Sunday, February 26, 2017

Answering Practical Objections To Sola Scriptura

  • Is Sola Scriptura Based On Circular Reasoning?:
          -This objection would hold water if, and only if, adherents were to argue for belief in the divine inspiration of Scripture solely on the basis of what Scripture says about itself. That would be a fallacious claim by reason of being a viciously circular argument.
          -Arguments giving credence to the inspiration of Scripture:
            *Excellent moral teaching/life transforming power of Scripture
            *Incredible manuscript evidence for the authenticity of New Testament Scriptures
            *Consistency with world history/archaeological discoveries. If the four gospels for instance can be shown to be as reliable (or even more so than) as extra-biblical authors such as Plutarch, Josephus, and Tacitus, then we must accept Jesus Christ as being the Son of God. Radical skepticism toward the text would not be appropriate in that instance.
            *Scripture's fulfillment of prophecy points to its supernatural origin
          -If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then it follows from that premise everything set forth by that standard must also be true. That would not be circular, but sequential thinking.
          -Sola Scriptura is not a denial of the usefulness of extra-biblical sources. It does not mean we cannot consult material outside of Bible.
          -Some degree of circularity will always exist in the operational processes of any system that functions on the basis of an ultimate source of authority. It does not matter whether whether it be Catholic, Protestant, or secular. 
  • High Illiteracy Rates In The Early Church: 
          -Being illiterate does not mean that a person is dumb or has less of an ability to understand concepts. Sola Scriptura was still possible for the early Christians because:
            *Scripture can be taught orally by those who are literate.
            *Scripture can still be memorized or recited from memory.
            *Scripture can still be studied, though it may take more time to grasp the meaning behind certain passages of Scripture.
            *The Scriptures were read in the Synagogues and churches. In fact, the heretics of the early church would use Scripture to engage Christians.
          -The fact that persecution of Christians in the early church was problematic for the spread of the gospel did not reduce the importance of the unconverted hearing that message. In similar fashion, illiteracy rates would indeed be a problem for the study of Scripture. But at the same time, that point does nothing to lessen the authority of Scripture.
          -If the Jesus Christ passed on infallible, extra-biblical oral traditions that were meant to be heard by us, then what about the people who are deaf? If illiteracy rates disqualify Scripture from functioning as the only infallible rule of faith, then is the Roman Catholic "three-legged stool" disqualified because deaf people cannot hear oral teaching?
  • Malnutrition In The Early Church:
          -Even if this is true, everybody in the church at this point in time had essentially the same diet. It takes no more nourishment to understand teachings found in a catechism than it does to understand passages of Scripture.
          -In order to refute Sola Scriptura, one has to demonstrate that the principle somehow conflicts with Scripture. The authority of Scripture is not determined by our intelligence. The authority of Scripture is not determined by our health. The authority of Scripture is not determined by its availability. Scripture is inherently authoritative because it is God-breathed.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Examining The Roman Catholic Dogma Of Purgatory

  • Introduction: 
          -The Roman Catholic Church defines purgatory as "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” and for those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It is further maintained that, “this final purification of the entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).
  • Purgatory Denies The Sufficiency Of Christ's Sacrifice:
          -The idea that we are able to atone for our sins undermines the message of the gospel. Christ made a sacrifice to save those who are utterly unable to make amends for sin themselves. We cannot offer any atonement sacrifice for sins by suffering in purgatory or by offering indulgences because that debt has already been fully settled by Christ Himself on the cross. To suggest that we must pay the penalty for any sin even after it has been pardoned by God diminishes the efficacy of His atonement. That is a terribly inadequate and inconsistent view of forgiveness. It would be an insult against God to the highest degree to try to pay for even the smallest part of a debt that He has already paid in full. It is another way of saying that His work is not good enough for us. If we are forgiven for a sin and there is still some sort of punishment that we must endure in the afterlife, then we are not really forgiven.
  • Does 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -These dead soldiers were struck down by God because of their idolatry (v. 40). According to the Catholic Church, idolatry is a mortal sin (CCC 1857; 1858). Mortal sins send a person to hell. Purgatory is for "venial" sins. Thus, we have no evidence for Purgatory in 2 Maccabees. This text is rejected as canonical by both Jews and Protestants. The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote, "The author, however, uses the story to demonstrate belief in the resurrection of the just (7:9, 14, 23, 36), and in the possibility of expiation for the sins of otherwise good people who have died. This belief is similar to, but not quite the same as, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory."
  • Does Matthew 5:25-26 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -The context is about anger and settling disputes in relationships (v. 21-24). No one can deny that this passage is speaking about hell because it is mentioned in context (v. 22). A person in hell would be there "until he had paid the last cent," meaning that his stay there would be eternal, as he could never give a ransom for it.
  • Does Matthew 12:31-32 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -The parallel passage makes the meaning of this one crystal clear (Mark 3:28-29). It simply means that a person who commits the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never receive forgiveness from God. Catholic Priest William G. Most agrees with this interpretation, "...the expression quoted is known in Rabbinic literature, where it means merely "never."
  • Does 1 Corinthians 3:15 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -This text is not about punishment for sins. It talks about eternal rewards (or lack thereof). In other words, the context is about testing the quality of each believer's work which determines his heavenly rewards (v. 10-14). It is not about believers undergoing punishment after death for venial sins. God will evaluate the quality of each believer's work so as to bestow praise appropriately (1 Corinthians 4:5). The phrase "he shall suffer loss" in verse fifteen refers to the loss of heavenly rewards. Catholic Priest William G. Most comments on this passage, "...the fire seems to mean the apocalyptic fire of the last day, not a fire of purgatory." The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15, “The text of v. 15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.”
  • Does 1 Peter 3:19 Offer Biblical Support For Purgatory?:
          -This text is not referring to human beings suffering in Purgatory, but rather concerns Christ descending into Hades for the purpose of proclaiming His victory to the fallen angels. It means that the same Holy Spirit of God who resurrected Jesus Christ from the grave also enabled Him to use Noah as an instrument to preach repentance to other men during his earthly lifespan (during the construction of the ark which took place prior to the Genesis flood). Jesus preached the message of His triumph over sin and death to the fallen angels who have been imprisoned since the time of the flood. 1 Peter 3:19 is referring not to a place for believers who were not fully purified from venial sins in this life but to a place for nonbelievers. The Roman Catholic New American Bible Revised Edition has this footnote: "3, 19: The spirits in prison: It is not clear just who these spirits are. They may be the spirits of the sinners who died in the flood, or angelic powers, hostile to God, who have been overcome by Christ (ch 22; Gn 6, 4; Enoch 6-36, especially 21, 6; 2 Enoch 7, 1-5)."
  • Some Eastern Orthodox sources, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, consider Purgatory to be among:
          -"inter-correlated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church” that are not acceptable within Orthodox doctrine, and hold to a “condition of waiting” as a more apt description of the period after death for those not borne directly to heaven. This waiting condition does not imply purification, which they see as being linked to the idea “there is no hope of repentance or betterment after death.” Prayers for the dead, then, are simply to comfort those in the waiting place."
  • The Origin Of The Roman Catholic Dogma Of Purgatory:
          -“...The written prayers which have survived, and the evidence from the catacombs and burial inscriptions indicate that the early church believed deceased Christians to be residing in peace and happiness and the nature of the prayers offered for them were that they might have a greater experience of these. As early as Tertullian, in the late second and beginning of the third century, these prayers often used the Latin term refrigerium as a request of God on behalf of departed Christians, a term which means ‘refreshment’ or ‘to refresh’ and came to embody the concept of heavenly happiness. So even though the early Church prayed for the dead, it does not support the concept of a purgatory for the nature of the prayers themselves indicate the Church did not believe the dead to be residing in a place of suffering. The roots on the teaching on purgatory can be traced back to pagan Greek religion and philosophy in such writings as the Roman poet Virgil's Aeneid and especially through the influence of Plato, whose views were introduced into the Church primarily through Origen...He was an influential promoter of purgation through suffering after death.” (William Webster, Roman Catholic Tradition: Claims and Contradictions, p. 63-64)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Refuting The Use Of Objects In Worship

  • Introduction: 
          -The Roman Catholic Church (and Eastern Orthodox) use statues and icons as part of their worship. People who occupy objects for such purposes believe that they aid them in remembering God, Jesus, Mary, or other important figures in Christianity. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says, "Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” (Paragraph 2132)
          -Advocates of using images in worship regularly bow down before statues, icons, and images of Christian figures, kissing at the feet of the statues, and praying to them. Some will even be rolling in front of statues, showering flowers on them, lighting candles before them, carrying statues in procession, and changing the clothing on them daily. In Roman Catholic churches, there are several paintings of Jesus, Mary, Peter, and canonized saints. There is an abundance of religious iconography.
          -"Owing to the influence of the Old Testament prohibition of images, Christian veneration of images developed only after the victory of the Church over paganism. The Synod of Elvira (about 306) still prohibited figurative representations in the houses of God (Can. 36)." (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 320)
  • The Case Against The Use Of Statues, Images, And Relics In Worship:
          -Actions such as kneeling (in religious contexts) and prayer are defined as worship according to Scripture (Exodus 20:5; Isaiah 44:17; 45:20; Matthew 4:9-10; 6:6-14; Philippians 2:10). The apostles refused to accept honor as people knelt before them (Acts 10:25-26; 14:13-15). Even the angels who served God did not want people bowing before them in reverence (Revelation 4:10; 19:10; 22:8-9). Directing such adoration and devotion to entities other than God is idolatry. It also is noteowrthy that Roman Catholics sing worship psalms to various saints and wear amulets with pictures of Mary on them.
          -God clearly condemned making figures for the purpose of giving religious devotion or honor to beings other than Him (Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 4:15-24; 2 Chronicles 33:6-7). In fact, the Apostle Paul specifically said that God is not served with physical objects (Acts 17:23-25). God said that He would not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). We are not to worship God like the pagans do with their gods. That kind of worship is offensive to Him.
  • A Valid Practice In The New Testament?:
          -In the New Testament, we are never given permission to use statues as an aid in worship. We have no examples of such activity being approved of by God. As noted previously, the Apostle Paul affirmed Old Testament prohibitions on using material objects in worship. Idols pose a danger to our relationship with God. There are also different forms of idolatry (Ephesians 5:5-7). The only time we see people bowing before statues in Scripture are the unfaithful and unbelieving.
  • Veneration Verses Worship:
          -When Roman Catholics are accused of worshiping Mary and the saints, they usually respond by saying that they are simply venerating (i.e. giving honor to) them. This claim is elaborated on by dividing this veneration into three distinct categories (using Latin): latria (God alone), hyperdulia (Mary alone), and dulia (saints and angels).
          -Even though this argument sounds good when written on paper, it is theoretical only. It does not work in practice. Occupying separate labels does not change the essence of what is being done. Scripture does not provide any justification for three different classes of honor to give to three different classes of beings (i.e. God, Mary, and saints). In fact, every instance of religious veneration recorded in Scripture by a faithful person is directed to God alone. That point is not without significance. We would do well to remember that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Nahum 1:2). He does not take the issue of worship lightly.
  • Defining What Is Permissible:
          -We ought to give honor to the people who deserve it (Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:7). Bowing can be a custom of respect toward authority, although God has never ordained that a person represented by a statue be the recipient of such honor. It is also not wrong to have pieces of art for decoration and pictures that we cherish. God can indeed use images to communicate divine truths. Moreover, it is even acceptable to honor Christians from the past by acknowledging their faith and following their moral example (Hebrews 11). However, building statues with the intent of bowing before them and offering prayer or adoration to entities other than God Himself transcends honor. Such behavior is idolatry.
  • Does The Creation Of The Bronze Serpent Support Bowing Before Statues In Worship (Numbers 21:6-9)?:
          -God commanded Moses to make the Bronze Serpent for a one time purpose (John 3:14-16). However, the Israelites converted it into an object of worship. It ended up getting destroyed by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3-4). There is no scriptural evidence that the Bronze Serpent was ever supposed to be used as an aid in worship.
  • Does The Creation Of The Two Cherubs Support Bowing Before Statues In Worship (Exodus 25:18)?:
          -God commanded the making of two golden cherubs, but the Jews were not called to bow down before them or serve them.
  • Does The Creation Of The Ark Of The Covenant Support Bowing Before Statues In Worship (Joshua 7:6-7)?:
          -God ordered the Israelites to make the ark so that He could dwell in their presence and meet with the leaders (Exodus 25:8; 22). But why does the ark have two images of angels (Exodus 25:18-21)? It has them because it is a replica of God's throne in heaven (Isaiah 6:1-2). This is further evidenced by the fact that the ark of the covenant also served as a footstool for the "feet" of the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:2). Unlike the ark, the images used in Roman Catholic veneration represent alleged saints.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Lord's Prayer (An Exegetical Analysis Of Matthew 6:6-14)

          In prayer, our principal focus must be on God. He is to be the object of our attention and thoughts. We are in His divine presence. He answers one's prayer based on sincerity and faithfulness (v. 6). Christ's words are not a condemnation of public worship itself. Prayer is not to be done with the intent of impressing other people.

          We are not to pray in the manner that pagans do, as for instance like the worshipers of Baal (1 Kings 18:26). Prayer should be intelligent and coherent. Repetition itself is not a problem (Matthew 26:42–46). It is not to be done boisterously or in a state of ecstasy. We are not to utter rash sayings in offering up our prayers to God (v. 7). He rejects prayer tainted with self-righteousness.

          God knows everything, which includes our prayer requests, even before we even go to Him (v. 8). We do not know ourselves as well as He does. Only pagans think that their gods need to be told about human needs. That is not the case with the living God. Thus, the purpose of prayer is communion with Him. Christ is our spiritual food. He is consumed by faith.

          We acknowledge that God is the Creator and Lord of all. It follows from that premise we are to give Him rightful honor and worship (v. 9). We must approach Him in humility and respect. Jesus Christ was giving to His disciples a proper model for prayer in contrast to the vain and empty words of unbelievers. It would also indicate who was one of His disciples. Israel had failed to properly honor God's name (Ezekiel 36:22-23).

          We pray with knowledge beforehand that God is sovereign for His kingdom to come (v. 10). It has no boundaries in terms of extent. Our wills are to be perfectly aligned with God's will. Our desire is that good conquers the evils of this world. God has a plan which cannot be thwarted. It will be fully brought to fruition when Christ returns for a second time.

          We live in a world that overflows with tragedies: poverty, wars, famine, diseases, etc. Only goodness can exist in the kingdom of God. We pray that He supply our needs on a daily basis (v. 11). He continues to provide for us according to His will. This points to the reality that we need to depend on God daily. Prayer is more than merely asking God for material items.

          In prayer, we humbly ask God for the forgiveness of our sins (v. 12). Sin is an offense against Him. We have repeatedly violated His perfect standard of morality, the Law. We must pray for sins committed even after conversion. This does not mean we must approach God with a list of our sins because we could not possibly remember all of them or realize the degree to which we are sinful. His mercy is greater than that.

          We must follow the example of God forgiving our trespasses against Him (v. 14). That means we ought not hold anger or resentment towards other people. We do not hold offenses committed against us by others in the past over their heads. We must forgive the sins of other people because that is what He has done for us. We too are sinful beings. Forgiveness is the essence of the Christian message. It eliminates human pride and boasting.

          We pray to God that He protects us from succumbing to the influences of evil in this world. This request encompasses both attacks from Satan and unfortunate events in our lives. Temptation is inevitable for us as long as we live on this earth. God will bring His purposes to pass in His own timing. He is entitled to perpetual glory (v. 13). 

Surveying The Book Of Ecclesiastes

          The Book of Ecclesiastes describes what life is like in a fallen world. It gives an account of man living out his life in temporal terms and God's control over him (Ecclesiastes 3:15; 9:1). The author of this work, traditionally ascribed to Solomon, portrays eating, drinking, and work in a positive light. He says that there is a time for everything, whether it be laughter, joy, or sorrow. These things are beneficial to man in their own way. 

          This work is distinct from other writings of the Old Testament due to its seemingly pessimistic language in regard to the continued pursuit of earthly pleasures. It would make more sense to approach it with an eternal perspective in mind than our limited human understanding. It is from the former point of view that optimism shines through in our lives. We are hereby compelled to change how we think about things.

          Ecclesiastes is similar to Philippians in that all earthly pursuits are subordinate to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8). The author of this work uses the phrase "under the sun" more than once in writing. He made observations about the transitory nature of our life and achievements. They are as a grain of sand in a desert.

          Ecclesiastes illustrates the futility of placing an over emphasis on worldly passions. It destroys the mentality of a materialist by showing him the futility of his own ways. Even if one could find satisfaction in earthly possessions and success, death lies at the door. Compare Ecclesiastes 3:19 to Genesis 3:19. We can honestly say with Abraham that we are but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27).

          The fate of man is the same as that of a beast, death. The fate of the righteous man is the same as that of the unrighteous man, death. We all have the same fate. We will all meet our Creator one day. The only difference lies in our eternal destinies. The righteous will receive eternal life and the unrighteous eternal damnation. Man dies and is forgotten. The events of his life are forever hidden from posterity. Man no longer partakes of things in this world once he passes away (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). 

          Ecclesiastes crushes any form of human pride by setting forth a proper perspective of life. The point being made is not that earthly pursuits as such are bad in and of themselves. It is wrong to excessively esteem our abilities. Things that we have accomplished have been done by others who lived before us. Life from a materialistic perspective is futile. That is the reason for the author's usage of the phrase "vanity of vanities."

          The human heart longs for something more than this life. That is why man is instinctively religious. He has a strong desire for something that transcends this temporal order. The human heart finds its fulfillment in God. The world and the things therein are perishing. The things of our fallen world are subject to wear and tear. The human heart can only rest content in God.

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Amazing Grace

            Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.

            ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.

            Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.

            The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures; He will my Shield and Portion be, As long as life endures.

            Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace.

            The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine; But God, who called me here below, Will be forever mine.

            When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we’d first begun.

      Lyrics originally written by John Newton

      Did The Catholic Church Give Us The Bible?

      • Defining The Issues:
                -The Church of Rome argues that if we did not have its allegedly apostolic oral traditions, we would not have the canon of Scripture. This claim is obviously one of the Roman Catholic Church's attempts to exalt itself as an infallible authority in addition to the Bible.
                -It is claimed that the canon issue was settled at the Council of Hippo (393 AD) and the Council of Carthage (397 AD). Then, it was supposedly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent (1546 AD). As a result of this major accomplishment, we are indebted to Rome and obligated to submit to its claims to infallible teaching authority.
                -Roman Catholic apologists commonly argue that we must embrace the traditions of their church in order to know with certainty which writings comprise the Bible. These people assert that we can have no certainty as to which books belong in the canon of Scripture, apart from Rome's authoritative pronouncements.
      • A Circular Appeal:
                -This point can be illustrated in the following manner: "The Bible and Tradition are true because the infallible Church defined them to be such. The Roman Catholic Church is true because the Bible and Tradition told us so." The ultimate argument offered by Rome to us on this issue is that we must accept the canon of Scripture on the basis that it says so. That is circular reasoning. How can we know that the Roman Catholic Church's claims to infallibility are true? The Roman Catholic Church's claims to authority are ultimately self-defeating, since its "infallible" dogmas must be fallibly interpreted by the individual.
      • How Can We Know Which Person Wrote Which Books Of The Bible, Since The Bible Does Not Contain Its Own Table Of Contents?:
                -How do Roman Catholics know which oral traditions are inspired? Do they have an inspired table of contents identifying which specific oral traditions that we are supposed to heed to?
                -Canonical writings such as Job and Hebrews have unknown authors, yet the Church of Rome has never officially identified who wrote those books. If "not knowing the author" automatically means a denial of the divine inspiration of a text, then would Roman Catholics be willing to throw away those books of the Bible, since their authors are unknown?
                -We must be dependent on outside sources of information in order to gather information regarding the canon of Scripture. No figure from the early church can directly tell us which books of the New Testament are canonical because they are now deceased. So we must resort to the extant extra-biblical writings of the early church. We must draw some of our conclusions from the early church fathers.
      • The Problem Of The Old Testament Canon:
                -How did the Jewish people, who lived prior to the birth of Jesus Christ, know how to identify Old Testament books such as Isaiah and Jeremiah to be inspired by God? How did the Jews know that such books were inspired without the assistance of an infallible teaching authority? How come God did not simply give the Jews an inspired table of contents specifically identifying which Old Testament books were inspired?
                 *The Roman Catholic Magisterium could not have identified the inspired books of the Old Testament for the Jews because it did not exist before the birth of Christ.
                 *There is no historical evidence pointing to any sort of belief in the infallibility of the Jewish religious leaders. In fact, Jesus Christ rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for doctrinal errors (Matthew 15; Mark 7).
      • The Irony Of Affirming The Need Of Infallible Certainty Over The Canon:
                -If infallible certainty over the canon is as important as Roman Catholic apologists make it sound, then why did it take Rome over 1,500 years to officially settle the issue at the Council of Trent? Why would a supposedly infallible institution wait so long to give its members infallible certainty on the canon of Scripture?
                 *“According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.” (The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 3, page 29, Copyright 1967; Under “Canon, Biblical”)
                 *“The Tridentine decrees from which the above list is extracted was the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to the Church Universal.” (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under the category titled "Canon of The Old Testament")
      • The Councils Of Hippo And Carthage Were Local Synods, Not Ecumenical:
                -The Councils of Hippo and Carthage were only provincial. The decisions of these groups were limited to their respective regions, despite there being debates with broader implications than their associated localities like clerical discipline, baptism, and heretical practices. Their rulings were not binding on the Christian church as a whole. These were African councils. In fact, neither the Councils of Hippo nor Carthage were able to definitively settle any issues occurring in the church during that specific time.
      • The Canon Of Scripture And Church Councils:
                -While church councils helped to make more pronounced the New Testament canon, they did not give the New Testament books their authority (which is not official Roman Catholic teaching but, a popular assertion parroted by its apologists). Scripture is inherently authoritative because it is God-breathed. The degree of certainty that one posses regarding the canon is sufficient certainty. The early Christians identified the inspired writings and affirmed them as such.
                -"It is a remarkable fact no early Church Council selected the books that should constitute the New Testament Canon. The books that we now have crushed out all rivals, not by any adventitious authority, but by their own weight and worth. This is in itself a strong proof of the genuineness and authenticity of the books that have survived. It is not until the close of fourth that any Council even discussed the subject." (Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 25)

      Loving One's Neighbor

      We all have the tendency to act selfishly toward others. In our world, people are constantly thinking of themselves and fail to recognize that it is not right or proper for them to behave in such a manner. If we can support ourselves and focus on our own desires, then what barrier is preventing us from doing the same with other people? A distinguishing characteristic of Christian piety is not simply love for one's own, but love even for enemies. We often do not live according to Christ's teaching ourselves. Why would God create us if our purpose was only to live in a dungeon of sin? Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our purpose in life is to know, love, and serve God in this world with the intent of spending eternity with Him.

      We act according to God's will when we love our neighbors as ourselves. His Son gave Himself up on a cross for our sake so that we could be with God eternally in heaven. We who worship Him can give ourselves up by spreading the Gospel of Grace. We can help others to see beyond a self-serving scope which is created by the lenses on the glasses of sin. We know God through His work. We can see things clearly when we put on the glasses of godliness. What is the right decision in life? The proper decision is to demonstrate our love for God by loving our neighbor. We can do kind deeds for others such as raking lawns for the elderly, giving food to the poor, and forgiving the wrongful actions against us committed by others.

      We more fully understand what it means to love God when we love our neighbors. If we do not love them, then we do not love God and cannot serve Him. Jesus said,"If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Our lives as Christians are to be lived out in obedience to Him. Human life itself has intrinsic value. God judges without showing partiality. The love of self is the natural predisposition of man. It is our assumed state of being. The challenge lies in projecting that love away from ourselves. We ought to love God and neighbor. 

      We serve the Creator when we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. When we serve others, we are fulfilling His message of doing good for others. When we feed the hungry, we are serving God. When we cloth the naked and visit the prisoners, we are serving God. When we do any form of charity, we are serving God. Preaching the gospel should be our utmost way of serving Him.

      We live in a world that is selfish. This is not the way that God intended things to be. That way of life is contrary to His morality. We must look beyond ourselves and our passions. We must extend a helping hand to others, especially our brethren in the church. We are fully capable of doing good works through the grace of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He changes the hearts of people who repent of their sins and believe on Christ for salvation. We are to devote ourselves to the will of God with an eternal perspective.

      Friday, February 17, 2017

      What Is The Relationship Between Faith And Reason?

                Secular people tend to believe that religion and science contradict each other. They are thereby depicted as not being compatible entities. It is claimed by atheists that faith and reason together cannot be used to construct a coherent worldview. A dichotomy is set up between an irrational person who believes in religion or the rational and sane person who believes in science alone. That is a misguided conception, however. It would be akin to saying that one has greater faith in science than faith itself.

                The truth of the matter is that people who maintain that faith and reason are incompatible have presented a false dichotomy. A logical person can also be religious. A religious person can indeed be reasonable and intelligent. In fact, foundational scientific advancements were made during a time when most scientists were religious people. While faith and reason are distinct from each other, they function together in different amounts.

                Faith and reason are inseparable. Faith cannot operate without reason. Reason cannot operate without faith. One cannot function independently of the other. Both must co-exist. Faith and reason overlap. The two do not stand in contradiction to each other when their relationship is properly understood. They complement each other. Beliefs rest on both faith and reason. Faith exists no matter how strong the evidence for a given proposition is.

                Our faith should not be blind but informed by evidence. We occupy reason to grasp scientific concepts such as DNA, the atmosphere, and dinosaurs. Truths revealed solely through divine revelation would include the Trinity and virgin birth. These spiritual truths transcend the natural realm. Faith and reason overlap in areas such as intelligent design, objective moral laws, and the resurrection. These matters require both elements. When faith and reason walk together, we see completeness in our lives.

      Is Mandatory Celibacy For Church Leaders A Biblical Custom?

      • Introduction:
                -For centuries, the Church of Rome has enforced strict regulations regarding the marriage of clergymen. Bishops and priests have been required to remain in an unmarried state as long as they practice their profession. But we must ask whether this custom has any biblical basis? Is it lawful for any church to establish as a discipline the prohibition of leaders from having marital relationships? If so, then why? Allow us to examine the validity of this Roman Catholic practice by weighing it against Scripture and history.
      • Consider This Quotation From The Roman Catholic Catechism:
                -"In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry." (CCC, 1580).
      • The Second Vatican Council, In Its Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, On The Ministry And Life Of Priests, Says That The Celibate Life Is:
                -"...not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church(35) and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches, where, besides those who with all the bishops, by a gift of grace, choose to observe celibacy, there are also married priests of highest merit. This holy synod, while it commends ecclesiastical celibacy, in no way intends to alter that different discipline which legitimately flourishes in the Eastern Churches. It permanently exhorts all those who have received the priesthood and marriage to persevere in their holy vocation so that they may fully and generously continue to expend themselves for the sake of the flock commended to them."
      • Consider This Excerpt From The Encyclopedia Britannica: 
                -"The first Lateran Council, the ninth ecumenical council (1123), was held during the reign of Pope Calisto's II; no acts or contemporary accounts survive. The Council promulgated a number of canons (probably 22), many of which merely reiterated decrees of earlier councils. Much of the discussion was occupied with disciplinary or quasi-political decisions relating to the Investiture Controversy settled the previous year by the Concordat of Worms; simony was condemned, laymen ere prohibited from disposing of church property, clerics in major orders were forbidden to marry, and uncanonical consecration of bishops was forbidden. There were no specific dogmatic decrees." (The canons of the First Lateran Council in 1123 AD during the reign of Pope Calixtus II)
                -"Canons 3 and 11 forbid priests, deacons, subdeacons, and monks to marry or to have concubines; it is also forbidden them to keep in their houses any women other than those sanctioned by the ancient canons. Marriages of clerics are null pleno jure, and those who have contracted them are subject to penance."
                -In 1079 AD, celibacy was first enforced for priests and bishops by Pope Gregory VII. Previously, they were permitted to marry.
      • What Does Scripture Say About The Matter?:
                -The New Testament teaches that a bishop (also known as an "elder" or "overseer") can be married and have children (1 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:5-9). In fact, how a man raises his family shows whether he can handle a position of authority in the church. Clergymen at least have the right to make that decision for themselves without being required to give up their ministerial position.
      • Married Church Leaders In The New Testament:
                -The Apostle Peter was married (Matthew 8:14). This is significant because the Roman Catholic Church claims that Peter was its first pope. In addition, the Apostle Paul said that the other apostles (including Peter) and all brethren in the Lord have the right to marriage (1 Corinthians 9:5). Scripture always speaks positively of marriage (Genesis 2:18). It is not as though sex within the confines of marriage makes one unfit to uphold a position of leadership in the church.
      • A Route Into Apostasy:
                -The Holy Spirit warns that "forbidding to marry" and "commanding to abstain from meats" are "doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1-4). Not only does the Roman Catholic Church forbid its leaders from marriage, but it also teaches adherents to abstain from meats for long periods of time such as Lent. In fact, the Church of Rome used to forbid all of its adherents from eating meat every Friday. However, no elder in the church has any authority to impose these kinds of restrictions on the people of God. Rome has therefore clearly been shown to be in error. These kind of things happen when leaders are not held accountable for their actions.
      • Any Scriptural Support?:
                -Biblical texts such as Matthew 19:11-12 that commend the concept of celibacy say nothing about making an entire profession only to celibate men or women. Rather, they affirm that marriage is a matter of choice. It is simply cruel and arbitrary to make a man choose between being a minister and becoming a husband and father.

      Thursday, February 16, 2017

      Is The Roman Catholic Eucharist Biblical?

      • Defining The Issues:
                -Transubstantiation is the belief that during the Lord's Supper the elements (bread and wine) are changed into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ (to be consumed by the attendees of the worship services). 
                -There is a change in the substance but not in the appearance of the bread and wine. This transformation occurs during the Mass at the elevation of the elements by a priest. 
                -The center of the Mass is the eucharistic sacrifice, which is called a bloodless "re-representation" of Christ. 
                -The most common biblical references cited to substantiate Roman Catholic eucharistic theology are the Lord's Supper and Bread of Life Discourse.
      • There Is No Evidence That Christ Intended His Words To Be Understood In A Woodenly Literal Sense:
                -There are no implications in the biblical accounts of the Lord's Supper that the apostles believed that the elements were "changed" into the body and blood of Christ. The communion elements were never worshiped as God in Scripture.
      • After The Institution Of The Lord's Supper, Both The Elements Were Still Called Bread And Wine:
                -Jesus spoke figuratively of His blood as being the "fruit of the vine," even after transubstantiation was supposed to occur (Matthew 26:28-29).
                -The Apostle Paul mentions the Lord's Supper and refers to the element of bread as bread and the element of wine as wine (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
                -If Roman Catholic apologists claim that the words "bread and wine" are a synecdoche, then that at least opens the door to more symbolic Protestant interpretations of that meal as being valid. Even the literalist view of communion admits a degree of symbolism. 
      • The Mass Violates Old Testament Prohibitions Against Drinking Blood:
                -The Levitical Law condemned the practice of drinking blood (Genesis 9:5; Leviticus 3:17; 17:10-14; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:23).
                 *The New Covenant was not established until Jesus' blood was shed on the Cross (Luke 22:10; Hebrews 9:15-16). Thus, taking Christ's words literally (especially during the Lord's Supper and Bread of Life Discourse) would make Him an impostor who is guilty of breaking the Law.
      • There Is No Remission Of Sins Without The Shedding Of Blood (Hebrews 9:22):
                -Christ's atonement is propitiation for our sins. His blood was shed on the cross. That is what is required in order for the wrath of God to be turned away from us. While the context of Hebrews relates to the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant, the point remains that eucharistic sacrifices are unbloody. They therefore are not valid before God. The context of Hebrews 9:22 admits of no new economy for sacrifices for sin like that of the Levitical system.
      • Jesus Christ's Body Was Shed On The Cross Once For All:
                -The Book of Hebrews teaches that Jesus Christ made atonement for our sin once and for all in these last days (Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:10-18). His act was done a single time for eternity. That means His work is not ongoing or continuing to be offered. There is no "re-presenting" His work on a weekly basis as the Roman Catholic Church claims.
      • The Kingdom Of God Does Not Consist Of Food And Drink, But Godly Living:
                -Rome teaches that the eucharist is the means by which Christians maintain spiritual life. It is viewed as the summit of communion with God. The Apostle Paul, however, says that the kingdom of God does not comprise of food and drink (Romans 14:17). The blessings that He provides are a result of His grace. If Paul believed that the repeated consumption of Christ's body as the eucharist was a requirement for salvation, then this would have been a place for him to affirm such rather than categorically rejecting matters of food and drink as relating to the kingdom of God.
      • Exegetical Comments On John 6:51-58:
                -Jesus oftentimes spoke to the crowds using parables (Matthew 13:10-11; 34; Mark 4:11; 34). Notice that the Gospel of John itself records many symbolic statements made by Jesus. Examples would include "born again," "living water," "meat that ye know not of," and "destroy this temple." Moreover, Christ made several "I am" statements throughout John's gospel (John 15:5; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11). Out of the four gospels, only in John are these terms used by Jesus. Thus, we have good reason to believe that He was speaking metaphorically in John chapter 6.
                -In the Old Testament, eating bread was considered the equivalent of obedience to God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). This kind of reasoning in regard to the Book of the Law is echoed in the Jewish apocrypha (Sirach 24:20-22). Ben Sira also spoke of being fed with the bread of understanding and given the water of wisdom (Sirach 15:3). The Book of Proverbs employs similar imagery in the context of receiving instruction (Proverbs 9:5). The Jewish Philosopher Philo spoke in terms of consuming divine wisdom.
                -Just as God had provided manna to the Israelites in the desert as deliverance from starvation, so He had sent Jesus Christ into this world as a sacrificial provision to deliver us from eternal condemnation. That is the meaning of Christ being "bread from heaven."
                -Unlike the Torah, Christ can completely satisfy our spiritual huger and thirst (John 6:49-51). "Eating flesh" and "drinking blood" is to be understood as trusting in Christ for salvation. We consume Him by faith and He sustains us spiritually by that same means.
                -It is the words of Christ that impart life to those who believe (John 5:24; 6:63). This perspective of eating finds its basis in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 2:8-3:3). Eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood means coming to Him and believing on His name (John 6:35).
                -Just as circumcision was a symbol of the Mosaic Covenant (Genesis 17:10-11), bread and wine are used as symbols for the New Covenant (Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
                -The Lord's Supper has sacrificial overtones because the elements point to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary as opposed to themselves.
      • Why Did Many Disciples Leave Jesus During The Bread Of Life Discourse? Was It Because They Had To Literally Eat His Flesh And Drink His Blood?:
                -No, the audience left Jesus Christ because it did not believe the claims that He had established concerning His divine messiahship (John 6:52). Unbelievers, who were in this case the Jews, had hardened their hearts against God. They only remained around Christ temporarily because they were physically hungry. The Jewish people were not searching for the truth of the gospel, which satisfies all longings of the human soul. Their thinking was not spiritual but carnal. The Jews were not right with God.
                -After the departure of the 5,000, Jesus told the twelve remaining disciples that the words of His lecture were not literal but spiritual (John 6:63). In other words, His speech was not to be understood in a physical or materialistic sense. We must come to Jesus Christ and place our trust in Him for salvation. He is life to us, and we partake of Him by faith.
                -Even if the Jews had understood His words literally, that does not prove such an interpretation to be correct. It is clear throughout the four gospel accounts that Jesus Christ did not have a problem with speaking bluntly and offending those who clung to their man-made traditions. He was not afraid to offend Jewish sensibilities. He spoke in a figurative manner, which requires interpretation. Jesus did not always explain His teaching, nor was He obligated to (John 2:19-21). He knew from the very beginning who would have faith and who would not (John 6:64).
      • Does The Repetitive Nature Of Christ's Words Prove Them To be Literal?:
                -Jesus is called the Lamb of God or the Lamb thirty times in the New Testament. If repetition proves literalness, then Jesus must be a literal lamb. But this is obviously figurative language. Repetition, whether it be closely spaced or spread far apart, does not prove "literalness."
      • Does The Forcefulness Or Vividness Of Christ's Words Prove Them To Be Literal?:
                -As for the vivid language found in John 6:51-58, the Book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel, and the Book of Psalms also occupies quite vivid language or undeniably symbolic material. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation was also written by the Apostle John. "Vivid" simply does not translate into "literalness." The context determines the literalness of any text.
      • Does Malachi 1:11 Prove That The Lord's Supper Is A Sacrifice?:
                -The "incense" is a reference to prayers (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3-4).
                -The "pure offering" is a metaphorical reference to believers offering their praise and good deeds as sacrifices which satisfy God (Hebrews 13:15-16; Philippians 4:18).
                -The theme of spiritual sacrifice or offering is found throughout Scripture (Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 66:20; 1 Peter 2:5).
      • Does Hebrews 9:23 Support The Repetitive Sacrifices Of The Catholic Mass?:
                -"sacrifices--The plural is used in expressing the general proposition, though strictly referring to the one sacrifice of Christ once for all. Paul implies that His one sacrifice, by its matchless excellency, is equivalent to the Levitical many sacrifices. It, though but one, is manifold in its effects and applicability to many." (Excerpt taken from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible)

        Wednesday, February 15, 2017

        The Wrong Idiom

        "We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman.” Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus."

        C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 134

        Tuesday, February 14, 2017

        What Is Love?

                On what basis or by what standard can one claim to have authentic love? Why is Love even significant? Love is what enables us to have a dedicated, compassionate relationships with other people. It is the foundation of all morality. This innate desire is completely different from a mere instinct or physiological obsession because it is recognized by reason and acted on by free will. Love is therefore a pillar which keeps the gears of this world turning in a peaceful manner. It is not merely an empty sensation.

                Just imagine what the world would be like if the concept of love was merely a product of the mentally deranged. It is not possible to care about anything without love, for it is the innate desire of the human heart to self-sacrifice for the sake of other people. It necessarily entails wanting what is best for others. Love is kind. Love is caring. Love entails self-sacrifice. All these concepts are interrelated. They thus function together in perfect harmony. In fact, the existence of love presupposes the existence of care. Love is the foundation of morality. Love rejoices in the truth, and weeps tenderly in the presence of falsehood. Animosity and vindictiveness negates any demonstration of love.

                 If people cannot work together because of hatred, then life on earth would come to an unnecessary, abrupt termination because no further progress could be made. Love and hatred cannot co-exist because they are contrary notions. Moreover, hatred brews other abominable states of heart such as being prideful, jealous, selfish, and unforgiving. Without love, life would collapse like a line of dominoes. Mankind cannot thrive without love, any more than a tree can survive without water. Hatred presents us with a rather hopeless and miserable picture of life in general. On the basis of divine revelation and plain reason we can claim to know what love is. God Himself is love.

        Is The Lord's Day Saturday or Sunday?

        • Introduction:
                  -God had originally instituted Saturday as the Sabbath during the Old Testament so that His people could relax from physical labor and concentrate on worshiping Him. The prohibition of work on that day did not extend to service done for God or that which is necessary.
                  -Christians gathered on Sunday because Jesus Christ resurrected on that day. Acts 20:7-12 speaks of worship and the breaking of bread on the first day of the week. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 speaks of money being set aside on the first day of each week.
        • Sabbath Worship Nowhere Mentioned In The New Testament:
                  -The New Testament restates nine of the Ten Commandments. Worshiping God according to His will covers the first three commandments. The Sabbath is the missing one. Why? The reason is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), and He is our rest (Hebrews 4)!
        • Are Christians Obligated To Observe The Sabbath?:
                -There is nothing wrong in and of itself with Christians gathering together to worship on Saturday. In fact, we have been given the liberty of choosing which days that we wish to celebrate in worship of God (Romans 14:1-12; Colossians 2:13-17). We should be glorifying the Creator daily.
        • What Is The Purpose Of Sunday Worship?:
                  -The purpose of gathering to worship God on Sunday is to celebrate the Christ's finished work on the cross and His resurrection (1 Corinthians 11:26). Furthermore, Jesus instructed us to use bread and wine (communion "meal") as symbols to remember His body and shed blood (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Christians do not observe a "Christian Sabbath." Rather, we set aside a day to especially worship God. However, it is understandable if one cannot do so on that day due to an obstacle such as a business schedule or family emergency. Sunday worship is simply a respectable, apostolic tradition. It is not a dogma, but we still need each other (Hebrews 10:25).
        • How Often Should We Celebrate Communion?:
                  -The New Testament does not identify a specific number of times (or when) in which Christians are to partake of the communion meal (bread and wine). However, notice how the Apostle Paul recorded a statement of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11:25, which is as follows, "Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." We can infer from those words that we have been given some flexibility. The frequency of participating in the communion meal is not as important as our state of heart when we do it. We should observe the Lord's Supper often enough to make it a vital part of our ongoing worship services. To partake of the meal too frequently would be to reduce it to merely a ritual. To partake of it in too seldom of a manner would cause people to forget the significance of Jesus Christ's work.

        Monday, February 13, 2017

        A Biblical Case For Sola Scriptura

                Sola Scriptura is the doctrine which states that the Bible alone is the only infallible rule of faith or spiritual standard for the church. It functions as the ultimate standard of authority in spiritual matters. It does not mean that the Bible provides us with an exhaustive description of every topic. Rather, it gives us everything that we need to know regarding salvation and godliness. Every necessary thing that we need to know about the faith is found in the Scriptures.

                There are other legitimate, but lesser, "rules of faith" that we can use. These would include creeds, catechisms, concordances, lexicons, commentaries, and the wisdom of godly leaders in the church. However, only Scripture is infallible. Such things, while useful, are therefore to be kept in check by that written standard of divine revelation.

                "Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." (Luke 1:1-4)

                Scripture is said to bring us certainty of the Lord's actions and teachings. In the midst of competing oral traditions and uninspired writings, we turn to Scripture as the only safe guide for spiritual truth.

                "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:30-31)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to lead one to eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ. If the Gospel of John by itself is sufficient to bring about conversion of heart, then it stands to reason that the same is true of the three other gospel narratives. If the Gospel of John is sufficient to bring about our salvation, then how much more sufficient must the Bible in its entirety be as a rule of faith? This form of argumentation is known as minore ad maius, meaning from the lesser to the greater.

                "and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to be regarded as containing the instructions to salvation. Though a reference to the Old Testament, this is a property of Scripture as a whole. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that, "...the word of God pierces to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

                "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:13)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to give one assurance of salvation.

                "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 14:37)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to contain the commandments of the Lord.

                "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to establish boundaries of proper conduct in the church. It is our guide now that the apostles have been deceased. They appealed to the Scriptures to substantiate their claims, despite being given divine revelation from God.

                "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to be a means of protection against sin.

                "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to be a guide to a life of godliness. It identifies wrong behavior as well as corrects it. For example, Scripture condemns thievery and prescribes work as the solution to that way of living (Ephesians 4:28). 2 Peter 1:3 compliments this text well, "as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue."

                "And these things we write to you that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4)

                Scripture alone is sufficient to bring joy that is complete. It points us to fellowship with God the Father and the Son.

                "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

                Paul believed Scripture to be a sufficient source of hope and encouragement for the people of God. His words are reminiscent of what he said elsewhere about Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16. They give us the assurance that, "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

                "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior." (2 Peter 3:1-2)

                Scripture is how we are reminded of apostolic oral traditions. The implication of this would seem to be that it has replaced them. Scripture therefore stands alone as our rule of faith.

        God's Divine Calling

               We live in a world that is based on selfish agendas. Most people in our society are only focused on the superficial aspects of life, which consists of material possessions, bodily appearance, and various sayings of so-called human wisdom. If we were placed on this earth only to indulge our own sinful lusts, then we could easily ignore those less fortunate than we. How can the bridge of human freedom stand over the troubled lake of perdition and iniquity? Jesus Christ commissioned us to serve others with compassion and humility. We as Christians can be servants of God by setting a good moral example for other people and by contributing to those who are in need.

               We can serve other people by being models for the lost. In other words, those who belong to the kingdom of darkness can be converted to our faith by examining the lifestyles of people who are in Christ. The darkness of this world ought to be lit by the candle of our faith. We as Christians are to plant seeds of conversion. People who trust in Christ as Lord and Savior will experience complete spiritual fulfillment. They will have joy and peace as a result of being children of God. We are simply the mirrors that point sinners to salvation by reflecting the personality of our Lord Jesus Christ. If the hearts of more people are changed, then that will have an effect on society.

               We can be servants by providing for the needy. We can assist others who are suffering from a lack of necessities by donating unused or unwanted clothing to second hand thrift stores, donating money, and contributing to food drives. Proper clothing can help people thrive in colder climates. Churches can work together in funding the construction of schools, hospitals, and homeless shelters. A sufficient amount of food will prevent people from dying of starvation. Our good works can provide hope for future generations, grounded in the preaching of the gospel. When we succor others, we are being fellow laborers for the sake of our Master. We are like compasses, which point people to the one who can satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst.

               We live in a world that is contaminated by the continuous serving of one-self. But we have been called to move beyond the microscope of our own sinful desires. In so doing, we obey the edict of Christ: “Whatsoever you do for the least of My Brothers, you do for Me.” We do this by setting ourselves up to be models for others to emulate. We do this by serving others. When we do these things, we are serving the Lord Jesus Christ.