Thesis: Tradition can be either good or bad.
1. Illust. At the Tower of London every afternoon at exactly 4:00 PM there is an interesting ceremony. The Beefeaters, British royalty's ceremonial guards, come out of the tower and feed the raven on the front lawn. There is a legend that as long as the ravens are fed, London would never fall to her enemies. During WW 2 and the Battle of Britian, when London was being bombed by the Nazis, the ravens were frightened away. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the Beefeaters to secretly clip the wings of the remaining ravens so they couldn't fly. Why? To provide a sense of stability and normalcy to Londoners in a troubled time.
2. Tradition! Tonight we want to explore what tradition is, how it affects us and what the Bible has to say about it.
I. WHAT IS TRADITION?
A. It is simply "That which is handed down from generation to generation."
1. Tradition provides a sense of identity.
a. Food we eat (Why do Italians eat spaghetti on Wednesdays?)
b. Way we speak (Why do Mainers say, "Ayuh?"; Southerners: "Y'all")
c. Types of houses (Certain styles more popular in diff. places).
2. Tradition usually goes unquestioned.
a. Good reason--it works!
b. Tradition isn't the sort of thing we give a lot of thought to.
c. Illust. In a popular play a few years ago, the opening scene shows a man standing on a roof playing a fiddle. What helps him keep his balance & keeps him from falling off as he scratches out his little tune? TRADITION! is the reply. Tevke, the leading character in the "Fiddler on the Roof," is asked how Jews in Russia maintain identity in a time of change. "Tradition," is the reply. Then asked where it came from. "I will tell you," he says. "I don't know!"
B. Tradition is neither good or bad--it just is. We are accustomed to bashing tradition. This is good only if you value instability!
II. WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT TRADITION.
A. NT speaks of tradition in a good light:
1. 2 Thess. 2:15--"Stand firm and hold to the TEACHINGS (or "traditions") we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter."
2. 2 Thess. 3:6--"Keep away from every brother who is idle and doesn't live acc. to the TEACHING (trad.) you rec'd from us."
B. Jesus did many things for which the only authority is tradition!
1. Attending the synagogue (Luke 4:16).
a. Synagogue & worship is traditional.
b. Not mentioned once in the Law or entire OT.
2. Giving thanks before eating (Matt. 14:19).
a. Not a part of the Law.
b. Purely, 100% Jewish tradition.
3. Singing a hymn at end of Passover meal (Matt. 26:30).
a. Not part of Law regarding Passover observance.
b. Jewish tradition.
4. The Feast of Dedication (John 10:22).
a. This is "Hannukah." Celebrated the cleansing of temple in 165 B.C. by Maccabees after Ant. Epiphanes desecration.
b. Was Jesus keeping the Feast of Dedication? Is there any reason why he would not have? Does this have any implication for modern observances of holidays not specifically mentioned in Scripture?
III. TWO EXTREMES REGARDING TRADITION.
A. Making tradition equal with Scripture.
1. This is what the Pharisees were guilty of.
a. Belief in Oral Law--unbroken tradition since Moses.
b. Pharisees believed both Oral & Written Law was binding.
c. In actuality Oral Law came about because some parts of the Law were obscure and in need of clarification.
2. The Catholic Church also equates Tradition with Scripture.
a. Only the Church has right to interpret.
b. Interpretations may change--Church has last word!
3. Illust. At HGSR I was once required to read a written exchange between Joachim Jeremias & Kurt Aland on INFANT BAPTISM. Jeremias argued from NT that IB was apostolic; Aland responded with evidence that for me proved IB was introduced at beg. of 3rd century BUT, at the end of a masterful book, Aland said, "It does not matter what they did in apostolic times. IB is o.k. because it is tradition."
B. Claiming to be tradition-less.
1. "We don't follow traditions of men, we just go by the Bible!"
2. Arrogant claim .... and dangerous!
a. Arrogant because tradition cannot be avoided (Only way to avoid tradition is to have someone around making sure you
ever do things the same way twice!
b. Dangerous because you can never evaluate tradition until you realize you have it. If tradition is unexamined the worst aspects are sure to remain!
3. There's nothing wrong with being traditional! It is important to realize what is tradition and what is not.
a. Having a period of Bible study on Sunday A.M.
b. Sunday P.M. services & Wednesday P.M. Bible study.