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Question and Answer

Roman Catholicism and "Sacred Tradition"


Recently a Catholic friend of mine posed a question that had me perplexed and I was hoping you could explain. As you probably know, Catholics believe in Sacred Tradition. My friend told me that the Bible supports Sacred Tradition in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 when it states "Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." Could you please explain this?


Thank you for your question about 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

When Paul uses the word traditions in this verse, he is referring to the message of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The central message of the gospel that Paul received from the Lord is what he delivered to the church (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-5, where the word "delivered" refers to the transmission of tradition). So when Paul calls the church to stand firm and hold fast to these traditions, he is telling them to stand firm and hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ which he passed on to them.

Paul taught this gospel both by spoken word and by his writings. Today, since Paul and the other apostles are gone, it is only by their writings that we know and are bound to the apostolic word about Jesus.

The Roman Catholic notion of Sacred Tradition is authoritative teaching in addition to scripture. I would warn you that this kind of tradition is like the one about which Jesus spoke in Mark 7:8: "You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men." Only Scripture is "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," (2 Tim 3:16)

I pray that you will hold fast to the message of the Gospel as it is revealed in God's holy and perfect word.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

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