The Tradition of the Elders
The title of today’s sermon is, “The Tradition of the Elders”, and what I’m preaching about today are the man-made traditions of the church which have supplanted the Word of God, in favor of the teachings of men.
Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
& there are many man-made traditions today which have infiltrated the churches of God and are hindering the Gospel from going forward effectively.
Many Christians are tired of the lukewarm, watered-down, permissive, liberal mindset of the modern churches.
And I don’t blame them.
But this issue goes well beyond the lack of in-depth preaching and teaching from God’s Word, that we are witnessing all across the nations.
I heard it stated recently that as the Gospel message spread throughout the world, that Christianity came to Greece and became a philosophy, and Christianity came to Rome, and became an institution, then Christianity came to America, and became a business.
¬There’s a lot of truth to that.
Church in America, today, is run much like a business, with churches incorporating and pushing mandatory tithes, hiring staff, or even professional musicians, & coming up with marketing plans to grow their numbers.
But the church is not supposed to be run like a corporation or a business.
Acts 2:44-46 give us a picture of the early church, which began in Jerusalem:
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [Stop there. Is that a picture of the American Christian church today?]
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart …
[This is a picture of unity.]
When you go to your local, incorporated churches, how close would you say do your church practices line up with the first church of God in Jerusalem?
Today’s church vs. that first unified singular church in Jerusalem …
… has been infiltrated by numerous man-made traditions which have usurped the function of the real church in favor of what we ourselves have created through centuries and millennia of tradition.
Jesus said in Mark 7:13: “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Our goal in this church is to shirk the traditions that divide us from the purity of doctrine & fellowship which the apostles were willing to lay down their lives to uphold.
And before we look at some of today’s church traditions, I want to look at the man-made traditions that Jesus fought against in the false religious system of the scribes & Pharisees.
This was the false Judaism of the time, & what the Bible refers to as “The Tradition of the Elders”.
Turn in your Bibles to Mark 7, starting @ VERSE 1:
Now here’s the thing, the tradition of washing of hands wasn’t even for sanitary reasons …
… it was being done for the purpose of ceremonial cleansing.
During the regular course of the day, the Jews would come into contact with gentiles in the marketplace or in town.
… & The Pharisees would wash their hands to ensure ritual cleanliness.
It was sort of like washing THE DIRT OF THE GENTILES off your skin.
So Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders of His day had nothing to do with the LAW OF MOSES, but over THE TRADITION OF THE ELDERS.
Jesus never broke a single command in the Mosaic Law …
… As the Messiah, He kept the Word of God without fail.
And people have tried to enumerate the # of Laws in the written Law of Moses, and it’s generally accepted that it contains 613 commands.
This includes all the moral, priestly, & ceremonial laws & commands.
& Over time, The SCRIBES & PHARISEES began to eventually create a secondary set of ORAL LAWS surrounding these 613 Biblical WRITTEN LAWS.
The idea was to create a protective FENCE, as it became known, around the Laws of Moses …
The idea was that if you ever came close enough to breaking God’s Law, the FENCE LAWS would act as a BUFFER to the actual Law.
So that theoretically you would never break the actual Law.
For example, there is a Biblical Law against SEETHING or BOILING a kid goat in it’s mother’s milk.
In actuality, this was a prohibition against a Canaanite practice believed to promote fertility.
• But here’s how the Pharisees saw it …
For example, someone might have goat meat for lunch and have a glass of goat milk to wash it down …
… the milk and the meat would then get digested in the stomach and would heat up together in the digestive process.
And no matter how slim the chance, it was possible that the goat milk & goat meat may have come from the same kid & mother …
And so in their letter-of-the-law interpretation, you would be seething the kid in its own mother’s milk inside your stomach and therefore breaking the Mosaic Law …
You can see the Pharisaical logic at work here …
But it goes even further then that …
They even had to have separate dishes for meat and cheese, in case you didn’t clean your plate good enough and a piece of cheese sticks to the plate and gets mixed with meat the next time you eat.
So FENCE LAWS had emerged around the LAW OF MOSES, none of which were actual Biblical commandments …
… and had become a part of the system of established Pharisaical religion in Jesus’ time.
When it came to the SABBATH, for example, there were some 1,500 FENCE LAWS added to the Sabbath alone!
THE ORAL LAWS OR FENCE LAWS continued to develop until AD 200 when a Rabbi, named Judah Hanasi, compiled the existing FENCE LAWS into a document called the MISHNA.
300-years later, a COMMENTARY on the MISHNA was also compiled, called the GEMARA.
And these two documents, THE MISHNA & GEMARA, combined to form the TALMUD …
a wicked book which calls Mary an adulterous whore & Jesus a sorcerer who is burning in hot excrement & semen in Hell.
The Pharisees even taught that when God gave Moses the Law on Mt. Sinai, that God gave him two sets of laws, not just one:
THE WRITTEN LAW and a SECRET ORAL LAW, from which these FENCE LAWS originated.
So the ORAL LAW was considered as EQUALLY & DIVINELY INSPIRED as the Scriptures.
And so 2 official systems of religious authority dominated Jesus’ day: THE SCRIPTURES & THE TRADITION OF THE ELDERS.
That’s why Jesus answered in Mark 7:6-8 >>>
The tradition of the elders had taken precedence over the Word of God.
THE MISHNA DECLARES: “It is more punishable to act against the words of the Scribes than those of the Scriptures”
So while the Pharisees officially held to the view that the Scriptures were authoritative …
… In practice, their man-made traditions trumped the Word of God as their actual final authority.
The Pharisees had embraced a religious system that enabled them to act contrary to God’s Word, while superficially appearing to be in obedience to it.
That’s why Jesus said to the Pharisees in Mark 7:13: “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Let’s read the passage within its contex, context, starting in V 9-13 >>>
One way to honor our parents is to care for them when they age.
But the Pharisees had abandoned their aging parents and done it under the cloak of piety.
The Pharisees’ practice was to pledge a monetary gift to God.
This pledge was called CORBAN, which is a Hebrew transliteration meaning an offering or gift devoted to God.
But they had devised a system where the offering could be made in an ideal or theoretical sense …
… & could even be deferred until after they died.
… And so when the aging parents required care, they could say that their money was CORBAN …
LET’S LOOK @ another instance where Jesus defies the tradition of the elders.
Turn to John 9:1-7 >>>
Have you ever wondered why Jesus used clay & spit to heal the blind man’s eyes when He could have just as easily spoken a WORD OF HEALING?
In Luke 18, Jesus heals a blind man by simply speaking a word. He says in Luke 18:42: “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”
But here, Jesus uses spittle & dirt to make make clay, & puts it on the blind man’s eyes.
The secret is in the TRADITION OF THE ELDERS.
FIRST, Jesus was defying the most sacred of all the FENCE LAWS: THE SABBATH.
It was FORBIDDEN to HEAL ON THE SABBATH unless the sick person was in imminent danger of dying, if he was not healed that same day.
But there’s more to it than that.
There was a regulation in the FENCE LAWS, that specifically FORBADE RUBBING MUD in the EYES OF A BLIND MAN.
In SHABBAT 108 of the TALMUD, it is written: “To heal a blind man on the Sabbath is prohibited to inject wine into his eyes. It is also prohibited to make mud from spittle and smear it on his eyes.”
Being fully aware of their traditions, JESUS OPENLY WAGED WAR on the TRADITION OF THE ELDERS.
THIS TELL US that we are not supposed to keep quiet & just get along when confronted with the harmful traditions of the church.
By defying their man-made traditions, Jesus was affirming the written Word of God as the FINAL AUTHORITY.
Jesus strategically defied all their traditions, from associating with publicans, prostitutes, and sinners to plucking ears of corn with His disciples on the Sabbath …
Jesus went out of His way to defy the false religious institutions of His time, because such institutions are not only destructive …
… but they also supplant the authority of the Word of God!
& Defying man-made institutions infuriates the religious establishment.
When Jesus healed the withered hand of a man on the Sabbath, instead of praising God for the miraculous healing, the Bible says in Matthew 12:14: “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”
Jesus’ defiance of traditions, undermined their religious authority, & elicited such hatred & fury from the Pharisees that it led to His crucifixion.
BY PUBLICLY challenging their traditions, Jesus called into question the very legitimacy of their claim as rulers of God’s people.
& We have to ask ourselves today:
Are we doing the same thing?
Do our churches look & function like the early churches of the apostles?
Acts 4:32 says: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul [does that described your church?]: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”
This is not only speaking of physical possessions, but a type of mentality, a type of spiritual understanding that knits the hearts & souls of believers together into one family.
Churches today have become a 1-man show, run exclusively by the pastor!
… Kind of like having your own little local mini-Pope to ordain & bless everything that you do.
We have this mentality that there’s just 1 office & 1 function of the church … the pastor or maybe 2 at best, the pastor & the deacon …
… & everyone else needs to sit down & be good little pew warmers who’s only function is to tithe each week.
But the Bible speaks of having multiple elders within the church …
Acts 20:17 says: “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus [speaking of Paul], and called the elders of the church.” [plural, elders].
And in v. 28 Paul addresses the same group elders as “overseers”. He says: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers [it’s the Holy Ghost that selects the elders, not men, and again, it’s plural], to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
James 5:14 says: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church …”
But today’s church is a social club w/ 1 pastor behind the pulpit every Sunday, preaching a 1-hour watered-down sermon … preceded by announcements, the offering plate, and a few songs.
… and then everyone goes back to their normal lives, and feels self-righteous about their faithful church attendance record.
And I like hearing & preaching sermons too, it’s not a bad tradition in & of itself … it’s just that when that becomes the entire FOCUS of the church … that it becomes a problem.
What we do here for the 1.5 hour of Sunday church service, is only [[[ this much ]]] of what we’re actually doing … but this is all people on the outside see.
And there’s actually Biblical basis to teaching and preaching from God’s Word, but church is much more than that.
We read in Nehemiah 8:2 [Look at Nehemiah 8]:
2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. [So we see Ezra teaching from the Law].
4And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose, [that’s the only time the word pulpit appears in the Bible, and they were standing on it, it was more of a platform … so even this pulpit here is somewhat of a tradition, but it has Biblical basis to it]; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. [So there were a multitude of men who stood with him on each side, it wasn’t Ezra by himself lording it over the flock].
5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. [This was a church service, and it went on all day.]
7Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.
8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
[So there’s Biblical precedence for the preaching of God’s Word, but it was never just 1 man doing all the preaching, especially in the new testament era].
& In the early church, not only was there more than 1 elder, but ALL members were encouraged to share & actively participate in the mission of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:26 says: “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”
That’s why I encourage brother Marshall & others to get up & preach a sermon whenever possible.
And while not everyone is going to stand up & preach a sermon, we should all have something worthy to contribute.
… every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation
What does it say? EVERY ONE of YOU, not just the leadership.
Early believers also SHARED MEALS together, like a family does, which denotes intimate fellowship & involvement in each others’ lives.
Acts 2:46 says: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,”
But most congregants, don’t even know their pastor, have never been to his house, or met his children.
How do they know if he is one “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” if they’ve never been to his house?
We also see based on this passage that the early churches met in houses.
Philemon 1:2 – “And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:”
Colossians 4:15 – “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.”
Romans 16:5: “Likewise greet the church that is in their house..”
1 Corinthians 16:19: “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”
So why this criticism from pastors about churches that meet in houses?
When the Tribulation hit do you think it’s going to be these neatly ordained & seminary-trained pastors and corporate government-run churches meeting publicly in their rented buildings …
… that are gonna be the ones to lead the people of God against the Anti-Christ?
And I’m not against meeting in a building. Maybe one day God will lead us in that direction …
But the point is not to be dogmatic about things like that, on either side.
But I prefer what we’re witnessing here, being in intimate fellowship with one another …
… and there’s much more Biblical support for that, than for the institutional churches.
So why do so many pastors rail against churches that meet in houses?
Because they’re either deceived by modern tradition or because house churches usually DON’T PUSH their favorite tradition of all time: THE OBLIGATORY TITHE.
You’ll notice that in this church, we don’t pass around an offering plate. There’s no Biblical basis for it.
& There’re ABSOLUTELY NO BIBLE VERSES in the NT commanding Christians to tithe.
… The TITHE was an OT ordinance instituted exclusively for the Levitical priesthood.
Since the Levites were NOT GIVEN ANY LAND when God divided up the Promised Land among the 12 tribes of Israel,
God’s people were commanded to give 10% of ALL their increase to the Levites.
20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
So the TITHE was the Levite’s inheritance and has been done away with under the NC.
So then why are PASTORS always pushing the tithe? Keeping track of it? Even demanding it?
There are 3 possibilities: (1) either your pastor is a novice (2) he’s deceived by tradition or (3) he’s knowingly making void the Word of God in order to get paid.
& you might say a church needs money to operate, & yes, that’s true!
But first of all, operating expenses are going to be a lot less, if your modeling your church after the NT CHURCH OF THE APOSTLES.
They didn’t rent buildings, they didn’t hire outside staff, they didn’t hire professional musicians … they didn’t have a board of directors … they didn’t have consultants or paid secretaries …
They just huddled in a house & shared their meals together and preached the Gospel outside their houses!
But even for a small house church, there will be some expenses.
But that’s where everyone should contribute from their hearts & everybody should do their part.
& That’s where NT giving comes in. And it doesn’t look anything like the tithe.
2 Corinthians 9:7: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
The NT model of giving is actually much more generous, much more abundant, and always freely given from the heart.
The prime example of NT giving is in the book of Acts, Chapter 4:
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid [them] down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
The early believers never gave 10% of their income … that would have been to meager and stingy.
They gave ALL that they had.
In other words, the EARLY BELIEVERS didn’t go to church on Sunday, put 10% in the offering plate, hear a watered-down sermon, and go home.
And repeat from Sunday to Sunday.
Their entire lives were COMPLETELY DEDICATED TO GOD, THE GOSPEL, and their fellow believers.
AND PASTORS will go to extremes & round-about ways to convince you that the tithe is still in effect!
They’ll cite Melchizedek as their prime example … saying, “Even Abraham tithed to Melchizedek!”
But go back & read the passage in Genesis 14.
Abraham only tithed 10% of the SPOILS to Melchizedek, when he recovered the stolen possessions of the King of Sodom in battle.
Hebrews 7:4 says: “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.”
And this is one of the issues that many pastors get livid about, because it goes against their most cherished and closely guarded traditions.
ANOTHER TRADITION that has infiltrated the church is what I call bishop-baptism …
… where only the pastor or deacon or approved member is allowed to BAPTIZE new believers.
BUT the best example of water baptism in the Bible, is a picture of the SOUL WINNER (the one preaching the Gospel) baptizing the believer, immediately upon salvation!
The most notable example is Philip & the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts, Chapter 8.
Philip was preaching the Gospel to the eunuch and in verse 36, it says: “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”
And, of course, Philip looked at the Eunuch and said: “Hey, let’s go back to my church, and talk to my pastor, & we’ll check the schedule … and have the pastor baptize you as soon as he’s available … and you have to take a fundamentals of the faith class and become a church member, before we baptize you.”
Of course, that never happened.
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
No religious fanfare, no church membership, no fundamentals of the faith class, no church, no pastor.
Just the soul winner & the new believer in the sight of God Almighty.
All believers, AS KINGS AND PRIESTS, filled with the Holy Ghost …
… as members of the one body of Christ, have the authority to water baptize another believer.
But this Bishop-baptism mentality stems from the Roman Catholic tradition of placing the bishop or pastor above His God-ordained position.
And there are many more traditions that I don’t have time to get into today, such as the traditions surrounding ordination (what I call the Sent Out Heresy) …
… which Brother Marshall is planning to dedicate an entire sermon to in the upcoming month or so …
But with all of these man-traditions getting in the way of our work for the Lord …
… & the structure & organization of the 1-bishop, mandatory tithing, corporate, Sunday-meeting, pastor-worshipping churches getting in the way of how church is really supposed to be done …
On top of all the false doctrine, & weak preaching, & compromising morality …
… we, as a people of God, are left with few options.
The vast majority of churches have fallen away from not only right doctrine, but the LIVING, BREATHING, SPIRIT-LED MODEL of the EARLY CHURCH in the BOOK OF ACTS.
So what are we supposed to do as believers?
What are our options?
Well, some pastors will tell you to SIT DOWN, & SHUT UP, & just go to church.
But I disagree.
And I’m not advocating using the fallen state of most churches as an excuse to abandon your local church … go to every local church in your area and test them …
… & be forgiving. No church is perfect.
And if there are no good options locally, consider moving to another city or State …
And so for some of you …
AS THE REMNANT BELIEVERS who hold the truth in high estimation …
… BECOME the next generation of REFORMERS & start new churches & preach the Gospel, & go soul winning …
… with or without the approval of your local church!
But here’s the catch-22: the very pastors & churches who have run amok with the traditions of the elders …
… are the very ones that will say: “By what authority do you do such things?”
You’ll receive opposition from your local Pharisee council.
For some, this might just take on the form of a simple Bible study and soul winning with a friend or two.
Sometimes, that’s all we have.
But I’d rather have a handful of strong believers at my side, like Gideon did, than a 100 Sunday church-goers who won’t give up their traditions and would rather make void the Word of God.
Jesus said of the Pharisees and their traditions in Matthew 23:4: “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
In Matthew 23:24-28, He said: >>>
And if you can’t find a good church and God hasn’t led you to start one, come join us here.
We need faithful men and women of God who are willing to make sacrifices to help us build our ministry right here in Spokane, WA.