You Don’t Need Church Tradition

If a Holy Spirit indwelt person were stranded on a desert island with nothing but the Bible for ten years, would he come off that island with sound doctrine?

I believe he would.

Church tradition, although a helpful thing at times, is not necessary for sound doctrine.

If you have the Holy Spirit and the Bible, you’re good to go.

When Jesus spoke of the coming age–when all believers would be indwelt by the Spirit–He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

What most don’t know about that verse is the first part of it!

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

The “that day” is the age we currently live in, the age of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers. In that day, we won’t question Jesus! The Greek uses two separate words for “ask” in this verse.

Perhaps the reading is this: In that day, you won’t question me, because you’ll have everything I can give you simply by asking.

There are many such promises for us in this age in the Bible. Here are a couple of my favorites.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;”

And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

Jesus also made promises to His disciples that when they receive the Spirit they will know all things and their understanding will be complete. That’s cool.

We should trust God to teach us more than other people. At the same time the Bible tells us to trust God’s Word and His Spirit, it tells us to be careful of human tradition.

Perhaps the best one is 1 Peter 1:18

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers

Agreeing with old guys doesn’t mean you’re saved!

Paul does throw in a couple verses in Thessalonians about holding “the traditions which ye have been taught” and later clarifies that these are the traditions “which he received of us”

Paul was not pointing them to church tradition, but to the teaching of the apostles, which makes up our New Testament now.

Church History and Church Tradition are fascinating subjects. They repeatedly show the error of listening to men! Knowing Church tradition can keep you from some errors, and more than likely, lead you into errors.

I’ve been to seminary. I know people who know all there is to know about church tradition. Institutions of higher learning, especially Christian ones that major on human tradition and not much on the Bible, are seldom known for sound doctrine.

You really don’t need church tradition.

I know this is a minority opinion, but alas, it’s the church who has made a church tradition of telling people they need church tradition! It’s a nice way to keep power.

I say–trust the Spirit, read the Word, and don’t be afraid to think.

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11 thoughts on “You Don’t Need Church Tradition”

  1. “Church Tradition” is tricky, even as a phrase. What Church? Do Protestants have to agree with Catholic Church Councils? Do Baptists have to agree with Pentecostal church tradition? The whole thing is rather subjective at a certain level. If the leaders of the Protestant Reformation thought you should stick with Church Tradition, there would have not been a Reformation.

  2. “If the leaders of the Protestant Reformation thought you should stick with Church Tradition, there would have not been a Reformation”.

    How many present day church leaders would even consider their traditions desperately need something like a new reformation?
    Very good article Jeff, I’ve provided a link to it on my blog.

  3. I followed the link on Onesimus’s blog to get here and I do have a question, Pastor Weddle.

    Given all that you’ve just said, wouldn’t it be better for everyone to leave the church (including yours) en masse and simply read the Bible alone (with the Holy Spirit) as the perfect life for a Christian? Of course I’m asking the question a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I’m doing so to illustrate a point.

  4. Cheekiness accepted!

    According to Ephesians 4 the Church is an integral part of spiritual growth. I would not encourage anyone to go it alone.

    As I said in the post, Church tradition can be helpful, but it is not necessary for spiritual growth. I have told people in my church several times that they need Christ, not me. You don’t get in heaven by believing Jeff. There may be some who would benefit from leaving church if the intent is truly to seek Christ. I left the church for a few years and did just that.

    The institutionalized church is more interested in maintaining power, pay, and who knows what all, than fostering spiritual growth in individuals. I have no fears in turning people over to Christ. I hope that in my ministry as a pastor, Christ is truly the Head of the Church.

    There is also a distinction between church and The Church. “church” is often human tradition, whereas The Church is the Body of Christ on earth. We need The Church, perhaps not the local church that has brainwashed many since kindergarten!

  5. Thanks for your graciousness in allowing a newcomer to be “cheeky”.

    I’ve had a love/hate relationship with “church” over the years, but ultimately believe that we receive more benefits from associating with other believers than by going it alone. I think it would take a person who is very mature spiritually to exist with just themselves, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible. Experience tells me that the Holy Spirit has only as much room in the human heart as we allow it to have.

    In an essay he wrote in 1996 and published in his book “Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries,” Professor Ismar Schorsch called the human heart the “scene of the battle” between our impulses and our ideals. Put in more “Christianized” language, it’s the battleground where human nature and the Holy Spirit encounter each other and more often than not, wage “war.” What human being, even the best among Christians, does not sin? What believer is so filled with the Holy Spirit that he or she has an apprehension of God greater than Abraham or Moses or John the Baptist? And yet that’s what Jeremiah 31:34 promises as part of the New Covenant.

    I sometimes consider the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as we experience it today as a sort of “down payment” or promise of what is to come when Jesus returns (2 Corinthians 5:5). Any one of us, even with the indwelling of the Spirit, is still capable of fooling ourselves. It sometimes takes the Holy Spirit working in conjunction with a mature believer or a Pastor (I’m sure there are some who truly are serving God) to correct the little errors we can let creep into our minds and hearts.

    Until Christ returns and we receive what has been promised in full, we continue to fight on the battleground of our hearts not against only Satan but against our own human natures forged by the sin of Adam.

    The only thing that makes “church” imperfect is that its filled with imperfect human beings. But in the resurrection, we will be perfected in Christ.

  6. James, as I’ve made it clear before, it’s not a matter of leaving “the church en masse and simply read[ing] the Bible alone (with the Holy Spirit)”.
    It is a matter of believers trusting the Holy Spirit to give understanding of scripture instead of relying solely on church teachings and church teachers.
    Of addressing scripture for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit instead of reading scripture with a bible in one hand and a commentary in the other.

    Of seeking truth in scripture, with the Spirit’s help, rather than relying on church or Jewish traditions to help us “interpret” scripture according to those traditions.
    Christian fellowship is important, whether that involves being part of formal church gatherings or meeting informally with other believers in the name of Jesus – GENUINE INTERACTION with other Spirit led believers (not merely attending church services) helps us to keep each other on track instead of veering away into our own strange beliefs.

    The Spirit will not contradict Himself by teaching contradictory things to different people, but it is clear that church traditions and church teachers DO result in contradiction – hence the countless different denominations and major disagreements over doctrine.
    Churches tend to major on teaching their denominational tradtions, passed down from one generation of teachers to the next in their colleges, and reinforcing the belief in their congregations that the average person needs a qualified and ordained minister to explain scripture to them.

  7. Onesimus said: “GENUINE INTERACTION with other Spirit led believers (not merely attending church services) helps us to keep each other on track instead of veering away into our own strange beliefs.”

    Is it too much to ask for both?

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