Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
As we follow the Lord on the pathway to glory, we experience rejection, the lack of necessities, and the storm on the sea. After this, we face the accusations from religion. In this message we shall see how the Lord dealt with the accusations of the traditional religionists (15:1-20).
Matthew 15:1 and 2 say, “Then there came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying, Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Although the Lord had forsaken the rejecting religionists, they still would not cease to trouble Him. They came to Him from their religious center, Jerusalem, in order to discover His faults. However, their troubling afforded Him another opportunity to reveal the truth about how to be really clean (vv. 10-11, 15-20). The Pharisees and scribes asked the Lord Jesus why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders. This reveals that the disciples did not keep the old traditions in following the Lord. They cared only for the heavenly King’s presence, not for anything else.
The elders spoken of in verse 2 were not the elders of the people, but the people of ancient times, those of bygone generations. In the past, some of those who claimed to be for God had certain practices, and their practices eventually became the traditions that were observed by the Jews when the Lord Jesus was on earth. For example, certain of the ancients adopted the regulation of washing their hands whenever they ate. At the time of the Lord Jesus, this was a tradition. However, it was not a commandment in the Bible. Nothing commanded by God could ever become a tradition, for God’s word is always fresh. A tradition, on the contrary, is something invented or initiated by man.
Some of the opposers have said that we should return to the so-called historic church and follow the traditional practices. Recently, a group of so-called fundamental Christians even published an article appealing to Christians to return to the historic church. But the historic church has adopted many regulations that are absolutely unscriptural, and it has made many decisions regarding things not found in the Bible. Consider, for example, the worship of Mary, which was sanctioned by the Council of Ephesus. There are more traditions in Christendom today than in Judaism when the Lord Jesus was on earth. Traditions are very prevailing in Christendom today. The traditional celebration of Christmas is an example. One of our critics has said that the origin of Christmas is not pagan. He even denied the fact that the Christmas tree is pagan. The Christmas tree is pagan, evil, and idolatrous. There can be no reconciliation between the Lord’s living testimony and the traditional church. We are opposed because we, as the disciples following the Lord today, would not keep such traditions.
Verse 3 says, “And He answered and said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” The Jewish religionists accused the Lord’s disciples of transgressing their tradition, but the Lord condemned them for transgressing the commandment of God because of their tradition. They ignored God’s commandment by caring for their tradition. In principle, the religious people today do the same. In many ways both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations make void the word of God because of their traditions.
In verse 4 the Lord continued, “For God said, Honor your father and mother; and, he who speaks evil of father or mother, let him die the death.” The Lord’s dealing with the Pharisees and scribes here not only condemned them for making void the word of God because of their tradition, but also implied that man should honor his parents. God in His government among men has ordained that man should honor his parents. Among the ten commandments (Exo. 20:12), He has made this the first commandment concerning human relationships. Fallen human nature, however, always attempts to ignore the parents, that is, to rebel against God’s government. The Lord as the heavenly King, in order to bring man back to God’s government, emphasized that man should honor his parents. This corresponds to His word in the constitution of the kingdom of the heavens concerning the fulfillment of the law (5:17-19). Hence, the Apostle also emphasized this matter strongly (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20). We the kingdom people must honor our parents and not excuse ourselves as the Jewish religionists did. Any excuse indicates that we are not under the heavenly ruling, but that we are following our fallen human nature and the rebellious trend of today’s generation.
In the Lord Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees, the Lord did not care for the traditions. On the contrary, He referred them to the word of God. In principle, we are doing the same today. Men are still making void God’s word by means of their tradition, and we are being accused today of not keeping the traditions. Recently, one of our opposers twisted 1 Thessalonians 5:23, a verse that speaks of the three parts of man— the spirit and soul and body. He said that in this verse the Greek word translated “and” could also be rendered “even.” But if we use “even” for the Greek conjunction in this verse, the spirit, soul, and body would equal one another. This is like a doctor saying that a person’s legs are the same as his stomach and the stomach as the heart. What medical quackery that would be! In Christendom many still insist on the traditions, and in the so-called churches these traditions are very prevailing. But the Lord has raised us up to come back to the pure Word. We do not care for man’s tradition, teaching, or practice. This has offended some, and we have been accused of damaging the “church.” But the “church” we are accused of damaging is not actually the church; rather, it is the traditional church, the denominations, the sects.
Praise the Lord for the record in Matthew 15! All the aspects of this record coincide with our situation today. The Lord Jesus and His followers were accused by the traditionalists, and today we are accused by the religionists. In answering those who accused His disciples, the Lord seemed to say, “You Pharisees accuse My disciples of breaking your traditions. You need to see that you have broken God’s commandment by holding to your tradition, and you continue to break it.” In this way the Lord brought them back to the pure Word, telling them what was the commandment of God and what was man’s tradition. It is the same today. We are accused of not following the historic church, that is, of not following the traditions. We answer that we must come back to the pure Word and not care for the traditions of the historic church. In the various councils and creeds of the historic church, there is no mention of the seven Spirits. This means that if we follow the traditional concept of the Trinity, we shall neglect the seven Spirits. Our critics say, “You don’t honor the ancient councils which formulated the creeds regarding the Trinity.” We respond, “We don’t follow the creeds. They are man’s teaching and tradition. Instead, we come back to the pure Word. In the Bible we find something more than what is included in the creeds, for the Bible speaks of the seven Spirits. Can you find a word about the seven Spirits in your creed?” This is merely one illustration of the gap between the Lord’s recovery and traditional Christianity. This gap exists because the recovery is based wholly upon the pure Word, whereas Christianity is filled with traditions.
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