Deut 29-31; 2 Thes 3; Psalm 120-122
Tradition is to some a dirty word.
Literally it means nothing more than that which is handed on, but for some it has come to mean ‘dead religion’, or ‘praying by rote’. It has in some circles come to exemplify lifeless religion – except properly understood this cannot be so, for what do we have that we did not receive?
Paul here interestingly speaks of tradition in a way with which we might be unfamiliar. We might think of tradition in terms for example of liturgy, or hymnody. Perhaps if we are a little more biblically alert, we might think of it in terms of doctrine. But Paul here has in mind something more profound than this. He speaks of tradition in the light of his way of living. This for most of us is an alien way of considering tradition, and certainly viewed in this light makes it far from ‘a lifeless thing’.
Essentially that which is passed down is a life, the Life of the Risen One. This life is communicated through the laying on of hands, through baptism, through the liturgy of the church, all means which the Spirit uses to impart the Life of Christ.
It is perhaps no surprise that when Paul again commends ‘tradition’ [remember that the letters to the Thessalonians are the earliest of Paul’s letters we have], in 1 Corinthians 11, it is the handing on of the Tradition concerning the Lord’s Supper, the Tradition of the ‘life imparting heavenly manna’.