The Catholic Defender: The Biblical Importance To Sacred Tradition
June 26, 2018
Tradition has a very solid foundation coming from the biblical text, for years, I have come across some people who have had a serious problem with Tradition in general on their perceived biblical principles.
Jesus spoke against placing the traditions of men above God, which was a problem in Israel at the time of Christ, but there is a difference in following the example of the Apostles.
Hebrews chapter 13 has a lot of meat and potatoes on this subject. Hebrews 13:7 states, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith." We are to "Imitate" their faith. This means literally to take and follow the Apostles as the role model.
Hebrews 13:17 gives even a stronger teaching for the Church, "Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you." Not only are we to follow the example of the Apostles, but we are to obey them as well. That is difficult for some because they do not want to be told how it is, that is why some reject the Catholic Faith, they want to do things their own way. That is not the biblical teaching.
Jesus told his disciples (Matthew 16:24), "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." In following the model of the Apostles, the first followers of Jesus, and imitating their faith, we are following what Jesus is calling for.
Ephesians 5:1 states, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." St. Paul, in this context, wrote the Philippians 3:17, "Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us." This is so important to understand because some people want to toss out the "middle man" whom Christ Himself installed to represent Him. St. Paul makes this connection continuing his letter to the Philippians, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you."
Christ placed so much upon His followers who would carry out His teaching in His Name, that if you deny them, you deny Jesus. Luke 10:16 is clear on this point, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." When a person decides to throw out the Catholic Church and place themselves in a position making them their own authority, they just put themselves under the warning.
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 continues St. Paul's teaching on this subject, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you." There the word actually is used, the word some people refuse to accept, the word tradition with it's full impact for the community of believers.
St. Peter, the first Pope, he places such importance for the Christian community to follow Christ through their example, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." 1 Peter 2:21
We are to pick up our cross and follow Jesus ourselves following the Apostle's example and teaching. St. Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." 2 Thessalonians 2:15
We are to follow the teaching of the Catholic Faith in word and deed, St. Paul continues, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us." 2 Thessalonians 3:6
The result of all the division brought about by the teaching of men who set up their own man made traditions has caused the break down in society, it ushered in the secularism that has darkened the hearts and consciences of men and women. St. Paul warned, "See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:8
Jesus Christ established the Catholic Faith commissioning it to go to all the Nations to Baptize them and to teach them all that he commanded them to teach. In doing so, Jesus was sending them out to begin a new foundation, a new covenant.
The Apostles were to preach this "New Way" to the ends of the earth and for all time. The Catholic Church has done so for nearly 2,000 year and will continue to do so until the Lord returns.
There is so much to the biblical text on this subject of tradition, that we are to imitate the Apostolic teaching. The challenge is to see how the truth of God has been handed down so that we have this great truth today. Here are just a small sample of what the followers of the Apostles have said from the beginning:
Ignatius of Antioch
Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]).
In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]).
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 110]).
The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]).
Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the churches? (ibid. 3:4).
Clement of Rome
Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry (Letter to the Corinthians 44:1 [A.D. 95]).
Clement of Alexandria
A multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons; and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere (The Instructor of Children 3:12:97:2 [pre-A.D. 202]).
Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles and who have lived in complete righteousness according to the gospel (Stromateis 6:13:107:2 [post-A.D. 202]).
Ignatius of Antioch
You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:1 [A.D. 110]).
It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times: men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 180-199]).
It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure chrism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion (ibid 4:26:2).
Understanding tradition, there are the big "T"s, those traditions that are based in Scripture, and the little "t"s that the Church uses as a tool to teach the gospel. Tradition gives us the Liturgy that has been handed down from the Apostles, tradition have given us the books in the bible, the usage of chapters and verse come from the Catholic Faith. The authority of the Catholic faith is based in Scripture and tradition confirms the historical record.