Justification By Faith Alone

Are we justified and saved by faith ‘alone’, are we justified and saved by ‘faith and works’ or are we justified and saved by only ‘works’? This is an all important question for which we should the scriptural answer clearly and precisely. Otherwise our salvation itself is in danger.

PAULS’ ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK OF ROMANS

In the book of Romans, Paul’s entire aim from chapter one to chapter five is to build up the argument for justification by ‘faith alone’.  And true faith implies believing in Jesus Christ as the Bible says. After building up his argument in chapters 1, 2 and 3 he starts to give his verdict from Romans 3:20,

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

We see very clearly Paul teaching in this portion of scripture, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that justification is by faith ‘alone’ apart from works. He is making it clear that by the deeds of the law (works) no flesh will be justified.

And in v 28 he says, ’we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law’. Martin Luther did not make it up, it’s in the Bible!

In Romans 4 Paul continues the argument on justification by faith alone,

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…

Here Paul is stating clearly that Abraham was not justified by works. And his conclusion is that faith and works are opposite to each other. If it is by work then God is indebted to us and then it is no longer by grace. But if it is only by grace and faith then righteousness is imputed or freely given into our account without works.

He sums up this truth beautifully in Romans 11:6,

6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.                              But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Again, in Romans 5:1 the Bible says – ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we havepeace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’.

PAULS’ ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK OF GALATIANS

While in Romans Paul is stating the truth on justification to the Church in Rome, in the book of Galatians we find Paul rebuking the Galatians for going back to the works of the law to be justified.

Galatians 2:16  : knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Galatians 2:21 : I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

       If we try being justified by our works we nullify the work of Jesus on the cross!

Paul says in Gal 2:18, ‘For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor’ and again in Gal 5:4, ‘You have become estranged (separated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Paul very clearly saying that not only do we nullify he work of Jesus on the cross if we try to justify ourselves with works but we become sinners again in God’s eyes and are cut off from Christ, as no amount of good works can make us righteous before God!

WHAT DOES THE BOOK OF JAMES SAY?

So, if Paul is so clear in his writings that justification is by faith alone what does James mean when he says, ‘A man is justified by works’. James 2:14-26 says,

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

The key to understanding this passage is verses 14, 18 and 19.

In verse 14 James writes, ‘If someone says’.

In verse 18 he writes, ‘Show me your faith…I will show you my faith by my works’.

And in verse 19 he writes, ‘You believe in one God…even the demons believe’.

James is writing about a person who only says that he has faith in Jesus Christ but his works (actions) do not show it. This passage is talking about name-sake Christians who say they are Christians just because they were baptized or just because they made a prayer of salvation. He is talking about those who only have a mental faith, like the demons who also believe but have never repented or believed in Jesus as their Savior! Such a Christian’s faith is not a faith in the heart that moves them to good works (v 15,16), surrender and sacrifice (v21) or value and respect for servants of God (v 25). If a person truly puts his faith in Jesus and has been justified by his faith, his works will show it, just as Abraham was declared righteous first and then his works demonstrated/showed it.

There are those who say that they have faith but their works show otherwise. If anyone says he has faith but continues to live in sin willfully without any regrets and has no intentions of repenting such a person never really put his faith in Jesus. He only believed in his mind and confessed with his lips but his heart is still far away from God. It’s just a mental faith, a belief in the mind. There are certain others who once had genuine faith but because of carelessness and hardness of heart they have walked away from what they once professed and lived in and hence now their faith is dead and hence there are no works to show forth, and in fact might be in bondage to grave sins.

FAITH VS. GOOD WORKS

A person who has genuine faith will produce good works but a person showing forth good works does not imply that he has truly put his faith in Jesus! A person without faith also can do good works. That persons’ good works will not save him. Our good actions or works cannot bring us into a right relationship with God but true faith from the heart in Jesus will justify us before God and bring us into a relationship with Him as sons and daughters. And once we have a relationship with God and are born again the outward demonstration will be a life of good works; in fact, good works will flow, because God abides in our hearts once we are born again! Faith produces good works.

A person is justified by FAITH ALONE. Whether or not a person has truly put his faith in Jesus will eventually be shown by his works. Our works prove our faith, but our works do not make us right before God. True faith in God will be demonstrated by our actions.

CONCLUSION

Therefore when we study Romans, Galatians and James we understand that justification cannot be by a combination of ‘faith and works’. It can be ‘only by faith’ or ‘only by works’ because faith and works are contrary to each other with regard to justifying us before God (Rom 4:2,3).  With Paul’s arguments from the books of Romans and Galatians it is made absolutely clear that justification is by faith alone – sola fide, but from the book of James we understand that true faith will show itself in works and hence will prove our justification, even as in Abraham’s case. The thief on the cross was saved by faith alone; he did not produce any good works. But, had he been released and set free we can be sure that he would have demonstrated his faith with works as James says!

If we hold on to any other view other than ‘faith alone’ we are in serious error and grave danger of losing our salvation itself, because Paul said in Gal 5:4, that if we try to justify ourselves with our works we are cut off from Christ!

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Rome ‘Not’ Sweet Home – Scott Hahn’s Conversion

Scott Hahn’s conversion from being a Presbyterian minister to a Catholic apologist has gained a lot of momentum in the last few years. Scott Hahn’s conversion story written in Rome Sweet Home, narrated on CD’s and related on different places on the internet have seemingly convinced many of the Catholic faith as the true Christian faith and has even probably converted some Protestants to Catholicism!

But, is Scott Hahn’s explanation of the Catholic faith any different from what the Catholic Church has been teaching all these years or are people just taken up because he was a Protestant Pastor and theologian who converted to Catholicism? And, is his critique of the Protestant belief really what he says it is?

As I read Scott Hahn’s conversion experience, it is very clear that his conversion was a result of:

1. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of scriptural truths and scripture passagesjust as the rest of the Catholic Church does – during the course of his quest. His understanding and explanations of being born again, baptism, his understanding of justification by Faith Alone – Sola Fide, the Bible as our only authority – Sola Scriptura, the authority given to Peter, the Eucharist and many other doctrines are all completely  flawed.

For example, his understanding of what Jesus meant by ‘born again’ in His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3: For Scott Hahn ‘to be born again’ means ‘to be baptized’! Why? Because after Jesus taught about being born again by water and the Spirit from John 3:2 to John 3:21 the very next verse says Jesus and his disciples baptized! This seems to be his most outrageous claims among all others. Is that the way one interprets scripture, only check what follows after a particular discourse and completely ignore what is taught within it and in the rest of the scriptures? Is it right to reach a conclusion on a scriptural position by taking just one scripture in isolation or should we study all that pertains to the subject and then come to a conclusion? Obviously, the latter! Otherwise we will end up concluding that the Bible contradicts itself on many subjects.

What does Jesus teach within the text in John 3:1-21? After Jesus tell Nicodemus that he needs to be born again of the water and the spirit in verse 9 says, Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” (How can I be born again?). Jesus answered in v14-18,

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

So, Jesus is giving His answer to how to be born again.  Jesus in essence says that if a man believes in Him he will not perish but will be saved from condemnation. That is what born again means: being saved from sin and final judgment by believing upon the cross and hence being born as a new person – that is exactly what Jesus said. And a person is made new – born of the Spirit – when the Holy Spiritconvicts him of sin and convinces him of Jesus as his Savior, as he hears the Gospel and then responds to the truth by repenting of his sins and puts his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Baptism always follows hearing the Gospel, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus in every instance in the New Testament. This is the pattern we see in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

 What does the rest of the Bible say and teach on being born again of water? In, 1 Peter 1 :23 – 25 says ‘having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever….Now this is the word which by the Gospel was preached to you’. So, Peter is clearly writing (not inferring) that we are born again by the word of God, not baptism.

In Ephesians 5:26 Paul says, ‘that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word. Apostle Paul is saying that we are washed by water which is the word of God.

So we see that Peter and Paul understood that when Jesus said be ‘born again by water’ He meant that a person needs to be born again by hearing and responding to the word of God, not baptism. It is the preaching of the Gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit that makes people born again – be born again of the water and the Spirit. We see this exemplified in Acts 2:37-38, as Peter preached the Gospel the Holy Spirit convicted the hearers, then those who heard him were cut to the heart and asked what shall we do. Peter said ‘Repent and be baptized…’ not ‘only be baptized’.

So, the biblical truth and pattern for being born again and also baptism is clear. It’s only those who want to run with their own beliefs, ignoring biblical pattern, who say otherwise… Scott Hahn seems to be one of them! Here, in his explanation of baptism being the way to be born again, it is clear as to how inconsistent and grossly wrong his method of interpreting scripture is and hence the interpretation itself. He follows this pattern of interpretation and arriving at conclusions from the scriptures in almost every single doctrine and hence goes from one error to another!

2. Being swept away in his mind and emotions by Catholic teachingsCatholic teachings are always very appealing to the mind and to the senses; they have a way of ensnaring the mind and making people feel good, even though, almost always, they are scripturally wrong.

Scott Hahn’s book ‘Rome Sweet Home’ and narrations are very emotionally moving and gripping as he explains the quest, the pain, the emotional, spiritual and family struggle he went through in the process of converting to Catholicism. And that is the reason most people are taken up with his and his wife’s conversion story… it’s an emotionally moving narrative mixed with scriptural misinterpretations. So, a person who is not thoroughly rooted in the understanding of scripture will be swept off his feet even as Scott Hahn and his wife were!

Apostle Paul said in Colossians 2:4, 8,

4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments….8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

SCOTT HAHN’S MISUNDERSTANDING AND MISINTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE

In his book, ‘Rome Sweet Home’, Scott Hahn from the outset gives his scriptural interpretations that are way off the truth. They are no different from what the Catholic Church has been teaching all along. They are based on human tradition, human thinking and human emotions. Let’s look at some of the doctrines he deals with:

A.  BAPTISM

The very first doctrine he deals with in his book (and probably in his quest for truth) is baptism. Based on his understanding of covenant in the Bible he concludes that just as infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant now infants can be baptized, because baptism is a sign of entering into the new covenant! This is a clear misunderstanding of the work and the very purpose of God.

Circumcision in the Old Testament does not equal to baptism in the New Testament! First, in the Old Testament, by God’s explicit command to Abraham, the infants in Israel were required to enter into the covenant with God through circumcision as a sign; but in the New Covenant, clearly there is no explicit command to baptize infants in order for them to enter into the covenant.

The ONLY way of entering into a covenant relationship with God is through the Blood of Jesus. It is only when an individual repents of his sins, believes in Jesus and is washed of his sins by the Blood of Jesus, that he enters into a covenant with God. That is the reason why Jesus at the last supper took the cup and said ‘This is the blood of the NEW COVENANT’. Under the old covenant the infants’ blood was shed in circumcision, but that was not sufficient to make him righteous. But under the New Covenant the Blood of the Son of God is shed which is able to save us from the uttermost (Heb 7:25) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Once a person enters into a covenant relationship with God through the precious Blood of Jesus, then he/she needs to be baptized in obedience to God’s command as an external sign. Baptism without first entering into a covenant with Jesus through His blood is absolutely irrelevant and futile.

Second, we find that Baptism in the New Testament always follows hearing the Gospel, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. There was no such pre-requisite for circumcision; it was always an isolated event. The fact that many Christians may have been preaching and teaching for hundreds of years that baptism is the means to enter into the covenant with God does not make it true; the truth is there for any sincere Bible reader to see in the Bible.

Scott Hahn then says that Jesus said ‘let the little children come to me’ in Mt 19:14 and so we can baptize infants. This is a very foolish argument as it is very simple for anyone to understand that there is a lot of difference between ‘bringing a child to Jesus’ and ‘baptizing the child’. Jesus did not say, ‘let the infants come to me that I may baptize them’. Again, just because an infant is not baptized it does not mean that the parent does not bring the child to Jesus. No protestant parent keeps his child away from Jesus. They always bring their children to Jesus! Not baptizing the child does not mean not bringing the child to Jesus. Parents ought to dedicate their infants to Jesus and not baptize them. Dedication is the way to bring a child to Jesus as an infant.

Scott Hahn then uses Acts 2:38 to say that even Peter spoke of children when Peter said, ‘The promise is to you and to your children’.  Again a very gross misunderstanding as it talks only about the fact that we and our future generations are promised the blessing of God but talks nothing about infants being baptized. Peter here is preaching to the adults and asking them to ‘repent’ and be baptized that they and their children may be blessed. Children are blessed by the obedience of their parents but they need to repent make a personal decision for Jesus when they come of age to enter into the New Covenant. This scripture talks nothing about infant baptism!

Most Catholics use Mt 19:14 and Acts 2:38 in connection with infant baptism when the context makes it more than clear that it has nothing to do with infant baptism. Some use the ‘household’ argument quoting Acts 16:33-34, when the verse says nothing about infants being present. There are innumerable households without infants!  These are just frivolous and baseless arguments with no substance. With such arguments we can even prove that the Earth is square in shape!

If Scott Hahn’s search begins with such misinterpretation of scripture, is it not reasonable to believe that the rest of his arguments are the same? (For more Baptism read Water Baptism According To The Bible)

B. SOLA FIDE – JUSTIFICATION BY ‘FAITH ALONE’

The next subject Scott Hahn happened to deal with in his search was the doctrine of Sola Fide – one of the pillars on which the reformation stood. And, he and his wife say that they found out that justification by ‘faith alone’ was unscriptural, and that the position of the Catholic Church that justification is by ‘faith and works’ is scriptural! The scripture reference they give for it, James 2:24, ‘… a man is justified by works and not by faith only’. This is another example of taking one scripture in isolation and twisting what the Bible actually teaches. Let’s look at what the Bible teaches as a whole on the subject.

PAULS’ ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK OF ROMANS

In the book of Romans, Paul’s entire aim from chapter one to chapter five is to build up the argument for justification by ‘faith alone’.  And true faith implies believing in Jesus Christ as the Bible says. After building up his argument in chapters 1, 2 and 3 he starts to give his verdict from Romans 3:20,

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

We see very clearly Paul teaching in this portion of scripture, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that justification is by faith ‘alone’ apart from works. He is making it clear that by the deeds of the law (works) no flesh will be justified.

And in v 28 he says, ’we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law’. Martin Luther did not make it up, it’s in the Bible!

Scott Hahn, Kimberly Hahn and many other catholic apologists have made a great deal about the fact that Martin Luther added the word ‘ALONE’ after the word ‘faith’ in verse 28 in his German translation of the Bible. But does adding that word really change the meaning of that verse? Not at all! With or without the word ‘alone’ the verse still means that a man’s justification is by faith ‘alone’ apart (without) the works of the law. So they seem to be stating things just for ‘shock value’ rather than to establish a truth, and people are unfortunately buying into it.

In Romans 4 Paul continues the argument on justification by faith alone,

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…

Here Paul is stating clearly that Abraham was not justified by works. And his conclusion is that faith and works are opposite to each other. If it is by work then God is indebted to us and then it is no longer by grace. But if it is only by grace and faith then righteousness is imputed or freely given into our account without works.

He sums up this truth beautifully in Romans 11:6,

6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.                              But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Again, in Romans 5:1 the Bible says – ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we havepeace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’.

PAULS’ ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK OF GALATIANS

While in Romans Paul is stating the truth on justification to the Church in Rome, in the book of Galatians we find Paul rebuking the Galatians for going back to the works of the law to be justified.

Galatians 2:16  : knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Galatians 2:21 : I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

                   If we try being justified by our works we nullify the work of Jesus on the cross!

Paul says in Gal 2:18, ‘For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor’ and again in Gal 5:4, ‘You have become estranged (separated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Paul very clearly saying that not only do we nullify he work of Jesus on the cross if we try to justify ourselves with works but we become sinners again in God’s eyes and are cut off from Christ, as no amount of good works can make us righteous before God!

WHAT DOES THE BOOK OF JAMES REALLY SAY?

So, if Paul is so clear in his writings that justification is by faith alone what does James mean when he says, ‘A man is justified by works’. James 2:14-26 says,

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

The key to understanding this passage is verses 14, 18 and 19.

In verse 14 James writes, ‘If someone says’.

In verse 18 he writes, ‘Show me your faith…I will show you my faith by my works’.

And in verse 19 he writes, ‘You believe in one God…even the demons believe’.

James is writing about a person who only says that he has faith in Jesus Christ but his works (actions) do not show it. This passage is talking about name-sake Christians who say they are Christians just because they were baptized or just because they made a prayer of salvation. He is talking about those who only have a mental faith, like the demons who also believe but have never repented or believed in Jesus as their Savior! Such a Christian’s faith is not a faith in the heart that moves them to good works (v 15,16), surrender and sacrifice (v21) or value and respect for servants of God (v 25). If a person truly puts his faith in Jesus and has been justified by his faith, his works will show it, just as Abraham was declared righteous first and then his works demonstrated/showed it.

There are those who say that they have faith but their works show otherwise. If anyone says he has faith but continues to live in sin willfully without any regrets and has no intentions of repenting such a person never really put his faith in Jesus. He only believed in his mind and confessed with his lips but his heart is still far away from God. It’s just a mental faith, a belief in the mind. There are certain others who once had genuine faith but because of carelessness and hardness of heart they have walked away from what they once professed and lived in and hence now their faith is dead and hence there are no works to show forth, and in fact might be in bondage to grave sins.

FAITH VS. GOOD WORKS

A person who has genuine faith will produce good works but a person showing forth good works does not imply that he has truly put his faith in Jesus! A person without faith also can do good works. That persons’ good works will not save him. Our good actions or works cannot bring us into a right relationship with God but true faith from the heart in Jesus will justify us before God and bring us into a relationship with Him as sons and daughters. And once we have a relationship with God and are born again the outward demonstration will be a life of good works; in fact, good works will flow, because God abides in our hearts once we are born again! Faith produces good works.

A person is justified by FAITH ALONE. Whether or not a person has truly put his faith in Jesus will eventually be shown by his works. Our works prove our faith, but our works do not make us right before God. True faith in God will be demonstrated by our actions.

Therefore when we study Romans, Galatians and James we understand that justification cannot be by a combination of ‘faith and works’. It can be ‘only by faith’ or ‘only by works’ because faith and works are contrary to each other with regard to justifying us before God (Rom 4:2,3).  With Paul’s arguments from the books of Romans and Galatians it is made absolutely clear that justification is by faith alone – sola fide, but from the book of James we understand that true faith will show itself in works and hence will prove our justification, even as in Abraham’s case. The thief on the cross was saved by faith alone; he did not produce any good works. But, had he been released and set free we can be sure that he would have demonstrated his faith with works as James says!

With this biblical view it is clear that Scott Hahn and his wife have clearly overlooked many scripture verses in Romans and Galatians in coming to their conclusion on sola fide and hence are in serious error and grave danger because Paul said in Gal 5:4, that if we try to justify ourselves with our works we are cut off from Christ!

C. SOLA SCRIPTURA – SCRIPTURE ALONE? WHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY THAT IT (THE BIBLE) IS THE  FINAL AUTHORITY?

This is the question the Catholic Church would ask anyone who says that the Bible should be our final      authority and is also the question that Scott Hahn was troubled with for a while. At first it seems to be a valid question because there seems to be no single verse that says explicitly that the Bible is the only authority. But as we study scripture it is more than clear that the Bible, the Word of God, should be our yardstick, our final authority, and nothing else. And only by closing our eyes to the following text can we really say that the Bible is not our final authority.

Jesus said it very clearly in Mk 7: 1-5, 8, 9 and 13:

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!

13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Jesus is stating very clearly here that no matter what the tradition, it should never nullify the Word of God. He is saying that we cannot let go the commands of God for the sake of traditions. He is saying that we cannot use ‘fine ways’ of setting aside the command of God in order to observe the traditions   that have been handed down. And when Jesus here refers to the Command of God and the Word of God He is, of course, referring to the command of God contained in the Old Testament scriptures that had been handed down and not just some oral teaching/tradition.

Does not the teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord here very clearly mean that the written Word of God, the scriptures, is far above every other tradition and authority? Is He not very clearly implying that the Word of God is the final authority and not tradition?  How could anyone come to any other conclusion from this passage!

We should note that Jesus spoke the words in Mk 7:1-13, to the religious leaders of that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law! Jesus rebuked them and corrected them regarding their way of giving primacy to the traditions of men rather than the Word of God.

Colossians 2:8 says,

4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments….8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ

Again here the Bible warns us against philosophies and teachings based on the traditions of men. From 1 Thessolonians 2:15 we know that certain traditions are fine. So from Mk 7:1-13, Col 2:8 and 1 Thess 2:15 we understand that any tradition is fine as long as it does not go against the Word of God.

And so, every tradition ought to be checked in the light of scriptural teaching. And if every tradition ought to be checked in the light of scripture and any tradition that goes against Scripture is to be discarded, then it means Scripture alone is the final authority. And, to that effect Jesus in the above passage of scripture is clearly implying ‘Scripture Alone’ – Sola Scriptura.

So, Scott Hahn and the Catholic Church are again overlooking and trivializing what Jesus so emphatically says in these verses, and hence are again on the wrong side of truth!

At this point the Catholic Church would say, ‘But, Jesus is talking only about corrupt traditions, all our traditions are scripture based, they in no way oppose the teaching of the Bible’, and will quote one or two scriptures (taken fully out of the context of the Bible teaching) for each tradition!

With the Catholic way of interpreting and using just one or two scriptures out of context to support a tradition, we would have to allow men to marry many wives, because we could say there are scripture verses for it as Abraham, David, Solomon and so many other prominent leaders of the Old Testament had more than one wife! Catholics and Protestants agree that that would be wrong as that is not what God has said or what the Bible teaches as a whole. When we take scriptures as a whole we understand God’s plan – ‘A man shall be faithful to the wife of his youth’. Or for that matter if we went with the Catholic way of using scriptures, we would have to allow a man to divorce his wife and remarry at will because Moses allowed it! But again, Catholics and Protestants (most!)  know that that is wrong as Jesus said in Mt 19:7, that that was not God’s will.

So, it is absolutely important to take Bible teachings as a whole!

What did Paul mean when he said in 1 Timothy 3:15 that ‘the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth’ ?

Firstly, it is obvious that Paul did not mean the ‘Church as an institution’, ‘Catholic’ Church, ‘Catholic Hierarchy’ or any other denomination is the pillar and ground of truth. He clearly meant the Church – the Body of Christ on the Earth – as a whole. The Church is every believer in the world put together, not any denomination.

Secondly, he meant the Church in contrast to the world. For, it is truly the Church that carries the Truth of God to this world, for the world does not have the truth of God. We are the salt and the light of the world. The world does not know the truth about God and Jesus Christ but we the Church of the living God have the truth. We the Church have the truth concerning every situation of life and every area of life from the word of God, and so we the Church are the pillar and foundation of truth!

Thirdly, if we strictly take this scripture verse in context, Paul was not even referring to the ‘universal Church’ but about the Church in Ephesus, about which he is talking to Timothy. So, Paul is referring to each individual Church,  wherever it is, as being the pillar and foundation of truth, and by implication the entire Church – the Body of Christ – itself.

No where in the Bible do we see a single, unified Church, under one leader. But we see Churches established in different places with God ordained leadership in every Church functioning under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  It shows the importance of Local Churches and their functioning. And the Bible shows unity among the Churches and healthy discussion, as it should be, among the Churches and its leaders as we see in Acts 15 and Galatians 2. But we truly do not see any semblance of even Paul submitting himself to Peter or even considering Peter as the Pope! In fact, we only see Paul rebuking and correcting Peter on a very serious error.

The Church and its leadership ought to submit itself to the Word of God. Every country has its own constitution. There is a time in every country’s history when there is no constitution for the country but at a particular time and place the leaders of the nation come together to decide on the constitution – the rules, regulations and the system by which the country would be run. Once the constitution is in place neither the leaders who formulated it nor the government are above it. The very leaders who formed the constitution are to be governed by it; they cannot change it at will.

Similarly, there was a time when there was uncertainty as to what books composed the New Testament; but since God inspired the leaders of the Church to choose the books of the New Testament and finalize the Bible, the Church and its leaders ought to submit itself to the written Word of God. The Church and its leaders are not above the Word of God.  The Bible is to the Church what the constitution is to a country. And the Local Church leadership is like the government of a country. Just as a government can go only by the constitution, the Church authorities can go only by the Word of God, the Bible. The Lord has given us in the Bible the system by which we should live. More than just being a book of rules and regulations the Bible is life itself, As Jesus said in John 6:63, ‘ My words are Spirit and Life’.

If the Church(universal and local) does not submit to the truth in the written Word of God, the Bible, it will no longer be the pillar and foundation of truth; it will then only be an organization moved about by every wind of doctrine and man made tradition!

(For a detailed explanation on the subject please read Scripture vs Tradition, The Authority Of The Bible)

D. IS PETER THE ROCK ON WHICH THE CHURCH IS BUILT?

Jesus said in Mt16:18-19,

           18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

          19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

i.  ON ‘THIS ROCK’

Taking Mt 16:18 in isolation, the Catholic Church has for long claimed that Jesus in this passage meant that Peter is ‘the Rock’ on which the Church is built because He said ‘on this rock I will build my Church’. But this is far from the truth, as Jesus is referring to Himself when He said ‘this rock’.

The most important and clear parallel we find in order to understand this in John 2:18-22, 

18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

What did Jesus mean when He said destroy ‘this temple’? We know that when Jesus said ‘this temple’ He clearly meant ‘Himself’. But, what did the Pharisees understand? Since Jesus was standing in the temple and looking at the literal temple and speaking, the Pharisees thought that Jesus was referring to the literal structure and even asked how He would build in three days what had originally taken 46 years! The Pharisees were misled because they did not understand the scriptures about the Messiah’s death and resurrection.

Similarly, in Mt 16:18, though Jesus was looking at Peter and speaking, He meant that the Church would be built on ‘this Rock’- Jesus Himself ! The Catholic Church leaders (just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day) are choosing to be misled by ignoring what the rest of the scripture says.

The rest of the scripture substantiate the fact that Jesus is in fact ‘this rock’:

In Ephesians 2:20 we read,  ‘… having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…’

Paul here is clearly saying that Church is built on the ‘apostles and prophets’ – not Peter alone – and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone

In 1 Corinthians 10:4 we read, ‘…For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11 says, ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’

Speaking of Jesus Isaiah 28:16 says, Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “ Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,  A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.

In 1Peter 2:4-8, Peter himself says that Jesus Christ alone is the chief Cornerstone and the Rock on which we are built as a house (Church),

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“ Behold, I lay in Zion  A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,  And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,

“ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “ A stone of stumbling,  And a rock of offense.”

Is 8:14,15, Psalm 118:22, Mt 21:42 also refer to Jesus as the ‘chief cornerstone’.  Therefore, the entire Bible refers to Jesus as the Rock, Foundation and Cornerstone on which the Church, His House is built.  In Eph 2:20, the Bible says the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,  with Jesus being the Chief Cornerstone. So, all apostles and prophets are referred to as the foundation but Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. So, nowhere in the New Testament or Old Testament do we find that Peter alone is the Rock on which His Church is built. We do not find any of the New Testament authors – Paul, John, James, Jude or even Peter himself – referring to Peter as the Rock. In the Acts of the Apostles we find that in the Jerusalem Church it was not Peter who was in charge but James.

Therefore, with all the above scriptures, especially John 2:18-22, we clearly understand that Jesus in Mt 16:18 was not referring to Peter as the ‘rock’ but Himself. Only a person who chooses to be blind can ignore the weight of scripture for a single scripture in isolation!

ii. KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

Peter being given the Keys of the Kingdom here does not mean that he is the one who allows or disallows people into heaven or being given the authority of the Pope! The keys being given imply the special privilege that Peter was given with respect to the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt 4:23,24). The special privilege he had was that after the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter was the one who first opened the message of the New Covenant to the Jews and to the Gentile world. In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, preaching to a multitude of Jews, he converted 3000 of them in a single day and all of them were baptized. Again, in Acts 10 being led by God, he preached to the large household of Cornelius and they were immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit and baptized in water. Peter is the one who opened the door of the Kingdom with the Key of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews and Gentiles.

And, keys also refer to the authority Jesus gave Peter to bind and loose, even as we use keys for locking and unlocking. But this authority was not something that was given exclusively to Peter because in Mathew 18:18 we find Jesus giving the same authority to the entire Church.

The Catholic Church says that only they have been given the authority to interpret the Word of God using Mathew 16:18 –19. But, as we study the scriptures carefully we find that there was no special authority, power or position Jesus gave to Peter or any of his successors. Even if Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, Mathew 16:18-19 nor any other scripture talks anything about Peter’s successors having his power! Actually, no one has a problem if the Catholic Church interprets the Word of God, but the problem is that they interpret the Word of God by tradition!

SCOTT HAHN ENSNARED IN HIS MIND AND EMOTIONS BY CATHOLICISM

E. THE EUCHARIST

A careful reader will not miss the fact that Scott Hahn was taken in not only because of his misunderstanding of scripture but also because Catholicism appealed to his mind and his senses! Below is part of what he says regarding his first encounter at a Catholic Mass:

“Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. I watched and listened as the priest pronounced the words of consecration and elevated the host. And I confess, the last drop of doubt drained away at that moment. I looked and said, “My Lord and my God.” As the people began going forward to receive communion, I literally began to drool, “Lord, I want you. I want communion more fully with you. You’ve come into my heart. You’re my personal Savior and Lord, but now I think You want to come onto my tongue and into my stomach, and into my body as well as my soul until this communion is complete.”

When Jesus Christ has already come into your heart and soul by receiving him as Lord and Savior, why would you want to experience him on your tongue and stomach? It is nothing but a desire to be satisfied in the emotions at the cost of being miles away from the truth. I understand that it is just emotional because that is what I used to do as a fervent catholic. But when I understood the truth from God’s word I was set free from being just emotional, and I believed what Jesus said in His word. When I have received Him as my Lord and Savior, I know that he has become a part of my entire being, including my body. He said in Jon 14:23,

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with Him”

And in John 14:17 Jesus said that, ‘the Holy Spirit will dwell with us and will be in us’.

Therefore, from the above two scriptures I understood that once I believe in Jesus and love Him the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be in me. Jesus becomes a part of me and I become a part of Him. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53,54).

When anyone truly believes in the death of Jesus on the cross for him and puts his faith in the blood of Jesus, he is eating and drinking the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, and therefore receives life. Jesus did not mean literally eat his ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’. Jesus was using symbolic language. In the same passage in John 6:32-35, Jesus said,

32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

And in John 6:51, Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life’,

Did he mean literal bread? Did He mean literal bread from heaven? Of course not! He was using symbolic language to say that He is the one who is the real food and satisfaction for this life and eternal life. That is why He said that if we come to Him we will never ‘hunger’ and if we believe in Him we will never ‘thirst’. So, Jesus is essentially saying ‘coming to Him is ‘eating his flesh’ and ‘believing Him’ is ‘drinking His blood’. So, Scott Hahn and other Catholics are forgetting that Jesus used symbolic language in the same chapter and regarding the same truth, when they say that Jesus meant ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ literally!

This has been my experience. I received communion in the Catholic Church for many years but neither did it give me life nor did it give me true satisfaction in life. But, the very first time I heard the word of God preached in power and responded by ‘receiving’ Jesus into my life and making Him the Lord of my life, I know I received life – my hunger was satisfied and my thirst quenched. It did not happen while receiving communion! My life did not change because I ate the flesh and blood of Jesus at communion but because I received the ‘real’ Jesus into my life. As food becomes a part of us when we have eaten it, and we cannot separate the food from our bodies or our bodies from the food, Jesus became a part of me and me a part of Him. That is what Jesus meant by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

WHY DID THE DISCIPLES LEAVE?

In John chapter 6 when most of His disciples left Jesus saying that his teaching on eating His flesh and drinking His blood was a hard saying, Scott Hahn says, ‘If Jesus had intended that language to only be figurative, He would have been morally obligated as a teacher to say, “Stop, I only mean it figuratively.” But He doesn’t do that; …?’.  But did Jesus ever call back any of His disciples to explain something? Jesus told all His followers the parable of the sower.

Then Mathew 13:10-11 says this,

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

And then Jesus went on to explain the parable to the closest of his disciples. Jesus did not call back those who went away thinking they understood something from the parable but in truth had not understand its true meaning.

In another instance in John chapter 2, Jesus told the Pharisees he would destroy the temple and raise it up in three days. They were angry with Him and even used it against Him at His trial before the council, but Jesus did not explain to them that He had referred to His own resurrection when He said that. Jesus never bothered to explain many other things to the Pharisees and Sadducees in spite of being asked, even at His trial before the crucifixion. The true meaning was revealed only to those who asked Him with humility. So it is with every other secret in the Kingdom of God. So to say that Jesus literally meant ‘eat His flesh’ and ‘drink His blood’ just because he did not call back all the disciples who left, is a baseless argument.

So, Scott Hahn has given in to the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist because of his misunderstanding of the Bible and because he has given into emotions and feelings more than the truth. It’s a combination of both. You find many Protestants who have turned Catholic describe how moving the Mass is. The fact of the matter is that all of them are just moved in their emotions/senses by ceremonies and rituals. It is important and good to involve our emotions in worship but to be only emotional without obedience to truth is useless!

NOTHING SCRIPTURAL ABOUT THE MASS!

Many say that the whole Mass is Bible based. That is sheer nonsense because the very center of the mass – the Eucharist – itself is non-biblical. The Catholic Church teaches that at every mass Jesus is sacrificed again! Most Charismatic Catholics deny it, but that is exactly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in point 1367:

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.”[188]

The same now offers … the same Christ who offered himself once…is offered in an unbloody manner. What does that mean? It simply means that Jesus is sacrificing Himself again and again at every mass! To say that, do it or be at a place where they claim to be offering the Son of God again and again is an abomination!

There is nothing scriptural about a mass!

EMOTIONALISM LEADING TO WILD IMAGINATIONS

F.  PURGATORY

Many of Scott Hahn’s explanations are just wild imaginations.

For example, his explanation on Heaven being hotter than hell and hence his defense of purgatory: He says that since God is a ‘Consuming fire’ heaven must be infinitely hotter than hell! Scott Hahn says that, not the Bible or Jesus. Jesus only said that the fire in hell is unquenchable and will torment whoever is there. Jesus never described heaven as a place of fire. Yes, our God is a consuming fire but only for the unbeliever. For a believer in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross His fire is a pleasant and a holy fire that draws us closer to Him, even as the burning bush drew Moses closer to Him.

He then goes on to imagine that it is for the same reason that Paul said that saints will go through the fire on the final day and hence justifies purgatory and its’ fires.

Catholics have for long used 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 as a scripture verse that justifies purgatory. But nothing in the passage really talks about purgatory, it’s just wild, unscriptural interpretation. What does 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 really say:

1. It is not the person who goes through the fire as the Catholic Church says, but it is only the persons’ work that will be tested by the fire.

2. The person is not cleansed by the fire but his work is tested

3. The person does not stay in the fire for many days or years, as the Catholic doctrine of purgatory teaches, but His work is tested on that Day- just one day the day of a believers’ judgment!

4. The person saved and makes it to heaven, in spite of nobody praying for him, even though his work may be destroyed. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory requires people on the earth to pray for souls in purgatory in order to help them out from there to heaven!

5. It is a day when a person whose work endures in spite of the fire will receive a reward but the one whose work does not endure suffers loss, in the sense of not receiving a reward even though he may have expected it while on the earth serving God.  It is not a day/month/year of purification for ‘venial’ sins.

G. MARY – THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN

His wife Kimberly follows in his footsteps and gets even more emotional.

For example, Kimberly Hahn’s explanation on Mary’s position as the queen of Heaven: She quotes the Old Testament and says that just as Solomon made his mother, Bathsheba, sit on the throne at his right hand,  when he became King of Israel, Jesus has elevated Mary to his right hand! With this method of irrelevant and meaningless interpretation, why not say, ‘King David’s mothers’ name is never mentioned in the Bible, so we should never mention the name of the mother of Jesus’!

The Catholic Church’s practice of calling Mary the Queen of Heaven is just another pagan practice adopted by the Church. In Jeremiah 7:18 God condemned the Israelites tradition of worshiping the ‘Queen of Heaven’ a Babylonian Goddess. This is what God says in Jeremiah 7:18,

“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger”

The same is mentioned again in Jeremiah 44:15 -19, 25-26:

‘Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying:  “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you!  But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”

The women also said, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”… Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’  Therefore hear the word of the Lord, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says the Lord, ‘that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “The Lord God lives.”

We just need to understand that we don’t need a queen in heaven. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the King of Kings but never mentions Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Whatever is important to our faith is mentioned in the Bible. We need not get emotional and use our imagination to give Mary a high place. As she said, “Do whatever he says”. Let us just do whatever Jesus tells us not what our imaginations dictate to us.

Scott Hahn’s belief in praying to Mary, considering her the mother of the Church, his belief in patron saints     can all be attributed to plain emotionalism and nothing else. Some of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s explanations are at best humorous just as the ones stated above.

CONCLUSION

So, as we interpret the Bible as a whole it is very evident that all of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s explanations are empty and vain and is very much in line with what the Catholic Church has taught down the ages. He uses his talks and debates with friends, professors and theologians, and their failure to answer him satisfactorily to show that the Protestant understanding of scriptures and doctrines is wrong. Just because the friends and theologians he spoke to could not clarify his doubts to his satisfaction and explain clearly the protestant stand, or rather the Biblical stand, does not make his views or the Catholic Church’s views right.

Don’t fall into emotional traps or scriptural misinterpretations. Study the Bible for what it is and be strong. The Catholic Church has always got the attention of people by appealing to their mind and emotions, knowingly or unknowingly. It has always been a Catholic Church hallmark to have a particular tradition and then somehow misinterpret some scripture verse in order to justify that practice. While many Catholic doctrines and traditions have no scriptural support at all, many other Catholic doctrines are based on just one or two scripture verses that are taken totally out of context from where it is stated, and with no importance given to what the Bible teaches as a whole on the particular subject. As a result, most of the time they end up quoting or using scriptures that really have nothing to do with the practice in question. They are just trying to somehow fit into that scripture verse their practice. For example, using Mathew 19:14 for infant baptism and using 1 Corinthians 3:15 for explaining purgatory.

The Bible is self-explanatory if someone is willing to take time and read all that the Bible tells about a particular subject. To understand the Bible clearly a person should be willing to put personal experiences and traditions aside and study it without prejudice or fear of finding out that he/she has been following the wrong practice. It is when a person runs with just one scripture, instead of taking the Bible as a whole that false traditions start or churches split for silly reasons.

There are presently many Protestant denominations too that base their Church’s belief system, theology and doctrines on just one or two scripture verses without considering the rest of the Bible. Catholic Church or Protestant Church, sound biblical teaching and doctrine requires that we study the Bible as a whole and not just in bits and pieces!

                  Jesus said in John 14:15, “ If you love me, keep my commandments”

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Water Baptism According To The Bible

Baptism is an essential outward sign that brings grace for a new life when a person receives Jesus into his life.  It is not a mere ritual that is performed and therefore needs to be understood. According to the Bible baptism is the outward expression of the New Life that we have received in Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of mere tradition practiced but an expression of our obedience to Jesus and His word. It is a step in obedience we take once we have come to know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Therefore, the following questions are important – who can be baptized – infants or adults? How should a person be baptized? What happens during and after baptism?

Many have come up with their own ideas and schemes in order to make things convenient for themselves and to make them look good in the eyes of society, but in doing so they are choosing to disobey the one they claim to follow – Jesus Christ. If we follow JESUS we have to follow Him the way the Bible shows us; there is no other way to follow Him. We cannot follow Him in some man-made way.

We need to keep in mind the importance Jesus gave to God’s command above human tradition. In Mark  7: 8,9 and 13 Jesus said,

 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

MEANING OF THE WORD BAPTISM  IN THE BIBLE

The word baptism is from a Greek word  which means to immerse’.  So when Jesus told us to get baptized, he meant that we need to be immersed in water as a sign of our faith in Him. Therefore, baptizing a person by any other means – sprinkling water on the head, dipping only the head or just a part of the body – is not baptism at all, even if we choose to call it so for our convenience! In baptism the whole person is immersed in water. A child cannot be immersed. And, if an infant is sprinkled with water it is only ‘sprinkling of water’ and not baptism! In this, many churches are in a ‘fine way’ setting aside the command of God in order to keep their tradition (Mark 7:9).

To say that the early Church in the second and third century practiced baptism by sprinkling cannot be a valid reason, as the earliest Church consisting of the Apostles of Jesus, James and Paul etc. did not practice this. If the Church in the second and third century had started baptizing children or started to baptize by sprinkling water then clearly they had started deviating from the way of baptism taught by Jesus and the disciples. They were already in error and we should not follow them.

WHY SHOULD A PERSON BE BAPTISED ?

We may ask the question as to why we need to be baptized at all. Is it not enough for me to just believe in Jesus? Am I not saved if I just believe in Him? Yes, we are saved if we just repent and believe in Jesus, but the Bible gives us three good reasons for getting baptized:

1. Jesus Himself was baptized

We read Mathew 3:13-17:

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus had no need to be baptized: He was the Son of God and in full communion with the Father; He had no sin, no unrighteousness in Him. Yet, when John deterred Him He said, ‘it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness’. Jesus knew that baptism was the will of God for man. He came to the Earth to identify Himself with sinful man, so, he knew that it was the proper thing for Him to do in order to fulfill righteousness.

So, whoever wants to follow Jesus needs to get baptized because it is the proper thing to do, it fulfills all righteousness, and  Jesus our Lord Himself was baptized.

2. Jesus commanded that we be baptized.

Jesus made it very clear that His disciples need to be baptized. In Mathew 28:19 Jesus said,

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

In Mk 16:15 He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”

 And then in John 14:21 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command”

So, if anyone really loves Jesus He will show it in action by obeying His command in getting baptized.

3. The earliest disciples were baptized immediately after believing

As we read the Acts of the Apostles we see that baptism was always the immediate step a person took once He repented and believed in Jesus.  In the early church there were no different ways of being baptized and they had no doubt that once they believed in Jesus they had to be baptized.

Acts 22:16 – And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

Acts 8:36-38 : Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Acts 8:12 : But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

Acts 16:30-34 :And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33…And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Therefore we need to be baptized in obedience to God’s written word. When we get baptized in obedience to God’s word to fulfill all righteousness, our Father in heaven is pleased with us and the heavens will open over our lives, as it did for Jesus, and God’s blessings will be poured out into our lives in a new way, like never before, because obedience delights God. We start to walk in the newness of life promised in Romans 6:4!

WHO CAN BE BAPTISED ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?

The Bible is very clear on the subject. The Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles all show us beyond any reasonable doubt that only a person who has heard the message of the Gospel, repented of his sins and has believed in Jesus as His Savior can be baptized. Let’s look at some of the verses on baptism:

Mathew 3:5-7 :Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

Matt 28:19,20 : “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of  the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey  everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mk 16:16 : He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:37,38,42 ­­­: When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” ‘Peter replied, Repent and let everyone of you be baptized…’ ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’

Acts 8:12 : But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

Acts 8:13 - Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 8:36-38 : Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Acts 9:17-18 : And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

Acts 10:44-48 : While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…

Acts 16:13-15 : Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized

Acts 16:30-34 : And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Acts 18:8 – Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

From all of the above mentioned scriptures we understand the following about who can be baptized:

  1. Those who were baptized had heard the word of God, the Gospel of Jesus, preached to them.
  2. Those who were baptized had repented of their sins.
  3. Those who were baptized had believed in Jesus for forgiveness of their sins and accepted Him as their Savior.
  4. Those who are baptized had a commitment to be His disciples.

Therefore, ,  since an infant is not aware of his/her sin, cannot repent from sin or believe in the Gospel it is not right to baptize an infant.

SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BAPTISM:

  1. IT IS FOR THE SALVATION OF A PERSON/INFANT

Many churches believe that for a person to be saved he/she needs to be baptized. But the Bible does not support that belief. The scripture verses usually used to explain salvation through baptism are:

Mk 16:16 : He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 : Peter replied, Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…

Acts 22:16 : ‘…Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

1 Pt. 3:21: ‘There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh  but the answer of a good conscience, toward God)…’

A look at the four verses makes it clear that baptism is not mentioned alone in any of the above verses; but rather it is: believe and be baptized, repent and be baptized, wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord, baptism…the answer of a good conscience toward God. So, essentially these scripture verses are making it very clear that baptism alone can never save but rather it is repentance, belief in the name of Jesus and a good conscience toward God that really saves. Baptism is the essential outward sign that follows salvation but baptism itself can never save a person.

The Bible makes it clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith and not by any works, including baptism. The believers in New Testament knew for certain that anyone who believed in Jesus would naturally have to be baptized. It was an obvious outflow of any persons’ belief. But a persons’ salvation is complete when one repents of his sin and believes in the saving work of Jesus. That is the reason Jesus in Mk 16:16 said, ‘He who does not believe will be condemned’. He did not say, ‘he who is not baptized will be condemned’.

Therefore, to baptize children based on the assumption that baptism saves is futile, because the Bible makes it clear that it is belief that saves, and the lack of belief in Jesus that condemns. As for children who die before coming of age to repent and to put their faith in Jesus, we can be certain that God, in His mercy, will save them, even without baptism.

Baptism alone can never produce any grace or change in a persons’ life – infant or adult – apart from repentance and belief. It is just a futile ritual and a waste of precious time if a person has not consciously received Jesus into his/her life. Baptism is significant, relevant and meaningful only after a person has turned to the Lord, in the absence of which baptism is not baptism!

  1. BAPTISM CORRESPONDS TO CIRCUMCISION

There are many who believe that just as infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant now infants can be baptized because baptism is a sign of entering into the new covenant! This is a clear misunderstanding of the work and the very purpose of God.

First, in the Old Testament, by God’s explicit command to Abraham, the infants in Israel were required to enter into the covenant with God through circumcision as a sign; but in the New Covenant, clearly there is no explicit command to baptize infants in order for them to enter into the covenant.

The ONLY way of entering into a covenant relationship with God is through the Blood of Jesus. It is only when an individual repents of his sins, believes in Jesus and is washed of his sins by the Blood of Jesus, that he enters into a covenant with God. That is the reason why Jesus at the last supper took the cup and said ‘This is the blood of the NEW COVENANT’. Under the old covenant the infants’ blood was shed, but that was not sufficient to make him righteous; but under the New Covenant the Blood of the Son of God is shed which is able to save us from the uttermost (Heb 7:25) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Once a person enters into a covenant relationship with God through the precious Blood of Jesus, then he/she needs to be baptized in obedience to God’s command as an external sign. Baptism without first entering into a covenant with Jesus through His blood is absolutely irrelevant and futile.

Second, we find that Baptism in the New Testament always follows hearing the Gospel, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. There was no such pre-requisite for circumcision; it was always an isolated event. The fact that many Christians may have been preaching and teaching for hundreds of years that baptism is the means to enter into the covenant with God does not make it true; the truth is there for any sincere Bible reader to see in the Bible.

  1. HOUSEHOLDS WERE BAPTIZED

The scriptures the Catholic Church mainly uses to justify infant Baptism, are the 4 scriptures (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33-34, Acts 18:8, 1Cor 1:16), that state that entire households (families) were baptized, making an inference from those verses that the families had infants. In the light of plain understanding of what Baptism is and the scripture references that show that an individual has to repent and believe in order to be baptized, how can the above scriptures, referring to households, be conclusive evidence?  There are so many thousands of households where there are no infants! Moreover, 2 of the above stated 4 scripture verses say that ‘all in the household believed’’, which means that none of those who heard were infants!

4. THE EARLY CHURCH DID IT

We see right through the Bible, especially in the book of Judges, that the Israelites would follow God sincerely as long as there was a Godly leader leading them. But as soon the leaders’ time was over they would fall back into sin.

Something very similar seems to have transpired in the history of the early Church. Once the time of the direct disciples and apostles of Jesus was over, certain leaders and people seemed to have developed their own beliefs and thinking. We find none of the controversial teachings within the time of John, who was the last of the apostles to be alive.  All the teachings deviating from the Word of God rose much later in the second century A.D. Many of the early leaders of the Church (church fathers) instead of going back to what the apostles had taught in the first century developed their own contrary teachings. And, sadly, the laity believed them and followed them.

The fact that the early Church fathers were wrong in many of their personal beliefs and teachings is proved by the fact that none of their letters, writings or teachings found a place in the Bible. The Holy Spirit inspired the very same Church fathers to go back to the earliest teachings of the apostles, including those of apostle Paul, and not to any of those between the second century to the fourth. That shows us and proves to us that God knows and affirmed that only the Old Testament and the 27 books found now in the New Testament were pure and without error in doctrine and practice. This also shows and lets us know that none of the later practices or teachings are essential for our life with God but only what was taught by the earliest Church leaders.

5. JESUS SAID, ‘LET THE CHILDREN COME TO ME’

Many churches teach that since Jesus said ‘let the children come to me’ in Mt 19:14, we can baptize infants. This is a very foolish argument as it is very simple for anyone to understand that there is a lot of difference between ‘bringing a child to Jesus’ and ‘baptizing the child’. Jesus did not say, ‘let the infants come to me that I may baptize them’.

Again, just because an infant is not baptized it does not mean that the parent does not bring the child to Jesus. No Christian parent keeps his child away from Jesus. They always bring their children to Jesus! Not baptizing the child does not mean not bringing the child to Jesus. Parents ought to dedicate their infants to Jesus and not baptize them. Dedication is the way to bring a child to Jesus as an infant.

6.PETER SAID  ‘AND YOUR CHILDREN’

In Acts 2:38 Peter said, ‘…The promise is to you and to your children’.  Again a very gross misunderstanding as it talks only about the fact that we and our future generations are promised the blessing of God but talks nothing about infants being baptized. Peter here is preaching to the adults and asking them to ‘repent’ and be baptized that they and their children may be blessed. Children are blessed by the obedience of their parents but they need to repent make a personal decision for Jesus when they come of age to enter into the New Covenant. This scripture talks nothing about infant baptism!

7. THE CHILD MAKES A DECISION AT 1ST HOLY COMMUNION/CONFIRMATION

Firstly, to first baptize an infant unscripturally and then to say that he/she will decide at 1st holy communion or confirmation is to go beyond the word of God and to find excuses to continue in the wrong that has been done. Why not just do what the Bible says!

Secondly, 1st holy communion and confirmation are something a child does anytime between the age of  7 -12, so, he/she again may not really be mature enough to make a decision to follow Jesus. Every child in the Catholic Church is expected to do it whether or not he/she understands what the Bible truly says about making a decision for Jesus. It is again a mere ritual and formality.

8. FAITH OF THE PARENTS’ SAVES THE KID

The Bible teaches very clearly that nobody’s faith can save another person. A persons’ prayer will help another person but an individual needs to put his faith personally in order to be saved.

9. WE DON’T ASK BABIES WHAT THEY NEED

Catholics often point to the fact that parents never ask infants if they want to eat or sleep, we just make them do the needful. They say, “We don’t ask them if they want to change their diaper we just change it. We don’t ask them if they want to go to school, we just sent them! Parents know what the children need and they just do it. So, with baptism too we know that they need it so we do it!”

That sounds good, but… don’t they need to be married too! Why not get them married as infants?

Because that’s not the time for it!

Similarly, there is a time for baptism according to the Bible. A parents’ hurry or need cannot change God’s pattern or time for baptism. All good ideas are not God’s ideas! According to the pattern we see in the Bible the time for baptism is when the child is grown enough to make his/her own decision for Jesus.

Catholics also often say that Protestants are neglecting a child’s soul by not baptizing him/her. By saying this they are assuming that just because Protestants do not baptize their infants, they do not do anything spiritual for them. A Protestant parent does not just leave a child to itself until it grows up! The parents dedicate the child to God very early in the infants’ life, just as Jesus was dedicated in the temple. They take them to Church, teach them to pray and teach them the Word of God above all. They spiritually nourish the child in order to bring them to the point where they will have to personally repent of their sins, receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and then make a decision themselves to be baptized.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PERSON IS BAPTIZED BIBLICALLY?

When we are baptized according to the Bible:

  1. We are baptized into the death of Jesus. Our old self dies.

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were    baptized into His death?’ (Romans 6:3)

  1. We are buried with Him

‘Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death.’(Romans 6:4)

  1. We are raised to a new life in Jesus

.‘….that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should                    walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4).

  1. The heaven is opened over us and new grace and blessing starts to flow into our lives.

                       ‘As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was            opened’(Mt 3:16)

  1. God is pleased with us.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17)

When we go into the water for baptism our old self gets buried, and as we come out of the water we rise to a new life in Him.

WHAT FOLLOWS BIBLICAL BAPTISM?

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ (Acts 2:42)

‘And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved’.(Acts 2:47)

A person who is baptized should become a part of the local church, be devoted to the teachings given, be committed to the fellowship of other believers and be devoted to the breaking of bread, worship and prayers.

FINAL WORD

If we are serious about obeying Jesus Christ then we cannot baptize infants or say that we were baptized when we were infants. According to the Bible we can be baptized only when we have come of age to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus as our Savior. We are not to be baptized according to the commandment or tradition of a Church but according to the command of the God of the Church, Jesus Christ.

 

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In Christ Jesus

 

You have a new identity once you receive Jesus into your heart. You are transformed from within. The Bible tells the following about who you are in Christ Jesus once you are born again.

In Christ I am a NEW CREATION (2 Cor 5:17)

In Christ I am a child of God (1 John 3:1)

In Christ I am accepted by God (Eph 1:6)

In Christ I am forgiven of all my sin (1 John 1:9)

In Christ I am the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21)

I Christ I am a saint (Eph 1:6)

 

In Christ I am REDEEMED (Eph 1:7)

In Christ I am free from all condemnation (Rom 8:1)

In Christ I have been brought near to God by His Blood (Eph 2:13)

In Christ I am the dwelling place of God Almighty (Eph 2:22)

In Christ I have free access to the Father (Eph 2:18)

In Christ I have boldness to enter into presence of God(Eph 3:12)

In Christ I have the confidence that He will answer my prayer according to His will (1 John 5:14)

 

In Christ I am MORE THAN A CONQUEROR (Rom 8:37)

In Christ the devil and his demons have no power or authority over me (Luke 10:19)

In Christ Jesus I am seated in the heavenlies far above every power, authority and dominion (Eph 2:6)

In Christ sin has no more dominion over me (Rom 6:14)

In Christ I am always lead in triumph in every situation (2 Cor 2:14)

 

In Christ I am complete (Col2:10)

In Christ I can do all things with His strength (Phil 4:13)

In Christ I have received every spiritual blessing already (Eph 1:3)

In Christ I have received All THINGS that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3)

In Christ all my needs are provided according to His riches in Glory (Phil 4:19)

 

In Christ I have been established, anointed and sealed by God with the Holy Spirit (2Cor 1:21)

In Christ I am a minister of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor 5:18)

In Christ I am an ambassador of Heaven (2 Cor 5:20)

 

 KNOW IT. BELEIVE IT. CONFESS IT. RENEW YOUR MIND AND BE TRANSFORMED INTO THE PERSON YOU REALLY ARE IN CHRIST.

 

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What Does It Mean To Be Born Again?

Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus told him that unless a man is born again he will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, if being born again is the way into the Kingdom of God, then it is of utmost importance; in fact, it is the most important aspect of a persons’ life, as being born again or not is going to determine his/her eternal destiny.

WHAT DID JESUS MEAN WHEN HE SAID ‘BE BORN AGAIN’?

To be born again means to be born anew – born anew into a relationship with God. While we may consider ourselves prayerful and therefore spiritual, the Bible reveals that  ‘we are all spiritually dead’ – completely disconnected from God – from the time of birth because of sin.

In Eph 2:1 the Bible says, ‘And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins’.

To be born again is to be made alive to God in our spirits. Being born into a relationship with God opens to us a new world, a new Kingdom : the Kingdom of God.  A person being born again implies that he is now a child of God, a citizen of heaven and is saved from eternal damnation.

When we are born the first time, it was our  birth in the flesh, through our parents into this world, but in order to enter(be born) into the Kingdomof God, Jesus said we need to be ‘born again’ by water and the spirit. Just because a person is born into a Christian family, or has been baptized (as an infant or adult), or goes to Church and prays regularly, or is active in the Church, it does not mean that he is born into a relationship with God or will enter into theKingdom ofGod. He needs to be born again. That is why Jesus said, ‘You must be born again’.

HOW CAN A PERSON BE BORN AGAIN?

The simplest way to understand this is to look at the very passage in John 3:1-21, where Jesus mentioned it and to study what Jesus said.

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

 First, we need to understand what being born again does not mean:

  1. It does not mean that one needs to just be a good person or become a better person than he already is in order to enter thekingdomofHeaven. Because if it meant that one only needs to be good then Jesus would not have told Nicodemus that he needs to be born again, as from this passage it is more than clear that Nicodemus was a good person. While all the other Pharisees and Sadducees and teachers of the law shunned Jesus, Nicodemus comes to Jesus, acknowledges that Jesus is a teacher from God and marvels at the miracles of Jesus and engages in lengthy conversation with Jesus 
  2. It does not mean just having a mental belief in the person of Jesus. Because from the passage it is clear that Nicodemus had a certain amount of faith in who Jesus was and in His works; but for Jesus that was not sufficient.  
  3. It is not something of the flesh or only of the mind because Jesus insisted that that which is born of the flesh is flesh but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. We all have a sense of God, a reverence for God, a knowledge and awareness of God in the mind; all that is of the flesh. Being born again by the Spirit is something much, much deeper.

 “HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE?”

Jesus said, ‘You must be born again’ and Nicodemus asks, “How can these things be?” So, in the rest of the passage Jesus is responding to that question because in no way could he have left such an important question unanswered.

In verse 14, Jesus takes Nicodemus’ mind back to what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness. In Numbers 21:5-9, the Israelites spoke against God and God sent fiery serpents among them which bit them and many died. Then the people came to Moses, confessed their wrongdoing and asked that he would pray for them. And when Moses prayed God asked him to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, upon which if anyone looked he would live. And in Num 21:9 we read,

‘So, Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten                                         anyone , when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Any person on the verge of death, having been bitten by a serpent, if he just looked at the fiery serpent on the pole would live! How glorious! All a dying person had to do was look at the fiery serpent in obedience to the word of God through Moses. He did not have to take some medicine, he did not have to do penance, he did not have to do any good work – he just had to look. And when any Israelite who was bitten looked, in  the look was expressed his belief in God and obedience to God. Because to look at a statue of a bronze serpent when one is dying does not sound like a very wise idea but the Israelites believed, obeyed and hence looked at it, in spite of the foolishness of the suggestion. By doing this they were saved.

The Israelites sinned and were perishing, but when they confessed their sin Moses stood in the gap and prayed, and God gave the remedy. Though the remedy sounded irrational those who believed were saved.

Then in verse 14 and15, Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as Moses lifted up the serpent even so the Son of Man must be lifted up. ‘That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’. Drawing a parallel with what happen to the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus was telling Nicodemus, that sin in the heart is like a serpent bite that poisons and destroys us and the remedy for sin is not good works, self –effort, penance or a better life, just as good works, penance or a better life cannot save us from a real serpents’ bite. But the remedy is from God Himself: God sent His only begotten Son, to be lifted up (to die) on a cross for the sins of mankind, and whoever looks upon the cross and believes (just believes) in Him will not perish (die eternally) but will be saved, just as the Israelites in the wilderness.  The Israelites by looking at the bronze serpent extended their earthly lives but when we look at Jesus on the cross and believe we receive eternal life. Though it might seem like foolishness to many, it is God’s remedy and the only remedy for us.

So, in essence, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that a person cannot be made alive to God spiritually and enter into a relationship with God or enter into heaven by his own goodness, good works, piety or self-righteousness (the Pharisees were very pious and always quite self-righteous as they focused a lot on keeping the law), but only by recognizing the destructive nature of his sin, and turning and looking at Jesus, as His Savior from sin and its consequences.                      

                              1 John 5:1 states, ‘Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’.

 John 1:12-13 states, ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God to those who believe in His name; who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 [The only condition as we look and believe is that we recognize and repent of our sin as the Israelites did in the wilderness. John the Baptist said in Mark  1:15, ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’,  Jesus said in Mathew 4:17, ‘ Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand’, Peter said in Acts 2:38, ‘Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus’. When we come to Jesus and acknowledge our sins and repent, Jesus on the cross becomes our intercessor, the one who stands in the gap between us and God, even as Moses was for the Israelites. ]

 EXAMPLES

 The thief on the cross next to Jesus just believed and he was saved. He knew he was perishing. At that point neither did he think that it was too late for him to be changed, nor did he think that now he had no hope. He did not depend on himself to be saved but he looked on Jesus, believed Him and hence was born again. And that is why Jesus assured him that he would that very day be with Him in paradise.  That thief represents all of us who just believe and are saved.  

 In Acts 16:30-31, the Philippian jailor asked Paul, ‘What must I do to be saved’? Paul responded by saying, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your family will be saved’.                            

BE BORN AGAIN OF THE WATER AND THE SPIRIT

Jesus said that unless a man is born again of the water and the Spirit he will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

a. Born of the Water

It is clear from John 3:14-21 that a man is born again by believing in Jesus. But how does a person come to believe in Jesus. In Romans 10:14 we read,

‘And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard

For a person to be born again and saved he/she needs to believe in Jesus, and for him/her to believe he/she needs to first hear the word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. So, when Jesus said be born of ‘water’ he meant that a man needs to be born through the word of God. This truth is further substantiated in Psalm 1, 1 Peter 1:23-25 and Ephesians 5:26.

In Psalm 1, the Bible says that just like water causes a plant to thrive, flourish and bear fruit, a person who depends on the word of God will flourish and bear fruit.

1 Peter 1 :23 – 25 says ‘having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever….Now this is the word which by the Gospel was preached to you’. So, Peter writes that we are born again by the word of God.

In Ephesians 5:26 Paul says, ‘that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word. Apostle Paul is saying that we are washed and cleansed by water which is the word of God.

Apostles Peter and Paul understood that when Jesus said be ‘born again by ‘water’, He meant that a person is born again by hearing and responding to the word of God.

It is the word of God through which a person comes to believe in Jesus and is born again. Apart from hearing the word of God a person cannot be born again.  So, clearly in John 3:6, water implies the word of God.

b. Born of the Spirit 

Being born again of the Spirit obviously means that a person needs to be made new by the working of the Holy Spirit of God in him. The word of God alone can never change a person. But it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit working along with the word of God that changes him/her. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and convinces us of Jesus as our Savior even as the word is preached. He works in us to draw us to Jesus. And when we yield to His voice and repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, rather than ourselves, we are born again.  

CONCLUSION

Most people try to be right in the eyes of God by their own goodness; they try to attain their salvation by living a good life; they try to enter into and maintain their relationship with God with just piety and devotion; but that is impossible. Jesus said, ‘what is born of the flesh is flesh’, that means our efforts and works (flesh) will in no way help our spirit to be new and alive before God. The summary of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus was that man cannot be made alive to God by his efforts but by ‘just believing’ in the work of Jesus on the cross. A person who may be very spiritual but depends on his own efforts and goodness to enter into a relationship with God or to attain salvation is not born again. When a person stops depending on his own efforts and depends on Jesus as his remedy from the poison of sin, the Holy Spirit does a work in him that causes his spirit to be born again into the Kingdom of God – that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. ‘Just believing’ – not just a mental but a wholehearted belief -, taking our dependence of ourselves and depending on God, will save us and set us free.  

 

  • For A More Detailed Explanation Click On Any Of The Links Below To Listen to Audio Sermons On Being Born Again:                                       

Born Again – Part 1

Born Again – Part 2,

Born Again – Part 3,

Born Again – Part 4,

Born Again – Part 5

 

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The Authority Of The Bible – SOLA SCRIPTURA

             

In Christian life it is very important to know the basis for everything we believe in, the foundation of our beliefs, the authority behind what we do – Why do we do what we do? Who told us to do it? While Jesus ministered on the Earth the Pharisees asked Him, “By what authority do you do these things?” (Luke 20:2). Jesus knew that His authority was from God the Father Himself.  He did only what His Father told Him. He spoke that which His Father asked Him to speak. He went to the Cross because that was His Father’s will. As we look closely at Jesus’ life we see that He in fact did everything in accordance with what the Scriptures had already foretold.

By what authority do you practice what you practice as a Christian? Do you take God and His Word as your final authority or is it just plain tradition?

The ProtestantChurchsays that the Bible is the final authority – ‘Sola Scriptura’, scripture alone, when it comes to the issues of our Christian faith whereas the Catholic Church says that it is the Bible, Church Tradition and the Magisterium (teaching authority of the Catholic Church). As a matter of fact, for the Catholic Church it is the Magisterium that makes the final decision on what is right and wrong, and unfortunately that decision is based, very often, more on Church tradition than on what the Bible really says. Many times the Catholic Church says that its practices are indeed scriptural and quote may be one or two scripture verses for those practices. But, the fact is that they take those scripture verses without even considering what the Bible teaches as a whole. They ignore all the other scripture verses that are connected to the same subject just to prove the validity of the particular practice.   

The Catholic Church defends its position on many non-biblical practices stating:  

  1. The Bible nowhere teaches ‘Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture Alone). The Bible does not explicitly mention that it (the Bible) alone should be the final authority; traditions are equally valid/ important.
  2. The Catholic Church is the final authority because it is the Catholic Church that gave the Bible to the world in the fourth century.
  3. The Early Church and Church Fathers (Leaders) believed in and practiced many of the traditional practices we have today.
  4. Jesus gave the authority to Peter and his successors in Mathew 16:18-19, so the Catholic Church now under the leadership of the Pope can decide what has to be practiced, even if it is not in line with the written Scriptures.

 Let’s explore the above mentioned reasons carefully.

 1. DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ‘SOLA SCRIPTURA’ ? WHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY THAT IT (THE BIBLE) IS     THE FINAL AUTHORITY?

 This is the question the Catholic Church would ask anyone who says that the Bible should be our final authority. At first it seems to be a valid question because there seems to be no single verse that says explicitly that the Bible is the only authority. But as we study scripture it is more than clear tat the Bible, the Word of God, should be our yardstick,  our final authority, and nothing else.

 Jesus said it very clearly in Mk 7: 1-5, 8, 9 and 13:

 1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!

13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Jesus is stating very clearly here that no matter what the tradition, it should never nullify the Word of God. He is saying that we cannot let go the commands of God for the sake of traditions. He is saying that we cannot use ‘fine ways’ of setting aside the command of God in order to observe the traditions   that have been handed down. Any tradition is fine as long as it does not go against the Word of God. And when Jesus here refers to the Command of God and the Word of God He is of course referring to the command of God contained in the Old Testament scriptures that had been handed down and not just some oral teaching.

 Does not the teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord here very clearly mean that the written Word of God, the scriptures, is far above every other tradition and authority? Is He not very clearly implying that the Word of God is the final authority and not tradition?

 (For a detailed explanation on the subject please read Scripture vs Tradition)

 2. DID THE CATHOLIC CHURCH GIVE THE BIBLE TO THE WORLD ?

In recent times the Catholic leaders have said that every time a Protestant holds up his Bible, he affirms the authority of the Catholic Church because it is the Catholic Church which gave the Bible to the world !  They say that without the Catholic Church we would have never had the Bible!

Firstly, there was no Catholic orProtestantChurchback then. There was only one Christian Church, established by Christ Jesus and functioning in different parts of the world. The word ‘Catholic’ which means ‘Universal’ was used in connection to the Church by the leaders only to mean that the Church of God was universal but was never used as the name of a denomination.

Secondly, the Old Testament was already in existence and being used even in the times of Jesus. So, basically the present Catholic Church can stake claim, if at all, only over the New Testament and not over the entire Bible anyway.

Thirdly, the books of the New Testament were already in use for quite along while, but certain other letters and books were also around. The then leaders of the Church had to decide on which books were really inspired by the Holy Spirit and would be a part of the New Testament and which would not. So, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and by His wisdom the leaders were able to decide which books were indeed a part of the New Testament. The leaders were not making any books inspired but were purely affirming which books were indeed inspired by God.

Therefore, in essence the leaders of the Church from the first to the fourth century AD were not the ones who told God which books should be a part of the New Testament and which should not be but rather it was God who moved them to see and understand which books should be included and which book excluded.

Hence, every time a Protestant holds up his Bible, he is not affirming the authority of the Catholic Church but the sovereign authority of God!

In finalizing the canon of the Bible the Lord was showing us that all that we require for Salvation and spiritual growth (growing in our relationship with Jesus) is available in the Bible. Otherwise there is no point in God moving the early Church to close the canon of the Bible.

The Bible is the book that should direct the Churchof Godon earth and the Church cannot keep altering it by adding traditions that oppose it. What’s the point when the Church, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has agreed upon the books of the Bible, and declared it to be the WORD OF GOD, and then introduces practices that go against it? Does the Holy Spirit say something once and then later inspire something else exactly opposite?

Therefore, the Church should now submit itself to God and His Word – the Bible. The Church cannot now say, ‘We finalized the Bible so we are above it’. That’s what the Catholic Church is doing when it approves and practices traditions that are not in line with the Word of God. Once God the Holy Spirit has moved the Church to finalize the Word of God, then the Church ought to submit itself to His Word, just as a nations’ government is under the constitution of the country and not above it.  Traditions, practices, experiences, emotions, opinions and all else will change but not the written Word of God. Therefore, the Bible alone is our final authority. Otherwise, the Church will move about and be tossed about with every wind of tradition, practice and belief – in fact that is what has transpired in the last 15 centuries with regard to the Catholic Church. If the Bible is not our final authority then there is no foundation, nothing to refer back to when something new stems up. But with the Bible we have boundaries, we have clarity and we can be certain of what we believe.

Every country has its own constitution. There is a time in every country’s history when there is no constitution for the country but at a particular time and place the leaders of the nation come together to decide on the constitution – the rules, regulations and the system by which the country would be run. Once the constitution is in place neither the leaders who formulated it nor the government are above it. The very leaders who formed the constitution are to be governed by it; they cannot change it at will.

Similarly, there was a time when there was uncertainty as to what books composed the Bible; but since God inspired the Church to choose the books of the New Testament and finalize the Bible, the Church and its leaders ought to submit itself to the written Word of God. The Church and its leaders are not above the Word of God.  The Lord has given us in the Bible the system by which we should live. More than just being a book of rules and regulations the Bible is life itself, As Jesus said in John 6:63, ‘ My words are Spirit and Life’. 

3.  THE CHURCH FATHERS (LEADERS) AND THE EARLY CHURCH

The prominent Church leaders from the first to the fourth or fifth century are often referred to as the early Church Fathers. The Catholic Church justifies many of its practices saying that many of these early Church Fathers and the early Church also believed in those practices. They justify their belief in praying to Mary and the saints, the perpetual virginity of Mary, immaculate conception of Mary, confessions, child baptism, papacy, the belief that the bread and wine turns into the body and blood of Jesus during the Eucharistic celebration etc. by quoting some statements from the early Church Fathers and practices of the Church at that time.

The important question to be asked is, ‘Does the belief of an early Church Father or early Church justify a particular practice?’

A very good example is in Mathew 19:7 where the Pharisees ask Jesus regarding divorce, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” And Jesus replied by saying, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so”.

Moses had permitted divorce, but only because of the hardness of the people’s hearts and it was a  practice for centuries. But just because it was a practice (tradition) since the time of Moses, Jesus did not allow his hearers to continue with it. He corrected them. He took them back to the beginning… when God had spoken. He brought them back to the plan and purpose of God, without any compromise!

We see throughout the Old Testament, especially the book of Judges, that the Israelites would follow God sincerely as long as there was a Godly leader leading them. But as soon the leaders’ time was over they would fall back into sin. Many times the leaders themselves who were called and anointed to lead fell into sin in their later years; King Solomon, King Uzziah and King Asa are some examples. As long as the leader followed God and served Him wholeheartedly, according to His word, the nation stayed away from sin and idolatry. But, if the leader did not obey God’s word, the people would soon stray away from God’s commandments.

Something very similar seems to have transpired in the history of the EarlyChurch. Once the time of the direct disciples and apostles of Jesus was over, certain leaders and people seemed to have developed their own beliefs and thinking. We find none of the controversial teachings within the time of John, who was the last of the apostles to be alive.  All the teachings deviating from the Word of God rose much later in the second century A.D (Mostly afte 150 A.D). Many of the early leaders of the Church (Church Fathers) instead of going back to what the apostles had taught in the first century developed their own contrary teachings, such as the ones mentioned above. And, of course, the laity believed them and followed them.

The fact that the early Church Fathers were wrong in many of their personal beliefs and teachings is proved by the fact that none of their letters, writings or teachings found a place in the Bible. The Holy Spirit inspired the very same Church Fathers to go back to the earliest teachings of the apostles, including those of apostle Paul, and not to any of those between the second century to the fourth. That shows us and proves to us that God knows and affirmed that only the Old Testament and the 27 books found now in the New Testament were pure and without error in doctrine and practice. This also shows and lets us know that none of the later practices or teachings are essential for our life with God but only what was taught by the earliest Church leaders.

If the Holy Spirit thought that the teachings and beliefs that came up later were needed then He would have inspired the leaders to put it into the Bible; but He did not. He just pointed the entire Church back to the teachings and doctrines of the First Church in the first century because that is when the Church was pure and uncorrupted by the thinking of men.

Once the Holy Spirit pointed the Church back to the uncorrupted Word of God, the Bible, the Church in the fourth century should no longer have been doing things the way they wanted to but should have aligned everything they did to the Bible. The responsibility of the Church leaders then was (and now is !) to correct the erroneous teachings and to take them back to the truth that was taught in the beginning as Jesus told the Pharisees; but unfortunately they did not, and for 1500 years almost all Christians were misled by the erroneous teachings and practices, and many of those practices continue in the Catholic Church even to this day!

4. WHAT DID JESUS REALLY SAY IN MATHEW 16:18-19 ?

Jesus said in Mt16:18-19,

18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

a. ON ‘THIS ROCK’

Taking Mt 16:18 in isolation, the Catholic Church has for long claimed that Jesus in this passage meant that Peter is ‘the Rock’ on which the Church is built because He said ‘on this rock I will build my Church’. But this is far from the truth, as Jesus is referring to Himself when He said ‘this rock’. 

The most important and clear parallel we find in order to understand this in John 2:18-22,

18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them;and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

 What did Jesus mean when He said destroy ‘this temple’? We know that when Jesus said ‘this temple’ He clearly meant ‘Himself’. But, what did the Pharisees understand? Since Jesus was standing in the temple and looking at the literal temple and speaking, the Pharisees thought that Jesus was referring to the literal structure and even asked how He would build in three days what had originally taken 46 years! The Pharisees were misled because they did not understand the scriptures about the Messiah’s death and resurrection.

Similarly, in Mt 16:18, though Jesus was looking at Peter and speaking, He meant that the Church would be built on ‘this Rock’- Jesus Himself ! The Catholic Church leaders (just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day) are choosing to be misled by ignoring what the rest of the scripture says.

The rest of the scripture substantiate the fact that Jesus is in fact ‘this rock’ .

In Ephesians 2:20 we read,  ‘… having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…’

In 1 Corinthians 10:4 we read, ‘…For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11 says, ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’

Speaking of Jesus Isaiah 28:16 says, Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “ Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,  A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.

In 1Peter 2:4-8, Peter himself says that Jesus Christ alone is the chief Cornerstone and the Rock on which we are built as a house (Church),

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
      “ Behold, I lay in Zion  A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,  And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,

“ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “ A stone of stumbling,  And a rock of offense.”

Is 8:14,15, Psalm 118:22, Mt 21:42 also refer to Jesus as the ‘chief cornerstone’.  Therefore, the entire Bible refers to Jesus as the Rock, Foundation and Cornerstone on which the Church, His House is built.  In Eph 2:20, the Bible says the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,  with Jesus being the Chief Cornerstone. So, all apostles and prophets are referred to as the foundation but Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. So, nowhere in the New Testament or Old Testament do we find that Peter alone is the Rock on which His Church is built. We do not find any of the New Testament authors – Paul, John, James, Jude or even Peter himself – referring to Peter as the Rock. In the Acts of the Apostles we find that in theJerusalemChurch it was not Peter who was in charge but James.

Therefore, with all the above scriptures, especially John 2:18-22, we clearly understand that Jesus in Mt 16:18 was not referring to Peter as the ‘rock’ but Himself. Only a person who chooses to be blind can ignore the weight of scripture for a single scripture in isolation!

 b. KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

Peter being given the Keys of the Kingdom here does not mean that he is the one who allows or disallows people into heaven! The keys being given imply the special privilege that Peter was given with respect to the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt 4:23,24). The special privilege he had was that after the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter was the one who first opened the message of the New Covenant to the Jews and to the Gentile world. In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, preaching to a multitude of Jews, he converted 3000 of them in a single day and all of them were baptized. Again, in Acts 10 being led by God, he preached to the large household of Cornelius and they were immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit and baptized in water. Peter is the one who opened the door of the Kingdom with the Key of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews and Gentiles.

And, when Jesus said whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven… , it was not something that was spoken exclusively to Peter because in Mathew 18:18 we find Jesus giving the same authority to the entire Church.

The Catholic Church says that only they have been given the authority to interpret the Word of God using Mathew 16:18 –19. But, as we study the scriptures carefully we find that there was no special authority, power or position Jesus gave to Peter or any of his successors.  Actually, no one has a problem if the Catholic Church interprets the Word of God, but the problem is that they interpret the Word of God by tradition!

We should note that Jesus spoke the words in Mk 7:1-13, to the religious leaders of that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law! Jesus rebuked them and corrected them regarding their way of giving primacy to the traditions of men rather than the Word of God.

(An article, ‘Was Peter the first Pope’, with further explanations on the above subject will be soon uploaded)

FINAL WORD

The final authority rests upon the Word of God, which God in His wisdom has given by the inspiration of  His Spirit to the Church. We see in Acts 15:15-18 and Galatians 2:5,14 that when there were doctrinal problems in the early Church, the leaders gave their final decisions based on truth in line with scriptures and not otherwise. The leaders of the Church even today ought to base all decisions relevant to the Church and its functioning, on the Bible and what it teaches, taking it in its entirety and not by taking individual scriptures in isolation.

 

  • Listen To Audio Sermons On The Word Of God:

Don’t Turn Right Or Left – Part 1

Knowledge Of The Truth

The Truth Sets You Free

 

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Confessing God’s Word

If you are  born again by the water and the Spirit, you need to believe and confess the facts below because this is what the Bible says we have now as we are in a New Kingdom, the Kingdom of Jesus!

                                             CONFESSING GOD’S WORD

I am Born-Again. Therefore, the old has gone and the new has come. I no longer live by my feelings but every moment of my life I now choose to live by the written Word of God. I choose to renew my mind and life according to God’s eternal word.  (John 3:1-5, Romans 12:1-2)

I am now a New Creation in Christ Jesus. I am washed by the Blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit now lives in me. I am a Child of God. I am righteous, holy and perfect before the Father through Jesus Christ and I can now boldly and confidently stand before the Father and pray. I have received every spiritual blessing and everything that I need for LIFE and GODLINESS in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 5:17, Rev 1:5, Eph 1:13, Romans 8:16, 2 Cor 5:21, Eph 1:4,  Heb 10:14,  Eph 3:12, Eph 1:3, 2 Peter 1:3)

 Jesus is able to keep me from falling into sin. And, if I do fall Jesus is my advocate at the right hand of the Father, pleading on my behalf. His blood still speaks for me. If I confess my sin, He is Faithful and just to forgive all my sins and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.  (Jude 24, 1 John 2:1,2, I John 1:9)

The devil cannot touch or harm me or my family, for I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus and I live under the protection of His blood. No weapon fashioned against me shall ever prosper. (Luke 10:19, Rev 5:9, Ex 12:13, Isaiah 54:17)

The punishment for my peace, wellness, completeness and wholeness was taken by Jesus, therefore, I have been made completely whole in every area of my life. I am whole in my Spirit. I am whole in my in my mind. I am whole in my emotions.  I am whole in my Body. (Isaiah 53:5)

 I was healed by the stripes of Jesus, therefore, I live in divine health. No sickness has power over my body. (1 Peter 2:24)

I lack no good thing in my life, for the Lord supplies all my need according to His riches in glory.(Ps 34:10, Phil 4:19)

I have victory over every situation and circumstance that is against me in my life, because Jesus has already won the victory for me on the Cross. I am not fighting for the victory but I believe and rest in the victory Jesus has already won. Satan, sin, sickness, sorrow and situations no more have dominion over me. God always leads me in victory through Christ Jesus. I now reign as a King in life through Jesus.        (Col 2:13-15, Heb 4:3, Rom 6:14, Rom 5:17)

Through me the Father diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place I go and to every person I meet. I have the life of God flowing in me and I release it everywhere I go, in the name of Jesus.  (2 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:45)

The Holy Spirit has anointed me; therefore I have the power and authority in the name of Jesus to cast out demons, to heal the sick, to raise the dead to life, to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. By the power of the Holy Spirit upon me I am now a witness for Jesus everywhere I go and to every person I meet. (Luke 4:18,1 John 4:4, Luke 9:1-2, Acts 1:8)

All the work of my hands is blessed. I am blessed in my house. I am blessed in my office. I am blessed in my relationships. I am blessed in my mind, for I have the mind of Christ.(Deut 28:1-15, 2Cor 1:30, 2 Tim 1:7, 1 Cor 2:16)

My life is blessed beyond measure through Jesus. I now live my life in order to be a blessing to the broken world around me for the GLORY of GOD.  (Gen 12:2)

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Statues, Idols And Images – The Second Commandment

Do Catholics worship statues, idols and images? Is it right to have statues, idols and images in Churches and at our houses to help us in prayer? These are the questions asked by many within the Catholic Church and also outside.

The Catholic Church teaches that it’s o.k. for them to have images, idols, statues and pictures in order to pray and worship, as it helps one to remember God, Jesus, Mary and the saints who have been exemplary. The explanation sounds fine, but in doing so they are in direct opposition to what God has made very clear in the Bible.

In the Second Commandment in Exodus 20:4-6, God says,

  “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God here in this Second Commandment gives us a threefold command with relation to prayer and worship:

  1. Do not make for yourself  any images (statues, idols, photos)
  2. Do not  bow down before them
  3. Do not  worship them

The purpose of this command is revealed clearly in the New Testament by Jesus Himself in John 4:23, 24:

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

From the beginning that is God’s desire, that everyone worships Him in spirit and truth, for He is SPIRIT. That is the chief reason that He did not want the Israelites to make any images in order to worship Him. He wants His people to worship Him from their spirits, understanding Him in their spirits with the help of the Holy Spirit and not with the help of idols, for He has no form. If we understand this everything else sorts itself out.

The Catholic Church is disobeying the command of God and bringing in human thinking and their own rationale.  According to the Second Commandment, when God himself thinks that we need not keep these photos and statues to remember Him, why should we alter the commandment or give it a human explanation?  What God has said is infinitely more important than our reasoning and excuses! Jesus told the Pharisees, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition”.  

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT REMOVED

The Catholic Church has even failed to teach their members this Commandment. The Second Commandment has been all but removed; it has been put as a part of the First Commandment and has been tucked away in the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’. The Catechism books of children do not have the Second Commandment, neither as a part of the First Commandment nor as the Second Commandment itself ! Children and adults are never taught this important Commandment. Whenever the First Commandment is mentioned all that is said is, ‘I am the Lord your God you shall have no other gods before me’, nothing more; no mention is ever made of God’s command not to bow down before statues and idols.

It is missing from the list of the Ten Commandments of the Catholic Church (except in a book which 99.9% Catholics would never read in their lifetime). When God has not kept this commandment a secret in some document but has revealed it openly and explicitly, why should the Church want to hide it and put it away as part of another commandment? It is absolutely vital to teach and follow this command as this is the only commandment that has an explicit curse attached to it…

‘… for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

If then the second commandment is missing then how do we still have Ten Commandments?

The tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17 is, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbors.”, this commandment has been split into two commandments, the ninth, ‘Do not covet your neighbors goods’, and the tenth commandment, ‘ Do not covet your neighbors wife’ !

The Second Commandment has been merged with the First, and then the Tenth Commandment, ‘Do not covet’ has been split into the Ninth and Tenth Commandments in order to make up the Ten Commandments!

Let’s look at some of the reasons the Catholic Church gives for keeping idols and statues and merging the Second Commandment with the First Commandment:

REASON #1 : THE SECOND COMMANDMENT TALKS ONLY ABOUT NOT HAVING OTHER GODS

“You shall have no other gods before Me” is the first commandment and is distinct from the second. It is obvious through the Bible that our God is jealous God and He will not tolerate us following other gods but also that our God does not tolerate the keeping of idols and statues for the purpose of worship.

When Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, God commanded that when they enter the land they should destroy all the idols and the altars of the foreign gods and then in Deut 12: 4 the Lord said, “You shall not worship the Lord with such things”. ‘Such things’ here implies idols and also their other ways of worshiping their gods.  In Deut 12:30-31 the Lord again said, “…be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” 31 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates…”. We cannot worship our God the way people of other religions and cultures do! They worship and pray only with idols and statues, we cannot follow them and do the same; they cannot worship from their spirits so they need it but when we are born-again we don’t need it. Our Father wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth; there is no other way to worship Him. Our Father is seeking for such people to worship Him.

God is concerned about us worshiping Him alone (First Commandment) and also the way in which we worship Him (Second Commandment).

REASON #2 : DON’T WE KEEP THE PHOTOS OF PEOPLE  WE LOVE?

This is one of the most common reasons. The leaders of the Catholic Church teach that since we keep the photos of people we love in our houses, we can also keep the images of Jesus or saints since we love them.

Yes, it is true that we keep the photos of our parents, brothers, sisters or friends we love. But the point is this: None of them have ever told us not to keep their photos or images with us, but God has! Supposing my dad tells me that he would not under any circumstance want me to keep His photos, but I went ahead and kept his photos with me, would he be pleased? Would that not amount to disobedience and disrespect for his feelings? I might have my reasons for keeping it, but he would still be unhappy with me if I did not value what he said. The reasons might be very good but it would still be disobedience! 

 If we are to obey and please our earthly fathers, how much more infinitely important it is to obey our heavenly Father in whatever He says. Our God has told us not to make, bow down or worship images, and as His children let’s not go against what our Father desires. We might like to keep idols and statues because we like it and we want to express our love for Him that way, but if our Father does not like it, isn’t it just right to do what He says because we love Him? Even though our reasons might seem to be very reasonable and good, obedience to God is better.

REASON #3 : IT’S ONLY VENERATION NOT WORSHIP

The Catholic Church says that the statues and images are there only to remind people and that they do not worship them but only venerate them. They say that they only pray in front of a statue but not to it! We need to understand clearly what God is saying here in this commandment:

Firstly, God did not make any distinction between veneration and worship in this commandment or anywhere else in the Bible. He did not say, ‘You can make and honor me through it but do not worship it’. He just plainly stated, ‘You shall not MAKE…

Secondly, God’s command is not only ‘Do not worship’, but also, ‘Do not MAKE…’ and Do not BOW DOWN..’. The command is clear even in the New Testament, ‘Keep yourselves from IDOLS. (I Jn 5:21). So, if you ‘make’ an idol to represent God it is idolatry. If you ‘bow down’ before a statue that also is idolatry.

Thirdly, you could go to any number of Catholic churches or houses and see people literally worshiping these idols. To venerate is to just show respect but worship goes much deeper. Once you keep an idol there are no boundaries and no can really define the boundaries of where veneration stops and worship begins. And when an idol is kept hardly anyone can stop just at veneration, it will almost always go into worship of the idol! To the worshiper the idol always embodies the fullness of the one he loves and desires to pray to or worship.

You can easily prove it by just asking anyone to remove the statue of Jesus or Mary from their house altars or from the churches and they would be so offended as though you have just asked them to remove Jesus from their lives, houses or churches. If at any time the photo fell to the floor they would be so upset! So, they don’t just think that it’s a photo or a representation; they believe the person to be present in it. Is that not worship and idolatry? You will find people kissing the statues, kneeling down before them, rolling in front of them, putting flowers on them, lighting candles before them, carrying the idols in procession,  and even changing the statues clothes every day, if possible. Is that just veneration?

The church says that they only venerate or give respect to the person portrayed but do not give it the worship that is due to God alone; but the ground reality is quite different: people, including the leaders, do not know the difference between veneration and worship, except in its definitions! Actions speak louder than words!

REASON #4 : JESUS’ PHOTOS ARE OK!

In Deuteronomy 4:15-18 we read,

Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in any form of any figure …” .  

Many Catholics (and also many Protestants now!) believe that since God was revealed in the flesh through Jesus it is appropriate now to keep the statues and photos of Jesus and bow down before it and pray using it. They say that in the Old Testament, as the verse above says, man had not seen the form God, but now we have seen it in Jesus.

Firstly, it is of course true, as Hebrews 1:3 says, that Jesus is the ‘express image of God or the exact representation of God’. But that verse really refers to the fact that Jesus Christ is eternally the express image of God. Even before He became flesh He was already the exact representation of the Father and now after He has gone back to the Father he still is the exact representation of the Father. The looks of Jesus while on earth are not necessarily the looks of the eternal God… it is only an earthly representation. This is proved by the fact that when Mary Magdalene saw Jesus after His resurrection, she did not even recognize Him; she thought He was the gardener! His form had already changed. There may have been a resemblance but surely there was considerable change, else Mary would have easily recognized Him. That probably is also the reason that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Him for a long while. Again, when the Apostle John saw Jesus in the book of revelation, we read,

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lamp stands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (Rev 1:12-15)

The description of Jesus in these verses tells us that Jesus in heaven looks quite different from the pictures of Jesus that we have! Now, which picture of Jesus are we going to keep? It drives home just one point that God still does not have any form, He is Spirit. That fact has not changed even now.

Again, in John 14:8, Jesus said, “He who sees me sees the Father”. Here obviously Jesus is not talking about seeing Him in pictures, idols or photos and through them seeing the Father! In fact, it is not even His physical looks Jesus is referring to but about seeing and understanding Him through our spirits, otherwise we who live in this century have no way of seeing the Father, as we have not seen Him physically !

Secondly, after Jesus was taken up to heaven, in the New Testament, we nowhere find the apostles or leaders encouraging anyone to keep His idols or statues even though they all knew exactly how He looked! In fact we find them doing the opposite. In Acts 17:22 – 30, when Apostle Paul found the people of Athens having objects of worship and an altar with the inscription,’ To The Unknown God’, he preached the word to them and in verses 29 and 30, he said,

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.

He did not ask them to replace it with an idol of Jesus, in order to help them worship the true God, but clearly said that God is not in the likeness of gold, silver, stone or anything shaped by the hands of men.

Apostle John said in 1 John 5:21, ‘Keep yourselves from IDOLS’. He could have very easily said, ‘Now since we have seen Jesus, keep yourselves from all idols other than the idol of Jesus’, but he did not.

The Apostles and church leaders in the Bible taught Christians to worship in spirit and truth. They kept to the command of God in the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in John 4:23 and 24. The church today needs to follow their example.

REASON #5 : IT IS JUST AN ART FORM LIKE MUSIC

Some Catholics like to believe that just as evangelical Christians use music and singing to help them worship God Catholics use idols and statues. They say that it’s just a creative way of expressing our worship, and that just as evangelical Christians raise hands as they sing and worship, Catholics raise their hands before statues and worship…that’s all ! According to them just as evangelicals are not worshiping the music, Catholics aren’t worshiping the idols but are just using it to exalt the true God.

All this sounds really good, but the question is not what our thinking is about a matter, but what has our God said about it.

As far as music is concerned, the Word of God makes it clear that the best way to worship God is through songs, music and dance. The old testament, especially the Psalms, and the new testament are full of teachings on worshiping the true God through music. God has never told us not to do it. So, using music in worship is obedience to God, not just an art form invented by man! But when it comes to using idols and statues in worship, we have God’s explicit command not to use them.  So, using idols for the purpose of prayer and worship becomes an act of disobedience to God, even though it might seem like a very good idea. That’s the basic and essential difference between using music and idols – obedience and disobedience.

Some might ask, “Then what about movies that depict Jesus and the children’s bibles that have images of Jesus’? We need to understand that the command is concerning prayer and worship.  No one watching a movie of Jesus would ever fall down before the movie screen or their t.v sets in worship! And if they did it would be wrong. Similarly, we use the children’s Bible to teach children Bible stories or about Bible characters, and not to make them pray to the pages they see in the Bible. If we did that we would be wrong.

REASON #6: GOD PERMITTED CERTAIN IDOLS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Some Biblical passages where God asked the Israelites to keep statues:

    “In the sanctuary were two cherubim, each ten cubits high, [15 feet high!] made of olive         wood…” (1 Kings 6:23-28, 7:23-26)

    “Make two cherubim of beaten gold at the two ends of mercy seat, fastening them so that one      cherub springs direct from each end” (Ex 25:18)

    “Make [a statue of] a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he        sees it shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any      man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num 21: 4-9)

First, regarding the cherubim: The two cherubim were just there in the sanctuary at God’s command but no one prayed to it, remembered God through them, made intercession through them or bowed down  to them. It certainly was not there to remind the Israelites of God.

Second, concerning the bronze serpent: God commanded Moses to make it for a one time purpose, but the Israelites converted it into an object of worship. That is why later we find King Hezekiah, in 2 Kings 18:3-4, after almost 700 years destroying it! All that while the Israelites preserved it and worshiped it. Here we need to understand that the Israelites did not choose to make it in order to remember God, but rather God commanded it for a purpose He saw fit. The sinful Israelites who were at the point of death were commanded to just look at it and those who believed the words of Moses and looked at it were saved from death. It is a shadow of the entire human race steeped in sin and on the verge of Hell, but those who choose to look at Jesus Christ on the cross and believe are saved (John 3:14-16). The Israelites were not to pray to it, venerate it or worship it but were asked to just look at it. It was a test of their faith in the command of God. They were not saved by any of their good works but by simple faith in what God said, just as we are saved today not by our efforts and good works but by simple faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

We cannot choose to keep any idols or statues just because we feel good with it when God has not commanded it. What God commanded was turned into an object of worship and needed to be destroyed by a righteous King. Is it any wonder then that the idols that are placed in churches and houses, contrary to the command of God, are leading people astray? Also, it is not right for the church leaders to say that it’s been practised for centuries, and that the early church fathers approved of it and so it is right! Sin does not get God’s approval just because it’s been practiced for a long while! Hezekiah took a stand for God against a tradition that was practiced over 700 years (that includes the reign of even King David), and destroyed it. He went by the clear command of God, not a tradition that had become an integral part of the Israelites’ lives. There’s a need for someone like King Hezekiah to rise in the Catholic Church to change the tradition from within and not give excuses.

REASON #7: IDOLS ARE ONLY THAT WHICH TAKES THE PLACE OF GOD!

It is absolutely true that anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives is an idol. In Colossians 3:5, we read, ‘…and covetousness, which is idolatry’. Therefore anything that takes the place of God in our hearts is idolatry. But that does not change the fact that a literal idol is also an idol. In Mathew 5:27- 28, Jesus said,

27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

We all understand that Jesus here saying that a man who looks at a woman to lust for her commits adultery does not mean that the old literal commandment of, ‘Do not commit adultery’, no longer stands. Jesus took all the Old Testament commands deeper but did not remove or reject any. It is the same with the second commandment – Jesus took it deeper. For the Israelites then it was only keeping of and praying to literal statues that were idolatry, for us now, it is that and much more, and by the grace of God we can obey.

REASON #8: PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN, NEED IMAGES TO PRAY

The fact is, people, including children, need it only if they have been taught to pray that way by their churches and by their parents. If from childhood people are taught to pray from their spirits they will do it with no difficulty. My children don’t need photos, pictures or statues to pray, because they have been taught that way. I was brought up in a catholic family and I needed photos and pictures every time I prayed. And when I was born-again, I needed it more because I thought that’s the way to pray and I thought that’s the way I could remember God more, focus more and pray better – that’s the way I was taught from childhood, that’s all I knew. But when I understood from the word of God that it was wrong, I removed all the pictures and photos of Jesus and the saints, and I was able to pray much better than ever before. I obeyed God’s word and His grace helped me. If we are willing to obey God His grace will find us! Jesus said in Mt 5:19,

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

We are to keep and teach men that which God our Father has commanded us, not what we have learnt from our forefathers that is not in line with God’s word.

In the Old testament in Judges 8:22-27, we have Gideon who collected the golden earrings from the people and made it into an ephod, in order to help people focus on the Lord who would rule over them. But verse 27 says,

‘Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.’

In this case Gideon did not place the ephod at the command of God it was his own idea to help his people. The consequence was that it not only lead all the people he was leading astray but it also lead his own family into sin. Gideon who had responded to the call of God and co-operated with God at the beginning to remove idolatry fromIsraelunfortunately leadIsraelback into idolatry because of his carelessness and disobedience!

When we place an idol, image or photo (even just the photo of Jesus for prayer), in order to help someone it might seem like a very good and spiritual thing to do but it will end up being a snare and a trap for our own children, family and even a nation. Is that not the case with the Catholic Church? What probably initially was intended for good use has turned out to be a snare for an entire church – people and its leaders. And there is no excuse here because God never commanded it but from the beginning it is an act of carelessness and disobedience.

FINAL WORD

The bottom-line is this: Don’t let human thinking and ideas creep in, no matter how good they seem to be, just obey God and His word, which are eternally unchangeable. In Mathew 16:23,

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”(NLT)

We cannot choose to look at things from a human viewpoint but from God’s viewpoint. We cannot nullify the Word of God through our tradition nor use fine ways to set aside the command of God to keep our traditions (Mk 7:9,13).  Everyone likes to pray and worship but God is seeking for true worshipers; and Jesus defined true worshipers as those that worship God in spirit and truth. So, let’s worship God in spirit and truth.

 

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A Rich Relationship

 

Jesus told a beautiful parable to His followers to help them understand that God is more important than everything else on this earth:

15 Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15 – 21, Bible)

 Real life does not consist in the abundance of our wealth and possessions. It is not about how rich we are, how many friends we have, our social status, what car we own, the good clothes we wear, how famous we are or anything of that sort. All of this will pass away once we die. These all may be needed for this life but there is something more important – something that lasts for eternity: A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

 Yes, we can love God and have a deep relationship with Him because He is a person. He is not just a spirit, a power, a supreme being or just a consciousness.  Most of us think and believe that God is very impersonal and just like to use Him for our benefits and then we keep Him aside! A Relationship with God does not mean just praying a few prayers ritualistically or asking a few things from God. That’s just a shallow relationship in which we are using Him. True life consists of a rich relationship with God. A true and deep relationship with God is about loving Him and talking to Him and doing everything in life His way.

 If God requires your soul tonight are you ready to meet Him? If this were the last day of your life, are you prepared for what’s beyond? Or are you like the rich man in the parable above: pursuing riches, name, fame, prestige, wealth and security in this life so hard that you’ve lost sight of the fact that what is most important in life is your relationship with God? Are you trying to gather more and more into your bank account so you can be secure in your life or because you can boast before men or so that you can improve your social status? Are you trying each day harder so you can add more possessions to your life? Are you trying to save up much so you can after a few years say, ‘Now take it easy!  Eat, drink, and be merry!’? Are you pursuing this life so hard that you’ve forgotten God? Maybe you’ve not forgotten Him, but you just don’t have enough time for Him, to talk to Him to love Him. May be you just want God to bless you, protect you and your family but would not want anything more to do with God. You don’t want to get serious with God!

 You say, ‘Well, I’m too young right now, I’ve got many years ahead of me to think of those things. For now let me just enjoy life and have ‘fun’. How sure can you be of your life? Life is like a breath that passes away. So, don’t wait for another day to settle this issue. Deal with this truth and settle it NOW.

 A real and deep relationship with God the Father is possible through Jesus Christ. The whole reason Jesus came into the world was to restore our relationship with God – to unite us back to God. He came to unite us back to the heart of God. He came into the world 2000 years ago as a man to show us how much he loves us and how precious we are to Him. He taught us to call God as Father. When we start understanding God as our Father and start relating to him as a son / daughter and commune with Him and love Him then our relationship with Him becomes rich.

 We need to understand that Jesus shed every drop of His blood and died for us that all our sins may be forgiven.  He did this only because He really loves you and me. Otherwise, why would anyone sacrifice his life for us who don’t deserve it? When we acknowledge that we are sinners, confess our sins and ask for the forgiveness of our sin the blood of Jesus washes away all our sin and we are restored to our relationship with God.  Jesus also rose from the dead on the third day after His death to give us new life, to prove that He indeed was God and to let us know that death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life with him in heaven. All we need to do now is to repent of all our sins and evil ways, believe in Him and make Him the centre of our lives.

 When you understand this great love He has for you, you will begin to have a rich relationship with Him; being with God, talking to Him and doing what He tells you will be the greatest joy of your life even in the midst of difficulties.

The one who understands this and has a rich relationship with Him will enjoy life to its fullest and will be ready to meet Him even if this were the very last day of his life.

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Dealing With Loneliness

We all look for someone to really love us, for someone to accept us as we are, to understand us, to care for us. No matter how much some of us may deny it, deep inside that’s what we all long for – love, acceptance, understanding, care. But very often it just remains a dream, a desire. And in a world with seven billion people you find yourself alone and lonely.

No one seems to have the time for you. No one seems to notice you. People just pass you by as though you do not exist. Sometimes even the closest people – your parents, your husband / wife, your children – are so busy with everyday life and work that they seem to be ignoring you. And you have this question in your heart, ‘Do they really love me, do they really care?’ May be you’ve walked such a lonely journey through this life that life itself seems uninteresting to you. Sometimes the people you trust most betray you and let you down. Every side you turn to you experience rejection and a lack of acceptance and you wonder, ‘What’s wrong with me? What wrong have I done?’ You do not know whom to turn to and it makes you feel very lonely, miserable and even depressed.

 DON’T BE DISCOURAGED. There is one person you can turn to with confidence – Jesus Christ. Millions of lives have been changed when people in their helpless and hopeless condition have believed in Jesus and have experienced His UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus is not just another social reformer or spiritual leader who came to give some good advice to people: He is God. He came into the world about 2000yrs ago as a man, to experience all that we experience. He did not just want to remain a God in heaven, but He came down for us, and took the rejection, hatred and insults of men and even death on the cross for us, to show that He loves us and to save us from sin.

 Jesus said: ‘I love you with an everlasting love’. ‘Even if your own father and mother forget you, I will not forget you’

He did not merely say that He loves us, but proved it by shedding every drop of His blood for us and sacrificing His very life for us. As a man He went through everything that we can possibly go through – loneliness, pain, rejection, temptation, physical and mental torture and hunger – all because He loves us. Is there anyone else who will be ready to go through all this for our sake? Is there anyone who will be ready to die for us? Jesus not only died for us but rose from the dead on the third day after His death, proving that He truly is God, and is alive today.

Invite Jesus into your heart and you can experience His love today and be changed completely. He loves you more than you can imagine; more than anyone else in this world possibly can. He will accept you as you are – with all weaknesses – and change you into someone totally new. You need not feel lonely in this world anymore – Jesus is with you. You need not live in rejection – Jesus accepts you. He will not betray you. He will not let you down. You are precious to Him. He has given His life for you. If you have no other reason to live for, you can live for Him. EVEN IF EVERYONE ELSE FAILS YOU, JESUS WILL NEVER FAIL YOU.

Please pray this prayer: ‘ Jesus, I welcome you into my life. I acknowledge that I need you. Fill me with your love. I accept and believe that you died on the cross to save me, shed your blood to forgive my sins and rose on the third day to give me new life. Thank you that you love me. Thank you that you accept me as I am. I believe you can change my life forever. Thank you, Jesus. I love you Jesus. Jesus, lead me and guide me all through my life’

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