What’s Wrong With Tradition?

The story is told of young lady who married and in her zeal to please her new husband wanted to prepare a wonderful feast for him to eat. While preparing the ham her husband noticed she cut off the end and threw it in the garbage can. Disturbed by his new wife’s apparent wastefulness he insisted on knowing why she had done such a thing. His wife didn’t know, so she called her mother who in turn called her mother, who then gave the answer. It turns out the great, great grandmother of this girl had a pan that was too short, so every time she prepared a ham she had to cut off the end! This tradition had prevailed for many years. We all can see the foolishness of this.
Today it is not uncommon to hear brethren, who have been Christians for many years, make the claim in business meetings and in classes “Oh, it’s just our tradition”! This bothers me and it ought to bother you as well. Why does it bother me?
1. It Bothers Me Because: When this statement is made it is implying that the only reason we do the things we do in our worship to Almighty God is because our parents and their parents before them did these things. What message are we sending out to those who hear us make this cry? Someone visiting our service that day (a non-Christian) might hear that statement and think “well my parents are just as smart as these folks’ parents.” So what if we worship differently than them? After all, “It’s only tradition”!
2. It Bothers Me Because: When that statement is made it is implying that the way we are doing things now needs to change! You see if we are just following our parents and their parents’ example in our worship to God then there would be no harm in changing things to better suit the times we are living in! Let’s add some things next Sunday to our worship service say like a band and liven up things a little! After all, “It’s only tradition”!
3. It Bothers Me Because: When that statement is made it is implying that the Lord’s church is no longer sufficient to accomplish the work for which God gave the church to do! If this be the case then there would be nothing wrong with the social gospel! There would be nothing wrong with other organizations receiving money from churches to do their work! After all, “It’s only tradition”! I ask the question now “What’s wrong with tradition”? The answer lies in understanding the word itself.
Tradition: (paradosis) Thayer & Smith: “a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc. . . . a. objectively, that which is delivered, the substance of a teaching. b. of the body of precepts, esp. ritual, which in the opinion of the later Jews were orally delivered by Moses and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations . . . which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the written law, as they did were to be obeyed with equal reverence.”
Tradition, we see, is simply the passing down or handing down of a teaching from someone to someone else. The truth of the matter is tradition can be good and tradition can be bad! “Can one be handed down a wrong tradition”? Yes, the ham example is living proof of that as well as the countless denominations scattered throughout the country. Many people are what they are religiously simply because their parents were and their parents before them were! So we see that tradition can be good and bad! Just listen to what the Scriptures declare: The word “tradition” is used eleven times in the New American Standard version (Matt. 15:2; ; Matt. 15:6; mark 7:3; Mark 7:5; Mark 7:8; Mark 7:9, Mark 7:13; Col 2:8; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Peter 1:18).
The word tradition is used twice in the plural (Gal 1:14; 2 Thess 2:15).
The apostle Paul answers our question for us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 when he told the brethren to stand fast and hold the traditions that they had been taught! Traditions are good when they come from sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is Christ’s doctrine! Christ is the source of all authority. He is God’s spokesman today (Heb. 1:1). He has all authority (Matt. 28:18) and his message is from God (John 17:7-8). We are under law to Christ today, not Moses or the prophets (1Cor. 9:21). Christ gave authority to the Apostles who were guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Gal. 1:12; 2 Pet.1:20-21) when they gave the world the Bible! We have therefore today the inspired will of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17)! In 2 John 9 we are told through the Holy Spirit through John that if we want to have both the Father and the Son we must “abide” (continue) in the doctrine of Christ!
This means if you are following a tradition (paradosis) “a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e., tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc. . . . which is not the doctrine of Christ, in other words that which has been handed down to you is not the pure doctrine, truth, or gospel of Jesus Christ, then your worship and practice to Almighty God is going to be in vain. Jesus stated this fact very clearly in Matthew 15:9, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” The apostle Paul in his letter to the churches of Galatia told them: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7).
I ask the question: What’s wrong with tradition?
Nothing if that tradition handed down to you is indeed the doctrine of Jesus Christ! One doesn’t need a college degree or any special ability to learn this because the Bible was written so all could understand it (Eph. 3:4). If therefore, you have a hunger and thirst for righteousness and a sincere love for God’s word and a burning desire to study and mediate and grow in the grace of God and to speak only the oracles of God, then simply follow Paul’s advice in 2 Timothy 2:15 and “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” When you have done this and you find no fault in the traditions that have been handed down to you by faithful parents and grandparents and brethren who have long since departed to be with Jesus, then count your blessings and “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thess. 2:15).
Truth Magazine Vol. XLV: 2 p18 January 18, 2001 (Adapted)

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The Grace Of God

by Gene Taylor

The usual definition for grace, “unmerited favor,” is not broad enough in its scope to fully defirne all that is meant by the term (see Luke 2:40; Col. 4:6). W. E. Vine defines it as, “That which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard;…on the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds, graciousness, lovingkindness, goodwill generally…especially with reference to the Divine favour or grace, e.g., Acts 14:26…” (Expository Dict. Of New Testament Words, pp. 509–510).
As seen in the Bible, grace, in respect to salvation, is a summary of all God has done to effect the salvation of man. It includes all of His acts which show favor to undeserving mankind. But God’s grace is more than mere passive pity. It expresses itself in real, concrete acts of love (Rom. 5:8).
Considering several New Testament passages makes it easy to see how His grace runs through all God has done for man’s salvation. By grace He sacrificed His Son (Heb. 5:8–9). By grace He revealed His plan of salvation (1 Cor. 2:9–12; Gal. 1:11–12; Eph. 3:1–5). It is by grace that God raises sinners to a new life in Christ (Eph. 2:4–7; cf. Rom. 6:4–5). By His grace, God commissioned His Son to build the church (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28).
While grace includes all God has done to bring about the salvation of man, it excludes salvation by meritorious works (Rom. 4:4; 11:6). Salvation by works of this nature would demand a life of perfect obedience to divine law — it would be of debt. Salvation by grace, on the other hand, bridges the gap between our imperfection and God’s perfect law by means of pardon and forgiveness (1 John 2:1).
The presence and reality of sin is what makes the grace of God necessary. Since all have sinned (Rom. 3:10, 23), all, therefore, are under the sentence of death, the penalty for or the wages of sin (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8).
God, in His matchless love, provided His Son to die in man’s place (1 Pet. 1:18–19). While the grace of God is demonstrated in many ways, none is greater than its manifestation in His Son (Rom. 3:23–24). Since man has sinned, he deserves the punishment of the second death in hell and no works he could do would earn or merit his salvation from it. Therefore, salvation is that which is given by the grace of God, a favor man has not merited. Hence, salvation is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8–9).
Some have erroneously concluded from Romans 6:14–15 that we are “not under law but under grace” and that law and grace are mutually exclusive. However, the fact we are under grace does not mean we are not subject to law and that it is not essential for us to keep divine law.
We are subject to law from God. The teaching of Christ is called “law” (1 Cor. 9:21; 1 John 3:4; Isa. 2:1–3). We are required to obey that law (1 John 3:4; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; John 4:24; 1 Pet. 4:11). Whenever God has spoken to man or given a law, He has expected strict obedience and the utmost respect for His word (Deut. 4:2; Lev. 10:1–2; Rev. 22:18–19).
Grace does not mean we are not subject to law, rather, it means that we have a means of forgiveness when we violate that law, if we meet the divine conditions. The teaching of the apostle Paul in Romans 6:14–15 is that we are not under a system of mere law without grace as a means of justification. Depending on mere law would require perfect law-keeping for justification. Such would make one a legalist. Our justification is by grace through faith.
Though salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:8), it is not by grace alone. Some teach otherwise: “We believe the scriptures teach that the salvation of sinners is wholly by grace” (Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, ch. 8, art. 4). Actually, one is saved by nothing alone. The many factors of salvation include: faith (Rom. 5:1); repentance (Acts 11:18); blood (Rom. 5:9–10); works (Jas. 2:24); baptism (1 Pet. 3:21); the gospel (Rom. 1:16); confession (1 John 4:2); and grace (Eph. 2:8–9).
Salvation by grace is through the teaching of the gospel, God’s “power unto salvation” (Rom.1:16). It is called “the word of His grace” (Acts 14:3) and “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). It is by the gospel that the kindness of God redeems man and provides him all spiritual blessings. The word is the medium of His grace (Titus 2:11–12). The word of His grace is able to build up and strengthen the Christian so that he might grow in Christ, grow unto salvation (Acts 20:32; 1 Pet. 2:1–2).
But God’s grace is conditional. It is conditioned upon obedient faith made perfect by works (Eph. 2:8–9; Rom. 5:1–2; Jas. 2:17–26; Matt. 7:21). The obedient works upon which salvation is conditioned do not nullify grace for they do not earn salvation. The examples of Naaman (2 Kings 5) and the blind man (John 9:6–7) show that these gifts were given by grace but conditions had to be met to receive them.

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If You Were to Ask God for One Thing…

We’ve all heard the stories about a genie offering to grant wishes, and most of us have probably spent time imagining what wishes we would make. While genies are, of course, imaginary and fanciful creations of some clever minds, there is a story in the Bible about God asking a man what he wanted.
In 1 Kings 3, “the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night” (3:5). Some translations have the words of God on this occasion as a statement of instruction—“Ask what I shall give thee” (KJV); “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (NIV). I like the way the New King James Version translates it as an exclamation, followed by a question—“Ask! What shall I give you?”
Forget the imaginary genie! This is the Almighty God! Suppose the Almighty God said to you, “Ask! What shall I give you?” For what would you ask? If the One with whom all things are possible told you to “ask for whatever you want,” what one thing would you request?
Some would ask for wealth or material possessions. Let’s face it, many are living today with their lives focused on the goods of this world, and that would, no doubt, be the one thing they asked of the Lord, if given the chance. Later in life, Solomon petitioned the Lord, “Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me” (Prov. 30:8). Perhaps contentment should be the request we make (Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6-8; Heb. 13:5).
Some would ask for a long life with perfect health. Many today would love nothing more than to live as long as possible on this earth, enjoying every pleasure the world affords. While there is certainly nothing wrong with a long life on this earth, our eternal life in our eternal home should be the focus of all we do, and that should dictate how we live this temporary life in this temporary world (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Pet. 2:11-12; Heb. 11:13-16).
When he could ask for anything, Solomon asked for wisdom to discern good from evil. Sin results when we choose evil instead of good. Shouldn’t it be of foremost importance to us to know good, to know evil and to know the difference, so that we do not choose actions, thoughts or words that would separate us from God?
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Ask God for wisdom!

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Gambling (Part 1)

This article was written by a good friend and faithful gospel preacher (J. Clyde Strickland) several years ago. It is as apropos today as it was when first written.
That GAMBLING is very widespread must be admitted by all. Will Rogers is reported to have said, “There is a wide streak in nearly every American man and woman, a fat streak, fat as a prize hog’s bacon’ (WIN OR LOSE, by Stephen Longstreet, Introduction, p. IX). But why do people gamble? And is there anything wrong with gambling? Is it a sin to gamble? These are questions, along with others; I shall endeavor to answer in this article.
The Practice of gambling in its many forms dates back to ancient times. Artifacts of gambling paraphernalia have been discovered in ancient China, India, and in Egypt. For example, ivory dice which date back to 1500 years before Christ were found in the city of Thebes, an ancient city of Boeotia, a region located in central Greece, and gambling is mentioned in still older tablets found in the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt (AMERICANA ENCYCLOPEDIA, vol. 12. p. 264, 1988 ed). Gambling is found in countries and societies from the most civilized to the most primitive; and it is engaged in by the rich and best educated, the middle class, and by the very poor. America, our beloved country, has been called “The gamblingest nation that ever existed,” a dubious honor which no right-thinking people would ever covet.
Definition
Gambling is defined as: “vt. 1. To play a game of chance for money or other stakes on an uncertain outcome (as of horse race or an athletic game); 2. To stake something of value on an uncertain event or contingency. Vt. 1. To risk or lose by gambling; wager, bet (“They’ve all been gambled and lost by her husband this morning”); 2. To expose (something of value) to risk or hazard in hope of advantage or gain” (WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY). Other sources give approximately the same definition. For example, the ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA gives the following: “Gambling generally is defined as the voluntary risking of a sum of money called the stake, wager, or bet, on the outcome of a game or other event” (1988 ed., vol. 12, p. 264). Then too, gambling involves each participant in an effort to take from the other that which he has, or has wagered, without his giving anything in return–an effort to obtain something for nothing.
Chance, Risk, Gambling
Many have argued than many of the things we do, and maybe most things, involve gambling. It is contended that the farmer gambles against the elements, rain, hail, drought, insects, etc., every time he plants seed in his effort to make a crop; that we gamble against other drivers whenever we drive our cars on the highway, and that when we go to bed at night, there is a chance, a risk, and therefore, we gamble that we shall see tomorrow’s sun. But look again at the definition given above for gambling. Gambling is not just a chance; gambling is a wager, a stake, or a bet on a chance! It is an effort to get something of value (money, property, or service) without giving the equivalent in return.
The farmer plants and cultivates his crops; he labors for that which he receives. True, his wages received for his labors sometimes may be small, but he didn’t gamble. Also, a risk is taken when we drive our cars out on the highways, a necessary risk, but in the light of the definition above, it is not gambling. And there is a chance that something could happen (heart attack, etc.) which could prevent our seeing another day. These are but chances we have to take, necessary risk, but do not involve gambling. If we should make a bet or wager against these risks, then we would be gambling. Further, in these risks one does not take to himself; money or property (possessions) which belong to the other. Thus, gambling is not involved.
Why People Gamble
It may seem strange for one who has never gambled to undertake to tell why people gamble, yet, gamblers have given their reasons as to why they gambled. I can report their reasons for gambling.

  1.  Some gamble in the hope of obtaining money without having to work for it–the love of gain without labor! And what started out on this basis for many resulted in their losing great amounts of money and their property.
  2. These losses then gave reason for their continued gambling: Efforts to recoup their losses, thinking: “I just had a streak of bad luck, but I can win it all back!” Many never do.
  3. Some gamble for the thrill it gives them. The thrill of pulling the lever and hitting the jackpot; of making the bet and winning the hand at cards; guessing the number on which your put will land on the roulette wheel, or at some other game. “The thrill of the game brings many back to the table!”
  4. Addiction: Just as experimenting with drugs leads to addition, so the thrill of gambling leads to addiction. One becomes a “compulsive gambler.” And regardless of the number of losses and debts incurred, he returns to the table again and again. In order to learn gambling is addictive, one need only read the testimony of doctors who have treated gamblers for their addiction to gambling. Also, there is an organization called GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS which was established just to treat those addicted to gambling in much the same way that ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS endeavors to treat the alcoholic.

In light of all this, would one still argue there is nothing wrong with gambling?
The gambler is a perpetual optimist. He is just certain that with the next roll of the dice, the next pull of the lever, the next spin of the wheel, or the next hand of cards will win for him the jackpot. The sad thing is, it rarely ever happens that way. It is reported that for the professional gambler, when his year’s losses are totaled he ends up in the minus column with a deficit of from ten to twenty thousand dollars, and if he is not otherwise wealthy, banks will not lend him money. The gambler is a bad risk.
(To be continued)

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