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TRADITIONS VS. SCRIPTURE

 

Catholics say the Bible nowhere says Scripture alone, which Protestants have called (Sola Scriptura).

The Roman Catholic position is a convenient one. They challenge non-Catholics by asking them “where does the Bible say Scripture alone” (Sola Scriptura). But sometimes we try to answer a wrong question where there is no right answer. They are right in that it does not say these exact words, but the Bible does teach Scripture alone in commands, principles and in practice. However one would have to read the Scripture to find this out. This argument is like saying the Scripture does not say the word Trinity so its not to be taught. While the Bible does not specifically say “only the word of God,” The concept is certainly weaved through the entire Bible. All one has to do is read the overall teaching to discover its presence.  

The question that really needs to be asked is “Does the Bible say tradition is on a equal basis with Scripture?” This question we can find an answer to. The answer is: No. Nowhere does the Bible state tradition is inspired, beneficial or has power like the word.

Roman Catholicism teaches that the tradition of their church is equal to Scripture. It was in 1545 at the Council of Trent the Roman Church officially made tradition equal to Bible, long time after the Bible was completed. If what they claim is true, then when we apply a logic test to this, we would find one is consistently equal to the other. We could easily substitute tradition for the word or the word for tradition. Lets look and see if this is at all possible.

The WORD of the Lord came to Ezekiel, Jehu of Hanani, Jeremiah, Haggai, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Micah, Joel, Zechariah. Every prophet was called by God who spoke to them, could we consider them called by traditions? (John explains it was The Word that became flesh-- the word as the wisdom the knowledge and reasoning of God). Tradition did not become flesh nor did Jesus refer to it as beneficial, not once. 

                    Scripture states they feared the Lord, can we say we fear tradition? (Gen.22:12,42:18;Ex.18:21,20:20;Lev.25:17; Deut.4:10;6:2, 13,24,8:6)  Isa. 66:5 “Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word” Ezra 10:3 “…tremble at the commandment of our God” Deut 5:29 “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments.” Deut. 13:4 “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice.” Eccl. 12:13 “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” To fear God is to respect His word above all else.

Josh.1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” Ps. 119:148 “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” Ps. 119 they meditated on his word (His works, His deeds, His name and God himself), can we meditate on tradition? We stand in awe of his word, our tongue is to preach his word. Can we substitute tradition for any of these? I think not. In Titus 2:5 Paul writes, the word of God can be blasphemed, can tradition be blasphemed?

The word of God lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23), It is called “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), Daniel called it “the Scripture of Truth” (Dan.10:21), John the apostle called it “the Word of life” (I Jn.1:1). “The word of God is living and powerful,… piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Can we substitute tradition for this? Is tradition called truth or life? Even Jesus is called the word as a metaphor in the beginning and when he returns (Jn.1:1-3; Rev 19:13). Can we call Jesus tradition?  Ps 40:7, “Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.”

Ps.119:9 “How can a man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your word.” Tradition cannot cleanse anything. The Bible states in Prov.30:5 “Every word of God is pure”, not so for tradition. Jesus spoke  “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (Jn.15:3). Tradition is unable to clean the nature of man. so it is inferior to the word

 “Thy word is exalted above thy name” (Ps.138:2). This is how much God reverences His word. This cannot be said for tradition.  If one examines the Bible (the word) itself, we find no such statement as tradition being called or used equal to what is written.

The word in the Old Testament was Israel’s source of guidance and life. Deut. 6:5-9 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Here is how we are to show our love. “v.6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  Here is God’s tradition to Israel, to have His word constantly in front of oneself and to train their children in it. Prov.4:2 “For I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law.” This command has not changed in the New Testament, Titus 1:9 “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” This is what was written to the church by Paul 1 Tim. 4:16 “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” Paul told Timothy to preach the word, not tradition. Why did he omit something the Catholic church finds so essential now? He didn’t, Paul made it clear what was written is what they are to follow and to reject those who add to the word of God.

Deut. 8:3  “that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” Our sustenance comes from the giver of life who has communicated with man by His inspired word. What is true in the Old Testament is true in the New Testament. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”(2 Tim.3:16-17).  Complete means just that, nothing else is needed to grow and mature in ones relationship to God except a willing heart and taking the time to read and understand His word. This is the same thing said in Proverbs “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23)

In the RSV a footnote for 2 Tim. 3.16 gives a more clear word for word translation for the beginning of this verse: 'Every scripture inspired by God is also...' The Greek text makes it clear; a closer word-for-word translation would read 'Every writing God-inspired is also profitable...  What the writer meant by the 'scripture' and 'God-inspired' included the Old Testament because the New Testament was still in the process of being written when 2 Timothy was penned.   'God-inspired' meant that God breathed His Spirit into it. The Greek word used meant both 'breath' or 'wind' and also 'spirit' (the literal meaning of the English word 'inspire' is 'breathe into'). This is what Christians today mean when they say that the Bible, especially the New Testament is 'inspired'.

If the Bible nowhere states tradition is inspired, or beneficial, how do Catholics arrive at this? Through their church! But the church is to be based on the apostles teachings, not the apostles teachings based on the Church. If the traditions Catholics hold are suppose to be a body of oral teaching that was passed down by the apostles, why are they written down? Does this not make them Scripture? they claim they are inspired by God. To be consistent in their argument if the traditions are equal to Scripture from the apostles, they should be added to the Bible. But then there is the warning, “Do not add to his words lest you be rebuked and found a liar” (Prov. 30:6).  

King David said of the Scriptures in Psalm 119:103-105 “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

  Ps 119:160: “The entirety of Your word is truth,  v.:162: “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.”

Scripture alone is called God’s word (Jn.10:35; 2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pt.1:20)  In 1 Cor.4:6 we are specifically told “not to go beyond what is written.” Why say this if traditions outside the written word are just as inspired? We have every logical and scriptural reason to believe that what the apostles penned down was inspired by the Holy Spirit and intended for all believers throughout history. We are warned by this same apostle who wrote scripture to “not to go beyond what is written.” Sounds like Sola Scriptura to me! Jesus declared that the “Scripture cannot be broken.” (Jn.10:35) This is not so for traditions. Scripture alone is the eternal word that is settled forever in heaven.

Jesus said,  “if you love me you will continue in my word and you are my disciples indeed.” Jn.14:15, “If you love me keep my commandments.” V.23 “If anyone loves me he will keep my word.” This is his commandment, there’s not a hint of another source for the word. Here is our tradition. On the other hand in v.24”He who does not love Me, does not keep my word.”

Not once did Jesus speak well about traditions. Neither did Peter nor Paul as he states in Col. 2:8 “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Unless a tradition practiced is biblically based and clearly defined in Scripture it is the invention of men. It will do harm because it replaces what is eternally true. Paul says let the word of God dwell in you richly. The emphasis of revelation is on the word as Gods communiqué to mankind. The Word became flesh and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the father.”

The Holy Spirit who is the source of Scripture had it written down so there would be no mistakes centuries later.  We are given the Holy Spirit to interpret what He wrote through men. What better guide and teacher can we have than the same one who inspired the apostles to write the Scripture. If you’re looking to follow Christ, it is has always been and continues to be through His word in the ability of His Spirit. As Paul admonishes “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). Does he say this for tradition? why not....

Eph. 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” One is saved by hearing the Scripture, faith comes from hearing the word of God.  Most importantly Peter who Catholics claim to be their own Pope, wrote in 1 Pt.1:23 “ having been  born again not with corruptible seed but with incorruptible seed through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” The Bible points to the Scripture for our spiritual birth and growth. James 1:18  “Of  His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth,” (which is the word of God). Lk.8:11 tells us the word of God is the seed that begins our spiritual growth. Tradition cannot bring a birth to anyone, it can never be a substitute for this.

The Bible claims for itself to be the supreme authority and it shares that authority with nothing else except the Holy Spirit who is the author. God points to His Word.

Johns preaching was based on the word that came to him. We may not have everything he said but we do have the content Luke 3:2-3 “while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.  And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

Jesus declares that the “Scripture cannot be broken.” (Jn.10:35) this is not so for traditions. Tradition cannot ever rise to equality with the word since we are told the word is eternal and Jesus said thy word is settled forever in heaven. God by his wisdom gave us an objective to know him by understanding His written Word. Which he says does not change and is eternal which makes it alone the authority for truth, It is pure, powerful, perfect, inerrant, infallible, living, holy, eternal, and forever settled in heaven. It illuminates the dark heart , cleanses the soul , brings conviction of sin , frees one from bondage's , produces faith in the unbeliever, converts the sinner, quickens one to new life it guides, judges the intents and attitudes of our hearts, sanctifies us from the world, gives wisdom for daily living, and refutes error. Nowhere can you substitute tradition in the same way God describes His word?  Why would you want to add anything subjective to the objective standard God has given us?

“Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15 Douay Rheims Trans.). This can hardly mean that one handles the traditions to be approved by God. Notice we are encouraged to study ourselves to be approved by God, not to take for granted what anybody says no matter how famous they are or who they are.  John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Can we say the words of tradition are spirit and life? No we can't.

Who did Paul point out as being commended above all the other people groups? “Now these were of nobler character than those of Thessalonica and they received the word with great eagerness, studying the Scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11). As Paul spoke on the Old Testament they looked into the word themselves to see if what he spoke is truth. We learn two principles from their actions 1) truth is found in the Scripture 2) Paul approved of their own personal search, they did not appeal to another man but each one arrived at the same conclusion from the Scripture itself. That is the way it was, and that is the way it should continue to be.  I encourage those who think the traditions of the church are necessary to have a fulfilled spiritual life to read the Scripture and see if this is what Jesus or the apostles actually said this,

 

 

 

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