Tradition or Truth

‘…you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.’ Mark 7:13[/su_note]

I bailed out of the church when I was thirteen years old because I saw only tradition, rite and ritual, and not Jesus. 

Now, five decades later, I am hopelessly committed to the church because I see it as the household of God, as the family of Jesus Christ, and not as a temple to tradition.

Jesus was patient most of the time and compassionate all of the time, but one group of people really angered him – the religious people. He told them that they were hypocrites, white-washed tombs, and that there traditions nullified the word of God.  He saw the Pharisees as standing between the people and God, as offering not life but religion. Would he say the same to the religious people of our day? I believe he would.

I have no criticism of the church. The church, the Body of Christ, in all its local expressions is a wonderful and precious thing. I just can’t stand the religiosity that creeps into her thinking and practices. Things like the special classes of ‘priests’ who wear archaic costumes and sit on special chairs in a church service. Muttered formula prayers in Elizabethan English, or Latin seem so unreal and religious. Sometimes, even the Lords Table becomes an altar of sacrifice rather than the place of communion.

Hair-coverings for women; three ‘praise’ songs followed by three ‘worship’ songs; “give the Lord and applause offering” as the preacher bounds onto the stage. These too are religious traditions.

If you are a church leader then you can influence these things. If you are not you can still abstain, pray, and speak when the time is right. Anything that seeks to express the truth that Jesus embodied brings life. All that expresses religious tradition might bring nostalgia but will not impart life-changing truth.

How much of your church practice is religious? In the next post, I want to ask about your personal spiritual practices.

Picture of Christopher Peppler

Christopher Peppler



2 thoughts on “Tradition or Truth”

  1. Hi Chris

    I agree 100%. Although I would like to add that we must not confuse tradition with dead religion. Jesus only spoke against the tradition that countered the Word of God and made it powerless in the lives of people. However, the New Testament is not against tradition in a general sense – all communities and families need tradition to bond them together. The Lord’s Table is in a sense a tradition passed on from generation to generation. Paul continually encouraged churches to continue in the traditions that he had established. Certain traditions – when they become bonding points for community life – and affirm the workings of the Spirit in that community – are very healthy.

    Keep inspiring us . . .



  2. @David

    Hi, I agree with you. It’s quite heartwarming to see people participating in traditions that enhance a sense of community among its members- whether they be familial or institutional. Sad how quickly those can be twisted in the body of believers though…traditions can quickly serve as placeholders for meaningful relationships.

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.