Today more than ever before there is a movement materializing before our eyes. Religion long thought to be the only way to salvation, is being questioned and rejected by many that have considered the Word of God for themselves. How can it be that religion is now on trial? What is religion? To understand what religion today means, just replace the word “religion” with “tradition.” Go to church on Sunday and/or Wednesday, be actively involved with this or that group, go to every activity, join a choir because a good Christian joins a choir, pay your respects to the religious leader, show respect for the altar and “God’s house”, get baptized by sprinkling of water on your head, attend Christmas, Good Friday and Easter services as these are high and “holy” days, make sure you dress your best for Sunday service- these are all well known and accepted traditions of what we know as religion today. There are many more to list, but you get the idea. We can find many of these traditions in Catholicism, and most of the protestant churches that came out of the reformation. Traditions vary from church to church and have caused thousands of divisions among Christians. The question is, why are people that are reading the Bible for themselves moving away from the religion and tradition of today? What is it about the Bible that causes people to flee religious tradition?
In reading the Bible and considering the testimony of the Word of God, many are finding out that many of these same religious traditions that are observed today which are thought to lead to salvation, are identified and condemned even by Jesus himself as “traditions of men.” In considering the entire Word, there are two opposing authorities that emerge- the laws and traditions given by God, and the laws and traditions of men. You can see in Jesus’ own experiences, that the traditions of men contradicted the law and traditions of God, causing the people to disobey the law of God:
“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
So you see, the people had created man made traditions that had caused the multitudes to disobey the commandments of God. This was not ok according to Jesus. This example received emphasis also in the book of Mark- revealing that this was an important and significant teaching of Jesus:
“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.” ~ Mark 7:3-9
This is an important point! Jesus/Yeshua teaches the importance of obeying the commandment of God rather than keeping the traditions of men. These Pharisees over hundreds of years had added many of their own laws and ways in addition to the law of God. Not only was this a violation of God’s commandment to not add to or take away from the law (Deut. 12:32), but these many laws caused the people to drift away from the simple commandments of the Creator. All of this being said, the first Apostles were found teaching the people “traditions.” The Greek term from the original text used to describe “traditions” is “paradosis.” This means traditions, ordinances, something handed down from generation to generation. We can see Paul passing traditions down to the first Christians:
“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 2:14-15
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
In these verses, the term “traditions” and “ordinances” both come from the original Greek word “paradosis.” Paul was teaching traditions and ordinances to be handed down from generation to generation. You may say “I thought traditions are bad.” The truth is- the traditions of men are worldly and meaningless. The traditions of God- His law, commandments, statutes, ordinances and feasts are holy and just, and according to Jesus himself, are to be observed until heaven and earth pass away. He commanded in the last week of His life:
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” ~ Matthew 23:1-10
Here Jesus explains the dangers of religion/traditions of men. Religion caused the leaders to bind heavy burdens on the people, to do things only for recognition, to appear in their garments better than everyone else, to love the good seats and status at their feasts, and to be called Rabbi (teacher), Father or Master. Religion props up men in their own hearts. Despite the coldness of their hearts, Jesus advises: they sit in Moses’ seat so whatever they teach (which was the law of Moses), that observe and do, but don’t do what they do because they teach these things and don’t live it themselves. Here we are told to observe and do those things of the law of Moses in the last week of the life of Christ. These are the traditions that Paul and the Apostles were teaching. These were the commandments and feasts of God that remain unchanged even today and were commanded to be observed “forever.” When you read the Bible, this holy Word of God frees men from all religion and man-made traditions, to obey the commandments and traditions of God. The Bible teaches that Jesus alone is our teacher and master, and God alone is our Father and His Word is the authority. Religion teaches us to look up to men and heed their authority. The Bible teaches that no man is above that which is written in scripture. Religion teaches us to think of men above the written Word of God. The Bible teaches that everyone who is reborn of water and the Holy Spirit is a son/daughter of God, and is given authority to walk in the Spirit, heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the gospel. Religion teaches that the power of God is not active any longer. The Bible teaches that when we repent for our sins and become baptized with water, our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then we walk in the Spirit free from sin. Religion teaches us that we are a prisoner of sin, and that we must constantly seek out another sinful ‘man’/authority figure to have our sins forgiven. The Bible teaches that those born again are saints. Religion teaches that those born again are still sinners. The Bible teaches that we are the temple of God, and the kingdom of God is within every born again believer every day, all day long. Religion teaches that you must find a man-made temple once a week to be blessed by God. The Bible tells us that the teacher (Holy Spirit) dwells within the born again believer speaking to and teaching us. Religion tells us that the best, most attractive and interesting speaker is the teacher. The Bible teaches us to observe the commandments and feasts/holy days of God. Religion teaches us to observe man-made doctrines and pagan rooted holy days like Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, Sunday worship etc. Do you see the dilemma that forms for those who consider the Bible and come out of “religion?” You cannot obey both God, and man. Their commandments conflict with each other.
We find in the biblical record that the 12 Apostles observed the commandments of God and His holy days. We find in the biblical record that Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles also taught from the “Law and the Prophets” aka the Old Testament, and kept all of God’s holy days as well. We can even find in the early Christian record evidence that the first Christians both Jew and Gentile, continued in the commandments and feasts of God- FREE FROM SIN! Sin by definition means to disobey the commandments and ordinances of God. A first century account of the life of the Gentile Bishop Polycarp mentions:
“In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians…but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel“ ~ Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506
These first Christians were Gentiles, and were taught by Paul to observe these feasts. It continues:
“What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink” ~ Life of Polycarp Chapter 19
“And on the sabbath, when prayer had been made long time on bended knee, he, as was his custom, got up to read; and every eye was fixed upon him. Now the lesson was the Epistles of Paul to Timothy and to Titus, in which he says what manner of man a bishop ought to be. And he was so well fitted for the office that the hearers said one to another that he lacked none of those qualities which Paul requires in one who has the care of a church. When then, after the reading and the instruction of the bishops and the discourses of the presbyters, the deacons were sent to the laity to enquire whom they would have, they said with one accord, ‘Let Polycarp be our pastor and teacher” ~ Life of Polycarp Chapter 22
“And on the following sabbath he said; ‘Hear ye my exhortation, beloved children of God…” ~ Life of Polycarp Chapter 24
Here you can see the prevalence of the feasts and the Sabbath in early Gentile Christian life. Please note, Sunday is not the Sabbath. For more details, see the God’s Calendar page of this site. Polycrates, who was bishop of Ephesus, wrote the following around 195 A.D.:
“We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘ We ought to obey God rather than man’…I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus” ~ Eusebius Church History. Book V, Chapter 24
Even the Catholics will admit that the first Christians observed the Feast of Tabernacles:
St. Jerome (PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7) speaking of how the Judaeo-Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles…tells us that they gave the feast a millenarian significance ~ Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.202
Today many are being called away from Religion, and towards God through the Son and savior Jesus Christ/Yeshua. The Word of God is awakening so many to the truth that never changes, unlike the many man-made doctrines that have come and gone throughout the years. Your Christian faith isn’t about what you wear, how you look to others, or how you conform to what other Christians deem acceptable via their religious glasses. Rather it is about LOVE and a true relationship with Yeshua which leads to a life FREE FROM SIN/Disobedience. If you are having a hard time understanding why we should follow the commandments, please read the ‘Why Follow The Commandments‘ page of this site. We encourage you to read the Word of God and break free from religion and man-made traditions! Repent! Be baptized with water for the remission of your sins, and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which will allow you to walk in the Spirit and in truth!