On Tradition and Scripture

10-12-2021 Ephesians 2:19-3:7

Paul here begins this lesson with a very powerful statement. We have to remember that he is writing this to the Gentiles, and also that he wrote this to them from a prison for preaching the word of Christ. See, the Gentiles were the uncircumcised, those who had resisted Judaism. And he begins this powerful passage with a statement. “You are no longer strangers or foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” This was a huge statement for them, and should be for us as well. They were divided, the Jews and the Gentiles, by their beliefs, and yet Paul here unifies them. In fact, all of humanity is unified through their union with the Spirit of God through the Body of Christ, His Church. This is such a powerful statement, especially at that time, because so many had rejected the Jewish tradition of who God was, and yet, he tells them that they are all unified through their belief in Jesus. I can’t help but relate this to our times, where so many people “believe in God,” but it’s their own God who just so happens to love everything that they love and hate everything that they hate. But when the beginning point is God, and then we work to change ourselves to suit that, then that is where the true change comes. “Having built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles.” he proclaims. What is the source of the Church to Paul, the teachings that he is teaching? “On the foundation of the prophets and the apostles.” This also rings so true in our time. Through our union with the Church, we are unified not only one to another, across racial barriers and everything else; but also to all the saints and prophets who have gone before us. And we must always remember to thank them, to seek their prayers on our behalf. It’s so imperative that we understand how much the saints sacrificed not only for their generation, but for future generations as well. If we ever forget where we came from, what has passed, then we will never understand where we are going. And we must remember to thank not only our patron saint, but all of the saints for their work, their sacrifice, their continued prayers on our behalf.
And it is from this foundation that we have the Scripture and all of the doctrines. All handed down to us throughout the ages for our continued life in Christ. It’s so easy for us to think of the Church as just a building, or a stage for a contemporary Christian rock band, or even a theatrical stage where someone is stumbling over a script; but it’s so much more than that. The Church has never been any of those things, it was never meant to be. The Church is the House of God, the Body of Christ, and we must never forget the lessons which have sprung forth from it. The teachings of Christ, the teachings of the saints, the teachings of the Church fathers; all recorded and passed down to us throughout the generations. The world is very quick to dismiss that fact, the enemy is quick to teach us that “those lessons are outdated, it was a different world,” but I struggle to see any peril in the Scriptures that I don’t see manifest in our current generation. See, they tend to take one verse and misinterpret it. I’ve hear lessons that taught that you could do whatever you want, as long as you’ve taken the holy bath, you’ll still inherit the Kingdom. But I don’t see that anywhere in the Scripture. No, I see the exact opposite. I see that you shall suffer for His name’s sake. I see the apostle’s hanged and persecuted and imprisoned. And yet, I still see peace in their writings because they know that they are doing it for a savior who allowed Himself to be crucified, a slow painful death, in the name of our sins. I see this complacent approach even in the face of death. The only time I get a sense of animosity from any of the apostles is when someone rejects Jesus and decides to live a material life, which Jesus Himself warned against.

Then Paul continues though. He refers to himself as a prisoner of Christ. Now ask yourself, if the prosperity gospel were true, why was he imprisoned? Being a prisoner tends to be a title of apostleship. To be a preacher preaching against the worldly laws, the “societal norm,” was an offense, especially amongst the Gentiles who had already rejected the faith. Imagine, if you can, a world where merely speaking of Christ and His commands was an offense, where holding and speaking out about Christian values was reprimandable, censored, and illegal. History oftentimes repeats itself, my brothers and sisters, and I foresee a time in the near future where such may be the case. We must never turn away from our Lord though, we must never bow down to the world and it’s prince.

And we note that far from being merely an apostle, Paul was given a special commission, the dispensation. He was given that to extend the Church of Christ to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. It may seem to mean little now, but in his time, this was unheard of. All who truly believed were accepted, regardless of race or status in their society. Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, all were welcomed into the Church of Christ, all were “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

This is perhaps the greatest lesson of this passage. If the Protestant Reformation has taught us anything, it’s the utmost necessity of unity within the Church. Ask yourself, which denomination is right? They each claim to be right, they each hear leactures about the “actual” meaning of Scripture every Sunday. Each denomination claims to be the “true Church of Christ” and disclaims all of the others as among the lost. I’ve seen Pentecostal churches lose people to the Lutheran church and “pray for them to find their way back to the ‘true’ church.” See, they each claim to be the “true Church” but each of them have doctrines and teachings that completely contradict one another. If “sola scriptura” is right, then why even have sermons? Because even they know that there’s so much more to be a Christian than just memorizing passages. They understand the need for tradition, they just choose to start their own instead of the traditions established over the course of two thousand years. Yes, read the Scriptures, yes, know them; but remember the necessity of the traditions handed down for generations. What did the saints die for if the printing press was the enemy? The Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, they are in fact infallible, but they get so misinterpreted that they become dangerous to us. We pick and choose one verse here, this other verse that we like there, and consider it the whole of Christian theology. Yes God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son that all who believe in Him should never die. But to believe in Him is to follow Him, and to follow Him is to obey Him, not just acknowledge His existence. “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.” (Matt 7:21). No, the saints and the martyrs all died for the teachings which had been passed down throughout the generations for us and for future generations.

Brothers and sisters, let us revel in that fact. Let us embrace this truth. There is still a Church whose teachings have survived almost two millenia; a Church wish worships the Triune God; a Church who ask the saints who have gone before us to pray on our behalf; a Church who doesn’t have a Pope or a pastor who can come in and change those thousands of years of teaching. The Body of Christ lives as one, in unity with Christ, by the grace of the Father, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You just have to search for it, and you will find it.

Christ is in our midst.

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