Letter From Roc Corbett
January 20, 2018
"You have heard that it was said to those of old..." Six times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7), Jesus mentioned the oral traditions that had become the focus of worship among the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
"But I say to you..." Each time Jesus mentioned part of the oral tradition He countered with the truth, explaining and magnifying the Law. He spoke to them the words of God, words of life and truth, words that could bring salvation. Jesus often referred to the written word, not interpretations that had been added to it, as the basis on which to live. We see this on numerous occasions, as in the following examples: "It is written...It is written again...For it is written..." (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
From the time of the Babylonian captivity, through the four centuries between the end of the Old Testament and the ministry of Jesus Christ, the religion of God's people had undergone significant changes. A system of worship arose that was based on the interpretations of God's word, more so than on the actual words of God as given to the prophets. These interpretations by thousands of rabbis over a period of hundreds of years developed into the oral traditions that came to be considered as vital cultural identification markers that were indispensable to true worship. In many cases, more emphasis was placed on the "traditions of the elders" than on the Scriptures, actually making the word of God seem to be of no effect.
Since there is so much attention given to these matters in the Bible, and since Jesus and the Apostles taught how we ought to worship God in a different manner than "the traditions of the elders," we will consider this important area of spiritual instruction this Sabbath. We'll notice some of the examples in the ministry of Jesus Christ as he confronted and refuted those who taught and imposed the oral "traditions of the elders" instead of the written word of God as inspired in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then we'll briefly consider how these same errors had to be addressed by the Apostles in the early decades of the Church. This will be instructive to us, as these traditions rejected by Christ and the Apostles are forces that must be faced in our day as well.