Question – St Paul was clear: hold the traditions, by word or by letter. How far back do you go in terms of tradition?

Question – St Paul was clear: hold the traditions, by word or by letter. How far back do you go in terms of tradition?

This question relates to traditions and refers to 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. We would like to point out that verses taken out of context will always get us into trouble. The word tradition as used by Paul refers to what the Church had at that time, the inspired word of God through the prophets, and the written word from the apostles. The chapter from which that verse was taken warns the Thessalonians about something: Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?

And in that context, the apostle Paul encourages them to stand firm in the faith and not be swayed: But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

And from the same chapter, why should they be careful and stand firm? The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Consequently, this theme is reinforced several times in God’s Word – that the responsibility for our soul rests with each person individually. We must take care not to be led astray but to use God’s word as a reference point for everything around us.

I John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Paul chastises the Galatians for not being careful (Galatians 3:1-9), O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain?” if indeed it was in vain?

Acts 17:10-11 – Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

The above verse in Acts of the Apostles is particularly interesting in that the Bereans listened to Paul, but still subjected his words to the scrutiny of God’s word. We also reserve that right. We do not follow blindly because some one said so or because of traditions handed down through the ages by Church authorities after the closure of the writing of the New Testament. I understand you will disagree with us on this point.

The issue of tradition is an interesting one and cuts both ways. Jesus said (Matt 15:1-3): Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. He answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. We accept there is a place for heritage and culture, but it is not on the same level as God’s Word. Unfortunately for some people tradition takes precedence over God’s Word. Again, I understand that you will probably disagree with us on that point too.

We cannot use the word tradition in reference to both scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers to justify extra-biblical doctrines. Jude verse 3 clearly states Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. The basis to our faith has been once for all delivered and closed with the writings of the apostles. We understand that you will probably not agree with this view either.

The issue of who we are and how we relate to the Orthodox Church has been dealt with in our questions and answers section and we encourage you to read through it for more information on this topic. Our history and when our congregation first started is information that is publicly available on our web site.

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