God's Word Supplanted by Man's Traditions

The last thing that demands our attention in these verses is the tendency of man’s inventions in religion to supplant God’s Word. Three times we find this charge brought forward by our Lord against the Pharisees. “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” “Setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” “Invalidating the word of God by your tradition.” [Mark 7:8, 9, 13] The first step of the Pharisees was to add their traditions to the Scriptures as useful supplements. The second was to place them on a level with the Word of God and give them equal authority. The last was to honor them above the Scriptures and to degrade Scripture from its lawful position. This was the state of things which our Lord found when He was upon earth. Practically, the traditions of man were everything, and the Word of God was nothing at all. Obedience to the traditions constituted true religion. Obedience to the Scriptures was lost sight of altogether.

It is a mournful fact that Christians have far too often walked in the steps of Pharisees in this matter. The very same process has taken place over and over again. The very same consequences have resulted. Religious observances of man’s inventions have been pressed on the acceptance of Christians – observances to all appearances useful and at all events well-meant, but observances nowhere commanded in the Word of God. These very observances have by and by been required with more vigor than God’s own commandments and defended with more zeal than the authority of God’s own Word.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on Mark’

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