Traditions of Men #2

Last week I shared how the Holy Spirit is an eye-witness to the life of Jesus and the words of the New Testament. This living witness confirms the Word and provides understanding to the Word of God as only an eye-witness can, and conveys the intent of the Word. He is a faithful and true witness.

The Integrity of the Word, and the Balance of the Spirit

While there were many excesses in the Word of Faith movement of years past, the core truth of the Word of Faith movement was the integrity of God's Word. That truth has largely been lost on a whole generation of believers since the 1980's.

I asked the leader of a popular Bible school to include classes like Old and New Testament Survey, the Life of Christ and such - but he said no, the people wanted classes about deliverance and pulling heaven down for revival, and how to get personal breakthroughs, etc. - leaving people to believe all sorts of wacky teaching but having no foundation by which to distinguish the Word from error.

I was teaching a class at the World Prayer Center over 13 years ago and mentioned a fact of prayer that I thought was common knowledge: That we may come boldly to the throne to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need. I went on to quote not only that passage in Hebrews 4:16, but casually mentioned Romans 5:1-2 which says; "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we now stand..."

I Kicked Her Dog I Think

A lady shot her hand up into the air, interrupting me with passion: "But ____ ______ says we have to cry out to God and fast and scream and yell to get his attention, so He will bring revival!"

I then quoted I Timothy 2:4 that says God wants all to be saved - there is no need to convince Him; He is not our adversary. And Ephesians 2:6 that says we are seated in the heavenly places in Christ, repeated that we come boldly to the throne, mentioned that Christ lives in us according to Colossians 1:27, that the Holy Spirit Himself is in us and our bodies are the temple of God, from I Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19 - and you would have thought I had kicked her dog by the anger in her response!

She said she went to this meeting and that convention and they got 3,000 people yelling at the top of their lungs for God to hear and send revival, and open heaven on this nation, and what did I know because ____ ____ and _____ _____ said they had to do that for God to hear.

I asked her; "When did you become a Pharisee?' That broke into her tirade, which was needed as she was embarrassing herself, but she did get a lot of yea and amen's and head nods from those in the class who had also been to those meetings or were part of that stream of faith.

I said: "I just read and quoted over 6 scriptures which all say God wants all to be saved, is as close as our spirit man, we are righteous in Him, and as soon as we say 'Father', we are at the throne. Yet you quote leaders who say the exact opposite - that we must beg for an open heaven, yell to get His attention, wrestle with Him to move on the planet, and think that mere prayer will change the nation without a thought about actually leading people to Jesus as the Bible indicates must be done. Who do you believe, your teacher or the written Word? Your teacher or Jesus?"

Holiness Movement

I then had to teach the class what a Pharisee was. After the Greeks conquered Israel, they set about their policy of Hellenism, the spreading of Greek culture to the world. They brought roads, a common currency, sporting events, theater, public baths and gymnasiums, art and various clothing styles. Within 100 years it was hard to tell a Jew from a Greek.

A holiness movement separating Jew from Greek, known as "separate ones" was in place by 150 BC. They needed to organize, so started home based 'assemblies', in the Greek, 'synagogues', for every 10 adult men and/or families. (In Hebrew they are called 'beyt knesset' or 'house of assembly')

They realized there was only 1 day that would do for them to gather together; Saturday, so that began worship on the Sabbath, in homes. Later, as the population expanded some moved to designated buildings, and that's largely what we have today in the Jewish faith. In the NT, believers met in homes and multiplied out from there to other homes, just as our network does today.

History Lesson

The word for 'separated one' is the word 'Pharisee'. The Pharisee movement to separate believers into home meanings meant they needed to teach the written Word of Moses and the Old Testament. So commentators on how to apply the Law became the first to establish oral tradition and send that throughout the population.

Soon those teachings, the oral tradition, became more important than the written Word. The Mishna (Heb 'repetition') is the first and most important of the Oral Law, and states that oral law must be observed more stringently than the written Word of God. (M. Sanhedrin, 10.3)

For instance, the Word says you can't do any work on the Sabbath, so how much walking can you do before it becomes work? A commentator said (in our mileage) about 1/4 mile or 1/2 km, and anything more is work. So that teaching became oral law, elevated above the written Law.

That's the world Jesus walked into - and where His arguments with the religious leaders centered. In Mark 3:1-6 for instance, in a synagogue Jesus asked the leaders if it was right to do good on the Sabbath, or evil? To save a life or kill - would either be work that was forbidden? They kept quiet, for they were all believers in the Oral Word more than the Written Word - and Jesus 'looked on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.' (and he healed a man with an maimed arm)

The word 'hardness' was a construction term in Jesus' day, used to describe the stucco process we call 'whitewash', where a cement/lime mixture is applied to a wall, then allowed to dry, then another coat is applied, and so on until the job is complete.

Modern Pharisees

That layering process, today we might think of 2 or 3 or more coats of paint, describes the process by which a person slowly numbs themselves to the written Word as final authority in favor of inversely becoming more and more sensitive to oral tradition.

And that is where many believers are today. They believe the oral tradition more than the Word of God, just as their forefathers in the spirit did, the Pharisees. That said, just as in Jesus' day, many do so with a right heart and God is bringing them back to the Word, realizing they have put their faith in the traditions of men rather than God Himself.

Improve on the Cross?

How can we improve on the cross and the Word? Can fasting a week improve on the cross? Yelling to God? Jesus died for us, what else would we like Him to do for us? In reality, anything we receive in life flows from the cross and the power of His resurrection - don't try to improve on that!

I'm not trying to offend, I'm trying to get you to think about what you believe and why. Do you believe your own modern day 'mishna', your own oral tradition, or is the Word of God final authority?

The Holy Spirit ONLY follows the Word - not our oral tradition that we honor above the Word. When people leave the Word and therefore Holy Spirit's balance, it opens them up to unholy spirits, though they be Christians. Yikes! But true. Many work formulas and wonder where God is. Today we seek formulas; in the Bible they sought God. I want to teach you how to seek Him and walk with Him.

Next week - how to discern between an oral tradition and the Word, and how to perceive the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the Word, or saying no-no to tradition.

John Fenn

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