Friday, February 29, 2008

Same Bible - Different Interpretations - Why?

When you look at the picture to the left, what do you see? Do you see a vase or do you see two faces? If you see a vase, but your friend sees two faces, are you right and he's wrong?

On a related issue, why do two different people read the same bible but come to two different interpretations about what it is saying?

Here is a hypothetical, but reasonable, situation: two friends are reading the same bible. They are both Christians - they have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior based upon the orthodox, biblical meaning of the gospel (see I Cor. 15:3-4, II Cor. 5:21, and Rom. 10:9). Thus, they are both indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who assists them in interpreting the meaning of the scriptures.

We also must realize that any scripture has one true meaning: what the original author meant when he wrote it. For example, when John wrote (in John 1:1), "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," he meant one thing. The real, objective meaning of this verse is not open for discussion; it means what God says it means.

However, that does not mean that we always get it right when we try to interpret any verse or passage. Now let's return to the two friends. They both have the Holy Spirit helping them interpret a verse, passage, chapter, or book of scripture. They both believe that the bible is literally true. They both honestly want to interpret a passage correctly.

However, when they read a passage of scripture, they continue to come to different conclusions. Maybe they speak about a particular issue for hours or even days, but they cannot come to agreement. Why is this?

If you have spent any time in church, you know about some of the different disagreements. I'm sure you have experienced some differences of interpretation when it comes to the bible. Some that come to mind are infant baptism versus believer's baptism, Calvinism versus Arminianism, complementarianism versus egalitarianism, and Premillennialism versus Postmillennialism verses Amillennialism.

When the two friends disagree, three options are possible: friend #1 is correct and friend #2 is incorrect, friend #1 is incorrect and friend #2 is correct, or they are both incorrect. They cannot both be correct about an interpretation of a passage if they think it actually means two different things.

So we return to our question. Why do they disagree? Why don't these Christian brothers or sisters come to exactly the same conclusions?

I know what I believe on these issues mentioned above (in case you are curious, I hold to believer's baptism, Calvinism, complementarianism, and Premillenialism). However, I know of people far wiser than I am who disagree with me on some of these issues. We must also keep in mind that most of these issues are not black-and-white. For example, a Christian does not have to be either a Calvinist or an Arminian.

So why do Christians with good intentions of determining the truth come to different conclusions about the meaning of scripture? The answer must be that we are fallen creatures. Even if we are redeemed sons and daughters of King Jesus, we are still affected by sin. This sin impacts not only our moral judgments, but also our intellect. We do not interpret perfectly. In fact, we don't do anything perfectly. We are created in the image of God, but marred by original sin and our continued sins. When we come to Christ, we are somewhat restored, but not completely. That will only come when we die and go to be with Christ. Then we will no longer "see in a mirror dimly" (I Cor. 13:12).

Our remaining sin ought to make us humble when we take certain positions based on what we think scripture says. We should realize that our Christian brother or sister may be correct, and we may be incorrect. Let it be clear: I am not arguing here for relativism; I am in no way suggesting that we cannot know what is true. For example, I think the Holy Spirit testifies to us about the truth of the gospel (see here). What I am saying is that on issues that are secondary to the gospel, we should be humble in our positions.

Sin causes faulty judgments. Let's be careful in thinking that we interpret scripture perfectly. May we take pause and humbly assert what we believe, understanding that we may be incorrect.

For a great discussion of what factors affect what we believe, click here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Church Reform - Looking Back and Ahead

When we look at the possibility of reform in the church, one key question always seems to rise to the top: "Are we willing to change in order to be biblical?"

If we are willing to make changes, then we can easily find out what we need to do; we just look in the scriptures. However, if we are unwilling to change (because of comfort, tradition, cost, criticism, etc.), then we'll just keep doing things as we always have.

God is pleased when we live according to His Word. He has given His Word to us so that we can know Him, and so that we can know how to live our lives. So, are we willing to make reform in order to be biblical? Do we want our churches to please God?

Church Reform - Getting Started
Church Reform - Definition of Church
Church Reform - Doctrine
Church Reform - Purpose
Church Reform - Worship
Church Reform - Discipleship
Church Reform - Family
Church Reform - Prayer
Church Reform - Edification and Fellowship
Church Reform - Membership and Discipline
Church Reform - Tradition
Church Reform - Youth Ministry
Church Reform - Evangelism and Missions
Church Reform - Spiritual Gifts
Church Reform - Elder/Overseer/Pastor

Church Reform - Elder/Overseer/Pastor

[Just a quick note as we begin, the terms "elder," "overseer," and "pastor" are basically interchangeable. For the sake of this post, I'm just going to use the word "elder." Also, my intent is not to look at qualifications; see I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for those.]

I have left this post for last in this "Church Reform" series for one reason: many folks (including some elders) would place this post first because they view elders in too important of a light, almost like priests. For that reason, I decided to place it last - just to keep elders from getting too lofty of a view of themselves.

However, I will say that much good reform in the church occurs when elders push for it. For this reason, they are very important in either change occurring or not occurring.

There are three key passages (you may think of others) that come to mind when discussing the biblical role of the elder. These are Acts 20:28-30, Ephesians 4:11-13, and I Peter 5:1-3.

Acts 20:28-30 says, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them."

Ephesians 4:11-13 reads, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

I Peter 5:1-3 says, "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock."

When we look at these passages, several things stand out. You may see things differently than I do, so if you disagree please let me know. In the Acts passage, we are reminded that the church belongs to God, which He bought with His blood. By implication, elders have no ownership over the church. Paul tells the elders that they need to watch out for false teachers. These teachers will come from both inside and outside the church. One of the duties, then, of the elders is to protect the church (including themselves) against false teachers.

When we look to Ephesians 4, we see that some men are gifted in different ways. For our purposes, it is clear that some are gifted to be "pastors and teachers." It is important to recognize that these two words go together here. All pastors are teachers. Why are they gifted this way? The purpose of the elders is to equip the body of believers so that they can do ministry. The goal of this ministry is that the church will all grow to become more like its head, Jesus Christ. Elders, then, have the awesome responsibility of assisting the flock to grow in Christlikeness.

Finally, in I Peter 5, Peter directly exhorts elders. Peter tells them to take care of and look after the church. They are to do this willingly. They are to perform their duties eagerly, and not in a dominating, controlling manner. In all things, the elders are to be an example to the church.

So what picture do we get of a biblical elder? He recognizes that the church belongs to God. Therefore, he shows no ownership over it. The elder is to watch over the flock and defend it against false teachers. He is to recognize that he is gifted for a purpose - to equip the saints to minister to the entire body, with the goal being spiritual maturity in Jesus Christ. The elder must shepherd the flock of Christ. He is to do this graciously and according to the will of God. As an example to the entire church, the elder is to not be controlling over those he serves.

Elders will also be wise to look to Christ for an example for living amongst the flock. Jesus was the ultimate servant-leader. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus said, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus was a servant; He did not look out for His own gain even though He certainly deserved it. Philippians 2:5-11 clearly states this.

Jesus was also the Good Shepherd. In John 10:11-15, Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep."

Since elders are to shepherd the flock, and Jesus was the best shepherd, elders would do well to follow the example set by Christ.

Is this what we see in our churches? In some cases the answer is "Yes," but in others it is "No." So how can reform occur in those places where the elders are not following the model set forth by Christ?

Since elders are members of the body and not the head, they are accountable to the body itself. It is the responsibility of the body to exhort the elders to shepherd the flock as Christ would have. Elders must care for the church according to scriptural standards. It is up to the body to make sure this happens.

Of course, what I am suggesting can be done well or incompetently. This is the case when any confrontation takes place. Members of the body must lovingly confront any elder who is performing his functions in a manner that is outside biblical guidelines. This should be done with the goal being a transformation in the way the elder shepherds.

All elders have a model to follow: Jesus Christ, the servant-leader and Good Shepherd.

Regardless of whether or not we are elders personally, we should also follow the model set forth by Christ.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Church Reform - Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are a wonderful blessing given to the church by the Holy Spirit. However, these gifts are often misunderstood and looked upon with suspicion in many churches. What is going on here? My guess is that many evangelicals are so worried about not wanting to be "Charismatic" that they basically reject the Holy Spirit (or at least His gifts) altogether.

Let's look briefly at what the bible says about this. I Corinthians 12-14 has a wealth of information. What can we learn?

-Paul does not want us to be confused or ignorant about the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:1).

-There are many spiritual gifts, but only one triune God (I Cor. 12:4-6).

-Each believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:7).

-All gifts are given for the common good of the church (I Cor. 12:7).

-There are a variety of gifts (I Cor. 12:8-10, 28; Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11).

-Gifts must be exercised in a loving manner (I Cor. 13).

-All use of spiritual gifts should have the goal of edification (I Cor. 14:12, 26, 40).

(As I discuss this topic, I should also say that I am not a Cessationist. In other words, I find no biblical evidence to suggest that the Holy Spirit has ceased giving any of the spiritual gifts mentioned in scripture).

To sum up what we see above, the Holy Spirit dispenses spiritual gifts as He sovereignly sees fit. He gifts all believers in some manner. There is a wide variety of gifts which should be exercised in love and for the building up of the church. This is all for the glory of the one true God.

In the modern evangelical church, we need to work to overcome any distrust and confusion about spiritual gifts. This needs to occur through sound biblical teaching from texts such as those listed above. If people don't understand spiritual gifts, they will almost automatically look upon them suspiciously.

I see a few other problems today related to spiritual gifts. First, people frequently determine what their own gifts are. Second, we usually act like the spiritual gifts must be permanent. Third, we make people fit their gifts into our established church programs. Fourth, we act like some gifts are more important than others.

What can we do to combat these problems?

Let's be active in telling our brothers and sisters when we sense that they are gifted in a certain area. Those in teaching positions must encourage believers in Christ to be telling one another when they see an area of giftedness. God desires for the church body to rely on one another; this applies even to spiritual gift-awareness.

Let's understand that gifts may be temporary in nature.

Let's encourage one another to be creative in how we use our gifts. Let's not require one another to "fit" into already existing programs. Spiritual gifts often don't fit into the "box" of the church program. Leaders must be supportive in this.

We must avoid the tendency to elevate some gifts (such as teaching) over others (such as hospitality).

Gifts are clearly for the purpose of the building up of the body in Christ. All gifts are needed. Let's encourage one another to embrace the God who gives these gifts; may we use them wisely and in a loving manner.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Church Reform - Evangelism and Missions

This is a post I have been pondering for quite a while. There are many different directions we could go with this, but I really just want to keep it simple. First of all, what does the bible say about this? We are clearly given commands in scripture related to this issue. In Matthew 28:19-20, we are commanded to "make disciples." What does this mean? We are told in that very passage that we are to be "baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," and we are to be "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Therefore, we make disciples by baptizing new believers and teaching them about how Jesus expects them to live their lives. Notice that in this passage we are neither commanded to save anyone nor to go anywhere. God does the saving. We are to make disciples as we go about our lives.

In Mark 16:15, we are instructed to "proclaim the gospel to all creation." What can we make of this? The key here is that we must proclaim, tell, and share the gospel with others. Again, we do this as we go about our lives. We are not supposed to all share the gospel with literally all creation, but rather with those in whom we come in contact.

Another key verse to keep in mind is Acts 1:8. This verse says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” It is clear from this verse that it is God's plan for the gospel message to be taken to the very end of the earth.

When we look at evangelism as it is practiced in the local church in America, something is not working. While Christianity is growing rapidly in places like Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America, it is actually decreasing in the United States (in percentage of population). I'm a Calvinist, so I believe God is sovereign over salvation. However, I also believe that God blesses our evangelistic efforts by drawing people to Himself through them. What we are doing now simply is not working.

What are we doing now? In many churches, evangelism has become just another church program. It is what happens on one night per week, but often doesn't happen any other time. As for missions, they are often viewed as the select few who are "holy and brave enough to go where the savages are."

Keeping the biblical model in view, what can we do to make our evangelistic/missions efforts more effective? I have a few suggestions, but would like to hear from you.

1) We must fervently pray as church bodies for God to move radically in our own hearts so that we would care more about the lost.

2) We must fervently pray that God would move in the hearts of the lost around us and save them.

3) As we go about our lives, we should be regularly proclaiming the gospel as a natural part of what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

4) As people are saved by God, we must be active in baptizing them and teaching them about who God is and what He expects of all of us.

5) Quite obviously, we need to be getting to know lost people in order to develop relationships. This will make sharing our faith much easier. As we talk with them, let's simply share what Jesus has done for us.

6) We must remember that in the bible people get saved outside the church as opposed to when it gathers. This has ramifications for end-of-service "invitations."

7) When out in the community, may we be "salt and light."

8) Let's avoid the artificial dichotomy between "local" and "international" missions. Remember that normal people can cross cultures; it doesn't take a super-hero.

9) As a local church, we should try to assist missionaries who are already on the field. They know what the specific needs are of the people in their new culture. When we send short-term mission teams, let's listen to those who are already there and have succeeded in transitioning to a new culture.

10) In the local church, get rid of any weekly evangelism programs. Most of these just look good on a church calendar, but do not accomplish much. They also give church members a reason to not evangelize at other times of the week. These programs even "soothe the guilty consciences" of others who are glad that someone is sharing the gospel one night a week.

11) When we share our faith on a regular basis, we must expect persecution both outside and inside the church.

12) We have to remember that, despite what some well-intentioned Christians say, evangelism and missions are not "the main thing." Glorifying God is the main duty of the church.

Any ideas? Additions? Objections?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Now Here's a Church I Would Love to be a Part of...

Because of our current situation, we are without a church home. This has been the case for about a year now. For those who do not know, we were serving on the mission field in India. About a year ago, we noticed a lump on the side of our son's neck; it turned out to be Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (a type of cancer). After several months of much prayer and chemotherapy back here in Georgia, my son was healed. We praise the Lord for His great mercy to Bobby!

In light of this situation, we have been hesitant to join any church. We have been primarily attending one SBC church here in Georgia, and the people here have been great to us. However, we do not know that we will continue to attend this church.

The more my wife and I look at scripture, the more we see a model of families worshiping together. We see parents (especially fathers) taking the responsibility for the discipling of their children. We also see churches that believe the bible is the word of God and live according to it. We see churches that honestly believe that God is sovereign in all things, including salvation. We see churches with leadership in the form of multiple elders. We see churches that seem to have a desire for regenerate members.

Are there any churches out there like this? If so, where are they?

I have already mentioned on this blog my deep respect for Voddie Baucham. His book, Family Driven Faith, is one of the best that I have read in quite some time. Today I took a look at his church's website. Grace Family Baptist Church (GFBC), where Dr. Baucham is one of the elders, is a family-integrated church in the Houston, TX area. Their beliefs and values line up almost perfectly with ours.

GFBC lists its beliefs like this:
-We believe in the sufficiency of scripture.
-We practice systematic exposition.
-We seek regenerate church membership.
-We are committed to baptism of believers by immersion.
-We practice congregational church government with elders leading the way.
-We practice family integration.

GFBC also holds primarily to the London Baptist Confession of 1689, which is the confession that we most heartily agree with.

Listen to the GFBC core values:
-Sufficiency of scripture (repeated from above)
-Biblical view of conversion
-Christ-exalting worship
-Biblical worldview
-Biblical community
-Biblical manhood/womanhood
-Blessing of children
-Nobility of motherhood
-Family discipleship
-Christian education

We believe all of these values are very important. We believe we would fit in nicely at this church. Unfortunately for us, it is located over 1,000 miles away. So what are we to do?

After looking at GFBC's website, I searched the Vision Forum site to see if there are any family-integrated churches in this section of Georgia. There isn't even one!

In light of this, we are praying to God to find out whether or not He wants us to plant a family-integrated church in the Savannah, GA area. One "hang-up" right now is that I do not have a job, but we know that providing one is an easy thing for the omnipotent Creator of the universe.

What is going to come of this? I don't know, but I look forward to sharing with you what God does.

I have a job interview on Monday. We have committed to planting this type of church here if God says to do so. If this job works out, then maybe it is a first sign that it will happen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Church Reform - Youth Ministry

When it comes to interpreting the bible, I tend to be a fairly simple person. For example, I am a Baptist because the only baptism I see in the bible occurs after a person has become a follower of Jesus Christ.

When it comes to youth ministry, when I look in the bible I see parents being exhorted to disciple their children. For example, look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Luke 2:51-52, and Ephesians 6:1-4. Passages such as these indicate that it is the parents' duty to raise their children to be followers of God.

I see no evidence whatsoever of separated-out youth ministry.

However, I also realize that separated-out youth ministry is a reality in most local churches. I have been around churches long enough to know that the vast majority have no intention of changing to a family-integrated model (which I prefer). Therefore, what can be done to take youth ministry from its current state, and transform it into a much more effective one? How can youth ministry actually disciple children to become Christ-centered adults?

I think we can learn much from one of the charges that Paul gave to Timothy toward the end of his life. In II Timothy 2:2, Paul wrote, "What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Timothy was to disciple faithful men, who would then do the same with others. I realize this is a bit a of leap (albeit a very small one), but this verse gives us a method for how best to assist the youth in the church. Those working with the youth should disciple them to grow in Christ, with a goal of them maturing and then discipling others in the future. The key is that the goal of all of this is growth in Jesus Christ.

When we look at most churches today, we see youth groups that focus on games and play time. They eat pizza, hang out, watch movies, and sing a few Christian-contemporary songs. Overall, the youth are not growing in Christ, but are bringing secularization into the church. Most youth workers are expected to do all the teaching of the youth, with the parents abdicating their responsibilities.

In oder for churches to begin really discipling their youth, it must be a total decision and commitment by the entire church. All of the adults need to be on board with this change. Most important, both the pastoral staff and the parents with youth need to agree to make changes.

First of all, the church must stress the fact that the parents, especially the fathers, have the primary discipleship responsibilities in the family. Scripture is clear on this. Far too many fathers are abdicating this precious responsibility. Church leaders must realize that many dads have never done this before, and should work with the fathers in teaching them how this can be done.

Youth workers should supplement what is being taught at home. I am not suggesting a coordinated teaching curriculum. Rather, I'm suggesting that the youth workers must tell the youth that they should expect their parents to be their primary disciplers. They should respect their parents for this, and learn from their instruction. The youth must first look to their parents for discipleship, and second look to the youth workers at church.

Positives of this paradigm/model include emphasis on parental responsibility, less stress upon the youth workers, opportunity for youth from non-Christian homes to still be discipled at church, opportunity for youth workers to address youth-specific issues, and chances for youth to serve the community together in concrete ways.

Above all, when the youth gather, the stress of all activities should be on the splendor and glory of Jesus Christ. When they see that He offers true fulfillment of their desires, they will want to live as salt and light in this world. On the flip side of that, youth ministry must avoid the legalism that is typical in so many youth groups today.

It makes sense to have at least some of the youth workers be church members who have actually raised godly children. I'm not saying that the youth pastor (if the church employs one) himself must be a father, but it certainly would be a bonus. When all of the youth workers are under thirty years of age, then who there has been successful in discipling their own children to adulthood?

Finally, separated-out youth ministry should be limited in time and scope. The youth should, on the other hand, be involved with the adults whenever possible. As a concrete example, youth have no business sitting together during worship services. This inevitably leads to goofing off and note-passing. Youth should be sitting with their families during worship. It leads to parental oversight and modeling of worship to their children. Youth who attend church without their parents should sit with a family of one of their friends.

Youth ministry is a difficult thing. There is no doubt that our young people need biblical discipleship. Our churches have a responsibility to help parents take the primary role. Youth workers need to be a Christ-like supplement to parental discipleship.

For more in-depth discussion of this issue, take a look at Reforming Students.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Church Reform - Tradition

You know what different traditions your particular church has. You probably enjoy some of them, tolerate many of them, and despise a few of them. You may know where they came from or have no idea how they started. One thing is for sure, if you challenge some of them (like the kids' Easter Egg Hunt), the result may not be a pretty sight.

What does the bible have to say about tradition? Three N.T. passages deal with this very issue. All three employ the Greek word "paradosis," which is translated "tradition."

Matthew 15:1-6 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

II Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

(In the above three passages, I italicized the word tradition).

In the Matthew 15 passage, Jesus is once again dealing with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The Pharisees are upset because Jesus' disciples are not following "the tradition of the elders." In other words, the disciples were rejecting man-made traditions as being unnecessary. Jesus, then, turns the tables on the Pharisees by telling them that they have "broken the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition." The Pharisees had given approval when people had not supported their parents financially and had blamed this on their need to give money instead to God. So in this case, the traditions are clearly shown in a negative light.

Paul, in Colossians 2:8, warns the readers about false teachings that could take them captive "according to human tradition." Paul goes on to indicate that this human tradition is not "according to Christ." One of the primary reasons Paul wrote this specific letter was to assist the Colossian believers in fending off false teachings. Paul clearly speaks of tradition here in a negative light, as he contrasts it with the teachings of Jesus himself.

Finally, in II Thessalonians 3:6, we see Paul forcefully commanding the readers to keep away from
any brother who is "not in accord with the tradition that you received from us." So in this verse, Paul wants the Christians in Thessalonica to avoid those who are not in agreement with what Paul had taught them. Paul had taught them truths about following Christ, which were based on the O.T. In II Thessalonians 3:6, tradition is written about in a positive light.

So what is going on here? In the first two passages, tradition is seen negatively. However, in II Thessalonians it is spoken of positively. Is there a contradiction here?

There is no contradiction because scripture cannot contradict itself. If we just take a look at what is being written about, it is very clear what is happening. In both Matthew and Colossians, what is being referred to is man-made traditions. In Colossians, those traditions are even contradicting scripture. However, in II Thessalonians Paul is referring to his prior teachings, which are all in perfect harmony with the Old Testament.

What can we learn from this? First, when traditions are man-made, we should have freedom to not follow them. Second, when traditions contradict scripture, we must break them. Third, when traditions are scriptural, we should follow them.

How does this apply to the church today? As we look at the local churches where we attend and serve, we ought to analyze the traditions to see how they compare to scripture. My guess is that most church traditions are man-made, but do not violate the bible. Since this is the case, we have freedom as to whether or not to follow them. I will say, however, that we should look at our motives when we intend to break church traditions. If we are doing so just to prove a point, and what we are doing will just cause turmoil within the body, then we may be better off following the traditions anyway.

If we see a church tradition that violates scripture, we ought to break it. When this happens, we must explain to our brothers and sisters in Christ why we are doing this.

If a church tradition is scriptural, then we should continue with it. I see no problem there.