John Wesley says in his quadrilateral statement of belief that tradition is one of the five things he bases his statements concerning some of his biblical arguments/teachings on. What does the Bible says about “tradition?” The reference listed in the Bible’s word index states that this word speaks of “custom.” If this be the “biblical” understanding of this word, then we have an immediate problem. In the NASB text we have this word listed in four verses of the Bible. To understand the meaning in each verse, we must read them in their context. The verse used in the following comparisons is Matthew 15:3
tradition of the elders
rules handed down by the elders of the past
break the tradition of the elders
transgress the tradition of the elders
Notice in these translations, each uses the word “elders,” which means those who were/are holding high positions in the church government. In some aspects, it also has to with those who are “older in age, and considered to have the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of the scriptures. Also, you must consider that these individuals are “past” and not present. The Amplified Bible especially brings to light that these individuals may have had access to the Old Testament. At the time of Matthew’s gospel, the OT scriptures were all they had. In light this, are these “traditions” able to stand in light of the New Covenant that came by Jesus Christ? I am not saying that traditions of the past should be cast aside. The question is whether they agree with the New Testament, which contains the Mind of God for us now. Some “traditions” should remain and followed faithfully because they are in alignment with the present Mind of God. The question then becomes what do we do with those “traditions” that contradict what is in the Mind of God now? This leads us to the question of the word usage in this particular verse. In order to understand its usage, we must read this verse within its context. We may need the help of those who have learned the language of both the Old and New Testament in order to develop our own biblically-based theology of this word. This is the tedious–but fruitful endeavor of discovering God’s Mind and His intention for such words.