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It has been a long time since we were last in 2 Thessalonians. In fact, it was all the way back on November 22, 2009. As a refresher, we looked at the challenge to God’s children. We saw that the only way to avoid the slippery slope of deception is to love and embrace the truth. We saw that we are God’s elect, chosen by Him to sanctification through the Spirit and faith in the truth. We are encouraged to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. As we journey back to Thessalonica, we’ll look at Paul’s appeal for the brethren.
2 Thes. 2:15 says, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” What a great verse.
Paul tells these people to continue to stand. He says, “So then, stand firm and hold to.” This is in light of vs. 13-14. He says since you have been chosen from eternity, since you have been raised up to honor and glory, “Stand firm and hold.”
This goes hand in hand with his instruction in Eph. 6:10 when Paul says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Stand fast is an active, imperative verb. Paul is saying stand now and keep on standing. But what is Paul really talking about? Stand firm and hold on. Think about a driving windstorm or hurricane. It’s not enough to just stand firm, you’ve got to hold on too.
We talk all the time about tradition and we typically apply a negative connotation to it. This may sound contrary to things I have taught in the past, but we are to hold on to tradition, but Paul is not applying the word to the things we apply it to. Tradition in the church today is sometimes bad. We have churches that have always or never done “it” that way. When we started our small groups which we call Community Groups, there were some that said they had never been involved in a small groups. Others said the only small groups they had been involved with split the church. In other words, they had never had never done it that way. There is a church in our town that advertises itself as a traditional Southern Baptist Church. What does that mean? Do they hold fast to the apostle’s teaching? Or do they only sings hymns with an organ?
We see tradition all around in and out of the church. Church traditionally starts at 11:00 am. We traditionally sing 3 songs, then have preaching, an invitation, and a benediction. We traditionally have a steeple on the church and our buildings have a certain appearance. What is Paul talking about when he talks about tradition?
Let’s answer that question. Paul provides some direction. Paul is specific when he says, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” It is the traditions which they had been taught. Tradition here means something passed down from one person to another as it relates to God. When man gets involved, that tradition becomes something else. For example, the Law required one to be clean before eating. The Jews took that and made it into something it was not. Cleanliness became ritualistic. Instead of simply washing their hands, they added rules for the number of times your hands had to be washed, the amount of water that must be used, the number of times the water must be changed. It went on and on and the original purpose was lost.
We do the same thing today. Only the godly men wear a coat and tie; the ladies wear tasteful dresses. There must be hymns sung. We must meet on Sunday and Wednesday, and of course, you must use a particular translation of the Bible. Don’t even think about using one of those new fangled, modern, perverted translations of the Bible.
When Paul says hold on, he is very specific. Paul is instructing these believers to hold on to what he and his associates had taught them whether it had been taught in person or written down for them. Remember why there is a second letter to the Thessalonians. They were confused over the coming of the Lord. Some had told them that day had already occurred even though that was contrary to Paul’s teaching. Tradition comes from the word that means truths which having been received and must be faithfully passed down. In this case, it was Paul’s own teaching that according to 1 Thes. 2:13 was received directly from God. So the traditions Paul is talking about are not the later traditions of the church, but the original teachings of the apostles. We must make a distinction between the two. The apostolic traditions are foundational to our faith according to Eph. 2:20. Those are the traditions we are to hold on to and are recorded in the N.T.
If we want to be biblical, authentic Christians, we need to be uncompromisingly loyal to the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Standing firm and holding fast is the path to stability in the Christian walk, but the only way to resist false teaching is to hold on to true teaching. That’s why you need to get into the Word. That’s why you need to get to know who Jesus Christ is. That’s why you need to have a personal relationship with Christ. That’s why you need to find out the truth yourself.
What traditions do you hold on to? Is your walk founded on biblical principles or are you holding on to what you’ve always been taught?