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What the Bible says about Adding Traditions to God's Laws
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 30:4-6

Verse 5 appears in context with the questions in verse 4. The questioner asks, in effect, "Is anything better than the Word of God? Has any man ascended to heaven? Who is this person? To whom can I turn to receive instruction better than the Word of God?"

Verse 6 warns the reader not to delve into dangerous speculations and then take it another step farther by adding it to God's Word. Nor should one give it authority equivalent to the Word of God, as if the person speaking such things has been to heaven and returned to earth. Doing so is adding to the Word of God.

This prohibition is a well-established principle that first appears in Deuteronomy 4. In this context, "the word" means the commandments of God that appear in Deuteronomy 5:

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. . . . Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." (Deuteronomy 4:2, 6)

Notice also what David says in Psalm 18:30-31:

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield [or, defender] to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Who can we depend on? We can depend on the Word of God to deliver us, to provide the right guidance, to give us the truth regarding everything we might face in life.

Connecting these thoughts to Proverbs 30:4-6, we find that the way of God is not improved by alloying it with human philosophy and speculations. Blending God's instruction with such things has always been a major problem. Within the framework of a covenant, this idea makes its first vivid appearance in Exodus 32, in the incident of the Golden Calf, and it continues to the end of the Bible.

Philosophies are the conclusions of men garnered through human experience and reason. So far, so good—because God requires us to use our reasoning powers in relation to His Word. So, we must gather evidence from His Word, use our reasoning powers, and then apply our conclusions to our individual situations.

However, human philosophies frequently begin with faulty premises or introduce evidence that does not agree with biblical truth. The conclusions drawn are thus wrong—and sometimes downright evil—because the wrong premise or the faulty evidence skewed the conclusion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Two)

Ecclesiastes 7:15-18

We need to be as clear as we can be about what Solomon's paradoxical situation has the potential to produce in a person's life if it goes unrecognized and is allowed full freedom to take over and produce its fruits without resistance. The following is a worst-case scenario. Not everybody will end up this badly, but the potential exists, which is why God gives the warnings about its dangers. It tends to focus the individual entirely upon himself.

Paul writes in Acts 26:4-5:

My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

The key phrase for our purposes here is “the strictest sect of our religion.” The history of the Pharisees shows that they had thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that would fit well under the definition of super-righteousness. In fact, they established and built the Pharisees into what they were at the time of Christ.

Super-righteousness is a beginning step into Pharisaism, and we know well the relationship Jesus had with them, those who “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” Is it wisdom to become like the Pharisees, who, because they thought God was not strict enough, added their traditions to His laws?

The foul fruit of super-righteousness is pride, and that is why Solomon cautions us so strongly in Ecclesiastes 7. Pride destroys relationships, whether with God or man, because the proud person demands attention and submission that can never be satisfied. It is the height of self-centeredness. They are demanding, display various degrees of narcissism, and tend to be standoffish, considering themselves to be better than others.

In the case of the Pharisees, their narcissism drove them to their absolute failure: not to recognize God in the flesh through His teachings. Instead, they, like Satan, actively attacked Him and succeeded in manipulating political and religious pressures to the extent that they, with the help of the Romans and Sadducees, put Him to death.

Jesus' famous castigation of them in Matthew 23 reveals many of their characteristics: They made things hard on others but would not bend to help; they showboated their good works; they expected to be catered to, not to serve; they desired public praise; they loved to receive titles; they looked down on others as inferiors; they taught false doctrines; they heaped greater difficulties on those who already needed help; their sense of judgment was completely skewed; they pursued tiny points of law with great zeal while overlooking truly important things; they were outright hypocrites; they loved to say, “If I were in that position, I would never have done that”; and they were clever deceivers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Twelve): Paradox, Conclusion


 




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