Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

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Wisdom of Jesus Part 2: Traditions of Men

Traditions are still used to nullify commands of God

Traditions are still used to nullify commands of God

Published on: Nov 20, 2009

Wisdom comes from being grounded in the truth. Knowing the truth and being grounded are not the same thing. How many people, who have known the truth, nevertheless yielded to peer pressure to fit in? Those who are grounded in the truth have no interest in fitting in. They are more concerned with reality than imagination. Those who are rooted in themselves and grounded in the truth will stand alone against the crowd because they can. These are men and women who love God more than men. And because they love God, they will speak the truth to men.

Peer pressure creates compromise. Those who are not rooted in themselves, and do not know truth for themselves, rely on conventional wisdom. Since so many people seem to believe it, it must be true. So what they might have believed for themselves is changed to fit public opinion. Those swayed by the opinions of others are at the control of others. When asked a question, the natural reply is directed by the question. Lawyers use this (backed by the court) to manipulate witnesses in building their cases. Jesus was never controlled by the question. Many times He ignored the direct question by addressing another issue, more pertinent to the heart matter. This was a point of great frustration for the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees because it circumvented their various traps.

In the following passages, they are not trying to trap Jesus, but are still finding fault to diminish Him in the eyes of His followers.

Matt 15:1-2
1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. (KJV)

If Jesus answered only their question it would have further supported their traditions of men as equal to the Word of God. Instead he goes to the heart of the matter and debunks the tradition thus invalidating the charge in the first place.

Matt 15:3-6
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. (KJV)

We are not obligated to answer any one’s question. We are free to ignore them or turn the conversation in another direction. But those who have no root in themselves can not do this because they depend upon others for their hold on truth.

There are still a multitude of traditions of men that are not based in truth affecting the Church of Jesus Christ today. They appeal to reason, but not the Spirit. Washing one’s hands is a reasonable thing to do. Hygiene has proven the benefit of cleanliness. What the Pharisees were doing is commendable. It would be foolish to think that Jesus was condoning filthiness. What He rebuked was legalism as a means of justification. If He had agreed with the Pharisees, He would have empowered their legalism.

For those who have left the clergy system, they can name many traditions that have a small foot hold in the New Testament but are not the Spirit of Christ. Washing hands has a foot hold in the Old Testament but was elaborated upon to supersede Old Testament intentions. Likewise with the traditions that have grown up from the New Testament.

There is no command of God to meet according to the system that is given to us today, for example. Neither is there a worldly leadership of people called pastors described in the New Testament. Jewish traditions had thousands of years to develop, thus had the sense of being equal to God’s commandments. Likewise with New Testament traditions.

The insult that Jesus gives the Pharisees flies in the face of modern traditions.

Matt 15:7-9
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (KJV)

That would be a very “unchristian” of a thing to say. After all, being a Christian means being nice, right? I have no intention of encouraging people to being rude, but what Jesus says to the Pharisees above is clearly rude. Can Christians be rude? Yes, when the time is appropriate. Hard-hearted legalists who cause believers to misunderstand the truth for their own benefit may need rudeness to awaken them to the harm they are doing. They are believers and part of the body of Christ, but no member of the body has the right to harm another member of the body so they can live off them.

Jesus turned to the disciples to explain why the Pharisees are wrong, and we must assume that some of the Pharisees stayed to hear what Jesus said.

Matt 15:10-11
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (KJV)

How one eats will most definitely affect the body, but does not affect the spirit. Not washing the hands may cause someone to get sick, but does not separate them from God. The filth that separates us from God is sin. But for those who accept the gift of life in Christ, there is no sin that separates us from God, only sin that has detrimental consequences to us and others affected by that sin. Being rude for the sake of correction is right when the motive of the heart is the welfare of the hard-hearted one being corrected. Being rude because one has a chip on the shoulder is a wrong motive of the heart and defiles that man causing harm to himself and the others he is rude towards.

His disciples were concerned with the offense made to the Pharisees.

Matt 15:12-14
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (KJV)

One may argue that legalistic church leaders are not saved. I don’t believe that. I am convinced of the incredible grace of God for all who have accepted salvation through the new birth. But there is a caveat in the statement of Christ regarding the blind leading the blind. Hardness of heart is the greatest danger a believer can have. It is hardness of heart that causes someone to believe that evil is good and good is evil. It was this unpardonable sin of calling the Holy Spirit the devil that Jesus addressed earlier. It is in this light that Hebrews gives us this warning:

Heb 6:4-6
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (KJV)

This does not mean that every time we repent we are “crucifying Christ” again. On the contrary, that means the efficacy of the blood and Spirit is still working in our lives. Rather, I believe, it means having one’s heart harden so much that one no longer believes in what Jesus has done.

When we come across hard-hearted legalists, we do them a favor in giving them a rude rebuke. But such rebukes only have their benefit if they are born from the Holy Spirit. It is a mistake to think that the Holy Spirit never rebukes anyone. Rebuke is a form of chastisement. Chastisement is an expression of God’s love for us. He does not want our hearts to harden.

The only ones capable of rebuking others are those who have root in themselves and are grounded in the truth. Others will not believe that it is the Holy Spirit moving through them to bring the rebuke. Those who are not rooted in themselves will be concerned with the offense of the rebuke like the disciples did with Jesus. But Jesus, and those rooted in themselves and grounded in the truth, did not change His position.

Comments to Original Post

Submitted on 12/08/2009

You have given me several places where I must pause to think.

First of all, there is nothing I dislike more in myself than to have a sense of the truth of a thing and yet to compromise because I am not yet rooted. This is a watchword to myself to look out for myself.

Secondly this evening, I was cornered by a very worldly know-it-all who demanded answers to questions I really had no interest in or energy to address. I really appreciated this: “We are not obligated to answer any one’s question.” Having grown up with a legalistic sense of honesty that has gone quite beyond its bounds, I realize that we do not owe everyone an “honest” answer–we do not owe everyone an answer at all. Thank you for confirming this permission to me.

Finally, you commented here: “One may argue that legalistic church leaders are not saved. I don’t believe that.” Just recently I had a glimpse of the Lord working among people unawares. There are many who belong to the Lord but remain at various states of unbelief–just as the Israelites belonged to the Lord, but sinned against Him from time to time and could not enter into the Promised Land. I don’t fully understand where they stood in the scheme of things, but they saw many miracles even though they were plagued by unbelief.

You have opened up something profound with this topic on having root in oneself. You have given people permission to enter into a state beyond sitting and being spoonfed by others, so that they can go on into Sonship. There is no maturity in remaining under the “discipleship” of teachers for life. Maturity comes from knowing the plans of the Father through His Spirit.

Submitted on 12/09/2009


You nailed it on the head. Being rooted in oneself is the foundation for maturity in Son-ship. Thanks for your word of encouragement.

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