A Plea for Unity

I wanted to clarify something I stated in my last post suggesting that the Catholic Church is the true church of Christ which might cause some Protestants to infer that they are not true Christians.

Please understand, Protestants are true Christians. The Catholic Church recognizes that those who are baptized according to Protestant faith are, indeed, brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is true that the Catholic Church traces its roots to the apostolic age while the Protestant Church had its origins in the Reformation. Churches that follow Protestant doctrine were only established in the last 500 years. To suggest that the Catholic Church is not of God is to claim that the disciples of Christ believed a lie for 1500 years. That is an inconceivable proposition to which I do not subscribe. If the Pope is the Man of Sin then the Church was deceived for fifteen centuries until Martin Luther received enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.

Young’s Literal Translation reads:

And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock (Πέτρος, Petros), and upon this rock (πέτρᾳ, petra) I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

Notice that the Greek uses two different words for rock. Very simply, it recognizes one as a proper name while the other as a common noun. In addition, Jesus spoke in Aramaic so that Young’s translation is, well, quite literal.

In the language spoken by Christ, rock is the same word whether used as a name, or noun. Peter is told that he is a rock upon which Christ will build his church. That is the literal meaning of the verse. Notice that Jesus calls himself the builder while Peter is a foundation stone.

Together, we are God’s house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself (Ephesians 2:20).

In Revelation 21:14 we read:

The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

There is no need to force any other interpretation as do Protestants who teach that the rock is a reference to Christ himself, or a metaphor for Peter’s confession of faith. Understanding that the apostles are foundation stones, and that Jesus is the chief cornerstone, it therefore is unnecessary to impose an awkward interpretation of what is a simple declaration.

Protestant interpretation is intended to challenge the Romish claim that the Pope is Peter’s successor. To disprove that claim might cast doubt on the assertion of Papal authority, and the legitimacy of the Catholic Church.

Did Peter fulfill the charge of Christ? Did the Apostle serve as a foundation stone in the apostolic age?

Most definitely, yes.

It was Peter who spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost — the birthday of the church when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and 3000 people were baptized (Acts 2:14-41).

It was Peter who opened the church to Gentiles (Acts 10).

It was Peter (and James, the brother of Christ) who oversaw the church at Jerusalem.

When Jesus said to Peter, You are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church, the Apostle clearly fulfilled this mission.

Is the Bishop of Rome in the line of Peter? Did the Apostle confer his role to succeeding Popes? Did Peter establish the church in Rome? Was Peter ever in Rome?

We know Paul was in Rome, but there is no scriptural evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. Author Loraine Boettner wrote:

The remarkable thing about Peter’s alleged bishopric in Rome is that the New Testament has not one word to say about it … and never is Peter mentioned in connection with it. There is no allusion to Rome in either of his epistles. Paul’s journey to the city is recorded in great detail (Acts 27 and 28). There is in fact no New Testament evidence, nor any historical proof of any kind, that Peter ever was in Rome. All rests on legend. (Roman Catholicism, p. 117)

Catholics cite 1 Peter 5:13 as scriptural evidence that Peter was in Rome, but is this a correct interpretation?

Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.

Babylon is said to be code for Rome, but in the context of Peter’s letter (written to the churches in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey) the Apostle had no reason to be cryptic. John Calvin, who favored a literal interpretation, believed that Peter actually meant Babylon.

The Jewish Encyclopedia estimates that 800,000 Jews lived in first century Babylon. Josephus, the Jewish historian, noted that tens of thousands of Babylonian Jews visited Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. Many of them heard Peter’s sermon and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Regardless of the meaning of Babylon there is sufficient extra-Biblical evidence that Peter not only visited Rome, but established the Holy See — ordaining Clement of Rome who later was consecrated as Pope. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) wrote that Peter and Paul set the foundation of the church in Rome. Clement of Alexandria wrote that (in Rome) Peter preached the word and declared the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit (from which we received the Gospel of Mark). Dionysius of Corinth, in a letter to Pope Sorter, noted that Peter and Paul planted the church in Rome. Tertullian (Against the Heretics) affirmed that Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome. There are many other ancient sources who documented Peter’s connection to Rome so that by the time of Augustine it was widely accepted to be factual.

It is not even necessary to establish a succession between Peter and the Popery. Indeed, if the Romish Church sought validation it could rightfully claim apostolic succession through the Apostle Paul. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) wrote:

After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:21).

How does this all relate to the Catholic-Protestant rift?

To Martin Luther, the doctrine of faith alone (Sola Fide) was the essential underpinning of Christian theology. Luther opposed what he called merit-based salvation. Protestant doctrine correctly proclaims that a person is saved by simple faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Roman Catholic Church also teaches that people are saved by grace through faith — that no one can earn their salvation. The disagreement hinges on this passage from the Book of James:

You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

There is a fine distinction between justification and sanctification that, quite frankly, Luther failed to grasp. James, the brother of Jesus, was writing to Jewish Christians. They believed that simple faith absolved them of any Christian duties. Freed from the law of Moses they could go on sinning. Good works were deemed non-essential and irrelevant to the doctrine of saving faith.

Is this what Christ taught? Read again the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6-9). See also Matthew 7:19Matthew 21:18-19, John 15:2.

James rightly taught that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Make no mistake, a dead faith will save no one. Where Luther saw conflict between Paul and James there was none. Their teaching is consistent with our Lord’s.

Luther insisted that the church stands or falls on the doctrine of faith alone. He rejected the apostolic authorship of James, and relegated the book to the index of the Lutheran Bible.

Is Luther’s theology heresy? At the very least it borders on false teaching. If the church stands or falls on the doctrine of Sola Fide then Protestantism might lead people astray. I see it in the witness of so-called Christians who lead a fruitless, sinful life. They invariably say, “Oh, but I’m covered by the blood of Jesus.”

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)

To be saved by faith does not mean a life void of good works. Catholics point to James to affirm that we are not saved by works, but saved for good works — mischaracterized by Protestants as merit-based salvation.

This is Catholic doctrine:

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2:18)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The Catholic Church, whatever its faults, has withstood 2000 years of spiritual warfare both internal and external. Pray for Christian unity as division is not a good witness. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical UT UNUM SINT (That They May Be One), wrote:

… I think of the grave obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the Gospel. A Christian Community which believes in Christ and desires, with Gospel fervor, the salvation of mankind can hardly be closed to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads all Christians towards full and visible unity. As Pope Paul VI wrote … “May the Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation, so that the unity of our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolation for all mankind”.

It is worth noting that the Pope signed the 2500 word encyclical … servus servorum Dei … which is Latin for servant of the servants of God — a humble title for one who supposedly represents the seat of Antichrist.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

God Made Them … Non-Binary?

I went to bed last night listening to Michael Medved’s discussion of the CBS program Gender: The Space Between.

A female caller wanted to know why conservatives just don’t allow people to be themselves. The woman identified herself as a conservative, heterosexual who was engaged to be married to a man.

Medved asked her if she believed that the natural order, by God’s design, was a man and a woman united in holy matrimony for the purpose of having offspring.

“Yes,” she replied, “but …”

Though in agreement that the family unit was the building block of human society, the caller felt that conservatives should not insert themselves into how other people live their lives.

“Attitudes are changing,” she said, “though it does seem that it has happened all of a sudden.”

Medved asked, “So homosexuals are allowed to insert themselves and overturn what is normal?”

Another caller was a man who had a unique problem. His sister told him that she wanted to become his gay brother, and that he needs to tell his children that auntie is now their uncle.

The sister grew up heterosexual. She had boyfriends. In fact, her sexual preference is men, but she feels like she is a male due to the fact that a blood test revealed she has testosterone.

A woman’s ovaries produce small levels of the male hormone, but this does not mean she is a man. Some girls, like this man’s sister, grow up as a tomboy which can often be attributed to the child’s environment. In fact, homosexuality is a symptomatic behavior of inhibited psycho-social development. Treatment, or counseling is what we should be discussing.

The CBS program introduced viewers to the concept of non-binary individuals. Non-binary means that one is neither male nor female — a psychological problem to be sure.

Binary is a word that is commonly used in math and science. In the gay lexicon it refers to people whose sexual identity is separate from their gender identity.

In other words, as one gay activist noted, some girls are born with a penis. A non-binary female explained it this way:

[Sexuality] really doesn’t have anything to do with gender at all. But there is a huge thing with like ‘Well, what, if you don’t identify as a female, then are you gay? Do you not like boys, do you like girls?’ And that’s just a whole other thing. A lot of people are really concerned with what genitalia you have, that’s what they want to know. So there have been instances with relationships that could have worked out perfectly fine if you weren’t non-binary, and after that person found out that you were, everything changed.

Viewers were led to believe that gender identity is not necessarily what is printed on an individual’s birth certificate:

There are dozens of genders, outside of just man or woman, that people can identify with.

What does the Bible say?

He created them male and female … (Genesis 5:2).

I believe that the source of all confusion and deception is Satanic. As it was in the Garden so it is today. What is so troublesome to me is that the daughters of Eve are as susceptible — just like the woman who called Michael Medved.

Not all women, to be sure, but I often hear female callers on talk radio — women who identify themselves as conservative, or Christian — who are permissive of a behavior that is hated by God. Their lack of discernment defies spiritual intuition. It’s as if their emotions and feelings inhibit the voice of the Spirit.

Then I hear the women of daytime television exhorting the sisterhood to deny their husbands conjugal rights if the men harbor incorrect thoughts. People often ask why Adam ate of the fruit. Well, he didn’t want to be denied the fruit of his wife.

Face it men, women decide who reproduce. I was taking a stroll along the beach as two women approached from the opposite direction. One of the women stopped and made eye contact, but her friend tugged on her arm and said, “No, he voted for Trump.”

I didn’t know I had the look.

Medved closed out the segment by asking, “Is this a trend?”

We have noted in recent posts how the Walt Disney Company has not only submitted to, but is creatively promoting the gay agenda. In 1998, Disney CEO Michael Eisner told homosexual activist Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, that 40% of Disney employees were gay. (By the way, the goal of the Human Rights Campaign is to create a genderless society.)

Though only three percent of the population, homosexuals are prominent in those industries that influence social and cultural trends. The agenda is promoted through movies, music, television and the creative arts. Strategic placement has allowed a very few to effectively change attitudes and perceptions — to redefine how people relate on the most intimate level. It totally overthrows thousands of years of human social development.

Is it a trend? In the sense that man’s nature inherently trends towards total depravity I would have to say yes. God has taken His foot off the brake, and in the style of Thelma and Louise, man is heading over the cliff … into the abyss.

Notes:

There are three stages to man’s ultimate destruction: idolatry, unnatural behavior and, finally, total depravity. This was the condition of the antediluvians — those people who lived in the age between the Garden and the Flood. Mankind is at stage two, and entering the final stage before judgment. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, described the fallen condition of man prior to Noah’s Ark:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:21-32).

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Discipleship 101

matthew_28_19-20

What does it mean to make a disciple? You can almost hear the exasperation in the tone of Paul’s admonition to the assembly at Corinth:

I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able (1 Corinthians 3:2).

About 40% of pastors leave the pulpit after five years. The reasons are varied. Depression and discouragement take a heavy toll, and the congregation is partly to blame. Over the years I have referenced the surveys on religion and Christianity as compiled by Barna Group Research. For example, 59% of young adults (18-29) have a Christian background, but what does that mean in practice? Are they “born again” followers of Jesus Christ? Barna asked a similar group: Who are Sodom and Gomorrah?

Answer: They were a married couple.

This is what pastors are facing as confirmed by research. The median profile of the average church-goer is someone who warms a pew, does not read their Bible and believes whatever the pastor says is true.

Barna’s assessment: Two-thirds of the nation’s adult population firmly embraces the idea that their most important purpose is to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30). However, a deeper look at people’s full array of spiritual beliefs and behavior calls into question the sincerity of their commitment. [Source]

In practice, then, people’s social lives are more important than their spiritual lives. Simply examine how tethered (or in bondage) people are to their gadgets. I see them swaying down the street, eyes fixed on their phone, and thumbs going a mile a minute as they furiously send out their 200th text of the day — and it’s not even 11 a.m. Okay, so I exaggerate, but only slightly.

How many hours a day are you connected to your cell phone, television, music and social media? Do you give at least 10% (90 minutes) of your day to the One who gives you breath? For most people the answer is no. Let’s break it down. People spend more time on Facebook than with God’s book.

Now you may be thinking, “That doesn’t describe me.” Let me ask you, what percent of “Christians” do you think are true disciples of Christ? As was noted in the comment board of I am Elijah only 9% of Christians have a Biblical worldview. If there are 100 members in your congregation only 9 have a true Biblical perspective. That’s astounding.

How many in your “church” are still drinking milk? Someone might say, “Well, the Methodist church I attend is really on fire for the Lord.” Ask yourself: ‘What does my “church” believe?’ Presbyterians and Lutherans are split into conservative and liberal camps with regards to Bible truths. This is the fruit of Reformation. But getting back to the Methodists (since I spent my childhood in that congregation) the hot topic of the day — gay marriage — will cause a permanent break in the assembly.

As of this writing, the United Methodist Church upholds the Biblical definition of marriage as opposed to these churches: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). However, liberalism is making inroads and it is only a matter of time before the assembly breaks apart.

I recently engaged in a terse discussion with a UMC pastor who celebrated the redefinition of marriage. He posted this at his website:

According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, clergy are not allowed to conduct same-sex weddings or bless same-sex unions. Since I am not allowed to publicly pray for blessing, I wrote this lament many months ago. I offer it here, because I know some of my UMC clergy colleagues are going to be asked to officiate. Perhaps they will choose to officiate and risk retribution, or perhaps they will make referrals. Or perhaps they will find other creative ways to resist injustice.

My response:

Forgive me, but I am not clear. Is the injustice that your colleagues ‘are not allowed to conduct same-sex weddings’, or is the injustice that they must perform a ceremony that violates their conscience? It seems, to me, the latter would be the greater offense.

His reply:

I agree it would be an offense to be forced to perform a ceremony. But since we have the power to decline officiating for any reason, or no reason, I don’t see the relevance.

I have declined to officiate weddings because couples couldn’t be bothered with premarital counseling, or had no affiliation with a faith community, or because I had a schedule conflict. Imaginary scenarios set in dystopian futures are interesting philosophical questions, but a lament deals with a real situation.

Dystopian? Clever. That suggests I foresee an apocalyptic degradation of society because gays are allowed to marry. Well, yes. Liberalism has perfected the art of immersing controversial issues in a pot of cold water then turning up the heat. Society awakens one day and exclaims, “What happened!?” Except in the proverbial scenario the frog never wakes up. It is only a matter of time before a minister is sued — like the wedding florist — for not participating in a gay ceremony. (The pastor would not allow me to post this because he closed the comment board.)

This man should not be a minister of Jesus Christ, but the governing board has no power to remove him; and his congregants love him as reflected in this reply:

I lament with you that you are not allowed to officiate at the weddings of all who would ask. I rejoice that all who choose to marry their loved ones may now do so. Your reflections are heartwarming and hope-filled. We are blessed beyond measure to have you as our pastor.

Has the great falling away begun (2 Thessalonians 2:3)?

It really is a war of attrition. For every 7,000 churches that close, only 4,000 open. Responding to an altar call and reciting a simple prayer does not a disciple make. To whatever you devote your time and resources becomes your god.

Be a true disciple of Christ. Open your Bible and discover His truth. It will make the pastor’s job easier — he might even stay — or you might discover that it’s time to find another “church”.

Matthew 16:24

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