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2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NASB):

15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

What traditions is Paul talking about?

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Paul is contrasting false teachings with the true gospel in this chapter--he wants them to hold on to the true gospel that he (and other missionaries) have taught them.

He makes reference to their receipt of the gospel in the prior verse:

14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And he references what he personally taught them (see v5)

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Warnings of false doctrine

Contrast this with the warnings of false doctrine that inundate this chapter:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (v 3)

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work (from v7)

And then shall that Wicked be revealed (from v8)

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (vs 9-10)

That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (v12)

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Conclusion

Paul is warning them: apostasy & heresy are coming, be on your guard. And he's vouching for the truth and security in the message he has shared, whether in person (see Acts 17:1) or in writing (1 & 2 Thess.)

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In a word, "the faith once and for all delivered1 to the saints" (Jude 1:3). This faith comprises many "traditions" (2 Thess 2:15), all of which concern what Christians are to believe (doctrine) and how (practice, sources).

An example of what to believe is that Christ died for sins. And example of how to believe that, or a way to express belief in, and partake in that, was to celebrate the Eucharist each week, as the "witness" of every century shows was an Apostolic institution:

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things which thou [Timothy] hast heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also.

That is, the Apostles taught the Christian faith not only via letters (inspired, or otherwise) — "our letters" — but also "orally" (ibid.), including doctrine, and practice.

It's impossible that St. Paul meant here that there were a secret set of traditions only related to the Thessalonians, and not the rest of the Church. Rather, he means hold to Apostolic tradition in whatever form, written (Epistles), or otherwise (in person teaching).

What the Apostles commit in teaching, "whether by one of our letters, or orally," is to be adhered to by all Christians. Just as 'which books are inspired' is a tradition, so are the others equally, such as how to perform the sacraments or mysteries, such as the Eucharist, which has clear common elements common in all the Apostolic churches, even though variations exist (these actually accentuate and bring into focus what was fundamental, by their variations on the same, just as 'contradicts' in the Gospels often solidify the historicity of the thing being 'contradicted').

In other words, Paul is referring to tradition in general — "the traditions which you were taught" as containing all the truths of Christianity — and is not referring to any particular ones.


1 Literally, "traditioned."

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Paul kept all the Holy Days including the Sabbath found in Leviticus 23, and so did Jesus. In emulating Jesus Paul is saying that they should follow the traditions found in the keeping of God's Word the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Paul and Jesus both lived and taught the Torah. Jesus specifically says in Matthew 5 he did not come to do away with the Torah but to make it more full that is the true translation of the Greek word Pleroo. The word fulfill does not mean to bring an end to it but to make it more understandable. Jesus chastised the priest for adding to the Torah that made the Torah impossible to keep, but God's word says it is easy, it is in your mouth, and the new covenant writes it on your heart.

Deuteronomy 30:10-16

10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

Too often the church chooses death because they don't read all of God's word. The Torah is God's standard of Holiness, not a rule book to keep you in bondage but to bring you freedom in your new life as a believer in the Living God and His covenants.

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