3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
Traditions; Sunday School, bus ministries, Grandmother’s day, Church softball leagues, aerobics in the basement, patriotic displays, and the like plus many others may be very helpful and seem very pious and godly but are often easily confused with true worship. I’m sure you can think of traditions that may be based in Biblical principles or things that are really helpful in today’s world that churches do but aren’t what was a part of New Testament church practice. Sometimes even to question these things is considered not to be spiritual. When a Pastor prefers traditions over Bible reading, letting God speak to you daily and cleanse your heart, then he is condemning his congregation to powerlessness and there will be no Holy Spirit revival there.
It has often been a sort of joke in Baptist churches that something is done not for a Biblical reason but simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. No question can be made as to why it has to be that way. For centuries upon centuries Christians were even murdered by other so-called Christians over traditions.
Although in the first two centuries no church leader (called ‘father’ by scholars and Roman Catholics in spite of Christ’s admonition against the name in Matthew 23:9 referring to a religious leader as per Judges 17:10) even referred to infant baptism it did start to become a tradition to baptize babies in the paganized Christian churches. This practice is never mentioned in the Bible. But, as Christianity became more accepted and popular, even eventually receiving the approval of Roman emperors or, if not the approval, at least the leniency toward, pagan ideals and religious practices entered the Christian practice.
Men who had been trained in Greek philosophy like Justin Martyr began to speak of the regenerating effects of baptism and the paganized Christian churches began to think of baptism as a saving sacrament, as if that was the point at which you were saved. Infant baptism, sprinkling the child of Christian parents, then became a saving grace. This unbiblical error became popular and the true Christians soon became outnumbered by the many Christians who had one foot in the pagan world of Satan and one in the Christian kingdom of the Spirit. Whether they were really saved or not, it is not for me to say.
Baptismal regeneration and infant baptism go hand in hand as does now the idea that you can lose your salvation. You see, if an unknowing baby can be saved by being baptized then that same baby, then child, and then adult must be able to lose his or her salvation if they stray far from the fold or infant baptism makes no sense. So, heresy after heresy moving away from the authority of Scripture becomes orthodoxy, conventional wisdom, and if you question this tradition you can lose your freedom, your family, your property, and your life in the Dark Ages.
The person who re-baptizes someone as an adult who had been baptized as a baby was called an ana-baptist or rebaptizer and in many places and many times to do so was illegal. The Un-Biblical tradition became an oppression. Other traditions that developed over time as the tares of paganism became united with the Scripture believing Christian wheat included making the sign of the cross, wearing crucifixes and crosses, celebrating Christ’s birth, special Holy Days or holidays as we know them now, and certain modes of worship. I’m sure you can think of more.
Is it wrong to dedicate a baby to Christ and have the parent’s promise before the church that the child will be raised with the knowledge of Christ? Of course not, but the tradition became a heresy and then an oppression as people were murdered for their resistance to sprinkling their babies. Dare we permit any of our traditions to stand in the way of someone’s faith?
I was in a church service recently where we sang hymns and gospel songs, Christ and the Scripture were uplifted, and we prayed for each other, plus testimonies were given by all present, both sexes, regardless of age. This resembled the early church worship revealed in 1st Corinthians just before Paul warns about speaking in tongues (other human languages than the one spoken naturally by the speaker) which died out with the age of the Apostles;
1Corinthians 14:26 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.
This service reminded me of how far Christianity had moved away from the simplicity of Christ in the beginning with no sacred spaces except in the Christian’s heart and with a joyous and Christ directed worship that was noted for not only its spontaneity but in its active participation by all. Services have become monuments to dead formalism, and I would say, dead, pagan formalism of ritually repeated behaviors and speech.
Traditions aren’t necessarily bad ideas. But, none of us were saved by a tradition.
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.