Gathering Unto His Name - Traditions


Paul uses the word "tradition" in a good sense in 1 Corinthians 11:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6,7. A tradition is a handover, truth handed down either by spoken word or written record. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I have received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you..." (1 Corinthians 11:23), he was handing down truth - delivering a godly tradition. Timothy was commanded ?to commit to faithful men" the truth he had learned from Paul, and they in turn would be able ?to teach others also? (2 Timothy 2:2). This is godly tradition.The Traditions of the elders of Israel made up a vast amount of material. There are 32 pages in the Mishna on how to cleanse vessels. Traditions have a very bad sense in the Gospels and in the experience of Saul of Tarsus. Matthew 15:3, ?Ye trespass the commandment because of your traditions." Mark 7:8, "Ye leave the commandments of God and hold fast traditions." Galatians 1:4, "Being more exceeding jealous for the traditions of the fathers."


It is sometimes claimed that many assembly practices are merely tradi­tions. People who say this describe a tradition as a practice that has no scrip­tural authority. It may once have had meaning, but is no longer relevant. We need to ask, "What are these traditions that should be done away?" Asking this question, I have been given the following list of "traditions" so called.


Isn't it a second name? Hall is not a formal name. It is a word like room, garage, home, barn or shed. The Carnegie Music Hall is a place for people to gather to hear music. The Gospel hall is a place for people to gather to hear the Gospel. Fellowship is not based on what Christians call their building. No Christian belongs to a Gospel hall; the building belongs to an assembly.


The principle of first things teaches us to give worship the first place. ?On the first day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread? (Acts 20:7) is an important pattern. It agrees with NT teaching (Mark 16:9; John 20:19, 26, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). The command of the Lord is "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do proclaim the Lord's death" (1 Corinthians 11:26) and NT assemblies did this every first day of the week


It is not the shape of the circle that is important, but "in the midst" is God?s authority model, not a pyramid, but a circle with the Lord in the midst.Two great principles are found in Hebrews 10:25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1. The word for ?gathering around? that is only found in these two verses is equiva­lent to the word epicenter. Just as we will be gathered around Him in the air, so we have the great privilege of gathering around Him in an assembly now.He is the true Gathering Center, the epicenter. We can express this great spiri­tual principle in a visible way when we gather around Him (Heb 13:13).


The Spirit?s leading does not begin after we arrive at a meeting. The char­acteristic of the ?sons of God? is that they are led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:14). Phil 3:3 teaches that it is by the Spirit that we worship. An assembly is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He must preside in it (1 Cor 3:16).


1 Cor 14:16 describes the ?seat of the unlearned?. Some have taught that the meaning of ?unlearned? is merely that the man was unlearned in the tongues that were being spoken. If this were its meaning, then this man did not have any distinction from the rest of the company because six times in the previous verses it says that no one understood the tongue, not even the man who spoke it. Verses 23-25 explain that the unlearned man was ignorant about the Lord being present in the midst of the assembly. The whole church was already gathered together when he came in (v 23), 50 he was not part of the assembly and unknown to the saints as to whether he was unsaved or only unlearned.The remainder of the description of this hypothetical case points out that hewas unlearned, but was a true believer who was able to worship God. This is a clear case of a saved man who was not in the fellowship of an assembly and he occupied the ?seat of the unlearned?. This practice is not merely a tradition of assemblies. It has behind it the truth of the within and without of an assem­bly. We freely admit that it would be better to call it ?the seat of the observer?rather than ?the back seat?.


Our worship is spiritual (John 4:24). without mechanical device or aid, yet the Lord left us five physical elements, water (baptism), bread, cup, long hair and a covered head. (Gen 1:26-28; Heb 2:1-10; Eph 1:22-23; 1 Cor 11:1-16).Far from being a minor, non essential teaching, the truth of the Headship of the Lord Jesus is one of the greatest truths in the Bible. What an honor and privilege that an assembly can show to God, angels and the world a truth that will yet be displayed to a wondering universe.The passage on headship (1 Cor 11:2-16) teaches two coverings, the long hair as well as the veiled head of sisters and the short hair and uncovered head of the man. These are not meaningless traditions, but are spiritually significant practices of godly assemblies.


All seven meetings of an assembly: the Lord?s supper, and the meetings for prayer; gospel, ministry, report, elders and discipline are from the New Testament. Shepherding ministry, teaching and Gospel preaching are the three functions of the three gifts that were given by the risen Lord for the mainte­nance of testimony (Eph 4:9-16). As in such passages as 1 Corinthians 14, we still pray, sing and speak from God?s Word when we meet together.


?A meeting? is a meeting with the Lord, and there should be reverence and awe at His Presence. A casual attitude is expressed by casual dress. A meeting is not casual. The usual excuse given is, ?If my heart is right, outward appearance does not matter,? but only God can see our hearts, others see the outward appearance. There cannot be testimony, unless all that expresses it can be seen and appreciated by the eyes of others.


The New Testament is silent on music, but has much to say about singing. The singing of 1 Corinthians 14:16 was accompanied by two things, ?the spirit and the understanding?. This would have been the place to give teaching about a musical instrument, but none is mentioned. In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, two other elements accompany singing. They are ?melody? in the Ephesian passage, and ?grace in the heart? in Colossians. Even the word ?melody? which is akin to ?orchestration? does not help people who want to use musical instruments in an assembly. This ?melody? is made in the heart and is the result of being filled with the Spirit.Even though the ministry of music occupies a very large place in many denominations that profess to be guided alone by Scripture, there is not a line of instruction in the NT about a musical ministry. Hebrews 9:1-22 teaches that along with the animal sacrifices, altars, vestments, incense, gold, silver and priceless gems, the silver trumpets, ram?s horns, timbrels and harps of the OT were only shadows that were fulfilled in the coming of Christ and then with­drew.An assembly is a temple of God, but it is not the outer court where the musical instruments were employed. It is the inner sanctuary (naos, not hieron) where no musical instrument was ever admitted even in Old Testament days.O Lord we know it matters not how sweet the song may be, No heart but of the Spirit taught, makes melody to Thee.Many kinds of musical instruments are connected to Babylon (Rev 18:22).