Monthly Archives: April 2012

Acts: Atonement MIA?

A question was posed to me by a pastor in Indonesia: If the atonement of Christ is so important to understand, why don’t the Apostles preach about it in the book of Acts? See here:

@Doulos2Christou I don’t know Christus Victor, but the gospel according to Acts never included atonement. If so crucial why not? Thoughts?

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Implied (consciously or not) is the idea that the detailed meaning of the atonement is not a necessary part of the preaching of the gospel – or rather people don’t need to get those details nailed down before they can be saved.*

First of all, I disagree with the premise, i.e. that the atonement was not included in the preaching/teaching in the book of Acts. Perhaps it is not discussed explicitly and in detail, but the assumption of the Apostles was that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – their preaching and teaching was based on the completed work of Christ.

Chapter 2:22-24 is a glimpse into the meaning of the cross, but then see verse 40 where Luke summarizes by saying “with many other words he testified and exhorted them…” all that Peter said is not written in vss. 14-39; beyond that Peter was preaching and exhorting them according to the whole truth about Jesus and His work. We can safely assume that in speaking with Jews as a Jew, Peter took time to explain the greater passover, the greater sacrifice, and the propitiation of the Father’s wrath – all heavily foreshadowed in the Old Covenant and Old Testament writings on which the Israelites of Peter’s day were raised.

But that aside, we also must not assume that for something to be a core part of the gospel that it has to be explicitly written about in the book of Acts.

Think of it this way: Acts is the “video tape” of the first generation of Christians. We see

1) The Holy Spirit fall on them at Pentecost and enliven the mission they have been given by Christ. They go instantly from being a scared little huddle to a powerful cadre of preachers willing to be imprisoned, mocked, and killed.

2) The church of Jerusalem is formed, grows in number, and gets persecuted.

3) Saul is converted and becomes Paul – and his ministry as an Apostle begins,

4) The persecutions intensify and as a result, the Christians begin scattering, which in God’s plan has the effect of spreading the word to the Gentiles.

5) All of these circumstances give rise to the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, to both Jew and Gentile. Many churches are established throughout the Roman empire.

In watching this video tape, we get snippets and summaries of the preaching and teaching of the gospel. The goal Luke has in mind is not to lay down a systematic theology of the cross, but rather to record how the Holy Spirit moved in the first generation of believers. This is done by, among other themes, the record of the general preaching and teaching of the Apostles. In other words, Acts is descriptive rather than prescriptive; demonstrative rather than normative.

In contrast, the epistles are like the commentary and “behind the scenes footage” for the video. Herein the Apostles take the time to detail the Person and work of Jesus Christ. In the epistles, the gospel is examined  in detail from the Old Testament, the life and work of Jesus, and the direct revelations received as God revealed the mysteries kept secret in ages past.

In the epistles, (especially Hebrews which I bet was written by Luke), we get the fuller picture of the cross work of Christ, and therein we derive our doctrines of the atonement. The epistles are surely no less authoritative than Acts in demonstrating the theology of the early church, right?

Thanks for thinking,

-Justin

*I would agree that of course God can save someone by the hearing of a summary of the gospel – of course. The full, infinite, glorious details of penal substitutionary atonement are not even fully explainable – it is well beyond the reach of even the greatest minds; we are all of us little children in our earthly understanding of what He has done for us. I would not, however, say that the doctrines of the atonement are unnecessary for a Christian to be a good disciple/learner. Once a Christian has begun to read the Scriptures, the truth will filter in, and error ought to filter out. I believe the mark of antichrist is to be confronted with Scripture concerning who Jesus is and what He has done, and to yet persistently, obstinately remain in error long-term.
Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Living in the Death of Jesus – Death to False Hope

This is the last of a series of posts and interactions I have had with a few Roman Catholics. Please do take a few moments to read and think through the things previously said, although this post will be pretty much self-contained.

There could be few things more opposed to true Christianity than Roman Catholicism. True Christianity is unique and wonderful in the claim to a salvation completed, granted by grace through faith alone; all in and through the God who became Man, Jesus Christ alone. Roman Catholicism is the most potent force of Satan on earth in that the best deception always appears as truth – and Romanism uses the currency of truth to sell her lies. Satan’s favorite tactic is not booze, prostitution, and murder, but rather religion, dressed up in robes, smells, and rules to keep the people occupied… and looking anywhere but the finished work of the cross of Christ.

Ah yes… the cross.

The End of Counterfeit Religion

It is finished.

What happened at the cross? In general, torture. There are not too many historical examples of anything worse for capital punishment… but beyond the physical suffering of Jesus, why does His cross-work set His religion apart from everything else? Let’s contrast the cross with a general group of religions:

Buddhism = struggle to be a good person, and to be free of desire… (do)

Atheism = struggle to find reason within non-reason, and be a good person although “good” must be borrowed from theism… (do)

Hinduism = struggle to practice the never-ending rituals of appeasement for your 300,000,000 gods… (do)

Roman Catholicism = struggle to remain faithful to an institution which governs and doles out the bits and pieces of grace necessary to earn right standing with God, which apparently Jesus earned, but you must earn through doing the sacraments enough and by not sinning… (do)

Mormonism = struggle to follow the rules, believe and work hard enough – temple rites, sacraments, works of piety, etc… (d0)

Jehovah’s Witnesses = struggle to do enough of a number of things in order to receive the bits and pieces of grace necessary to not be eliminated by God at the judgment… (do)

New Age Mysticism = struggle to free oneself from ego and illusions, be a good person, find peace with the Universe through rejecting bad energy and attracting/producing good energy… (do)

Judaism = struggle to keep the Law and practice lots of rituals, be a good person… (do)

Legalistic, counterfeit forms of Christianity (can come in any package under any label) = because of what God did for you, now get to work to earn the receiving of salvation, be a good person… (do)

Get the picture?

However, Christ crucified, bare-naked faith in Him (the gospel) = be saved by a gracious act of divine, free-will sovereign grace…

(DONE)

And then live in a growing state of freedom from sin because everything necessary for your salvation is finished for you by Christ.

How Does it Happen?

From my previous posts, I show a little of how the Bible indicates that salvation is initiated, carried out, secured, and done for the glory of God, all by God without a splinter added to it by us, the redeemed. Yet the central question of the ages is how does God solve this problem:

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

&

Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

If you don’t see God’s problem, it’s this:

man is wicked, God hates when the wicked is counted as just, and then God counts the wicked as just simply on the basis of faith.

HUH?! HOW DOES GOD REMAIN JUST WHEN HE JUSTIFIES THE WICKED?!

The entire host of heaven and hell is left breathless: the One who is righteousness and perfection has justified (counted as if righteous) the men and women who are anything but righteous. Everything outside of the gospel of Christ leaves us in the lurch, needing our effort and accomplishment to be made right… but in the truth, the gospel, God freely justifies and makes us righteous apart from who we are, what we have done or will do, and any other condition in us.

In Roman Catholicism, the basics of who Jesus is and who God is have really been kept intact.

Something seems... different.

Remember that the best, most effective lies present a large part of the truth as the sugar coating on the poison.

Yet in Rome the work of God in Christ is absolutely destroyed and replaced with a sacramental systems of works salvation. It’s the ol’ switcheroo – we’re told it is the same as the original, but when we go to the original source (Bible), our Roman Catholic friends tell us there is a better source… which is of course secondary and different than the Bible (Church teachings), but which they say trumps the original (but we can never admit it).

But in total contrast, Jesus says “this is the work of God; that you believe on the One whom He has sent.” John 6:29 Faith alone accomplishes the “work” of salvation in us. Faith in what, though? Should we exercise faith… in our faith?

No – our faith is to be in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. That is what God counts as just. When Jesus became a Man, He was worth an infinite value – no limit to His worth. He lived a perfect life and was worthy to then willingly lay down His life as a substitution for the redeemed people of God. When Jesus was tortured and crucified, He somehow took into Himself the actual guilt of all of the sins of all of His people who would ever live before, during, or after His life on earth. When Jesus became our guilt in a mysterious, perfect work of selflessness – the Father then broke fellowship with Jesus as would have happened to each of us in hell – but Jesus carried the burden of our sin debt, paid the penalty for it in our place, and absorbed all of the justice and anger of God against sinners.

Jesus died physically by willingly paying with His life the entire debt of our sin by becoming a curse for us. God treated His Son like He would have justly treated us for eternity in hell – and because He is infinitely valuable, Jesus was able to offer Himself for a period of 3 – 6 hours under that holy wrath of God… and the entire penalty for our sin and rebellion was completely paid and finished.

John 19:30 “It is finished.”

When He died, Jesus declared that the entire payment was complete. What would have taken Justin Esposito a trillion years times a trillion trillion years times infinity to pay off (the debt of having rebelled against a perfect, holy, lovely Creator), Jesus paid for me and completed the entire work of salvation there. Nothing left to pay. No religious piety to count for a penance or for the expiation of sins. Jesus paid it all, and to Him I owe all.

Yet there is more. In order to have all of the credit for salvation given to God, even our entry into covenant with God is secured by His decision and act of free-will grace. Our will is always to rebel and run from Him – yet in unfathomable love He rescues us from that blind, dead revolt by giving us a new heart in regeneration. While we would look at the cross of Christ and call Him a fool and spit on Him, God decides to call us out of our insanity by the proclamation of the good news – everything I just spelled out about the cross… and the fact that He rose from the dead three days later. When men and women hear that gospel, the Holy Spirit gives new life and new hearts to His elect people – those whom the Father has given the Son (John 17:2, 6). This is all to the “praise of His glorious grace,” as Paul says in Ephesians 1.

Elsewhere, Paul puts it very, extremely, absurdly clearly in Titus 3:

3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs [a]according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (NASB)

The cross of Jesus was the end of man’s climb to God, and the revelation that God, although high and mighty, decided to come down to us in grace and love. From that day on, (and in reality, from the beginning), the works of man became and have always been futile and vain. Nothing can repair our relationship with God except the blood of Christ Jesus – and nothing can make us stand right before Him except Him standing in our place at the cross, guilty, condemned, and slain in our place.

Do you not see the freedom and beauty here? Please look carefully – go deep in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are still determined to live out your Roman Catholic faith, be assured you will stand before God uncovered in guilt, offering up the filthy rags of your religious piety as an attempted sacrifice – blasphemy in the face of Jesus’ finished work at the cross. Turn from the way of works righteousness, turn from the sin of self-morality, and place your full faith and confidence in the crucified Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Take us home, brother Paul… from Romans 3

21 But now apart [k]from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [l]who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all [m]have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a [n]propitiation [o]in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, [p]because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who [q]has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28[r]For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works [s]of the Law. (NASB)

Find out what “propitiation” means, and revel in the joy.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grand Cayman Was Wonderful!

Hey all! For those of us who have our ear to the ground, our eye to the lens, and our heart in tune with the musical universe around us, I heartily recommend a trip to Grand Cayman island. The loud, luscious voice of creation is singing in color in Cayman, mon.

See the dolphins?

Experiences in Cayman

The Caribbean world is for those of us who love to experience the best of creation. The cheerful sun turns you brown while the turquoise water refreshes your mind. Cayman is just about the perfect picture of vacation – it was a time to relax my mind and simply gaze into the glory of God’s handiwork.

A brief list of things we got to do and see:

  1. Snorkeled at Cemetery Beach and saw lovely corals, and hundreds of colorful, playful fish. This was a big step for both my wife and me as we are very freaked out by the ocean 🙂 We actually were looking for a nurse shark that others in the area had seen just a few minutes before! (Didn’t find her).
  2. Swam with Dolphins at the wonderful Dolphin Cove. I held a dolphin in my arms!

    Can I get a kiss pwease?

  3. Visited Stingray City where countless stingrays swim around you and eat squid from your hands. I held and kissed one. Amazing day in the turquoise North Sound – video of us leaving it behind (couldn’t have my camera in the ocean during the swim, but search YouTube for Stingray City) here:
  4. Baked my Irish butt in the equatorial sun on numerous beaches.
  5. Visited First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman for Sunday service (Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile).
  6. Rode a submarine at night to depths of over 100′ to see the corals and predatory fish on the hunt.
  7. Enjoyed fabulous seafood everywhere.
  8. Generally soaked in the benefits of belonging to a gracious, generous God who built a really amazing cosmos.

I hope you all have had half of the joy in your lives that I have had. What a mind-blowing universe we live in. What a sweet and excellent Creator. Glory to Christ!

Thanks for checking back in with me. I’ll be back to regular blogging soon.

-Justin

 

Categories: Meaning Woven into Nature | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Off to Grand Cayman

From time to time every restless child of wonder has to get to a different spot on the planet, since we can’t really leave it very easily. I’ll be on Grand Cayman for a while, no new posts for a bit, soaking in the sun and sand and all that 🙂

When I return, I’ll have some great stuff to share with you all. Until then, be grateful you live on wonder-planet under the sun of Wonder-God. He is good.

Nos Vemos,

-Justin

Categories: Meaning Woven into Nature | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Salvation by Grace Alone: Reformed View pt. 2

The Joy of Sharing the Gospel – a Thanks to the Readers

In part 1 of this title, I attempted to give a biblical, glorious, joyous overview of man’s condition in sin and God’s role as initiator, Savior, and majestic, merciful, gracious, loving Lord of salvation.  My Roman Catholic opponent Letting Smoke Out diverted the discussion back to issues of where doctrine comes from – which is understandable. He cannot get past the different assumptions we have in starting out in order to then discuss salvation, and so our dialogue has come to a stand-still of sorts.

That, as unfortunate as it is, has not stopped me from being filled with the overflowing desire of joy to share the gospel with him, and with all of you other readers. It has been a fulfillment of a great pent up energy in me to begin this blog – and by the grace of God, to His glory, I have seen around 2,000 visitors since January come and read these posts. What a great privilege and responsibility I have been given! It is my humble hope that the Lord would be pleased to use something written on this website to bring great honor to His Name. This dialogue between the Roman Catholic perspective and my own of the Reformed has been perhaps somewhat amateur, but all the while a privilege and joy. Thank you to everyone who has read, responded, and/or prayed for me in this venture. Please continue to pray for our Roman Catholic friends who have visited and interacted with me here. No, seriously – please stop and pray for them before you continue 🙂

God the Judge – God the Initiator – God the Path – God the Destination – God the Savior

My first post laid out our need for salvation – and how it is initiated by the very One who is our fearful Judge. This is the great mystery of the Christian faith – that God is both our greatest enemy because of our sins, but also our only hope and salvation because He is gracious and merciful. Every false religion or philosophy cannot reconcile these things – and every false religion, Roman Catholicism as chief, reconciles sinful man with God through man’s response, effort, and cooperation.

The stand-alone truth out of all religions is found in the Bible: that God the offended Judge initiates the reconciliation of Himself with His sinful, rebellious creatures… but not only does He initiate and make a way for us to “get right,” He then Himself becomes the path of that salvation in the Man Jesus Christ. LSO (my Roman Catholic opponent) had named our proposed debate “the path to salvation,” which is wonderful since then our focus would be squarely on Christ who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life”! Wonderful! See, there is not “a path to salvation” except if we are talking about the Person Jesus the Christ, the incarnate Son of God. So far Rome would agree…

We begin to radically depart from one another from here – God the destination and God the Savior. The (inspired, inerrant, infallible) writing of Paul in Ephesians 1 begins to cut through the surface of religion, way past the man-centered doctrines of Romanism, and into the unfathomable depths of God… look:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Did you see that? Read verses 3 – 6 again slooooooowly and with all of your mind engaged with what is being said – go on! Let’s answer a few questions to get us to the point:

1) Who is doing the blessing? Answer: God the Father.

2) Who is getting the blessings? Answer: us.

3) What are the blessings? Answer: every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.

4) How is He blessing us? Answer: in Christ, having chosen us in Christ before the world began.

5) What is His goal for us in all of this? Answer: that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love!

6) What was God’s motive in all of this unspeakable kindness and power and glory and love? Answer: the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

7) Why was all of this done by God? Answer: For His glory, by His grace, for our good.

8) How did He bring us into Christ while satisfying justice? Answer: stay tuned for my next post on the cross 😉

Listen friends, no religion in history can touch these truths. Roman Catholicism comes so close to these truths, but basically in word only, not in practice. When we begin to inspect the meanings and dogmas underneath their words, Romanism could not be further from the Apostle Paul and the rest of the Word of God. Look further:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

Who is the worker in all of these things so far? God – and God alone. This defines “grace.”

which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

His grace for His glory and for our good…

10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

This is the interpretation of the cosmos: all things by Christ, for Christ, and ultimately back to Christ.

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

According to verse 11, who is working our salvation? Us, or God? Whose will is determinative in our salvation? By His grace, for his purposes, because of love, for our good. Yes!!!

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.(NKJV)

Can a person walk away from salvation once God has applied it to us? Paul? What say you, dear Apostle? “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” And why has God done all of this? Paul? “To the praise of His glory.”

God is the destination of salvation – He has begun it, worked it out, He is working it out right now, it was His covenant, His initiative, for His fame and glory, because He is good, because He is love, because Christ Jesus is worthy… for the praise of His glorious grace.

But what does Rome say?

From the Roman Catholic catechism section 2010:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (emphases mine)

Sly, slick, almost true. That is always Satan’s best move – the truth with a twist… a little something extra, a little poison in your milk… and billions have been captured by it. It sounds so good – “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace…” Great! Wow! One problem: the Judaizers of Galatia were saying the same thing, and what does Paul say to them?

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (NKJV)

The gospel is a gift of grace, a love gift which is not merited in the start of it, the middle, or the end. It is all of grace, thank You Jesus my Lord!

This gospel is good news for you, dear Catholic friends. Not against you, never! Don’t be ashamed of having to repent of your religion and good works – they will not save you and it is not worth it to trust in them. I love you because of Christ’s grace and mercy – and I call you in the name of Jesus to repent of your religious works and trust Christ for the righteousness He alone has earned, and receive His forgiveness of sins. He is enough, He is enough for your salvation.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

P.S. My next and most likely last post on this subject will be focused on the cross of Christ.

P.P.S. I realize many of you would take the time to deconstruct the basket full of logical, historical, biblical fallacies presented by LSO. I would like to do that too, but I do not want to only post and write on Roman Catholicism on this blog… but perhaps I will return to it someday. Feel free to pay him a friendly visit and interact with his ideas.

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Previous posts in this series, starting at the first:

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos

Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out

Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

A Word on Interpreting Scripture and Church Authority” – Interpreting the Cosmos

What is the Biblical Path to Salvation? Reformed View pt. 1” – Interpreting the Cosmos

On Clarity and Authority” – Letting the Smoke Out

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Sola Scriptura Stalemate” – Letting the Smoke Out

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Breath of Celebration – Jesus Lives!

Unique in Your life now of 2,000 years, with a 3 day interruption by death – when you took death by the head, and smashed its brains out, and rose from the grave, Your people now shout…

HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!

Jesus lives and so shall we…

Categories: One Breath | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Either Rome or Reformation – Not Both

Long post ahead – please read it all. I’ll wait while you go get your coffee and slippers…

As many of you know, I’ve had the blessing of dialoguing with a Roman Catholic nicknamed Letting Smoke Out. See any of the previous few posts here on this blog for details. As of now, LSO has decided that the only issue we are able to discuss is the authority of Rome as sole interpreter and infallible dispenser of biblical truth. To be fair, it was his explicit attention to me on Twitter and resultant invitation to dialogue which led us to set out to discuss “The path of salvation.” As I attempted to set the stage for that discussion, I think he realized that he could not in honesty receive the slightest proposition of truth from my reading of the Bible because of my rejection of Roman authority and legitimacy. “DOA” stands for “dead on arrival,” as our discussion of salvation is as of now.

Our discussion has continued on his blog, only it is stuck on issues of authority, which is fine, but it is not going anywhere too productive… mainly because of our extremely different starting assumptions. That’s sad to me – but I entrust it and our friend LSO to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he seems to have so generously done for me. I do, however, find I am obligated to finish my initial intent to make a better contrast of Roman Catholic salvation theology and that of the Christian/Reformed Church. This is in part to honor the helpful, respectful input of two Catholic gentlemen on my blog, vivator and Sparki. I will post on salvation and justification next.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this burden for my Roman Catholic friends

Over the course of my nine year life in Christ, my heart has become heavy for the Catholics. Each day recently I have been pondering these issues, thinking hard about both sides, and trying to pray for wisdom. To most of you dear readers, this is perhaps an intellectual, interesting, or maybe slightly dry discussion which is all probably right up your alley if you’ve read this far. Yet I hope it is a little more than that to you – it is to me. These Catholic folks with their internet nicknames who have taken the time to talk with me… they are made in the image of God – and they are deceived by an antichrist spirit. I know that sounds harsh to our postmodern ears, but to be true to Jesus Christ I must be direct. LSO in particular has referred to me as a Christian who is “outside of the Church.” I appreciate his recognition of the Holy Spirit in me, but with all due respect, the Bible knows nothing of a Christian who is outside of the Church. I believe if we dig at this a little bit, maybe – by God’s wonderful grace – He may use it to unravel a little of the string holding together their bonds in darkness. I know, heavy sounding words… but this is life and death!

Daddy, what’s a Church?

Many members, one Body

One of the main problems here is that LSO, and his Roman Catholic brethren have an unbiblical, twisted definition of “Church.” From LSO found here:

Read Matt 18:17 again.  See how Jesus instructs the apostles to tell the “church”.  Clearly He is not referring to some theoretical entity, but to an established organization – His church. Our Lord gave definitive instruction at this passage and yet you believe He was referring to an “invisible body”.  How can someone tell or listen to an invisible body?  “Tell the church”…”listen even to the church”… now that’s clear.

When I say that the Body of Christ is “invisible,” I mean that no one but God knows exactly all who is the wheat, and who are the tares. Remember how Jesus warned (Matthew 13:24-30, and basically the entire New Testament carries the same warnings) of unbelievers (hypocrites) who come into the fellowship with us, who pretend to be real Christians, but are not? We don’t really know who many of those “fakers” are… because they can look very convincing. That’s why the true Church of Jesus Christ is “invisible.” Those who have received the grace of adoption into the family of God are only known in our full number by God. This leads us to our point, namely that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a building, not an organization, but it is the Body of Christ made up of individuals.

Would any Roman Catholic really say that every single individual who claims to be a Catholic is really, truly “in the Church”?

Don’t Run Away! It’s Just an Eeeeeensy bit o’ Greek!

So what is the definition of “Church” from the Bible? The Greek word ἐκκλησία (ecclesia), from Thayer’s Lexicon:

(from ἔκκλητος called out or forth, and this from ἐκκαλέω); properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly; so used.

Also, from the Bible:

ek, “out from and to” and 2564/kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

[The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577/ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”] (All emphases mine).

In light of the definition of “church,” and not to mention the word comes from the same Greek word used for “elect,” should we not see the Church as the whole Body of believers, and not an organization or institution in Rome? How could LSO think of me as a sincere Christian who is simply “outside of the Church”? Being a Christian means I have been “called out” of the world and into the assembly of God’s people – it does not mean I am a Roman Catholic, Baptist, Amish farmer, or any other denomination. See the confusion of categories?

OK – so that was a bit sloggy, but I had to do it – and if you are still with me, I think this will be worth it for all involved. The Roman religion defines the Church as the Roman religion, and no other. If someone is not in the Roman religion, Rome does not see him or her as in a state of salvation. What’s that teaching called? Salvation by institution. Just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are scared stiff to even think thoughts about stepping into a real church for fear of Jehovah God annihilating them. Look here:

Classical, true Roman Catholicism has preached that there is no salvation outside of the Roman religion. From catholicism.org:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught By Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:

  • “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
  • We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
  • “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

Let’s be honest. Rome believes that she is the one true Church of Jesus Christ as an institution – not defined by faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins, but only defined by belonging to its number – to be saved you have to be in the Roman organization, and then cooperate fiercely with the prescribed ladder of sacramental righteousness to “make it.” And all of this off of an obscure verse about building the church on “this rock” – which may mean Peter, or his confession of faith, or Jesus may be talking about Himself… but even if He meant Peter, this still does not demonstrate a papacy!

Most importantly though, the gospel of Christ is not found in Rome’s teachings. In some ways, it is very close – an almost gospel, yet the Apostles fiercely condemned counterfeit gospels which had merely added little bits and pieces to the gospel of Christ – while Rome has added dozens of things to it. Catholicism is a religion of lies, and it is taking its people to hell by the billions. That’s not funny – and believing Christians need to stop toying around with Rome. We are to stand up and call our Roman Catholic friends to repentance of dead works into a living, secure relationship with Christ based solely on His works and one time atonement.

Here’s the hard, cold truth: I, Justin, and numerous others like me are not Roman Catholics, and yet we are the Body of Christ.  I do not believe and in fact vehemently reject Romanist theology – I am walking in the footsteps of the millions who have gone before me, and in the footsteps of the Reformation Christians who shed their blood to salvage the gospel out from Rome. I have these convictions because of the gospel, because of God’s Word, and because He has chosen me unto an everlasting salvation, accomplished by Christ outside of and before me. I do not merit the grace He gives, otherwise it would no longer be grace but a debt He would owe. God will be no man’s debtor, believe that.

So that is all to say to LSO and my other Roman Catholic readers; you may feel yourself generous and magnanimous for granting to me that I am a Christian, just simply outside of the Church, but your own papal doctrines really don’t allow for such. Either I, as a gospel believing Christian, am wrong and outside of His Body, or you are, or we are both in mythology. It cannot be that our mutually exclusive truth claims are the same gospel or ecclesiology!

Finally, and most importantly, what does God’s Word say?

What does it take to become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ invisible and universal?

Belief in who Jesus is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. A very few of the many Scriptures on this subject:

  • Romans 10:8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9[e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [g]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [h]DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
  • John 6:28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
  • John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • John 5:37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. 39[i]You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive [j]glory from one another and you do not seek the [k]glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
  • Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.(All Scripture NASB)

What does becoming a member of the Church/the Body of Christ result in?

Justification, sanctification, and glorification. Good works which justify the reality of faith.

  • Romans 8:28 And we know that [k]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was [l]raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of [m]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
    WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

    37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (real faith which saves will always produce good works as a fruit).
  • James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [n]that faith save him? (No!)
  • James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [p]dead, being by itself. (saving faith is always accompanied by works)
  • James 2:18 But someone [q]may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that [r]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and [s]as a result of the works, faith was [t]perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Context and harmony with the entirety of Scripture!)

How does one come to have saving faith? I’ll write about that in my next post.

Thanks for reading an extremely long, but heartfelt post.

-Justin

P.S. I am aware that the Reformation was only 500 years ago and that Roman Catholicism has been in its present form for over 1,600 – but when I say “Reformation” in reference to the true Church, it is a synecdoche for Apostolic, original Christianity.

P.P.S. I know that this in not the world’s greatest apologetic attempt, and that many of you could do better, but in all sincerity it is dedicated to the beautiful lover of my soul, Christ Jesus. May He do with it as He wills.

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

What is the Biblical Path to Salvation? Reformed View pt. 1

What is the path to salvation?

I gave a fairly comprehensive overview of it in my post “Why Not World Peace?” In that post, I touched on the central characteristic of a false path of salvation: the burden of attainment is placed on the individual… and I stand by the assertion that the Bible teaches exactly the opposite: salvation is a completely unearned, undeserved, unmerited grace from before time began through to start to middle to finish into eternity. No man-made religion in the world or in history is able to comprehend or mimic this reality.

Now if I am correct in that assessment, AND given that the Bible is God’s perfect revelation of these matters, then the Bible ought to bear that out as a whole. In this dialogue with our Roman Catholic friend Letting Smoke Out, we begin by agreeing we do not want to have a “Scripture shoot-out” where we just list verses and bash each other over the head without deeper reflection.

Assuming the Bible is God’s complete, authoritative, infallible revelation concerning salvation (among other things), the truth about salvation can only be rightly found out in the Bible. My opponent has already shared his views on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church as the sole infallible interpreter of Holy Scripture, and I have shared mine that the Word of God is clear, perspicuous, and understandable to those with the gift of faith. Even with those different starting points, we should be able to search this out a bit.

What is salvation, and why is it needed?

The first humans rebelled against God in treasuring something as more valuable than Him. Sin is any motion of the will, heart, and actions in disobeying God – and indeed the greatest crystallization of sin is to love something more than God. I hope we don’t have to debate this too much – even if you, LSO, would word that differently, may we agree that sin is the condition of the human family since Genesis 3? Each and every person is born with a sin nature – inherited from Adam and Eve.

God, being just and having to act according to His holy nature – true to Himself always, had to judge rebel mankind. His Name is vindicated in His justice – and in justice, He punishes eternally all who have sinned. There is no hope to have Him forget His justice and deny Himself by overlooking sin – and so (although this may sound strange to some of you), our greatest problem is that God is good… and we are not.

God, in order to “save” any individual person from His own judgment and punishment for sins, had to somehow satisfy His justice and vindicate His holiness by punishing all evildoers. Since the only way for a person to pay for their entire sin debt would be to spend an eternity in the torments of hell, (eternal because the One offended is infinite in worth), none of us could pay this debt.

-BUT GOD-

Here is the hope of mankind. Those two words. In His unfathomable LOVE and kindness, God decided to ordain a rescuing of humanity from the inevitable chains of hell. I know I have not quoted any Scripture directly yet, but everything I have said is an attempt to stage the biblical record of what God has said about the subject. I do believe all Roman Catholic theologians would agree with this assessment thus far – and I am thankful for that! Knowing the problem and the need for a solution is a great hope for any person. The worst place a person can end up is entirely ignorant of their sinfulness and need for mercy.

So this is the need we have as a human family, born from Adam… yet still made in the image of God. We need salvation – a path of being “made right” with our Creator. But God. Those two words show up in glorious brilliance in Ephesians 2 – see here the first four verses and how they summarize everything I have just said:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (NASB)

So there is the problem. We are all born children of wrath. We are under God’s wrath from birth – and “there is none who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12) To put it into a little street parlance, “we’re shot.” If we die individually in this state of sin, God will vindicate His holiness by punishing us eternally.

But God. This is salvation. God is salvation. He, although our Judge and although He was to pour out an infinite wrath on each of us in our rebellion, decided to intervene in love and wisdom. But how could He wipe away all our sins while remaining holy and just? I’ll get to that in later posts… but for now see the glory of our only hope here in Ephesians 2:4-10:

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Highlighting loses its effect when it is ALL HIGHLIGHTED, haha. I just don’t know why I or anyone would have to go much more complicated and confusing than Ephesians 2:1-10.

1) We were dead in sin.

2) God made us alive in Christ Jesus, by grace.

3) He did all this in order to demonstrate His grace.

4) He did all this by grace through faith, not of ourselves – it is all a gift of grace so that no person who is saved can turn around and put a single finger on the credit for the salvation which God has ordained and executed.

5) We (the Body of Christ) are walking in this salvation (which results in good works) because of God’s initiative and grace.

Over to you, LSO…

For now, instead of continuing on with the cross of Jesus, the application of His salvation, and all of the implications thereof, I will rather cut myself short so that the Roman Catholic side may have an opportunity to also make a positive declaration of what salvation is. LSO, would you please tell us how the RC Church defines salvation before we go into how it is achieved or received?

In Joy,

-Justin

P.S. LSO, perhaps when we respond to each other, if we use numbered sections that would make it more manageable for us and our readers? Whatever is easiest for you.

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Previous posts in this series, starting at the first:

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos

Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out

Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

A Word on Interpreting Scripture and Church Authority” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Word on Interpreting Scripture and Church Authority

In Light of Our Sharp Division on Interpreting God’s Word…

Although our Roman Catholic friend Letting Smoke Out has entirely differing views from myself on almost everything related to the authority to teach the Scriptures, I still believe there is enough of a contact point in the Bible for us to proceed with this dialogue. LSO assumes that only the Roman Catholic leadership has the ability to interpret the Scriptures, and I assume on the other hand, as have so many of my Christian predecessors, that the Holy Spirit is the light of truth and authority. He does not speak only to a few men in Rome, but rather the Apostolic faith is carried among those who have received the gospel as a gift by grace through faith. Priesthood of believers, you know? Peter calls us a royal priesthood there in 1 Peter 2:9 – and he was speaking to the general congregation of Christians, not a special class of clergymen.

LSO and I do not have the space or time to debate all of the many historical issues surrounding early Christianity and how the Bible was canonized, etc… however, I believe we can at least look at the Scriptures and agree that since it is God’s infallible Word, that it is the authority concerning our religion and lives. If anyone teaches anything contrary to the Scriptures, it is nullified and furthermore, dangerous.

In light of this, I will briefly challenge a couple of points in LSO’s opening remarks. Although much of what he wrote is fraught with logical and historical fallacies, the main issue I have to mention is from this quote:

If the Bible is clear then why do so many Christian faith communities disagree about interpretation?  […]Why are there over thirty thousand denominations?  This reality proves there needs to be one authorized interpreter of scripture.

The picture you paint is majorly skewed. You know as well as I do that within so-called Catholicism (from the Greek for “Universal”), there is anything but uniformity of doctrine. The Catechism has as many interpretations as professors, and your number includes hundreds of orders, sects, schismatics, and dissidents. This is, however, besides the point of “the path of salvation,” yet I have to at least try to let some air out of that balloon before we look at the doctrine of salvation. It is not “Bible Only” as LSO’s post is entitled, but rather “Bible is Supreme,” and all doctrine must be aligned with what God has said in His explicit revelation.

In conclusion of this point, I must use absurdity to illustrate. LSO states:

Private interpretation means every single Christian can claim to be their own church; every single piece of scripture can be seen in a different light; every belief can be unique.

Yes, and there may be giraffes on Pluto – giraffes which chew bubble gum and do calculus, but it is the furthest thing from an accurate, realistic hypothesis. It is a similar idea with this “every Christian for himself” canard which Roman Catholics seem to play. The question is not, are there 3,000 or 30,000 denominations and interpretations, but rather, “did God speak clearly so as to be understood?”

Rules of Interpreting Scripture: Context, Context, and Context

I, and my legacy of 1,900 years of my orthodox Christian predecessors would stand together and say “yes!” – God has spoken so as to be understood. The problem is not a lack of a central authority to interpret, but rather the presence of sin in our fallen flesh – pride, arrogance, lusts, and all forms of selfishness obscure the clear proclamation and interpretation of God’s Word.

Not every passage is simple, but there are sure means of staying within the bounds of orthodoxy and sanity. I will use the historical/grammatical method of interpretation, that is, the writer had a specific meaning to which he wrote using specific words, grammar, and syntax. The Holy Spirit who was promised to every believer is alive and enlightening the mind as I read Scripture. I could go on concerning the interpretation of Scripture, but suffice to say, when the Bible says “red,” it does not mean “blue.”

Read with care...

1 John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

LSO, would it be alright to move on to the topic at hand, and if you’d like to hash out the authority issue further, we could do so via private e-mail? Our readers are surely informed of our foundational positions concerning authority.

I am going to move immediately into the topic “The path of salvation” after this is published, and will attempt to publish that one within hours.

Grateful for the Bible – and for LSO,

-Justin

Parts in this series:

Do Roman Catholics have the Gospel of Christ?“- Interpreting the Cosmos

Apologetics” – Letting the Smoke Out

Dialogue with a Roman Catholic – Introductory Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Bible Only” – Letting the Smoke Out

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks” – Interpreting the Cosmos

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Roman Catholic Opening Remarks

Over the weekend, this blog and the Letting the Smoke Out blog began a discussion about “the path of salvation.” We believe each other to be in error concerning the teaching of Scripture, for me because I see the Roman “authority” as false, and for LSO (my discussion partner’s nickname), he sees my understanding as terminally flawed because I do not submit to the authority of Rome/the  Magisterium/the Pope, etc.

Here are my opening remarks, and here are LSO’s – Please do read through and follow our discussion, we may not be doctors of theology, but I believe we are both passionate for truth and right understanding. ~Soli Deo Gloria~

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I will be returning to begin my remarks on “The path to salvation.” LSO and I have very different beginning assumptions about authority, so our discussion may be limited; however, the “Word of God is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.” I know that if God’s Word is released, it will do its work – He has no need of my defense! May God’s will be done in this.

To be continued soon…

-Justin

Categories: Comparative Religions, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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