Is the Tradition you Observe of Man or God?

As you read and study what has been written here, do not just blindly accept it. Please check the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you His truth. The Scriptures quoted are from the King James version with the words of Jesus in red.

What is tradition? It is described by the College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language as follows:

"1. Originally, a surrender; betrayal. 2. The handing down orally of stories, beliefs, customs, etc. from generation to generation. 3. A story, belief, custom, proverb, etc. handed down this way. 4. A long-established custom or practice that has the effect of an unwritten law; specifically, any of the usages of a school of art or literature handed down through the generations, and generally observed. 5. In theology, a) Among Jews, the unwritten religious code and doctrine regarded as handed down from Moses. B) Among Christians, the unwritten teachings regarded as handed down from Jesus and the Apostles. C) Among Moslems, the sayings and acts attributed to Mohammed, not in the Koran, but orally transmitted."

Basically then, a tradition is an observance of some type which is based upon oral history or handed down through the ages. Fireworks used to celebrate the Fourth of July is a tradition as is turkey as the dinner meat on Thanksgiving day. Families often gather for a meal at holiday times and this then becomes a tradition for them. There are many other traditions which could be mentioned, but I would like to confine the discussion to those traditions observed by the Christian.

Scripture gives us some instruction about traditions. We are directed to observe those traditions of God. One of those traditions we are directed to observe is baptism. John, the one sent to prepare the way for the Christ, preached both repentance and baptism. He also preached that the Christ, who would follow him, would baptize with the Holy Ghost.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:3-4)

And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: (Luke 3:15-16)

Another of the traditions instituted by God is the "Lord's Supper" as described by Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth.

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, cautions them to "hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." He is referring to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God, which is the epistle he was teaching.

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)

We are also shown the displeasure exhibited by Jesus regarding the tradition of the elders of the Jewish Synagogue. Over the years the elders of the Synagogue had added various interpretations of their own to Scripture. These interpretations put additional burdens upon the people of Israel beyond those required by God.

Scripture records two accounts of the Pharisees and scribes asking Jesus why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders by eating food without washing their hands. The answer given by Jesus was one of rebuke even though it was stated differently in each case.

Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:1-9)

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 17:1-13)

Jesus called His disciples aside and taught them the spiritual concept regarding that which defiles them. He was concerned about what entered the "spiritual system", that is "the heart through the mind", rather than the "digestive system."

And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 17:14-23)

We are also cautioned to refrain from being led astray by the "tradition of men" in the following four Scriptures.

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:6-8)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (2 Thessalonians, 2:6)

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; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18-19)

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14)

It has already been shown that Jesus was critical of the Pharisees and scribes for insisting on observance of the "tradition of the elders" of the Synagogue. Through the sacrifice Jesus made at Calvary the church was freed from the "traditions of the elders" of the Synagogue but has been ensnared again by the "tradition of men." Beginning during the first century, and continuing to this present day, Scripture has been interpreted by man with the result that much of the church today observes traditions of man contrary to the Word of God.

A few of these "tradition of man" are:

The "Easter egg hunts" staged by many of the church.

The witches and ghosts of Halloween even though many churches attempt to soften the impact by calling it a "Harvest Party."

The Santa Claus of Christmas.

Doctrines Based Upon Man's Interpretation of Scripture

Denominational Names for Groups of Congregations

Clergy/Laity form of Congregational Government



The word Easter appears only once in some of the earliest editions of the King James version of the Bible. In most translations, however, the word used is "Passover" rather than "Easter." The Israelites and Jewish people have celebrated "Passover" ever since Moses led the Israelites out from Egypt. It is done in remembrance of the time of the Exodus where the Blood of a lamb was placed upon the lintel and door posts as a sign to the death angel to "pass over" that dwelling without killing the firstborn. The original occurrence of Passover was in the Hebrew month of Nisan which corresponds to our present day March/April time of the year. Christ's crucifixion also occurred at the end of the Passover celebration.

The early Jewish Christians did not celebrate Easter as they observed the Passover instead, on the 14th day of the Month Nisan. The Gentile Christians, of New Testament times, also did not celebrate Easter nor the Passover, but instead celebrated Christ's Resurrection on the Lord's day. According to the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary "it was the church council of Nicea, convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine, in 325 A.D. which decreed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. This is the system followed today making the date of Easter to fall between March 22nd and April 25th." Easter is not a Christian celebration but rather a pagan festival brought into the church. It was part of the merging of the Christian culture and pagan traditions instituted by Constantine when he formed the Roman (Catholic) Church.

There are at least two, and possibly many more, versions of the origin of the Easter celebration. Both, and perhaps others as well, relate to fertility. These Easter celebrations seem to have been practices of pagan peoples, particularly the Egyptians, Persians (Babylon) and the Ba'al worshipers of the Canaanite tribes.

The Easter celebration, observed by the pagans at the same time as the Passover, was the "Festival of Oestre" in honor of the goddess of Spring, Fertility and New Life. From the earliest of times eggs have been symbols of fertility and new life. Rabbits also have been worshiped by pagans as symbols of fertility. It is therefore quite easy to understand the connection between the Easter bunny and the Easter egg. Neither of these, however, have any connection to the Passover or the resurrection of Christ. Since the pagan Festival of Oestre coincided each spring with the time of Passover, it isn't difficult to see how the pagan beliefs and customs eased into the life of the Church and eventually replaced the Passover.

Both the rabbit and the egg used in the current day Easter Celebration are idols. According to the definition of the word idol, by the College Edition of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, "it is an image of a god, used as an object or instrument of worship: sometimes said of any heathen deity." While the observance of the Easter Celebration complete with egg-laying rabbits might be appropriate for pagans, it is a practice which is condemned by Scripture.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

Christians, those who follow Christ, ought instead to celebrate the resurrection of the risen Saviour who is Jesus Christ.

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:14-15)


The early Celtic civilization, even as much as 300 years before Christ, celebrated the Festival of Samhain on October 31st. Samhain is their god of death and on the night of Festival of Samhain many human sacrifices are to be presented to Samhain. The mid-night hour on that night is the high point of the year for divination, spiritism and sorcery of all kinds for the followers of this belief system.

The Pope, in the eighth century, in an attempt to get people to abandon the Festival of Samhain and all its occult practices instituted Halloween as we know it today. All Saints Day was established, by the Pope, as November 1st. This was never a Christian holiday, but a Catholic holiday to worship and pray to the Saints in honor of those who were martyrs in the Roman persecutions. All Saints Day was later called "All Hallowed" and then "All Halloweds Eve" and then "Hallows Eve" and finally, Halloween. This attempt to get the church to abandon the occultic celebration, has over time, led people to believe it is a Christian observance which is far from the truth.

The Jack-o-lantern, a traditional symbol of Halloween, was originally carried by Druids dressed in black robes. It was hollowed out turnip (pumpkins were later substituted because they were much easier to hollow out and carve) with a face carved in its side representing the demon spirit dwelling inside and lit by an oil lamp from inside the Jack-o-lantern. Halloween has always been a devils holiday where divination, spiritism, sorcery, and witchcraft have been the major focus. There has never been, nor is there now, anything Christian about Halloween. Followers of Christ Jesus should refuse to participate in any of the activities of Halloween.

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD (Deuteronomy 18:10-12a)

Christmas and Santa Claus

What connection do Santa Claus, reindeer and elves have to the birth of Jesus Christ? And why is Christ's birth celebrated on December 25th? Most historians and astronomers believe Christ's birth occurred in the fall of the year during our present day September. That was typically the time of year the census was taken which was the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It is also believed, by the historians and astronomers, the Star of Bethlehem would have been visible there at that time rather than at the end of December.

Constantine birthed the Roman (Catholic) Church from a merger of paganism and Christianity in the third century. In 375 A.D. the church announced the birth date of Christ would be celebrated on December 25th and many of the customs of the pagan Saturnalia Festival would be allowed to continue. This Saturnalia Festival was a week-long celebration of merry making and gift-giving which culminated in the winter solstice on December 25th.

Santa Claus, as we know him, is a composite of many un-Christian traditions. His traveling over the entire earth in a sleigh pulled by reindeer in just a few hours and going down chimneys to deliver gifts to children who had been good but not those who had been bad is clearly supernatural. The question we must ask, however, "is it Scriptural?" Nowhere in the Bible do we find anything even remotely resembling this storybook tale. Scripture is, in fact, quite clear about God giving gifts to all who will come to Him, good or bad.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:10)

For those who are Christians, and believe Christ died for them, Christmas should be one of the most exciting holidays to honor the birth of our Lord Jesus. Without His birth, death and resurrection we have no hope of a future.

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-13)


Doctrines Based Upon Man's Interpretation of Scripture

Shortly after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, God met with him on mount Sinai. It was here that God gave Moses the two Tablets of Stone, The Ten Commandants, and the Book of the Law. These instructions prescribed the form of worship, the sacrifices and offerings to be made, and the festivals to be celebrated. Also included were the commandments outlining how the Israelites were to respond to one another in their daily activities.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. (Exodus 24:12)

God did not alter or change these instructions, which is the Old Covenant or Old Testament, until the time of Jesus. During the years between Moses and Jesus there were times when the Israelites faithfully tried to obey, but there were others times when they chased after the pagan gods of the land. As they obeyed, they were blessed by God and were cursed as they disobeyed.

Over these years the priests, or elders, of the Synagogue began to add various interpretations of their own to Scripture in answer to disputes between individual Israelites. These interpretations of Scripture, and the instructions for administering them, were written out and then used again in similar situations. In time the elders began to revere these interpretations as much as the Scripture itself. This placed a considerable additional burden upon the people of Israel beyond those required by God.

The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of Jesus, prophesying of the new covenant God would make with His people.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This new covenant was not written on stone tablets, but it put God's law upon our heart. A personal relationship with Jesus, who is the mediator between ourselves and God makes the earthly priests unnecessary. Jesus has washed us in His own blood and made us priests unto God.

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)

We also would not need these priests to teach us because we will know God and His ways. The priests and elders of the Synagogue were critical of Jesus because His teachings contradicted their traditions. They, the priests and elders, finally had Jesus crucified to protect the position of esteem and authority they had assumed.

Jesus told His disciples of His crucifixion and ascension before it occurred. He also said the Comforter, or Holy Spirit, would be sent to be their teacher.

John 14:26, But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. (John 14:28-29)

The church, under the new covenant, was to be governed by the Holy Spirit rather than earthly men. God established His Son, Jesus, as the head and believers as the Body of Christ. Paul, in verses 12 through 21of the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians, writes about how we are the Body of Christ. He summarizes this for us in verse 27: "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."

Clergy/Laity form of Congregational Government

There is absolutely no reference in Scripture to a clergy/laity form of government for the church. Mention is made of overseers, elders and deacons who are to be mature individuals who will provide guidance but not control. It is the Holy Spirit who is to provide the control. All members of the church are to participate in the meetings by bringing a psalm, a song, a spiritual song, and giving of thanks to the Lord but no individual member in control of the entire meeting.

The form of church government where a priest or several priests preside over the group was instituted when Constantine formed the Roman church by merging the Christian culture with the pagan traditions in the third century. This had the effect of bringing back the form of government from the old covenant.

Traditional Congregation Meeting Format

Very few verses of Scripture support the traditional meeting format where pastors "do it all" and the members just sit and listen to a sermon. Most of the references indicate meetings where everyone participated in some measure.
Additionally, we are told to go and teach, or make disciples of the teachings of Jesus.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 18:18-20)

The making of a disciple requires an extended period of time with the individual. It is impossible to make disciples during the traditional meeting format observed by most congregations today. Discipleship is not learning and memorizing a bunch of rules but rather learning a life-style. It requires observation of the behavior of a more mature disciple in every-day activities along with direction from the Holy Spirit. The fifteen to thirty-minute lecture, or sermon, on Sunday morning might provide some information to help a person live a more sin free life. It is, however, a very poor substitute for "training up a child in the ways of God." Very little can be learned and even less remembered from such short periods of instruction.

Denominational Names for Groups of Congregations

The Roman church spread into many parts of the world but control remained in Rome, with a hierarchy very similar to the present day Catholic church. Eventually there were some church members who disagreed with the teachings of the church and left or were excommunicated. These people often attracted followers who started a new group. Martin Luther is perhaps the best known of the dissenters forming a new church which others began to call "The Lutherans." John Wesley and the Methodists, John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, King Henry VIII and the Church of England (Episcopal in the United States) are three more who are well known.

There are now multiplied thousands of these new groups, or denominations, each with doctrines based upon man's interpretation of Scripture. Many of these new groups are formed based upon the Scriptural concept of a Holy Spirit controlled body of believers. Unfortunately man eventually begins to exert control and the clergy/laity form of government is introduced into the new group. Often these new groups intend to be inclusive in nature but usually become exclusive in time by setting standards of belief and/or behavior expected of those of the group. Almost always a name is attached to the group to identify it. Any of these actions will turn the group into a denomination which divides rather than complements the Body of Christ.


Presented here is only a sampling of the many "man's tradition" which are prevalent in the church today. These examples of attempts to counteract the pagan influence found attractive by so many Christians, along with the interpretation of Scripture by man, have resulted in a church far from that which God intended. Over the years these worldly pagan practices and "traditions of man" have completely infiltrated the church. Christians today, often don't know the origin of these practices and blindly accept them as Scriptural. Members of the clergy have often taught some of these practices to the church.

Satan, the enemy of our soul, has so cleverly taken a little truth to wrap around so much unscriptural pagan belief thereby bringing such a large scale deception into the Body of Christ. We must be constantly vigilant to guard against the masking of truth with half-truths. It is imperative for us to continually "drink of Christ's blood and eat of His body" which is the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

It is only through a thorough knowledge of Scripture, and being led by the Holy Spirit, that we are able to discern the difference between the tradition of man and the kingdom of God.


Bill Liddle
May 13, 2002

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