Monday, February 22, 2021

Early Church Evidence For Sola Fide

"Victorinus separates them [justification and sanctification] when he writes, "A man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith and the faith of Jesus Christ...It is faith alone that gives justification and sanctification."

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 82

Early Church Evidence For Sola Fide

"In his treatise entitled "Concerning Those Who Think to Be Justified through Works," Marcus Eremita (fifth century, also known as Marcus the Ascetic) explains that "the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for works, but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants."

Nathan Busenitz, Long Before Luther, p. 135

Friday, February 5, 2021

Freedom And Liberation From The Law

[Romans 7] 7:25 The Law is holy and its commandment is holy and just and good (12). But sin, that diabolic power, manifests itself in its true colors (12) by using just that good Word of God to rouse in man the dormant will of opposition to God which destroys him. Paul illustrates this working of the Law (as misused by the power of sin) from his early life (7-13). Paul also shows us the working of the Law from his own experience with the Law as a Christian (14-25). It was contact with the Law, confronting him as the commandment, that first gave sin its deadly power in his life (9-11). Paul as a Christian, when confronted by the Law, becomes a man rent by an agonizing struggle (14-24) from which only Christ can and does release him from this hard fought struggle (25).

Martin Franzmann and Walter H. Roehrs, Concordia Self-study Commentary [commentary on Romans], p. 131

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Fruitless Efforts By Roman Catholic Apologists To Explain Away Romans 3:28

  • Discussion:
          -The purpose of this article is to interact with a number of Roman Catholic claims regarding Romans 3:28 and justification by faith alone. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "Romans 3:28 is a key verse in the differences between traditional Protestants and Catholics. You will notice that Paul says a man is justified by faith (pistei in Greek). When Martin Luther translated the letter to the Romans into German in the sixteenth century, he added the word alone —but alone is not in the original Greek text. The phrase “faith alone” does occur in the New Testament: one time, in James 2:24. There the inspired apostle denies that justification is from faith alone. Let me quote it: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

          Romans 3:28 is part of a context contrasting faith and works. The latter is excluded by the Apostle Paul as being an available avenue of justification before God. The Good News Translation, which is approved by the Roman Catholic Church for adherents to use in study, renders Romans 3:28 as follows:

          "For we conclude that a person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands."

          James 2:24 is part of a context about the demonstration of a saving faith. That text addresses justification from an evidential perspective.

          "Paul categorically excludes works from our salvation. But what kind of works is Paul talking about? If we believe the entire Bible, we need to see how Paul’s words fit together with James’s words, because James clearly says that “a man is justified by works.” If Paul and James mean the same thing by works, then they contradict one another. Since you and I both believe that the Bible cannot contradict itself, we must agree that Paul and James mean two different things by the word works."

          Notice how a distinction between works in James and works in Paul has to be invented in order to circumvent the implications that Romans 3:28 has on Roman Catholic theology concerning salvation. The Apostle Paul undoubtedly had the Mosaic Law in mind when he wrote Romans. However, there is much more to it than customs such as circumcision. The Mosaic Law also had commandments to love God and love neighbor. Paul brings up the prohibition against coveting, which is a part of the Ten Commandments (Romans 7:7). James would indeed have these kinds of works in view. Moreover, Roman Catholicism regards these aspects of the Law as being necessary for justification while rejecting other aspects such as circumcision and Sabbath observance. 

          "A careful reading of Galatians will show that Paul is using works of the law to refer especially to the law of circumcision. He is so strong about this that he says in Galatians 5:2, “Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Paul’s opponents in Galatia wanted to bring the Gentile Christians back into the Old Testament law. These are the works of the law that Paul is fighting against, and they have no place in our justification. Paul is saying in essence that Gentile Christians do not have to be circumcised and live like Jewish Christians in order to be saved."

          No reason has been given as to why we should limit Paul's focus to ceremonial and dietary laws when he speaks of "works of the law." His only point of emphasis when discussing the instance of justification before God in Romans and Galatians is faith. Hence, we see the reason for such passages being appealed to as evidence of justification by faith alone.

          Assume for the sake of argument that the Apostle Paul had the narrow focus of the Mosaic Law (not including good works in general) in mind when he mentions "works of the law." The Roman Catholic Church would still stand condemned according to his teaching.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Dissection Of 1 Corinthians 3:15 As A Catholic Prooftext

  • Discussion:
          -Karlo Broussard wrote an article for Catholic Answers titled Purgatory's Purifying Fire, which contains responses to various Protestant arguments against the citation of 1 Corinthians 3:15 as a proof-text for that dogma. This article aims to refute Roman Catholic claims of the text being a reference to a person receiving purification in purgatory after death. Following are a few excerpts from the author alongside with a critique:

          "The idea of purification connotes the separation of good from bad...The good building materials (gold, precious stones, and silver) are separated from the bad building materials (wood, hay, and straw)."

          While it is true that good and bad works are being contrasted in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, the problem with this argument is that the concept of Purgatory is read into the passage. The context has nothing to do with a person making amends for his or her sins. It is not about justification. It is not about believers undergoing punishment after death for possibly remaining sins. Quite to the contrary, the text is about the reception of heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:8; 14). God will evaluate the quality of each believer's work so as to bestow praise appropriately (1 Corinthians 4:5). See this article for further details:

          https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2018/02/rebutting-rebuttal-by-catholic-answers.html

          "Furthermore, the imagery of fire conjures up the motif of purification. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 1:7 with reference to testing gold, and says that our sufferings test the genuineness of our faith."

          Just as men use fire for the purpose of refining precious metals such as gold and silver, God uses trials as a means to build up our faith and our character (Job 23:10; Romans 5:3-5). That is what distinguishes trust in God from mere intellectual assent that even demons have. The imagery of fire has nothing whatsoever to do with purgatory.

          "A third piece of evidence for the purification motif is the idea of judgment. Recall that the prophet Malachi describes God’s judgment as a “refiner’s fire,” and notes that God will “sit as a refiner” purifying the sons of Levi and refining them like gold and silver (Mal. 3:2-3)."

          Here is an excerpt from Dr. Thomas Constable's notes on Malachi 3:2-3:

          "When the Lord came suddenly to His temple, no one would be able to stand before Him. Elsewhere the prophets foretold that this time would be a day of judgment on the whole world marked by disaster and death (4:1; Isa. 2:12; Joel 3:11-16; Amos 5:18-21; Zech. 1:14-17). Here Malachi said no one would be able to endure His coming because He would purify the priesthood, the people who stood closest to Him. As a fire He would burn up the impurities of the priests, and as a laundryman’s soap He would wash them clean (cf. Deut. 4:29; Isa. 1:25; Jer. 6:29-30; Ezek. 22:17-22; Zech. 3:5). The Levitical priests would then be able to offer sacrifices to Yahweh in a righteous condition rather than as they were in Malachi’s day (cf. 1:6—2:9; Isa. 56:7; 66:20-23; Jer. 33:18; Ezek. 40:38-43; 43:13-27; 45:9-25; Zech. 14:16-21). The multiple figures of cleansing and the repetition of terms for cleansing stress the thoroughness of the change that the Lord’s Messenger would produce."

         The Lord Jesus Christ through His gospel shall purge our souls and conform us to His likeness. The Holy Spirit regenerates and cleanses His faithful remnant. The Savior "refines" us by faith. He protects us from the incurred eternal wrath that we deserve. When God forgives our trespasses, He no longer "remembers" them (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12-13). He does not count sin against those whom He has reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus Christ has already made perfect atonement for our sins (Hebrews 10:18; 1 John 2:1-2). Consider the following Roman Catholic quotes on Purgatory being an unbiblical concept:

         "In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture." (Vol. XI, pg. 1034, Copyright 1967, Catholic University of America)

         “There is, for all practical purposes, no biblical basis for the doctrine of purgatory.” (Richard McBrien, Catholicism: New Edition, p. 1166)

         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.”

         The Concordia Self-Study Bible New International Version has this footnote on the text of 1 Corinthians 3:15:

         "loss. Of reward (v. 14). as one escaping through the flames. Perhaps a Greek proverbial phrase, meaning "by a narrow escape," with one's work burned up by the fire of God's pure justice and judgement."

         The context of 1 Corinthians 3:15 is about stewardship, not how one gets right with God. The fire reveals the quality of each person's works on the Day of Judgement. The phrase "he shall suffer loss" in verse fifteen refers to the loss of heavenly rewards. The Good News Translation renders 1 Corinthians 3:15 as follows:

         "But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15)

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Additions To Daniel Found In Roman Catholic Bibles Are Not Canonical Scripture

 Daniel, Apocryphal Additions to the Greek translation of Daniel, like that of Esther, contain several pieces which are not found in the original text. The most important of these additions are contained in the Apocrypha of the English Bible under the titles of The Song of the Tree Holy Children, The History of Susanna, and The History of...Bel and the Dragon -1. a. The first of these pieces is incorporate into the narrative of Daniel After who three confessors were thrown into the furnace (Dan. iii. 23), Azarias is represented praying to God for deliverance (Song of Three Children, 3-22); and in answer the angel of the Lord shields them from the fire which consumes their enemies (23-27), whereupon "the three, as out of one mouth," raise a triumphant song (29-68), of which a chief part (35-66) has been used as a hymn in the Christian Church since the 4th century. b. The two other pieces appear more distinctly as appendices, and offer no semblance of forming part of the original text. The History of Susanna (or The Judgement of Daniel) is generally found at the beginning of the book (Gk. MSS. Vet. Lal); though it also occurs after the 12th chapter ( Vulg. ed. Compl.). The History of Bel and the Dragon is placed at the end of the book; and in the LXX. version it bears a special heading as "part of the prophecy of Habakkuk." 2. The additions are found in both the Greek texts, the LXX. and Theodotion, in the Old Latin and Vulgate, and in the existing Syriac and Arabic versions. On the other hand there is no evidence that they ever formed part of the Hebrew text, and they were originally wanting in the Syriac.3. Various conjectures have been made as to the origin of the additions. It has been supposed that they were derived from Aramaic originals, but the character of the additions themselves indicates rather the hand of an Alexandrine writer; and it is not unlikely that the translator of Daniel wrought up traditions which were already current, and appended them to his work.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 188

Friday, January 22, 2021

Why The Roman Catholic Church's Concept Of "Grace Alone" Is Not Really "Grace Alone" At All

        "Grace is primary in the whole process, so in that very real sense we can describe our system as “saved by grace alone” -- whereas we can never say “saved by faith alone” (i.e., with works playing no part at all in salvation) or “saved by works alone.” The true Catholic position will always include the works alongside grace and faith." (https://www.ncregister.com/blog/is-grace-alone-sola-gratia-also-catholic-teaching)

        "If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, canon 1)

        The grace of God does not come about as a result of the doings of man (Romans 11:6). Simply put, to speak of grace being infused at the moment of water baptism and being maintained through good works is a contradiction of terms.

        Rome requires one to do good works in order to attain and maintain justification. It teaches that one must attain an inherent righteousness in order to be accepted by God. That line of thinking runs contrary to texts such as Psalm 14:2-3, 49:7-9, 130:3, Isaiah 64:6, Luke 18:9-14, Romans 3:10-12, 23, Galatians 3:10, and Philippians 3:3-9.

        The point of contention is not whether our walk with God is to be characterized with a desire to serve Him. Our good works are a display of His grace in our lives. However, they are not to be viewed as meritorious in His sight. Our grounds for justification before God is the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:19).

        If justification is "not of ourselves" and "not as a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9), then that means faith alone is the instrumental cause of justification before God. There are no good deeds that can save us from eternal condemnation.

        Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul says, "not by works of righteousness which we have done" (Titus 3:5). He continues on that thought with a stark contrast, "but according to his mercy he saved us." This dichotomy is prevalent throughout the writings of Paul. He would most definitely have condemned the sacramental system of justification taught by the Church of Rome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

John 12:41 And The Deity Of Christ

 "tn Grk “his”; the referent (Christ) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The referent supplied here is “Christ” rather than “Jesus” because it involves what Isaiah saw. It is clear that the author presents Isaiah as having seen the preincarnate glory of Christ, which was the very revelation of the Father (see John 1:18; John 14:9). sn Because he saw Christ’s glory. The glory which Isaiah saw in Isa 6:3 was the glory of Yahweh (typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT). Here John speaks of the prophet seeing the glory of Christ since in the next clause and spoke about him, “him” can hardly refer to Yahweh, but must refer to Christ. On the basis of statements like 1:14 in the prologue, the author probably put no great distinction between the two. Since the author presents Jesus as fully God (cf. John 1:1), it presents no problem to him to take words originally spoken by Isaiah of Yahweh himself and apply them to Jesus."

Excerpt taken from the New English Translation

Monday, January 18, 2021

Breaking God's Law In Order To Keep Man's Law

Jesus did not answer the question of the Pharisees directly. What he did was to take an example of the operation of the oral and ceremonial law to show how its observance so far from being obedience to the Law of God, could become actual contradiction of that Law.

Jesus says that the Law of God lays it down that a man shall honour his father and his mother; then he goes on to say that if a man says, "It is a gift," he is free from the duty of honouring his father and his mother. If we look at the parallel passage in Mark, we see that the phrase is: "It is Korban." What is the meaning of this obscure passage to us? In point of fact it can have two meanings, because Korban has two meanings.

(i) Korban can mean that which is dedicated to God. Now suppose that a man had a father or mother in poverty and in need; and suppose that his poor parent came to him with a request for help. There was a way in which the man could avoid giving any help. He could, as it were, officially dedicate all his money and all his property to God and to the Temple; his property would then be Korban, God-dedicated; then he could say to his father or mother: "I'm very sorry, I can give you nothing; all my belongings are dedicated to God." He could use a ritual practice to evade the basic duty of helping and honouring his father and mother. He could take a scribal regulation to wipe out one of the Ten Commandments.

(ii) But Korban has another meaning, and it may well be that it is this second meaning which is at issue here. Korban was used as an oath. A man might say to his father or mother: "Korban, if anything I have will ever be used to help you." Now suppose this man to have remorse of conscience; suppose him to have made the refusal in a moment of anger, or temper, or even of irritation; suppose him to have second and kinder and more filial thoughts, and to feel that after all there was a duty to help his parents. In such a case any reasonable person would say that that man had undergone a genuine repentance, and that his change of mind was a good thing; and that since he was now prepared to do the right thing and obey the Law of God he should be encouraged to follow that line.

The strict Scribe said, "No. Our Law says that no oath can ever be broken." He would quote Numbers 30:2 : "When a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." The Scribe would legalistically argue: "You took an oath; and for no reason can you ever break it." That is to say, the Scribe would hold a man to a reckless oath, taken in a moment of passion, an oath which actually compelled a man to break the higher law of humanity and of God.

That is what Jesus meant. He meant: "You are using your scribal interpretations, your traditions, to compel a man to dishonour his father and mother, even when he himself has repented and has seen the better way."

The strange and tragic thing was that the Scribes and Pharisees of the day were actually going against what the greatest Jewish teachers had said. Rabbi Eliezer said, "The door is opened for a man on account of his father and his mother," and he meant that, if any man had sworn an oath which dishonoured his father and his mother, and had then repented of it, the door was open to him to change his mind and to take a different way, even if an oath had been sworn. As so often, Jesus was not presenting men with unknown truth; he was reminding them of things that God had already told them, and that they had already known but had forgotten, because they had come to prefer their own man-made ingenuities to the great simplicities of the Law of God.

Here is the clash and the collision; here is the contest between two kinds of religion and two kinds of worship. To the Scribes and Pharisees religion was the observance of certain outward rules and regulations and rituals, such as the correct way to wash the hands before eating; it was the strict observance of a legalistic outlook on all life. To Jesus religion was a thing which had its seat in the heart; it was a thing which issued in compassion and kindness, which are above and beyond the law.

To the Scribes and Pharisees worship was ritual, ceremony law; to Jesus worship was the clean heart and the loving life. Here is the clash. And that clash still exists. What is worship? Even today there are many who would say that worship is not worship unless it is carried out by a priest ordained in a certain succession, in a building consecrated in a certain way, and from a liturgy laid down by a certain Church. And all these things are externals.

One of the greatest definitions of worship ever laid down was laid down by William Temple: "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God." We must have a care lest we stand aghast at the apparent blindness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, lest we are shocked by their insistence on outward ceremonial, and at the same time be ourselves guilty of the same fault in our own way. Religion can never be founded on any ceremonies or ritual; religion must always be founded on personal relationships between man and God.

William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Volume 2), p. 115-117