous.
However, it is easy to avoid making that mistake by asking places where it is that they have received their beliefs from.
Do their beliefs and what they teach hearken back to God’s word as preserved throughout history? Or do they draw inspiration from other things such as new or extra-Biblical sources – things apart from the canon of God’s word?
The reason this is a critical question to bring up is because there are many churches and ministries that claim to teach God’s grace and Gospel to a lost and dying world when in reality they do not acknowledge the tradition of the Gospel as passed down through millennia and as the source of their ministry.
If a church or ministry is not founded on God’s word, and if they do not preach and teach said material as the cornerstone of their mission, then such a church or ministry errs from the truth and cannot be said to be Christian.
Now, there are plenty of places that claim the Bible is what they follow, and that’s good as far as face value is concerned. However, just because you teach from the Bible does not mean that you preach or teach the Bible.“Every church and every Christian is responsible to preserve and honor God’s word as it has been passed down through millennia as the sole and complete authority for doctrine, conduct and teaching.”
Heavily altered Bible translations, slogans, buzzwords, new revelations, extra-Biblical insight and appealing to cultural norms and the world of today are all things that can sift the Bible of its truth.
Furthermore, all such examples look to things beyond the Christian tradition for relevance, whereas God’s word is ultimately all that we need and are to follow.
Every church and every Christian is responsible to preserve and honor God’s word as it has been passed down through millennia as the sole and complete authority for doctrine, conduct and teaching. (Jude 3)
God’s word is our source material for study, teaching, preaching and living. As such, it is paramount that we honor our responsibility to tradition in the Christian faith.
“Traditions” as Paul refers to them in the verse above, are precepts, transmissions and doctrines that are handed down, or teachings that are bequeathed to succeeding generations through God’s written word and preaching of the Gospel.
And such is the means God employs to continue his word – faithful men and women committed to his unchanging, complete and final revelation preserved in the Bible.“God’s word is our source material for study, teaching, preaching and living.”
To be clear, Paul wrote this before the New Testament canon was completed, yet this does not invalidate his charge.
His point was that Christians are to adhere to and follow God’s word as preserved in holy writ and as communicated through Gospel-centered speaking.
For us today that means following the Bible. For Paul’s audience it meant following the Old Testament and the epistles.
Nevertheless, Christians of all generations must follow sound preaching based on the Gospel and the whole council of God.
This is something the first generation church was especially concerned with. After Jesus’ ascended the Apostles set out from Jerusalem outward to the furthest reaches of the world to start the New Testament church.
Their sole goal was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, plain and simple. They taught what Jesus had taught them. (1 Cor. 2:2)
Their focus was on preserving Jesus’ Gospel as it had been preached to them by God’s Son during his earthly ministry.“The next time you find yourself visiting a new church or applying to a new ministry job, ask them if they follow God’s word as handed down through time.”
For these and the early Christians who followed Jesus, God’s church was relativity pure, even though there were certainly churches and groups that did not follow the Gospel.
The reason so many early churches were sound was because the Apostles taught them and preached to them within the same generation of Jesus. His Gospel and teachings were the center of their message – Jesus began the Christian tradition and the first century church was beginning to pass it down to new generations.
Naturally, as time has progressed, various extra-Biblical teachings have seeped into churches and ministries and undoubtedly into the hearts and minds of many.
Over time, and just like water flowing along rocks, false teachings and texts have eroded the Christian message, leaving some with only non-Gospels and hollow man-made traditions that are void of truth. (Col. 2:8, 2 Thess. 3:6)
The next time you find yourself visiting a new church or applying to a new ministry job, and before you jump into denominational distinctives or deep theology, ask them if they follow God’s word as handed down through time.
If they do – if they feel a responsibility to Christian tradition – then you’ll most likely find answers to your other questions easier to figure out.
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The Frederiksplein, Amsterdam, during the Entry of Queen Wilhelmina, 5 September 1898 by Otto Eerelman, 1898-1900. The Rijksmuseum. SK-A-1849.