Christianity is by definition a religion of tradition, according to Paul’s use of the word. All true Christians are traditionalists. “Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
But that word, tradition, is apt to be misunderstood today. Paul defines what he means by the word when he says, “which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” So the tradition Paul was concerned about was the teaching handed down from the Apostles, whether by mouth or by written scripture. Paul was not speaking about customs and observances and celebrations derived from culture and society. Paul certainly did not acknowledge as tradition the teachings of others apart from the Apostles. Again, “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistles.”
Today we describe churches as contemporary or traditional. The definitions of those terms are different from person to person. They are squiggly, wiggly terms, hard to get a grip on. The key to those designations is most often the public worship format of the congregation. They have become very polarizing terms. In popular usage, contemporary refers to that which claims to be novel or in step with society and the times. Traditional tends to refer especially to practices dating before 1960.
But our concern is to understand the importance of tradition as Paul understood it. We are to stand fast on what Paul taught, as an Apostle of Christ, whether by word or in writing. The outward traditions of worship and church practice may change with the age, but the tradition of God’s word must not change. “I am the Lord. I change not.” -Malachi 3:6. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” -Matthew 24:35
Heavenly Father, help us distinguish between the traditions of men and the traditions of God. The traditions of men we may adopt or discard, depending on Christian decency and good order (1 Corinthians 14:40). The Word of God must stand as our unbending tradition forever. Amen.
– Pastor Anderson