Truth Over Tradition

Truth over tradition

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:9-13)

The Pharisees are infamous for loving tradition and ignoring Scripture. The example Jesus gives is of a Pharisee sleight of hand. The fifth commandment was to honor your father and mother. The Pharisees had a tradition that said if you say over the money that you would have used to take care of aged parents, “This is committed to God,” then you don’t have to care for them. That wasn’t in the Bible anywhere, but it was a tradition. The tradition contradicted the truth, but for the Pharisees, tradition trumped truth.

Does this happen in churches? All the time. The seven famous words that kill a church are, “This is how we’ve always done it.” This is another way of saying the past trumps the future. Old wineskins are preferred over new ones.

As a general rule, if you are on the side of the Pharisees you are on the wrong side of the issue. What trumps what? What is more authoritative than what? Truth? Tradition? Tradition has power. It feels right because it feels safe and sentimental. However, this is not an emotional issue; it’s really a theological one. Is God’s Word our authority or not? NOT, how have we done it or how have we thought about it, but what does God’s word say? It really is a battle for the supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Word.

Authority in the church comes from God’s Word in Scripture. Truth trumps tradition. This is why Jesus drove the Pharisees crazy. He was constantly confronting their traditions with truth; whether that was by healing a man on the Sabbath or ceremonial hand washing before dinner or whatever, Jesus lived according to the truth NOT the traditions of man.

One of my favorite compliments I have ever received was actually intended to be a smear against me. Someone overheard this and told me about it. Years ago we were making some significant changes in the church and guess what? Someone was complaining about it. The other person said, “Have you talked to Steve about it?” The fellow said, “What good would that do? He’d just say, where’s that in the Bible?”

Let’s be “where’s that in the Bible?” kind of people. Now I know the Bible doesn’t address everything directly and much of ministry is faithful application of biblical principles. Still, it is important that we hold as a value that the Bible is in ink and everything else is in pencil. This allows us to avoid the mistake of so many churches that become irrelevant. Tradition doesn’t save anyone; truth does, because Jesus is truth. Truth over tradition.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2012 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address ( on the copied resource.

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