Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Conversion Entails Spiritual Change

"If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his “conversion” was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in “religion” mean nothing unless they make our actual behavior better; just as in illness “feeling better” is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 207

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Examining The Catholic Doctrine Of The Real Presence In Light Of Scripture

        "Christ becomes present in the Sacrament of the Altar by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His Body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood...This transformation is called Transubstantiation.” (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 379)

        The Apostle Paul's language of "proclaim His death" and "until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26) logically suggests that the body of Jesus Christ is physically absent from the world at this point in time. He will return again to establish everlasting peace. If transubstantiation is true, then this passage of Scripture has been devoid of substance because Christ would be coming down from heaven on a daily basis by the command of ordained ministerial priests.

        The Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples that they would not see Him in the flesh after His ascension into heaven (John 7:33; 16:10; Acts 1:8-9). If He comes down from His throne at the command of a priest, then He would be contradicting Himself because He would be descending on a daily basis for believers to behold under the appearance of bread and wine.

        Paul stated that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1). If he believed in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the real presence, then it would have been perfectly reasonable for him to provide an exception to that idea. But he does not. Paul said elsewhere, "...even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer." (2 Corinthians 5:16).

        What can be inferred from the text of Scripture is Christ being present amongst believers in a spiritual sense (Matthew 18:20; 28:20). He is made present in our minds as we bring into remembrance the significance of His atoning work. Christ does not need to physically come down from heaven to be orally consumed in order to impart grace and nourish our faith.

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Patristic Witness Against Baptismal Regeneration

          Following are a few excerpts from an Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.) which seem to convey early opposition to baptismal regeneration or the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation. The first objection concerns people who heard the gospel and never had a chance to get baptized upon becoming a Christian:

          "And what wilt thou determine against the person of him who hears the word, and haply taken up in the name of Christ, has at once confessed, and has been punished before it has been granted him to be baptized with water? Wilt thou declare him to have perished because he has not been baptized with water? Or, indeed, wilt thou think that there may be something from without that helps him to salvation, although he is not baptized with water? They thinking him to have perished will be opposed by the sentence of the Lord, who says “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven;” because it is no matter whether he who confesses for the Lord is a hearer of the word or a believer, so long as he confesses that same Christ whom he ought to confess...therefore nobody can confess Christ without His name, nor can the name of Christ avail any one for confession without Christ Himself."

          The author of this treatise also uses the example of the apostles and their betrayal of Christ as an argument against baptismal regeneration:

          "...but all the disciples, to whom, though already baptized, the Lord afterwards says, that “all ye shall be offended in me,” all of whom, as we observe, having amended their faith, were baptized after the Lord’s resurrection with the Holy Spirit…the baptism of water, which is of less account provided that afterwards a sincere faith in the truth is evident in the baptism of the Spirit, which undoubtedly is of greater account."

         He even goes to distinguish between the baptism of water and the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

          "Which Spirit also filled John the Baptist even from his mother’s womb; and it fell upon those who were with Cornelius the centurion before they were baptized with water. Thus, cleaving to the baptism of men, the Holy Spirit either goes before or follows it; or failing the baptism of water, it falls upon those who believe."

          Thus, it can be said that this individual believed one could be saved apart from water baptism. Consider this excerpt from his treatise:

          "And there will be no doubt that men may be baptized with the Holy Ghost without water, as thou observest that these were baptized before they were baptized with water; that the announcements of both John and of our Lord Himself were satisfied, forasmuch as they received the grace of the promise both without the imposition of the apostle’s hands and without the laver [baptismal font], which they attained afterwards. And their hearts being purified, God bestowed upon them at the same time, in virtue of their faith, remission of sins; so that the subsequent baptism conferred upon them this benefit alone, that they received also the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, that nothing might appear to be wanting to the integrity of their service and faith."

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Why People Need Not Be Baptized Twice

"And so there was this same presumption concerning Christ in the mind of the disciples, even as Peter himself, the leader and chief of the apostles, broke forth into that expression of his own incredulity. For when he, together with the others, had been asked by the Lord what he thought about Him, that is, whom he thought Him to be, and had first of all confessed the truth, saying that He was the Christ the Son of the living God, and therefore was judged blessed by Him because he had arrived at this truth, not after the flesh, but by the revelation of the heavenly Father; yet this same Peter, when Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders, and priests, and scribes and be killed, and after the third day rise again from the dead; nevertheless that true confessor of Christ, after a few days, taking Him aside, began to rebuke Him, saying, “Be propitious to thyself: this shall not be;” so that on that account he deserved to hear from the Lord, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me, because he savoured not the things which are of God, but those things which are of men.” Which rebuke against Peter became more and more apparent when the Lord was apprehended, and, frightened by the damsel, he said, “I know not what thou sayest, neither know I thee;” and again, when using an oath, he said this same thing; and for the third time, cursing and swearing, he affirmed that he knew not the man, and not once, but frequently denied Him. And this disposition, because it was to continue to him even to the Lord’s passion, was long before made manifest by the Lord, that we also might not be ignorant of it. Again, after the Lord’s resurrection, one of His disciples, Cleopas, when he was, according to the error of all his fellow-disciples, sorrowfully telling what had happened to the Lord Himself, as if to some unknown person, spoke thus, saying of Jesus the Nazarene, “who was a prophet mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people; how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and fastened Him to the cross. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” And in addition to these things, all the disciples also judged the declaration of the women who had seen the Lord after the resurrection to be idle tales; and some of them, when they had seen Him, believed not, but doubted; and they who were not then present believed not at all until they had been subsequently by the Lord Himself in all ways rebuked and reproached; because His death had so offended them that they thought that He had not risen again, who they had believed ought not to have died, because contrary to their belief He had died once. And thus, as far as concerns the disciples themselves, they are found to have had a faith neither sound nor perfect in such matters as we have referred to; and what is much more serious, they moreover baptized others, as it is written in the Gospel according to John."

Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Forgiveness Of God For Lapses In Faith

And now blush if thou canst, Novation; cease to deceive the unwary with thy impious arguments; cease to frighten them with the subtlety of one particular. We read, and adore, and do not pass over the heavenly judgment of the Lord, where he says that He will deny him who denies Him. But does this mean the penitent? And why should I be taking pains so long to prove individual cases of mercies? Since the mercy of God is not indeed denied to the Ninevites, although strangers, and placed apart from the law of the Lord, when they beseech it on account of the overthrow announced to their city. Nor to Pharoah himself, resisting with sacrilegious boldness, when formerly he was stricken with plagues from heaven, and turning to Moses and to his brother, said, “Pray to the Lord for me, for I have sinned.” At once the anger of God was suspended from him. And yet thou, O Novation, judgest and declarest that the lapsed have no hope of peace and mercy.

A Treatise Against the Heretic Novatian by an Anonymous Bishop

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Does Acts 17:11-12 Support Sola Scriputra?

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin wrote an article on the text of Acts 17:11-12 as it relates to Sola Scriptura and why he thinks that text should not be cited to support the doctrine. Following are his remarks along with a critique:

          "...the contrast isn’t between the skeptical Bereans, who insisted on Scriptural proof of what Paul was saying, and the credulous Thessalonians, who accepted it without question. Instead, the contrast is between the open-minded Bereans, who were willing and eager to examine the Scriptures and see if what Paul was saying was true, versus the hostile Thessalonians, who started a riot and got Paul in trouble with the authorities, even though he had proved from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ."

          Acts 17:11-12 does indeed support Sola Scriptura in that the Bereans had tested the validity of the Apostle Paul's message by comparing it to the Old Testament Scriptures. If this method of discernment is not allowable, then it would make no sense at all for Luke to give these people a good reputation by calling them noble. Contrasting the response of certain people from Thessalonica does not change the argument. In fact, the context records Paul himself as appealing to those same Scriptures as the final court of authority in debating Jews (Acts 17:1-3).

          "There is also another reason why this passage isn’t a good proof text for sola scriptura, which is this: The Christian faith contains doctrines that aren’t found in the Old Testament. What’s why even those who favor doing theology “by Scripture alone” don’t favor doing it “by the Old Testament alone.” While the Old Testament does contain prophecies that point forward to Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, it doesn’t contain the whole of the Christian faith."

          Saying that Paul and Silas did not have a compiled New Testament in their hands is nothing but a red herring. The fact that Jesus Christ was proven from the Old Testament to be the promised Jewish Messiah does not refute Sola Scriptura. The original intent of an author does not rule out a present application to broader conditions. It is therefore not out of bounds to cite Acts 17:11-12 as a supporting text for Sola Scriptura. The question regarding the extent of the canon, while related, is a separate issue.

          The Bereans had used the Old Testament Scriptures to discern the message delivered by Paul and Silas. They had a love for God and His Word in their hearts. The Scriptures were read and searched out by these people in humility and eagerness. However, in Roman Catholicism it is maintained that scriptural proof is not necessary in order for a dogma to be true. The "laypeople" are not allowed to interpret Scripture for themselves:

          "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." (CCC # 100)

          This kind of thinking is not in line with what we see taking place during the encounter with the Bereans and them accepting the gospel message. Paul did not direct these people to an infallible teaching office in order for them to test the validity of his message. The Old Testament Scriptures were sufficient for the purposes of Paul as he witnessed to the people as they verified the message that he delivered.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Why God Cannot Tolerate The Presence Of Sin

        There are countless idols in our society, from celebrities to personal lifestyle habits. Anything that is worshiped in the world besides God Himself is a false god. It makes no difference whether worship involves Baal or oneself. One idol prevalent throughout the world of evangelicalism is a god who cannot render judgment on unbelievers because of his love. The end result of that is believing in a god who condones sin. Many who claim to follow Christ in Western culture struggle to accept God for who He is. Is such a deity even worthy of paying homage to?

        If God is unable to judge unrepentant sinners as a result of being overwhelmed by sentiment, then He must be a weak God. He must be a feeble and miserable God. After all, in this scenario, He cannot bear to enforce His own moral Law. God would be slave to His emotions. Consequently, He could no longer rightly be said to be ruler over the universe. It would be governed by empty tenderness and any existing moral order would cease to be. 

        If God were to accept the sinful ways of mankind, then He would no longer be righteous and just. He would no longer be God, which is logically impossible. He would be exactly like us. God would no longer be judge but a coward and hypocrite. Such a portrayal of God does not come about as a result of thinking critically about His character. It is based on a redefinition of love. The love of God is made evident in Him providing for both the just and the unjust:

        "...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45)

         The above cited text from the Sermon on the Mount mentions common graces of God, which we take for granted. These are things that wicked people do not deserve. He has the power and authority to both give and take them from us. All things that are good and enjoyable are gifts from God. If, however, we fail to take into account the character of God in its entirety, then we will inevitably reach a wrong conclusion as to who He is. A false god will be worshiped. It is a truth that God judges the wicked (Revelation 20). He is holy by His very nature.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Christ Our Wisdom And Righteousness

        "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)

        Jesus Christ is the fountainhead of salvation and all graces that follow from therein. He is the outward manifestation of God's love and mercy. It is worth noting in this text that the Apostle Paul distinguishes between "righteousness" and "sanctification." He imparts to us wisdom regarding salvation, which is demonstrated through His work on the cross. We receive a righteous standing before God on the basis of Christ's imputed righteousness. Sanctification is progressive. Redemption refers to our future glorification in which we will be made perfect as Christ Himself is perfect. In the Old Testament, the Law is called wisdom and righteousness (Deuteronomy 4:6; 6:25). Christ is our wisdom and righteousness.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Biblical Presentation On The Doctrine Of Adoption

        Adoption is the act of God by which He considers us to be members of His eternal family. We are deemed His children by faith. Adoption is a legal term. It is a figure of speech used to describe a change in our standing before Him. Like the instance of justification, it is an undeserved, unmerited favor of God.

        The doctrine of adoption tacitly assumes that man in his natural state of being is lost by virtue of his sin. Thus, not everyone is a child of God by birth. People need a redeemer who can free them from the curse of sin. It takes a supernatural act of God to make us members of His family. It is not a status that we are naturally endowed with.

        It is not by physical descent or by human efforts that one becomes a child of God, but by faith (John 1:12-13). He took action to save us by sending God the Son into this world to atone for our sins. It is the greatest privilege that one can have. We obtain an inheritance in heaven that cannot perish or fade away.

        The Apostle Paul used adoption as a metaphor to communicate that we as believers partake of the inheritance that belongs to Jesus Christ:

        "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:17)

        "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)

        Christ has possession over everything. We shall partake in His glory and riches as we have been included as members of the kingdom of heaven (John 17:22; 2 Corinthians 8:9). We are adopted as children of God in Christ:

        "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." (Ephesians 1:5)

        His shed blood brings about both our justification and adoption by God the Father. We belong to Him and He belongs to us.

        Forensic justification causes things which are not forensic in nature to happen. We obtain peace with God by faith, which includes assurance of salvation and the freedom to pursue holiness in gratitude for what God has done for us. These blessings have a consequential relationship to justification by faith alone. The relationship of God to the unbelieving world is that of a judge to a convict, whereas our relationship to Him is that of a father to a son.