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Tradition Becomes More Attractive than Truth

Why the church must fight against spiritual ruts
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Adventures in Missing the Point". See series.


According to Merriam-Webster, tradition is "the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction." We all traditions, don't we? For example, when should Christmas presents be opened—Christmas Eve or Christmas day?

Let's take a look at the first seven verses of Mark chapter 7. Here we'll see what the Pharisees thought about tradition:

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.)
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"
And he said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

The Pharisees believed traditions were more than just good ideas or cherished beliefs. They believed their traditions were of equal authority with Scripture. They believed that God gave both the written Torah (Genesis—Leviticus) and the oral Torah (the traditions of the elders). The oral Torah was divided into six sections and contained laws and traditions about agriculture, festivals, women, civil and criminal law, ...

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Ed Rowell is pastor of Tri-Lakes Chapel in Monument, Colorado, and author of Preaching with Spiritual Passion (Baker).

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Sermon Outline:


I. Tradition can foster external religion.

II. Tradition can supersede Scripture.

III. Tradition can twist theological truth.

IV. Tradition can stifle effective ministry.