Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Traditions Require Caution

There are many traditions in the church today. Indeed, traditions are often the differentiating factors between the many ‘Christian’ denominations.
There is nothing inherently wrong with traditions. Your family may celebrate Thanksgiving Dinner together year after year – this is a great tradition that helps bond a family together. However, when a tradition distorts Scripture and distracts us from its inherent truths we create significant problems and can do much unintentional damage. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He did not say, “I am the way, the tradition and the life.”
I recently conducted a study concerning the tradition of Good Friday. I have long had a problem with Good Friday as Jesus had specifically prophesied concerning his death that, For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:39-41 An unambiguous statement if ever there was one! If Jesus was indeed crucified on Friday and raised to life Sunday morning, according to my calendar, he could have only “been in the earth” two nights.
It is only in some of the modern Bible translations that we read of Jesus being crucified on a Friday. I would respectfully argue that they are wrong - they are merely repeating traditions. For clarity one should research the Old Testament instructions on which days the Passover feast(s) were to be eaten and to understand that there are Special Sabbaths, and more than just one day of preparation. Depending on whether one follows the Pharisees' or Sadducees' calendar there could have been three consecutive 'days of preparation' - not just Friday! Read a literal (word-for-word) translation of the Bible and it will become clearer. Almost uniquely, the King James Bible does not mention the crucifixion happening [specifically] on the Friday. Jesus had to be crucified on the Thursday. Scripture says so!
A questionable tradition of the church is making [beatifying] and praying to 'the Saints'. This is a potentially lethal exercise as it takes our focus off the one upon whom the Bible instructs us to call and keep our attention focused on – Jesus.
Proclaiming special sainthood is a long-held tradition but it is not found anywhere in Scripture. Forty-five times the Bible refers to God’s children as saints - exclusively.
  1. Miracles (acts of God outside his physical laws of nature) are often deemed by the church to be a rational for making someone a saint. Miracles have happened, and continue to happen, to all kinds of people every day all over the world. Consider all the miracles of the Old Testament – were those involved not worthy of sainthood?
  2. People are encouraged to pray to these long-dead saints. The Bible strictly warns against calling up the spirits of the dead.
  3. There is no intercessor between man and God except the Lord Jesus Christ. "...the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." [Romans 8:26]. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, indwells us. Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” and he also said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be in their midst.” Jesus - not ‘the saints’!
  4. God has the prayers of his saints (yours and mine) in his presence. Revelation 8:4
  5. From a practical perspective how do ‘the saints’ supposedly hear our prayers? They Bible would infer that they are otherwise preoccupied worshiping God. If our prayers are not ‘relayed’ by and through the Spirit of God, then how?
  6. All ‘the saints’ throughout time were sinners just like you and me. The Heavenly Father, to whom we pray, has no favourites (including ‘the saints’) when He judges [1 Peter 1:17]. God tore the Curtain of the Temple in two so that we could come directly into his presence – no obstruction, no saints, nothing!
Satan would much rather distract us and direct our prayers to ‘deaf ears’, rather than have us direct our thoughts and prayers to Jesus Christ, the One who can both hear them and answer them.
Always teach, practice and celebrate traditions with caution.