WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
MARCH 20, 2021
TOPIC: BEWARE OF THE TRADITION OF THE ELDERS!
BY T. O. BANSO
“Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:2 New King James Version).
It is not every teaching that is popular in the body of Christ today that is supported by the Bible. Be careful! There are blind leaders, who like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ days, lack understanding of the Scripture. 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (New King James Version).
The scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:2 New King James Version). They were indirectly indicting Jesus. Mark 7:2-4 says the Pharisees and all the Jews believed that touching food with unwashed hands would defile them so they had to wash their hands in a special way.
However, unwashed hands do not defile a person; washing one’s hands is a good rule of hygiene to observe. Jesus said, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:11 New King James Version).
Earlier in verse 3, Jesus had asked them in reply to their question on why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (New King James Version). It was a case of the tradition of the elders (tradition of men – Mark 7:8) versus the commandment of God.
Referring to the time he was a Pharisee, Paul said, “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14 New King James Version). He must have been referring to the tradition of the elders. He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6).
The tradition of the elders was “the oral law, handed down by the elders of the past in ex-cathedra fashion and later codified in the Mishna” (Robertson’s NT World Picture). They believed that, in addition to the law given to Moses and recorded in the Old Testament, Moses was given another law that was not written but was passed down orally. The oral law was later written down and called the Mishna (Jewish law from the oral tradition which later formed part of the Talmud).
After this, the Talmud was written, which is a body of Jewish civil and religious law consisting of the Mishna and the commentaries on the Mishna called Gemara. The Jews considered the oral law more important than the written law of Moses.
To transgress the commandment of God, which Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of, means to violate, contravene, or disobey it. Their own rules became more important to them than God’s commandment. God’s commandment says honour your father and mother and anyone who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. But the scribes and Pharisees taught the people not to honor their parents by caring for their needs if they gave the money to God instead. Thus by their tradition, they nullified the direct commandment of God.
Jesus answered the scribes and Pharisees: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God’ — then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matthew 15:3-6 New King James Version). Jesus was referring to the Jewish practice of claiming to have dedicated their property to God called “Corban.”
The word “Corban” is used only once in the Bible: Mark 7:11. “But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban” — ‘ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:11-13 New King James Version).
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Corban is a Hebrew word adopted into Greek of the New Testament and left untranslated as used in Mark 7:11 This dictionary says it means a gift or offering consecrated to God, and anything upon which the word Corban is pronounced is irrevocably dedicated to the temple except land which might be redeemed before a year of jubilee.
Corban also means a gift offered (to be offered to God) and the sacred treasury. Unfortunately, the Jews abused it; they misapplied it to avoid fulfilling their responsibility to their parents. They misused it to circumvent God’s law that says they should provide for their parents.
The New Living Translation puts Matthew 15:5-6 thus: “But you say, ‘You don’t need to honor your parents by caring for their needs if you give the money to God instead.’ And so, by your own tradition, you nullify the direct commandment of God.” Jesus said this particular teaching of the scribes and Pharisees was a tradition, not the commandment of God. It was an error.
According to their teaching, a Jew, by calling his possessions “Corban”, was absolved from the duty of caring for his parents, even if he didn’t subsequently devote his possessions to sacred uses (People’s New Testament Commentary). “All one had to do to evade one’s duty to father or mother was to say “Corban” or “Gift” (Dôron) with the idea of using the money for God” (Robertson’s NT Word Pictures). That was an error.
The commandment of God to honour one’s parents is the first commandment with a promise. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12 New King James Version).
The same commandment is referred to in Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 19:19; Mark 7:10; 10:19; Luke 18:20; and Ephesians 6:2-3. God says in Malachi 1:6a that a son honours his father. Providing for one’s parents, especially in old age, is part of honouring them. Giving to God does not cancel giving to one’s parents; it doesn’t excuse one from taking care of one’s parents. They are two different things. Sowing seeds to a church and neglecting one’s parents shows one’s ignorance of the Bible. The two must be done.
Beware of the tradition of the elders! A teaching is not in line with Scripture because of the status of the preacher. “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Matthew 15:13). Don’t be a blind leader and don’t follow a blind leader if you don’t want to fall into a ditch with him.
Colossians 2:8 warns, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (New King James Version). Beware of the tradition of men! You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).
Don’t promote anyone’s teaching above the teachings of Christ. Be like the Berean Christians who searched the Scriptures daily to confirm the accuracy of what they had been taught (Acts 17:10-11). Don’t continue to sit under a false or heretical teacher. The church should help you to go to heaven, not to go to hell.
It is right to leave a church where the truth of the word of God is not being preached but errors, where fundamental Christian beliefs are being contradicted, where the opinions of the pastor become superior to what is clearly written in the Bible, or where the leadership is abusive or engage in unbiblical practices.
If you have to leave a church for any of these or similar reasons, not unconvincing reasons, find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church to join and become a functional member. Nevertheless, don’t be perpetually in search of a new church to join at the time you’re supposed to be leading God’s people already.
Beware of the tradition of the elders or men. The doctrines of a denomination or church should not be presented as Bible doctrines if they‘re not. We must differentiate between the two, especially where they don’t agree. Some denominations see themselves as holier than the others just because of their doctrines, which are not Bible doctrines, but their members think so even if their leaders know better.
All Christian leaders, especially preachers, must be careful not to deviate from the truth of the Word of God. Every preacher must, as Paul said to Timothy, take heed to himself and to the doctrine (1 Timothy 4:15). This and other things will save them and their hearers. They should ensure they speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, help me to devote my time to the study of your Word and obey; let me not be in the bondage of tradition or put my listeners or followers in the bondage of tradition. Help me, Lord, to take heed to myself and the doctrine thereby saving myself and hose I minister to. In the name of Jesus, I shall not fail to speak that which is proper for sound doctrine. Holy Spirit, help me o hold on o sound doctrine.
(For over 400 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit: www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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