We would like to emphasize a few observations made from the words of Jesus found in Mark 7:1-13: “‘And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (verses 7-8).
The truth sets free
Freedom lies in truth, not in the shackling bonds of tradition. On Reformation Day, we should greatly uphold and emphasize this. It is good that we have an annual day to keep reminding ourselves of some of the principles of our religious freedoms. The Reformation of the 16th century was the result of human questions about freedom. True freedom is the fruit of knowing the will of God and doing according to His will.
The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew little of the freedom of the Spirit, for they were bound and misled, deceived, deluded, and defrauded by their own transgressions. To them, Jesus said: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.” Those who do so will encounter great difficulties.
Now let us go back to the history of religion and see how many people became unhappy because they rejected the will of God in their lives and went their own ways instead of the ways of God. There is no quicker way of getting into all kinds of trouble than to abandon the divine commandments and withdraw from Jesus’ guidance.
When a person rejects God’s will
Dr. Halford Luccock explains: “The worst and bloodiest chapters in history date from those times when men despised the commandments of God and put human statutes in their place.” – How right he is!
Let us recall all the persecutions, wars, revolutions, cruelties, and inquisitions committed in the name of religion! What terrible consequences they bring when man forgets God and gives in to his own desires and lusts! How abominable to God must the quarrels among Christian organizations be! Jesus taught us to love, pray for, and forgive our fellow human beings, even our enemies.
When religion is set as the rule of the game
Jesus proclaimed the supremacy of the divine commandments over human statutes. He said: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The spirit of Christ has always been superior to the letter of the law.
In our time, difficulties and differences arise because people define their religion by rules and regulations. Keeping this order is more important for them than a healthy biblical rebirth. Instead of new life and new hope, they set their laws: “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.”
Human traditions and false doctrines
Worshiping anything other than the eternal Godhead is pure idolatry, and yet this is done by millions of people. Believing that a person can forgive your sins and mine and that he or she stands in Christ’s or God’s place is blasphemy. Who could take the place of Jesus Christ, our only mediator, our only Savior?
The teaching that sin can be atoned for by good works is a belief of men and not the belief proclaimed in the Word of God. We do not find this teaching anywhere in the Bible.
The belief that sin can be eradicated by attending church services, communion, confirmation, or by becoming baptized is contrary to the revealed Word of the Almighty God.
The belief that a person can receive the Spirit of God through an outward act is man’s doctrine. God is not involved in this.
Are we substituting tradition for the Word of God?
Millions of people place traditions above the true Word of God, and many of these people attend Christian worship services. It is blasphemy to put human commandments at the same level as God’s commandments. It is blasphemy to place a church’s statement of faith above the authentic message of the Bible.
Apostasy – a possibility
The apostasy of the Church of the morning-time is one of the greatest stains in the history of Christianity, but apostasy is always a possibility, and it will always remain a possibility whenever and wherever people begin to put their own ideas in place of the Spirit and the commandments of God. We will achieve complete freedom only when we follow the Lord in spirit and in truth, as it is shown to us in His Word.
W. D. Oldham