The word of the day is “delivered.” Where did Paul get the teachings that he so ardently preached? Paul demonstrated what could distinguish between the Word of God and his own opinion. For example, in Corinthians he commands, “Not I, but the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:10). And soon after he offers his opinion saying, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say” (1 Corinthians 7: 11). However, in our reading of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul refers to doctrines that have the highest divine authority, He declares “…I delivered to you…that which I also received…” (vs. 3).
Twice in his letters to the congregation, he emphasizes that what he shared with the church came from Holy Tradition. The first time the apostle speaks in this way is when he recounts the Lord’s words that instituted the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist. He writes, “For I received from the Lord that which I delivered to you. That the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…” (1 Cor. 11:23). The second time was when he witnessed to the heart of the Gospel saying, “For I delivered to you that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” (vs. 3-8).
In these essential passages, Paul emphasized that the foundation of the church is the historical event of Jesus Christ, His teachings, His Passion, and His resurrection. The apostles were eyewitnesses of all that the Lord Jesus said and did, and they reported these things that they saw and heard (2 Peter 16-18; Acts 2:32) as sacred Tradition.
St. Paul insisted that he also was an apostle for he too had seen the Risen Christ (vs. 9-9). Moreover, he met with St. Peter and St. James of Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18-19) and shared the message that he was of the Lord’s teachings with them. Thus, along with the other apostles, he represented the apostolic tradition and that is what he delivered to the Corinthians (vs. 3).
Tradition Is a Gift to Be Entrusted to Others
The Greek word for “deliver” means to hand over something, to entrust it to another (Strong’s #189, 169). This thought is incomplete until we understand that what is passed along is “tradition.”
Those who receive the Holy Tradition of the apostles must do two things. First, they must hold fast to what they have received (2 Thess. 2:15). Thus, the Apostle Paul commends the Corinthians that they have “kept the traditions just as I delivered them to you” (11:2).
But those who receive the Holy Tradition must also pass it along to others. It is a sacred trust that is handed down to them so that they can deliver it to others. Thus, the Apostle instructs Timothy, “And those things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others” (1 Timothy 2:3). And the Lord gave the “Great Commission” not only to the disciples on the Holy Mountain but to His Church for all time: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20).
Tradition lives by being passed along to others. It ends with the generation that fails to deliver it to the next. We learn from our reading that the Gospel and the Eucharist are at the core of the sacred tradition handed down from the apostles. These holy things have been given to us as a sacred trust. It is our turn to deliver them to the next generation.