Introduction: All of our studies are centered on the Bible. Every
question starts with reading a text. Not every church or every study
group has this kind of focus. I recall visiting a Sabbath School
class where everyone sat in a circle. They all had a Bible, that was
closed, and they all had their study guides opened. The class members
answered from their memory of what they thought had been written, and
often it was not a statement from the Bible. When I read a Bible text
and suggested it applied to the discussion, the teacher seemed pained
to have to open his Bible and find the text! Let’s jump into our
study today to learn more about the Bible as our authoritative source
of what we believe!

  1. Tradition and Culture

    1. Read Mark 7:1-4. Who thinks the disciples are following
      the best practice? (I’m with the Jewish leaders on this
      issue. Notice that “some” of the disciples failed to wash
      their hands.)

    2. Read Mark 7:5. How would you have answered this question?
      (Without a complete understanding of the context, I would
      say to the disciples, “Hey guys, you should wash your

      1. Do you think that ceremonial washing is the same as
        regular hand washing?

      2. Do you think that the Jewish leaders primary concern
        was hygiene? (My understanding from reviewing some
        commentaries is that the Jewish leaders were looking
        to find fault with Jesus, and they were speaking of
        something other than general hand-washing.)

    3. Read Mark 7:6-8. What does Jesus’ response suggest about
      whether the discussion is about normal hygiene? (Jesus is
      speaking about moral issues. That suggests to me that the
      Jewish leaders were not speaking about normal sanitation

    4. Let’s examine the text Jesus quotes. Read Isaiah 29:13.
      How would you describe God’s complaint about His people?
      (They say things they do not really mean. They make up
      their own rules.)

      1. What does that teach us about the real motive behind
        the criticism of the Jewish leaders? (This was not a
        commonsense issue about sanitary practices. The
        “hearts” of these leaders were far from a true
        concern about God. Instead, they were concerned about
        human tradition.)

      2. What “human traditions” do you see in your local
        worship? What traditions have you worked through in
        your life? (I was in law school during the days of a
        very strong counter-cultural movement. Despite that,
        and the fact that I was poor, I wore a necktie every
        day. When I became a lawyer, I wore a suit to the
        office long after the other lawyers had stopped
        wearing one. I wore a suit to church because I
        thought that if I had to honor a judge by wearing a
        suit to court, I should honor God by wearing a suit
        to church. One day someone suggested to me that this
        practice might discourage others, who did not own a
        suit, from attending church. My working culture was
        different than that of others.)

        1. Is wearing a necktie or a suit to church a
          “human tradition?” (Nothing in the Bible
          requires it. I’m rather certain Jesus never
          wore a suit or tie. Instead, I recall that some
          early Christians in the United States thought
          that wearing a tie was an improper display.)

        2. In my current church, leaders wear shorts up
          front. What do you say about that? (I doubt
          I’ll ever wear shorts to church, but I believe
          my attitude is a matter of human tradition.)

    5. Read Mark 7:9-13. Let’s look at “Corban” for a minute.
      What does the text suggest that this is? (The text
      suggests, and a commentary confirms, that an individual
      could declare an asset “Corban” and that would ban it from
      other use. Thus, you could ban your parents from
      benefitting from this asset.)

      1. Jesus tells us that this conflicts with the Bible. In
        our previous discussion about tradition and what we
        wear to church, does tradition conflict with the

      2. Does this tend to support traditions that do not
        conflict with the Bible?

  2. Common Sense

    1. Read Luke 16:1-3. If you were advising this manager, what
      would you suggest for his future? What would you do if you
      were this manager?

    2. Read Luke 16:4-7. Is that what you would have suggested?

      1. If not, why not? (It is dishonest. It is a betrayal
        of the master. This manager helps himself at the
        direct expense of his master.)

    3. Read Luke 16:8. Is this a misprint? How can this be?

    4. Read Luke 16:9-10. Can you explain how this conclusion
      about the importance of being trustworthy is consistent
      with the master’s commendation?

      1. On what specific point did the master commend the
        manager? (He “acted shrewdly.”)

        1. What does that mean? (He used common sense.)

      2. What do you think is meant by “worldly wealth?”
        (What the world values: money, influence, beauty, and

      3. What are we told to do with our worldly wealth? (To
        use it to “gain friends.”)

        1. Are we asked to be popular? (I think it means
          gain friends for the Kingdom of God. That is
          consistent with the reward of being “welcomed
          into eternal dwellings.”)

      4. Do you think this parable teaches us to be dishonest?
        (Given the statements in verses 10-12 that cannot be
        the case.)

        1. What, then, is this teaching us about being
          trusted servants of God? (To be shrewd! To use
          common sense just like a “person of the world”
          ( Luke 16:8) would use practical, common sense.)

        2. Consider a more pointed question: Are we being
          dishonest as servants of God if we do not use
          common sense?

        3. Are we trusted servants if we use common sense?

      5. How does this help us understand how we should
        interpret the Bible? (I don’t think we should follow
        popular culture or what is “politically correct,” but
        we should use common sense in how we interpret the
        Bible and practice what it says.)

      6. A slightly different understanding of this parable is
        that we should use our money (assets) with a view to
        our future in heaven.

  3. The Holy Spirit

    1. Read Acts 15:1-2. Is circumcision a “custom” or

    2. Read Genesis 17:9-10, Leviticus 12:1-3, and John 7:22-23.
      What do these texts suggest about whether this is only a

    3. Let’s continue with our story. Read Acts 15:5-6. How would
      you characterize the decision to be made by the early
      church? Were they attempting to interpret the Scriptures?

      1. Are the leaders of the early church a good guide for
        us today on the issue of Scriptural interpretation?

    4. Read Acts 15:7-8. What role does Peter argue that the Holy
      Spirit plays in understanding Scripture?

    5. Read Acts 15:12-13 and Acts 5:19-20. How did the church
      leaders treat the working of the Holy Spirit in
      interpreting what seemed to be a very plain contrary
      statement in the Old Testament? (This is a very sensitive
      area. We do not want to accept prophets who contradict the
      Bible based on a claim of the leading of the Spirit. On
      the other hand, if the Holy Spirit is acting on many
      fronts to promote a different understanding of the Bible,
      we need to pay attention.)

    6. Friend, will you learn to distinguish between custom,
      tradition and culture, and the teaching of the Bible? Will
      you use common sense in applying the teachings of the
      Bible to your life? Will you seek the guidance of the Holy
      Spirit in understanding God’s will for your life? Why not
      commit to these things right now?

  4. Next week: By Scripture Alone – Sola Scriptura.