The religious leaders valued their preferential traditions over God’s doctrinal truth.  As followers of Jesus, we must ensure that we hold the Word of God as superior to the traditions of man.

Mark 7:1-13

7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

How do you know if you are a legalist?

#1. Legalists obtain superiority by comparison (Mark 7:1-5).

  • Any sense of elitism is unwarranted in the Kingdom.
  • We must stop assuming that people are in bad standing with God if they fail to adhere to our standards.

#2. Legalists masquerade as sincere worshipers (Mark 7:6-7).

  • When worship is more about me than God, I have become the idol.
  • Empty worship is when we put our preferences as more important than God’s expectations.

#3. Legalists prioritize their traditions over God’s commands (Mark 7:8-9).

  • We must war against the tendency to prioritize trends and traditions over truth.
  • If you are unable to trace a tradition to a biblical origin, that practice should be expendable.

#4. Legalists make excuses for disobedience (Mark 7:10-13).

  • Tampering with God’s Word can become a habitual convenience.
  • Don’t disguise disobedience as devotion.

What non-biblical tradition have you allowed to take precedence in your life?

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.