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.
2Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Many traditions are just man made traditions and not anything to do with a requirement of God or living as a grace covered Christian. Now to the Jews circumcision was part of a covenant that they are still keeping, and that is certainly the right thing for them; however, under the covenant of Jesus’ blood, Gentiles are not required to fulfill that circumcision requirement. In the old testament before the coming of Christ you had to be circumcised to join the Jews, I imagine that is still the case if you male and are to become Jewish. However, it is not a requirement under Christianity, it is a choice each person can make.
I have another Christian tradition that I have been struggling with that my own church and most churches deal with, that of Communion. I decided to read up on this issue in the Bible and have come to the following conclusions. There are many traditions that are man made about it. Some believe that it is the literal body and blood of Christ, others believe that it is not, but is a Holy Sacrament and must be blessed by a Priest or Minister, others don’t believe it needs to be blessed or consecrated, but each person can simply take it in communion with others with an attitude of worship, and a recognition what it represents; still others believe that only those of a certain age or only of the like denomination can partake of it.
However, in the Bible all it says is that Jesus, while sitting at a passover table with his disciples told them while lifting the passover cup that it was his blood, and that breaking the bread it was his body (Matthew 26:26), and 1Corinthians 11 talks about it extensively from the view point of Paul the Apostle. He talks about it strictly from the stand point of the attitude of the person who is partaking of communion. Paul says that the people who are partaking of the Lord’s cup and bread should be taking it with an acknowledgement of Jesus’ sacrifice for us as one of his (Christian) sheep. He also says that they should not be helping themselves and treating it as a party for just those wealthy enough to afford it. He tells us that if it is being used that way, they can eat or drink at home..it is to be taken with a proper attitude and in community with all who are present who are belonging to Christ. It is up to the person who is taking it to decide whether they are worthy (aka belonging to Christ) to take it or not.
The setting for Jesus’ meal with his disciples was a Passover meal. If we look at the requirements for passover the priest did not necessarily have to kill the passover lamb, but was required to catch the blood from the lamb and sprinkle it on the altar. That was the only requirement for a priest during passover. The rest of the meal was performed in the individual homes not at the temple. Here is an interesting site that explains the Passover practices of the Jews…though you can also read it in the Bible in Exodus 12
Another fact about Jesus’ death, is that with his death the veil between the Holy of Holy’s and the rest of the Temple was torn. The Holy of Holy’s was the place that only the High Priest could go into as it was the “place of the presence of God.” He was only allowed to go in there on the day of Atonement which was once a year. With the tearing of the veil by Jesus death there became no need for any Jew or Gentile Christian or anyone to have to go to a Priest in order to be in God’s presence. We were allowed through the death Jesus Christ to go straight to God ourselves…Jesus is the only mediator between God and Man. (1Timothy 2:5). That is why when we pray to God, we pray asking in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit lives in us, as Christians, therefore we are not in need of an earthly priest for anything. Not even for the blessing of the elements of communion. It is enough for Christians to pray over the elements and ask God’s presence and blessing for their act of Communion and remembrance, honoring of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
The idea behind communion that Jesus gave his disciples is a remembrance of his sacrifice. It is a reminder to us, that we are sinful and that we needed this selfless sacrifice to redeem us, and reunite us with God. A reminder that Jesus willingly sacrificed himself for us. Just as the Passover was a reminder to the Jews that God had “passed over” their houses in Egypt and spared the lives of their first born. God told them to celebrate passover in “remembrance” of that event in Egypt.
Different denominations have many different beliefs about Communion, Baptism and many other issues….what to wear, how to wear your hair if you are man or woman, etc. A lot of those beliefs are traditions of the denominations, and not necessarily Biblical. Many times, those beliefs have grown from someone taking one statement out of context, or out of misunderstanding of the circumstances and/or group to whom the speaker was speaking or what was going in that society. Many traditions are used by Satan to separate the people of God and cause them to fight amongst themselves instead of being unified through our Savior. While we can enjoy traditions we need to be aware of what is traditional and what is Biblical and not allow man’s traditions to separate us from our fellow believers.
For instance, if someone were on their death bed and had just accepted Christ, and you were the only Christian around and they wanted Communion or Baptism…would you deny them and say, “Let me go find a minister or a priest, I’m not qualified?”
Each person reading John 14:12-14 should be able to answer that. Jesus who is our ultimate high priest everlasting told us that whoever believes in Him will be able to do whatever he does and even greater things than he. We know that his disciples had the gifts of the Spirit, and the fruits of the Spirit and did healing, and baptism, and had communion in Jesus’ name. Jesus was not out to create a new priesthood with the Disciples that elevated them above those whom they were bringing to Christ. He wanted each and every one of us as Christians to be priests and serve others around us in Jesus’ name. (1Peter 2:9)
Now I recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable with the idea of administering Baptism or Communion to another, and maybe they never will. Traditions have a strong hold on people. Like getting a hair cut….just be aware, that sometimes a tradition which is not correctly Biblically based can be a separator and not a unifier. Be gentle and loving and it is okay to question a tradition, but question it in the context of “what does the Bible have to say about it? What does God’s Word have to say about it?” Is it hurting someone or is it something that helps you to connect with God more fully? Respect traditions, but evaluate them against the word of God and the character of God. That is what the Disciples did! They always went back to the word of God, and took it in the context that the words were spoken!