Holding the Traditions (2)

Rev. Stewart is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches to the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship of Northern Ireland. This series is being reprinted with permission from the Covenant Protestant Reformed Fellowship website, Volume X, Issues 2 & 3.

Having explained the idea and the content of the “traditions” (II Thess. 2:15) last time, we must now ask: Where does this leave the church of Rome and her tradition? Rome has rejected apostolic traditions. Justification by faith alone is jettisoned for justification by faith and works. Christ’s all sufficient atonement and mediation is rejected for the mass and the intercession of Mary and the saints. Sovereign election and reprobation (11-14) is forsaken for the “gospel” of free will. (How few professed Protestants today “stand fast, and hold” this apostolic tradition!) Rome also rejects the faithful tradition of the best teachers of the church (e.g., Augustine, Luther and Calvin).

However, II Thessalonians 2 does apply to Rome and her tradition. It is not verse 15, though. Rome is embraced in the “falling away” (3), idolatry (4), false miracles (9), ingenious deceits (10) and “strong delusion” (11) which softens the world up to receive the “man of sin” (3), who brings the apostasy of the centuries to its culmination. At “his coming” (8) on the clouds, Christ will destroy “the son of perdition” (3).

While many are “falling away” (3), our calling is to “stand fast” (15) by “hold[ing] the traditions” as we “have been taught” (15). Obviously, this includes the truth of this chapter (II Thess. 2). Hold fast to the truth of Christ’s bodily return in great glory to destroy the man of sin who is the culmination of the working of the mystery of iniquity. Hold fast to the truth that God sovereignly orders all of this for the salvation of His elect and the destruction of the wicked (11-14). Indeed, hold fast to all of God-breathed Scripture: OT and NT; every book, chapter and verse.

Every professedly Christian group has its tradition (a received body of doctrine), whether its tradition is large or small, or whether or not it even realizes that it has its tradition. But how are we to judge between the various traditions of Rome or the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Reformed churches, etc.? Scripture, of course, is the infallible rule which judges all tradition (Acts 17:11; I John 4:1).

We in the CPRF believe that the Three Forms of Unity (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt) faithfully set forth and summarize what the Scripture teaches about the Trinity, Creation, the Person and natures of Christ, the doctrines of grace, etc. Thus we stand fast to the Three Forms of Unity as a concise and accurate presentation of the truth of God’s Word.

We ought also to notice that the command of II Thessalonians 2:15 to hold the traditions is not addressed to church officers (pastors, elders and deacons) but to all the “brethren.” For the Bible is given to all God’s people, for they all have the Spirit of Christ to enable them to understand and cling to the truth of God’s Word. All the people of God are commanded to hold the faithful traditions because, negatively, this is the way of avoiding destruction (10-12). There is vast apostasy in the professing churches and “the falling away” is coming (3; the Greek has the article “the”). The man of sin will say that he is God (4). He will work miracles (9) and be incredibly deceptive (10) and most in the church will be fooled (4). Moreover, God will send “strong delusion” (11). How then will we stand? Only by holding fast to the truth! Those who do not hold fast to the biblical traditions will be deceived and perish.

True, the manifestation of the man of sin may not happen in our day, though it might, since no one knows when he will be “revealed” (3). But the apostle teaches that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (7). Many today are falling for false doctrine. Unbiblical worship corrupts many churches. Millions are swept away by the false miracles of Roman Catholicism and of charismaticism, all over the world. What will happen when real miracles are wrought with “all power” “after the working of Satan” (9) “with all deceivableness of unrighteousness” (10)?

Though they may say that they believe the truth, many do not receive “the love of the truth” (10) and so do not actually believe the truth (12). Instead, they believe “the lie” (11; the Greek has the article “the”) and thus they shall be “damned” (12).

The imperatives, “stand fast” and “hold,” are in the present tense. Thus, right now, you must cling to the truth as it is developed through the NT age. This includes holding fast to the biblical doctrine of the last times (eschatology) as taught in II Thessalonians 2 and elsewhere, for even in apostolic days there was false teaching on eschatology which deceived and unsettled people (1-3).

Not only must the professing Christian hold fast to biblical traditions lest he perish (10-12), but this adherence to the truth is also the way in which God saves us. God’s “beloved” people are “chosen” “from the beginning,” “called,” sanctified and glorified (13-14). But God has ordained that the way of salvation (and the blessed experience of salvation) is the way of “belief of the truth” and no other way (14). “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the