9th August 2018


“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NIVUK)

The English word tradition comes from the Latin term ‘traditio’ which means “handing down” or “handing over” and can refer to the body of teachings which are handed down or the action of passing on those teachings to others.

During his earthly ministry Jesus revealed that the Old Testament pointed to him and, as the Word made flesh, he established his authority and reinforced a Christ centred approach with statements such as “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” and “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago…But I tell you that…” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Although the apostle Paul grew up being “extremely zealous for the traditions” of his fathers (Galatians 1:14) and was faultless according to the “righteousness based on the law” (Philippians 3:6), he subsequently, in the gospel revealed to him by Jesus (Galatians 1:12), came to understand that new covenant tradition needed to conform to the revelation God has given us in Christ. For example he wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Apostolic tradition was now to be based on the person, and work and teachings, of Christ. But from the very beginnings of Christianity the apostles and the church did not simply pass on facts about actions and sayings together with historical and biographical details, but also handed down a way of interpreting these data.

In the opening scripture Paul does not just simply hand down the historical fact that Christ died but also passes on a theological interpretation that had been passed down to him from earlier times—that Christ died for our sins. Similarly, a few verses later he passed on not only another unique historical fact that the resurrection occurred, but also the significance of that event: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1Corinthians 15:17).

What were handed down from the apostles to the church were facts about Christ, their theological interpretation and also the manner of life which should flow from them. This Christ-centred tradition was to be received as authoritative—Paul wrote, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us (2 Timothy 1:13-14). It is a tradition that is based on God’s grace and the necessity to reveal it to a world of ungrace.

Father, we thank you for the revelation you have given through Jesus Christ and the spirit-guided apostles.

Study by Eddie Marsh


About the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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