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    ABC's of Effective Witnessing to Catholics
  • Many of the 70 million Catholics in America were born into their religion and have never examined their faith through the lens of Scripture. From infancy they are taught that salvation comes through their church as they merit saving grace through the sacraments and perform religious rituals and good works to be justified and re-justified. Roman Catholicism is often called the plus religion because of what it has added to the Gospel of grace. Catholic salvation is based on Jesus plus Mary, faith plus works, grace plus merit, Scripture plus tradition and the blood of Jesus plus purgatory. Catholics do not know that any addition to the Gospel is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ (Heb. 7:25). Any addition to the Gospel also nullifies the saving grace of God, which is the only means by which God saves sinners (Romans 11:6). Catholics, who are victims of this deception, need to be evangelized with the true Gospel of grace. 
     
    As we witness to Catholics we must persevere with patience to untangle the sticky web of religious indoctrination that holds them captive (Col. 2:8). We must follow the instructions of Paul and "not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, and correcting opponents with gentleness."  We must pray for God to "grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth," that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, who holds them captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26). 

    The two most important biblical principles to remember as you witness are to: 1) establish Scripture as the supreme authority for truth (2 Tim. 3:15-17) and 2) proclaim the Lord Jesus as the all-sufficient Savior (Heb. 7:25; Acts 4:12). 

    Following are some other important biblical principles as you witness to Catholics: 

    Proclaim Jesus and His Word as the most trustworthy source for truth (John 14:6; 17:17; 18:37).

    Discuss how sin has condemned every man under God's righteous judgment (Rom. 3:10-18; Heb. 9:27; Rev. 20:14).

    Show that the Scriptures are sufficient for knowing and understanding how to be saved (2 Tim. 3:15).

    Define the Gospel and its divine power to save (Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 2:1-10).

    Warn of the fatal consequences for anyone who teaches or believes a different gospel (Gal. 1:6- 9).

    Show that no man or pope is infallible. Peter (who Catholics believe was their first pope) admitted he was wrong (Gal. 2:11-14).

    Warn of the danger of following non-apostolic traditions (Mark 7:7-8, 13; Col. 2:8).

    Explain the need to repent from what they have been doing to save themselves including the sacraments, the sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, indulgences, other mediators, good works and infant baptism. These nullify God's grace and deny the finished and all-sufficient work of Christ.  

    Stay focused on the Gospel, avoid going off on tangents that are unrelated to salvation (1 Cor. 2:2).

    Sow the imperishable seed of God's Word with Gospel tracts (1 Pet 1:23).

    Pray for their salvation (Rom. 10:1-4).

    Remember that every sinner must repent and believe the Gospel to be saved (Mark 1:15). The only way to heaven is through Christ, and the only way to come to Christ is God's way - with repentance and empty hands of faith.
    A Biblical Defense of the Faith
  • by Mike Gendron

    Have you ever considered how biblical your approach is to handling objections when you witness for Christ? It doesn't help that a great majority of apologetical resources encourage unbiblical methods. Whether the individual you engage is a skeptic or a false convert, they need to be confronted with the depravity of their sin, the authority of God's Word and the exclusivity of Christ. This is because their positions are the same and their objections are similar. They are both without Christ and they both appeal to their own authority to justify how they live.

    Do such individuals need to be given better evidences to refute their objections? Do they simply lack a few key proofs that Jesus is Lord and Savior? Or does such an approach perpetuate a false notion that they are the judge and God is on trial? Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus or His disciples giving more evidence for what skeptics reject. The biblical model begins with the fact that man is "without excuse" because "what can be known about God is plain to him, because God has shown it to them" in His creation (Rom. 1:19-20). Despite man having this inherent truth about God, he suppresses it (Rom.1:18). For this reason, it is not wise to spend time arguing over evolution, the existence of God, or for that matter, anything opposed to the Bible. If God's Word says it, then it is true. If one rejects His Word, the problem is not a lack of evidence, but an unwillingness to submit to the authority of God and His Word. For this reason we must defend the faith, not with extra-biblical evidences, but with the Bible alone. This is the best approach because God's infallible Word never returns void (Isa. 55:11).

    Some Christians compromise and seek a neutral source for truth when someone doesn't respect the Bible. Yet, there is no such thing as neutrality, for each person has their own presuppositions. They are drawn either from submitting to God's authority or an authority of their own choosing. When someone rejects the supreme authority of God's Word, how can appealing to a lesser authority be of any help (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Heb. 4:12)? If an unbeliever wins an argument using an extra-biblical source, they will still need to surrender to Christ's authority for salvation.

    Proverbs 26:4-5 provides a wonderful model for answering objections. It states, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Verse 4 reveals the importance of responding with truth while verse 5 explains the importance of exposing untruth. In other words, don't answer a skeptic by using his faulty worldview, but rather stay centered on biblical truth. Show the futility of clinging to anything opposed to God's Word. Also, do not allow the unbeliever to steal components from your biblical worldview such as logic, reason, certainty, or morality, none of which can exist apart from God.

    As an example, imagine a discussion with a Catholic who believes they are a Christian but has unknowingly rejected the Gospel. First, we should point them to Gospel truth as laid out in God's Word. The conversation might begin by asking how one hopes to get to heaven. After they have articulated an unbiblical understanding of salvation, ask, "If God's Word said something different would you want to know?" Then show them that they fall short of God's perfect standard. Show them, that in their sin they must give an account to a holy and just God who cannot overlook sin. Show them their only hope is the Gospel and help them understand that grace, by its very nature, cannot be earned and that it is by faith and repentance that the sinner is made right with God. Reinforce that to add anything else to this free gift, is an assault on the gift itself (Rom. 11:6). If the Catholic is humble and interested in the Gospel, then continue to engage them and exhort them to forsake everything else and trust Christ alone. To discern if there is biblical understanding, ask the Catholic about certain Catholic teachings which oppose the gospel. Look for genuine understanding of biblical truth and repentance of previously held gospel opposed beliefs.

    If however the conversation doesn't even get this far and the gospel message is rejected, then we need to switch gears. We must transition from leading out with the truth (Prov. 26:4), to showing the folly of the untruth that the unbeliever is currently trusting in (Prov. 26:5). This would involve respectfully but honestly exposing why the Catholic teaching on salvation is problematic. Ask them about their authority and how they know what they are saying is true. Ask multiple "how" and "why" questions to dig deeper and reveal the root of what they believe and why. At some point it will be exposed that they are either trusting in man blindly or their own authority. Demonstrate how this is a dangerous path to be on and what Scripture has to say about trusting man (Ps. 118:9, 146:3). Discuss why man always drifts to religion when he really needs a saving relationship with His Lord and Savior. Jesus' discussion with the very religious Nicodemus in John 3 and Paul's testimony of the value of his prior religion in Philippians 3 both would be great texts to make this point. Let them see by way of analogies from Scripture where they stand and let God's powerful Word bookmark your conversation in their minds.

    When the Gospel is proclaimed biblically and backed up by a strong biblical defense to any objections, then the evangelist further removes them self from the conversation. This allows for the individual to rightly see their rebellion against a holy God before whom they must one day give an account (Heb. 4:13). Because this defense of the faith rightfully stands on God's Word which is compared to a powerful sword, (Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17) we must be wise in how we use it. With the truth on our side, it is easy to make a fool of the unbeliever and put them in their place. However, doing so demonstrates wrong motives, a proud spirit, and a lack of compassion for those who are perishing. The apostle Peter reminds believers when they give a defense of the faith to do so with "gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15). What good is exposing an unbeliever's false worldview if they are so turned off by your manner that they refuse to listen to you (1 Cor. 13:1)? We must continue to demonstrate our love for the unbeliever and show them that the door is open for them to repent and enter. May we saturate both our gospel witness and defense of the faith in prayer, that our hearts would be right, that we would stay faithful to God's Word, and He would be glorified.
    A Humble Pope?
  • When Pope Benedict XVI's successor, Jorge Bergoglio, was announced as the new Pope, the one word that many used to describe him was "humble." The Italian pope, born in Argentina, is of the Jesuit order which is known for their vows of poverty and work among the poor. Pictures and articles have surfaced revealing that as an archbishop, Bergoglio took the public bus and cooked his own meals. When it was announced that he would be known as Pope Francis, the connection was quickly made to St. Francis of Assisi, who renounced his wealth to live a life of poverty and service to others. Many have rejoiced that this is just the kind of humble leader that will further ecumenical relationships and win greater favor for Roman Catholicism.

    There is great irony however with the premise of a humble Pope. The papacy overseeing and affirming the teachings of Roman Catholicism has long been anything but humble. In the 14th century, Pope Boniface VIII was so bold as to claim in his papal bull, Unam Sanctum: "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Fifty years later, Pope clement VI declared in his writing, Super Quisbusdam, "...no man of the wayfarers outside of the faith of this Church, and outside the obedience of the Pope of Rome, can finally be saved...all who have raised themselves against the faith of the Roman Church and have died in final impenitence have been damned and have descended to the eternal punishments of hell." Just before the turn of the 20th century, Pope Leo XIII declared, "He who would separate himself from the Roman Pontiff has no further bond with Christ." These papal declarations, by popes who claim to speak infallibly on faith and morals, couldn't be more clear, that salvation is dependent upon obedience and submission to popes. The Biblical response to this nonsense can be found in Acts 4:12; Col. 1:18, 1 Tim. 2:5; John 14:6 and Eph. 5:23.

    Over the last 1500 years, Rome has written her own history and would lead all to believe that such bold and arrogant statements by Popes are fully justified. But throughout history we see continual opposition to Rome's unbiblical claims. In the third century, for example, Cyprian called out the bishop of Rome, Stephen I, for claiming to excommunicate all churches who disagreed with him. Cyprian wrote that no one should "set himself up as a bishop of bishops" or by "tyrannical terror force his colleagues to the necessity of obeying." Later in the 6th century, the bishop of Rome, Gregory I, was very outspoken against the bishop of Constantinople, John IV, using the title "Universal Bishop." He warned him of "all who flatter you and offer you this name in error" and not to "foolishly consent to be called by the proud title." While history reveals that Gregory used his powerful position in questionable ways, he was resolved to reject such antichristian pride and usurpation of Christianity by a singular bishop.

    Regardless of any winsome humble acts that Pope Francis might display, his very position and affirmation of the teachings of Roman Catholicism reveal that he is, in fact, a cleverly disguised deceiver of a false gospel (2 Pet. 2:1-3). 
    All Christians Are Called to Be Witnesses
  • How many of you would respond to this recruiting ad? Men and women wanted for the difficult task of building Christ's Church. You will face constant attacks from an invisible enemy who will try to distract you from your objective and destroy your effectiveness. You will be persecuted, mocked and ridiculed by his ministers of unrighteousness. You will often be discouraged and misunderstood by apathetic and lazy people working with you. Whenever you are persecuted for the sake of your King, you will be asked to leap for joy. The results of your labor and your full reward will not come until after all your work is completed. You will not be able to boast or take pride in what you do and it may cost you your life. However, you will enjoy compelling advantages over all competition by tapping unlimited resources from your headquarters' support team. The fruit of your labor will last for all eternity. And most importantly, the incomparable retirement program is out of this world.

    This recruiting ad is an accurate description of what every Christian experiences when they devote their lives to the Savior and His great commission. Tragically, many who are called by Him have not reported for active duty but have gone AWOL. Oh, they will gather in holy huddles on Sunday morning, but when the play is called, they go sit on the bench to watch others run the offense. They say they are too busy or not equipped or fearful. What they really need is some divinely inspired motivation to get them actively involved in building Christ's church. Following are seven motivational truths that should inspire every Christian to become a more faithful witness for the Lord Jesus:

    Witnessing Glorifies Our Great God
    Each time we proclaim the Gospel we pro- claim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). Even if we do not see many conversions while laboring in the fields white for harvest, we are still glorifying our great God and Savior every time we proclaim His Gospel.

    Of course we must also live our lives in a way that reflects the matchless love and heartfelt gratitude we have for our Savior. Our actions provide another notable testimony to unbelievers. When they see our good works, our heavenly Father is glorified (Mat. 5:16). For this reason, Paul exhorts us: "you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:20). Jesus said the mark of a true disciple is one who glorifies God by proclaiming the fruit-bearing Gospel. "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (Mat. 4:19).

    Witnessing is a Divine Command
    The Lord Jesus gives a command for every Christian to obey. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." The Greek word for "go" is "poreuomai" which means "on your way" Christians are to make disciples (not decisions) as they go from place to place. Jesus has given us this great responsibility of making His last command our first concern. When you break up the word "responsibility", we see it is our "response" to His "ability."

    Witnessing is a Royal Privilege
    All Christians are given the awesome privilege of being ambassadors for the King of Kings. One of the highest honors for an American is to represent our country as an ambassador. In the same way, the highest honor for a Christian is to represent King Jesus and to take His message of reconciliation to a lost and dying world. Every man in Christ is a new creature who has been given the ministry of reconciliation. God has recreated them for the privilege of reconciling the world to Him through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-20).

    Witnessing is a Great Act of Love
    I believe the primary reason many Christians do not faithfully proclaim the Gospel is be- cause they do not grasp the sheer horror of hell. If we fully understood the reality of the everlasting torment and suffering that awaits those who die without Christ, we would do everything in our power to reach our loved ones before it is too late. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem because He knew the dreadful terror the Jews would endure for rejecting their Messiah. Jesus said those who reject Him will be eternally punished in an everlasting fire (Mat. 25:41, 46). Paul, the compassionate evangelist of the first century warned unbelievers when he wrote: "Those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus...will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thes. 1:8-9). It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

    Giving the good news of Christ's substitutionary atonement is indeed the greatest act of love we could ever do for those who are perishing. We have all heard of other great acts of love, such as when people donate one of their organs to another. As great as this sacrifice is, it only takes care of their temporal problem. When we share the Gospel with them we are giving them a cure their eternal sin disease.

    Our love for the lost is often coupled with our deep compassion for them. The word "compassion" is not a passive word but a word of action. It means "sorrow for the [pending] sufferings of another accompanied by an urge to help."

    Witnessing is also a compelling demonstration of our love for Jesus. Our love for God should reflect His merciful love for us. God demonstrated His love for His children by sending His only Son to die in their place (Rom. 5:8). "He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (2 Cor. 5:15). One of the most consistent ways we can show our love for God is live for Him in obedience to His word by proclaiming His Gospel (1 John 2:5).

    We Have the Only Message of Hope
    Peter proclaimed, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). There is no other Savior, no other mediator and no other Gospel (John 14:6; Gal. 1:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). If there were many ways to paradise then the Gospel message would not be that important. However the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes the most important message any- one could ever hear because it communicates how sinners can receive the greatest gift ever offered - everlasting life in the presence of our gracious Creator and merciful Savior. Those who do not share the Gospel are only helping the devil's cause. Satan uses every- thing in his power to thwart access to Scrip- ture because he knows that the living and abiding word of God is the imperishable seed that brings forth eternal life to those he is holding captive with his lies (1 Pet. 1:23).

    Witnessing is Evidence of a New Life
    Christians are born again to reproduce! Whenever I see repented sinners respond to the Gospel in genuine saving faith, the very first thing they want to do is share the good news with all their loved ones. One dear lady in particular, who exchanged her Catholic religion for a relationship with Jesus, put together 17 three-ring binders with all the Scriptures that we shared to set her free. She immediately sent them to all her family members in the hopes they too would follow Jesus in the newness of eternal life.
    Another friend, who left the Catholic Church after trusting Christ as her all-sufficient Sav- ior, asked if we would start teaching her son and his fiancee all the Scriptures we shared with her. This new life, that is given by God as a gift, will indeed be evidenced by a de- sire to see others come alive in Christ. Paul wrote, "Every Christian has been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God pre- pared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). A most important work God has prepared for us to do is to build His church by making disciples of Jesus Christ.

    Followers of Jesus Will Fish for Men
    Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mat. 4:19). Jesus gave this command to those who were professional fishermen. They had been successful in catching fish that were alive, now they were being asked to catch men who were dead. The only way to catch men who are dead in their sin is with the life-giving power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). A disciple of Jesus will follow Him and to follow Jesus is to be a fisher of men.

    There is no greater cause for rejoicing than to see those who had been enslaved to Sa- tan, sin and death, be set free by the power of God! The redeemed rejoice and all the angels in heaven rejoice when sinners repent!

    May Christians everywhere develop a greater desire to glorify God through the proclamation of His Gospel. As our love for our Savior grows, might His wondrous mercy, sovereign grace and unfailing love flow from our hearts to our lips. And may we never refrain from proclaiming our Lord's sin-repelling holiness, His inescapable justice and His perfect righteousness that is required for entrance into paradise. In the power of the Holy Spirit, motivated by our matchless love for Jesus and to honor and glorify His holy name, let us all emulate the early church: "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teach- ing and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42).

    As we go from place to place through each day we can ask people two simple, yet pro- found questions: "Do you believe in heaven?" and "How do you hope to get there?" You will be pleasantly surprised how easily people will share their opinion about spiritual things. When their response is not "by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," you can ask them if they would like to know what The Bible says about God's one and only provision. If they say "yes" you can leave them our Gospel tract, The Greatest News Ever Told About the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived Who Offers the Greatest Gift Ever Given. It is a 6-page fold out that contains only the Word of God which has the power to convert the soul! 
    Apocrypha and Canon
  • The canon is an officially accepted list of books. The canon was determined by God and discovered by man. The Catholic Church claims it was given the authority to establish the canon at the Council of Hippo in A.D. 393. However the church did not create the canon, it simply recognized the letters that were already accepted as Scripture by the first century church. Long before church councils were ever convened, church elders were constantly evaluating and deciding which of the many writings of their day carried apostolic authority.  We have proof that letters were circulated and accepted before the canon was formally established. Paul wrote: "After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans" (Col. 4:16).

    The Roman Catholic Bible contains not only the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament, but also the apocryphal books, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch and Maccabees. These books were never part of the early church canon because they contain historical and geographical errors, proving they were not divinely inspired. The apocryphal books also teach doctrines which are at variance with the inspired Scriptures. For example, 2 Maccabees 12:43-45 teaches the efficacy of prayers and offerings for the dead. Ecclesiaticus 3:30 teaches that almsgiving makes atonement for sin and justifies cruelty to slaves (33:26, 28). Christ and His apostles quoted frequently from Old Testament books but never from these apocryphal books. Furthermore, they were never included in the Jewish canon, which is of utmost significance because God entrusted His Word to the Jews Paul wrote: "(The Jews) were entrusted with the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:1-2). The entire Old Testament was affirmed in the Jewish community by means of the Holy Spirit long before any Council sat in judgment. 

    To collect various letters and books of Scripture into one volume was the task given to Christians already converted to Christ by the Word of God.  These early Christians did not give us the Word of God.  The Word of God gave us these early Christians. They were under conviction and illumination of the Holy Spirit from the writings of the Apostles and oral teachings of Jesus long before any Council pieced together the Bible. Hence, the Word of God established the Church. Early Christians were convinced and persuaded that it was the Word of God because the Holy Spirit convicted them.

    The actual gathering together of the Scriptures into one volume took place in God’s providence, under the supervision, persuasion, and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Christians labored together to separate the actual Word from false writings.  The early Christians pooled their cognitive convictions and brought together a Canon of the text to end speculations and dismiss false writings.  
    Jerome completed his version of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate, in 405. In the Middle Ages the Vulgate became the de facto standard version of the Bible in the West. The manuscripts clearly identified certain books of the Vulgate Old Testament as apocryphal or non-canonical. Jerome described those books not translated from the Hebrew as apocrypha; he specifically mentions that Wisdom, the book of Jesus son of Sirach, Judith, Tobias, and the Shepherd "are not in the canon". In the prologue to Esdras he mentions 3 and4 Esdras as being apocrypha. In his prologue he said of the Books of the Maccabees, that the Church "has not received them among the canonical scriptures".

    We know the Bible was complete and "once for all delivered to the Saints in the first century (Jude 3). The Old Testament Canon was closed about 425 B.C., 425 years before Christ. The last book was written by Malachi. There was no question which books were inspired by God. The writers were well known as a spokesmen for God and claimed to be speaking and writing the inspired Word of God. Secondly, were no errors of history, geography, or theology in the writings.  

    The New Testament had similar tests to determine a book's canonicity. First, was the book authored by an Apostle or someone closely associated with an Apostle? They knew who the Apostles were and they knew who their close associates were. The key question about the book's inspiration was tied to Apostolic authorship or one closely associated. For example, the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark, and Mark was not an Apostle but a close associate of Peter. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by Luke who was not an Apostle but a very close associate of Paul. The Apostles were known to the people, their associates were known to the people, and when Apostles wrote and claimed inspiration the people were secure in the veracity of their writings.

    Another test applied by the Early Church was the test of content. Did the writings square with what the Apostles taught? In those early years of the Church, heretics such as the Gnostics tried to slip in phony books, but none of them ever made it. If it didn't square with Apostolic doctrine - it didn't pass. And the doctrinal aberrations were very easy to spot. A third test was this; is the book regularly read and used in the churches? In other words, did the people of God readily accept it? Read it during worship and make its teachings a part of their daily living? A final test was determined that would sort of pull it all together and that was the book recognized and used by succeeding generations after the Early Church?

    There was also a formidable group of spurious books that came in the New Testament period. They all failed to make the canon because they couldn't pass the test of authenticity. Christ has put His stamp of authority on the Scripture. The early Church clearly discovered the canon of God's Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To add anything to Scripture or to reject the inspiration of Scripture, is to not only to ignore the warnings of Scripture and the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, but to bring yourself into the very dangerous place where you are susceptible to the curse of God. Paul cites Luke's Gospel as Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18). Peter referred to Paul's writings as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul commanded the Thessalonians to have his letter read to all the brethren (1 Thes. 5:27). John promised a blessing to all those who read the Revelation (Rev. 1:3). To the Colossians Paul wrote "have this letter read in the church of the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16). As long as the apostles were alive everything could be verified. They were eye witnesses to all that Christ said and did.

    The councils of Hippo 393 and Carthage 397 simply approved the list of 27 NT books which had already been recognized by the early church. They neither added to the number or took away form it. 
    A Response to Rome's Attack on Justification
  • Over the last few weeks, Pope Francis has made frequent allusions to "Satan" and the "Evil One." This may well be part of his effort to cast out the presence of evil and bring back healing and harmony to the Church, and to parts of the Vatican. He has been addressing the sin of calumny in religion which is defined as false and malicious statements, or slander, meant to hurt someone's reputation. The pope said, "Calumny aims to destroy the work of God, and calumny comes from a very evil thing: it is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls. Calumny uses lies to get ahead. Be in no doubt, where there is calumny, there is Satan himself."

    It appears commendable of Francis to try to clean house both inside and outside of the Vatican where there is much dissent. However, it is ironic that Francis heads an organization with a long history of calumny against Protestant Christianity. In fact, the reformer John Calvin, in his "Institutes of the Christian Religion", wrote a whole chapter (ch. 16) to refute the calumnies that were waged by the "papists" against the doctrine of justification.

    The following are my responses to each of the 4 columnies waged against the faith by Rome:

    1) Faith Alone" destroys good works and encouraging sin
    Good works are present in the life of a true Christian. Good works don't save but they will follow as the fruit of a justified believer (Eph. 2:10; Titus 3:8). A guilty person has nothing to offer God. In the same way, one who is on trial for murder will not reverse or lighten his sentence by promising to do good works. Without saving faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

    Martin Luther coined the phrase, "We are saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone." Scripture is clear that works don't save (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5) and in fact, they nullify justifying grace (Rom. 11:6). This however doesn't mean that works are not present in the believer's life. The true believer evidences good works in their life (Jn. 15:5; Titus 2:14) and strives to obey the teachings of Christ. Roman Catholics have confused justification with sanctification. While both are distinctly different, they are similar in that they are both by the grace of God and both involve human responsibility. Justification, means to make righteous and is imputed to the believer granted by God's grace and received solely by faith (Rom. 4:9; Gal. 3:6) and repentance (turning from what opposes this truth). Rome denies the imputed nature of justification and has long taught that it is infused, a continual process as man strives to become righteous. The problem with this view is that the basis of one's right standing before God is no longer on the basis of Christ's blood, but on man's works. The biblical view is simply that a man is made right before God by faith in Christ's blood shed for him. He is restored to God and enabled by grace to thrive in a progressive sanctifying relationship with God. He does good works with joy as a result of the work done in him. The process of sanctification accompanies all who are justified (1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 6:22).

    Just as a husband's generosity to get flowers for his wife does not contribute to his love for her; the flowers are a demonstration of the love he already has for her. Likewise, the good fruit on a tree is not the source of the tree's goodness; it is the evidence that the tree is healthy (Luke 6:43-44)?

    2) "Faith Alone" destroys merit which dissuades men from doing well
    It is misguided to believe that man's only motivation to do well is in light of a promised reward. All false religions function with the same driving force, that man must strive to earn favor with God. Biblical Christianity stands distinctly apart in that it declares that our enablement and motivation are in light of what has already been done by God and received by true believers (1 Jn. 4:19). The justified believer is set free from their slavery to sin (Rom. 6:17), is given a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), and is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), imputed with the righteousness of God (Rom. 6:18). They do good works out of the overflow of joy, love, and gratitude for what has been done for them. This is analogous to two children, one who obeys his parents to try to win favor with them and another who obeys his parents simply because he loves them and desires to please them. The child who tries to win favor is focused on himself and his position before his parents which he believes he can increase. In contrast, the child who recognizes he is loved by his parents, is secure in his position and relationship with them. He has a heart that is purely motivated by desire to obey and please them.

    3) The apostles make no mention of merit is a false claim
    Throughout many of the epistles we see a continual model where the first half of the epistle is doctrine and the second half is practice. Ephesians as the clearest example of this with the first three chapters being orthodoxy (right teaching) and the last three chapters being orthopraxy (right practice) in light of one's position. There is a clear shift in chapter 4 with the first verse, "I THEREFORE, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have BEEN CALLED..." Paul then goes on to describe the true believer's unity and changed life (ch. 4), how they should walk in love and love their spouses (ch. 5), and finally the further roles of parents, children, masters, and slaves along with the strength we have in the whole armor of God (ch. 6).

    The apostles unanimously teach that our power to do right doesn't come from our striving obedience and good works but rather such things are enabled and overflow as a result of what Christ has done for us. Often times people mistakenly reject the gospel because they feel they have to get their lives in order before they are ready to pursue their faith. The reality is that, no one has anything to offer God or can even pursue Him apart from what He does for us. This is as absurd as a sick person believing they need to get healthy on their own before they can see a physician. Jesus uses this illustration in Luke 5:31-32 when He states, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." It's important to note that sinners have nothing to offer God, they simply turn from their ways and turn to God in faith. The great danger of religion and the emphasis of merits that are believed to be worthy of a reward is that they look to self rather than God. Those who boast in how religious they are and are dogmatic about how their many works are a required offering to God have pridefully aligned themselves with the pharisees. In God's great plan of salvation He gets all the glory. As we forsake everything we think we have to offer Him and depend on Him alone, we sound a trumpet for His glory. As true believers who are wholly dependent on His grace and demonstrate the change He has made in their lives, they lovingly bear much spiritual fruit, not out of obligation but out of love. Those that seek to abuse or take advantage of the grace designed salvation put themselves in a very precarious place where one has good reason to question if they have yet to be saved (Rom. 6:1-2).

    4) "Righteousness is too easy" is a misunderstanding
    This objection might be one of the most common misunderstandings by Catholics today. God's biblical plan of salvation sounds too easy for those who do not understand divine justice. What many fail to realize is that salvation is of such great value, that we could never merit it even if we tried. Salvation appears not to be fair in the sense that innocent One who was of infinitely more value than any man, would take on the wrath of God for the guilty and condemned who were living in rebellion to God (Rom. 3:10-18). But praise God that He provided a way to demonstrate His love and mercy by crushing His Son as a substitute for His people (Is. 53:4-5), He did in the only way His justice and righteousness would not be compromised (Ps. 97:2; Heb. 4:13).

    Those who believe salvation is easy have failed to humbly recognize the great sacrifice God has done for believers. Our religious good works are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6) offered by a condemned felon before a righteous judge.

    Obtaining the righteousness of God is not easy. We will never understand the full extent of what Christ had to endure on this side of eternity. Jesus said, "the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt. 7:14). When Nicodemus asked Jesus how to be born again (Jn. 3:4) Jesus responded that "the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know were it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:7-8). Salvation is a work of the Lord from beginning to end.

    In Ephesians 2:1-3 we get a glimpse of the natural man's spiritual condition before God. He is described as dead in our sin, following Satan, sons of disobedience, following his passions and desires, and under God's wrath. For the religious individual who believes that we have much to contribute to salvation so that it is not so "easy", they must ask themselves, what does a such a condemned person have to offer God? Ephesians 2:4-10, go on to describe how God intervened in the life of the born again believer, He has given such helpless individuals grace to receive salvation by faith. We have nothing more than faith to contribute and repentance from all that we trusted in before that opposed faith in Christ alone. Even the good works that verse 10 speaks of are, "prepared beforehand" by God, not by man. The heart of a follower of Christ is one of overwhelming gratitude because they properly recognize that it is God, "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" (2 Tim. 1:9).

    While the majority Pope Francis' message appears noble for us to be tolerant of one another's views, especially His; it is in fact a clever slight of hand. What better deception could Satan put forth than to encourage kindness towards his false beliefs. Francis' fails to address where true teachings can be found. From the beginning, Roman Catholicism has been opposed to the one true gospel in God's Holy Word. While Francis calls anyone who opposes his "infallible" false gospel as doing the work of the devil, it is in fact him and his organization who have long been pawns under the influence of Satan himself. The lesson to be learned from all this is to make sure our disagreements with one another are always rooted in understanding what God's perfect holy Word says. Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32).
    Anathemas That Condemn
  • The eternal destinies of Catholics and former Catholics are said to be controlled by the threat of Rome's 100 anathemas. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, when "an anathema is attached to doctrinal teaching of a general council, it is a certain sign of an infallible definition" and Catholics "are bound to believe them in order to maintain the bond of faith."

    An example of an anathema imposed on Catholics that many are rejecting today is one concerning indulgences. According to Vatican Council II, the Roman Catholic Church "condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them" (Vol. 1, p. 71). An indulgence defined by Rome is "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian...gains under certain defined conditions" (Vol. 1, p. 75). They can be applied to the dead by way of prayer, the Rosary or the sacrifice of the Mass. Most Catholics who reject this ungodly dogma on indulgences ignore the fact that they stand condemned by their church. This has always puzzled me. Why would Catholics trust their church's teachings on salvation, while at the same time, dismiss or ignore their church's teachings on condemnation?

    Whenever the pontiff pronounces an anathema, he uses a formula which ends with these words: "We deprive [him/her] of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment." Anathemas are said to condemn former Catholics to the torments of everlasting hell unless they do penance and return home to Rome. They also condemn current Catholics who do not believe every dogma of their church.

    Former Catholics who are now born-again Christians need not to worry! If God is for us, who is against us? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? Who is the one who condemns? (Rom. 8:31-34). Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword [or the Roman Catholic Church]? (Rom. 8:35).

    We must use this information to educate others. We must contend earnestly for the faith by informing our pastors and evangelical leaders to resist the growing pressure to sign unity accords with the Roman Catholic Church. We must also proclaim the truth to Catholics and explain to them that only God has the power to save and condemn. He gave us only two anathemas in His Word. Paul wrote: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (1 Cor. 16:22). Paul also wrote, "If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be anathema!" (Gal. 1:8). May we all look to Scripture as our most trustworthy source for knowing the truth on these critical issues!

    The following anathemas are taken directly from the Roman Catholic Council of Trent as found at www.history.hanover.edu

    The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the Same three legates of the Apostolic Sec presiding therein,--keeping this always in view, that, errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament--seeing that one God is the author of both --as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle. But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.
    If any one does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offence of that prevarication, the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse; let him be anathema.
    If any one asserts, that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death, and pains of the body, into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema.
    If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,--which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, --is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, santification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema.
    If any one denies, that infants, newly born from their mothers' wombs, even though they be sprung from baptized parents, are to be baptized; or says that they are baptized indeed for the remission of sins, but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which has need of being expiated by the laver of regeneration for the obtaining life everlasting,--whence it follows as a consequence, that in them the form of baptism, for the remission of sins, is understood to be not true, but false, --let him be anathema.
    If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, since Adam's sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that it is not in man's power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God worketh as well as those that are good, not permissively only, but properly, and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that all works done before Justification, in whatsoever way they be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; or that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins: let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the fear of hell,-whereby, by grieving for our sins, we flee unto the mercy of God, or refrain from sinning,-is a sin, or makes sinners worse; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the Ten Commandments nowise appertain to Christians; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the justified, either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able; let him be anathema.
    lf any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or-which is more intolerable still-mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well [Page 48] doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Chris taught; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taugh; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose [Page 49] living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that these said sacraments of the New Law do not differ from the sacraments of the Old Law, save that the ceremonies are different, and different the outward rites; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that these seven sacraments are in such wise equal to each other, as that one is not in any way more worthy than another; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that these sacraments were instituted for the sake of nourishing faith alone; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify; or, that they do not confer that grace on those who do not place an obstacle thereunto; as though they were merely outward signs of grace or justice received through faith, and certain marks of the Christian profession, whereby believers are distinguished amongst men from unbelievers; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that grace, as far as God's part is concerned, is not given through the said sacraments, always, and to all men, even though they receive them rightly, but (only) sometimes, and to some persons; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that by the said sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred through the act performed, but that faith alone in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of grace; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in the three sacrments, Baptism, to wit, Confirmation, and Order, there is not imprinted in the soul a character, that is, a certain spiritual and indelible Sign, on account of which they cannot be repeated; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that all Christians have power to administer the word, and all the sacraments; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in ministers, when they effect, and confer the sacraments, there is not required the intention at least of doing what the Church does; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that a minister, being in mortal sin,-if so be that he observe all the essentials which belong to the effecting, or conferring of, the sacrament,-neither effects, nor confers the sacrament; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, wont to be used in the solemn [Page 56] administration of the sacraments, may be contemned, or without sin be omitted at pleasure by the ministers, or be changed, by every pastor of the churches, into other new ones; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the baptism of John had the same force as the baptism of Christ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that in the Roman church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that one who has been baptized cannot, even if he would, lose grace, let him sin ever so much, unless he will not believe; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the baptized are, by baptism itself, made debtors but to faith alone, and not to the observance of the whole law of Christ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the baptized are freed from all the precepts, whether written or transmitted, of holy Church, in such wise that they are not bound to observe them, unless they have chosen of their own accord to submit themselves thereunto; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the resemblance of the baptism which they have received is so to be recalled unto men, as that they are to understand, that all vows made after baptism are void, in virtue of the promise already made in that baptism; as if, by those vows, they both derogated from that faith which they have professed, and from that baptism itself; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that by the sole remembrance and the faith of the baptism which has been received, all sins committed after baptism are either remitted, or made venial; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that baptism, which was true and rightly conferred, is to be repeated, for him who has denied the faith of Christ amongst Infidels, when he is converted unto penitence; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that no one is to be baptized save at that age at which Christ was baptized, or in the very article of death; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that little children, for that they have not actual faith, are not, after having received baptism, to be reckoned amongst the faithful; and that, for this cause, they are to be rebaptized when they have attained to years of discretion; or, that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted, than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be bapized in the faith alone of the Church; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that those who have been thus baptized when children, are, when they have grown up, to be asked whether they will ratify what their sponsors promised in their names when they were baptized; and that, in case they answer that they will not, they are to be left to their own will; and are not to be compelled meanwhile to a Christian life by any other penalty, save that they be excluded from the participation of the Eucharist, and of the other sacraments, until they repent; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the confirmation of those who have been baptized is an idle ceremony, and not rather a true and proper sacrament; or that of old it was nothing more than a kind of catechism, whereby they who were near adolescence gave an account of their faith in the face of the Church; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that they who ascribe any virtue to the sacred chrism of confirmation, offer an outrage to the Holy Ghost; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the ordinary minister of holy confirmation is not the bishop alone, but any simple priest soever; let him be anathema.
    If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.
    If any one denieth, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each [Page 83] species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but (are there) only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true Body of the Lord remaineth not; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, either that the principal fruit of the most holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or, that other effects do not result therefrom; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship, even external of latria; and is, consequently, neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in processions, according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy church; or, is not to be proposed publicly to the people to be adored, and that the adorers thereof are idolators; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that it is not lawful for the sacred Eucharist to be reserved in the sacrarium, but that, immediately after consecration, it must necessarily be distributed amongst those present; or, that it is not lawful that it be carried with honour to the sick; let him be anathema.
    lf any one saith, that Christ, given in the Eucharist, is eaten spiritually only, and not also sacramentally and really; let him be anathema.
    If any one denieth, that all and each of Christ's faithful of both sexes are bound, when they have attained to years of discretion, to communicate every year, at least at Easter, in accordance with the precept of holy Mother Church; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that it is not lawful for the celebrating priest to communicate himself; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that in the Catholic Church Penance is not truly and properly a sacrament, instituted by Christ our Lord for reconciling the faithful unto God, as often as they fall into sin after baptism; let him be anathema.
    If any one, confounding the sacraments, saith that baptism is itself the sacrament of Penance, as though these two Sacraments were not distinct, and that therefore Penance is not rightly called a second plank after shipwreck; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that those words of the Lord the Savior, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, are not to be understood of the power of forgiving and of retaining sins in the Sacrament of penance, as the Catholic Church has always from the beginning understood them; but wrests them, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, to the power of preaching the gospel; let him be anathema.
    If any one denieth, that, for the entire and perfect remission of sins, there are required three acts in the penitent, which are as it were the matter of the sacrament of Penance, to wit, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, which are called the three parts of penance; or saith that there are two parts only of penance, to wit, the terrors with which the conscience is smitten upon being convinced of sin, and the faith, generated by the gospel, or by the absolution, whereby one believes that his sins are forgiven him through Christ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the contrition which is acquired by means of the examination, collection, and detestation of sins,--whereby one thinks over his years in the bitterness of his soul, by pondering on the grievousness, the multitude, the filthiness of his sins, the loss of eternal blessedness, and the eternal damnation which he has incurred, having therewith the purpose of a better life,--is not a true and profitable sorrow, does not prepare for grace, but makes a man a hypocrite and a greater sinner; in fine, that this (contrition) is a forced and not free and voluntary sorrow; let him be anathema.
    If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in the sacrament of Penance, it is not necessary, of divine right, for the remission of sins, to confess all and singular the mortal sins which after due and diligent previous meditation are remembered, even those (mortal sins) which are secret, and those which are opposed to the two last commandments of the Decalogtie, as also the circumstances which change the species of a sin; but (saith) that such confession is only useful to instruct and console the penitent, and that it was of old only observed in order to impose a [Page 109] canonical satisfaction; or saith that they, who strive to confess all their sins, wish to leave nothing to the divine mercy to pardon ; or, finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the confession of all sins, such as it is observed in the Church, is impossible, and is a human tradition to be abolished by the godly; or that all and each of the faithful of Christ, of either sex, are not obliged thereunto once a year, conformably to the constitution of the great Council of Lateran, and that, for this cause, the faithful of Christ are to be persuaded not to con fess during Lent; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a bare ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven to him who confesses; provided only he believe himself to be absolved, or (even though) the priest absolve not in earnest, but in joke; or saith, that the confession of the penitent is not required, in order that the priest may be able to absolve him; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that priests, who are in mortal sin, have not the power of binding and of loosing; or, that not priests alone are the ministers of absolution, but that, to all and each of the faithful of Christ is it said: Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven; and, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained; by virtue of which words every one is able to absolve from sins, to wit, from public sins by reproof only, provided he who is reproved yield thereto, and from secret sins by a voluntary confession; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that bishops have not the right of reserving cases to themselves, except as regards external polity, and that therefore the reservation of cases hinders not but that a priest may truly absolve from reserved cases; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that God always remits the whole punishment together with the guilt, and that the satisfaction of penitents is no other than the faith whereby they apprehend that Christ has satisfied for them; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that satisfaction for sins, as to their temporal punishment, is nowise made to God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, by the punishments inflicted by Him, and patiently borne, or by those enjoined by the priest, nor even by those voluntarily undertaken, as by fastings, prayers, almsdeeds, or by other works also of piety; and that, therefore, the best penance is merely a new life; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the satisfaction, by which enitents redeem their sins through Jesus Christ, are not a worship of God, but traditions of men, which obscure the doctrine of grace, and the true worship of God, and the benefit itself of the death of Christ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the keys are given to the Church, only to loose, not also to bind; and that, therefore, priests act contrary to the purpose of the keys, and contrary to the institution of Christ, when they impose punishments on those who confess; and that it is a fiction, that, after the eternal punishment, has, by virtue of the keys, been removed, there remains for the most part a temporal punishment to be discharged; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that Extreme Unction is not truly and properly a sacrament, instituted by Christ our Lord, and promulgated by the blessed apostle James; but is only a rite received from the Fathers, or a human figment; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacred unction of the sick does not confer grace, nor remit sin, nor comfort(h) the sick; but that it has already ceased, as though it were of old only the grace of working Cures; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the rite and usage of Extreme Unction, which the holy Roman Church observes, is repugnant to the sentiment of the blessed apostle James, and that is therefore to be changed, and may, without sin, be contemned by Christians; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the Presbyters of the Church, whom blessed James exhorts to be brought to anoint the sick, are not the priests who have been ordained by a bishop, but the elders in each community, and that for this Cause a priest alone is not the proper minister of Extreme Unction; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the Presbyters of the Church, whom blessed James exhorts to be brought to anoint the sick, are not the priests who have been ordained by a bishop, but the elders in each community, and that for this Cause a priest alone is not the proper minister of Extreme Unction; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, by the precept of God, or, by necessity of salvation, all and each of the faithful of Christ ought to receive both species of the most holy sacrament not consecrating; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the holy Catholic Church was not induced, by just causes and reasons, to communicate, under the species of bread only, laymen, and also clerics when not consecrating; let him be anathema.
    If any one denieth, that Christ whole and entire -the fountain and author of all graces--is received under the one species of bread; because that-as some falsely assert--He is not received, according to the institution of Christ himself, under both species; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the communion of the Eucharist is necessary for little children, before they have arrived at years of discretion; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacriflce is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that by those words, Do this for the commemoration of me (Luke xxii. 19), Christ did not institute the apostles priests; or, did not ordain that they, and other priests should offer His own body and blood; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, by the sacrifice of the mass, a blasphemy is cast upon the most holy sacrifice of Christ consummated on the cross; or, that it is thereby derogated from; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that it is an imposture to celebrate masses in honour of the saints, and for obtaining their intercession with God, as the Church intends; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the canon of the mass contains errors, and is therefore to be abrogated; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the ceremonies, vestments, and outward signs, which the Catholic Church makes use of in the celebration of masses, are incentives to impiety, rather than offices of piety; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that masses, wherein the priest alone communicates sacramentally, are unlawful, and are, therefore, to be abrogated; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned; or, that the mass ought to be celebrated in the vulgar tongue only; or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood; or that there is not any power of consecrating and offering the true body and blood of the Lord, and of forgiving and retaining sins; but only an office and bare ministry of preaching the Gospel, or, that those who do not preach are not priests at all; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, besides the priesthood, there are not in the Catholic Church other orders, both greater and minor, by which, as by certain steps, advance is made unto the priesthood; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that order, or sacred ordination, is not truly and properly a sacrament instituted by Christ the Lord; or, that it is a kind of human figment devised by men unskilled in ecclesiastical matters; or, that it is only a kind of rite for choosing ministers of the word of God and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, by sacred ordination, the Holy Ghost is not given; and that vainly therefore do the bishops say, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; or, that a character is not imprinted by that ordination; or, that he who has once been a priest, can again become a layman; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the sacred unction which the Church uses in holy ordination, is not only not required, but is to be despised and is pernicious, as likewise are the other ceremonies of Order; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that, in the Catholic Church there is not a hierarchy by divine ordination instituted, consisting of bishops, priests, and ministers; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that bishops are not superior to priests; or, that they have not the power of confirming and ordaining; or, that the power which they possess is common to them and to priests; or, that orders, conferred by them, without the consent, or vocation of the people, or of the secular power, are invalid; or, that those who have neither been rightly ordained, nor sent, by ecclesiastical and canonical power, but come from elsewhere, are lawful ministers of the word and of the sacraments; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the bishops, who are assumed by authority of the Roman Pontiff, are not legitimate and true bishops, but are a human figment; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the evangelic law, (a sacrament) instituted by Christ the Lord; but that it has been invented by men in the Church; and that it does not confer grace; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that this is not prohibited by any divine law; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that those degrees only of consanguinity and affinity, which are set down in Leviticus, can hinder matrimony from being contracted, and dissolve it when contracted; and that the Church cannot dispense in some of those degrees, or establish that others may hinder and dissolve it ; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the Church could not establish impediments dissolving marriage; or that she has erred in establishing them; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that on account of heresy, or irksome cohabitation, or the affected absence of one of the parties, the bond of matrimony may be dissolved; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that matrimony contracted, but not consummated, is not dissolved by the solemn profession of religion by one of the married parties; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath taught, and doth teach, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of one of the married parties; and that both, or even the innocent one who gave not occasion to the adultery, cannot contract another marriage, during the life-time of the other; and, that he is guilty of adultery, who, having put away the adulteress, shall take another wife, as also she, who, having put away the adulterer, shall take another husband; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the Church errs, in that she declares that, for many causes, a separation may take place between husband and wife, in regard of bed, or in regard of cohabitation, for a determinate or for an indeterminate period; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that clerics constituted in sacred orders, or Regulars, who have solemnly professed chastity, are able to contract marriage, and that being contracted it is valid, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law, or vow; and that the contrary is no thing else than to condemn marriage; and, that all who do not feel that they have the gift of chastity, even though they have made a vow thereof, may contract marriage; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that the prohibition of the solemnization of marriages at certain times of the year, is a tyrannical superstition, derived from the superstition of the heathen; or, condemn the benedictions and other ceremonies which the Church makes use of therein; let him be anathema.
    If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.
    And the bishops shall carefully teach this,-that, by means of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, portrayed by paintings or other representations, the people is instructed, and confirmed in (the habit of) remembering, and continually revolving in mind the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from all sacred images, not only because the people are thereby admonished of the benefits and gifts bestowed upon them by Christ, but also because the miracles which God has performed by means of the saints, and their salutary examples, are set before the eyes of the faithful; that so they may give God thanks for those things; may order their own lives and manners in imitation of the saints; and may be excited to adore and love God, and to cultivate piety. But if any one shall teach, or entertain sentiments, contrary to these decrees; let him be anathema.
    Another "Miracle" Approved for Pope's Sainthood
  • The Vatican has reportedly "approved" a second miracle that can be attributed to the memory of Pope John Paul II, opening the door for him to become a full saint faster than anyone in recent history. The miracle allegedly has to do with the "extraordinary healing" of a woman in Costa Rica, who recovered from a brain injury after praying to the deceased pope. The Pope needed to reach a quota of two miracles before he could be stamped as a saint.

    In Catholicism there are other phenomena that can help a Catholic become a saint besides miraculous healings. One is "incorruptibility"when a body is found to be free of decay when exhumed from the grave. The Church considers St. Catherine of Siena to be an example. She died in 1380, and 600 years later without any embalming, her flesh allegedly hasn't decomposed. Another is"liquefaction" when the dried blood of the saint miraculously liquefies on the feast day. The Church considers the patron saint of Naples to be an example. According to the Church, a vial of his dried blood liquefies every year on September 19. Another phenomena is the "odor of sanctity". This happens when the body of a saint allegedly exudes a sweet aroma, like roses, rather than the usual pungent stench of decay. The Church believes the grave of St. Teresa of Avila exuded a sweet fragrance for nine months after her death.

    The process to become a saint in Catholicism includes inquiries into the person's life, reputation and activities and an examination of the person's written and spoken works.

    Mike's Response: This should have disqualified John Paul when you consider he publicly declared Allah to be the one true God. He praised Mohammed as a true prophet. He declared that Jesus is not necessary for salvation when he said, "All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know Christ will enter God's kingdom." He also embraced evolution. He also kissed the Koran, an act that would be considered blasphemy or a sacrilege. Regarding his moral character, he ordered bishops and cardinals to conceal and protect priests who raped and sexually molested young boys. Some bishops even facilitated bribes to the victims on the condition they keep the allegations secret.

    Catholics need to be aware that Satan will deceive the world through lying signs and wonders. Jesus warned, "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. (Mat. 24:24). The apostle Paul wrote: "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved" (2 Thes. 2:9-10).

    John Paul II could become a saint just eight years after his death. The "modern record" for the shortest time from death to sainthood is 27 years by the founder of Opus Dei. If only John Paul II had repented and believed the Gospel, he would already be a saint. The word "saint" occurs 67 times in the New Testament and means "consecrated to God, holy, sacred or pious." According to Scripture, the "saints" are the body of Christ, born-again Christians which make up the true church of Jesus Christ. Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ, not by what they do. What a contrast this is to the ungodly traditions of Roman Catholic! In Catholicism, saints are revered, prayed to and venerated. In the Bible, saints revere, worship, and pray to God alone.
    Another Jesus
  • Is the Jesus of the Roman Catholic Church the biblical Jesus? Knowing and believing the real Jesus is critical because Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins" (John 8:24). A different Jesus is preached by many deceivers (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) who deny His finished work of redemption.

    The Mormons preach Jesus is the brother of Lucifer and was a man who became God. The Jehovah Witnesses preach Jesus was not God but claim he was Michael the arch angel. Roman Catholicism preaches a Jesus that was unable to purge all sin or pay the complete penalty for sin.

    The Biblical Jesus assures Christians they have been saved from condemnation. "Now that we have been justified by His blood, it is all the more certain that we shall be saved by Him from God's wrath" (Roman 5:9). The one time, perfect and all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus completely satisfied the wrath of God (1 John 2:2). Roman Catholicism denies this fundamental teaching and deceives its people into believing that the sacrifice of the Mass satisfied God's wrath not only for the sins of the living but also for the sins of the dead (Canon 3, Council of Trent). Catholics are cursed with anathema by their church if they claim they are saved from God's wrath, (Canon 30, Council of Trent). Catholics know Jesus only as a "gate opener" to heaven. For Catholics to go through the gates of heaven they must save themselves through the Mass and sacraments.

    The Jesus of the Bible expiates sin. "Through His blood, God made Him the means of the expiation for all who believe" (Roman 3:25). Yet the Catholic Church teaches Catholics must expiate their own sins. "This may be done through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments of purifying punishments" (Vatican Council II).

    The Jesus of the Bible is the only mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:15), yet the Roman Catholic Church offers Mary as the mediator. Pope Pius IX proclaimed that "God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will: that we obtain everything through Mary."

    The Jesus of the Bible claimed He was the only way to the heavenly Father (John 14:6). Vatican II denies this by stating, "the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst who are the Moslems."

    So why does the Roman Catholic Church hide the real Jesus from its followers? Because the real Jesus sets people free! In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church maintains control of its people through legalistic rituals, sacraments and threats of anathema's. The biblical Jesus saves believers from the bondage of sin, deception and religion.
    Apostasy
  • One of the greatest mysteries in life is how anyone could come to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and then depart from Him. Judas is the classic example of an apostate - one who abandons the faith he once held. Judas walked and lived with the Son of God for over three years, a royal privilege granted to only 11 other men. Yet after witnessing the Messiah's sinless life, seeing His miracles, experiencing His divine power and hearing His profound wisdom, Judas betrayed Him. It was during the celebration of the Passover meal that Judas deliberately defected from the faith of the apostles and sealed his eternal destiny in the lake of fire (Mat. 26:24-25).

    Two Streams of Christianity

    Many others have departed from the faith since that fateful night. The apostle John wrote about apostates who "went out from us" because "they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us" (1 John 2:18). Most apostates never reject the Christian faith completely, they fall away to a counterfeit form of Christianity. It is for this reason we have seen two streams of Christianity operating side-by-side for 2000 years.

    The Apostolic Church

    One stream is the apostolic church, founded by the Lord Jesus who is the Master Builder. It includes only the few who have entered through the narrow gate (Mat. 7:13). They have been sanctified by the truth and born of the Spirit. This Spirit of Promise seals and indwells each member, thus guaranteeing their eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). This church will be persecuted, hated and despised, but will continue holding to apostolic faith until Jesus returns to take it to heaven as His bride. The gates of hell shall not prevail against this church (Mat. 16:18).

    The Apostate Church

    The other stream is an apostate church made up of those who profess Christ but are spiritually dead. They believe a distorted Gospel, follow another spirit and reject the faith of the apostles (1 Tim. 4:1). This church is being built by men who ignore the Master Builder's blueprint and instead follow their own methods and movements. Maligning the way of truth, they seduce many with their sensuality (2 Pet. 2:2). Apostates will increase in number and grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, until the Day of our Lord (2 Tim. 3:3). These "professing" Christians will not endure sound doctrine. Instead they will turn away from the truth and turn to teachers who tickle their ears with messages of self esteem (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Paul called these teachers "grievous wolves" who enter the church speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30). It is important to note that all apostates are unbelievers but not all un- believers are apostates.

    The Primary Cause of Apostasy

    The major cause of apostasy can be traced to various spiritual influences that include demonic deceptions and divine judgments. The "father of lies" has been seducing the visible church into an ecumenical spirituality in an attempt to unite the religions of the world. Driven by his desire to be worshipped as god, he will continue to attack God's Word with an unrestrained determination. Post- modern philosophy is currently his most effective tool. Church leaders who are caught up in this movement are saying we cannot know absolute truth. And since we cannot know absolute truth, we cannot be dogmatic about doctrine or moral standards. They say dogmatic preaching must give way to dialogue between people of all faiths in order to seek unity for common goals.

    Divine judgment is also a cause for apostasy. Those who refuse to love and believe the truth for salvation will be sent a deluding influence so they might believe what is false and be judged (2 Thes. 2:9-12 ). A divine judgment in the form of moral apostasy is also given to those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. By refusing to acknowledge God any longer, He gives them over to depraved minds and degrading passions for people of the same sex (Rom. 1:18-32).

    The Step-by-Step Drift into Apostasy

    Step One: God's word is rejected as the supreme authority for faith and practice. This creates uncertainty over whether to follow Jesus and His Word or the traditions and movements of men. Double mindedness causes confusion and divided loyalties. The power of the Gospel is diluted by compromise. Biblical evangelism is replaced by "easy believism" or sacramental salvation. Scripture is cited only for selfish ambition, result- ing in little or no discernment. People are given what they want instead of what they need. Their spurious faith is exposed when trials and temptations arise. Biblical warnings about false teachers are ignored.

    Step Two: Scripture is twisted and distorted for power, control and riches. Truth is deter- mined by subjective personal experiences rather than the objective Word of God. Biblical ignorance provides fertile ground for false teachers. "Infallible" men claim to be successors of the apostles. Doctrinal error and sin are tolerated. Worldliness and ungodly influences are present. Hearts are unresponsive to the Holy Spirit. God is honored with lips but hearts are far from Him. Love for God grows cold. Those who contend for the faith are asked to leave. Satan sows his tares in the church with little or no resistance.

    Step Three: Bible teaching is replaced by stories and myths. Doctrinal error is em- braced. Programs and entertainment have forced Jesus out of the church. A form of godliness exists but it is void of power. Deception abounds because there is a failure to love the truth. A stubborn refusal to accept correction is present. Hearts have be- come hardened. The devil is no longer resisted. Blatantly immoral lifestyles are present and accepted.

    Step Four: Jesus Christ and His Gospel are totally rejected. Those who embrace truth are an anathema and asked to leave. Grace is turned into a license to sin. The holy things of God are mocked. Deception is full-blown. Lying signs and wonders are promoted as messages from God. Doctrines of demons are followed. Idolatry and prayers to the dead are encouraged. The church's lamp stand has been removed and a certain terrifying judgement is now unavoidable.

    Past and Future Apostasy

    Biblical history confirms there have always been apostate churches like the one at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) as well as individual apostates (Heb.10:26-31). However, "the apostasy" will reach its prophetic peak just prior to the Day of our Lord (2 Thes. 2:3). Paul's use of the definite article suggests that the downward spiral into apostasy will be culminated by one identifiable act. It will occur when the "man of lawlessness is revealed." This "son of destruction, who op- poses and exalts himself above every so- called god or object of worship...takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God (2 Thes. 3:3-4). This apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude by a demonically influenced world leader. This "second Judas" will desecrate the temple by declaring himself to be God thus committing the abomination of desolation. The "first Judas" desecrated the temple with the money he received by betraying the Son of God (Mat. 27:5).

    The Lord Jesus warned us the end times would be marked by great deception, such that the world has never known (Mat. 24). The spiritual deception which covers the earth will be so prevalent that Jesus asked the question: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). This fatal deception will cause more churches, denominations, seminaries and individuals to drift into apostasy unless biblical warnings are heeded. Each professing Christian's faith will be constantly tested as more seducing spirits invade the church.

    What Are Believers To Do?

    1) Pray that we will be strong in the Lord as we put on the full armor of God. Recognize we are in an intense battle for truth against the schemes of the devil and the wicked forces of darkness (Eph. 6:10-12).

    2) Earnestly contend for the faith. When any- one in our circle of influence is deceiving or being deceived, we must lovingly confront and correct them using Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16). 3) We must abide in God's word to discern truth from error (John 8:31-32). Do not be swept away by every wind of doctrine. Every few years a new fad hits the church. These movements divert people away from the sure word of God. We must guard against the craftiness and trickery of men (Eph. 4:14). 4) Pray for your church leaders and hold them accountable to the Word of God. We must be like the Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily to test the veracity of the Apostle Paul's teaching (Acts 17:11).

    5) Identify and avoid false teachers so others will not be deceived (Rom. 16:17-18).

    May our love for Jesus Christ compel us to be His light in an ever darkening world. Be encouraged! Jesus said these things must take place before He comes for His church. Keep looking up, our redemption is nearBorn Again Christians

    Two Streams of Christianity

    Born Again Christians

    ♦ Contend for the God-given faith of the apostles (Jude 3)

    ♦ Exalt Jesus Christ as the only Master, Lord and Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22)

    ♦ Possessors of Christ, made alive by the Spirit (Rom. 8:10-11)

    ♦ Are devoted to apostolic teaching and sound doctrine (Acts 2:42)

    ♦ Proclaim salvation by grace alone through what God has done in Christ (Rom. 3:24-26; 11:6)

    ♦ Receive grace and turn from ungodliness and worldly desires (Titus 2:11-12)

    ♦ Children of God called out of the world and enrolled in heavenb(2Tim.3:12; Heb.12:23) 

    ♦ Know God and do good works prepared by Him (Eph. 2:9) Apostates

    ♦ Have deliberately departed from the apostles' faith (1 John 2:19)

    ♦ Deny Jesus Christ as the only Master, Lord and Head of the Church (Jude 4)

    ♦ Professors of Christ, twice dead (Mat. 7:22; Jude 12)

    ♦ Introduce destructive heresies and do not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:1)

    ♦ Deceive people with a “salvation" by grace plus what man must do for God (Gal. 1:6-9) 

    ♦ Turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (Jude 4)

    ♦ Godless people blinded by the prince of the world and condemned (2 Cor.4:4; Jude4) 

    ♦ Profess to know God, but deny Him by their deeds (Titus 1:16)

    Apostates

    ♦ Have deliberately departed from the apostles' faith (1 John 2:19)

    ♦ Deny Jesus Christ as the only Master, Lord and Head of the Church (Jude 4)

    ♦ Professors of Christ, twice dead (Mat. 7:22; Jude 12)

    ♦ Introduce destructive heresies and do not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:1)

    ♦ Deceive people with a “salvation" by grace plus what man must do for God (Gal. 1:6-9) 

    ♦ Turn the grace of our God into licentiousness (Jude 4)

    ♦ Godless people blinded by the prince of the world and condemned (2 Cor.4:4; Jude4)

    ♦ Profess to know God, but deny Him by their deeds (Titus1:16)
    Apparitions Exposed
  • Can a born again Christian be a member of a cult and be involved in idol worship? I once thought this was an impossibility until it happened to me. Now I understand why Jesus warned us that, in the end times, there would be an appearance of great signs and miracles that would deceive even the elect, if possible. I confess I have been seduced by signs and miracles associated with apparitions of Mary, and I offer my testimony so others may be warned and delivered.

    Until recently I was serving as Director of Public Relations for the Queen of Peace Center in Dallas, Texas. This non-profit organization disseminates information and messages from Marian apparitions in Medjugorje and around the world. I co-authored a full page ad that was published in the June 25, 1993, Dallas Morning News at a cost of $10,000. This add announced "Mary's" prescription for peace and listed locations of her recent appearances. It also listed phone numbers to call for up-to-day recorded messages of Mary's latest apparitions, such as the one in Dallas (214) 233-MARY. I once thought it was special to be the only non-Catholic on the Queen of Peace board . . . that is, until I met Mike Gendron and his wife, Jane.

    A Divine Appointment

    Neighbors and close friends of mine knew I was seriously contemplating becoming Roman Catholic. They told me that Mike had been a Roman Catholic for 37 years and was now a pastor at a non-denominational church in the Dallas area. They said he understood many of the issues involved in being Roman Catholic and could help me with my decision. I looked forward to meeting both Mike and his wife, not for my sake, but for theirs. I felt certain the information I had collected about "Our Lady's apparitions" in Medjugorje would surely lead them back home to the "true" (Roman Catholic) church. Providentially it appeared, I attended a Queen of Peace board meeting the night before we met and asked the board to pray for this lost pastor and his wife, who had fallen away. When I arrived at their door the next morning, I first introduced myself, before returning to my car for the large stack of books and newspapers I had brought to persuade them. The materials would help explain what was happening in Medjugorje and how the Virgin Mary would help change their lives.

    Confronted by Contradictions

    After we met, they showed me a film titled Catholicism: Crisis of Faith. This film lovingly and objectively contrasted how the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church contradicts the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures. Mike would stop the film after each segment for my questions and comments. Initially, I was argumentative and felt uneasy and rather adamant about what I was witnessing. Mike realized he had forgotten to pray before starting the film and asked if we could ask God to make His truth clear, and that all deception would be exposed. After the prayer my whole countenance changed.

    Each question I asked, Mike validated his answers using Vatican II documents and an official Roman Catholic catechism. It was amazing to me how Roman Catholic teaching contradicts the very Word of God. Question after question, he would bring the Bible over to me and knell to show me verses in context. His servant's demeanor and patient, understanding heart helped in unraveling falsehood after falsehood. There wasn't a question I could have asked him that would have provoked anger. As a reflection of our Lord, this man allowed Jesus to pull the scales away from my eyes.

    There were three things in the film and our discussion that were most alarming to me. First, a church in South America has Mary placed on a crucifix rather than Christ. It reminded me of my visit to Our Lady of Guadeloupe Cathedral in downtown Dallas where Mary is positioned as the focal point at the alter and the crucifix is placed in another part of the church. These two scenes made me realize idolatry is practiced within the church.

    Second, the Roman Catholic Catechism by Rev. William Cogan, now in its 44th year of print, has altered the 10 commandments of God. The 2nd commandment given to Moses reads, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:4). The Roman Catholics have deleted this commandment but still came up with ten by splitting the 10th one into two separate commands. "You shall not covet your neighbor's good; and you shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (Exodus 20:17). I was reminded of the scriptural warnings for those who add to or subtract from the Bible.

    Third, Mike told me the only place in the Bible in which the queen of heaven was referred to was in the Book of Jeremiah. He encouraged me to study the passage and it would expose another false doctrine concerning Mary. Anyone who is familiar with the prayers and meditations of the rosary can tell you that in one of the mysteries Christ supposedly crowned Mary the queen of heaven after she was assumed into heaven. Neither of these events have scriptural validity, but I had decided to blindly accept these doctrines because all of the other meditations on the life of Christ were verified by Scripture.

    The Queen of Heaven

    After returning home, I looked in the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible for the passage in Jeremiah 44. Here, the Lord was angered by the wickedness of the people choosing to serve other gods. The people refused to listen to the Lord. Instead, they would "burn sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pour out libations to her." The woman "made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out libations to her?" (Jeremiah 44:17, 19).

    In Hebrew the word for queen has reference to "the heavenly handiwork" or "the stars of heaven." The reference might be to Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility, who is identified with the Venus Star and is actually entitled "Mistress of Heaven." (The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 975)

    My head was spinning and filled with questions after reading this. Doesn't Mary usually appear with stars for her crown? Who then is the woman in Revelation 12:3-6? And most importantly, why would the Roman Catholic Church give the mother of Jesus the title of a pagan goddess? Had I been promoting the ministry of a pagan goddess whose messages were inconsistent with the Bible? Indeed her messages do contradict the Bible. In fact, she speaks of another gospel, another plan of salvation that nullifies and opposes the all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. The apparition of Fatima said, "You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go, so save them, God wishes to establish in the world, devotion to my Immaculate Heart." The apostle Paul condemned anyone, even an angel from heaven, who would dare preach a different way to be saved other than through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (Galatians 1:6-10).

    As for the woman described in Revelation, she is not Mary, the mother of Jesus, but God's chosen people, the Jews. When the passage in chapter 12 is read in context with the rest of the book, andGenesis 37:9-10, this clearly refers to the nation Israel. God fulfills His promise to the Jews, by protecting them in the desert during 3 1/2 years of tribulation.

    I later realized my prayers to Mary and the saints, the reciting of rosaries and chaplets of divine mercy, and the wearing of Marian medals and scapulars had taken my focus off of Jesus. I had allowed doctrines of the Roman Catholic church to do the very thing Saint Paul warned against, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:3).

    An Angel of Light

    Recently, a person whom I love dearly, and who has a "Marian devotion" asked me, "Why are you bothering the people who are already good people instead of worrying about those who are lost?" The answer came to me the other evening as the Lord continues to guide me through His sacred Word. Saint Paul wrote that "Satan masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). We know the mother of Jesus would never oppose her Son, and since the apparitions do just that, they could very well be Satan masquerading as Mary. Saint Paul also wrote, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them . . . everything exposed by the light becomes visible" (Ephesians 5:11-14). Therefore, I feel called to expose these attempts by the evil one to divert people's devotion away from Jesus. The most authoritative way to do this is with the light of God's Holy Word. My new test for truthfulness is -- if it does not agree with the Scriptures then it must be rejected.

    Freedom in the Truth

    Now that I have torn down the altar in my bedroom, where I knelt and prayed to St. Anthony of Padua each night, and now that I have placed my rosaries, scapular and medals away, I have found a new freedom. The truth really does set people free! I have found special peace in knowing Jesus alone is my Savior, and not co-redemptrix with His mother. The Holy Spirit continues to lead me into all truth and is now the only teacher I need (1 John 2:27).

    To all my precious friends who I have encouraged to seek Mary and to obey the misleading messages of her apparitions, I pray these Scriptures would minister to you -- "And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which you nursed.' But He said, 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it." (Luke 11:27-28)

    This article was submitted by a former Director for a "Mary, Queen of Peace Center."
    Are Catholics Deceived?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Deception will always be exposed by Truth. Have you ever realized that you could be deceived and not even be aware of it? Those who are deceived will never know it unless they are confronted with the truth. Many go to their grave deceived about the most important issue we all face, and that is, locating the narrow road that leads to eternal life. Who are you trusting to show you the way and the truth to eternal life? What is your source for truth? Is it absolutely trustworthy? Will it protect you from the schemes and lies of the master deceiver? The prophet Jeremiah gave us wise counsel for choosing whom we should trust. He said if you trust in man you will be cursed liked a bush in the parched places of the desert. But if you trust in God you will be blessed. You will be like a tree planted by water always bearing fruit, whose leaves are always green. No worries or fears will come upon you in a year of drought or when the heat comes (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

    Who will you trust? Many people disregard Jeremiah's advice and put their trust in religious leaders. Catholics believe that the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church accurately teach what Jesus and His Word reveal. This can be a fatal mistake. Those who disregard the objective truth of the Bible and rely only on the subjective teachings of men leave themselves open to deception. We know God would never deceive anyone because He wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (l Timothy 2:3). He gave us His Word so we could know, understand and believe the truth (John 17:17).

    Would the Pope have a person believe what is not true? Maybe not intentionally, but what if he was deceived by previous popes who were also deceived? How do we know if any of the pope's teachings or dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church are true? The only way we can be 100% sure is to do as the Bereans did --- check everything with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). If the apostle Paul's teaching had to be verified for its truthfulness, it stands to reason we must use the same standard for any religious leader. Unfortunately the elevation of tradition along with infallible teachings of popes to the same authority as Sacred Scripture has allowed deception to go unabated in the Roman Catholic Church. Popes and their teachings constantly change, whereas Jesus and His Word are constant and never change.

    The Apostle Paul revealed the source of all deception, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Tim. 4:1). You may be familiar with some common deceptions taught by religious leaders today: heaven is a reward for those who live good lives...water baptism is necessary for salvation...purgatory purges and removes sin...the sacrifice of the Mass can turn away God's wrath on sinners...God's grace can be earned and purchased. Satan has used lies like these to become the greatest "soul winner" in human history. For two thousand years, the master deceiver has perverted the Gospel of salvation by grace. His ferocious wolves, disguised in sheep's clothing, preach counterfeit gospels that seduce people who are ignorant of God's word (Matt. 7:15). A counterfeit Christianity is Satan's ultimate weapon, so he can, one day be worshipped as Christ. His worldwide religious system is taking shape and unfortunately it includes many people in our churches today.

    All this should come as no surprise to those who know the Scriptures. For this scenario was revealed by Christ and the apostles as a warning of things to come. Jesus announced that right before His second coming the deception will be so convincing that even the elect might be deceived (Matt. 24:4,11,24). The deceit will come from false prophets, false teachers and false Christs, who will snare people from both inside and outside the church. Peter warned people of spiritual deception, "There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies...and will bring the way of truth into disrepute" (2 Peter 2:1-2).

    Satan uses deception to prevent people from being saved. God uses the truth to proclaim salvation to all who believe it. Man is either saved by believing God's truth (Ephesians 1:13) or condemned by believing Satan's lie. Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers by perverting God's truth through false religious systems (2 Corinthians 4:4). Any religion that teaches salvation is obtained through human effort and merit is nullifying the grace of God to its followers. We are saved by grace, "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works, if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6).

    The truth will set you free. How can we avoid falling prey to these subtle and scheming impostors? Our only defense is to experience the emancipating truth of Scripture (John 8:32). We must know and live the truth. All teaching must be filtered through God's Word. We are to use the Bible to lovingly correct and rebuke all teaching that contradicts God's inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16). The Scriptures must become our ultimate authority in all areas of our faith. We must cling to Jesus who came to testify to the truth (John 18:37) and who is the truth (John 14:6). We are to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists (Eph. 6:14). It is through living the truth that we are sanctified (John 17:17). Does the church where you worship submit to the truth of the Gospel? It is of vital importance to God that you worship Him in truth (John 4:24).

    There are consequences for those who do not seek God's truth through His Word. Those people who blindly put their faith in religious leaders are most susceptible to deception. Many assume that religious leaders would never seduce anyone with a false plan of salvation. Yet Luke warned, "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).

    Other people choose not to let truth interfere with their lives. They turn away from it and listen to teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:2-4). Truth demands a response. The choice is to believe it and conform, or reject it and go our stubborn way.

    There are people who are devoted to God, but do not know Him personally because religious leaders conceal the source and authority of truth. People who have been indoctrinated with false teaching have difficulty believing the truth. They are always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth (2 Tim. 3:7). Acknowledging the truth requires a "turning away" from all unbiblical doctrines.

    It was a lack of faith in God's purpose, plan and word that separated Adam and Eve and their offspring from God. They chose to put their faith in the deceiver, which brought spiritual and physical death to us all. How divine for God to use the very instrument that separated us from Him--faith, to restore us back to Him. It is now through faith in God that we receive His gift of spiritual and eternal life (Ephesians 2:8).

    The object of our faith determines who we are --- a child of the devil (John 8:43-45) or a child of God (John 1:12); how we live --- as slaves to sin, or slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:16-18); and how we will spend eternity --- under the wrath of God or in his loving presence (John 3:36). Faith in anyone other than Jesus, and in anything other than His Word will allow deception to creep into our lives. Those who follow the traditions, opinions and philosophies of men and reject Christ and His Word will be condemned on the last day (John 12:48). By contrast how wonderful are the words of Christ that those who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

    Jesus and His Word teach...
    • You are saved by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    • All who rely on observing the law (commandments) are under a curse (Galations 3:10).
    • Salvation occurs at the moment you believe the Gospel (Ephesians 1:13).
    • Jesus purifies sin (Hebrews 1:3).
    • You can know for sure you are saved (1 John 5:13).
    • The sacrifice of Jesus is finished (John 19:30).


    The Pope and his church teach...
    • You are saved by faith plus works.
    • Obedience to the commandments is a condition for salvation.
    • Salvation is a process from baptism through purgatory.
    • Purgatory purifies sin.
    • You are condemned if you claim to be saved.
    • The sacrifice of Jesus continues in daily Mass.
    • As you can see these two teachings directly oppose one another. You must make the choice as to which is true and which is deception. Your choice will determine your eternal destiny.
    Are You Being Deceived?
  • by Mike Gendron

    If I were to insult you, you'd feel the sting immediately. If I were to embarrass you, you'd be the first to know. But if I were to deceive you...you might never know it!

    As painful as being insulted or embarrassed can be, at least you're aware of what's taking place. But deception can be deadly because you don't realize you are being betrayed, misled, seduced or ensnared. It's much more than a clever slight of hand.

    Deceived people are not even aware they are being misled unless they are confronted with the truth. Tragically, many go to their graves deceived about their relationship with God.

    The Importance of Your Source for Truth

    What is your source for truth? Is it trustworthy? Will it protect you from the schemes and lies of the master deceiver, Satan?

    The biblical prophet Jeremiah gave wise counsel for choosing who to trust. He said if you put your trust in man you will be cursed like a withered bush in a barren desert. However, if your ultimate trust is in God, Jeremiah said you will flourish like a tree planted by the water (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

    Still many people today disregard Jeremiah's advice and in their search for truth put their trust in man--religious leaders--instead of God.

    Who Will You Trust?

    Catholics, for example, believe that the pope and the Roman Catholic Church teach exactly what Jesus and the Bible teach. But how do we know if the popes' teachings or the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church are true?

    The only way we can be 100% sure is to do what the church of Berea did in New Testament times. They examined the Scriptures to see if what the Apostle Paul taught them was true (Acts 17:11).

    We must use the same scriptural standard for the teachings of all religious leaders. Disregarding the objective truth of God's Word in favor of the subjective teachings of men can be a tragic mistake.

    The Danger of Deception

    Would it surprise you to learn that many religious teachings go against the Bible? Shouldn't that concern you, since your eternal destiny may depend on such teachings?

    Here is how Catholic doctrine misleads people about God's plan of salvation:

    All graces needed to attain eternal life can be merited (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2027).
    Catholics are reborn as sons of God and freed from sin through water baptism (1213).
    Purgatory is a cleansing fire that achieves the holiness necessary for heaven (1030-31).
    Jesus is offered daily as a sacrificial victim on Catholic altars (1367).
    Venial sins are not deserving of hell (1863).
    By performing acts of penance, Catholics can expiate their own sins (1459,1477).
    The Bible says man is saved by believing God's truth (Ephesians 1:13-14). God can never deceive anyone (Titus 1:1-2). But man remains condemned if he continues in deception.

    False religious systems hold people in bondage to deception by perverting God's truth and grace. Any religion that teaches its followers that salvation is obtained through human effort and merit is nullifying the grace of God. Yet grace is the only means by which God saves sinners! The Bible says "if by grace, it is no longer because of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6).

    Misplaced Faith

    Some people blindly put their faith in religious leaders, assuming that their leaders would never seduce anyone with a false plan of salvation. Yet the Apostle Paul warned that "from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them" (Acts 20:30).

    Other people simply choose not to respond or conform their lives to truth. Instead they turn away to listen to teachers who say what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

    Then there are people who have a zeal for God, but not in line with the truth. Many people have been indoctrinated with false teaching and have difficulty believing the truth. They fail because they refuse to let go of unbiblical beliefs.

    It was disobedience to God, a lack of faith in His purpose, plan, and word that separated Adam and Eve from Him. Instead they chose to put their faith in the deceiver, which brought spiritual and physical death to us all.

    God uses the very instrument that separated us from Him--faith--to restore us back to Him. By repenting of our dead works and turning to God in faith, we receive spiritual and eternal life: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    God's Truth Determines Destiny

    The Bible makes it clear that:

    We are either children of the devil (John 8:43-45) or children of God (John 1:12),
    We live as slaves to sin or as slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:16-18), and
    We will spend eternity under the wrath of God or in His loving presence.
    "Whoever believes in Him [Jesus Christ] will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18).

    God has revealed that trusting in anything other than Christ and His Word is evidence of deception. Those who choose to follow the traditions, opinions, and philosophies of men will be condemned. Jesus said "Whoever rejects Me and does not accept My words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day" (John 12:48).

    By contrast, how wonderful are the words, "to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).

    Are you basing your life and eternal destiny on the eternal truths of God's Word or on the Catholic traditions added to God's truth? How will you respond to God's truth? Compare these essential teachings of the Bible to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church:

     

     

    God Teaches The pope Teaches
    Salvation is only through Christ (Acts 4:12). Salvation is through the Roman Catholic Church and its sacraments (846, 1129).
    You are saved by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). You are saved by faith plus works (1815,1821,2010,2027).
    All who rely on observing the law--commandments--for salvation are under a curse (Galatians 3:10). Obedience to the commandments is necessary for salvation (2068).
    Salvation occurs at the moment you repent and believe the gospel (Acts 20:21,Ephesians 1:13). Salvation is a process from baptism through purgatory (161, 162, 1254, 1255).
    Only Jesus purifies sin (Hebrews 1:3,Colossians 1:22). Purgatory purifies sin (1030,1031).
    You can know that you have eternal life (John 10:27-30, 1 John 5:13). You sin if you presume to be saved without merit (2090-2092).
    The sacrifice of Jesus is finished (John 19:30). The sacrifice of Jesus continues in daily Mass (611, 1405).

     

     

     

    As you can see, these teachings directly oppose each other. One is truth that will set you free. One is deception that will hold you in bondage.

    Which teachings will you choose? Choose carefully. In this life you can be wrong about a lot of things and still survive. But when this life is over, if you were wrong about God's only provision for your sins, you will perish in the lake of fire for all eternity.

    Bible quotes: The New American Bible for Catholics, (c) Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Catechism references: Catechism of the Catholic Church, (c) 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference--Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
    Assurance of Eternal Life
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Are you aware of one of the greatest truths revealed in the Bible? Did you know it is possible for you to know right here and now, with absolute certainty, that the moment you die, you can enjoy the presence of God forever. God wants you to know that salvation can be secured by His faithfulness and power to all who trust the Savior Jesus Christ. The apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit revealed this wonderful truth as the purpose for one of his letters, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) Anyone who repents from trusting in things that cannot save them (Hebrews 6:1) and puts all their trust in Jesus will never face the condemnation of God 's wrath. Jesus said, I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24).

    All believers have a special relationship with God. To all who have received Christ, "to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God---children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12,13). The relationship God the Father has with His children is an eternal relationship (John 8:35). It is permanent. Nothing will ever separate His children from His love (Romans 8:35-39). Our heavenly Father will discipline His children (Hebrews 12:10-11), but He will never condemn them. In a way it is similar to the unchanging relationship we have with our earthly parents. Nothing we could ever do will change who our parents are.

    Most people go through life hoping they will go to heaven when they die. They hope, after living a good enough life, they will receive favor from God and a place in His Kingdom. Roman Catholics are taught they receive salvation through water baptism, but they can lose it in an instant by committing a mortal sin. Only by confessing the sin to a priest and doing penance can they be justified again. This cycle is often repeated hundreds of times in a Catholic's life.

    Those who depend on their personal righteousness, performing good works, or adhering to a religious system, can never be assured of salvation. They will never know if they have ever done enough. It seems absurd to put your faith in what you can do instead of what God has done. Those who believe God's word know that "salvation by grace" means to trust solely in the source of grace --- Jesus Christ. When salvation depends on God there is no chance for failure. A wonderful acronym for G-R-A-C-E is God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Whenever man is involved in attaining and preserving salvation there can be no assurance.

    We have assurance through the Father. Some believe it is possible to walk away from God or renounce your faith and lose your salvation? Jesus said no one has the power to do so. "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish . . . My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29). The Father has the power to assure the life Jesus gives is everlasting, not temporal or perishable.

    We have assurance through Jesus Christ. Christians are often accused of being self-righteous and boastful because they know for sure they are going to heaven. The accusers fail to understand it is not what man does for God that qualifies him for heaven, but what God has done for man. God made His holy and perfect Son become sin for us, so we could become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). "We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all...by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:10,14).

    The Catholic Church teaches that mortal sin results in the loss of eternal life. John refuted this teaching in his first epistle when he encouraged believers not to sin. "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense---Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 2:1-2). This comforting truth is also revealed in Hebrews 7:25, "He (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.

    We also have assurance through the Holy Spirit. Many skeptics refuse to believe that a repentant sinner can simply believe the Gospel and be assured of eternal life? Yet the Apostle Paul could not make it any more clear, "You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). The moment anyone understands and believes the Gospel, they are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who guarantees they will be co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

    We have assurance through God's promises. The gift of salvation is secured forever by the faithfulness of God. He promises never to take back the gifts He has given. "God's gifts and His call are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). His "promise comes by faith , so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed" to those who have the faith (Romans 4:16). "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works, if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). Paul is making it crystal clear that salvation can only be assured when a repentant sinner receives it as a gift of God's grace. Anyone who believes that salvation can be earned nullifies God's grace. Whenever man is involved in attaining and preserving his salvation, there can be no assurance.

    This may be your first exposure to the great biblical truth of eternal security. If you want to be certain of your salvation, then put aside any teaching, experience or feeling that opposes the Word of God. You will never have the subjective feeling of assurance until you comprehend and believe the objective truth of the Gospel. Once you do, you will be more certain of living eternally in heaven than one more day on earth.
    Beware of Wolve's in Sheep's Clothing
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Lord Jesus Christ warned His followers, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheepʼs clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15). The warning was important because Jesus later said to them: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16). The apostle Paul, with tears and a deeply troubled spirit, penned a similar warning: "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). Throughout church history these warnings have seldom been taken seriously. Christians continue to be deceived because they can not discern truth from error.

    According to Websterʼs Dictionary "deceive" means "to lead astray or to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid." Could it be the church has not only lost its ability to discern truth from error but also to discern wolves from sheep?

    Consider Brennan Manning, an inactive Roman Catholic priest, who has some obvious characteristics of a "wolf," yet goes mostly undetected. In the last ten years, he has become a popular speaker in many "evangelical" churches. Manning was ordained to the Franciscan priesthood after graduating from St. Francis Seminary in 1963. Later he was theology instructor at the University of Steubenville (a Catholic seminary and catalyst for Mary to be named co-redeemer). After being treated for alcoholism and leaving the Franciscan Order in 1982, he married Roslyn Ann Walker. The marriage has since ended in divorce but his popularity as a writer and speaker continues to grow despite his proclamation of "another" gospel.

    The teachings of Manning are charming, seductive, cunning and dangerous as he takes advantage of his undiscerning audiences. He teaches that you can overcome fear, guilt and psychological hang-ups, even alcoholism, through meditation. His meditation techniques are drawn from a mixture of eastern mysticism, psychology, the New Age Movement and Catholicism. Manning gives the impression that he has a very intimate relationship with God and reports having many visions, encounters and conversations with Him. He assures his audiences that if they apply his teachings, they too can become more intimate with God.

    I first met Manning at the Christian Booksellers Association in New Orleans. As he was signing autographs for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, I asked him if his "ragamuffin gospel" followed the Catholic plan of salvation or the biblical plan of salvation. He responded, "Read it and find out for yourself." Still trying to gain insight into his theology, I gave him a tract I had written called Roman Catholicism: Scripture vs. Tradition and asked for his comments. After looking at it for a couple of minutes he tore it into pieces and threw it in the trash.

    The next time I saw Manning was January 21st at Hillcrest Church, a congregation of over 5,000 members in north Dallas. Manningʼs message was about our need for a second conversion, a conversion that can only take place when one overcomes self-rejection and gains esteem through self-acceptance. After the service I asked two elders of Hillcrest Church how they could allow a Roman Catholic priest speak to their congregation. Their response—"we welcome everyone who loves God." This was indeed a fulfillment of Paulʼs prophetic words: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

    All Mankind is Redeemed

    As with many such teachers who gain popularity by tickling ears, Manning overemphasizes the love and grace of God while ignoring His attributes of justice, righteousness and holiness. He teaches that Jesus has redeemed all of mankind. His "good news" is that everyone is already saved. Among those Manning believes he will see in heaven is "the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ʻtrick,ʼ whispers the name of the unknown God."1 Manningʼs theology opposes Godʼs word again and again: "those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21). "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Accordingly, Manning thinks sinners are forgiven if they "trust the love of God."

    This is a major theme of The Ragamuffin Gospel, "trusting the love of God," because God loves you no matter what you do. There is no call to sanctification or holiness. Instead Manning excuses sin as human weakness that God will tolerate regardless of whether the sinner is repentant or not. In saying this, Manning has turned "the grace of our God into licentiousness" (Jude 4). He writes: "False gods—the gods of human understanding—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course this is almost too incredible for us to accept."2 Yes, too incredible because it violates Godʼs word: "Thou dost hate all who do iniquity" (Psalm 5:5).

    Stop Thinking About God

    In The Signature of Jesus, another one of Manningʼs books, he teaches his readers how to pray, using an eight-word mantra. 3 He says, "the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer" (p. 212). The second step is "without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word [or phrase] inwardly, slowly, and often." If distractions come, "simply return to listening to your sacred word" (p. 218). He also encourages his readers to "celebrate the darkness" because "the ego has to break; and this breaking is like entering into a great darkness" (p. 145). Jesus said, "He who follows me shall not walk in the darkness" (John 8:12).

    The Spirit of Antichrist

    Manning often cites Catholic saints, humanist philosophers, heretics, monks and medieval mystics. Some of the monks he quotes maintain that salvation is really a transformation of consciousness to be awakened to the oneness of all creation. Possibly the most dangerous practice and teaching of Manning is his New Age mind- emptying method of meditation. This is an open invitation to satanic activity. Many of the expressions and techniques Manning employs in The Signature of Jesus are not found in the Scriptures such as: centering prayer, paschal spirituality, the discipline of the secret, contemplative spirituality, mineralization, practicing the presence, inner integration, yielding to the Center, notional knowledge, contemporary spiritual masters and masters of the interior life. Extra-biblical spiritual practices can only produce confusion. They originate from the father of lies in whom there is no truth. What a contrast Manning is to the way Paul described the first century teachers. He said: "We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every manʼs conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor. 4:2)

    Manning rarely uses Scripture and shows his disdain for those who do and for those who believe "The Word was God" (John 1:1). He writes: "I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word—bibliolatry.... I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants" (p. 188). He criticizes several churches he has visited, where "religiosity has pushed Jesus to the margins of real life and plunged people into preoccupation with their own personal salvation" (p. 193). Although Manning believes and teaches the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, The Signature of Jesus is not a guide to follow Jesus, but to follow "the masters of the interior life." Paul wrote, "For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting" (Rom. 16:18).

    Manning reinterprets some of the most essential biblical truths in the light of psychological healing. He looks upon "human nature as fallen but redeemed, flawed but in essence good" (p. 125). His instruction to meditate on nothingness instead of Godʼs Word is an exercise of modern occultism. This practice invites demonic influence and contact with the spirit world. Manningʼs Catholic mysticism has no place in the true Church of Jesus Christ.

    Christian leaders should warn others about Manning and all "deceitful workers who masquerade as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor. 11:13). They must be exposed (Eph. 5:11). We all live in days of great deception. May God give His church the gift of discernment as we take Paulʼs warning seriously: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col. 2:8).

    End Notes

    1. Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1990, page 33.

    2. Ibid, page 22. 3. Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1996, pp. 94, 219.
    Book Review: Crossing the Tiber
  • Written by Chris Bayack

    Crossing the Tiber, Stephen K. Ray (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, CA, 1997). Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. Reviewed by cbayack@ev1.net
    As one who was saved out of Roman Catholicism, I read with curiosity Stephen Ray's book Crossing the Tiber which is a modern-day attempt to show that the Roman Catholic Church is the true body of Christ. Ray, a layman who converted to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism, shares how he became a Catholic. To support this decision he seeks to prove the validity of Roman Catholic doctrine, focusing on baptismal regeneration and the eucharist.

    Crossing the Tiber is a masterpiece of selective scholarship. Ray uses extensive research to support his position as evidenced by nearly 450 footnotes of Scripture, technical commentary (Protestant and Catholic), personal commentary, and the church fathers. However, his presentation is largely one-sided and seldom takes into account serious, objective discussion that would challenge or destroy his conclusions. This is seen in four ways which are listed below.

    I. Stephen Ray Leaves Ultimate Spiritual Authority to the Roman Catholic Church.

    First of all, Stephen Ray states that the authority of the early church gave us the New Testament.

    "Protestants must trust the declaration of the infallible Church to know which books make up their infallible New Testament. . . . It was the tradition and the authority of the Catholic Church that established their canon. . . . If the Church had no authority to recognize and decide which writings were inspired and to close the canon, then we would have no guarantee that these writings are, in fact, inspired." (p. 54-55, italics in original)

    He argues why tradition is equally authoritative with Scripture and states, "The New Testament was never intended as a complete church manual" (p. 76). Passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:15 are used in support.

    Stating or implying that any organization has authority to declare books inspired is to challenge God's authority. The Bible is divine in origin and God in His sovereignty superintended its dissemination to man. In other words, the early church no more gave us the New Testament any more than Isaac Newton gave us gravity. Because of its divine origins, all men and institutions are under its complete authority.

    Second, Stephen Ray holds to the standard Catholic position that tradition is equally authoritative with Scripture. He even blames supposed Protestant traditions and biases for keeping him from seeing certain Biblical truths. "As a Protestant, I had allowed the 'traditions of men' to invalidate the word of God" (p. 57). But he never addresses the problem of Roman Catholic tradition contradicting Scripture. An objective presentation cannot ignore this.

    For example, Catholicism has traditionally forbidden clerical marriage for centuries. But this clearly goes against Scripture. First Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 list one qualification of an overseer as "the husband of one wife" which literally reads in the Greek "a one-woman man". This does not mean that single men are disqualified from the ministry but that all in ministry, married or single, must practice moral purity. Remember also what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:5, "Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" A married clergy was the norm in the early church just as it should be today. In fact, the forbidding of marriage is a "doctrine of demons" as Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

    How then should we understand Paul's admonishment to "hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you" in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and related passages? Paul, as an apostle, is instructing the church to follow apostolic tradition which was necessary in the very early church because Scripture had not yet been completed. However, apostolic tradition would never contradict Scripture. And neither are the traditions of the apostles to be confused with the traditions of man.

    Apostolic tradition ended with the completion of Scripture. The fact that the New Testament was not assembled into one book for three more centuries is irrelevant, because "all Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus when the New Testament was completed, apostolic tradition yielded to Scripture. Human depravity cannot be trusted to keep tradition consistent and in the post-apostolic era the traditions of man evolved which supplanted the word of God. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this in Matthew 15:1-9 and the same condemnation remains true today.

    II. Stephen Ray Selectively Interprets Scripture As It Fits His Conclusions

    Stephen Ray forces interpretations on a text as it supports his positions. He often criticizes Evangelicals for supposedly ignoring literal interpretation, however, he uses extensive allegory, especially from the Old Testament, to support his views about baptism and the eucharist. And he often appeals to some of the most difficult passages in the New Testament for backup which violates a basic rule of Bible interpretation—that difficult passages are to be interpreted in light of clear ones.

    For example, he uses 1 Peter 3:18-21, one of the hardest passages in the New Testament, as proof for baptismal regeneration. Yet in over ninety pages about baptism, not once does he ever mention clear passages like 1 Corinthians 1:17, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (italics added). He ignores Paul's definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, which makes no mention of baptism or communion, that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." Likewise, because he seeks to prove the necessity of the sacraments, he never addresses verses which declare salvation to be a free gift such as Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

    He goes even further. For example, he states that Jesus' birth in Bethlehem (meaning "house of bread") was symbolic of the eucharist. "Is it a coincidence that the Lord Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Manna come down from heaven, was born in the 'City of Bread'?" (p. 195). And on page 189 he states, "The context of John 6:60-71 links Judas' betrayal with his disbelief in the Eucharist." The context of this passage says nothing of the sort. The connection between Judas and those who departed was that false believers existed not only amongst the multitudes but in Jesus' own midst.

    The eisegesis does not end there. At times Ray grasps for the absurd if it will help. On pages 243-44 he gives this quote from the fourth century church father Hilary of Poitiers:

    "'Give us this day our daily bread'; for what does God desire so much as that Christ, who is the 'bread of life', and the 'bread from heaven', may dwell daily in us?" Ray then adds his own comments: "It is quite correct to connect this phrase in the Our Father with the Holy Eucharist, since Jesus declares himself to be the 'Bread come down from heaven' (Jn 6:41), and Paul tells us that the Eucharist is prefigured in the 'spiritual food' that came down from heaven in the form of manna, which was the daily bread of the Israelites (1 Cor 10:1-4). This is a clear recommendation that Christians attend daily Mass." (parentheses in original)

    Immediately following this, Ray indirectly states that those who deny transubstantiation are of the spirit of antichrist (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). He again quotes Hilary:

    "As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly Flesh and it is truly Blood. . . . Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue."

    Ray then makes this comment:

    "St. Hilary chides heretics: If you don't believe Jesus is God in the flesh, you can deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Conversely, if you deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you deny that Jesus came in the flesh."

    Anybody interpreting the Bible in its context can see that such views are utterly ridiculous. The phrase "Give us this day our daily bread" appears in Matthew 6:11 in the Sermon on the Mount. The average person listening to Jesus would quite naturally have understood this as literal, not allegorical, bread. And the context of Matthew 6 supports this as basic human needs. In verse 8, Jesus said, "For your Father knows what you need" (italics added). And in verses 25-33, He comforts believers because their heavenly Father will take care of their needs for food and clothing.

    As previously mentioned, Stephen Ray indirectly states that those who deny transubstantiation consequently deny the humanity of Christ. He does not quote 1 John 4:1-3 in reference to this, but it must certainly be what he has in mind. The context of 1 John says nothing about "the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist", but instead discusses the literal human flesh-and-blood body of Jesus as evidenced by the very first verse in the book: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life." For all of Stephen Ray's condemnation of Protestants supposedly ignoring literal interpretation, he himself is often guilty of egregious misinterpretation.

    What is also interesting is that Ray does not include a Scripture index in the back of his book. Such an omission obscures the reader's ability to easily examine his treatment of all Scripture, especially verses like John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc., and is highly unusual for a work of this magnitude.

    III. Stephen Ray Treats the Church Fathers As Though They Were Infallible

    Stephen Ray quotes the church fathers as though they were infallible which is not surprising since Catholicism holds tradition to be equal with Scripture. Nowhere does he consider that they may contradict Scripture. However, when referencing the fathers one must be very careful. You can support almost any position by selectively quoting them. Also, the fathers were not at all of one mind in everything they taught. Chrysostom's literal interpretation of Scripture clashed sharply with Origen's allegorical method. Which do you choose? Even if tradition was authoritative, it would also have to be unanimous, which it is not. The fathers, while at times helpful, are not infallible.

    Ray teaches the traditional Catholic position that because the fathers were in the direct succession of the apostles, and thus closer to their teachings, they understand most accurately the apostles' doctrine. However, this does not consider the apostasy that occurred during the time of the apostles! Remember what Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30, "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." The churches of Corinth and Galatia both received direct teaching from Paul yet were vulnerable to those who preached "a different gospel" (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:6-9).

    If those who had the direct teaching of the apostles were vulnerable to heresy, then those who followed must be fallible also, including the fathers. False prophets would later creep into the church, as passages like 1 Timothy 4:1-3 and 2 Peter 2:1 warn us, and naturally they would try to make some connection to the apostles for credibility's sake.

    This brings up another interesting point—does it matter whether or not a group can trace its succession back to the apostles? The Jewish priests of Jesus' day could boast of their succession from Aaron. The priests, scribes, and Pharisees could claim descent from Abraham. Yet Jesus called them sons of the devil in John 8:44 and said in Matthew 23:13, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Thus "apostolic succession" means nothing if it does not lead men to heaven.

    Let us take this further—what about the great flaws of those supposedly in the line of Peter? If Paul commanded that an elder of a local church be "above reproach" (cf. Titus 1:6, 1 Timothy 3:2), then how much more should be the supposed "vicar of Christ"? What, then, about the abject corruption of many popes? Even the New Catholic Encyclopedia is forced to acknowledge that Alexander VI (1492-1503), admittedly the most corrupt pope, lived a "dissipated life", had children, and assumed the papacy through simony. He actually had six children by other men's wives, two of which were born during his papacy, and his son Cesare was a model for Niccolo Machiavelli's infamous book The Prince, which instructs political leaders how to maintain power through corruption and deviousness.

    Let us also remember the insurmountable problems regarding papal infallibility. Several times the popes have contradicted one another, such as Hadrian II (867-872), who declared civil marriages to be valid, and Pius VII (1800-1823), who declared them invalid. And Honorius I (625-638) was posthumously condemned as a heretic by Leo II (681-683) for promoting the related heresies monophysitism, which taught that Christ had only one nature, and monothelitism, which taught that Christ had only one will. The result of each heresy would in effect deny either His humanity or deity.

    Stephen Ray, as expected, cites none of these damaging embarrassments.

    IV. Stephen Ray Selectively Quotes Evangelicals

    Stephen Ray selectively quotes many Evangelical scholars when they might seem to support his positions, especially regarding baptism. However, even though they may agree with him in limited ways, he ignores their other clear statements which reject salvation through the sacraments.

    For example, on page 109 he quotes The Bible Knowledge Commentary (ed. John F. Walvoord [Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985]), under Zechariah 13:1 in support of baptism being pictured in the Old Testament. However, he ignores the same commentary's rejection of baptismal regeneration in 1 Corinthians 1:17.

    Another example is how he quotes Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof's comments about the church fathers and baptismal regeneration on page 133:

    "Baptism was foremost among the sacraments as the rite of initiation into the Church. Even in the Apostolic Fathers [those who lived during the lifetime of the apostles] we find the idea that it was instrumental in effecting the forgiveness of sins and in communicating the new life of regeneration. In a certain sense it may be said, therefore, that some of the early Fathers taught baptismal regeneration."

    Read Berkhof's own teaching which rejects the necessity of the sacraments for salvation:

    "That they are not absolutely necessary unto salvation, follows: (1) from the free spiritual character of the gospel dispensation, in which God does not bind His grace to the use of certain external forms, John 4:21,23; Luke 18:14; (2) from the fact that Scripture mentions only faith as the instrumental condition of salvation, John 5:24; 6:29; 3:36; Acts 16:31; (3) from the fact that the sacraments do not originate faith but presuppose it, and are administered where faith is assumed,Acts 2:41; 16:14,15,30,33; 1 Cor. 11:23-32; and (4) from the fact that many were actually saved without the use of the sacraments." (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1939], p. 618-19)

    Stephen Ray obviously does not wish to include this complete perspective of Berkhof's theology, just as he does not with every other Evangelical he quotes. (For a more detailed discussion about the ambiguity in the early church concerning the terms "regeneration" and "justification", which can affect how one understands the church fathers, see Berkhof's Systematic Theology, p. 465-66.)

    Certainly one of the most blatant examples of selective quoting is how he refers to A. Skevington Wood's comments about baptism in Ephesians 5:26. On page 126 he writes:

    "Does this passage refer to baptism? Evangelical commentator A. Skevington Wood writes, 'There seems to be little or no doubt that the reference is to baptism. The "washing with water" is equivalent to the "washing of rebirth" in Titus 3:5' (The Expositor's Biblical Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1978], 11:77). Skevington then goes on to the disclaimer that this does not automatically a sacrament make, that no mere application of water can bring about new birth, to which the Catholic heartily agrees."

    Notice what Wood actually says:

    "There seems to be little or no doubt that the reference is to baptism. The 'washing with water' here is equivalent to 'the washing of rebirth' in Titus 3:5. There is, however, no hint of any mechanical view of the sacrament, as if the mere application of water could in itself bring about the purification it symbolizes. Nowhere does the NT countenance baptismal regeneration in an ex opere operato sense." (Expositor's Biblical Commentary, 11:77, italics in original)

    "Ex opere operato" is a Latin phrase which translates "from the work done". It means that grace is effected to the individual through the sacrament itself and not one's faith. This is clearly seen in infant baptism where faith cannot be exercised on the part of the infant.

    "As truly, therefore, as the spiritual rebirth of a man is caused principally by the Holy Ghost, so is it caused instrumentally by water and consequently, the water of Baptism exercises a causal effect on justification." (Joseph Pohle, The Sacraments: A Dogmatic Treatise, ed. Arthur Preuss [St. Louis: B. Herder, 1942], vol. 1, p. 126).

    The declaration of the sacraments working "ex opere operato" was officially made at the Council of Trent.

    Even though A. Skevington Wood believes that Ephesians 5:26 refers to water baptism, he clearly rejects any concept of baptismal regeneration. Wood's statement "the mere application of water" is a reference to baptism, a baptism which does work "ex opere operato" to effect Catholic salvation, which is Stephen Ray's very point throughout his section on baptism. His intentional deletion of Wood's last sentence only reinforces his lack of objectivity.

    One cannot read this book without concluding that Stephen Ray genuinely believes what he is saying. He is typically gentle and unassuming. And he writes without the pejorative style so often found on both sides of this debate.

    This should not detract from his content. Stephen Ray has put a tremendous effort into this book. And he is no stranger to conservative Evangelicalism, having participated extensively in Baptist, Evangelical Presbyterian, and Plymouth Brethren circles. His omissions and/or misrepresentations of these important issues cannot be anything less than deliberate. Therefore we conclude that his scholarship is not only selective; it is also deceptive.

    It is beyond the scope of this review to address every issue or rebut each of Stephen Ray's points. However, this does show Stephen Ray's basic premises and approach throughout the book. Crossing the Tiber will be another welcome link of chain for those desiring to remain bound to the shackles of Roman Catholicism. But it need not be a stumbling block to those seeking freedom through the gospel of grace, as long as they understand the infallibility and authority of Scripture alone.

    Stephen Ray himself provides the basis for a fitting conclusion to this review. On page 191 he quotes John Henry Cardinal Newman who said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." If to be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant, then to be deep in the word of God is to cease being a Catholic. Stephen Ray and those of his persuasion would do well to heed the words of the one whom they regard as the first pope when he spoke infallibly in 2 Peter 3:16about the writings of Paul, "in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction."

    cbayack@ev1.net is a graduate of The Master's Seminary.
    Book Review: Crossing The Tiber Pt. II
  • Written by Chris Bayack

    In my review of Stephen Ray's book Crossing the Tiber, I stated that his writing style was typically gentle, unassuming, and without the pejoratives so often found on both sides of Catholic/Protestant debates. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about his critique of my review posted at www.catholic-convert.com, which is Mr. Ray's personal website. In this critique, he finds it necessary to resort to numerous ad hominem attacks, calling into question not only my analytical ability but also my personal veracity and morality.

    I have neither the time nor need to address each point he makes. My intention is to comment representatively on his article, just as I did on his book, and to do so I will focus on the personal attacks leveled against me, the petty issues that he raises, and the pertinent issues of substance. I list the page numbers of his critique in parentheses as they printed out on my computer.

    The Personal

    Stephen Ray's opinion of my review is reflected in his sub-title, "A Simple Response to an Anti-Catholic Review of my book", as well as his opening paragraph where he calls it "feeble and naïve". Apparently he is only responding in kind to that which my review merits, simple as it is. Well, this is the first of many things that he raises about me and it is one that I prefer he had left alone for now I am compelled to admit a somewhat embarrassing truth which is all too obvious to him—yes, I am among the simple-minded.

    Mr. Ray treats me as if I single-handedly took the "mental" out of "Fundamental" and as I read his writings, I must humbly concede that he is a man whose earthly, natural, worldly wisdom will always eclipse mine. His comments "the brightest minds in Christendom have always been Catholic" (4), "As Protestants are exposed to history and to the Bible, the brightest ones are joining the Catholic Church" (25) and "The flood of new Protestant converts into the Catholic Church represents the best and brightest of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists" (26) only expose how dim I am, especially since I left the Catholic Church.

    Stephen Ray may boast of being among the best and brightest, but it is humbling indeed to realize that I am not. God did not save me because of anything praiseworthy within myself. He did not save me because I possess great wisdom, intellect or talent nor for any other reason in which men may boast. He is not fortunate to have me on His side. He did not save me because I am strong; on the contrary, the more I grow in Christ, the more obvious it becomes that God saved me as the weakest of vessels through whom He could manifest His strength. It is sobering to realize that I offer Him nothing and He offers me everything yet I also glory in the fact that God has chosen me as one of the "foolish things of the world to shame the wise" (1 Corinthians 1:27). My boast is all of Him and none of me!

    The Lord knew what I needed to deal with my innate dullness and I was privileged to attend excellent secular and religious schools. As an undergraduate I attended the U. S. Naval Academy and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. For the ministry I studied at The Master's Seminary (www.tms.edu) and graduated with a Master of Divinity. And my education continues to improve as I study in the only infallible classroom there is, the Word of God.

    Since Stephen Ray raises several other personal issues about me, I probably ought to begin with my heritage, especially since he implies that I am lying about my Catholic background when he states, "Mr. Bayack, who claims to be an ex-Catholic" (9), "an alleged ex-Catholic like Mr. Bayack" (16), and "if indeed you were a Catholic" (24). (By the way, where did I ever question his background? On the contrary, I took his testimony at face value and even affirmed that he was no stranger to conservative Evangelicalism.)

    Those who knew me even remotely when I was growing up would chuckle at Mr. Ray's insinuation. I was born in 1958 in Salina, Kansas, into a long French-Canadian and deeply Roman Catholic ancestry on my mother's side. I was baptized as an infant at Sacred Heart Cathedral and attended St. Mary's Parochial School from 1964-66. I also have two infant siblings buried in Salina, one in unconsecrated ground because he was stillborn. In 1966 my family moved to Kingman, Kansas, where I attended St. Patrick's Parochial School from 1966-68.

    I remember my years in Catholicism well. I remember the zeal with which I studied Catechisms and Missals in an effort to learn my faith. I remember being taught many of the fundamental truths of Christianity such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, etc. I was well-grounded in these things because of my years in Catholicism and to the Catholic Church's credit, what truth she does teach she has taught with consistency and integrity over the centuries, much to the shame of mainline Protestantism. My religious training before I was saved was not unlike that of Paul's. When I did get saved, I had much truth upon which to build.

    However, I was also taught these things in the context of "not knowing God's righteousness, and seeking to establish [my] own" (Romans 10:3), being completely ignorant of divine righteousness "which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:9). Thinking that my efforts were essential to eternal life, I labored tirelessly for my salvation. None of my peers could exceed me.

    I remember the constant pursuit of the sacraments, the dutiful attendance of Mass, and the mechanical chanting of repetitious prayers. I even prayed the Angelus at noontime and remember thinking that surely if I prayed a Rosary every day I would go to heaven. And I remember the subtle undercurrent of anxiety in my life as I could never know with certainty where I would go after I died.

    I remember crying myself to sleep as a seven-year old because I feared that I had committed a mortal sin by breaking the one-hour communion fasting rule and was too ashamed to confess it to a priest, being convinced that I was going to hell. I remember leaving the confessional on one occasion and somewhat hoping that I might get hit by a car before I could possibly commit a mortal sin. I remember keeping my spiritual fingers crossed in the hope that whenever I died I would be in the state of Sanctifying Grace.

    I remember in my youth the bondage to the world and the flesh which I was powerless to break. I remember that as a whole we Catholics eagerly participating in sinful revelry with the same enthusiasm as mainline Protestants and those who made no profession of faith. In short, I remember a life in Roman Catholicism far more typical of most than Stephen Ray's will ever be.

    And I remember equally well my entrance into divine righteousness. I remember the realization that without Christ alone I was lost. I remember the inexpressible joy of having passed from death to life after trusting Christ as my Lord and Savior. I remember entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship which is eternal life (John 17:3). I remember my spirit bearing witness with God's Spirit that I was a child of God before I ever read Romans 8:16. I remember God marvelously peeling the blinders off my eyes to understand His Word and His diligence to teach me sound doctrine.

    I remember the fruit of the Spirit supernaturally welling up inside of me with a newness I had never known. I certainly remember my struggles and failures as I battled an evil world and a sinful flesh which were now hostile to me but I also remember God's gracious forgiveness which was mine upon the mere confession of sin directly to Him. I remember God's chastening hand which desires me to share in His holiness. And I constantly remember the glorious truth that God chose me and set His love upon me from eternity past to save me solely on the basis of His good pleasure, without any foresight of my choosing Him.

    Such is a candid and truthful testimony of my journey from Catholicism to salvation. However, my heritage is not the only issue where Stephen Ray suggests that I am a liar. Numerous times he questions whether or not I read his book with statements like, "If Mr. Bayack had read the Preface" (3), "Sometimes I wonder if people don't just skim the book looking for proof texts to argue against" (4), "I question whether Mr. Bayack really read the whole thing or just used the 'hunt and peck' method to look for objections" (12), "Mr. Bayack appears not to have read what I wrote" (14), "if he really read the book" (14), and "if he really read the whole book" (23).

    I feel a bit chagrined to have to defend myself against these implications. I graduated from an institution well-known for its Honor Code and those who know me know that I am anything but a liar. Once again, Mr. Ray, I am telling the truth. I read your book—holding my nose with every page—and have several pages of notes to prove it. How else would I know things like your involvement in the Plymouth Brethren assemblies? I made that conclusion because I read the footnote on page 75 which states that your fellowship had been influenced by men like William MacDonald and the one on page 62 that you were married in a "New Testament Assembly". If my review is so easy to refute, then why is it necessary to make these insinuations?

    These are not the only times where Stephen Ray calls into question my character. In my comments about Pope Alexander VI being the most morally corrupt pope in history, Mr. Ray remarks, "I wonder if Mr. Bayack is morally perfect" (19). Well once again, I've been cornered. He has exposed another embarrassing area of my life and I must confess, I am not. Stephen Ray knows very well that Scripture teaches there is only One who is perfect and sinless, only One who is "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). However, since Mr. Ray found it necessary to question my morality, I have no choice but to testify of the power of God in my life.

    I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was seventeen. In the sovereignty of God, I did not get married until I was less than a month away from turning thirty-three. My single years involved a lot of struggle, especially considering that I spent nearly a decade in the Navy. However, the keeping power of God kept me a virgin until I married and also gave me the self-control to give my wife our first kiss on our wedding day. I still remain completely dependent on that same grace and keeping power every day. I do not say this to condemn anyone nor to boast at all in myself but only to say that my rigid Catholic morality would never have been able to withstand the onslaught of the flesh had I not been saved in my youth. I have truly been able to see that "The things impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).

    As if this is not enough, Stephen Ray sees fit to denigrate my present calling as the pastor of an independent Bible Church. He refuses to call me "Pastor" or "Reverend" since I am supposedly a layman and have "no claim to apostolic succession or true ordination other than the vote of a group of people within his non-denominational denomination" (2). Throughout his critique, he refers to me either by my given name or simply "Mr. Bayack".

    I am actually quite pleased that Stephen Ray refers to me this way since it is exactly how I asked the congregation at Copperfield Bible Church to address me ever since coming here in October 1994. At our church, I am not known as "Pastor Chris" or "Reverend Bayack". The adults call me by my first name and the children address me as they would any other adult.

    Jesus clearly condemned the use of religious titles in Matthew 23:8-9, especially the title "father". The earthly priesthood has been fulfilled and all believers have direct access to God through the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Since all true believers enjoy an equal position before God, the only appropriate designation is "brother" as the key to understanding Jesus' words is found in verse 8, "and you are all brothers". I gladly forego all titles that I may emphasize the common standing I share with all brothers in Christ.

    The Petty

    Stephen Ray has a remarkable ability to make much ado about nothing as he goes above and beyond to dissect capital letters and misspelled words. So important are these that they headline his critique in the very first paragraph: "The fact that his review is feeble and naïve is reflected by the fact that he couldn't even get the title of the book right, calling it 'Crossing the Timber' on the web page, instead of 'Crossing the Tiber.'"

    It is common knowledge that the Tiber River flows through Rome and even someone as simple as me knew immediately what the title meant. Crossing the Timber was a minor typographical error by the Proclaiming the Gospel webmaster and if this is so vital to his argument that he has no choice but to make it his opening salvo, then he must do what he must do. I would hope that he was bigger than this.

    What is far bigger is what this reveals about Mr. Ray himself. I personally e-mailed him and posted messages on his bulletin board several times explaining that I knew what the title meant and that I had absolutely no control over the Proclaiming the Gospel website. He eventually acknowledged this to be the webmaster's mistake, however, he still treats it as my hapless error as his statement "he couldn't even get the title of the book right" and another similar one in the second paragraph remain on his critique.

    What does it say about a man who continues to deliberately misrepresent these things? What does it say about his integrity when he also writes in the same paragraph, "I would hope that, for the sake of integrity, he would post my response on the web site alongside his review" when he knows that I have no control over those decisions? One thing that it says for sure is that Stephen Ray is rash with the allegations and questionable at best with the facts.

    But there is nothing questionable about Mr. Ray's distortion of things elsewhere in his critique. This is no "petty" issue but having raised it at this point I will deal with it here. For example, Mr. Ray is blatantly disingenuousness with his quoting of Evangelical commentator A. Skevington Wood's comments about Ephesians 5:26 both in his book and his critique.

    Even though Mr. Wood believes that this verse refers to baptism, his commentary includes a clear rejection of baptismal regeneration: "There is, however, no hint of any mechanical view of the sacrament, as if the mere application of water could in itself bring about the purification it symbolizes. Nowhere does the NT countenance baptismal regeneration in an ex opere operato sense" (The Expositor's Biblical Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1978], 11:77, italics in original).

    However, notice again how Stephen Ray summarizes this statement on page 126 of his book, "Skevington then goes on to the disclaimer that this does not automatically a sacrament make, that no mere application of water can bring about new birth, to which the Catholic heartily agrees." Thus he appears to be in agreement with Mr. Wood, however, he conveniently ignores Mr. Wood's last sentence. I then went on to comment in my review that "Wood's statement 'the mere application of water' is a reference to baptism, a baptism which does work 'ex opere operato' to effect Catholic salvation, which is Stephen Ray's very point throughout his section on baptism."

    I stand by this statement. Mr. Wood's commentary listed above is intended to refute baptismal regeneration and over ninety pages of Stephen Ray's book are dedicated to proving it. However, Mr. Ray is not above speaking out of both sides of his mouth depending on which argument he embraces. On one hand he has the gall to feign agreement with Mr. Wood in Crossing the Tiber. Yet on the other he says, "I explicitly mention that Wood disagrees with me on the point of baptismal regeneration" (23).

    You do, Mr. Ray? I quoted the entirety of your comments about Mr. Wood verbatim in my review and nowhere do you give any hint of this. Which are we to believe—your ninety-plus pages in support of baptismal regeneration or your "hearty agreement" with Mr. Wood to the contrary? You cannot have it both ways.

    Let us now return to Mr. Ray's critique. So far he has questioned my veracity, morality, and integrity and lest he now question my fairness, I think it only proper that he be examined with the same scrutiny that he afforded me. In the very report in which he ridicules my grammatical and technical "errors", Mr. Ray distinguishes himself with an embarrassing number of his own.

    For example, while speaking of the freedom that Eastern-rite clergy have to marry, Mr. Ray states, "and many of the Easter rites have married clergy" (8). As he criticizes my comments about Judas' betrayal of Jesus supposedly being associated with the Eucharist in John 6, he writes, "[this] cannot be reduced to the simply explanation of Mr. Bayack" (14). When he describes the bliss of Catholicism's infallible interpretation of Scripture he says, "One of the nice things about being a Catholic is that there are no longer any verses that don't fit or make sense, such as 1 Peter 3:31" (11, he means 3:21 as there is no verse 31). And as he talks about his visits to Reformation sites he states, "In Marburg Germany I visited the site where the major reformers assembles in an attempt to formulate a consistent teaching among themselves" (18, all emphases added). Hopefully from now on he will take the typographical log out of his own eye first before removing the specks of others.

    The Pertinent

    Crossing the Tiber is Stephen Ray's experience into Roman Catholicism and it is largely an experience in search of a text. He must justify Catholic doctrine if he is to justify his conversion as evidenced by his own words, "Roman Catholic tradition does not contradict Scripture or frankly, I wouldn't be a Roman Catholic" (7, italics in original), and to do so he is often forced to employ a tortured hermeneutic. He must also depend on the other leg of authority—Church Tradition—for the same reason, regardless of how much it may contradict Scripture. I will deal briefly with each.

    i. Church Tradition

    Stephen Ray appears to be as infallible as his Church as he hardly concedes even the least point to those who challenge him. It is amazing how everyone (e.g. William Webster, James White, myself, etc.) who crosses him is an arrogant mental midget, his spiritual inferior and intellectual doormat. Mr. Ray deals with them only as one is forced to deal with a pesky gnat since he considers them to be about as potent and intelligent. Quite naturally he makes no concessions to me, simpleton that I am.

    Nevertheless, I seek to contend for the truth which God has revealed exclusively in His Word for everyone who has ears to hear. How liberating for me to hear the clear voice of God through His Word alone! How blessed I am to understand and embrace the precious doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Mr. Ray, of course, has no choice but to reject this. According to him, "Sola Scriptura is never taught or even alluded to in the Bible itself; in fact, it itself is unbiblical" (5, italics in original).

    Sola Scriptura is unbiblical? Sola Scriptura is no more unbiblical than the Trinity. Where does the Bible teach that God is a triune Being? (Even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible is forced to admit that the expanded version of 1 John 5:7 is "not in any of the early Greek MSS, or any of the early translations, or in the best MSS of the [Latin] Vulg. itself" and is "probably a gloss that has crept into the text" [The Jerusalem Bible, s.v. 1 John 5:7 notes].) It is taught all throughout the Bible even though we don't find the Trinitarian definition in one isolated verse. We understand the doctrine of the Trinity based on the deductive teaching of Scripture as a whole.

    So it is with Sola Scriptura. God has promised, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Paul writes to Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16). These are but the tip of countless verses that support the unique nature of Scripture as God's enduring and only authoritative revelation. If Church Tradition supposedly shares the same authoritative attribute as Scripture then we should expect it to share other common attributes. Yet where does God ever say that Tradition stands forever or that it will not pass away or that it is God-breathed? How is it that Tradition can presumably possess one unique attribute with the Word of God and not the rest?

    While God undoubtedly used oral tradition to initially disseminate truth, the nature of human frailty demanded that such truth inevitably be captured in a written, inspired form. Errant men cannot be trusted to indefinitely pass on inerrant truth via word-of-mouth. Respected Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer states this very well:

    "May not the inerrant truth of God be handed down from mouth to mouth through successive generations? Yes, indeed, it may be, and undoubtedly portions of the Bible were preserved in this way for a good many years before finding their authoritative, written form. But oral tradition is necessarily fluid in character and in constant danger of corruption because of the subjective factor—the uncertain memory of the custodian of that tradition. . . . While it was of course true that the words which Moses, the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and the apostles spoke were divinely authoritative from the moment they were uttered, yet there was no other way of accurately preserving them except by inscripturation (i.e., recording them in writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit)." (Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, [Chicago: Moody Press, second edition, 1974], 21-22, parentheses in original)

    God knew the obvious need to preserve His truth in a clear, objective, and unchanging manner and thus He gave us His written Word. However, this simple truth prompts another question altogether—if Roman Catholic Tradition is an infallible safeguard of God's revelation, then why the need for the New Testament at all? Oral tradition existed before the New Testament and if the Catholic Church is the repository of God's truth as she boasts per 1 Timothy 3:15, then her Tradition should be sufficient to protect and communicate all future divine revelation. Why not "Sola Traditio"? The New Testament, therefore, would be redundant.

    But it was oral tradition that became redundant for the reasons Archer states above. Just as Jewish tradition could not sustain God's initial revelation, neither could that of the early church sustain God's later revelation.

    The problems with Tradition do not end here. If Tradition is presumably of equal authority with Scripture, then whose do we accept? The Eastern Orthodox can supposedly make the argument for apostolic succession with the same credibility as Roman Catholicism, however, each does not fully agree with the other's Tradition. Which is correct? Why must Catholic Tradition supplant that of the Orthodox? How can both make an equally "legitimate" claim to be authoritative and yet be contradictory?

    This is a brief support for Sola Scriptura and far more can be said in its defense and has been by those more capable than me. Yet no amount of truth will persuade Stephen Ray. An infallible Church cannot repent and he will dutifully follow even if it means marching behind the Pied Piper. For example, when I stated that he never addressed the problem of Catholic Tradition contradicting Scripture he patently replied, "The Catholic Church does not contradict the Bible so there was nothing I needed to address" (7).

    Mr. Ray must state this even if it requires turning the Bible inside out. One of the most egregious examples of Tradition contradicting Scripture is Catholicism's defense of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary in spite of the obvious passages to the contrary such as Matthew 12:47, 13:55-56, John 7:5,Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5, and Galatians 1:19, all of which teach that Jesus had blood half-siblings born after Him.

    Catholic apologists desperately try to explain this away by saying that these were Jesus' relatives or possibly a generic reference to Jewish brethren. However, such attempts are bankrupt in the clear context of these verses. In all of the above passages, the word "brother" is the Greek word adelphos which is the common word to describe blood brothers. In Matthew 13:56, the feminine adelphe is used to describe Jesus' sisters. If these were merely cousins, the Holy Spirit could have used the Greek word anepsios as He does in Colossians 4:10 (the only place where it is found in the New Testament) to describe Barnabas' cousin Mark or the word suggenes which is often used to describe relatives in general (cf. Acts 7:14).

    The fact that suggenes and adelphos have distinct meanings is clearly seen when they appear in same verse. This occurs twice in the New Testament. In Luke 14:12, Jesus says, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers (adelphos) or your relatives (suggenes) . . ." and in 21:16 He states, "But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers (adelphos) and relatives (suggenes) and friends, and they will put some of you to death." The fact that suggenes never appears in any of the verses discussing Jesus' brothers brings a deafening silence to the Catholic argument.

    Likewise, the use of adelphos in these verses cannot refer to Jewish brethren at large. Although adelphos can be used in this way (cf. Acts 23:1), it does not have that meaning in passages like Acts 1:14 as Jesus' brothers were a distinct group from the rest in the upper room, even though all were Jewish. The natural, literal reading of adelphos in the above verses gives clear testimony that these can be none other than Jesus' brothers. As one of my seminary Professors used to tell us, "If the natural sense makes sense, seek no other sense." And as the literal sense reveals the truth about these verses, the infallibility of Roman Catholic Tradition comes crashing down.

    However, Stephen Ray remains undaunted. Catholic Tradition must survive and to prop it up he appeals to passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 where Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to keep the traditions that he gave them. It may seem as if he has found the support he needs. But are these verses part of the structure of Catholic Tradition or are they part of the explosion that brings it down? Let us look at each.

    In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is writing to this church to let them know that the day of the Lord has not yet come and that Jesus Christ has not yet returned for His bride (verses 1-2). He then goes on to explain in verses 3-12 what must first happen before the Lord returns which includes the frightful revelation of the "man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction" (verse 3) and all of the chilling activity that comes with his advent. And lest believers think that somehow they will be in peril because of these future events, Paul gives them a marvelous word of comfort in verses 13-14, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (italics added). Finally, in light of these word Paul gives his command in verse 15, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us."

    What is the point? Simply this—Paul calls them to follow these traditions in light of their calling, election, and absolute certainty of their salvation, a teaching which is directly contradicted by Roman Catholic doctrine! This assurance is reinforced by what he said to them in his first letter, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). In other words, whatever these traditions were, they were in harmony with the doctrine of the believer's assurance which Catholicism has long rejected. The traditions of this verse are in direct conflict with the Tradition of Rome.

    Catholicism fares no better with a proper understanding of 2 Thessalonians 3:6. In that verse, Paul states, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition that you received from us." He then goes on to explain beginning in verse 7 how he, Silas, and Timothy all led disciplined lives and worked for their own bread. The tradition that Paul speaks of here deals with the work ethic that "if anyone will not work, neither let him eat" (verse 10), and has nothing to do with things like the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, etc.

    The context of these verses deals a crippling blow—not a support—to official Catholic Tradition. However, Stephen Ray conveniently ignores the context of these verses as he must. Just about anything can be proven when Scripture is taken out of context and the old saying, "a text without a context is a pretext" applies very well to him. In fact, he is quite adept at ignoring the context of Scripture if an allegorical interpretation supports his point. When I challenged him about using extensive allegory, especially in reference to the Old Testament, he stated, "I have often used Old Testament passages in the same 'patristic' manner as the earliest Church Fathers" (11) and "If you mean by allegory that I interpret them patristically, I plead guilty" (11).

    Statements like this reveal another crutch that Stephen Ray must lean upon to support Catholic Tradition—the Church Fathers. In my review I stated that he quotes them as though they were infallible and that nowhere in his book does he consider that they may contract Scripture to which the humble Mr. Ray responds, "With all due respect the above comment is nothing but stupid. Come on Mr. Bayack, of course some of the Fathers contradict Scripture some of the time" (16).

    I assumed that you believed as much, Mr. Ray, but that is not what I said, if indeed you truly read my review. I said that you treat them as though they are infallible, not that you believe them to be infallible. He continues, "Do I have to attach a disclaimer for each citation?" (11). No. But where do you give any disclaimer, even one, that the Church Fathers were prone to error? Judging by the way you so authoritatively referenced them, how is a simple mind like mine to conclude otherwise?

    Anyone who yokes his interpretation of Scripture together with the Church Fathers is often building on a perforated foundation—its appearance belies its strength. If Stephen Ray truly believes the Church Fathers to be fallible, then he should examine them as the Bereans did Paul inActs 17:11 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 also). If the great apostle's teaching was subject to examination, then that of lesser men should be as well. What most people fail to realize about the Church Fathers is that many of them often embraced a syncretistic approach seeking to harmonize Greek philosophy and Biblical truth.

    "It was argued by some Christian apologists that the best doctrines of philosophy were due to the inworking in the world of the same Divine Word who had become incarnate in Jesus Christ. 'The teachings of Plato,' says Justin Martyr, 'are not alien to those of Christ, though not in all respects similar. . . . For all the writers (of antiquity) were able to have a dim vision of realities by means of the indwelling seed of the implanted Word." (Edwin Hatch, The Influences of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church [London: Williams and Norgate, 1895; repr., Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson, 1995], 126-27, parenthesis in original)

    The intent was to make Christianity appeal to the Greek mind. However, this approach is fatally flawed. Worldly wisdom is "earthly, natural, [and] demonic" as we read in James 3:15 and is directly at odds with divine wisdom as we read in 1 Corinthians 2. The carnal mind will never believe due to intellectual reasoning alone. He will not accept the things of God until the Lord opens his eyes and draws him to believe (cf. John 6:44). Thus the oil-and-water mix pursued by many of the Fathers often yielded hazardous interpretations of the Word of God. Poison plus water equals poison.

    Let us continue. Stephen Ray is not finished in his support of Catholic Tradition. In his section "Questions for 'Bible Christians'" on page 26, he draws upon Jude 9, 14-15 as support for oral Tradition being authoritative and even treating it as God's Word. Is it?

    Jude 9 discusses the dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil over the body of Moses. While this event is not found in the Old Testament, it is found in the apocryphal book The Assumption of Moses. Verses 14-15 discuss a prophecy of Enoch which is also not found in the Old Testament but is found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Do these references support oral Tradition as being authoritative or that the Catholic Apocrypha is also part of the inspired Word of God?

    No, they do not. God at times allows His writers to quote truths from non-inspired sources to make a point. For example, Paul quotes ancient poets three times in inspired writings. In Acts 17:28 he quotes Aratus' poem Phaenomena when he says, "Even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.'" Does this mean that Phaenomena is inspired or that the oral tradition which transmitted it is the Word of God?

    Is the same true of Menander and Epimenides because he quotes them in 1 Corinthians 15:33 andTitus 1:12 respectively? Man in his pursuit of knowledge occasionally intersects God's truth. After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    The same is true of events and quotations that God uses from apocryphal sources even if these sources were not inspired. (By the way, if Catholicism appeals to these verses in Jude as support for apocryphal inspiration, then why is neither The Book of Enoch nor The Assumption of Moses found in the Catholic Apocrypha? How is it that these non-inspired books could support Apocryphal inspiration?)

    Furthermore, in verse 14 Jude writes "Enoch . . . prophesied". By contrast, notice how Matthew referred to the prophecy of Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:5, "For so it has been written by the prophet." Enoch's quote is inspired while Micah's writings are inspired. Never is it said, "It is written" concerning The Book of Enoch nor any other apocryphal writing. Jude references Enoch's prophecy, not the book. Neither the document nor its word-of-mouth transmission have the same authority as Scripture.

    And neither does Roman Catholic Tradition.

    ii. The Word of God

    Stephen Ray's ability to handle the Word of God has also been weighed in the balance and found wanting. He is as obligated to follow Rome's handling of Scripture as

    he is her Tradition, even if it means throwing himself into a vortex of error.

    Not surprisingly, Mr. Ray views this as a badge of honor. "Ignorant people like to claim Catholicism contradicts the Bible, but it was actually the great fidelity of the Catholic Church to Scripture and the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles that eventually caused me to convert to the Catholic Church" (7). "One of the nice things about being a Catholic is that there are no longer any verses that don't fit or make sense, such as 1 Peter 3:31, John 20:23, Colossians 1:24, John 3:5, etc." (11). He holds to the same line that I was taught in fourth-grade Parochial school, namely, that since Roman Catholicism is supposedly an infallible Church, she possesses an infallible interpretation of Scripture.

    If this is so, then where is the official, infallible set of commentaries whereby I might look up the meaning of any and every verse? Surely a simple mind like mine would benefit from that. Yet none exists. Wouldn't such a set be the invincible fortress which no heresy could assault? Why does Rome not give us the authoritative, once-for-all, verse-by-verse exposition of the Word of God which would forever silence her critics?

    We should not hope for such a commentary anytime soon. And if Stephen Ray's capability with the Bible reflects that of his Church, it is understandable why such a commentary will never exist. For example, he states, "Paul taught the churches many things . . . [including] how to ordain priests" (10). I am want to find such a passage! If Stephen Ray had any proficiency in Greek, he would know that the word for "priest" is the word hiereus (or archiereus for "chief/ruling priest") and nowhere does Paul ever ordain a hiereus or teach a church to do the same. He did appoint elders in some churches (e.g. Acts 14:23) but the Greek word for "elder" is presbuteros from which we get our word "presbytery". Never is the New Testament church office of presbuteros ever equated with hiereus.

    Yet Mr. Ray's exegetical skid does not stop there. When I made some remarks about the issue of baptism, he stated, "Paul's converts were all baptized immediately upon belief in Christ (e.g. Acts 16:31) as he was himself (Acts 9:17-18)" (12).

    Apparently he has never read Acts 13:12, 13:48, 17:4, 17:12, and 17:34 which make no mention of baptism accompanying belief among Paul's converts. No doubt these believers were eventually baptized but contrary to Stephen Ray there is nothing in the text to suggest that it immediately followed belief. Several other passages also show us that not all converts were immediately baptized such as Acts 4:4, 6:7, 9:35, 9:42, and 11:21.

    But these are not the only blunders he makes regarding baptism. As I mentioned earlier he devotes over ninety pages of his book to supposedly prove baptismal regeneration, pages which include attempts to rebut Evangelical arguments opposing it. I pointed out that nowhere does he address 1 Corinthians 1:17 where Paul says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel." To this he responded, "I really don't see what the above verse has to do with anything" (12).

    I am amazed at this statement! Surely Mr. Ray would realize that simple minds like mine would latch on to verses like this. And if my argument is so easy to refute, then doing so in his book would only strengthen his.

    Yet he ignores this verse, as he must, since it is one of the most potent against his position. If baptism was necessary for salvation, then Paul erred grievously by not baptizing everyone immediately upon belief. Why would he leave his listeners in eternal peril if they merely believed but had to wait for someone else to come along and finish the evangelistic job? What surgeon would shut down the operating room half way through a heart transplant?

    In 1 Corinthians 1:17 where Paul says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" the Greek word for "but" is not the simple conjunction de but the adversative particle alla which is the plural of allos, meaning "another". Anyone with even basic competence with Greek knows that alla denotes a sharp contrast. Paul's distinction between baptism and the gospel could not be clearer.

    Speaking now of the gospel, Stephen Ray continues his Biblical and theological ambiguity as he writes, "I am thankful to be part of the Church that has consistently taught the true Gospel from the very beginning. She has gone neither to the right nor to the left but stayed the course so that two thousand years later the Gospel is still proclaimed with truth and accuracy" (18).

    What is the gospel according to Rome, Mr. Ray? Interestingly enough, for your boast about the Catholic Church preserving the true gospel, you give no definition of it. Is it, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved" as Paul told the Philippians jailer in Acts 16:31? Is it the same definition that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which I remind you again contains no mention of baptism or communion, the two sacraments your book so frantically tries to prove are essential to saving faith?

    It cannot be this simple as Rome's gospel is much more complex. It goes something like this, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized and receive communion, together with receiving as many of the other five sacraments as possible (in addition to praying to Mary and the saints for extra intercession), in the hope that you might go to heaven after you spend an indefinite period of time in that half-way hell of Purgatory."

    Now I am not passing judgment on individuals nor am I making a blanket statement that all Catholics are going to hell. "The Father . . . has given all judgment to the Son" as Jesus said in John 5:22 and we all do well to leave it with Him. However, we are to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) and nowhere is this more crucial than the gospel.

    These irreconcilable differences in understanding the gospel mean that Stephen Ray and I cannot be on the same team (as he well knows) in spite of his statement, "It is sad when I have to lock horns with someone who claims the name of my Savior Jesus Christ—one with whom we should lock arms in love to take a united stand for Christ in the midst of a pagan culture" (1, italics in original).

    Did Paul "lock arms" with the Judiazers who infested the churches of Galatia? Think of all the beliefs they shared. Both were Monotheists. Both believed the same Old Testament Scriptures. Both had a similar morality and were repulsed by the rank paganism around them. Both esteemed the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law. They had many important, fundamental beliefs in common. But there was one difference in belief which would never be bridged—the nature of justification.

    Paul embraced justification on the basis of faith alone but the Judaizers also believed that keeping the Law was necessary. Imagine how they could have appealed to Paul: "Paul, our differences aren't so great. Look at all that we have in common. We really just disagree in this one area. You believe in justification by faith alone, and we believe in faith plus keeping the Law and the traditions practiced by our fathers and their successors and are still proclaimed nearly fifteen hundred years later with truth and accuracy. Let's pull together that we might fight as one."

    But how did Paul react to the Judaizers? "We did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you" (Galatians 2:5). Regardless of whatever beliefs they may have had in common, their differences on this one vital issue would keep them forever apart.

    So it is forevermore with those who embrace the gospel of faith alone and those who embrace faith plus works of any kind.

    Conclusion

    My opinion about Crossing the Tiber remains the same—it is a masterpiece of tangled, selective scholarship which will only widen the path of many on the already broad road to destruction. It's that simple.

    I need not say anything more. Mr. Ray, though, is sure to say plenty more and I concede the last word to him, as I must. When it comes to who can shout the loudest, I'm no match for him. He is sure to have the last word that he might triumph over every critic. Yet Scripture will have the ultimate last word and will triumph over every error that threatens the gospel of grace by which we are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.

    Praise God for sending His Son to fully pay the price for my sin. Praise God because salvation is a totally free gift which we merely receive. And praise God for a gospel so simple that a mind like mine can understand it.

    May Stephen Ray "become foolish that he may become wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18).

    cbayack@ev1.net
    Catholic Apologist Initiates Debate on Eternal Security
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The following debate between Mike Gendron and Tim Staples appears in the January - February 2012 Issue of Catholic Answers Magazine.

    Mike Gendron's First Affirmation

    God promises eternal life to those who repent and believe the glorious Gospel of Grace. When He gives spiritual life to those who are dead in their sins, He does not place them on probation or give them conditional life. Eternal life is given by grace through faith so that the divine promise can be guaranteed (Rom. 4:16).

    God's promise is upheld by His holy character, unlimited power and sovereign purpose. Listen to the Lord's promise: "He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24).

    Jesus declared that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). The Good Shepherd protects the sheep who were given to Him by the Father with these words of assurance: "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:29-30). Eternal life is a free gift of God that is irrevocable (Rom. 6:23; 11:29). Believers can know right here and now that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

    The word that describes a believer's eternal salvation is the same "eternal" that describes the eternal triune God (Rom. 16:26). The word means everlasting, forever and never ending. Not once does it ever mean "temporary" or "conditional". According to God's eternal purpose, every believer has been saved from eternal judgment, eternal destruction and eternal punishment (Eph. 3:11;Heb. 6:2; 2 Thes. 1:9; Mat. 25:46). Believers possess eternal redemption through the eternal Spirit who guarantees an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:12-15; Eph. 1:14). The eternal Gospel promises every believer eternal life and eternal glory in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 14:6; 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet.1:11). The eternal King calls salvation eternal and He has given believers eternal comfort (Heb. 5:9; Mark 16:20; 2 Thes. 2:16).

    Tim Staples's First Response:

    Catholics agree God gives "eternal life" to all who believe in Christ (John 3:16; 5:24, etc.). We agree "no one can snatch [followers of Christ] out of [Jesus'] hand" (John 10:29-30). And we agree we are kept by the power of Christ who is "able to keep [us] from falling and to present [us] without blemish before the presence of his glory..." (Jude 24; cf. Eph. 1:14) However, no biblical text denies followers of Christ can walk away from Christ.

    Moreover, the New Testament repeatedly sets conditions upon our salvation. 1. We must be baptized (Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3-4). 2. We must continue to abide in Christ in order to receive the promise of eternal life (I John 2:23-25). 3. We must be obedient (Matt. 19:16; Romans 6:16;Heb. 5:8-9; Acts 5:29-32) and 4. We must endure until the end to be saved (Matt. 10:22; Rev. 2:10). If we refuse to obey, we will be lost (cf. Matt. 24:45-51).

    The Catholic Church teaches we can "know we have eternal life" if we understand "knowledge" as St. John does in I John 5:13. In verse 14 he refers to this "knowledge" as a "confidence" analogous to the "knowledge" we have of our receiving what we petition God for in prayer. We use the term similarly in English: "I know I am going to get an A on that exam tomorrow." We know this confident assurance is not absolute because St. John gives conditions for our attaining eternal life in this same epistle (I John 1:7-9, 2:23-25; 3:15).

    The main point is this: The eternal life we can "know" we possess and that is promised to us can be lost. "Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off" (Romans 11:22; cf. John 15:1-6, Heb. 12:14-15, II Peter 2:20-22).

    Mike's 1st Response

    Scripture speaks of two groups of professing Christians - those who have been born-again and those who have not. Those born-again are born by the will of God, not by the will of man (John 1:12-13). It is the will of God that Jesus will not lose even one (John 6:39). At the moment of spiritual birth, the justified believer, now sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, begins walking by faith and doing the works God has prepared for him to walk in (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:10). They persevere in the faith, abiding in Christ and His Word, because of God's faithfulness and His discipline as a loving Father (John 8:32, John 15:7, Heb. 12:7). Paul declared our assurance: "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). The work started "when we were dead in our trespasses...He made us alive together with Christ...and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:4-7). This is such unshakable assurance that, positionally, they are already seen in heaven as trophies of God's grace. Clearly, it is impossible for those who have been born-again of imperishable seed to ever perish. Their inheritance is reserved in heaven and protected by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:3-5; 23).

    Professing Christians, who have not been born-again, are victims of distorted gospels or faulty methods of conversion. They say they have faith, but have no works, no evidence of spiritual life and have never departed from iniquity (Jas 2:26; Mat. 7:21-23, Titus 1:16). Since they are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, their faith is dead and they do not abide in Christ. Many fall away as apostates because they never received the gift of eternal life (1 Tim. 4:1). Those who "choose to walk away" from Christ are giving evidence of their false conversion.

    Finally, water baptism does not cause, nor is it the instrument, of the new birth, but it is an act of obedience for those who have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:47).

    Tim Staples' Second Response:

    God knows with infallible certainty those who will persevere until the end, but Scripture makes clear that we don't (apart from a private revelation); thus, even in the above-cited case of Jesus declaring "[he] should lose nothing of all that [the Father] has given [him]," he later makes an exception with Judas, saying "I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Though Judas was "guarded" by Jesus, he chose to walk away from him.

    Catholics acknowledge we cannot merit heaven by our own power. We will only be saved because it is the will of God to save us and keep us (Eph. 2:8-9; John 1:12-13; Eph. 1:14). Indeed, we know God is faithful to complete what he has begun in us (Phil. 1:6). However, the Bible is also clear that we must allow him to do so. "Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain" (II Cor. 6:1). "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace... You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth" (Gal. 5:4-7).

    The Catholic Church agrees that Christians are seated "with [God] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7). In fact, Scripture says Christians have "become partakers of the Holy Spirit... tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the world to come" and yet, it also says they can "commit apostasy" and fall away from Christ (cf. Heb. 6:4-6). Though Scripture does speak of some who are rejected by Christ in the end as perhaps never having known him (cf. Matt. 7:21-23), Scripture also reveals some who will have known him and even "escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of... Jesus Christ," and yet they will have fallen away from him (II Peter 2:20-22).

    It is difficult to see how Scripture could be any plainer with regard to baptism than to say, "baptism... now saves you" (I Peter 3:21), "wash[es] away your sins" (Acts 22:16), and "baptiz[es you] into Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3).

    Mike's 2nd Response

    Those born of God do receive private revelation. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17).

    Jesus knew all along that Judas would fall away and become an apostate to fulfill Scripture (Ps. 41:9). In fact, when Jesus chose the twelve apostles, He knew Judas was a devil and would betray him (John 6:67-71). Clearly, Judas never had justifying faith. He had the faith of demons, which caused him to shudder and commit suicide (Jas 2:19). His apostasy is consistent with John's description of other professing Christians who were never born again. "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us" (1 John 2:19). Those born of God are kept forever by Jesus (John 6:39-40).

    In Galatians 5:4-7, Paul is warning those who were trying to be justified by the law that Christ would be of no benefit to them (Gal. 5:2). Those who chose to continue under the Law would be rejecting Paul's teaching of salvation by grace.

    In Hebrews 6:4-6 the author is referring to apostates who had never been born of God and therefore were never Christians. The passage makes no reference to salvation or the new birth. People can be partakers or witnesses of the Holy Spirit's power and yet not have His indwelling. They can also taste or sample the Word of God but spit it out in unbelief. Since they never ingested God's Word in justifying faith they were never saved.

    In 2 Pet. 2:20 the people did not know Jesus but had knowledge of Him. Once again these are apostates who after hearing the Gospel of Christ, escaped the defilements of the world for a time but later rejected the offer of salvation.

    In 1 Pet. 3:21 eight people were saved from the wrath of God because they took refuge in the ark. In a similar way those who take refuge in Christ who was baptized (immersed) in God's wrath as atonement for sin will be saved (Luke 12:50).

    Tim Staples' third response:

    In your first response, you based an absolute assurance of salvation on the ideas of our "inheritance" (salvation) as well as the "word of God" by which we have been "born anew" being "imperishable" (cf. I Peter 1:4; 23). Both are imperishable, of course, but Scripture also teaches we can forfeit our inheritance as Esau did and we can reject the word of God for various reasons and be lost (see Heb. 12:14-17; Luke 8:12-13; Heb. 10:35-39; Matt. 5:Rev. 2:10, etc.).

    Similarly here, you imply Romans 8:16-17 saying the Holy Spirit "bear[s] witness with our spirit that we are children of God" equates to Christians having absolute certainty of their salvation. The text, however, simply says that we are God's children. And as such, we are "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ..." The second half of verse 17 adds a very important qualifier: "... provided we suffer with him in order that we may be also glorified with him..." And further clarification is found in verses 24-25: "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? ... we wait for it with patience." The context makes clear that our "inheritance" is contingent upon choosing to suffer with Christ until the end. We do not "see" or possess that inheritance yet.

    The Bible does not seem to concur with your opinion that Judas "never had justifying faith." In fact, Judas is included when John 2:11 declares all of the apostles "believ[ed] in [Jesus]" through the miracle at Cana. Jesus says specifically of the twelve, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear," as opposed to unbelievers who did not (cf. Matt. 13:13-16). Perhaps most importantly, all of the apostles confessed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God in true faith in Matt. 14:33. And notice: these all occur before Jesus' declaration that Judas "is a devil" in John 6:70. If you trace the time-line here, it appears Judas would have fallen away at the time of Jesus' great Eucharistic discourse.

    Catholics agree: God wills "that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life" (John 6:39). In fact, I Tim. 2:4 tells us God "desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (see also II Peter 3:9). But Scripture is equally emphatic that some will reject the will of God for them and end up in hell (cf. Matt. 25:46). Therefore, Catholic theology harmonizes these two biblical realities understanding God's will to have both an antecedent and consequent nature. God's antecedent will is for all to be saved. But as a consequence of creating man with free will, it is God's consequent will for those who reject his antecedent will—regardless of whether they are Christians or not when they do so—to be separated from God for all eternity.

    And finally, you missed the point of the biblical texts I cited. Galatians 5:4 refers to Galatians "falling from grace," though they had been "running well" with the Lord (vs. 7). Galatians 3:3 says they had "received the Spirit." This is a phrase used of Christians (see Acts 8:14-17; 19:2).

    Hebrews 6:4-6 refers to it being impossible for certain apostates to be "restore[d] again (Gr.- palin) to repentance." Again implies these people had already experienced "repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18; cf. II Peter 3:9). It also refers to them as having been "enlightened," a term this same inspired author uses for Christians as does St. Paul (cf. Heb. 10:32; Eph. 1:18). And contrary to your claim, this text does not say these apostates were simply "partakers or witnesses of the Holy Spirit's power;" rather, it says they were "partakers of the Holy Spirit." They were Christians.

    II Peter 2:20 never says it is referring to people who had "knowledge of [Christ], but did not know [him]." St. Peter uses the same language he used of Christians who had "obtained a faith of equal standing with [his]" in chapter 1:1-4 to describe them. In 1:3-4, Christians are said to have "escaped the corruption that is in the world," "through the knowledge of [the Lord]." In 2:20, he says, "... if, after they escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord," they fall away, "the last state has become worse than the former."

    I Peter 3:20-21 is fairly straightforward that baptism is an instrument of salvation when it says, "... during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you..."

    Mike's 3rd Response

    As we interpret the Bible we must look for the author's intended meaning and purpose and be sure the context is consistent with the full counsel of God's word. Your assertion that believers can forfeit their promised eternal spiritual inheritance because Esau forfeited his material inheritance is invalid (Hebrews 9:15). God guards the spiritual, not the material inheritance of His children (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

    Romans 8:17 does not give "suffering with Christ" as a contingency for our inheritance, but a reality that believers will experience. Their glory in heaven is assured in the next verse. "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." And verse 30 reveals the unbroken promise of God "those whom he justified he also glorified."

    If Judas had justifying faith, as you assert, then God must glorify him according to Romans 8:30. There are many who believe Jesus is Lord (as Judas did) but have not been born again (Mat. 7:21-23). Like other mere professors of Christ, Judas was never one of the Lord's sheep because He never knew him (Mat. 7:21-23, John 10:14). Furthermore, Judas never demonstrated repentance. Everyone whom God has raised from death to life has been granted faith and repentance (Acts 11:18; Eph. 2:1-10).

    Paul wrote his epistle to Galatians to defend justification by grace through faith and to warn them of the dire consequences if they abandoned this essential doctrine. The perverted gospel of the Judaizers was nullifying grace (the only means of salvation) by placing people under the law (Gal. 1:6-9). He was not warning them that they could lose their salvation, but that they were loosing their grip on the principle of grace which must remain mutually exclusive of works (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 5:4).

    Your assertion that "partakers of the Holy Spirit" are Christians is not supported by Scripture (Heb. 6:4-6). The Greek word metochos has to do with association, not possession. Prior to Pentecost the Jews had never possessed the Spirit but were present where the Spirit was ministering. The Bible never defines a Christian as being associated with the Spirit but in-dwelt and sealed by the Spirit. People can have a change of mind (repentance) without trusting Christ for salvation. Repentance unto life must be accompanied by faith.

    In 1 Pet. 3:21, water was the agent of God's wrath, not the means of salvation. Just as those in the ark were saved from God's judgment, those immersed in Christ will be saved from judgment. Jesus was baptized (immersed) in God's wrath on the cross so that those who believe could be saved (Luke 12:50). The only baptism that saves sinners from God's wrath is the baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).

    You have failed to see the distinction between those who merely profess Christ and those who possess Christ. Those who have never been born again cannot lose their salvation because they were never saved. Those who have been born again of incorruptible seed cannot lose their salvation because they are new creatures in Christ, kept by the power of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, eternally saved by Jesus, redeemed from the curse of the law and have a permanent right standing before God (John 6:40; Heb. 10:14; Gal. 3:13, 1 Pet. 1:23; Eph. 1:13).

    Tim Staples' Fourth Response:

    You've missed the entire point of the inspired author's use of Esau in Hebrews 12:16-17. He uses the temporal inheritance of Esau as a metaphor for the eternal inheritance of Christians. The context makes this clear: "Strive for... the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no 'root of bitterness' spring up... by it many become defiled... like Esau..." (verses 14-16)

    You seem to pass over the many "ifs" which represent contingencies with regard to our salvation all over the New Testament. The "if" (Gr.—eiper) in Romans 8:17 is just one of them (see also Matt. 6:14, I John 1:7-9, Hebrews 3:14, 10:37-39, etc.). This is entirely in keeping with the teaching of Christ who said we must take up our crosses daily and endure until the end with him in order to be finally saved (Luke 9:23; Matt. 10:22, Rev. 2:10).

    Romans 8:28-30 reminds us that Christ both provided for the salvation, justification and ultimate glorification of all on the cross and that he knows who will endure until the end and so be glorified. However, Scripture also makes clear that unless we cooperate with the grace he merited for us to accomplish all of these things in our lives, or as St. Paul says it, unless we "continue in his kindness... [we too] will be cut off" (Romans 11:22). Our final glorification is revealed to be something we yet "hope for" in this life (cf. Romans 5:1-5). Hope is something that can be lost along with the salvation that is hoped for (cf. Hebrews 10:23-39).

    Your claim that "partakers (Gr. metochous) of the Holy Spirit" are not Christians in Hebrews 6:4borders on the ridiculous. Association and not possession? While metochos can be used in the sense of "campanion," it is more a synonym of koinonia when used in that sense. It denotes a union in a cause that brings about communion. But to get a sense of its usage here we would do well to examine how it is used in the rest of Hebrews.

    In verb form it is used to describe Christ as "partaking" in our human nature (Heb. 2:14; see also 5:13; 7:13). Metochos is used in the nominative plural to describe Christians as "metachoi tou Christou" or "partakers of Christ" (3:14). Hebrews 3:1 refers to Christians as "holy brethren, who share (Gr. metochoi – "sharers") in a heavenly call" (see also Heb. 1:9). This is not mere association. Neither is Hebrews 6:4. The context is clear.

    Mike's Final Response:

    Esau was an apostate, godless, immoral person who had knowledge of the truth but found no place for repentance (Heb. 12:16-17). Your opinion of a metaphor is unsupported.

    Your statement that "partakers (metochous) of the Holy Spirit" denotes a "union" with the Holy Spirit is wrong and your position has a serious problem for Catholics since it is impossible to restore those who fall away to repentance (Heb. 6:4-6). There is not a Greek lexicon that defines metochous as "union." It means "to share or to be associated with" the Spirit. In one sense every unbeliever is a partaker of the Holy Spirit since He convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11).

    Secondly, God's Word never contradicts itself. Those indwelt with the Holy Spirit persevere until the end in God's power and faithfulness, not their own (Rom. 8:11). Jesus declared: "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me, I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life" (John 6:39-40). Eternal life, not conditional life, is the will of God for everyone the Father gives to the Son. The "if" statements you quoted were given to discern true faith from spurious faith.

    The recipients of everlasting life strive to please God not in order to obtain or maintain salvation but in thanksgiving for having been eternally saved by the finished work of Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus will take up their cross and suffer with Christ because of their fervent love and heartfelt gratitude for Him (John 14:15). Those who merely profess Christ, then fall away into apostasy were never justified or born of God. They failed to persevere because the Savior NEVER knew them (Mat. 7:21-23).

    Your assertion that hope "can be lost" along with salvation violates the very definition of genuine faith which is "the assurance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). God-given faith is the present assurance of the future reality of an eternity with God. John's first epistle was written so that Christians could know, right now, that they have, in their possession, eternal, everlasting, never ending life (1 John 5:13). Jesus is able to keep them from stumbling, and to make them stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24-25). Those who rely on their own power are, in effect, trusting a god who is impotent to finish the work he started (Phil. 1:6). Those who trust God and His Word know they are kept and protected forever by His power (1 Peter1:4).

    Tim Staples' Final Response:

    Once again, you missed the point of Hebrews 12:14-17. Esau found no place for repentance only after he "sold his birthright." The "inheritance" is the metaphor for our "inheritance" as Christians, eternal life. He had to possess it in order to sell it.

    I would suggest you examine Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2, pp. 830-832, which concurs with everything I said about metekein/metochos. The New Testament never uses metochos of the Holy Spirit or of Christ with reference to "the world" as you claim.

    Apostates in Hebrews 6:4-6 could not be restored to repentance because they left Christ and the New Covenant to go back to the Old Covenant in order to be saved. The Old Covenant no longer has any such power (see chapters 5, 7-10, 12:18-24, cf. Acts 15:1-2). However, if they turn back to Christ and the New Covenant, they could then be restored to repentance.

    The "if statements" I referenced were not merely to determine who has faith and who doesn't. Faith is not the issue; it is assumed. The issues were perseverance, walking in the light and confession of sins, and more (Matt. 10:22; Matt. 6:14; John 1:7-9, etc.).

    Granted, Jesus said if we love him, we will keep his commandments. That is the greatest motivation for service. However, Jesus also said, "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:16). St. Paul tells us, "[God] will give eternal life" to "those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality" (Romans 2:6-7; cf. Gal. 6:7-9; Matt. 5:44-45). What we do determines whether or not we will go to heaven and not simply faith alone, according to Scripture.

    In the final analysis, I think you emphasize the texts that speak of God's power, protection and the blessed assurance the faithful in Christ possess rooted in hope (cf. Jude 24; Romans 8:28-39; I John 5:13, etc.). The problem is you do so to the exclusion of texts that plainly say Christians can "fall away from the living God" or walk away from God's protection and power (Heb. 3:12; cf. Matt. 5:32-33; Eph. 5:3-6). In so doing, you fail to declare with St. Paul "the whole counsel of God" that is necessary for salvation (Acts 20:27).

    Mike's Overall Conclusion: (not included in the Catholic Answers Article)

    This debate reveals the importance of using proper hermeneutics to interpret and understand the Word of God. Biblical hermeneutics is the study of principles used for interpreting Scripture. The best method to use is a historical-grammatical principle based on historical, socio-political, geographical, cultural and grammatical context. We must also be aware that verses taken out of context can be twisted and distorted to mean something completely different from the author's intention (2 Pet. 3:16). Thus we see the importance of looking at a verse in its chapter, book and biblical context.

    Since the canon of Scripture is considered to be complete, sufficient and authoritative to make us wise unto salvation, any interpretation that contradicts any other part of Scripture must be renounced since God cannot contradict Himself. The Word of God is consistent in its teaching from Genesis to Revelation. An example of this in the debate was the use of the word "eternal." A believer's eternal salvation is the same "eternal" that describes the eternal triune God (Rom. 16:26). The word means everlasting, forever and never ending. Not once does it ever mean "temporary" or "conditional or something that can cease or terminate". According to God's eternal purpose, every believer possess eternal redemption through the eternal Spirit who guarantees an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:12-15; Eph. 1:14). The eternal Gospel promises every believer eternal life and eternal glory in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 14:6; 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet.1:11).
    Catholic Evangelical Alliance?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Unity and harmony between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics were the objectives of the declaration entitled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." While it may have united those who endorsed the agreement, it has created lingering discord and controversy in the Evangelical community. Many believe it has blurred the biblical distinctions of the Gospel and set the mission of the church back 500 years. On March 29, 1994, Evangelicals, including Chuck Colson, Bill Bright, Pat Robertson, and J. I. Packer signed the agreement with Roman Catholics that compromised the eternal truth of the Gospel for the sake of temporal social and political issues.

    It appears this is yet another strategic move by the Vatican to bring all religions under the influence and power of the Pope. Other recent ecumenical efforts include: an ongoing dialogue with the Anglican Church; the establishment of diplomatic relations with the sovereign state of Israel, 46 years after its rebirth as a nation; and the welcoming of voodoo worshippers with their pagan practices into the Catholic Church. In order to build a bridge with Islam, Vatican II also included the Moslems, who deny the deity of Christ, in its plan of salvation.

    The document attempted to minimize the ten doctrinal disagreements that exist between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, and yet it failed to mention the one most critical -- the means of salvation. The biblical plan of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone is not taught in the Catholic Church. Instead, Catholics are taught they must do good works, obey the commandments, be baptized and receive the sacraments to be saved (A Catechism for Adults by Rev. Cogan).

    In the sixth century, the Vatican created a place called Purgatory where those who do not fulfill these requirements perfectly can be purged for their sin. Catholics are also taught "they can attain their own salvation and at the same time cooperate in saving their brothers" through good works. (Vatican II, Flannery's Edition, Vol. 1, pages 64-68) Obviously this is a different gospel that produces only false hope. Paul declared, in his letter to the Galatians, anyone preaching a different gospel should be eternally condemned -- not be called a brother in Christ.

    However, the declaration does claim all Catholics are brothers and sisters "in Christ." It appears the endorses of this document overlooked what it means to be "in Christ." In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul describes those who are "in Christ" as: redeemed by the blood of Christ, forgiven, and sealed with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing their inheritance. Yet any Catholic who believes he is eternally secure in Christ is cursed with an anathema by his church (Canon 30, 6th Session, Council of Trent).

    The document also declares conversion to Christianity "is a continuing process so that the whole life of a Christian should be a passage from death to life, from error to truth, from sin to grace" (Section V). Why did Evangelicals sign this document knowing that conversion occurs the moment a repentant sinner is born again of the Spirit by placing his trust in Christ alone for salvation? It is so disturbing to see the most essential doctrine of Christianity undermined and refuted.

    Why did Evangelicals sign an agreement that prohibits them from proselytizing Catholics? It may have developed from threats from high ranking Roman Catholic clergy. At the 31st National Conference of The Bishops of Brazil, Bishop Bohn threatened to declare a holy war against Evangelicals. He said, "The Catholic Church has a ponderous structure, but when we move, we'll smash anyone beneath us." Bishop Bohn stated the only way to avoid an all-out holy war is if Protestants halt their evangelism efforts in Brazil. Must the Great Commission be compromised because of a threat?

    If this agreement is sustainable then its endorsement must declare the Reformation was a terrible mistake and the martyrs who died defending the Gospel, died in vain. Let us pray for the discernment of those involved, that they may realize the severe implications of their actions and annul the agreement. Evangelicals must unite to defend the integrity of the Gospel and boldly contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints. Truth, not tolerance, is the only basis for Christian unity.
    Catholic Traditions
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    "You nullify the Word of God by your traditions that you have handed down" (Mark 7:13)

    Over the years many traditions have crept into the Roman Catholic Church, nullifying the Word of God and His saving grace. The following list shows a steady departure over the years from the pure Gospel of salvation. Each tradition goes directly against the truth of Scripture. Roman Catholics are required to believe all the doctrines of their church.

    Year Tradition
    431 Proclamation that infant baptism regenerates the soul.
    500 The Mass instituted as re-sacrifice of Jesus for the remission of sin
    593 Declaration that sin need to be purged, established by Pope Gregory I
    600 Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints, and angels.
    786 Worship of cross, images, and relics authorized.
    995 Canonization of dead people as saints initiated by Pope John XV.
    1000 Attendance at Mass made mandatory under the penalty of mortal sin.
    1079 Celibacy of priesthood, decreed by Pope Gregory VII.
    1090 Rosary, repetitious praying with beads, invented by Peter the Hermit.
    1184 The Inquisitions, instituted by the Council of Verona.
    1190 The sale of Indulgences established to reduce time in Purgatory.
    1215 Transubstantiation, proclaimed by Pope Innocent III.
    1215 Confession of sin to priests, instituted by Pope Innocent III.
    1229 Bible placed on Index of Forbidden Books in Toulouse.
    1438 Purgatory elevated from doctrine to dogma by Council of Florence.
    1545 Tradition claimed equal in authority with the Bible by the Council of Trent.
    1546 Apocryphal Books declared canon by Council of Trent.
    1854 Immaculate Conception of Mary, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.
    1870 Infallibility of the Pope, proclaimed by Vatican Council.
    1922 Virgin Mary proclaimed co-redeemer with Jesus by Pope Benedict XV.
    1950 Assumption of Virgin Mary into heaven, proclaimed by Pope Pius XII.
    Death of Discernment
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Death of Discernment In The Church

    Have you considered the spiritual health of your church in these days of tolerance and compromise? Is the leadership earnestly contending for the faith against the current wave of ecumenism? A. W. Tozer used the illustration of circulating blood to describe the health of a church. "The red corpuscles are like faith - they carry the life giving oxygen to every part of the body. The white cells are like discernment - they pounce upon dead and toxic matter and carry it out to the drain. In a healthy heart there must be provision for keeping dead and poisonous matter out of the life stream."

    Using Tozer's analogy, churches that are dead or dying are the churches that no longer have the ability or the desire to discern truth from error. If they cannot identify toxic doctrinal error, the poison can never be removed from the body. And if it is not removed it will continue to circulate, bringing confusion to believers and false hope to "seekers."

    The Emerging Church

    Based on the reports we hear from our subscribers all over the world, there are many churches on the edge of apostasy. Many are subscribing to the latest post-modern fad called "the emerging church" which attempts to reach the emerging generation with a new way of "doing church." If you key "emerging church" in your favorite search engine, you will see numerous entries declaring that worship should now be a mystical and holistic experience using images, candles, stained glass windows and even darkness to enhance spirituality. One of the leaders of the movement is Brian McLaren, pastor and author of the controversial and award winning book, A New Kind of Christian. The book expressly argues that the Bible should not be regarded as infallible or authoritative. McLaren seeks unity between Catholics and Evangelicals and applauds Chuck Colson for leading this unbiblical movement.

    The emerging church places more importance on mystical and sensual worship experiences that unite rather than essential biblical doctrines that divide. Churches that move from a Word-driven message to an image-driven message only contribute to the "dumbing down" of professing Christians. Few will be able to discern the difference between the true Gospel and a counterfeit gospel. The end result will be unsanctified churches which tolerate, embrace and encourage unbelievers instead of edifying and equipping a new generation of believers.

    Emerging But Not Discerning

    Irving Bible Church, located between Dallas and Ft. Worth has emerged into a church without discernment. The pastor, Andy McQuitty, has publicly stated that both John Paul II and Mother Teresa are most assuredly in heaven. In the May issue of the church's monthly magazine Chatter, he featured a 11 " by 14" picture of these two influential Catholics who deceived the world with another gospel. McQuitty called the differences between Catholics and Protestants "theological pettiness." He said, "it is just plain silly to write each other off as far as true Christianity is concerned. We'll have plenty of time in Heaven to figure out who was right about Purgatory and Mary." McQuitty can't see why both faiths can't cooperate "in building the Kingdom of our common Lord Jesus Christ." He described John Paul as "a Man of God, not a man of this world, who became popular by testifying to the unpopular truths of Jesus Christ." According to McQuitty, the pope was "a great man whom all Christians should admire, thank and emulate." Finally he wrote, "I confess as a protestant pastor that my spiritual life and faith has been enriched by this Catholic pope who taught me that being a hero isn't about success or power."

    Evidently Irving Bible Church (IBC) has a few discerning souls who prompted McQuitty to send out this public e-mail. "A few of you have raised concerns, most of which can be boiled down to this question: 'Is IBC becoming Roman Catholic?' To which the answer is, 'No way, Jose."' He wrote: "I understand where the question comes from, though. The introduction at IBC of certain elements such as candles and liturgies and communion wafers and the reference to communion as the "Eucharist", combined with the recent death of Pope John Paul II and the attendant recognition that his life received here, has caused some (particularly those who were raised Catholic and had a less than happy experience) to bristle."

    McQuitty sounds like many Catholics who think we left the Roman Catholic Church because we "had a less than happy experience." No, we left when our Sovereign Lord opened our eyes to see the true Gospel as He revealed it in His supremely authoritative Word. As with other born-again former Catholics, we all left because we could no longer stay in a false religion that deceives its people on life's most critical issue - "What must I do to be saved?" We all left in obedience to God's word, to worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). If we were a member of Irving Bible Church, we would have to leave that church as well because the pastor has demonstrated no discernment and an unwillingness to be corrected by Scripture. A pastor without spiritual discernment cannot protect his congregation from Satan's continuous attacks on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Some will say that I am being judgmental and that I have no right to do so. But how can Christians contend earnestly for the faith unless they make judgments on what "the faith" is? How can Christians defend and proclaim the Gospel without discerning what "the Gospel" is? We see a biblical example of one brother judging another when Paul publicly corrected Peter who was not being "straightforward about the truth of the Gospel" (Gal. 2:11-14). A. W. Tozer said: "Among the gifts of the Spirit, scarcely is one of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit."

    Christians Are Exhorted To Judge

    Many Christians are unaware of their responsibility to judge and test all things. Paul exhorted: "I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:9-10). Christians need to take discernment and judgment seriously in this life because of the great responsibility that awaits us in the future. Paul reminds us: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?" (I Cor. 6:2-3). Paul even commended the Bereans for rightfully judging his teaching. "They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). The apostle John warned and exhorted Christians: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Clearly, all Christians are called to judge righteously by using the Word of God as the plumb line for discerning truth from error.

    Discernment Is A Discipline

    New babes in Christ must discipline themselves to go beyond the "milk" of the Gospel and begin chewing on "solid food" by studying the whole counsel of God. "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb. 5:13-14). Spiritual discernment is a discipline and a privilege that only Christians can exercise. Paul wrote: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things." (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

    How Are We To Judge?

    John wrote: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Jesus said: "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Mat. 7:1-5). The instruction Jesus gives for judging others is to make sure you are not guilty of the same error or sin! Paul echoed these words when he wrote: "Do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?" (Rom. 2:3). When we judge, we must judge righteously and with pure hearts!

    The Goal of Discernment

    As we practice the gift of discernment let us question our motives. Is our objective to be obedient to God's word for the purpose of helping, healing, correcting, warning and sharing in the spirit of love? Does our discernment lead people towards truth and righteous living? Are we concerned for the purity of the body of Christ? Have we come to acknowledge that when the gift of discernment is not exercised, the church cannot be purged of error and sin and the name of Jesus Christ cannot be fully glorified and honored as the Holy Head of His Body, the Church.

    The critical issue in the Church today is the purity of the Gospel. That alone is the rudder that must guide the Church through stormy waters that have been stirred up by every wind of doctrine. Take away the ability to discern objective truth and churches turn into cafeterias serving whatever junk food people want instead of the disciplined diet they need for spiritual life and health. Without a steady diet of the whole counsel of God, churches become entertainment centers for goats instead of sanctuaries for the Shepherd's sheep (Mat. 25:32). Unregenerate people, who are never exhorted to examine their faith, will continue attending church to enjoy the music, entertainment and "feel good" messages. Unless these people are confronted with their sin, their need for a Savior and the eternal consequences of a spurious faith, they are destined to hear these terrifying words from Jesus: "'I never knew you; depart from Me" (Mat. 7:23).

    May God help us all to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
    Depart From Me, I Never Knew You
  • The most terrifying words any professing Christian could ever hear would be the Lord Jesus declaring: "I never knew you, depart from me" (Mat. 7:23). On judgment day those words will be heard by many who once made professions of faith and claimed to be followers of Jesus. Yet very few evangelical leaders appear to be concerned. Our churches are filled with people who are headed to hell and don't even know it. Who are these false converts and how were they deceived? What lulls so many people into this cruel deception?

    Two Kinds of Deception

    Scripture describes these false converts as victims of deception. They are either deceived by false teachers or they deceive themselves. Some are victims of a false gospel or an unbiblical method of evangelism (Gal. 1:6-7). A false gospel offers the natural man what he wants: good feelings, healing, riches and success. The true Gospel offers him what he needs: forgiveness of sin, redemption, perfect righteousness, reconciliation with God and the power to live a victorious life.

    Those who deceive themselves are people who hear the Word of God but do not do what it says (Jas. 1:22). Since obedience to the Word is a divine requirement of every believer, the disobedience of those who deceive themselves is marked by a lack of con- cern for God's will and His commands. They have little desire for God's people, His Word or His glory. They are self-absorbed and self- centered and love themselves more than they love God (2 Tim. 3:2-3). Paul gave a stern warning for the self-deceived who reject what the Word says: "The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience”(Eph. 5:6). They perish because they failed to love the truth (2 Thes. 2:10).

    Ignorance and Pride Can Be Fatal

    Tragically, the many warnings given in the New Testament about spiritual deception are not taken seriously. People are so comfort- able in their church or religion that they have no hunger for spiritual truth. Deluded by arrogance, they deny their ignorance of God's Word. Many Christians have only a superficial knowledge of the Gospel. They know Jesus died for the sins of the world, but they don't know why He had to, or why it pleased the Father to crush Him (Isa. 53:10). They don't know the divine punishment for sin is death (Ezek. 18:4). They don't know the only way God will forgive sin (Luke 24:47; Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:7). They don't know God op- poses the proud and justifies only those who know they are ungodly (Rom. 4:5; Luke 18:9-14; James 4:6). Religious pride keeps people in spiritual darkness. Many hold to a form of godliness but deny the power (or the necessity) of the Gospel (2 Tim. 3:5). Their self-conceit leads to self-deceit and their self-righteousness damns them to everlasting shame.

    Failure of Self-Examination

    A major cause of self-deception is the fail- ure of self-examination. Some professing Christians go through life without ever examining their faith through the lens of Scripture. Paul exhorts us, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine your- selves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5). Probably the best way to guard against self-deception is to abide in God's Word, passionate for truth and invite the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and illumination.

    Man-centered Evangelism

    What happened to the God-centered method of evangelism that calls sinners to repent and believe the Gospel? For the last 100 years people have been told to repeat a prayer, come forward, sign a card or get baptized to be saved. Many of them have lived with a false hope because none of these methods are found in God's Word. The deadliest deception of Satan is to convince a person he is saved when he is not. The devil's ongoing strategy is to corrupt the church by planting tares or false converts where God has planted wheat. He knows he can be more effective in attacking the church from the inside than from the outside. Jesus described tares as "sons of the wicked one." The one who sowed them is the devil (Mat. 13:38-39).

    Well-meaning Christians who use a man-centered approach to evangelism by manipulating people to make a decision are helping the devil plant tares. They promote easy believism with no call to repentance or discipleship because it produces quick results that people can see and measure. The unanticipated results of their actions are devastating: God is not glorified, the sinner is not saved, the church is not sanctified and the devil is thrilled and delighted. The best way to produce true converts and reduce the number of tares coming into the church is to follow a biblical, God-centered method of evangelism. We must quit seeking quick results and instead glorify God by make disciples and faithfully proclaiming His Word until the sinner asks, "What must I do to be saved?”

    Strong and Weak Foundations

    According to Jesus, true Christians build their houses (which represents their lives) on the solid rock of Christ and His Word (Mat. 7:24-27). False Christians build their house on shifting sand which is made up of traditions, opinions and teachings of men. When the storms and trials of life come, a true Christian continues to trust and act on God's Word while a false Christian gives up and suffers shipwreck of his faith. When his faith is tested, it is exposed as shallow, spu- rious and short-lived. He is the man who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy; yet when affliction or persecution arises, he falls away (Mat. 13:20).Jesus said there are only two paths to eternity (Mat. 7:13-14). There is a narrow road which is hard to find because false teachers are blocking the entrance and pointing people to the broad road. This is why Jesus said, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). People must strive to enter because of Satan's fierce opposition to the Gospel. The only way to determine which door is the true door is to search the Scriptures. The narrow door is difficult to enter because unconverted sinners must be set free from the snare of the devil and repent (2 Tim. 2:25). They must have a heartfelt sorrow for sinning against their God and Creator (2 Cor. 7:9-10). The narrow road is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone which means no one can enter in their own righteousness or by their works or merit (Eph. 2:8-9). They must leave every- thing behind and enter with empty hands of faith. The other path to eternity is the broad road. It is marked "heaven", but it leads people to hell. It is easy to find - just follow the crowd because many are on it. They are the ones who are trusting their own righteousness and good works and see no need to repent.

    Living and Dead Faith

    Anyone can profess to be a Christian but genuine faith will be evidenced by how a person lives. Likewise, people are known more by what they do than what they say. James asks the probing question: "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?" (Jas. 2:14). He concludes that a faith which does not pro- duce any evidence of a changed life is a dead, spurious, worthless faith. Those with empty confessions profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works, being abominable and disobedient (Titus 1:16). "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness" (2 Tim. 2:19). In other words, it doesn't matter what you profess to be, what really matters is how you live. Those who have living faith are born of God. They are new creatures created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand for them to do (Eph. 2:10).

    Right and Wrong Motives

    Both true and false Christians follow Jesus, but for different reasons. Unconverted people seek Jesus for selfish motives or wrong reasons, usually for material bless- ings. Jesus said, "You seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled" (John 6:26). These false disciples withhold true allegiance and submission to Jesus and retain control of their own lives. They allow their own opinions rather than Scripture to control what they do and how they do it. True converts respond to the Lord Jesus in adoration, praise and worship (Mat. 2:11; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17). They submit to Christ as Lord and obey His Word out of love and gratitude for all He has done and is doing. They are known by how they respond to sin - with conviction, sorrow, confession and repentance.

    Christ is living water for those who thirst for righteousness (John 7:37). He is living bread for those who hunger for eternal life (John 6:51). He is the only mediator to those who want peace with God (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus is the only redeemer for those who want to be purchased out of the slave market of sin (Titus 2:14). He is the way for those who are lost, the truth for those who are deceived and the life for those who are dead in sin (John 14:6). He is the only Savior for those who know their hopeless and helpless condition (Eph. 2:12; Rom. 5:6). His blood is the only cure for those who know their sin will end in eternal death (1 John 1:7). His perfect righteousness is the only passport to heaven for those dressed in filthy rags (Isa. 64:6; 1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus is the Sovereign Lord who reigns over His people in love and will rule over unrepentant sinners in terror on judgment day (Rev. 20:11-15).

    A Christian's Responsibility

    How should we counsel those who say they have been sanctified by the truth but cling to false teachers? How can we help profess- ing Christians who are not bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Mat. 3:8)? We must intervene because a Christian who "turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death" (Jas. 5:19-20). We must lovingly confront them with the truth of God's Word and encourage them to examine their faith. Then we must encourage them to consider the exhortation of James. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (Jas. 4:8-10). Repented sinners, who bear the fruit of the Spirit, can be sure they will never hear terrifying words from Jesus (Gal. 5:23).
    Divine Forgiveness: Joyful Assurance or False Hope?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Anyone who has read the Bible knows that man's greatest problem is sin. There is a day of judgment coming when God's holy anger will be poured out on unforgiven sinners. Since no one can escape God's justice, man's greatest need is divine forgiveness. Every other human need in this life pales in comparison with our need to be forgiven of the eternal debt for our sins. Without God's forgiveness, we would all be destined for a fiery furnace with absolutely no hope of escape. God created man to exist forever, either eternally separated from Him in hell because of sin, or eternally reconciled to Him in heaven because of His forgiveness. Those who have experienced God's forgiveness are blessed with an everlasting joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding. However there are many who have never been forgiven because they have been deceived about this most important doctrine. There is no excuse for being deceived because God's word sets forth the truth plainly for everyone to see. The Scriptures reveal how God graciously forgives sins completely and forever.

    Catholicism -An Extension of Judaism

    Many professing Christians believe their sins can not be forgiven until they confess them. This is due in part to the deceptive influence of Roman Catholicism. Catholics are required to confess specific mortal sins to priests and then make satisfaction for them before they can be forgiven (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1459). In many ways the Roman Catholic religion is an extension of Judaism under the old covenant. Jews were required to confess specific sins and bring guilt offerings to the Lord for them (Lev. 5:56). They depended upon a sacrificial priesthood for the forgiveness of sins. Catholics have the same dependence upon their priesthood. "Only priests can forgive sins in the name of Christ" (CCC, 1495).

    Under the Old Covenant, sins were covered by the sacrifice of animals, but the sacrifices could never make Jews perfect. In the same way, the Sacrifice of the Mass can never make Catholics perfect, which is why the Mass must be repeated every day. However, under the New Covenant of Christ's blood, His one sacrifice has made perfect forever those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14).

    Opposition to God's Word

    As with so many other Catholic doctrines, Rome's teachings on confession and forgiveness stand in opposition to the Word of God. The following fallacious teachings are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1423 to 1498. Through the sacrament of Penance, Catholics make "the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin." Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace. The sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. This sacrament is the second plank of salvation after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace. This second conversion is necessary because sin is a rupture of communion with God. Penance is the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church. The authority of priests is expressed in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mat. 16:19). "Bind and loose" means whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his.

    God's Promise of Forgiveness

    In those few Catholic teachings, we see many denials of God's promises. His Word reveals that those who have been born of God through faith in Jesus Christ will never be separated from the love of God (Rom. 8:3339). At the cross God forgave all the sins of all believers. They are all gone, completely forgiven and forever forgotten: the sins against God, against man, against the body, against the law, the sins of commission and the sins of omission, the sins in the past and the sins in the future (Col. 2:13-14). All are removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). This forgiveness is given freely to those who repent and believe the Gospel (Luke 24:47; Acts 10:43). Once sinners have been reconciled to God, future sins can never cause death or separation because God no longer counts sins against them (2 Cor. 5:19). The Bible never speaks of falling in and out of fellowship with God. It never speaks of "a new possibility to convert and recover the grace of justification." Justification is eternal and conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit who, along with Christ, guarantees the relationship will never be broken (Heb. 10:14,13:5; Eph. 1: 13-14).

    Satisfaction For Sins

    Rome's proclamation that sinners can make satisfaction for their sins is both erroneous and foolish speculation. The sin debt is eternal, no finite man could ever cancel the infinite sin debt. The redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever (Psalm 49:8). Nowhere does the Bible say "Penance is the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God." What it does make clear is the only grounds for forgiveness and reconciliation is the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:7: 1 Pet. 1:19). At Calvary, the very thorns God used to curse the earth were worn by the one who became a curse for us. God's righteous rage, which had been stored up for over 4000 years of man's sin, exploded upon the spotless, innocent lamb. In an instant God's eternal wrath was poured out on His only Son. Two hearts that have been eternally joined together were torn apart. Divine holiness was forced to repel the bearer of human sin. The all-sufficient Savior made complete satisfaction for sin. To teach otherwise is to blaspheme God and rob Christ of His glory and honor.

    Binding and Loosing

    Nowhere in the New Testament do we see divine power given to a sacrificial priesthood to bind and loose. Nowhere do we see the need to confess sins to a man in order to be forgiven. The keys which were given to Peter in Matthew 16:19 represent the authority (not the power) to make pronouncements concerning sin. This authority is given to everyone who has received the Spirit, as we see in John 20:22-23. Jesus said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." Every believer can use the authority of God's word to say to those who believe the Gospel: "Your sins are forgiven." Likewise, believers can say to those who reject the Gospel: "Your sins are retained." During my 37 years in the Roman Catholic Church, no priest ever asked me if I believe the Gospel. Tragically, I left the confessional box hundreds of times with a false hope, believing I was forgiven, but still carrying the eternal debt for sin.

    The Origin of Penance

    The Catechism gives the following history of how the ungodly practice of penance originated. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism, (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline. Accordingly, penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. During the seventh century, Irish missionaries took to Europe the "private" practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration (CCC, 1447).

    The Lord's Prayer

    Catholics point to the Lord's prayer as the scriptural authority for the sacrament of Penance. When Jesus taught the Jewish disciples how to pray, His prayer included: "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mat. 6:4). Then Jesus gave this condition: "if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Mat. 6:15). Is forgiveness of sins still conditional today? No! Jesus taught this under the old covenant which was not fulfilled until His death. In the old covenant, blessings and forgiveness were conditional on man's obedience to God. Repeatedly God said: "if you ... then I." One example: "'If .. you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins." (Lev. 26:18).

    Jesus is now the mediator of a new covenant. At the last supper He said: "this is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (Mat. 26:28). Now we are called to "forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). Those who trust the blood of Jesus are forgiven forever, because His sacrifice was perfect, His Father was satisfied, His resurrection was proof, justice was served, death was defeated and the Spirit was sent to guarantee an eternal inheritance!
    Debate with Tim Staples on Eternal Security
  • The Lord Jesus promises eternal life to those who repent and believe His Gospel of grace. Yet, there are many professing Christians who deny the promises of the Gospel and believe eternal life can be lost. One such person is Tim Staples, the Director of Apologetics at Catholic Answers who has challenged me to a debate on the topic, "Once Saved, Always Saved." Staples is one of many former Protestants who have departed from the Christian faith to join the Roman Catholic religion. He was raised Southern Baptist, went to Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and then became a youth minister in an Assembly of God church. He has been a Catholic since 1988 and has been defending the Catholic religion as an apologist since 1994.

    The debate will be in writing and published in This Rock, the monthly magazine of Catholic Answers, which is the largest lay- run apologetics organization of its kind. It will be comprised of ten 350-word presentations by each writer. Following are the first four presentations.

    Mike Gendron’s First Affirmation
    God promises eternal life to those who re- pent and believe the glorious Gospel of Grace. When He gives spiritual life to those who are dead in their sins, He does not place them on probation or give them conditional life. Eternal life is given by grace through faith so that the divine promise can be guaranteed (Rom. 4:16). God’s promise is upheld by His holy character, unlimited power and sovereign purpose. Listen to the Lord’s promise: “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
    Jesus declared that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). The Good Shepherd protects all the sheep who were given to Him by the Father with these words of assurance: “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). Eternal life is a free gift of God that is irrevocable (Rom. 6:23; 11:29). Believers can know right here and now that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

    The word that describes a believer’s eternal salvation is the same “eternal” that de- scribes the eternal triune God (Rom. 16:26). The word means everlasting, forever and never ending. Not once does it ever mean ”temporary” or “conditional”. According to God's eternal purpose, every believer has been saved from eternal judgment, eternal destruction and eternal punishment (Eph. 3:11; Heb. 6:2; 2 Thes. 1:9; Mat. 25:46). Believers possess eternal redemption through the eternal Spirit who guarantees an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:12-15; Eph. 1:14). The eternal Gospel promises every believer eternal life and eternal glory in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 14:6; 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet.1:11). The eternal King calls salvation eternal and He has given believers eternal comfort (Heb. 5:9; Mark 16:20; 2 Thes. 2:16).

    Tim Staples’ First Rebuttal
    The Catholic agrees that God gives what Scripture calls over and over again “eternal life” to all who believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 5:24, etc.). We agree that “no one can snatch [followers of Christ] out of [Jesus’] hand” (John 10:29-30). And we also agree that we are kept by the power of Christ who is “able to keep [us] from falling and to present [us] without blemish before the presence of his glory...” (Jude 24; cf. Eph. 1:14) However, none of these texts or others cited above tell us that faith is all we need in order to be saved. Jesus and the New Testament repeatedly tell us we must also be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3-4), we must continue to abide in Christ in order to remain in him and receive the promise of eternal life (I John 2:23-25), we must be obedient (Matt. 19:16; Romans 6:16; Heb. 5:8-9; Acts 5:29-32) and we must endure until the end to be saved (Matt. 10:22; Rev. 2:10).

    Moreover, none of those texts cited deny that followers of Christ can choose to walk away from him. The Catholic Church teaches we can “know we have eternal life” as long as we understand “knowledge” as St. John does in I John 5:13. He refers to this “knowl- edge” as a “confidence” analogous to the “knowledge” we have of our receiving what we petition God for in prayer. We use the term similarly in English when we say, “I know I am going to get an A on that exam tomorrow.” We know this confident assurance is not absolute because St. John gives conditions for our attaining eternal life in this same epistle (1 John 1:7-9, 2:23-25; 3:15).

    This leads us to our final point. The eternal life that we can “know” we possess and that is promised to us who believe can be lost through our own fault. “Note then the kind- ness and the severity of God: severity to- ward those who have fallen, but God’s kind- ness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22; Matt. 24:45-51, John 15:1-6, Heb. 12:14-15, 2 Peter 1:2-4, 2:20-22).

    Mike’s Second Response
    Scripture speaks of two groups of profess- ing Christians - those who have been born- again and those who have not. Those born- again are born by the will of God, not by the will of man (John 1:12-13). It is the will of God that Jesus will not lose even one (John 6:39). At the moment of spiritual birth, the justified believer, now sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, begins walking by faith and do- ing the works God has prepared for him to walk in (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:10). They persevere in the faith, abiding in Christ and His Word, because of God’s faithfulness and His discipline as a loving Father (John 8:32, 15:7, Heb. 12:7). Paul declared our assurance: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). The work started “when we were dead in our trespasses...He made us alive together with Christ...and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:4-7). This is such unshakable assurance that, position- ally, they are already seen in heaven as trophies of God’s grace. Clearly, it is impossible for those who have been born-again of imperishable seed to ever perish. Their inheritance is reserved in heaven and protected by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:3-5; 23).

    Professing Christians, who have not been born-again, are victims of distorted gospels or faulty methods of conversion. They say they have faith, but have no works, no evidence of spiritual life and have never de- parted from iniquity (Jas 2:26; Mat. 7:21-23, Titus 1:16). Since the Holy Spirit does not indwell them, their faith is dead and they do not abide in Christ. Many fall away as apostates because they never received the gift of eternal life (1 Tim. 4:1). Those who “choose to walk away” from Christ are giving evidence of their false conversion.

    Finally, water baptism does not cause, nor is it the instrument, of the new birth, but it is an act of obedience for those who have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:47).

    Tim Staples' Second Response
    God knows with infallible certainty those who will persevere until the end, but Scrip- ture makes clear that we don't (apart from a private revelation); thus, even in the above- cited case of Jesus declaring "[he] should lose nothing of all that [the Father] has given [him]," he later makes an exception with Judas, saying "I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Though Judas was "guarded" by Jesus, he chose to walk away from him.

    The Catholic acknowledges that he cannot will his way to heaven by his own power. We will only be saved because it was and is the will of God to save us and keep us by his grace (Eph. 2:8-9; John 1:12-13; Eph. 1:14). Indeed, we can know that God is faithful to
    complete what he has begun in us (Phil. 1:6). However, the Bible is also very clear that we must allow him to do so. "Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1). "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace...You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth" (Gal. 5:4-7).

    The Catholic Church also agrees that Christians are seated "with [God] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7). In fact, Scripture says Christians have "become par- takers of the Holy Spirit... tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the world to come" and yet, that same text says these same Christians can "commit apostasy" and fall away from Christ (cf. Heb. 6:4- 6). Though Scripture does speak of some who are rejected by Christ in the end as per- haps never having had a real relationship with him (cf. Matt. 7:21-23), Scripture also reveals some who will have known him and even "escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of... Jesus Christ," and yet they will have fallen away from him (II Peter 2:20-22; cf. 1:2-4).
    It is difficult to see how Scripture could be any plainer with regard to baptism saving us, washing away our sins, and incorporating us into Christ, than to say, "baptism... now saves you" (I Peter 3:21), "wash[es] away your sins" (Acts 22:16), and "baptiz[es us] into Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3).

    Mike's Comments
    It is interesting that Tim Staples thinks Jesus failed at His attempt to guard Judas from falling away. The fact that Judas became an apostate was no surprise to Jesus. In fact, when Jesus chose the twelve apostles, He knew Judas was a devil and would betray him (John 6:67-71). Clearly, Judas never had justifying faith but only the faith of demons, which caused him to shudder and commit suicide (Jas 2:19).
    Stay tuned for the next six responses of the debate. It is indeed a great privilege to point people, who have no assurance, to the glorious Gospel of grace. It contains the divine promise of eternal, everlasting life with our great God and Savior. Please pray that our Sovereign Lord will use the clarity of His Word to glorify Himself and accomplish His purpose through this debate.
    Doctrinal Smorgasbord?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Many of my dear friends and family members are practicing Roman Catholics. I often ask them questions regarding the official traditions and doctrines of their church. Rather than answer my questions they usually respond, "Oh, I don't believe that." So common and casual is this statement that I'm reminded of a plentiful smorgasbord offering a variety of favorite and not so favorite dishes. As one approaches, he may pick and choose only those items that suit his taste. Many Catholic may not be aware that by definition a dogma is an infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and must be believed by all Catholics under the penalty of anathema, (eternal condemnation). This really becomes a dilemma when dogmas oppose the Bible.

    A number of professing Christians treat the Bible the same way many Catholics treat their dogmas. They choose scriptures to believe while ignoring or spiritualizing the rest. The key question for those who do not use the entire Bible as the standard for truth is, "how do you determine which part to believe in?"

    When we are influenced by the opinions, philosophies and traditions of men we have a tendency to create our own god rather than acknowledge the God of the Bible. Why not go to the source of all truth, to the One who is truth and whose Word is truth? Seek the one who created life rather than a fallible human being whose opinions are only as trustworthy as the next man's.

    In determining which part of the Bible is palatable, consider what Dr. Tony Evans recently communicated. Parts of the Bible are as sweet as chocolate cake and other parts are as unsavory as squash, but nutrients are gained by ingesting a balanced diet. In order to maximize our growth into spiritual maturity we must swallow it all, for it is all good for the soul.
    Disappearing Doctrines
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Disappearing Doctrine of the Evangelical Church

    This newsletter is often used to correct the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church but in this issue we will address the disappearing doctrine of the Evangelical Church. Many professing Christians now think it doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you label it Christianity. Their only test for becoming a Christian is a simple acceptance of Jesus as a historical figure. In our post-modern church, doctrine is out and tolerance is in. We are told that for the sake of unity, doctrine should not be tested or contested. We are not supposed to draw any definitive lines or declare any absolutes. Doctrinal and moral issues which were once painted black and white, are now seen as gray. The state of the church is now in a state of confusion.

    Paul forewarned us that this would happen when he wrote: "The time will come when they [the people in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). When "Christians" turn to popular teachers who tickle their ears with messages on self-esteem and self-improvement, they are also turning away from God's word. Without a steady diet of Scripture, they will not hear sound doctrine and therefore be unable to discern truth from error. Ultimately, they will not know if they are following Jesus Christ or his adversary.

    Without discernment, the 21st century church is headed for serious trouble because the enemies of the Gospel are more shrewd and cunning than we are. What the Body of Christ needs now are soldiers of the Lord who are committed to battle for truth! Let us look at some of the cause for the lack of discernment in the evangelical church.

    Decline of Biblical Preaching

    What has happened to pastors who preach the whole counsel of God? Churches that once taught the Bible verse-by-verse are on the endangered species list. We receive letters from our subscribers all over the world who cannot find them. We have also witnessed this first hand as we listen to sermons on church web sites. It appears pastors today are more concerned with popularity, church growth, methodology, psychology and meeting felt needs than biblical doctrine. Pastors are teaching less and less from the Bible which ultimately calls people to trust in the words of men, instead of the word of God.

    Three Kinds of Preachers

    In one category are teachers who faithfully preach the whole counsel of God. They exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9). These men are devoted to seeking the approval of God over the approval of men (Gal. 1:10).

    In the second category are teachers who cater to desires of men (2 Tim. 4:3). These teachers are dangerous, not because of what they say, but for what they don't' say. They purposefully avoid the offense of the Gospel for fear it will make people uncomfortable. Whenever preachers avoid the Word of God, believers don't get discernment and "seekers" don't get saved. We see an example of this type of preacher in Joel Osteen, the pastor of one of America's largest churches located in Houston. In a June 20th interview on Larry King Live, he was asked if atheists go to heaven. He replied, "I'm going to let God be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell". When asked where Jews or Muslims go without trusting Jesus, he replied, "I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven; I don't know." Rather than unashamedly respond with the power and exclusivity of the Gospel, Osteen chose to remain silent so that no one would be offended.

    The third category is made up of false teachers who secretly introduce destructive heresies and malign the way of the truth (2 Pet. 2:1-2). These teachers deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting and the undiscerning (Rom. 16:18). Without discernment, listeners will not be able to distinguish between who has been sent by Christ and who is a mouthpiece for Satan.

    Wooing the World into The Church

    Proponents of the church growth movement have developed attractive gimmicks and techniques to invite the world into our churches. Their thinking is this: "If we can get the world to like us, maybe they will like our Savior." Their approach to post-modern ecclisiology has been labeled "seeker-friendly" or, more profoundly, "sinner-friendly." Jesus is being disguised to make Him and His Gospel "less offensive" to seekers. Their goal is to make sinners feel comfortable by giving them what they want instead of what they need. Their strategy is to throw soft balls at non-Christians rather than challenge and confront their unbelief with convicting truths from Scripture. As the goats are being entertained with this nonsense, the sheep of the Shepherd are being deprived of His Word.

    We must ask where does God's word tell us to woo the world? Did not Jesus say, "The world ... hates Me because I testify that its deeds are evil" (John 7:7)? James wrote: "Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). Church history confirms this and we should learn from the past. The churches and de¬nominations which made friends with the world began a downward slide into apostasy. By trying to woo the world, they had to compromise their preaching, tolerate sin and immorality and abandon nearly every doctrinal position they once held.

    Those who remain faithful to the Gospel will be an offense to the world because the Gospel is inherently offensive. Christ Himself is offensive to all who reject the truth. He is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (1 Peter 2:8). The message of the cross is also a stumbling block and foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. L 18; Gal. 5:11). Tragically there are multitudes who profess Christ but cannot articulate the Gospel's basic elements. What is left for the church if it can't communicate the only message that brings forth life?

    The decline of doctrine (and ultimately the ability to discern) occurs in our churches when anyone of three things take place. First, when drama and entertainment become more important than preaching the word. Secondly, when the pastor's goal becomes "making people happy instead of holy." You know this is taking place when he shifts his sermons from "this is what God says" to "this is what I think people want to hear." Thirdly, when the pastor spends more time addressing "felt needs" over "spiritual needs." Eventually these churches become filled with gullible people who believe their lovable pastor is speaking for God. Might they consider a quote from A. W. Tozer who said: "Gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith keeps its heart open to whatever is of God, and rejects everything that is not of God."

    Tolerance Has Replaced Absolute Truth

    Some Christian leaders are calling for the church to adapt to the new generation by eliminating all absolutes. They are saying that we can no longer proclaim absolute truth. Truth is now said to be subjective and in the eye of the beholder. Needless to say, this is producing a Christian faith void of doctrine but full of confusion. Tolerance and acceptance of other faiths is now firmly established within Christianity. We are called to be tolerent of everything except absolute truth. This tolerance is being used as a platform for unity with the Roman Catholic Church. Some evangelicals would rather have a counterfeit unity based on tolerance than authentic spiritual unity based on truth. Anyone who stands in their way is labeled divisive or troublesome.

    Warnings Are Being Ignored

    There are numerous warnings in Scripture that tell us the church will be bombarded with perverse teachings, empty philosophy; vain deceit, speculations, lying spirits, worldly fables, false knowledge, doctrines of demons, destructive heresies, myths, falsehoods, traditions of men and worldly wisdom. Jesus and Paul warned of false prophets who would come in as wolves in sheep's clothing not sparing the flock (Mat. 7:15; Acts 20:29). We must do as Jesus and the apostles did and warn Christians of these destructive influences which are weakening the church and bringing shame to the precious name of our Savior!

    Spiritual Immaturity

    When sound doctrine is replaced with shallow teaching made up of humorous stories and opinions, you will find spiritual ignorance and biblical illiteracy in the pew. New babes in Christ will have difficulty growing in the grace and knowledge of their Savior when pastors do not preach the whole counsel of God. When the Word of God is not being faithfully taught, people will not hear truth. And if they don't hear truth, they will be unable to discern God's way from man's way, truth from error and right from wrong. We must all become more and more discerning because no man is infallible and no preacher is beyond the possibility of doctrinal error. We must always be ready to reject what is false and hold fast to what is true. As disciples of Jesus we must be known for what we're, for as well as what we're against.

    In closing we must recognize that all truth sets itself against error. Sound doctrine divides and confronts, it judges and separates, it reproves and rebukes and it exposes and refutes error. It leads us from the broad way to the narrow way (Matt. 7:13-14). It commands us to submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). It exhorts us to discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (I John 4:6). It demands that we turn away from evil and do good (I Peter 3:11). It tells us that our ways are not God's ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts (Isa. 55:8). It warns us against exchanging the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). It guarantees that the righteous shall be blessed and the wicked shall perish.

    True Christians cannot continue to tolerate or ignore Satan's wicked schemes to weaken the Church. We must stand firmly on sound doctrine, heed the biblical warnings and live passionately for the truth so that Jesus Christ will be glorified and His church will grow in holiness and strength.
    Does the Christian Church Need to be Evangelized?
  • The visible Christian church is no longer a sanctuary for the people of God. Instead, it has become a huge mission field that needs to be evangelized. Churches are now filled with professing Christians who say they have faith but have never been born of God. This should not surprise us because of the parable Jesus gave describing the last days in Matthew 13:25-43. He spoke of a landowner who sowed good seed [sons of the kingdom] in his field, but while his men were sleeping, the enemy came and sowed tares [sons of the devil]. Jesus said the landowner is the Son of Man and the enemy is the devil.

    Today we have many tares in our churches because church leaders are not protecting the fields. Many have been growing their churches man's way instead of God's way. This self-serving strategy has produced some tragic consequences - the most serious of which is the false hope it gives to the un- converted tares. Some of the tares are victims of unbiblical methods of evangelism; others are victims of counterfeit gospels. These victims cannot tell you the essential elements of the Gospel or what God requires for entrance into heaven. Some know their eternal sin debt must be forgiven, but very few know they also need the righteousness of Jesus and to be born again of the Spirit.

    The Necessity of the New Birth

    Jesus told Nicodemus "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Only the triune God can bring forth life. Jesus said: "just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes" (John 5:21). "It is the Spirit that gives

    life" (John 6:63). God calls the spiritually dead to life through His Word. "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1:18). God's children are "born again not of seed which is perish- able but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).

    Saving faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. From it we learn the essential doc- trines of salvation: the attributes of God, the Gospel of grace and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When people hear the Word of God, enabled by the Spirit of God, to trust the Son of God, they become a child of God, all for the glory of God.

    Just as man could not initiate his physical birth, he is unable to cause his spiritual birth. Before any of us were born, we could not have pleaded with our parents to conceive us. We did not exist! The same is true in the spiritual realm (John 1:12-13). Children of God are not born of blood (spiritual life is not inherited genetically), nor of the will of the flesh (physical life cannot produce spiritual life; flesh can only produce flesh), nor of the will of man (spiritual life cannot be initiated by the desires of men).

    So, how do we help the unconverted tares see they have been misled or deceived? As believers, we should encourage everyone to test their faith for their own good as well as for the glory of Christ. Paul wrote: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test" (2 Cor 13:5). Peter exhorted us: "Be all the more eager to make your call-

    ing and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10).

    I always love to hear testimonies of how our Sovereign Lord calls lost sinners to Himself. So, whenever I meet Christians, I often ask them to describe the events surrounding their conversion. A red flag goes up if they say they became a Christian at the moment they were: baptized, came forward in an altar call, repeated a prayer, signed a commitment card, joined a local church, or were born to Chris- tian parents. Speaking the truth in love, I explain to them that no one can become a Christian without repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

    Many Believe A Counterfeit Gospel

    What about those who say they have faith in Jesus but show no evidence of a changed life. All of them may believe in the historical Jesus who lived 2000 years ago, but few believe what He taught, what he promises, what He commands, what He accomplished and what He is doing now. They may be victims of a counterfeit gospel, a watered down ver- sion that is offered by a generic god of love. This gospel offers "fire insurance" with no call to repentance (Luke 24:47). It is a gospel of cheap grace which fails to instruct people to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly pas- sions (Titus 2:12).

    The other counterfeit gospel which deceives people is the grace-killing gospel of works. First introduced by the Judaizers, this gospel nullifies God's grace by adding requirements for salvation such as circumcision, baptism, sacraments, good works, law keep- ing, penance or indulgences (Gal. 1:6-9).

    If we do not lovingly confront victims of unbiblical evangelism and counterfeit gospels, they may one day hear the most terrify- ing words anyone could ever hear when Jesus says: "I never knew you; depart from Me." These horrifying words will be heard by many professing Christians on the last day (Mat. 7:22-23).

    Two Ways To Test Faith

    Those who want to test their faith now, be- fore it is too late, can do it two ways - objectively and subjectively. The objective test is this: Have you believed the objective truths of God’s word? Paul wrote: "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13).

    The word of God is our supreme authority for knowing objective truth. We must believe the eternal Gospel as it is revealed in Scripture. It is the same Gospel today as it was 6000 years ago.

    The subjective test asks the question: Is there evidence of saving faith? Genuine faith results in good works but a faith without works is dead (Eph. 2:10; James 2:17). This second test is subjective because there are different levels of maturity and growth as believers walk with Christ. New babes in Christ may not show as much evidence as those who have walked with Him for many years. When we are first born into God's family we look nothing like His Son. But as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are conformed into the image of Christ. We see this in the physical realm also. When a baby is born, he may look nothing like his parents. But as he grows, he begins to take on the physical characteristics of his parents.

    The Apostle John gives us a portrait of what God's children look like in his first epistle. They who are born of God are adopted into His eternal family to walk in the light (1:6-7); keep His commandments (2:3-5); love not the world system (2:15); yearn for the return of Christ so they can be like Him (3:2-3); live to please Him and avoid sin (3:7-8); love His other children (3:14) and use apostolic doc- trine for discernment (4:6). Each of us must determine if this is a picture of how we look.

    Two Kinds of Faith

    The test of one's faith is vital because the Bible speaks of two kinds of faith - a "God- given, supernatural, saving faith" and a "dead" faith that is found in the unconverted natural man. Paul wrote of people who believed in vain because they did not hold to apostolic teaching (1 Cor. 15:2). Jesus spoke of others who believed for the wrong reasons (John 2:23).

    Dead faith is limited to what the natural man can comprehend without divine help be- cause he has been blinded by Satan and can- not see the light of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). That is why Paul wrote: "your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5).

    it to the Word of God. Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of this faith which is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1; 12:2).

    Those with God-given faith enter the narrow gate bringing nothing but their sins to the cross (Mat. 7:13). Those with dead faith enter through the wide gate bringing their filthy rags of righteousness (Mat. 7:14).

    Those with God-given faith prove it by bear- ing much fruit to the glory of God (John 15:8). Those with dead faith prove it by bearing bad fruit for the glory of self (Mat. 7:15-17).

    Those with God-given faith desire to test and prove their faith with Scripture alone (2 Cor. 13:5). Those with dead faith prove their faith by denominational teachings and man’s traditions (John 12:42-43; Acts 15:5-10).

    Those with God-given faith will not habitually hear or follow a false teacher (John 10:5,8). Those with dead faith will not habitually follow a true teacher (John 10:19).

    Those with God-given faith trust God’s

    God-given faith is initiated in the will of God and is a gift granted from the Father above (Phil. 1:29; James 1:17). It will be perfected by the Son of God as the recipient conforms power to protect and keep them (1 Peter 1:5). Those with dead faith trust their own power to keep them from falling away.

    Dead faith touches only the intellect. God- given faith involves the whole person. The mind understands, the heart desires and the will acts upon the Word of God.

    In closing, there are several probing questions we can ask those who desire to test their faith. Have you renounced every false way that opposes the Gospel of grace? Do you live in thanksgiving and praise for being chosen and adopted into God’s eternal family? Do you prove to be Christ’s disciple by abiding in His word? Do you discipline your- self for godliness? Do your friends, neighbors and co-workers know that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? Do you have a de- sire to share Jesus Christ with others or are you ashamed of His Gospel?

    God's children will know they belong to Him because "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). The Spirit does this through the Scriptures that He inspired. All of God's children take Him at his Word!
    Does the Vatican Still Condemn Christians?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Are former Roman Catholics still condemned by the numerous anathemas pronounced by the Council of Trent and Vatican Council II? Some priests say the anathemas have been rescinded because they do not want to thwart the current ecumenical movement that is drawing "separated brethren" back home to Rome. But is this just their opinion or can their statements be backed up by Vatican authority?

    Several years ago a Roman Catholic priest was invited to speak at the Sunday morning worship service for First Baptist Church of Plano. I attended the service out of curiosity. What on earth would a Catholic priest have to say to 1100 Southern Baptists? His message was an exhortation for Catholics and Protestants to come together in Christian unity. During the message he said, "Just as the Jews were surprised when God extended salvation to the Gentiles, we Catholics are now

    surprised he is extending salvation to you Protestants." After the message, most of the congregation got into a reception line to thank the priest for coming in a spirit of unity. I also joined the line to meet the priest and when I finally had the chance to address him, I asked: "How can the Roman Catholic Church encourage unity with Protestants when you condemn us with over 100 anathemas for not believing your dogmas?" As he observed all the people standing in line listening, he said: "All those anathemas are no longer in effect." I responded: "Oh really, when were they rescinded?" He replied: "After a period of time they just go away." This Catholic priest of 35 years either did not know his church's teachings on anathemas or he was deliberately attempting to deceive the unsuspecting.

    Recently, as a guest on a radio program in Omaha, Nebraska, I was asked if the anathemas pronounced by the Councils of Trent and Vatican II are still in effect today. I explained that since "infallible" councils of Bishops pronounced the anathemas, they are immutable. However, a Catholic apologist challenged my statement by declaring the 1983 Code of Canon Law changed the decrees pronounced by the Council of Trent.

    This prompted me to investigate the Vatican's official position on anathemas. According to the Roman Catholic Church, the eternal destinies of Catholics and former Catholics hang in the balance on this issue of anathemas. My research began in The Catholic Encyclopedia, which gives full and authoritative information on Catholic doctrine. In the encyclopedia I found the differences between canons, dogmas and decrees. Canons are irreversible "short, dogmatic definitions with an anathema attached to them." Decrees are disciplinary regulations that can be changed and have no anathemas attached. (These are the decrees the Catholic Apologist had confused with anathemas that cannot change.) Infallible dogmas are "the last word of supreme teaching authority; there must be no possibility of reopening the question in a spirit of doubt; [the dogma] must settle the matter for ever." How do we know an infallible dogma? Whenever "an anathema is attached to doctrinal teaching of a general council, it is a certain sign of an infallible definition." Dogmas "will be for all time immutable truths" because they "have been defined and delivered to us by the Church" with "an infallible testimony." When a teaching doctrine is elevated to a dogma, Catholics "are bound to believe them in order to maintain the bond of faith."

    Some Catholics do not believe the Eucharist becomes the physical presence of Jesus Christ through the "miracle" of transubstantiation. These Catholics may not be aware that the rejection of this dogma is unacceptable to their church. In fact, it puts them under condemnation. From the council of Trent, the "infallible" Bishops, speaking with one voice, gave us Canon I: "If any one denies, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but says that He is only there as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema."

    Whenever the pontiff pronounces an anathema, he uses a formula which ends with these words: "Wherefore in the name of God...in virtue of the power given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive (Name) of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment."

    Former Catholics who are now born-again Christians need not to worry! If God is for us, who is against us? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? Who is the one who condemns? (Rom. 8:31-34). Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword [or the Roman Catholic Church]? (Rom. 8:35).

    Clearly, we see three characteristics of anathemas. They are immutable, which means they can never be rescinded. They condemn former Catholics to the torments of everlasting hell unless they do penance and return home to Rome. They also condemn current Catholics who do not believe every dogma.

    An example of an anathema imposed on Roman Catholics that many of them reject today is the one concerning indulgences. According to Vatican Council II, the Roman Catholic Church "condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them" (Vol. 1, p. 71). An indulgence defined by Rome is "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian...gains under certain defined conditions" (Vol. 1, p. 75). They can always be applied to the dead by way of prayer, the Rosary or the sacrifice of the Mass. "The faithful who use with devotion an object of piety (crucifix, cross, rosary, scapular or medal) after it has been duly blessed by any priest, can gain a partial indulgence." (Vol. 1, p. 77). Most Catholics who reject this ungodly dogma on indulgences ignore the fact that they stand condemned by their church. This has always puzzled me. Why would Catholics trust their church's teachings on salvation, while at the same time, ignore their teachings on condemnation?
    All former Catholics, who have been justified by God through faith in the finished work of Christ, must use this information to educate others. We must contend for the faith by informing our pastors and evangelical leaders who are encouraging unity with Rome.

    Whenever we are rebuked in our efforts to contend for the faith we must always remember the words of Paul, "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).
    We must also proclaim the truth to Catholics who ignore or reject the anathemas imposed upon them. Only God has the power to save and condemn. We find only two anathemas in His Word. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema" (1 Cor. 16:22). Paul also wrote, "If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8). Scripture is our most trustworthy source for knowing the truth on these critical issues!
    Emerging Church
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Leading Protestants Back Home to Rome

    We have been receiving an increasing number of reports about Protestants who are converting to Roman Catholicism. There is now a series of three books which herald the testimonies of former Protestant pastors who have found the broad way to Rome more enticing and fulfilling. What is causing this growing apostasy? Who is behind this reversal of the Reformation? Why are so many Protestants being seduced by the piety of this false religion? Many evangelicals are puzzled and are searching for answers. Although it is disheartening and discouraging, we should not be surprised because: "the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1).

    Does Christianity Need to Be Reinvented? One of the major influences that is paving the road back to Roman Catholicism is The Emerging Church movement. Proponents say its time for Christianity to be reinvented for a new generation. It must become more relevant to a postmodern generation. They say the best way to reinvent Christianity for the present generation is to reintroduce ideas and experiences from the past. Emergent leaders say God's Word no longer holds the answers to life's questions. Experience must become the key factor to encounter spiritual reality. The experiential attractions which are being promoted by the Emerging Church include: statues, prayer stations, incense, liturgy, candles, icons, the sacraments and calling communion the Eucharist. It is easy to see how this movement complements and encourages the Vatican's "new evangelization program" to win the "separated brethren" back to the "true church."

    A New Kind of Christian

    The most influential leader in the emergent church movement is Brian McLaren, a pastor and author from Maryland who wrote the controversial book, A New Kind of Christian. Time Magazine recently named McLaren one of the 25 most influential evangelical leaders in the world (2/7/05). In another one of his books, A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren describes himself as the new kind of Christian, with labels such as: catholic, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican and methodist. How can he hold to all these labels at the same time? It is because he rejects the Word of God as the objective authority for truth. McLaren writes: "How do you know something is true? First you engage in spiritual practices like prayer, Bible reading, forgiveness and service. Then you see what happens; you remain open to experience. Finally, you report your experience to others in the field of spirituality for their discernment to see if they confirm your findings or not."

    Mystical Feelings Replace Doctrine

    It is appalling to see what McLaren and other leaders of the Emergent Church are really promoting. In A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren writes that he "is consistently over sympathetic to Roman Catholics." Other leaders tell us we need to emulate Roman Catholicism to become more mystical in our reverence of God. Chuck Smith Jr., in his book, There is a Season (foreword by Brian McLaren), provides insight into this mystical experience. He writes: "What would happen if we allowed people to "feel" what we cannot explain, to know with the heart and not with the brain? We would open the door of faith to a wider audience than if we continued to insist on a rational belief in the facts as the only legitimate starting point of the Christian faith." Unfortunately, the wider audience Smith will reach are people without discernment, who uphold "truth" that is subjective and believe a gospel that is compromised. These are people who have no biblical roots and will constantly be blown away by every wind of doctrine. Some will be fatally duped into believing there are no eternal consequences if or when they convert to Roman Catholicism.

    The Alluring Power of the Eucharist

    Another leader of the Emergent Church is Dr. Robert Webber who is recognized by many as the authority on worship renewal. He taught at Wheaton College for 32 years as Professor of Theology and has authored over 40 books. Dr. Webber had a "life changing experience" at a Catholic conference center when he decided to receive the Eucharist . His testimony is recorded in a book entitled Signs of Wonder. Following is part of his experience in his own words:

    "Closing my eyes, I allowed my life in the church to pass before me. My prejudices rose up within me: What are you doing here? You never worshiped in a Catholic setting, let alone received the bread and the wine from a Catholic priest! Then I heard my Catholic friends speak of their love for Christ, pray with fervency, and express a real desire to know the Scriptures and live by its authority. Those memories said, 'Go ahead. After all, there is only one Lord, one church, one faith, one baptism, one Holy Communion.' In that moment, God broke through the walls I had allowed to separate me from my brothers and sisters of different denominations. I am convinced the prejudices we hold and the walls we build between ourselves and other communities of Christians actually block our experience of God's presence in our lives. Our biases cut us off from the spiritual communion of the fullness of the body of Christ. God dwells in his church, and to reject a part of God's church is to reject him. Furthermore, rejecting apart of God's church keeps us from experiencing what the creed calls "the communion of the Saints." When God broke down my walls, he brought me into richer fellowship with the body of Christ throughout the world. You might say I was surprised by joy! I had never had an experience like that in my life. In that Catholic chapel, a new worship experience had bumped up against that old prejudice of mine, and a new attitude was born. I had taken into myself the experience of another tradition, I had been in dialogue with another worship tradition, and I was surely the richer for it."

    Subjective Experiences vs. Objective Truth

    Webber's words are echoed by other Protestants who have experimented with the Eucharist and then converted to Catholicism because of their "joyful experience." It comes as no surprise that these apostates, who have converted to a false religion, have been influenced by subjective experiences. Probably the best known Protestant convert to Catholicism is Scott Hahn. His subjective experience was participating in the ungodly pagan practice of praying the rosary (Mat. 6:7). Hahn was convinced "Mary" performed a miracle after he prayed the rosary. By contrast, those who have been gloriously converted to the Lord Jesus Christ have believed the objective truth of His Word (Eph. 1:1314; Rom. 10:17). Now sealed with the Holy Spirit, they can never again be ensnared by the deceitful schemes of the devil's religion: (2 Tim. 2:23-25).

    A common characteristic of Protestants who have converted to Romanism has been a dissatisfaction with their former Christian experience. One convert cited several things that drove him away from his evangelical church: live bands playing loud music consisting of praise choruses repeated over and over again, no place for quiet reverence and prayer, theological shallowness and movie clips drama and plays. He said, "After a few years of the kids raving about how much fun they had and not learning anything, we tried the Catholic Church across the street and immediately enjoyed the formal liturgy, the religious rituals and a reverence for God." What a tragedy for this family. They left a shallow worship experience and replaced it with an idolatrous worship experience. There is an instructive lesson here for evangelical pastors - churches which emphasize entertainment over the preaching of God's Word will always have people looking for a more satisfying experience. Whatever you win then "with" is what you win them "to."

    What Can We Do?

    Let our voices be heard! Expose the evil deeds of darkness with the glorious light of God's Word. Lovingly confront those who are promoting the Emergent Church and embracing Roman Catholicism as a valid expression of Christianity. Call Roman Catholicism what it is - a false religious system that is holding over 1 billion people in bondage to deception.

    To those who have committed themselves to Satan's lies and his evil religious system, we must have a sense of urgency. There is no time for beating around the bush. God doesn't promise anyone tomorrow. Jude wrote: "save others [with the Gospel], snatching them out of the fire" (Jude 23). We need to be prepared to offend them with the truth, knowing that the Gospel will offend those who are offensive to God.

    Finally, don't be deceived. Hold onto our supreme and objective authority for truth - the Word of God! It, along with the Holy Spirit, is the only security we have in these days of great deception and compromise.
    Evangelizing Catholics
  • Written by Jason Hauser.

    Recently we received an email from a faithful evangelist that has been dialoguing with a few students at a university Catholic center. After going through the Gospel, it became clear to him that these young Catholics had a very different interpretation of Scripture. He sent us an email requesting more information on the history of Catholic hermeneutics. His hope was that, if he could get to the root of the problem of where Rome strayed, he could clearly point it out to them. While the history of how Rome came to adopt different positions is an interesting study, I believe it is a distraction from our primary focus.

    It is helpful to remember that this is a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12). Catholics need their eyes and hearts opened which can only come by the power of God and His Word (Acts 16:14; Rom. 10:17; 2 Cor. 3:14, 4:3-4). They will want to argue interpretation, history and theology, but what they really need is a mirror held up to them to expose their sin and point them to the cross. Jesus alone did what they never could do (Gal. 3:22). Catholics will want to get out of Scripture and talk about everything else because Scripture is not their strength. They believe they have history and authority on their side. No logical argument or historical event will change a Catholic's mind. It is not a matter of one who is "almost a Christian but with a wrong allegiance," but rather one who is spiritually dead, lost in sin and nullifying grace by his self-righteous works (Rom. 11:6; Eph. 2:1-3). We must respectfully show them these truths (1 Pet. 3:15).

    I saw this principle so clearly during a conversation I overheard at a local health and wellness event. An overweight man began asking a top cardiologist about the finer details of how plaque functions in the arteries and about new procedures to remove it. The doctor quickly recognized that such details were irrelevant in light of the greater problem at hand. After starting to respond to the question, the doctor turned from the diagram to this man and told him very bluntly and compassionately that what he should be focusing on instead is what he is eating. He quickly exposed his unhealthy diet and pleaded with him to make major changes. Likewise, the Catholics we evangelize are standing on the brink of eternity. If we talk about history, interpretational matters, and other secondary differences, we are distracted from sharing the power of the Gospel.

    We must be completely resolved in our evangelism with Catholics to always keep the main thing the main thing (1 Cor. 2:2). When you engage a Catholic with the gospel, first ask them many questions, holding back your comments, so that you can genuinely understand their personal hope and understanding of salvation (Prov. 18:13). Once you feel you have a good grasp of their understanding, you can ask, "if the Bible said something different would you want to know?" This will test the waters to see if they have a humble and teachable spirit (Jas. 4:6). It also provides the perfect launching pad for them to be good Bereans and check their beliefs with God's perfect Word (Acts 17:11). From this point on, we must show the Catholic that in light of their sin, they have no hope of getting right with God by their own merit (Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:5). We must keep faithfully hitting on the Gospel from all angles. Don't be discouraged if many reject what you share with them. In the parable of the four soils, only one quarter of all the seed sown fell on fertile soil (Matt. 13). Jesus also clearly stated that very few find the narrow path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). This great spiritual challenge should drive us all to depend on directing all our conversation to God's Word and the power of it unto salvation (Isa. 55:11; Rom. 1:16).
    Evangelicals and Catholics Together Accord
  • On the 5th anniversary of the signing of the disconcerting Evangelicals and Catholics Together Accord, a conference was held to give a biblical response to the Church. Sponsored by ExCatholics For Christ, the two day meeting presented eight speakers who used the authority of Scripture to conclusively prove that Evangelicals and Catholics are not together but irreconcilably divided by doctrine. John Ankerberg's message included the history, content and opposition to the Accord while Dave Hunt expressed how the ECT Accord has created much delusion and deception within the professing church. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson explained how the Catholic gospel is just as condemned as the Judiazer's gospel. At the end of the conference leaders of the four cosponsoring ministries (Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel, James McCarthy of Good News for Catholics, Greg Durel of Catholic Outreach of Louisiana and T.A. McMahon of The Berean Call) met on stage to issue the following statement.

    It has been our hope and prayer that this conference would be a blessing to all who have gathered together here, and that the content presented, the information communicated, the heart's cry of every speaker, would go forth from this place to the glory of our precious Lord and Savior, for the further proclamation of His gospel and for the edification of His Body - those who have come or will come to know and trust in Him alone for their salvation. Some of our endeavors here have been approached with great delight and joy, especially the things which are obvious with regard to the wondrous love of Christ our Savior. Some things presented were a bit more somber, reflecting concerns that grieve many of us. But in this concluding part of the conference, the four of us approach with fear and trembling. On the one hand, we do not want to do anything that would bring harm to the body of Christ. We all have a godly fear about doing something that would displease the Lord or bring reproach to His name. On the other hand, where we recognize clear damage being wrought with regard to the cause of Christ and His gospel, we are compelled by our love for Him and for His truth to address what we see taking place. A summary of our concerns about that agreement, and its follow-up known as ECT II, may help you to better understand what we are about to do.

    The ECT documents are deceitful at best, destructively heretical at worst. The ECT documents have led multitudes of Christians to believe that there is agreement between the Church of Rome, with its false gospel, and the Gospel in which evangelicals have put their trust. The ECT documents have introduced much confusion with regard to the simple Gospel message. The ECT documents have done immeasurable harm by hindering the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, especially for evangelical missionaries in Catholic countries. And finally, foundationally, and most critically, the ECT documents deny the biblical Gospel of salvation.

    We would be thankful beyond measure if somehow these pernicious documents could be completely eradicated, never again to be considered by anyone. But these documents have the backing of numerous evangelical leaders, those who simply by their stature and prestige have led multitudes to follow them in their acceptance of ECT I and II.

    In the five years since the signing of the first agreement, the evangelical signers have received a great deal of feedback, personally and publicly, feedback critical to both the document and their support of it. That criticism, much of it in the form of detailed analysis, has been presented with the hope that these men would see the grievous error in what they have done, that they would repent of their signing and reject the document publicly. None of us here in any sense is judging the heart or motivation of any of the ECT signers. That is an issue between them and the Lord. Nor are we questioning their salvation. However, our love for them and for the Body of Christ compels us to call upon them to publicly renounce the ECT accords and to ask the church at large for forgiveness for their past participation in these accords. We do this in simple obedience to the Scriptures.

    We look to the example of Paul, who opposed Peter "to his face in the presence of all" (Galatians 2:11-14). He accused Peter of "hypocrisy" of not being "straightforward about the truth of the Gospel." Paul writes that Peter " was to be blamed." We also see that we are to rebuke them publicly "that others may also fear" (1 Timothy 5:20). Paul wrote that those who stray from the truth in their teaching are to be warned and rebuked so that they might repent and to "refute those who contradict sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9-13).

    As I read the names of the evangelical signers of the ECT documents prior to our prayer for these men, I would ask that you bring them before the throne of God, that He might bring them to repentance in this very grievous matter. I would also ask that if you are in accord with this public call to repentance, if you share our conviction, if this is also your conviction before the Lord, please stand with us as we pray for these men.

    Note: All the conference attendees, except for a couple, stood in support of the statement and in prayer for the signers to repent. Please pray for these men, that they will recognize their error and the division they have caused within the evangelical church.
    God's Perfect Man and Man's Perfect God
  • The latest survey reveals that 86% of Americans say they believe in Jesus. Yet, a much smaller percentage of people say they are born-again Christians. How can so many people be deceived or deluded?  Many have been asked, not to "trust" but to "accept" a Jesus they don't even know. It is no wonder the Apostle Paul exhorted his readers to "examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5). We are to test ourselves and encourage others to do the same. The test: Have we believed the true Jesus as He is revealed in the Scriptures or a "Jesus" who has been created by the imagination of men?

    Jesus is the Eternal God
    Throughout the Bible, the divine nature of Jesus and His eternal existence is proclaimed. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father" (John 1:1, 14). We see from these verses that He is distinct from God and at the same time, God. He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the triune God. John later affirmed that Jesus Christ "is the true God" (1 John 5:20). Even the doubting apostle Thomas ad- dressed the resurrected Jesus as "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Paul said of Jesus, "In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" ( Col. 2:9). Those who believe Jesus is one of many gods or that He was a man who became God have been woefully deceived and must repent of this fatal lie.

    Jesus is Our Creator
    Paul wrote, "By Him all things were created...all things have been created through Him and for Him" (Col. 1:15-16). "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3). Since man- kind is the Lord's crowning work of creation, his only rightful attitude toward Jesus, should be one of complete dependence, worship and submission. Those who recognize their accountability to their Creator and trust Him become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). They are re-created "according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24).

    Jesus is Sovereign Lord
    All authority has been given to the Lord Jesus, and He rules over His entire creation (Psalm 103:19; Mat. 28:18). The sovereign authority given to Jesus by His Father is absolute and universal. During His earthly ministry, He demonstrated His authority over diseases, demons, sin, death and nature. He also has the judicial authority to condemn men to eternal death or give them eternal life. Professing Jesus as sovereign Lord is not an option but an essential confession for salvation. Paul declared: "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved...whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:9-13). Confessing Jesus as Lord should result in humble submission to His divine authority (Philippians 2:10-11).

    Jesus is the Way
    Those who are lost need to know the way. Jesus is the Way and not a way. When people follow Jesus Christ they can be certain they are "going right" but if they follow any other way, they may never know they are "going wrong." The Lord Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Lost sheep will listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd and they will follow Him (John 10:3-9). He is the door the sheep must enter to be saved (John 10:9).

    God's one and only way to eternal life is through His Son (John 14:6). That is why the most frequent command the Lord gives in the Gospels is "Follow Me!" His mandate is given "because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Mat. 7:14). Oh, there is another way which seems right to men, but it leads to death (Prov. 14:12). Those who do not follow Jesus spend their lives wander- ing aimlessly on the broad way which leads to destruction (Mat 7:13). Following Jesus is the only sure way to keep people from going to hell; however, there is absolutely no way to rescue anyone out of hell (Heb. 9:27).

    Jesus Is the Truth
    People need truth because we are easily taken "captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men and the elementary principles of the world" (Col. 2:8). For this reason Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). Our Lord said, "If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). Jesus sets people free from the bondage of religious deception.

    Jesus is the personification of truth and His word is truth (John 14:6; 17:17). He and His Word are so connected that those who reject His word are also rejecting Him (John 12:48). The personification of truth, can only be known in truth by those who seek the truth from the only infallible source for truth. We need a trustworthy standard for truth because Satan leads the whole astray through his false teachers (1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:9). The only way to discern God's truth from Satan's lies is to abide in God's Word. To use any other standard is a fatal mistake.

    Jesus is the Life
    Jesus is the life we need because everyone is born into this world spiritually dead. The spiritual death we inherit from Adam leads to eternal death unless we are born again (Rom. 5:12). It is for this reason Jesus announced, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). A description of this second birth is described by Paul: "When you were dead in your transgressions... He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions (Col. 2:13). When one is born again he receives the very life of Christ, who can never die again (Rom. 6:6-9). Jesus declared, "He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:12). The Lord Jesus sovereignly gives life to whom He wishes. At the very moment repentant sinners receive the love of the truth and believe, they pass out of death into life (John 5:21-24). The life Jesus promises is eternal, everlasting, never-ending life in His presence (1 John 2:25).

    Jesus is the Only Mediator
    A mediator is necessary whenever two par- ties are at enmity with one another. The Lord Jesus is the only one qualified to mediate between His Father and sinful man. He is God's perfect man and man's perfect God. "There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). "When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:10). He changes the relation- ship that repentant sinners have with God, from one of hostility to one of peace and harmony. "For He Himself is our peace, who... broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity... through the cross" (Eph. 2:13-16). Only in Christ Jesus can those who were formerly far off be brought near by the blood of Christ. Only in Christ can the sin that separated us from God be removed (Isaiah 59:2). Only in Christ can believers be permanently reconciled to God (Rom. 8:31-39).

    Jesus is the Only Savior
    The Lord said, "Besides me there is no Savior" (Isaiah 43:11). Peter proclaimed: "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus, the eternal God, is the only Savior because finite man could never pay his eternal debt for sin. The Bible makes this clear. "No man can by any means re- deem his brother or give to God a ransom for him; the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever" (Psalm 49:7- 8). The redemption of a sinner's soul requires every sinner must turn for salvation. This was the ministry our Lord gave to Paul send- ing him to turn people “from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).

    Knowing the attributes and claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are all faced with this vital decision. What will we do with Him? "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Those who trust and follow Jesus are choosing life over death, justification over condemnation, freedom over bondage, light over darkness, peace over hostility, joy over despair, peace over hostility, sight over blind- ness and truth over deception. Those who deny that Jesus is who He said He is are making a fatal mistake. Our Lord said, "Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).
    May God help us all to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior, not only to glorify Him, but to proclaim Him wholly and clearly to those who are being deluded or deceived.
    Hard Questions to Ask Good Catholics
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    One of the most effective ways to communicate the Gospel of grace is to ask questions. This method was used often by the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples as they engaged the lost. Asking questions also shows people that you care for them. Usually people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    The Lord Jesus had some hard questions for good Jews. He asked questions, not only to make His Gospel known, but also to expose the errors of religious leaders. Jesus challenged Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, about his knowledge of the Kingdom of God: "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?" (John 3:10).

    He asked the stubborn-hearted Pharisees who were blinded by religious tradition: "If I speak the truth, why do you not believe me?" (John 8:46). Then He exposed how corrupt their religion had become with this hard question: "Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Mat. 15:3). Possibly the most important question the Son of God ever asked was addressed to Peter: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mat. 16:15). The response to this question carries eternal consequences because Jesus warned: "if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins" (John 8:24). These questions must be answered correctly, not only by those lost in religion, but by everyone else. Following are some hard questions to ask good Catholics.

    Where do you go to find the truth about life's most critical issues? There is only one source that will never mislead you, never deceive you or try to control you. It is Christ and His Word (John 14:6;17:17). Jesus said: "If you abide in My word...you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). Free from what? Free from the bondage of religious deception. Knowledge of the truth is necessary to escape from the snare of the devil who holds people captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Satan uses deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ to blind people from the truth (2 Cor. 11:13-15). An example of this is how Rome falsely declares its Bishops to be successors of the "apostles of Christ." According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), "whoever listens to them is listening to Christ" (CCC, para. 862). The apostles had only two successors - Matthias who was chosen by the apostles and Paul who was chosen by Christ (Acts 9:1-19). Catholic bishops do not meet the qualifications for apostleship given in Acts 1:21-26. God warns us: "Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation" (Psalm 146:3). Why the warning? Because "savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). In light of these warnings, a most critical question must be answered truthfully: Are you trusting Christ and His Word or man and his religious traditions?

    Did you know there is only one way to be saved? God's Gospel is by grace through faith in one person (Eph. 2:8-9). The gift of eternal life is given freely to those who trust the eternal God incarnate - Jesus Christ - His virgin birth, His perfect life, His atoning death and His glorious resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The Lord Jesus is sufficient to save sinners completely and forever. Diametrically opposed to God's Gospel is the Catholic gospel which offers salvation through baptism. New born babes, who receive the sacrament of baptism, are said to be saved apart from personal faith in Jesus. The Catholic priest believes he is replacing the sovereign work of God by administering baptism. The sacrament "not only purifies all sins, but also makes the neophyte a new creature, an adopted son of God who has become a partaker of the divine nature, a member of Christ and co-heir with Him and a temple of the Holy Spirit" (CCC, 1257, 1265).

    Did you know those who distort the Gospel are condemned? This includes apostles, priests, popes, pastors or angels (apparitions of Mary) from heaven. The apostle Paul warned: "there are some who...want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:7-8). Catholics need to be warned that their clergy is under divine condemnation for adding works and sacraments to God's Gospel (CCC, 1129).

    Did you know that Jesus put an end to the ordained priesthood? God's Word reveals that the veil of the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from sinful man was torn open by God (Mat. 27:51). Man can now come directly to God through faith in the shed blood of the Savior (Rom. 3:23- 26). Priests are no longer needed to offer sacrifices for sin (Heb. 10:18). The only legitimate priesthood which remains on earth is the royal priesthood of all believers. They offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving for being called out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Son (1 Pet. 2:9).

    Do you really believe Catholic priests have the power to call the Lord Jesus down from heaven every day? According to Roman Catholic priest John O'Brien in his book Faith of Millions, "The priest...reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man...Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest's command."

    Over 200,000 times each day, priests throughout the world believe they re-present Jesus on their altars as an offering for sins of the living and the dead (CCC, 1371-1374). Again Catholics ignore God's Word which declares that Jesus "having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation not to bear sin" (Hebrews 9:28). The Bible also tells us how and when Jesus will appear. He will return the same way he left, immediately after the tribulation with power and great glory (Mat. 24:27-30; Acts 1:11). By the authority of God's Word we must conclude that the Eucharist is a false Christ that is deceiving millions.

    Why do Catholic priests continue to offer Jesus as a sacrificial victim when He said "It is finished" (John 19:30)? God's Word says: Jesus appeared once and offered Himself once to bear sins. His offer- ing is not to be done again (Heb. 9:25-28). When Jesus "offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, [He] sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). Disregarding the infallible Word of God, Catholicism teaches: "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. The vic- tim is one and the same. In this divine sacrifice, the same Christ who offered himself once...is contained and offered in an unbloody manner" (1367).

    Did you know Jesus has already obtained redemption for believers? Catholicism denies this by teaching: "The work of our redemption is carried on" every time the Eucharist is celebrated (CCC, 1405). God's Word declares: "He [Jesus] entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12). "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7).

    Why do you call Jesus the Savior when you must save yourself? Catholicism teaches the sinner must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance." (1459) "In this way they attained their own salvation and cooperated in saving their brothers" (1477). God's Word proclaims "There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

    Why do you believe a place called Purgatory can purify your sins? God's Word says "when He [Jesus] had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). "He gave Himself for us to... purify for Himself a people for His own possession" (Titus 2:14). "The blood of Jesus...cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). These verses destroy the myth of Purgatory. Yet the Vatican continues to deceive Catholics by teaching they "must undergo purification [in Purgatory] to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC, 1030).

    Why do you pray to Mary?

    Nowhere in the Bible do we see believers praying to anyone except God. Jesus taught us how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount. He instructed us to pray to the Father and not to use meaningless repetition (Mat. 6:7- 13). Yet Catholics are taught to pray the ro- sary which is made up of over 50 meaning- less and repetitious prayers to Mary.

    Why aren't these Catholic traditions found in the 1st century Church?

    Priests offering sacrifices for sins

    Indulgences remitting sin's punishment

    Church leaders forbidden to marry

    Infallible Popes and Bishops

    Did you know that whenever you believe a doctrine, you must also forsake that which opposes it?

    Scripture reveals that Jesus saves...
    • by faith in Him, not baptism
    • by His grace, not our merit
    • by His finished work, not our works
    • by His righteousness, not ours
    • by His one offering for sin, not the Mass
    • by His blood, not purgatory
    • by His obedience, not ours
    • by His Gospel, not man's perversion of it

    Which Jesus will you trust?

    The Jesus of the Bible promises eternal life, the complete forgiveness of sins, a permanent right standing with God and the power to live a victorious life. The Catholic Jesus is a Jesus that was never preached by the Apostles (2 Cor. 11:4). This counterfeit Christ provides only conditional life, partial forgive- ness of sins, an ongoing need for priests and mediators, uncertainty, fear and doubt. Those who reject the true Jesus, who is clearly and conclusively revealed in His Word, will be judged accordingly. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "The word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day" (John 12:48).
    How Did We Get the Canon?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The canon was determined by God and discovered by man. The church did not create the canon, it simply recognized the letters that were already accepted as Scripture by the first century church. Long before church councils were ever convened, church elders were constantly evaluating and deciding which of the many writings of their day carried apostolic authority. We have proof that letters were circulated and accepted before the canon was formally established. Paul wrote: "After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans" (Col. 4:16).

    To collect various letters and books of Scripture into one volume was the task given to Christians already converted to Christ by the Word of God. These early Christians did not give us the Word of God. The Word of God gave us these early Christians. They were under conviction and illumination of the Holy Spirit from the writings of the Apostles and oral teachings of Jesus long before any Council pieced together the Bible. Hence, the Word of God established the Church. Early Christians were convinced and persuaded that it was the Word of God because the Holy Spirit convicted them.

    The actual gathering together of the Scriptures into one volume took place in God's providence, under the supervision, persuasion, and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Christians labored together to separate the actual Word from false writings. The early Christians pooled their cognitive convictions and brought together a Canon of the text to end speculations and dismiss false writings.

    Jerome completed his version of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate, in 405. In the Middle Ages the Vulgate became the de facto standard version of the Bible in the West. The manuscripts clearly identified certain books of the Vulgate Old Testament as apocryphal or non-canonical. Jerome described those books not translated from the Hebrew as apocrypha; he specifically mentions that Wisdom, the book of Jesus son of Sirach, Judith, Tobias, and the Shepherd "are not in the canon". In the prologue to Esdras he mentions 3 and4 Esdras as being apocrypha. In his prologue he said of the Books of the Maccabees, that the Church "has not received them among the canonical scriptures".

    We know the Bible was complete and "once for all delivered to the Saints in the first century (Jude 3). The Old Testament Canon was closed about 425 B.C., 425 years before Christ. The last book was written by Malachi. There was no question which books were inspired by God. The writers were well known as a spokesmen for God and claimed to be speaking and writing the inspired Word of God. Secondly, were no errors of history, geography, or theology in the writings.

    The New Testament had similar tests to determine a book's canonicity. First, was the book authored by an Apostle or someone closely associated with an Apostle? They knew who the Apostles were and they knew who their close associates were. The key question about the book's inspiration was tied to Apostolic authorship or one closely associated. For example, the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark, and Mark was not an Apostle but a close associate of Peter. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by Luke who was not an Apostle but a very close associate of Paul. The Apostles were known to the people, their associates were known to the people, and when Apostles wrote and claimed inspiration the people were secure in the veracity of their writings.

    Another test applied by the Early Church was the test of content. Did the writings square with what the Apostles taught? In those early years of the Church, heretics such as the Gnostics tried to slip in phony books, but none of them ever made it. If it didn't square with Apostolic doctrine - it didn't pass. And the doctrinal aberrations were very easy to spot. A third test was this; is the book regularly read and used in the churches? In other words, did the people of God readily accept it? Read it during worship and make its teachings a part of their daily living? A final test was determined that would sort of pull it all together and that was the book recognized and used by succeeding generations after the Early Church?

    There was also a formidable group of spurious books that came in the New Testament period. They all failed to make the canon because they couldn't pass the test of authenticity. Christ has put His stamp of authority on the Scripture. The early Church clearly discovered the canon of God's Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To add anything to Scripture or to reject the inspiration of Scripture, is to not only to ignore the warnings of Scripture and the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, but to bring yourself into the very dangerous place where you are susceptible to the curse of God. Paul cites Luke's Gospel as Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18). Peter referred to Paul's writings as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul commanded the Thessalonians to have his letter read to all the brethren (1 Thes. 5:27). John promised a blessing to all those who read the Revelation (Rev. 1:3). To the Colossians Paul wrote "have this letter read in the church of the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16). As long as the apostles were alive everything could be verified. They were eye witnesses to all that Christ said and did.

    The councils of Hippo 393 and Carthage 397 simply approved the list of 27 NT books which had already been recognized by the early church. They neither added to the number or took away form it.
    Idolatry in the Catholic Religion
  • Many Roman Catholic traditions find their origin in paganism, but none as obvious as the use of statues, icons, relics, and images in worship. Historians report that statues of the Egyptian goddess Isis, with her child Horus, were renamed Mary and Jesus by pagan Rome. Today, shrines of the Black Madonna and Child are the holiest shrines in Catholic Europe. It should not surprise us that some of the titles and honor given to Mary by the Vatican such as: "Our Lady", "Eternal Virgin" and "Madonna", were the same titles attributed to Isis. Whether the idolatry is pagan or religious, the principle is the same. The worship and honor that is due to God alone is turned away from Him, and given to that which is not God.

    On a missionary trip to Mexico several years ago, I went into the Cathedral of Acapulco to share the Gospel with Catholics. The idolatry I witnessed there was so nauseating that it has grieved me to this day. In a transparent glass coffin there was a statue of Jesus lying face up with wads of pesos in his hands. In front of the coffin was an offering box with the words in Spanish: "For the holy burial of Jesus." I wept as I watched poor Mexican peasants kneel down and offer what little money they had so that Jesus could be buried (again).

    The first two commandments of God clearly forbid two things: 1) creating and worship- ping an image of the true God and 2) worshipping anyone other than God (Exodus 20:1-5). In other words, our worship must be directed only to the true God and not through any object. Thus to worship, venerate, kiss, adore, lift up, pray to, speak to, or make religious use of man-made images of God and saints is a sin of the most serious kind. God could not have made this any clearer when He commanded: “You shall not make for yourself and idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:4-5). Yet the Roman Catholic Church has laid aside this commandment of God, teaching instead the traditions of men (Mark 7:8). This is a most deliberate and willful defiance of God's holy law. The one who refuses to listen to the law must know this: "Even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9). God has made it clear that those who continue in the sin of idolatry will not inherit His kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9-10). "Their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).

    Almighty God is never to be worshipped using man-made images because it is impossible for images to capture or display His divine attributes. How could man ever create an image that displays God's transcendence, holiness, majesty, eternality, sovereignty and His glory which fills the earth? To portray God in the form of an idol crafted by man reduces the Creator to the substance of creation. No wonder the infinitely glorious, all-powerful and omnipresent God of heaven and earth, hates being approached by worshippers who distort His character with flawed images crafted by mortal men.

    True and False Worship
    Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). One does not have to formally deny the Triune God in order to be an idolater. Reverence for the God of the Bible and the ungodly sin of idolatry are common place. The Israelites never renounced God when they fashioned a golden calf. Instead they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt." Afterwards Aaron built an altar in front of the idol and proclaimed: "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord" (Exodus 32:4, 5). The Lord, who is a consuming fire and a jealous God, did not let this wicked sin of idolatry go unpunished. He ordered those who helped create this god of gold, and who did not re- pent, be put to death (Exodus 32:26-28). About three thousand idolaters were slain.

    Lessons From History
    You would think the Roman Catholic Church would learn from biblical history and flee from idolatry, but instead Rome creates a god of flour and water to be worshipped as the resurrected and glorified Son of God. It is idolatry to call what man's hands have made "God", and then worship it as deity. Like the Israelites, Catholics also build altars to celebrate (Eucharistic) feasts to the Lord. Can Catholics not see that there is little difference between worshipping a golden calf as the true God and worshipping the Eucharist as the Son of God? Both religions appear to have had the same objectives in creating their idols. It is the desire to give worshippers a sense of the physical presence of God in order to make use of His power and blessings. Both religions are guilty of the sin of idolatry which will bring down the most severe judgments of God.

    The Cause of Idolatry
    The cause of all idolatry is the corruption of man's heart and his need for some kind of a religion. The evidence of this is seen in the many false views of God and false ways of worship throughout the world. Ignorance of God, including a diminished understanding of His attributes and commands, character- ize the religion of natural man. Man is eager to bring God down to his level, which leads him to create an image of God he can see, feel, and touch. Man desires to worship in the flesh with all of his senses instead of with a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:2).

    Unbelievers Must See to Believe
    Unbelievers, who are blinded by their religion, say you must see to believe. Their eyes cannot see the glory of Christ because they are blinded by the prince of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The unbelieving Jews, not seeing Jesus's glory, mocked Him with: "Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!" (Mark 15:32). Earlier Jesus had told them: "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe" (John 4:48).

    Roman Catholic leaders also say you must see to believe. They teach Catholics to have faith in visible things for the appropriation of spiritual power and blessings. Catholics see and worship their god in the Eucharist believing it has the power to wipe away their sins (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para- graph 1394). They see and eat the Eucharist believing they have consumed the physical body and blood of Jesus (CCC, 1377). They see and confess to their priest believing he has the power to forgive sins (CCC, 1461). They see and bow down to statues believing the saints, who are represented, will intercede for them (CCC, 2683). They see and feel rosary beads believing their repetitious prayers to Mary will remit punishment for sin (CCC, 1471). These are just a few examples of how "seeing signs and wonders" is an undeniable part of the Catholic faith. Rather than worshipping by faith in things not seen, Catholics worship what they can see. They defend their practice by saying they are not worshipping Mary and the saints when they bow down and pray to them, they are merely venerating them. But according to Webster's Dictionary, veneration is a form of worship and reverence. This practice, along with prayer, is reserved for God alone.

    God's Elect Must Believe to See
    The Lord said you must first believe before you can see the glory of God (John 11:40). Genuine faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). Faith does not come from things that are seen (the Eucharist) but from things that are not seen (the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God). Born-again Christians walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). This faith comes, not from seeing something, but from hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The natural man cannot see because there is a veil that covers his heart and will remain until he turns to the Lord Jesus in faith (2 Cor. 3:16) When God removes the veil he can see Jesus in every book of the Bible.

    What does the Lord say about those who make statues and idols? "They are altogether stupid and foolish in their discipline of delusion - their idol is wood! Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every gold- smith is put to shame by his idols; for his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery. In the time of their punishment they will perish" (Jeremiah 10:8,14,15). "All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge...his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery. In the time of their punishment they will perish" (Jeremiah 51:17-18). "They have no knowledge, [those] who carry about their wooden idol, and pray to a god who cannot save" (Isaiah 45:20). The Levites, speaking for God in a loud voice, proclaimed: "Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord" (Deut. 27:15). People who create and trust idols become like the idol they created, which can not see, speak or hear (Psalms 135:15- 18). They cannot see the glory of God nor hear His Word, nor proclaim His Gospel.

    What does the Word of God command? "Do not be idolaters" (1 Corinthians 10:7). "Flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14). "Keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). I pray Catholics will take these exhortations seriously and not participate in the sins of their church any longer. Even if, by the slimmest of chances, the Vatican were to remove all the objects of their idolatrous worship, it must still eradicate another form of idolatry. The idolatrous practice of making ordained priests mediators between men and God, which gives the priests an honor which the Apostles flatly repudiate. Furthermore, it robs Jesus Christ of His unique office (1 Tim. 2:5).
    Hopefully our subscribers will be moved to share these important truths with Catholics in their circle of influence. You may be their only hope since most Catholics do not read the Scriptures nor do they have faithful ministers to instruct them. May God increase your love for Him and your compassion for those blinded by religious deception. When the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly proclaimed, rightly known, genuinely believed, gloriously exalted and truly loved, He will set captives free from religious bondage!
    Is a Catholic Christian an Oxymoron?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Webster's dictionary defines an oxymoron as "a combination of contradictory words," such as jumbo shrimp, tight slacks and pretty ugly. Would you put Catholic Christian into this category? Some would say "no", because they believe Roman Catholicism is a Christian denomination. Others, who know the official teachings of the Catholic Church contradict the essentials of the Gospel would say "yes." We propose that a Catholic Christian is indeed an oxymoron for two reasons:

    1) whom we are is what we believe, and

    2) it is impossible for anyone to believe two opposing views simultaneously.

    We recognize that there may be some Christians attending the Catholic Church but if they have believed the Gospel they are no longer Catholics. Let us consider the contradictory beliefs of Catholics and Christians. By definition we will propose a Christian is one who believes the Gospel while a Catholic is one who believes the official teachings and traditions of his church (presented by paragraph number from the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

    Authority

    A Christian believes Scripture has authority over church. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). By setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience (2 Cor. 4:2).
    A Catholic believes the Church has authority over Scriptures. The manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God (CCC 119).

    Justification

    A Christian is justified once by faith because justification is a permanent declaration by God (Romans 8:30). However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5).
    A Catholic is justified repeatedly by sacraments and works because he loses the grace of justification each time a mortal sin is committed. The sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification (CCC 1446).

    Regeneration

    A Christian believes he is regenerated at baptism of the Spirit. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:13), from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth (2 Thes. 2:13).
    A Catholic believes baptism of water imparts divine life, the water of Baptism truly signifies our birth into the divine life (CCC 694).

    Salvation

    A Christian is saved by God's unmerited grace. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9).
    A Catholic is saved by meriting the graces needed for salvation. We can merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for the attainment of eternal life (CCC 2010).

     

    A Christian is saved for good works. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
    A Catholic is saved by good works. The sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation (CCC 1129).

     

    A Christian is saved for all eternity. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. (Eph. 1:13-14).
    A Catholic is saved until a mortal sin is committed. Those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell (CCC 1035).

     

    A Christian believes salvation is offered to those outside the church. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us" (2 Cor. 5:20).
    A Catholic believes salvation is offered through the Church. Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation. Anyone refusing to enter it or remain in it cannot be saved (CCC 846).

     

    A Christian is purified by the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus...purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
    A Catholic is purified by the fires of Purgatory. They undergo purification in Purgatory, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1030-31).

    Saints and Priests

    A Christian becomes a saint when the Spirit baptizes him into the body of Christ. And He gave some...for the equipping of the saints...the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).
    A Catholic becomes a saint only if the Pope canonizes them. This occurs when he solemnly proclaims that they practiced a heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace (CCC 828).

     

    A Christian is a priest. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9).
    A Catholic needs a priest. Catholic priests are said to be apostolic successors and guarantee that Christ is acting in the sacraments to dispense divine life (CCC 1120-1131).

    The Lord's Supper

    A Christian believes the Lord's Supper is a memorial. "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11:24-25).
    A Catholic believes the Lord's Supper is sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice...the same Christ who offered Himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner (CCC 1367).

     

    A Christian receives Jesus once, spiritually, in the heart. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). God... put his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Cor. 1:22).
    A Catholic believes he receives Jesus physically, frequently, in the stomach. The body, blood...soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ...is truly, really and substantially contained in the Eucharist (CCC 1374-78).

    Condemnation

    A Christian is condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. Over 100 anathema's have been pronounced against Christians by the Roman Catholic Councils of Trent and Vatican II. These condemnations are still in effect today and can only be lifted if a Christian returns in submission to the authority of the pope.
    A Catholic is condemned by the Word of God. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day (John 12:48). If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal. 1:6-9).

    These thirteen teachings and traditions of Roman Catholicism demonstrate that a Catholic Christian is indeed an oxymoron. They also affirm how man made traditions nullify the Word of God (Mark 7:7-13). There are many Evangelicals and Roman Catholics who are unaware of how diametrically opposed Catholic dogmas are to the Word of God. The truth must be told. Catholics who believe they are Christians must be lovingly confronted with the truth. Evangelicals must be educated so they can proclaim the true gospel to Catholics instead of uniting with them under a compromised and diluted gospel.

    God's truth coupled with Satan's lies always produces an oxymoron. Yet the "father of lies" continues to seduce many by mixing a little error with truth. In the final analysis, truth mixed with error never hurts the error, it only contaminates the truth. The veneer of truth covering the false gospel of Rome is deceiving not only Catholics but many Protestants as well. Let us persuade Catholics to turn from the errors of man's teachings to the truth of God's Word!

    God defines truth with His Word (John 17:17). It is objective, authoritative and sufficient! We must use it to expose the evil deeds of darkness, to set captives free from the bondage of deception and to protect God's children from being deceived.
    Is Rome the One True Church?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Roman Catholicism teaches there is one, holy, catholic and apostolic church whose bishops are successors of the apostles and whose pope is the infallible head of the church. It teaches that whoever listens to its bishops is listening to Christ and those who refuse to enter or remain in the Roman Catholic Church cannot be saved. 

    Scripture reveals a much different church. The one true Church is composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus who have been born again of the Spirit. It has only one Head, one Shepherd and one builder - the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, adds to the members of His Church when a man repents and believes the Gospel. At that moment, he becomes a member of this Church. Like the penitent thief, he may have no opportunity of being baptized; but he has that which is far better than any water-baptism - the baptism of the Spirit. He may not be able to receive the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper; but he is still part of the church. He may be excommunicated by ordained men, and cut off from the outward ordinances of the professing Church; but all the ordained men in the world cannot shut him out of the true Church. It is a Church whose existence does not depend on forms, ceremonies, cathedrals, churches, chapels, pulpits, fonts, vestments, organs, or any act of favor from the hand of man. Its existence depends on nothing but the presence of Christ and Spirit.

    The Church is the body of Christ; the Bride; the flock of Christ and the household of faith and the family of God. This is the Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven (Heb. 12:23).; this is the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people, the purchased possession, the light of the world (2 Pet. 2:9-10). This is the "Holy Catholic Church" of the Apostles' Creed; this is the Church to which the Lord Jesus promises "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", and to which He says, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world". (Matt. 16:18; 28:20).

    This is the Church which seeks true unity for they are all taught by one Spirit and whose members are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. This is the only Church which is truly catholic with members in every part of the world where the Gospel is received and believed.

    This is the only Church which is truly apostolic because it is built upon the one foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). It upholds the doctrines they preached. This is the only Church which is certain to endure unto the end. Nothing can altogether overthrow and destroy it. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, burned; but the true church is never altogether extinguished; it rises again from its afflictions; it lives on through fire and water. When crushed in one land it springs up in another. Enemies throughout the centuries have tried to destroy this church and then they pass away to an eternal fire. The true Church outlives them all.

    This is the only Church of which no one member can perish. Once enrolled in this Church, sinners are safe for eternity; they are never cast away. The calling of God the Father along with the continual intercession of God the Son coupled with the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit protect all who have been divinely chosen. They are labor in the fields white for harvest by proclaiming the voice of the Good Shepherd so His sheep will hear and follow Him. They are not citizens of this world but are only passing through on their way home to heaven. This is the Church which shall be truly glorious at the end. When all earthly glory is passed away then shall this church be presented without spot before God the Father's throne.

    This is the true Church which man enters as he is born of the Sprit. If anyone does not belong to the only true church at the end of their days, it will have been much better if they had never been born.
    It is Finished!
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Ever since man first sinned before our holy and righteous God, he has been trying to cover his guilt and become acceptable to God through self effort. Adam and Eve tried to make a covering for their sin by sewing fig leaves together, but God showed them that sin could never be covered by the works of man. Innocent blood would have to be shed. An animal had to be slain so God could use the skin to cover their sin (Genesis 3:7, 21). This act of God's mercy foreshadowed the shedding of His Son's blood for the forgiveness of sin for all who believe, "for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrew 9:22).

    Adam and Eve's futile attempt to become righteous before God was indeed the first religious act by man. Since then, thousands of religions have sprung up, each creating their own worthless set of rules and rituals designed to gain acceptance before God. Religious work can never earn acceptance from God. Jesus said that it is impossible for man to save himself (Luke 18:24-27). There is absolutely nothing man can do to make peace with God. Only when we realize our hopeless condition can we begin to understand the good news -- that which is impossible for man has been accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The mission Christ came to earth to do for sinful man has been finished. The work of salvation is done. The eternal debt for sin has been paid in full.

    Sinners must understand that perfect righteousness is necessary for entry into God's Kingdom. Since sinful man can never be righteous, Christ is his only hope. "Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4). Had Jesus sinned, even once, He would have been disqualified to pay the ransom for our sins. He willingly died for our sins, in our place, to pay the debt that we could never pay. "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness: by His wounds you have been healed" (I Peter 2:24). How devastating it is that Catholics continue to trust in things that cannot save them from God's wrath. No one would be foolish enough to copy a $100 bill and trust that it would have purchasing power. Yet Catholics trust in the sacrifice of the Mass (a blasphemous copy of Calvary) as a sin offering to God, rather than trusting in the one-time, sufficient, sacrifice of Christ. Jesus appeared "to take away sins once for all" by His sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26). "Through His blood God made Him the means of expiation (of sin) for all who believe" (Romans 3:25). Vatican II denies the truthfulness of these sacred Scriptures by teaching that "Sins must be expiated...on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments" (page 63, Vatican Council II Documents). What a terrible deception to impose on faithful Roman Catholics who look to their church for the truth! The very reason and purpose Christ became man and suffered such an excruciating death was to expiate sin, once and for all, by His perfect sacrifice. How can any church, which claims to follow Christ, withhold this truth from its people and create in its place doctrines that nullify the Savior's finished work?

    Roman Catholic teachings also nullify another accomplishment of Christ -- the purification of sins. The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that "after He (Jesus) had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven" (Hebrews 1:3). The apostle John also proclaimed that those who trust Christ are purified from all sin, by His blood (I John 1:7). It must really disappoint our gracious Savior to see His purging sacrifice erased by the Catholic Church and replaced with the purging fires of purgatory. Vatican Council II states that "in purgatory those...who have not made satisfaction with adequate penance for their sins and omissions are cleansed after death with punishments designed to purge away their debt" (page 64). Jesus reconciled the world to God, changing its relationship with God from hostility to harmony. The completion of the reconciliation of man to God occurs when an individual repents and trusts Christ as his Savior. "It is in Christ and through His blood that we have been redeemed and our sins are forgiven" (Ephesians 1:7). Being reconciled to God is difficult for Catholics to comprehend, for they have been taught the only way to make peace with God is through a life long journey of works -- receiving the sacraments, going to Mass and doing penance. The only response to the accomplishments of Christ that will reconcile one to God is a response of repentance and faith. We must put our trust in Christ and cease from trusting in anything else.

    What Jesus Accomplished for the Whole World

    He provided the only way for sinful man to be saved (Acts 4:12).
    He testified to the truth. Those who seek the truth listen to Him (John 18:37).
    He came to give life to a world condemned to death (John 14:6).
    He showed the world the only way to the Father (John 14:6).
    He gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
    He bore our sin in His body on a tree (I Peter 2:24).
    He died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).
    He gave Himself up for us as a sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2).

    What Jesus Accomplished for Those Who Repent and Believe in Him
    • He died for us so that we may live together with Him (I Thessalonians 5:9).
    • He gave Himself for us to purify a people that are His very own (Titus 2:14).
    • He died for sins, once for all, to bring us to God (I Peter 3:18).
    • He became sin for us so, in Him, we could become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21).
    • He has forgiven all our sins (Colossians 1:14).
    • He purified us from all sin (I John 1:7; Hebrews 1:3).
    • He has reconciled us to God, changing our relationship with Him from one of hostility to one of harmony and peace (Ephesians 2:14-18).
    • He redeemed us from the power of sin (Galatians 3:10-14, 22).
    • He justified us (declared us righteous) (Romans 4:23-25).
    • He expiated (took away) our sins and will never count them against us (Hebrews 9:26;Romans 4:6-8).
    • He saved us from condemnation (John 3:18, 5:24).
    • He delivered us from the dominion of Satan (I John 3:8).
    • By His atoning sacrifice He satisfied (propitiated) completely the wrath of God for our sin (I John 2:2).
    • He transformed us into new creations that long to obey God (Galatians 2:20; II Corinthians 5:17).
    • He brought us into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
    James and Paul on Works
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    One of the most popular verses in Roman Catholicism is James 2:24 where it is written: "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone?" Why does James appear to contradict Paul and other writers of the New Testament? It is because Paul is dealing with the nature of justification and James is dealing with the nature of faith. James is not teaching "how one is justified." He is contrasting two kinds of faith, living genuine faith vs. dead spurious faith. That is why he gives three illustrations of living faith, Abraham, Rahab and the human body.

    James wrote "You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (Jas. 2:24). The Greek word for justify also means vindicate, to defend or uphold. So James is saying: "You see then that a man is vindicated (or defends and upholds his living, saving, God-given faith) by his works and not only by a mere profession of faith. The word vindicate could also mean to clear from suspicion. In no way is James teaching that sinners are justified by works because he has already made the point that salvation is a gift from God according to God's will not the will of man (1:17-18).

    James is asking professing Christians, who have not shown evidence of their new life in Christ, to "show me your faith" (Jas. 2:18). But faith is invisible to man. It is an unseen relationship between man and God. Since faith cannot be seen, the best way to prove one's faith is to be "doers of the word and not merely hearers" (Jas. 1:22). Those who do the word of God will live a righteous life in obedience to God. That is why James said: "I will show you my faith by my works" (Jas. 2:18). James is saying justifying faith will be evidenced by works.

    Paul, on the other hand, is dealing with false teachers who said you must have faith plus obey the law. (Gal 1-3).

    Both agree that justifying faith precedes and produces works (Eph. 2:10). This is, of course, also in harmony with Jesus who said to His disciples: "go and bear fruit" (John 15:6). He said when you bear fruit you "prove to be My disciples" (Jn. 15:8). When there is no fruit, it is an indication that you are separated from Christ. The parallel is worth noting. Just as works do not produce justification, the fruit does not bring the tree into existence. The fruit reveals whether the tree is alive or dead. Jesus also taught a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 7:16-20).

    We could also say - Just as fish swim and birds fly, converted sinners pursue sanctification by doing the works God created them to perform (Eph. 2:10).

    Faith alone justifies, but faith that justifies is never alone. Faith gives evidence of its existence by righteous living. Anyone who claims to have a right relationship with God will live a life of good works. Sanctification is thus, the observable evidence that justification has been granted.

    You can see in this passage that James is concerned for professing Christians who have a dead faith which is idle, barren, and unfruitful (Jas 2:17). He is saying that dead faith cannot justify anyone and it is useless (Jas. 2:20). Only genuine faith is alive and bears fruit.

    Faith without works is the faith of the devils, mere intellectual assent without repentance.

    We can see from these passages that the Bible must be studied inductively, that is, not to prove our theology but to develop our theology. Mormons try to prove their baptism for the dead with 1 Cor. 15 but Paul was not teaching on the topic of baptism. In the same way, Catholics try to prove their theology on Justification by works with James 2:24, but James was not teaching how to be justified, he was teaching on the nature of faith.
    Jesus' Response to the Exaltation of His Mother
  • Written by Jason Hauser.

    Roman Catholicism has made a name for itself as a religion that highly exalts Mary the mother of Jesus. In fact, when most Christians are asked what false teachings they are aware of in Roman Catholicism, the idolatry of Mary is often mentioned first. A great number of popes throughout history have made a point to demonstrate that Mary is to be central to their legacy. When John Paul II, was shot in an attempted assasination, he cried out repeatedly, "Mary save me." On Francis' first day as pope, he visited the Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary and prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

    Christians have long shown through the Scriptures that the Catholic exaltation of Mary is not only unbiblical but most of it is heretical as it is an assault on both the trinity and the gospel. Christians who are confident of God's Word and Catholics who are confident in their own traditions regarding this matter are both fully convinced they are right. How incredible would it be if we could hear from Jesus today His very words on whether or not we should exalt His mother Mary?

    God's Word is not silent here and we actually do have Jesus' words on this matter in Luke 11:27-28. In this passage a woman in the crowd raised her voice to Jesus and His disciples and said, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed." It is in light of this woman's high view of Jesus that she likewise recognizes how blessed His mother was for having the privilege of birthing and nursing Him. This would have been the opportunity of opportunities for Jesus to confirm, as Catholics do, that His mother should be exalted. That is, assuming it is true that Mary was conceived and lived without sin, that she was a perpetual virgin, that she was assumed into Heaven, that she intercedes on behalf of us to Christ, that she dispenses grace, that she is a mediatrix between us and Christ, etc. Jesus would have simply needed to respond, "Indeed woman, praise my mother and exalt her highly." Jesus however does just the opposite. Verse 28 begins with the conjunction "but", showing the contrast of Jesus' response, "But He said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.'" Jesus doesn't affirm His mother at all but rather draws attention to the importance of His Words and following them. We could take this principle and say that while Mary was indeed blessed for being chosen to birth Christ (Lk. 1:28, 48) RATHER she is even more blessed by hearing and following the gospel of her Son Jesus Christ who is her Savior from sin (Lk. 1:47) and to whom she is a slave ("δούλης" Lk. 1:48). Another similar account of this can be found in Matthew 12:46-50 where Jesus' mother and brothers (Mary wasn't a perpetual virgin) ask to speak with Him. Jesus makes the same point here, by stretching His hand out to His disciples and instructing that his mother and brothers are already before Him and further stating, "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matt. 12:50). These two accounts are as if Jesus anticipated the coming idolatry of His mother and declared her equal standing in relationship to all believers.

    The exaltation of Mary, the mother of Jesus, whom Scripture says very little about is completely unwarranted. Nowhere in the book of Acts do we see any mention of Mary like we do all throughout the Roman Catholic church today. Mary would be grieved and plead with Roman Catholics to repent if she ever knew the extent of the idolatry partaken of in her name. May we lovingly redirect Catholics to Jesus our Lord and Savior as clearly articulated in God's Word. May we show them that salvation is in no other name than Jesus (Acts 4:12) and that Jesus alone is the single mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
    John 6 and Transubstantiation
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Lord Jesus said, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life In you." Was Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? The Roman Catholic Church teaches His Words are literal. Their literal interpretation is the foundation for its doctrine of transubstantiation -- the "miraculous" changing of bread and wine into the living Christ, His body and blood, soul and divinity. Each Catholic priest is said to have the power to call Jesus down from heaven when he whispers over the wafer, "Hoc corpus meus est." Catholics believe they are actually eating and drinking the living body and blood of Jesus Christ when they consume the lifeless wafer. This is a vital and important requirement in their salvation and a doctrine they must believe and accept to remain a Catholic.

    If priests indeed have the power to change bread and wine into the body and blood of the glorified Christ, and if indeed consuming His body and blood is necessary for salvation, then the whole world must become Catholic to escape the wrath of God. On the other hand, if Jesus was speaking in figurative language then the Eucharist becomes the most blasphemous and deceptive hoax any religion could impose on its people. There is no middle ground.

    Catholics need to know that Jesus used figurative language when He spoke to the Jewish multitude in this sixth chapter of John. There are at least seven convincing reasons why this passage must be taken figuratively.

    Drinking Blood Forbidden

    The Law of Moses strictly forbade Jews from drinking blood (Leviticus 17:10-14) A literal interpretation to drink blood would mean Jesus was teaching the Jews to disobey the Mosaic Law. This would have been enough cause for them to persecute Jesus. (See John 5:16)

    Biblical Disharmony

    If John 6:53 is interpreted literally, it is in disharmony with the rest of the Bible. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ for eternal life adds another requirement to the Gospel of grace. Furthermore, it gives no hope of eternal life to any Christian who does not consume the body and blood of Christ. A literal translation of this verse would oppose hundreds of Scriptures that declare justification and salvation are by grace through faith alone in Christ.

    Unexplainable Dilemma

    Since the "eating and drinking" in verse 6:54 and the "believing" in verse 6:40 produce the same result - eternal life we have an unexplainable dilemma if both are taken literally. What if a person "believes" but does not "eat or drink"? Or what if a person "eats and drinks" but does not "believe?" This could happen any time a non-believer walked into a Catholic Church and received the Eucharist. Does this person have eternal life because he met one of the requirements but not the other? The only possible way to harmonize these two verses is to accept one verse as figurative and one as literal.

    Eating and Drinking Can Be Figurative

    The Jews were familiar with the use of the figurative language of "eating and drinking" in the Old Testament to describe the appropriation of divine blessings to one's innermost being. It was God's way of providing spiritual nourishment for the soul. (See Jeremiah 15:16 and Ezekiel 2:8, 3:1)

    Jesus Confirmed His Use of Figurative Language

    Jesus informed His disciples there were times when He spoke figuratively to impart spiritual truths (John 16:25). He often used that type of language to describe Himself. The Gospel of John records seven figurative declarations Jesus made of Himself -- "the bread of life" (6:48), "the light of the world" (8:12), "the door" (10:9), "the good shepherd" (10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (11:25), "the way, the truth and the life" (14:6), and "the true vine" (15:1). He also referred to His body as the temple (2:19). When speaking to a mixed crowd of believers and unbelievers, Jesus used parables (figurative language) so that unbelievers could not understand the mysteries of heaven which were not granted to them (Mat. 13:10-17). The reason the multitude were seeking after Jesus was because they wanted more physical food (John 6:26). Jesus was offering them spiritual food (John 6:32-33). As believers partake of Jesus, He will abide in them (John 6:53). They will never hunger or thirst. Clearly this is in a figurative sense (John 6:35). As the good shepherd, He feeds His people knowledge and understanding of Himself (Jer. 3:15).

    His Words Were Spiritual

    Jesus ended this teaching by revealing "the words I have spoken to you are spirit" (6:63). As with each of the seven miracles in John's Gospel, Jesus uses the miracle to convey a spiritual truth. Here Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fish and uses a human analogy to teach the necessity of spiritual nourishment. This is consistent with His teaching on how we are to worship God. "God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). As we worship Christ He is present spiritually, not physically. In fact, Jesus can only be bodily present at one place at one time. His omnipresence refers only to His spirit. It is impossible for Christ to be bodily present in thousands of Catholic Churches around the world.

    A Counterfeit Miracle?

    There is no Biblical precedent where something supernatural occurred where the outward evidence indicated no miracle had taken place. (The wafer and wine look, taste and feel the same before and after the supposed miracle of transubstantion). When Jesus changed water into wine, all the elements of water changed into the actual elements of wine.

    Conclusion

    The 6th chapter of John took place three years before the Last Supper. If the Words of Christ were taken literally, why didn't people start gnawing on His flesh after this teaching? The ones who departed from Jesus were unbelievers (6:36) who had followed him to Capernaum for another free lunch (6:26). When Jesus offered Himself as "spiritual" food they were not interested (6:63). Those who ate of the spiritual food for eternal life were believers (6:40) and remained with Jesus. He had the words [not the flesh] of eternal life (6:68). Catholics need to know that when Jesus is received spiritually, one time in the heart, there is no need to receive him physically, over and over again in the stomach. Anyone who believes they are literally eating Jesus is absurd and cannibalistic.

    At the Last Supper Jesus asked believers to remember Him until He comes again. Why do Catholics remember Him if they believe He has come again the Eucharist. "For I [Paul] received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor. 11:23-26). If transubstantiation were true and Jesus is indeed physically present, why would He ask us to remember Him. Furthermore, God does not dwell in Catholic tabernacles made with human hands (Acts 7:48).

    The only way to receive Jesus is spiritually by faith John 1:12-13).
    Justification
  • by Mike Gendron
    Catholicism Teaches Scripture Teaches
    Justification is God's act of making man righteous by good works and obedience Justification is God's act of declaring a sinner righteous by faith
    Infused sanctifying grace through the sacraments makes the believer acceptable to God Christ's imputed righteousness makes the believer acceptable to God
    Justification is achieved by faith plus good works Justification is received by faith alone
    Justification is granted the sinner when he is actually made just Justification enables God to see the sinner as if he were just
    Justification can be increased by receiving more sacraments Justification cannot increase since the ground is the perfect rightousness of Christ
    Justification is affected by sin Justification is a permanent verdict and is not affected by sin
    Final justification is not determined until death Justification comes at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ
    The ground of justification is the righteousness of the person The ground of justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ
    Sanctification and justification are similar Justification precedes sanctification
    Emphasis is on the sacraments Emphasis is on God's verdict
    Life's Most Important Issue
  • We can be wrong about a lot of things in this life and still survive, but if we are wrong about whom we are trusting for our eternal destiny, we will pay for that fatal mistake for- ever. At the moment we take our last breath, our eternity is irrevocably sealed. There are no second chances, no excuses and no calls for mercy (Heb. 9:27). For this reason there is not an issue of greater importance than investigating where we will spend eternity. Everyone will live forever either in the glories of heaven or in the torments of hell. Why then do people rarely seek the answers from the Word of our Creator, our most trustworthy authority? The true God who spoke all of creation into existence is the same God who spoke through 40 authors to give us His infallible Word. In the Scriptures God speaks with one voice to reveal one Savior
    who offers one way to be saved from sin.

    Whose Word Should We Trust?

    In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in perfect union with God. God's voice was the only one they heard until Satan spoke through a serpent. Satan questioned Eve by asking, "Has God indeed said...?" (Genesis 3:1). Then the serpent refuted and invalidated God's word with a fatal lie, "You will not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). Eve had a critical decision to make: to trust God and His Word or believe the word of someone else? Her fatal decision to trust Satan's word in- stead of God's word led her and Adam into sin and spiritual death (separation from God). "Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). All of Adam's descendants inherit his sin nature and are born spiritually deadAdam was not originally subject to spiritual or physical death, but because of his sin, death became a reality for himself and his posterity.

    Nothing has changed in human history. Man is still facing the same decision Eve faced. Should I believe God and His Word or the voice of another? Today there are many voices that people choose to believe instead of God's Word. Many put their faith in the words of religious leaders, scientists, philosophers or their parents. In doing so they ignore the warning of Paul: "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4). For over 30 years of my life I believed the words of Catholic priests and popes. I was blindly deceived because I did not know the truth. But God in His grace and mercy gave me a desire to read His Word, and I transferred my faith from fallible men to our infallible God.

    What is the Object of Saving Faith?

    What I find fascinating is this: the instrument (faith) that once condemned man is the same instrument (faith) that God uses to justify man. When our first parents shifted their faith from God's Word to Satan's lie, the resulting act of disobedience was condemnation (Rom. 5:16). Now when anyone shifts their faith from the word of another to the Word of God, the result is justification (John 5:24; Rom. 5:1). The instrument of faith is the same, but the object is obviously different. When man disobeyed God's first command in the garden it brought judgment and condemnation (Gen. 2:17). When man obeys the Lord Jesus Christ's first command "Re- pent and believe the Gospel" it brings justification and salvation (Mark 1:15). When the

    object of a man's faith is Jesus Christ and His Word, he receives the gift of His righteousness and a permanent right-standing before God (Rom. 5:17; Heb. 10:14).

    Whose Righteousness Will We Trust?

    The righteousness of Christ is man's only passport to heaven. His righteousness is what every man will need on judgment day (Mat. 5:48). Yet the unbelieving world does not know that God's righteousness requires perfect righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4). All those who suppress God's truth in unrighteousness will stand before the judgment seat in the filthy rags of their own righteousness and then suffer God's wrath for- ever (Isaiah 64:6; Rom. 1:18).

    One of Satan's most popular and fatal lies seduces gullible people who have not spent much time in the Bible. He deceives many with a works-righteousness salvation. They flatter themselves by thinking they can appease God with all they have done. They believe their good
    works will outweigh their bad deeds on judgment day. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from Christ, every man stands condemned to divine justice. "He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). At the judgment seat of Christ, every mouth will be stopped and no one will be justified by the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:19-20).

    The Purpose of the Law

    The law was not given to justify us but to condemn us by exposing our sins and rebel- lious acts against God (Rom. 7:8-11). The law was given to stop our boasting and show us how desperately we need God's mercy. Even if we were nearly perfect in obeying the law we would still be cursed. "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all" (James 2:10). The law was given to break our stubborn pride and to lead us to Jesus Christ as our only hope of acquittal. "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24).

    God's Judgment of Sin

    Tragically, there are many who live with no fear of God. They delight in His love, mercy and grace while ignoring His justice and righteousness, which are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14). They dismiss the righteous indignation He displayed by judging sin with a global flood. They ignore the many passages in the Bible that speak of God's judgment and fierce anger towards sin. In Isaiah 66:15-16, it is written: "The Lord will come in fire and His chariots like the whirl- wind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire, for the Lord will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the Lord will be many." God has no pity on unrepentant sinners. "I indeed will deal in wrath, My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them" (Ezekiel 8:18). These words should terrify everyone who does not know God's only way of escape.

    In hell, there is no mercy and no escape from the terrifying wrath of God. Once people enter, their doom is fixed forever, their anguish is never ending and the devil is ready to torment them in the flaming pit that was created especially for him (Mat. 25:41). They will realize they are there because they believed Satan’s lie instead of God's truth. The dreadful consequences of dying under the curse of God with unforgiven sin is too much to fully comprehend. No one should enter into eternity without the Lord Jesus Christ. We must call sinners to repent and believe the Gospel while they still have life. Today is the day of salvation! God does not promise any- one tomorrow.

    So Great a Salvation!

    God in His mercy and grace demonstrated His love by sending His only Son to the cross to die as a substitute for sinners (Rom. 5:8). Those who come to the cross with empty hands of faith and repentance will be forgiven. Those who come to the cross with good works, sacraments and religious rituals remain unforgiven because they have nullified grace - the only means by which God saves sinners (Rom. 11:6). The offer is given to all, but God's grace is given only to the humble who trust Jesus as their all-sufficient Savior (James 4:6).

    indifference to the offer of "so great a salvation" will have no escape on the day of judgment (Heb. 2:3). God's Word explains why: "Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention. They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof." (Prov. 1:24, 28-30). How utterly sobering are these words of almighty God! Yet, He is glorified before angels and men not only in His infinite mercy and grace, but also in the unrestrained fury of His justice.

    How precarious is the state of ignorant people who live in the constant danger of this eternal misery. No matter how pious or religious or devout or moral they may be, if they have not been born of God, they will experience God's revenging judgment. They will be given immortal bodies capable of en- during suffering and torment that would surely cause instant death in a mortal body (Rev. 20:14). They will be thrown into a furnace of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat. 13:50). They will quickly discover the eternal fire of hell is kindled with the anger of almighty God (Deut. 32:22). There will be no intermission or relief for they will be tormented day and night for- ever and ever (Rev. 20:10). How terrifying it will be to be judged by a sin-avenging God!

    Rescuing Those Who Are Perishing

    Let us ask God to give us a growing compassion for those who are perishing. Can there be any higher calling than warning people of the fatal sin disease they inherited? Can there be any greater act of love than offering them the only cure that will save their soul? I know of none! We should grieve for the unconverted as if we see them suspended over hell and one after another falling in. We who have been graciously entrusted with the glorious Gospel of God's saving grace should shout it from the roof-tops. Let us not make the Lord's great commission our great omission! Let us engage people with the Gospel throughout the day. If they only have a few minutes to spend with us, offer them a Gospel tract which reveals the greatest news they will ever hear about the greatest gift they could ever receive from the greatest Man who ever lived. Sow the imperishable seed of God's Gospel in the fertile soil He prepares!
    Making Christís Last Command Our First Concern
  • by Mike Gendron

    The last command of our Lord Jesus Christ is known by many, but understood and obeyed by very few. Matthew records Christ's last command at the end of his Gospel when Jesus commissioned His disciples with these words: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat. 28:19-20). The Great Commission was a command for all disciples of Jesus Christ to become disciple-makers. Members of the early church produced many disciples by faithfully proclaiming the Lord's Gospel (Acts 14:21). Members of the twenty-first century church can make Christ's last command their first concern when they understand and apply four key characteristics of a true disciple that are given in Matthew 28:16-20.

    Devotion to Christ

    At the end of His earthly ministry, Christ asked His disciples to meet Him on an appointed mountain near Galilee. When the disciples arrived there to be commissioned by the Son of God, the very first thing they did was worship Him (Mat. 28:17). This is the reverent attitude of every true disciple. When the Son of God is not truly worshipped He cannot be truly served. Our worship is most meaningful and our devotion is most reverent when we are continuously seeking ways to glorify our Savior. One of the most consistent ways we can do this is by making His glorious Gospel known throughout our circle of influence. As God's grace is spread to more and more people, it will cause thanksgiving "to abound to the glory of God." (2 Cor. 4:15). The great evangelist of the first century was so devoted to Christ that he could say with absolute sincerity "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21). Since Christ has redeemed every Christian from the slave market of sin, they should be completely devoted to their merciful Redeemer. "You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:20).

    Submission to Christ

    The second characteristic of a true disciple is an attitude of unconditional submission to our Master. Before Jesus gave His last command, He established His divine right to give it: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Mat. 28:18). Submission to the absolute sovereign authority of the King of kings is not a disciple's option, but a solemn obligation and a royal privilege.

    Obedience to Christ

    A heartfelt desire to obey the One who gave His life as a substitute for sinners is another mark of a true disciple. Obedience to Christ will be motivated by our passionate love for Him. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). The deeper our love is for the Savior, the greater will be our desire to please Him in obedience. Our "love of Christ controls us... they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (2 Cor. 5:14-15). A disciple of Christ will follow Him in obedience while abiding in His word (John 8:31-32). The proof of a true disciple lies in what he does for his Lord and Master.

    Obeying the Great Commission is very similar to obeying the command God gave to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). In a similar way, all Christians are called to be fruitful and multiply. Those who really understand the Gospel will sow the seeds of God's imperishable Word and bear fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty (Mat. 13:23). In doing so, disciples will reproduce new disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded. By God's grace, these new disciples will become obedient from the heart to the Lord's teaching (Rom. 6:17).

    Christians must be warned that those who do not bear fruit are not true disciples of Christ. Jesus said, "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8). Our Lord, who is the True Vine, chose us for the purpose of bearing fruit (John 15:16). According to a parable Jesus gave, trees that do not bear fruit are useless and should be cut down (Luke 13:7). May this sober warning cause us all to make Christ's last command our first concern. Let us all live for what will last for all eternity rather than what is temporal and will be burnt up in the end.

    Presence of Christ

    The Lord of the Harvest does not send us out alone to labor in the fields white for harvest. He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age. Without Him we would be powerless to produce fruit on our own (John 15:4). However, the Lord Jesus offers His power to save souls through His continuing presence. He will always be with those who belong to Him, empowering them to be faithful to His last command.

    Practical Applications

    There are many creative ways we can be faithful to the great commission. Just as the moon always reflects the brilliant light of the sun, every Christian should always reflect the glorious light of the Son. Since we know that people are born again by the imperishable seed, which is the living and abiding word of God, we must sow these seeds wherever we go (1 Pet. 1:23). As we sow seeds, we pray that they will find fertile soil, take root and begin to grow into new disciples for our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Distribute Gospel tracts. This is an excellent way to sow the objective truth of God's word. Wherever we go, whether it be to a restaurant, grocery store, department store, post office, etc., we ask people if they believe in heaven and how they hope to get there. Four out of five people never mention the name of Jesus in their response. When they give the wrong answer, we simply ask, "If that were not true according to the Bible, would you want to know?" A great majority of the people say "yes" which gives us the opportunity to share the Gospel and/or give them several of our Gospel tracts.

    We also give Gospel tracts to Catholics as they are leaving their churches or bookstores. Once, when a Catholic priest found out we were handing out Gospel tracts, he confronted us and asked, "How would you like it if we did this at your church?" I said, "Please do, we need the Gospel at our church as well." One time a Catholic nun looked at our flyer which contained only Scripture, then ripped it up. My wife said, "That was the Word of God." The nun replied, "We don't need that here." We have also found that placing tracts on car windshields at churches is another way to make the Gospel known to those who are lost in religion.

    Invite people to watch a Gospel video. This is how this ministry began 17 years ago. Every Tuesday night, for 3 months, we invited Catholics to our home to watch the video Catholicism: Crisis of Faith. During that time 17 Catholics exchanged their religion for a relationship with Jesus as their all-sufficient Savior. I can honestly say that there is no greater joy than seeing those who were dead in their sins come alive in Christ Jesus!

    Invite people to your church or Bible study. Be like the apostle Andrew who was always bringing people to meet Jesus (John 1:40-42). Don't be like the Christian who was invited by his friend to play golf every Sunday morning. After 6 weeks, the friend said, "I always invite you to play golf. Why don't you ever invite me to your church?"

    Host an evangelistic dinner. Not too long ago we invited a couple for dinner with whom we had developed a growing friendship while playing tennis. After dinner we told them that we loved them so much that we could not let another day go by without sharing what we believe to be the greatest news you will ever hear about the greatest Man who ever lived, who offers the greatest gift you could ever receive. We told them that if our roles were reversed, we would want them to do the same for us. After going through the glorious Gospel of grace for about an hour, we told them we would never bring it up again unless they initiated it. As they left our home, they thanked us for caring so much about them. To this day they have not converted to Christ, but we do remain the closest of friends.

    Go on short-term mission trips. These opportunities give Christians a concentrated period of time to focus on evangelism without any day-to-day distractions.

    Engage solicitors with the Gospel. One of two things will happen and both of them are good. They will either be interested in learning how to be reconciled to God, or they will think you're weird and hang up on you. We have had a few solicitors accept our invitation to join us at church. Others have asked us to send them Gospel tracts to consider the promises of Christ.

    Develop a life-style of evangelism. A disciple of Christ is one who disciplines himself in all areas of spiritual life, including evangelism. We can develop a zeal for evangelism by asking God to give us a growing compassion for the lost, coupled with an intense passion to do the Lord's work. When this happens we will want to know the spiritual condition of everyone we meet. I believe the primary reason why Christians do not faithfully share the Gospel is that they do not grasp the stark reality of hell. If we could catch a momentary glimpse of hell and see the terrifying pain and never-ending punishment that awaits those who die without Christ, we would do everything possible to lead them to the Savior.

    Our great God and Savior will be most glorified when we understand all that He is, all that He has done and all that He is doing. May our love and devotion to Christ be manifested by bringing glory to His holy name through the proclamation of His awe-inspiring Gospel. The fruit of our labor will result in memorials to His grace throughout all eternity. The majesty of grace in salvation brings honor to the Father who initiates it, glory to the Son who accomplishes it and esteem to the Holy Spirit who effects it. Let us all magnify the Lord Jesus Christ by making His last command our very first concern!
    Manhattan Declaration
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    A coalition of 150 Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical leaders, calling themselves "Christians" and "fellow believers," have joined together in ecumenical unity to fight against abortion, same-sex marriage and anything that betrays their religious beliefs. On November 20th, a 4,700-word document called the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience was released (http://manhattandeclaration.org/). The document was drafted by Chuck Colson and Princeton University professor Robert George, a Roman Catholic.

    After reading the Manhattan Declaration, we believe it may have the same effect as The Manhattan Project of the 1940's, an atomic blast on Christian faith. Anytime born-again Christians link arms with unregenerate professing Christians, even for ostensibly moral purposes, they are impeding the Great Commission. The fallout from Chuck Colson's previous attempts to reverse the Reformation has been devastating to the evangelical church. He has influenced many evangelical leaders to embrace Roman Catholicism as a valid expression of biblical Christianity. According to the second Evangelicals and Catholics Together Accord (ECT II) that Colson drafted in 1997, the following differences should not divide Catholics and Evangelicals as "brothers and sisters in Christ": baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, sacramental grace, justification by works, purgatory, indulgences, the role of Mary and the saints in salvation and salvation for those not evangelized.

    Many of the signers of Colson's Evangelicals and Catholics Together Accord have given their name to this Declaration as well. Purposefully, the Gospel is never defined, explained or presented in the Manhattan Declaration. This is because the signatories embrace contradictory and opposing views on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The implication throughout the document is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Evangelicals share a common faith. There is nothing that could be further from the truth. Evangelicals and Catholics submit to different authorities, read different Bibles, worship a different Jesus, believe a different Gospel, have a different view of sin and are on a different path to eternity. Furthermore we disagree on the necessity, sufficiency and efficacy of our Lord Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners. There can never be unity between true Christianity and apostate or counterfeit Christianity. Believers and unbelievers are as distinctively different as light and darkness (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Have we forgotten the Reformers who were tortured and burned at the stake for refusing to compromise with Rome? The apostle Paul never signed unity accords with people who perverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ; he condemned them with anathema (Gal. 1:6-9). It was Paul's great fear that we would put up with counterfeit Christians who preach another Jesus and another gospel (2 Cor. 11:4). He warned us that these false apostles and deceitful workers, who disguise themselves as brothers in Christ, could corrupt our minds and lead us astray (2 Cor. 11:13). In these times of great deception and compromise we must heed his warnings. People who preach another gospel are not Christians; they have betrayed Christ. The true church ought to rise upagainst such persons and declare that they are not Christians. They are counterfeits who shame the name of Jesus.

    Although it is good to unite as co-belligerents with one voice to fight moral and political issues, any accord that attempts to overlook, dismiss, nullify or compromise the Gospel is antithetical to the command for all Christians to earnestly contend for the faith. We can never deny the profound importance of protecting the life of every baby and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. We must earnestly contend against those who seek to destroy both (Jude 3). However, we must remember that this is a spiritual battle which can only be won through fervent prayer and the proclamation of the true Gospel, a Gospel that is denied by every Catholic priest when he offers the Eucharistic Christ upon his altar for the forgiveness of sins. If Evangelicals must put their names on accords, why not remain sanctified and set apart by drafting our own accords? We can start by declaring our unity was established when the Holy Spirit baptized us into one Body upon believing the one and only Gospel of grace (1 Cor. 12:13).

    Throughout the history of the church Satan has unleashed his fiery darts against the Christian faith. He has been most successful when God's children lack discernment. Charles Spurgeon said, "To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus." Since we have been sanctified by the truth, we must remain separate for God's glory and purpose."
    One World Religion
  • As the church awaits the glorious re- turn of our Lord Jesus Christ we are witnessing the formation of a global religious system that will one day worship the Beast (Rev. 13:12). Jesus warned that a widespread dynamic deception would be one of the signs of His return to the earth. His word reveals there will be many false teachers who will prepare an unsuspecting bride for the anti-Christ. This counterfeit religious system will give her allegiance and worship to one who will blaspheme God.

    There is currently a dialogue among world religious leaders who are seeking common threads of truth as a basis for unity. As diverse as some religions appear, there are some common bonds of unity. One is the teaching that salvation is attained by what men must do for God, instead of what God has already done for man through His Son. All religions, with the exception of biblical Christianity, arrogantly deny that salvation is by grace, the unmerited favor of God.

    Several organizations have been working dili- gently to unite the people of the world but none as aggressively as the Roman Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council made this clear when it stated: The Catholic Church endeavors "to gather all people and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an inseparable sacrament of unity... expressed in the common celebration of the Eucharist."

    The Vatican has been building strategic bridges to all Christian denominations and non-Christian religions for the purpose of bringing all people under the papacy. In a 1998 speech to the leaders of Islam, Pope John Paul declared: "Dialogue between our two religions (Islam and Catholicism) is more necessary than ever. There remains a spiritual bond which unites us and which we must strive to recognize and develop." Later in January of 2002 many of the most influential religious leaders of the world responded to the pope's invitation to gather in Assisi, Italy to discuss unity and peace. The pope, whom Catholics believe is the supreme head of the entire Christian Church, made all the leaders of non-Christian religions feel comfortable by removing all the images, crucifixes and icons of Jesus Christ.

    Strategy for Christian Unity

    The Vatican has a well defined and aggressive strategy for uniting all of Christianity under the papacy. Some of the elements of this master plan are outlined below:

    I. Promote the opinion that Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants are all brothers-in- Christ and therefore must be reunited. This is why the Vatican is urging all "separated brethren" to come back home to Holy Mother, the Church, to enjoy the "fullness of salvation." Rome believes the salvation of Protestants cannot be complete unless and until they receive the transubstantiated Christ in the Eucharist.

    II. Another important part of their strategy is to redefine evangelical terms in vague and ambiguous words to make them accept- able to both Catholics and Protestants. This strategy has been used effectively in their recent unity accords with Evangelicals and Lutherans. They have also been effective in identifying and seducing highly visible and influential evangelicals to promote Catholicism as a valid expression of Christianity.

    III. The Vatican's strategy also involves exploiting post-modernism and the emerging church movement, which has gained widespread popularity. These movements have caused confusion, biblical ignorance and a lack of discernment within Protestant churches. In turn, these have produced fertile soil for seeds of deception and compromise to grow. Many who are uncertain of the true Gospel are easily deceived and willing to embrace the false gospel of Catholicism.

    IV. Rome is also encouraging tolerance of all faiths because tolerance unifies and brings peace, while doctrinal truth divides. Whenever doctrinal truth is suppressed there can be no distinction between believers and unbelievers. One example of the Vatican's push for tolerance is seen in a statement from the 1997 accord: The Gift of Salvation. It reads: "All who truly believe in Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters in the Lord and must not allow their differences, however important to undermine this great truth." Some of the differences cited that should never divide Evangelicals and Catholics were listed as: baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, sacramental grace, justification, purgatory, indulgences, Marian devotion, the assistance of the saints in salvation, and the possibility of salvation for those who have not been evangelized. Clearly, each of these differences can not be tolerated because they all oppose the Gospel and bear eternal con- sequences for those who are on the wrong side of truth.

    Same Story Different Verse

    Rome attempted to reunite Catholics and Protestants in Germany in 1541 but Martin Luther gave this stern warning: "Popish writers pre- tend that they have always taught, what we now teach, concerning faith and good works, and that they are unjustly accused of the contrary, thus the wolf puts on the sheep skin till he gains admission in the fold." Three hundred years later another great preacher warned against unity with the Roman Catholic Church. Charles Spurgeon said: "There is a deep and indelible sentence of damnation written upon the apostate church...the curse is registered in heaven...its infamy is engraved in the rock forever...followers of Jesus, for their own sake as well as for their Lord's, should oppose it with all their might." The 21st century church needs more Luthers and Spurgeons to contend earnestly for the faith against the fatal errors of Catholicism.

    Apostasy is Fueling the Push for Unity

    In spite of the numerous Scriptural warnings of apostasy, many Protestants are returning "home to Rome." Nearly every documented case of Protestant apostates who departed to join the Catholic religion, gave one of three reasons. They were either convinced by some "early church fathers" that Catholicism is true, or they were compelled to become Catholic in order to marry a Catholic, or they joined because of pleasurable experience. We have never heard of anyone who became a Catholic because the Bible convinced them to do it.

    Tragically, we seldom hear warnings against apostasy from our pulpits. Rarely are false teachers who lead people away from the true faith ever exposed. Apostates, who appear as ministers of righteousness, are facing very little opposition. They successfully deceive the undiscerning because pastors and church leaders are not contending against them. Very few Christian leaders are warning the church of these ferocious wolves dressed in sheep's clothing. The twenty-first century church needs strong leaders like the apostle Paul. He warned the early church, "even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears" (Acts 20:30-31). Throughout the Scriptures we are exhorted to test every spirit, every teacher and every doctrine because men are so easily deceived.

    Two Kinds of Unity

    Doctrine is what divides the true church from the emerging world religion. The Bible condemns any unity that is not founded in God's word. False unity is based upon man's ambitions and is always independent of God (Gen. 11:1-9). This type of unity will be a tool of the Antichrist (Rev. 17-18). On the other hand, biblical unity is based on apostolic truth and is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man (Eph. 4:3,13; 1 Cor. 12:13).

    One of the greatest dangers to Christianity today is the deliberate suppression of biblical truth for the sake of unity. The danger intensifies as we see influential Christian leaders jumping on the Vatican's ecumenical bandwagon. Instead of warning believers of this false unity, they applaud those who are creating it. Instead of obeying biblical exhortations to keep the Gospel pure, they are tolerating those who preach another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). Rather than hating every false way, they are allowing the devil's lies to go unabated (Psalm 119:104). Instead of expos- ing false christs and lying spirits they put up with them (2 Cor. 11:4).

    What Are Christians To Do?

    Christians must not tolerate anyone who will- fully misrepresents the character or attributes of almighty God or His Gospel. A sound and loving rebuke, using scripture, is necessary to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). To remain silent shows, either an indifference toward the Lord Jesus, or a greater loyalty to another person or institution.

    We are commanded to separate from those who persist in false teaching (Rom.16:17; Titus 3:10). For some, this may mean finding another church. For others, it may mean with- holding support from ministries that continue to compromise the Gospel. The apostles warned us that if we do not separate from false teachers we could either be disqualified for service, become identified with them and their error, or risk being partakers of their fate (2 Tim. 2:20; 2 John 10-11; Jude 11-13). May God help us all to stand firm and not be carried away by every wind of doctrine!

    Common Bonds For Unity

    The True Church

    ♦ Receives divine revelation from Scripture alone (2 Peter 1:20)
    ♦ Is called by God their Father, saved by Jesus Christ and sealed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Col. 1:9; Eph. 2:8; 1 Cor. 1:3)
    ♦ Is saved by God's grace for good works (Eph. 2:8-10)
    ♦ Is intolerant, believing there is only one way to God (John 14:6)
    ♦ Is baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:13)
    ♦ Is alive in Christ and abides in Hisword (Rom. 6:11; John 8:31-32)
    ♦ Contends for the apostles' faith (Jude 3) ♦ Is the Bride of Christ, united in lovefor the Savior (Rev. 19:7; Jn 13:35) 
    ♦ Will worship and serve the true Christ when He appears in glory (Titus 2:13-15)
    ♦ Will rejoice in God's peace (Rev. 21:4)

    The World Religion

    ♦ Receives "divine" revelation from demonic sources (1 Tim. 4:1-4)
    ♦ Is blinded by their father the devil, deceived by false Christs and bonded by another spirit (2 Cor. 4:4; John 8:44; Rev. 9:20)
    ♦ Teach they are saved by works, but their works deny God (Titus 1:16) 
    ♦ Is tolerant, believing there are many ways to God
    ♦ Is ensnared by another Spirit to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
    ♦ Is spiritually dead and abides in the world (1 John 2:16)
    ♦ Seeks common truth among all faiths. ♦ Is the harlot of anti-Christ, united inhatred for the saints (Rev. 17:6) 
    ♦ Will worship and serve a false Christ when he appears in deceit (Rev. 13.12)
    ♦ Will weep in an eternal fire (Mat. 13:42)
     
    Peter vs Francis
  • by Mike Gendron

    How much does Pope Francis have in common with the Apostle Peter?

    The Apostle Peter Pope Francis
    • believes he is supreme head of the Church with universal power (CCC 882)
    • taught we are born again through the living, abiding Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23)
    • teaches we are born again through the ritual of baptism (CCC 1213)
    • taught salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12)
    • teaches salvation without Jesus Christ (CCC 841)
    • taught eternal life is a gift of grace and secured by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:3-5)
    • teaches eternal life is attained by merit and lost by mortal sin (CCC 2027, 1035)
    • believes Peter is the rock (CCC 442)
    • taught Jesus was the guardian of the souls in the church (1 Pet. 2:25)
    • believes he has supreme and unhindered power over the souls in the church (882)
    • warned of false teachers who would teach heresies and malign the truth (2 Pet. 2:1-2)
    • has revealed he is a false teacher by his perversion of the Gospel of grace (CCC 969, 1129)
    • believes he is infallible (CCC 891)
    •  welcomes adoration of men
    Pope John Paul's Disputable Influence on Christianity
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    If ever there was a more important time for faithful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ to take a stand for the truth, it is now. Many evangelicals are praising John Paul II for being a great spiritual leader. But why are they giving such honor to the former head of an apostate church which keeps over a billion people in spiritual darkness?

    There are times when our faith is tested and this is indeed such a time. Will we honor the Lord Jesus or praise the pope who denied the sufficiency of Christ and rejected His finished work of redemption? Will we earnestly contend for the faith or say what the world wants to hear? On the Larry King Live show (2/24/05), Billy Graham praised John Paul as "the greatest moral and spiritual leader of the last 100 years." Graham said: "He's traveled the whole world, giving his version of the Gospel and spreading the Catholic faith." Later on April 2, after his death, Graham told King that there is no question John Paul II is now with the Lord. Jack Van Impe also assured his TV audience on April 16 that the pope is now in heaven. Rob Moll, the online assistant editor for Christianity Today wrote: "The pope stood for truth, as revealed in God's Word and his creation."

    This pope never claimed to be God, but he took pleasure in being addressed with titles reserved for God alone. He usurped the titles "Holy Father" from God the Father, "The Head of the Church" from the Lord Jesus Christ and "The Vicar of Christ" from the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send in His place. John Paul often sat in pompous arrogance on his royal throne as his loyal subjects knelt before him. Never did he refuse worship as Peter did when men fell at his feet. Peter, knowing that only God deserved such reverence, immediately ordered: "Stand up; I too am just a man" (Acts 10:26).

    Who knew that Pope John Paul II would have greater success in deceiving the world after his death than during his 26-year pontificate? Who knew the global media would become his willing partner in spreading his perverted theology? Through non-stop television coverage, the pope's church became the world's stage. All eyes were focused on the St. Peter's Basilica, the very church that was financed with the filthy lucre obtained from the sale of God's forgiveness through indulgences. Its princes enjoyed the media spotlight as they piously masqueraded in their purple and scarlet robes as "ministers of righteousness." They successfully cast a spell over the TV audience with the splendor or their rituals and the pomp and pageantry of their pagan traditions. The magnificence and grandeur of this corrupt religion bewitched much of the gullible world into believing this is what Christianity is all about. Thousands of hopelessly deceived people stood in long lines for as long as 18 hours to venerate a dead man with a rosary in his hands and a twisted crucifix by his side. The idolatrous veneration and adoration of Pope John Paul II was unprecedented. His elaborate and theatrical funeral was said to be the largest in human history.

    The death of Pope John Paul II has provided a glimpse of where "Christianity" is headed in the future. Post modern church leaders have replaced truth and discernment with pluralism and tolerance. Evangelicals and Catholics together have publicly praised John Paul as a godly and holy spiritual leader.

    Year after year he was the most loved and admired man in the world. This should not surprise us. Jesus said "the world would love its own" but hate those whom He chose out of the world (John 15:19). He also warned, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you" (Luke 6:26). The gullible world responded in the same fashion it will when the man of lawlessness is revealed. "God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth" (2 Thes. 2:11-12).

    Judging the Pope's Gospel

    Only God can judge John Paul's heart but all Christians are all called to judge every man's teachings. The apostle John warned us: "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). John Paul's false teachings are clearly exposed by the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which he endorsed in 1994. His damning gospel was diametrically opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul warned that anyone (including himself or the pope) would be condemned if they were to preach another gospel. He wrote, if "we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:6). If apostles and angels were to be accursed for preaching another gospel how can the pope possibly escape? Clearly the pope condemned himself by perverting God's Gospel of grace with additional requirements for salvation.

    If the Philippian jailer could have asked John Paul what he must do to be saved (Acts 16:31), the pope would have responded with his gospel: "You must have faith plus baptism (CCC, 1256), receive the sacraments (1129), do good works (2016), consume the Eucharist (1405), keep the law (2068), belong to the Catholic Church (846) and have your sins purged in purgatory" (1030). What a contrast to Paul's clear response: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). Paul made it clear there is only one Gospel and anyone who believes another gospel has believed in vain (I Cor. 15:1-4). Therefore, either the pope was right and is in heaven as many evangelicals are claiming, or those who believe the Gospel of grace are wrong and destined for the eternal lake of fire.

    Few evangelicals have had the courage to expose the pope's false gospel that shuts the kingdom of heaven to those wanting to enter. Clearly, there is no greater evil than deceiving people about the eternal salvation of their souls.

    Eternal Truths Are Confirmed

    As with anyone who passes into eternity, the pope now knows the truth. He knows he was never infallible, or holy, or the Vicar of Christ. He knows there is no such place as Purgatory. He now knows the gospel he preached is leading over a billion people down the wide road to destruction. John Paul may now be experiencing what the rich man in Luke 16 endured. Both of them once dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in splendor every day. When the rich man died and found himself tormented in the flames of Hades, he begged the Father to send someone to tell others the truth so they would repent and not end up in the same place. The pope may now be making the same request. What would he tell Catholics if he could return? I believe he would urge them to trust Christ and His Word over the teachings and traditions of men. He would admit that he was terribly wrong about entrusting the church to Mary's protection. John Paul would tell his flock that Jesus indeed finished the work of redemption 2000 years ago and His one offering is necessary and sufficient to save sinners completely and forever.

    Who Did John Paul Represent?

    John Paul said he represented Jesus Christ, yet he lived in stark contrast to the Savior who had no place to lay His head. On several occasions he denied that Jesus was the only way to the Father. He foolishly proclaimed: "If God is the one true God, He must save all people" (Vatican Info Service, 4/21/ 99). A year later he pronounced: "All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know Christ and His church, contribute to the building of His kingdom" (Vatican Info Service, 12/6/00). He also denied the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice by declaring punishment for sin could be remitted "by abstaining from unnecessary consumption (of tobacco or alcohol) and donating a proportionate sum of money to the poor" (VIS, 9/29/99). His perverted theology was also reflected in this pronouncement: "Hell is not a punishment imposed by God.. but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life" (Detroit News 7/28/99). When he addressed Muslim leaders in 1998, he said there is "a common spiritual bond that unites us."

    John Paul has also been acclaimed as a great moral leader, yet he failed to discipline American Bishops for tolerating the detestable sexual abuse of children by their depraved priests. After Cardinal Bernard Law of the Boston Archdiocese magnified the scandal by protecting the guilty priests, John Paul appointed him to a prestigious position in the Vatican. Law's cover-up of the abuse of over 600 children, which cost the Boston archdiocese more than $90 million in settlements, outraged many Catholics but not the pope.

    The passing of John Paul II has opened up a tremendous opportunity for Christians to talk about spiritual issues. Let us make the most of this opportunity to speak the truth in love and proclaim the Gospel with clarity and completeness! Let us all seek the approval of the One who purchased us with His precious blood! We must also earnestly contend for the faith against everything that stands opposed to God's word. May God help us to be faithful in these times of great deception and compromise!
    Purgatory: Purifying Fire or Fatal Fable
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Catholics who believe a purifying fire will purge away their sins are deluded victims of a fatal fabrication. The invention of a place for purification of sins called Purgatory is one of the most seductive attractions of the Roman Catholic religion. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church described this deceptive hoax brilliantly. He said: "Purgatory is what makes the whole system work. Take out Purgatory and it's a hard sell to be a Catholic. Purgatory is the safety net, when you die, you don't go to hell. You go [to Purgatory] and get things sorted out and finally get to heaven if you've been a good Catholic. In the Catholic system you can never know you're going to heaven. You just keep trying and trying...in a long journey toward perfection. Well, it's pretty discouraging. People in that system are guilt-ridden, fear-ridden and have no knowledge of whether or not they're going to get into the Kingdom. If there's no Purgatory, there's no safety net to catch me and give me some opportunity to get into heaven. It's a second chance, it's another chance after death" (from "The Pope and the Papacy").

    THE ORIGIN OF PURGATORY

    There was no mention of Purgatory during the first two centuries of the church. However, when Roman Emperor Theodosius (379-395) decreed that Christianity was to be the official religion of the empire, thousands of pagans flooded into the Church and brought their pagan beliefs and traditions with them. One of those ancient pagan beliefs was a place of purification where souls went to make satisfaction for their sins.

    The concept became much more widespread around 600 A.D. due to the fanaticism of Pope Gregory the Great. He developed the doctrine through visions and revelations of a Purgatorial fire. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (CE), Pope Gregory said Catholics "will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames," and "the pain [is] more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life." Centuries later, at the Council of Florence (1431), it was pronounced an infallible dogma. It was later reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1564). The dogma is based largely on Catholic tradition from extra- biblical writings and oral history. "So deep was this belief ingrained in our common humanity that it was accepted by the Jews, and in at least a shadowy way by the pagans, long before the coming of Christianity" (CE). It seems incomprehensible that Rome would admit to using a pagan tradition for the defense of one of its most esteemed "Christian" doctrines.

    THE DECEPTION OF PURGATORY

    Purgatory comes from the Latin word "purgare," which means to make clean or to purify. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines purgatory as "a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions." They must be purified of these "venial" sins before they can be allowed into heaven. Here we see Catholicism perpetuating the seductive lie of Satan by declaring "you will not surely die" when you commit venial sins (Gen. 3:4). The Council of Trent dares to declare that "God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction and will punish sin...The sinner, failing to do penance in this life, may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God." (Session 15, Can. XI). Those Catholic Bishops had the audacity to declare that the suffering and death of God's perfect man and man's perfect substitute was not sufficient to satisfy divine justice for sin.

    THE MOTIVATION FOR PURGATORY

    Over the centuries billions of dollars have been paid to Roman Catholic priests to obtain relief from imaginary sufferings in Purgatory's fire. The Catholic clergy has always taught that the period of suffering in Purgatory can be shortened by purchasing indulgences and novenas, buying Mass cards and providing gifts of money. When a Catholic dies, money is extracted from mourning loved ones to shorten the deceased's punishment in Purgatory. When my dear old dad passed away as a devout Catholic of 79 years, I was amazed at the hundreds of Mass cards purchased for him by well-meaning friends. We have heard of other Catholics who have willed their entire estates to their religion so that perpetual masses could be offered for them after they die. It is no wonder that the Catholic religion has become the richest institution in the world. The buying and selling of God's grace has been a very lucrative business for the Vatican.

    Another motivation for Rome to fabricate the heretical doctrine of Purgatory is its powerful effect on controlling people. Ultimately, the enslavement and subjugation of people is the goal of every false religion, and Purgatory does exactly that. The concept of a terrifying prison with a purging fire, governed by religious leaders, is a most brilliant invention. It holds people captive, not only in this life but also in the next life. Catholic clergy will not say how many years people have to suffer for their sins or how many Masses must be purchased before they can be released from the flames. This dreadful fear and uncertainty is the most ruthless form of religious bondage and deception!

    BIBLICAL SUPPORT FOR PURGATORY

    There is absolutely none! In fact, neither the word nor the concept of sin-purifying fire is found in Scripture. The Vatican was confronted with this in the 16th century when the Reformers protested its practice of buying and selling of God's grace through indulgences. Backed into a corner, the Council of Trent added the apocryphal books to its canon of Scripture. Rome now declares there is scriptural support for purgatory in the apocryphal book of Second Maccabees. The council ignored the fact that the Jewish scribes never recognized the apocryphal books as inspired or part of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were never included because of their many historical, theological and geographical errors. Since God is not the author of error, He obviously did not inspire the writers of the Apocrypha. This is why the Apocrypha was never included in the original canon of 66 books.

    The apocryphal verses Rome uses to defend its doctrine of Purgatory refer to Jewish soldiers who died wearing pagan amulets around their necks. Judas Maccabees "sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead...Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Maccabees 12:43-46). Rome argues that since Judas Maccabees prayed for the dead, there must be hope for those who die in sin. This of course, goes directly against God's Word which declares, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Heb. 9:22). Rome's attempt to give credence to Purgatory by using this ungodly practice of the Jews, who had a history of disobeying God, is pathetic.

    In another attempt to find support for Purgatory, many Catholics point to this verse: "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15). Clearly, the context of this verse is the testing of a man's works by fire. The works that survive are the ones done for the glory of Christ and are called gold, silver and precious stones (Eph. 2:10). All the other superfluous works are burned in fire and are called wood, hay and stubble. It is not man's sins that are being purged, it is man's spurious works that are being burned and destroyed.

    THE BIBLICAL REBUKE OF PURGATORY

    God's Word leaves absolutely no possibility for sin to be purged away by anything other than the blood of Jesus Christ. The beloved apostle John penned these words with irrefutable clarity. He wrote, "The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" and "all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7,9). John did not say "some" sins or "most" sins, but all sin! This soundly rebukes the need for a sin-purging fire. God's Word also declares, "All things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). When Jesus "made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). Those who desire to have their sins purged need to trust a person, not a place. The blood of Christ is the only cleansing agent for sin! Those who come to the cross of Christ must come with empty hands of faith, bringing nothing but their sins.

    Every blood-bought believer is instantly present with their Redeemer at the moment of death. To be "absent from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6-8). This good news was affirmed by the Lord Jesus with the promise He gave to the repentant thief at Calvary. He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). This habitual sinner did not need a fire to purge his sins.

    Catholics who believe in Purgatory need to be asked: "Who is in charge of releasing souls from the purging fire?" It cannot be God because of His promise to believers. "Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). After conversion, God no longer counts sins against His children (2 Cor. 5:19).

    Purgatory is a travesty on the justice of God and a disgraceful fabrication that robs Christ Jesus of His glory and honor. He alone satisfied divine justice, once and for all, by the perfect and finished sacrifice of Himself. The fatal deception of Purgatory blinds Catholics from the glorious Gospel of grace. It is one of Satan's many lies which keep his captives from knowing and trusting the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. It is Christ alone that will present us "faultless before the presence of his glory" (Jude 24).
    Religion or Relationship
  • This ministry developed as we began inviting all the Roman Catholics we knew into our home to watch a video called Roman Catholicism: Crisis of Faith. The video explains the difference between belonging to a religion and having an intimate relationship with God. Former priests and nuns shared how our Sovereign Lord opened their eyes to see and believe the Gospel of grace. Every Tuesday night we had a different group of Catholics watch the video. Their responses varied from one extreme to the other. Some stormed out of the house very upset and offended, but others stayed to ask questions. We invited the truth seekers to return on Wednesday nights for a Bible study on the Gospel of grace. Within three months we witnessed 17 Catholics exchange their religion for an eternal relationship of peace with their all-sufficient Savior. God was glorified as His Spirit and His Word brought forth new disciples for His Son!

    The Exchange of Religion
    The apostle Paul not only exchanged his religion for an everlasting relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, he considered all his religious accomplishments worthless rubbish. If anyone had reason to boast and be proud of his religious status, it was Paul, "a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:5-6). Yet, he considered all this contemptible compared to changing his relationship with God from one of enmity and hostility to one of peace and harmony (Phil. 3:7-11; Col. 1:20). The notable religious credentials, which he once thought profitable, were actually worthless and damning to his soul (Luke 18:9-14).

    The Bondage of Religion
    True disciples of Jesus are those who have been set free by the truth as they abide in His Word (John 8:31-32). Those who do not know the truth will continue to be enslaved to the bondage of religion. Throughout his- tory, the goal of every religion has been to control people. This has been accomplished with religious traditions, legalism, pride and deception. One example of this fierce religious loyalty is a comment we hear so often from Roman Catholics: "I was born a Catholic, and I will die a Catholic." Yet, true conversion can only take place if they confess: "I was born a sinner and will die a saint." And what a way to die! By God's amazing grace, saints are elected in Christ (Eph. 1:4), called to Christ (1 Cor. 1:9), have believed the truth about Christ (Rom. 10:14-17), have turned to Christ in repentance (1 Pet. 2:25), are justified by the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9), are united with Christ (Gal. 2:20), are being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), are being kept and preserved by Christ (1 John 5:18) and will one day gain the glory of Christ (2 Thes. 2:14). Why would anyone chose to be enslaved to religion when they can become a blessed and privileged slave of the Lord Jesus?

    The End of Religion
    The Lord Jesus Christ never came to start a religion, in fact He put an end to the only religion God ever ordained. Ironically, the rulers of this God-ordained religion had be- come so corrupt they plotted to murder their Messiah (John 11:53). There was no more need for religion after Jesus, the perfect and eternal High Priest offered Himself, the perfect sacrifice, to a perfect God who demands perfection. The veil that once separated sinners from their holy God was torn open from top to bottom (Mat. 27:51). The one mediator between God and man provides access to the Father (1 Tim. 2:5). By faith in the shed blood of Jesus, repentant sinners can enter into the presence of God with confidence (Heb. 10:19-20). No more religion, no more priests offering sacrifices for sin and no more religious rituals or ceremonies. In place of religion, the risen Savior mediates a relationship with God through faith in His one sacrifice for all sin, for all time (Heb. 10:10-18).

    Christianity in its purest form is not a religion but a Spirit-sealed relationship with the God of all creation. Catholicism is Christianity in its most debased form. It became corrupt when it denied the finished and all-sufficient work of Jesus and perverted His Gospel. This warped Gospel of works leads people to a Christ-less eternity. To avoid deception, Christianity instructs people to study the Bible and believe what God says. Religion, on the other hand, requires people to believe what man says God says. When people without discernment, submit to men who are naturally prone to error, they are easily deceived. Catholicism tries to overcome this by declaring its popes are infallible in matters of faith. Christianity is when God's children follow the Lord Jesus, the only one who is immune from error. I will never forget what my uncle, a Catholic priest of 58 years, said after I read to him Scriptures refuting Catholic traditions. He said, "God doesn't mean what He says there; let me tell you what He really means."

    The Deception of Religion
    When you ask most religious people what they are trusting to gain entrance into heaven, they rarely mention the name of Jesus. That's because their religion is ultimately the object of their faith. They trust their self righteous clergy and their religious works and rituals to keep them heaven bound. Tragically, they cannot see the glory and sufficiency of Christ Jesus. They have been blinded from the truth of the Gospel by religious indoctrination, a most effective tool of Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). His primary goal is to con- fuse people by corrupting and mangling truth as much as possible. Many victims of religious indoctrination are content to blindly trust their unregenerate spiritual rulers, who are willfully ignorant of biblical doctrine and are more interested in holding onto their power than seeking the truth. We have found that indoctrination is so powerful that many Catholics refuse to engage in conversations about spiritual issues with non-Catholics. I recall, as a young indoctrinated Catholic, how "lucky" and proud I was to be born into what I was told to be the one true church. I felt sorry for Protestants who were not as "lucky" as I was. So blinded by Catholic traditions, I did not realize my zeal was misdirected. I was honoring God with my lips, but I was submitting to another Lord - a pope.

    The Attraction of Religion
    One of the primary attractions of a religion is its appeal to the flesh. The world tells us that “seeing is believing,” that we must see before we can believe. This explains why it is so easy for religious people to believe what they can see or touch. Catholics worship and consume the Eucharist, a "god" they can see. They go to a priest they can see to receive sacraments they can see to merit the graces necessary for salvation. They light votive candles as a visible sign of their offerings. And yes, they bow down and pray toward statues they can see.
    Those who have a relationship with their Savior walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Since faith is the conviction of things not seen, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (Heb. 11:1; 2 Cor. 4:18). Jesus said only those who believe will see the glory of God (John 11:40).

    All religions teach that you must do things to appease their god or gods. Every religion has a works-based system of righteousness that instructs its followers as to what they must do to achieve spiritual blessings. This checklist mentality appeals to the natural man, but man's best efforts are but filthy rags in the sight of a holy God (Isa. 64:6). Many do their good works because of their zeal for God but they are ignorant of what God's righteousness demands (Rom. 10:1-4). Christianity is set apart from all religions because its founder has done everything necessary for repenting sinners to have a right relationship with God. Spiritual blessings are available by God's grace to all who trust what Jesus Christ has accomplished through His sinless life, death and resurrection. All religions say "DO" but true Christianity says "DONE." Those who desire an eternal relationship with God must trust in what has been done by the Lord Jesus, apart from anything they do for Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    The Loyalty of Religion
    Religion stirs up a passionate loyalty to its rulers instead of to the Lord Jesus Christ. Who can forget the images of Pope John Paul II's funeral? Thousands of misguided Catholics stood in long lines for up to 18 hours to venerate a dead man with an unbiblical rosary in his hands and a twisted crucifix by his side. What a sharp contrast to those who have an everlasting relation- ship with the only Holy Father. They refuse to listen to the voice of robbers who are out to steal and destroy their souls. They flee from them and instead follow the voice of the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep and calls them by name (John 10:3- 11). They come to Him for eternal life mourn- ing over the sins that nailed Him to the cross. They recognize their unworthiness to be in His presence, yet they rejoice in the hope they have in His Word (Psalm 130:5). Christ and His Word are so connected that one can- not have a relationship with Him apart from His Word (John 8:47).

    Those who desire to have a relationship with the true God must seek Him from the only infallible source for truth. All religious teachings, including teachings in this article, must be tested for veracity by searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Those who cling to religious teachings while rejecting God's Word will be condemned on the last day by the very Word they rejected (John 12:48). Conversely, those who believe the Scriptures have been born again through the incorruptible seed which is the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23). As children of God, it is their ambition to be pleasing to the one who set them free from the bondage of religion (2 Cor. 5:9-10).

    In closing, we must take the same approach Jesus did by refuting religious error and op- posing those who spread it. Religion can never save anyone, in fact it cuts them off from God and the saving power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16; 4:2-8). Let us exhort those who are enslaved to their worthless and empty religions to become privileged slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Religious Deception
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Since the earliest times organized religion has displayed a lamentable inability to distinguish between the truth of God's Word and false presentations of it. Satan's strategy to attack, misrepresent and pervert the Christian religion has continued unabated throughout the last 2000 years. It is our duty to expose all forms of deception and warn the victims who have embraced the lie.

    I have compassion for those who are committed to a religion without any real understanding of what the religion is about. For example, to be "committed to Roman Catholicism" simply because a person was born into a Catholic family is foolish. To be loyal to a religion without investigating its core doctrines, its lifeblood, is ignorance masquerading as faithfulness. It is the skin of devotion stuffed with pride, arrogance, and fear.

    I have a deep compassion for "religious" people who mechanically live out their "faith" because they've been told it's the thing to do. People who follow religious leaders and rituals blindly are too proud to admit their lives are empty...too parallized by deceit to investigate the Truth. They do not know why they believe what they do. They have blindly inherited someone else's tradition. Their religion determines their identity and they will defend it even if they are not actively involved in it. Their faith is so "personal" that they dare not speak of it to others? They swallow every false teaching as Truth without question.

    Each individual has a right to embrace God's truth or reject it. But don't expect me or others like me to cheer you on as you stomp proudly toward hell's gates. Expect us to be bitterly angry, savagely grieved, and desperately fighting. We are angry at a very real enemy (the master deceiver) for being such a devious and convincing liar. We are grieved at the destiny you have chosen. We are fighting and praying for your very souls.

    And it is a battle we are determined to continue to fight -- not for ourselves, but for you. If we step on your toes in the process, forgive us. But don't expect us to give up the fight simply because it becomes uncomfortable for you. If our roles were reversed, I hope you would do as much for me. "Pride goes before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). How grievous for the countless millions with religious pride that their fall is into the pit of everlasting torment.
    Religious Pride
  • We are aware of the devil's supernatural power to blind unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4). There are many strategies the master deceiver employs to blind the world from God's truth, but none may be as effective as appealing to man's pride. He uses personal pride to blind people from the conviction of sin, and religious pride to blind them from the only cure for sin. It is no wonder God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6).

    Perils of Pride vs. Blessings of Humility
    The spiritual peril of pride is contrasted with the divine blessings of humility in Luke 18:9- 14. The self-righteous Pharisee was confident of his own righteousness and looked down on others with a prideful heart. The remorseful publican presumed no righteous- ness of his own and was too ashamed of his sin to even look up to heaven. The Pharisee's pride was so great that it blinded him from the conviction of sin and he saw no need for justification. The humbled publican was under full conviction of sin and recognized his unworthiness before God. He confessed his sin and cried out to God for mercy. The puffed-up Pharisee did religious works to justify himself before men, but he went home condemned before God. The publican beat his breast in remorse and brought nothing before God except his sin. Although he was condemned and pitied by the Pharisee, he went home justified by God.

    Religious Pride
    Satan does a masterful job of using man's religions to conceal God's glorious Gospel of grace. He and his servants deceive the unwary through false religious systems including counterfeit forms of Christianity. To be deceived by counterfeit money is a painful experience but only a temporal problem. To be deceived by a counterfeit faith is an eternal tragedy that will result in the most horrifying existence that man could ever experience.

    Religious pride usually takes the form of spiritual arrogance or a fierce, unbending loyalty to an institution. Many Roman Catholics refuse to engage in spiritual conversations with non-Catholics because they are so proud of their religion. They have been indoctrinated into believing they belong to the "one true church." They are convinced that their church is their best hope for making it to heaven. To be deceived about one's relationship with God is the most dangerous and perilous delusion. Those who die in such a state have no recourse and no second chance.

    I witnessed this religious pride in my uncle, a Catholic priest of 61 years. He spent 30 years in southeast Asia leading Hindus and Buddhists to his religion, but not to Jesus Christ. After he returned to America, I was delighted to share God's Gospel with him every time we got together. However, each time he rebuked me with a condescending attitude for daring to question his religion or his position of authority. Blinded by religious pride, he belittled my references to the Gospel of grace because of his stubborn confidence in his priestly rituals and sacraments. Clearly, religious pride is one of the greatest obstacles to genuine saving faith. Many Catholics have an unbending loyalty to earthly priests who offer the same daily sacrifices which can never take away sin (Heb. 10:11).

    Personal Pride
    The prideful arrogance of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency is a great hindrance to recognizing the need for a Savior. Personal pride also blinds men from their sin. They think as long as they are better than most, God will grade them on a curve instead of by the cross. The growing popularity of the gospel of self-esteem is producing a foolish dependence on one's own righteousness. This counterfeit gospel appeals to man's ego and his desire to be master of his own destiny. Victims of an- other gospel do not know about the perfect righteousness that God's righteousness re- quires for entrance into heaven. Instead, they seek to establish their own righteousness (Rom. 10:3). This is why every ungodly religion teaches that man can gain a right stand- ing before God by his own good works and religious rituals. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Catholic Church where Catholics rely on the sacraments, penance, the Mass and indulgences to merit the graces for eternal life. Ask Catholics how they hope to get to heaven and many will pull out their resume and talk about their good works. If they mention the name of Jesus, it is only because He made their salvation possible.
    All religions, apart from Christianity, teach that salvation is dependent upon what man does for God instead of what God has done for man through His only begotten Son. This is why the Gospel is offensive to those who are offensive to God. It strips man of all his "good works" and his feeble efforts to gain salvation, while calling those works filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa. 64:6). Man deceives himself into believing he is good enough when he is not (Gal. 6:3; Rom. 3:23).

    We must encourage others to humble themselves under the sovereign hand of almighty God because He hates pride and arrogance (Prov. 8:13). Every proud person must be
    brought down. "The proud look of man will be abased, and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty" (Isaiah 2:11-12). God will not endure anyone "who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart" (Psalm 101:5).
    L.R. Shelton gave an appropriate warning concerning pride. He said, "The Scriptures not only abound with references which show the Lord's hatred of this sin, but they also describe a proud, haughty, conceited, vain, boastful man as being a child of the devil. Why? Because when Satan was in heaven as the highest created being, his heart was lifted up in pride and he fell to become the deceiver. Yes, ever since that moment of haughtiness when Satan's heart was lifted up with pride, he has sought to blight an- gels and men with the same form of iniquity." Dr. John Ogilvie said, "Pride demands the false worship of ourself. It is the original sin, wanting to be our own gods and run our own lives."

    The Consequence of Pride
    Those who reject the Gospel usually do so because of their pride. It is interesting that the middle letter in both pride and sin is "I." Self-centeredness is at the heart of all sin, including the sin of unbelief. For out of the heart of men comes, among other sins, the sin of pride (Mark 7:21-22). We have heard the proclamations of prideful unregenerate men. "I am my own authority. I am in control. I am good enough. I don't need the Bible. I can live independent of God. I am happy just the way I am." Whenever "I" is on the throne, it causes men to reject God's word and His sovereignty.

    We know from God's word that pride is followed by shame, debasement, wrath and destruction. It not only produces self-deception, but it also leads to a persecuting and brazenly contentious spirit. It is characterized by the devil, false teachers, the unregenerate and those with unteachable spirits. For many people, the greatest obstacle to learning the truth is their prideful insistence that they already know it. Such were the religious leaders of the first century. The Lord Jesus rebuked them soundly, saying, "They do all their deeds to be noticed by men...they love the place of honor at
    banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the mar- ket places" (Mat. 23:5-7). They sought the approval of men over the favor of God. In doing so, they "shut off the kingdom of heaven from men" (Mat. 23:13).

    Another consequence of pride is evident in godless people today - they forget about God. The Word of the Lord says: "They became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me" (Hosea 13:6). Those who are blissfully content rarely recognize the divine source of their blessings or their spiritual needs. For what on earth do we have that did not come from His hands? So often the satisfaction of one's physical needs blinds a person from the more important spiritual need - the need to be forgiven and reconciled to God. The heart attitude of one who is aware of his spiritual need is humility and meekness coupled with a sense of sinfulness and a deep longing for righteousness (Mat. 5:3- 12). The humble are those who are driven to their knees under the weight of their sin. They will cry out for God's mercy (which keeps them from getting what they deserve - hell), and receive His grace (which gives them what they do not deserve - heaven). God extends grace to the humble.

    We should not be surprised that God's adversary uses pride as a means to keep sinners ignorant of the Gospel. The deceiver gives man something to do to appease God so he can boast. The spiritually blind sinner does not know that any attempt to merit salvation actually nullifies God's grace - the only means by which God saves sinners (Rom. 11:6). The only thing a repentant sinner can bring to the cross is his sins. He must leave everything else behind (Eph. 2:8-9).

    Those who have truly been saved by the precious blood of Jesus will boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31). "Let him who boasts boast of this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth" declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24).
    . It is time for the proud to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God and seek His forgiveness. For God will look favorably upon "him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isaiah 66:2).
    Repentance Unto Salvation
  • Followers of Jesus Christ are familiar with the word "repentance" but many are unsure of its biblical meaning or its role in the salvation of sinners. Some would argue passionately that it must be coupled with faith as the only saving response to the Gospel. Others say that repentance is not necessary for the salvation of sinners, only faith (2 Tim 2:25). Consider the importance of repentance in the ministry of our Lord Jesus. The very first word of His very first sermon was "repent" (Mat. 4:17). He later declared that He had come to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). His last sermon to His apostles before ascending into heaven, included a command to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47). This leaves no doubt to the Savior's position on repentance.

    Repentance Defined
    The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament provides an excellent definition of the common Greek word "metanoia" used for repentance in the New Testament. It means "to change one's way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteous- ness." We find in its meaning a conviction that produces action. Such a change is profoundly noted by Paul's description of the Thessalonians: "You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God" (1 Thes. 1:9). These saints displayed three elements of repentance: a turning from sinful behavior, a turning to God and a desire to serve Him. It is impossible to turn to God without turning away from sin. People who continue to live in habitual sin and think they are saved must be warned that Jesus saves us from our sin, not in our sin.

    One of the most gifted preachers of the 17th century, Thomas Watson, defined repentance as a "grace of God’s Spirit, which en- ables a sinner to be inwardly humbled and visibly reformed." Repentance moves a man to recognize the wickedness of his sin which produces godly sorrow and a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Convicted by the Holy Spirit, the sinner acknowledges his sinful nature, confesses his sins and makes a heartfelt plea for God's forgiveness (Psalm 51:1-4; 1 John 1:9; Luke 18:13; Prov. 28:13). Scripture says that a truly repentant person hates the sin he once loved and is ashamed of it (Ezekiel 36:31; Rom. 6:21). He forsakes his wicked ways and turns to God (Isa. 55:7; Acts 26:20). Repentance produces a genuine desire to be victorious over sin and a longing for the day he will be forever delivered from it (1 John 3:3).

    Repentance Produces Change
    Repentance produces not only a change in mind, but it also leads to a changed heart and life (Isa. 55:7). Intellectually, repentance sees sin as an affront to our holy God and Creator. The sinner understands that his sin has separated him from God and caused enmity with God. God's Word instructs him to turn to Christ as his only hope. No one can cling to their sin and to Christ because "the mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life" (Rom. 8:6).

    Emotionally, repentance is accompanied by sorrow because sin has greatly offended our loving and gracious God. This sorrow, in and of itself, is not repentance because people can have sorrow and not repent. Judas is an example of one who felt great remorse but did not repent (Mat. 27:3). When repentance is produced from godly sorrow, according to the will of God, it leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). God's kindness is meant to lead sinners to repentance, but a stubborn and unrepentant heart stores up His wrath for the day of judgment (Rom. 2:4-5).

    Volitionally, repentance produces a transformation of the will which will be evidenced by a change in direction and purpose (Rom. 6:6; 12:2). The change in behavior is not repentance; it is the fruit that repentance brings forth. The Lord Jesus gave an example of this fruit when "the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah" (Mt. 12:41). After Jonah preached, the Ninevites' king issued this proclamation: "'Let everyone call urgently on God...so that we will not perish.' When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened" (Jonah 3:8b- 10). According to Jesus, who is our ultimate authority for faith, their repentance produced fruit; they turned from evil ways.

    Whenever God grants repentance, a vivid contrast is observed between the life that was once dominated by the power of darkness and the new life in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:13; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Pet. 4:1-4). The law is a tutor to bring men to Christ through repentance and faith (Gal. 3:24). Each conversion will be vindicated by works of repentance and obedience (Acts 26:20; Rom. 6:17). God saves us the way we are, but He never leaves us the way we were (1 Thes. 4:3). Those whom God loves, He reproves and disciplines to bring them to repentance (Rev. 3:19). Salvation is not just from the punishment of sin, but also from the power of sin. Those who are saved through Christ will turn from sin to be saved from it. This can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit who converts slaves of unrighteousness to slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18).

    Repentance and Faith
    It has often been said that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin: distinctively different yet inseparable. They are both sovereignly granted by God at the moment of conversion (Acts 11:18; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29). Once received, these divine gifts continue to be manifested throughout the life of believers (Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 12:1-2). It is biblically inconsistent and theologically problematic to suppose that anyone could believe in the Lord Jesus yet not repent. After all, repentance includes turning from unbelief to belief in the Lord Jesus (Mat. 21:32). Genuine saving faith is always accompanied by repentance. Paul testified to both Jews and Gentiles of "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). Faith that is not grounded in repentance is not genuine God-given faith. Those who refuse to repent should fear God's wrath in the day of judgment (Mat. 11:20-24).

    Repentance is a Divine Command
    Paul wrote: "God...commands all men every- where to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:30-31). Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, our Lord commanded, "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:22). Our Lord began His earthy ministry with the command: "Repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). He also commanded the churches at Ephesus, Sardis and Pergamum to repent (Rev. 2:5;16; 3:3). Sinners are commanded to turn from sin to the Savior to escape the coming judgment. Tragically, the call to repentance is the critical truth that is most often left out of Gospel preaching and evangelism. Yet Luke's account of the Great Commission includes a mandate to preach repentance (Luke 24:47).

    The Importance of Repentance
    In Peter's first two sermons he commanded his listeners to repent for the forgiveness and expiation of their sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19). On another occasion, when Simon the magi- cian sinned by trying to buy God's power with his money, Peter called him to "repent from his wickedness" (Acts 8:22). Peter also taught that repentance is necessary for salvation: "The Lord...is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). This beautiful insight into the long-suffering and com- passionate nature of God shows the importance of repentance. Our Lord gave specific instructions to the apostles on how to evangelize and then sent them out into the world preaching "men should repent" (Mark 6:12).
    Responding to the True Gospel
  • My heart is burdened for the many professing Christians who have never experienced the second birth (1 Pet. 1:23). They are all tragic victims of a subtle yet potentially fatal deception. Unless they are confronted with the truth, they will one day hear the most terrifying words anyone could ever hear when Jesus says: "I never knew you; depart from Me" (Mat. 7:23). These precious souls have either been led astray by a false gospel or manipulated to make a decision by unbiblical methods of evangelism. The blame must fall on church leaders who have discarded God's blueprint for building His church and have created their own. These men have discovered they can gain a larger following by making the Gospel more appealing and more inclusive. By broadening the narrow road, they have found out they can build bigger churches for themselves. Little do they know, they are helping Satan plant his tares among the wheat (Mat. 13:38-40). The devil loves to see false converts deceiving and being deceived in the name of Christ.

    The strategy of Satan has been consistent for 2000 years. He continues to raise up false apostles, who influence false teachers to teach false gospels about false christs for the purpose of producing false Christians with a false hope. The apostle Paul saw this happening and warned us. The same serpent who deceived Eve by his craftiness also sends deceivers to preach another Jesus and a different gospel (2 Cor. 11:3-4). Satan hates the Gospel of grace and has been using men filled with religious pride to pervert the message ever since it was first announced. That is why Paul informed us that the Gospel he preached was not according to man's traditions or philosophy. He received it directly from God through a pure revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).

    Some church leaders feel that the best way to win more people to Christ is to exchange God's Gospel for an "easy to believe" gospel. This watered-down version of the Gospel is hardly worth living for and certainly not worth dying for. Yet, it is gaining popularity within evangelical circles and must be exposed and confronted. The three major areas of compromise include: 1) the Christ of the Gospel; 2) the promises of the Gospel and 3) the response to the Gospel.

    The Christ of the Gospel

    There are some Christian leaders who have found the Gospel is easier to believe if they present a generic god without holiness and a partial Christ without authority. They say you don't have to make Jesus your Lord as long as you believe He is your Savior. Such a teaching is foreign to the Word of God. Paul said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31). Jesus Christ is repeatedly and resolutely revealed in Scripture as our Master, our Creator, our King, our Ruler and our sovereign Lord. Paul addressed Jesus as Lord over 200 times in his 13 epistles.

    Still others deny that Jesus really is who He said He is. This is a fatal mistake because Jesus declared, "Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). Jesus made it clear that He is the only way to the Father when He announced, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John14:6). The very words of Christ declare thatHe is the only valid object of saving faith. Yet there are some popular pastors and evangelists who foolishly teach that sinners can be saved apart from Jesus Christ. Why would anyone deny, discredit and dishonor the Lord Jesus this way? Might it be so that they can loved and admired by a greater number of people?

    The cults deny the Christ of the Gospel by teaching that Jesus is not the eternal God of the Trinity. Mormons, for example, teach that Jesus is a created being (conceived by a physical sex act between God the Father and Mary) and is the elder brother of Lucifer, who became one of many gods.

    There are other false religions who uphold the name of Jesus Christ but deny He is able to save sinners totally and completely. The Roman Catholic Church is the greatest of- fender by requiring sacraments (1129), indulgences (1498) and good works (2016) for the forgiveness and remission of sin. Catholicism also blatantly denies that the blood of Jesus purifies all sin (1 John 1:7). A safety net called Purgatory is provided for Catholics. This fictitious place is said to purge away the sins that Christ failed to purge (1030). The numbers in parenthesis represent para- graphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Those who believe the Jesus of the Gospel will trust His righteousness, not their own; His finished work on the cross, not the Catholic Mass; His power to keep them, not the sacraments; His blood to purify sin, not purgatory; His Word to guide them, not the traditions of men and His grace to save them, not their merit. Those who do not trust Jesus need another gospel to tell them what they must do to be saved. Whenever Jesus is de- throned, denied or diminished, the promises of the Gospel can never be realized.

    The Promise of the Gospel

    Everlasting, never-ending, eternal life with the Savior is the glorious promise of the Gospel, yet the majority of professing Christians believe they can lose their salvation. This is because they do not know or trust the glorious Christ of the Gospel. Paul knew Him well, which prompted him to write: "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim. 1:2).The eternal Gospel of our eternal God promises every believer eternal life and eternal glory in God's eternal kingdom (Rev. 14:6; Rom. 16:26; 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet.1:11). The Lord Jesus promises to lose not one that the Father gives Him (John 6:39). His promise to every believer is this: "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). Neither sin nor anything else will separate a believer from God’s love (Rom. 8:38- 39). This glorious truth is guaranteed be- cause God’s forgiveness is given freely and completely at the moment of faith and is se- cured forever for all past and future sins (Col. 2:13-14). Everyone who believes the promises of the Gospel possess eternal redemption through the eternal Spirit who guarantees an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:12-15; Eph. 1:14). God's promises to every believer are backed up by His eternal power (1 Peter 3:5). This is why Paul declared: "Your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5). The world, through its wisdom, does not come to know God. Tragically many professing Christians choose to trust the wisdom of man rather than the promises and power of God revealed in His Gospel. Those who reject the promise of eternal life have believed another gospel and trusted another Christ (1 Cor. 15:2).

    The Response to the Gospel

    Many Christians have substituted God's blueprint for evangelism with methods of their own in order to fabricate a greater number of decisions. Instead of following the biblical model for evangelism, demonstrated by the early disciples who were trained by the Lord Jesus, the modern church has in- vented its own traditions. Rather than call- ing sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, evangelicals are asking unbelievers to repeat a prayer, sign a card, raise their hand, come forward or "accept" (rather than trust) Jesus as their Savior. None of these modern traditions have any biblical foundation. Not only do they dishonor the Savior, but they often mislead souls into a false hope of salvation. No one has the right to lower God's entrance requirements into His King- dom. Unless we evangelize God's way, we run the serious risk of deceiving people about their eternal destiny. True saving faith always involves repentance (Acts 20:21).

    Biblical evangelism requires making disciples not decisions. This involves teaching people to observe all that Christ commanded (Mat. 28:18-20). His first command was to “Repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Repentance is a change in mind that is granted by God and leads to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 2:25). It results in turning from idols to God, from dead works to faith, from sin to righteousness and from the traditions of men to Christ and His Word (Acts 26:20; 2 Cor. 12:21; Col. 2:8; 1 Thes. 1:9; Heb. 6:1). The importance of calling sinners to repentance is also confirmed in the last command Jesus gave: "Repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations" (Luke 24:47). Remember, Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). Those who respond to the Gospel with repentance and faith will depart from the kingdom of dark- ness and follow the Light of the world (John 8:12). They will gladly get off the broad road to destruction and enter the narrow way that leads to life everlasting (Mat. 7:13-14).

    Biblical evangelism also requires teaching people the attributes of God. The God who created us is also the One who will judge us. He is majestic in holiness (Exo. 15:11). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne and He will not let sin go unpunished (Psalm 97:2; Rom. 6:23). He is sovereign, and everyone is accountable to Him (Dan. 4:35; Heb. 4:13). The Father demonstrates His love by sending His Son to die for His people (Rom. 5:8). God opposes the proud but extends His grace to the humble (Luke 18:14; Jas. 4:6). By His mercy He saves believers from the eternal lake of fire (Titus 3:5). Modern evangelism puts too much emphasis on God's love and too little on His holiness and righteous justice. This is a stark contrast to first century evangelism where, in the Book of Acts, the word "love" is never even mentioned. Clearly, without a true and balanced knowledge of all God's attributes, sinners will not know Whom they have of- fended. Nor will they know Who condemns them with eternal punishment or Whom they must call on to be saved. The world is perishing for a lack of the knowledge of God.

    May we all examine our faith and practice to ensure that it conforms to God's Word. Have we trusted the Christ of the Gospel and believed the glorious and infallible promises of the Gospel? Are we calling people to respond to the Gospel God's way? Let us all obey from the heart the doctrine to which we were delivered (Rom. 6:17).
    Remember the Reformation
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    During the month of October each year, it is good to remember the spark that ignited the Reformation 496 years ago. It was October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the Castle Church door of Wittenberg.

    That church had over 1900 relics of dead saints on display. Catholics were granted indulgences for the remission of sins if they viewed the relics and made a confession. Luther became the center of a great controversy when his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. His initial protest exposed the pope's abominable practice of selling salvation from purgatory's fire for the price of indulgences. Many evangelicals today have either forgotten the Reformation or believe it was a mistake to divide the church. Others are denying that his first thesis, affirmed by Scripture, is not necessary for salvation. Luther's first thesis was: "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said 'Repent', He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

    Seven years earlier in 1510, Luther was sent to Rome. While there, he climbed Pilate's staircase on his knees, believing each step would take away one year in purgatory. Then God's Word gave him understanding of the Scripture, "The just shall live by faith." Eventually Luther's study of Scripture led him to oppose Roman Catholicism on issues pertaining to the supreme authority of Scripture and the doctrine of Justification. Catholic bishops had perverted the way a sinner can be made right with God by denying it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Luther rebuked them with the clear teaching from God's Word. Justification, which is God's declaration that believers are forgiven of sin and counted righteous in His sight, occurs at the moment God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believer (2 Cor. 5:21).

    In August of 1518, Luther was pronounced a heretic without a defense. On the same day he was accused, judged and condemned by the so-called "Holy Father," the only supreme, infallible authority in church or state! Indeed the true spirit of popery was on display. Not a trace of Christian principle, or even of common justice, was witnessed in the process. In October of that year, Luther's trial began at Augsburg, and Cardinal Cajetan ordered Luther to recant his views on indulgences and papal infallibility. If he refused, he was to be excommunicated and share the same brutal fate as Jon Huss. Luther frustrated the Cardinal by answering all objections using Scripture as his authority. Needless to say, the large assembly of people had the opportunity to compare the two men, and to judge the spirit manifested in them. What a stark contrast! Luther was humble, firm and steadfast in the strength of God and with truth on his side. The Cardinal was self-important, overbearing, haughty, and unreasonable, without a single argument from Scripture.

    In March of 1521, the emperor called Luther to the Diet of Worms to plead his case. Knowing his life would be in danger, Luther responded, "I place the matter in the Lord's hands. If He will not save me, my life is of little consequence. Let us only prevent the Gospel from being exposed to the scorn of the wicked, and let us shed our blood for it, for fear they should triumph. It is not for me to decide whether my life or my death will contribute most to the salvation of all. You may expect everything from me except flight and recantation." A month later at the Diet of Worms, Charles V asked Luther to recant his heretical doctrines. He responded, "I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as day, they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture...I cannot and will not retract. Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God, Amen."

    As we reflect on God's sovereignty in the many blessings we have gained from the Reformation, let us encourage one another to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. It is the same faith that the Reformers gave their lives defending.
    Rescuing Souls
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Rescuing Precious Souls from the Bondage of Religion

    We can be wrong about a lot of things in this life and still survive, but if we are wrong about the only way to obtain forgiveness from God, we will pay for that fatal mistake throughout all eternity. Our Creator provides only one way to redeem man from sin and He has revealed it in a divinely inspired message to mankind. However, it didn't take long for God's complete and perfect Gospel message to be corrupted by religious leaders. These men, who say they speak for God, have distorted and perverted this good news of God's mercy and grace. Their unstated goal has been to control people by keeping them in legalistic bondage to their authority. The Lord Jesus revealed the only way of escape from this bondage. He said: "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32).

    Establish the SupremeAuthority for Truth

    Reaching those who are being held captiveby religious indoctrination must always begin by establishing the Bible as the supremeauthority for knowing God's Gospel. Christand His Word must rule over man's religioustraditions because God has exalted His Wordabove all things (Psalm 138:2). The word ofGod is infallible and has no equal (Isa. 55:10).The Bible is the most authoritative, influential and powerful book ever written. It is thestandard for discerning truth from error(1 John 4:6). It is sufficient to function as thesole, infallible rule of faith (2 Tim. 3:14-16).The Bible does not refer us to any other ruleof faith because everything we must know,understand and believe to be reconciled toGod is found in Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

    Whenever we are confronted by two or more opinions, we must always ask, "But what does the Scripture say?" (Gal. 4:30).

    What About The Traditions of Men?

    Roman Catholics reject the supreme authority of Scripture by elevating their tradition to the same level of authority. They defend their position by quoting St. Paul who wrote: "Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (2 Thes. 2:15). But we must make a distinction between traditions which had already been taught by the apostles in the first century and the traditions established by men over the last 1900 years (2 Cor. 11:2 ; 2 Thes. 3:6).

    Clearly there are certain apostolic traditions recorded in Scripture that Christians must embrace, but not all traditions are biblical. Paul encouraged us to make this distinction. He wrote: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col. 2:8). Paul is warning us that we can become ensnared by the traditions of men when they do not conform to Christ and His word. Tradition must always be subservient to Scripture because God's word is divinely inspired while tradition is not.

    What About "Infallible" Men?

    Roman Catholics also reject the supremeauthority of Scripture by elevating its "infallible" bishops to be equal in authority. Inpractice, the bishops actually sit aboveScripture by declaring no one else can givean authentic interpretation of the Word of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 85). Yet the Apostle Paul commended the Bereans (who were not bishops) for interpreting the Scriptures to verify the truthfulness of his teaching. "Now the Bereans ... received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). It is quite clear that the apostle, who penned over half the New Testament, encouraged his listeners to submit to the supreme authority of the Hebrew Scriptures. The veracity of every man's message must be tested with the same Scriptural authority.

    Getting the Gospel Right

    Once the supreme authority of Scripture has been communicated to Catholics who are enslaved to another authority, the Gospel of God can be heralded. It is wise to present God's Gospel in contrast to Rome's plan of salvation so Catholics can discern the difference. The distinction between the two gospels can best be described as the difference between divine accomplishment and human achievement. The true Gospel describes what God has done through Jesus Christ to save sinners, while the gospel of Rome describes what man must do for God. Paul defines the Gospel according to Scripture alone (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The glorious Gospel of grace is what one perfect man did 2000 years ago to reconcile sinful man to God. It has nothing to do with what any imperfect man has done since, or is doing now. This eliminates all the requirements Roman Catholics have added to the finished work of Jesus Christ. It also eliminates Catholic priests making daily sin offerings on their altars.

    Catholics Are Totally Dependent

    Upon An Illegitimate Priesthood One of the most controlling elements of the Roman Catholic religion is its indoctrination concerning the priesthood. Each Catholic is taught that their salvation is utterly dependent upon the ministry of their priests. According to the unbiblical teachings of Rome, it is the Catholic priest who baptizes infants for their justification and spiritual birth, the priest who hears confession and demands penance as the satisfaction for sin, the priest who dispenses Jesus in the Eucharist, the priest who imparts the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation, the priest who gives Last Rites, and the priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass for souls suffering in purgatory. What a fatal deception!

    There is no longer a need for priests offering sacrifices for sin because by one offering Jesus Christ has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). At the very moment our Lord Jesus gave up His Spirit on Calvary's cross, the veil of the temple was tom in two from top to bottom (Mat. 27:51). The veil that separated sinful man from the Holy of Holies was ripped open, and now, anyone washed by the blood of Christ can come boldly into the presence of God. When Jesus, our High Priest, offered Himself once for all sin for all time, he made the sacrificial priesthood obsolete. Every believer in Jesus Christ has been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb.10:10).

    The illegitimacy and obsolescence of the Roman Catholic priesthood is also expressly noted by the sovereign and exclusive work of the triune God in saving sinners. It is God the Father who chooses, calls and draws the lost to His Son (John 6:44; Jas. 2:5). The Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin and the coming judgment (John 16:8-11). Jesus Christ is proclaimed through His Word as the only way of salvation (John 14:6). God gives life to those dead in sin and grants the sinner repentance and faith (Rom. 4:17; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:25). Jesus exchanges His righteousness for the sins of the believer (2 Cor. 5:21). The Holy Spirit seals, indwells and empowers the justified believer (Eph. 1:13-14, Rom. 8). The Father adopts, secures and glorifies His children (John 1:12; Rom. 8:30). Clearly, God alone is deserving of all glory! (Rom. 11:36). He alone is worthy to be praised!

    Peter expressed the bondage that enslaves religious leaders who exchange the truth of God for the fatal errors of men. He wrote: "Speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Pet. 2:18-20).

    How Can We Rescue ThesePrecious Souls?

    Paul provides the answer! "The Lord's bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kindto all, able to teach, patient when wronged,with gentleness correcting those who are inopposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26). We must take note of the correct way to approach those who are being deceived by the clever, scheming, and subtle lies of the devil. We must lovingly confront them with gentleness, patience and humility and avoid being quarrelsome or argumentative. As we correct them, we must use the Scriptures and avoid giving our own opinions, experiences or philosophy. Saving faith comes from hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17).

    Liberty from the bondage of sin and deception is found only in Christ. The Father sent Him to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and to set free those who are downtrodden (Luke 4:18). Jesus also came to give sight to the blind because a veil of spiritual blindness covers every man's heart. However there is one condition that must be met: Paul declares: "whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16). This means turning from fallible men and their traditions and turning to Christ and His infallible word!
    Responding in Faith
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    There is no greater joy than seeing God reconciling the world to Himself and no greater privilege than to be used by Him as He accomplishes His purpose. Such was the experience last month, as 19 soul winning, Gospel proclaiming, church planters traveled to Acapulco, Mexico for eight earnest days of laboring in fields white for harvest. Working with the local Bethel Baptist Church we saw 198 people make a decision to trust Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation. Almost all the new believers had been baptized Roman Catholics, so their decision involved repentance from things that could never save them and turning to Jesus, the only One who saves completely, those who come to God through Him. Many of our team of 19 missionaries had never witnessed the awesome display of God's sovereignty, the penetrating power of His Word, and the sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit in a way that brought such joy to so many! All week long we praised God for His amazing grace. Following are some lasting impressions...

    How God sovereignly accomplishes His purpose

    About a month before the trip, Jim Spoontz of Global Missions Fellowship, asked me if I would teach the members of his team how they could be effective witnesses to the predominately Roman Catholic population in Mexico. So, two weeks before the trip we gathered at Denton Bible Church and I explained the Catholic plan of salvation to them and the Scriptures they could use to bring Catholics to repentance. After the session, Jim said, "Wouldn't it be nice if God would provide a way financially for Mike to go on the missions trip with us? Why don't we pray about it?" Someone commented there's not the much time, everything must be turned in within 6 days. Jim said, "Yes, but look what God accomplished in 6 days, He made the heavens and the earth." After the prayer, Graciela Lugo, who was not going on the trip, but was invited by a friend to learn about witnessing to Catholics, asked Jim how much it would cost to send Mike. When Jim responded it would cost $985, Graciela said, "I can write a check for that amount. God has laid it on my heart that Mike needs to go with you." There was complete silence in the room as everyone was in awe of what God had accomplished so quickly. What a mighty God we serve. We were worried about six days and it took only six minutes to stir the heart of one of His children.

    How God sovereignly directs our steps

    On Monday morning, our first day of door to door evangelism in a remote village of Acapulco, God directed our team to a lady who welcomed us into her home. She said she had tried Catholicism and then Mormonism but she still had a yearning desire to know God. Within 30 minutes of hearing how much God loved her and what Christ had accomplished for her, she wanted to know how she could receive Jesus as her Savior. The name of this precious soul, the very first woman to be saved on our trip, and the one who was most anxious to know God, was Graciela! Was this a coincidence...the name of the one who sponsored me and the name of the first lady to trust Christ were identical? I believe it was the hand of God affirming His glorious sovereignty. One of the team members, Lily Schafler, said it appears God is leading us from "grace to grace."

    After Graciela prayed to receive the gift of eternal life, she asked us to tell her 12 year old daughter about Jesus. Within an hour Adriana also prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. The next day Graciela was handing out tracts and inviting friends to the Bible studies we held each evening in the village.

    On God's amazing grace in the midst of extreme poverty

    One of the families from Bethel Baptist that I evangelized with during the week and who hosted the evening neighborhood Bible studies in their home, lived in a 3 room "open air" house with no plumbing and no fans. The intense 95 degree heat and humidity caused continuous perspiration and fatigue. The environment, along with our constant battle with the flies, which were everywhere, made the conditions miserable. But God's grace sustained us and helped us focus on the work He had prepared in advance for us to do. As poverty stricken as our host family was, we were made aware of a more severe case when a 75 pound mother of 6 came by after lunch to see if there were any scraps or leftovers that she could take home to feed her family.

    A most unique place for a Gospel presentation

    On Wednesday morning, I went to Christo Rey Catholic Church to share the Gospel with the parish priest. Since he was unavailable I engaged a young man by the name of Abbey to sit with me in a pew in front of a 6 foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary. I laid out on the floor eight cards that represent what most Catholics are trusting in for their salvation. I asked Abby to point to the ones he believed were necessary to get to heaven. After picking six of the cards, I pointed Abbey to Scripture after Scripture that began to show him the errors of his faith. One by one he transferred his trust from things that could not save him to the only name under heaven by which he could be saved. I witnessed the power of God's word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit as he repented from trusting in his devotion to Mary, baptism, obeying the commandments, good works and church membership as the means for his salvation. He then prayed to receive Jesus Christ as His Savior. Praise God that He saves people in the midst of idolatry and apostasy.

    The most blasphemous thing I have ever seen

    Saturday afternoon I asked a bilingual friend, Alejandro Schafler, to go with me to the Cathedral to see if we could engage the archbishop of Acapulco in a gospel presentation. While we were in the Cathedral we observed not only all the offensive statues and shrines of the Virgin Mary, but an incredible sight that caused us to swell with anger. There was a sealed glass coffin containing a life-sized statue depicting the body of Christ, lying on its back, in a white robe, its face stained with blood and a crown of thorns on its head. One of its hands was outstretched and grasping several pesos (the paper currency of Mexico). In front of the coffin was an offering box for the congregation to give in exchange for God's mercy and grace. As we stood there several women wiped their hands on the coffin, and then on their face. I began to grieve for the poor blind souls who are held captive by the blatant deception and blasphemy of the Catholic Church. Is there no end to what Rome will indulge in to hold its people in spiritual darkness?

    The commitment of GMF to make disciples

    Whereas many para-church organizations are more focused on making "decisions for Christ," I was encouraged that Global Missions Fellowship is focused on obeying the Great Commission. They are committed to work through strong evangelical churches in major cities of the world to make "disciples of Christ." After the Acapulco campaign GMF commissioned the local church to disciple the new believers through cell churches and Bible studies in the neighborhoods where we worked. GMF will provide financial support to help the local church's discipleship program over the next 12 months.

    This short term missions trip to Mexico culminated Friday evening in a joyful victory celebration at the church. All the new believers, the American team and members of the local church joined hearts in singing praises to the Lord of the Harvest for His amazing grace. It was a week I will never forget, nor will I ever forget the precious saints we left behind to carry on God's work in a country overcome with intense spiritual darkness. Will you kindly pray for these new believers, that the seeds we planted will grow strong roots in fertile soil, and bear fruit of its own?
    Salvation Apart From Christ?
  • Written by Tom Watson

    On May 31, 1995 the Vatican Information Service released these words from Pope John Paul II: "The gift of salvation cannot be limited to those who, in an explicit way, believe in Christ and have entered the church. If salvation is destined for all, it should be in reach of all...the divine plan has also predisposed a path of salvation for those who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and do not see themselves as Christians." Official Roman teaching states there is salvation apart from Christ. How does the Pope allow access to salvation to all -- even those apart from Christ? In a separate Vatican release, the Pope amplifies Mary's role in the salvation process when he depicted her as "the spiritual mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and for all humanity." Official Roman Catholic teaching is that salvation is not available to all only through Christ but is available to all through Mary.

    The Lord of Romanism is incapable of saving all and incapable of saving any apart from Mary. This is not the Lord of Scripture. This heresy continues to damn millions. So we have been told we should unite with Catholics, because we have only petty differences. We have misunderstood them and they have changed. This is quite different from saying that yes, there are some Catholics who are truly saved. But what is really uniting Evangelicals and Catholics together? The answer is subtle but simple. It is a new morality. When morality becomes an end in itself then all who unite toward that end become your brothers. This new morality has not only the potential to unite Catholics and evangelicals - but all religions of the world.

    This new morality redefines the believer. In a Christianity Today article, entitled Why Catholics Are Our Allies, Chuck Colson states believers are "on the front lines battling such issues as abortion, pornography, and threats to religious liberty." He goes on to make these statements: "Our best weapon is the distinctiveness of Christian truth, expressed in unity by all true believers . . . And let's be certain that we are firing our polemical rifles against the enemy, not against those fighting in the trenches alongside us in defense of the Truth."

    When we join the culture war and jump in the trenches with Roman Catholics, which truth is Colson asking us to fight for: The "truth" that justification involves more than faith alone or the Truth that one is justified by faith alone (sola fide)? The "truth" that church tradition and the Magisterium have authority over Scripture or the Truth that Scripture stands as the final authority (sola scriptura)? The "truth" that salvation involves infant baptism, the Eucharist, and other works or the Truth that one is saved by grace alone (sola gratio)?

    One must remember that one-third of the Moral Majority was Roman Catholics. There is a major difference between coming together for a common cause as opposed to redefining who a Christian is by a common cause. This new morality makes all who join in it your brother regardless of their position concerning the Gospel, regardless of their theological belief. The Vatican Information Service issued a statement that John Paul's ambitions for the millennial year are vast and include having a summit of all the monotheistic religions on Mount Sinai. How could the Pope, who is the world leader in ecumenism, pull this off? In January, this year, Pope John Paul ended his trip to Africa with a call for the world's great religions to unite on behalf of sharing moral values. He was addressing Hindu and Buddhist leaders. Unity and Oneness, not in the gospel, not in doctrine, but in shared moral values! Pope John Paul's moral basis for unity comes across strongly in his recent best-seller, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, and a strong papal letter released by the Vatican called That They May Be One.

    For years theologians have searched for an answer to the question of how all the religions of the world could be brought together to fulfill Revelation 17:15. In recent years, many thought it would be the Charismatic movement. This movement may have crossed all denominations, but because of its extremes it has its limits. It has the potential to redefine who "believers" really are. It has the potential to change the mission of the church. It has the potential to unite all religions of the world, and its well on its way.

    --editor's note--

    Unity to fight immorality and social injustice is a good cause but never at the risk of compromising the Gospel. The above article was taken from the publication, The Redefining of a Christian, with permission of the author, Pastor Tom Watson.
    Satan's Assaults
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Satan's Six Strategic Assaults on the Christian Faith

    Some evangelical leaders have been joyfully announcing there is a great spiritual revival taking place in our country. However, a closer and more discerning look reveals there is a countless infiltration of deceivers masquerading as messengers of Christ who are counterfeiting the Christian faith. "And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (2 Cor. 11:14). These legions of liars are all part of Satan's insidious assault on the only true faith. Satan's ultimate goal is to thwart God's harvest of lost souls by holding them captive with his fatal lies. His relentless at¬tacks are strategically aimed at six targets.
    • The Supremacy of God's Word
    • The Sufficiency of God's Son
    • The Singularity of God's Gospel
    • The Sovereignty of God's Grace
    • The Security of God's Children
    • The Sanctity of God's Church
    • The Supremacy of God's Word

    Satan's all out assault on the Word of God began in the Garden of Eden. Disguised as a charming serpent, he persuaded Eve to dis¬miss God's word and believe his lie. First he created doubt by asking: "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?" (Gen. 3:1). Then Satan convinced Eve that God's word was not true and could not be trusted. He said: "You surely shall not die!" (Gen. 3:4).

    Now the Father of Lies uses this same strategy to deceive the world through all of his religions. He uses religious leaders to ask: "Has God indeed said, 'The wages of sin is death"? (Rom. 6:23). Then speaking through the Roman Catholic Church, he says: "You surely shall not die - venial sins do not bring (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], para. 1863).

    Satan's attack on the word of God is understandable because it is the supreme authority for the Christian faith and it brings forth eternal life to those who believe it (1 Pet. 1:23). Nothing else possesses its divine character. Scripture is absolutely trustworthy because it is true and given by the inspiration of God (2. Tim. 3:16; John 17:17). The Bible is also the only book that foretells the future and it does so with great precision and detail. It is sacred and never to be altered (Prov. 30:6). In fact, God gave a strong rebuke to those who would pervert the Word of God with the words of men (Jer. 23:36).

    Yet Roman Catholic bishops have chosen to do just that. They dare to say their traditions, which they have foolishly added to Scripture, make up one single deposit of the World of God (CCC, 97). By doing this the bishops have elevated their tradition to the same authority as Scripture and, to their advantage, have become the supreme authority for the Catholic faith (CCC, 85). When ever the supreme authority of God is replaced by the authority of men, the perversion of biblical doctrines runs rampant.

    The Sufficiency of God's Son

    The adversary's attack on God's Son is skillful because Jesus is Author and Perfecter of the Christian faith. He alone is able and sufficient to save sinners completely from sin (Heb. 7:25). His one offering for sin makes believers perfect forever (Heb. 10:14). His blood is sufficient to purify every believer from ever sin (1 John 1:7). His death was sufficient to cancel the eternal sin debt of every believer (Col. 2:14). Paul described the sufficiency of Jesus when he wrote: "In Him you have been made complete" (Col 2:10). Every spiritual blessing that anyone could ever desire or need is found in Christ Jesus.

    For these reasons Satan attacks the sufficiency of Christ with a vengeance. The prince of this world has convinced many that they need Christ plus psychology, or Christ plus rituals and sacraments, or Christ plus purgatory and indulgences, or Christ plus law-keeping and good works. His agents deny Christ's work of redemption is finished. They foolishly believe they have the power to call the Lord Jesus back down from heaven to offer Him again and again on their altars. These slanderous assaults on the sufficiency of Christ not only rob the truth Jesus of His glory but point the lost to another Jesus who is unable to save them without help from others (2 Cor. 11:4). Satan offers other mediators but God has given us only One (1 Tim 2:5). Satan offers other saviors but God has given only one Name (Acts 4:12). Ministers of the devil who deny the sufficiency of God's Son must preach another gospel to instruct people what they must do to be saved. Another Jesus always produces another gospel.

    The Singularity of God's Gospel

    You would think Paul's undisputed condemnation of the Judaizers for perverting the Gospel would keep the Gospel pure within the professing church. However, the Gospel of Rome is a much greater distortion. It requires Catholics to receive sacraments, keep the law, attend weekly sacrifices and do works of mercy for their salvation (CCC, para. 815; 1032; 1129; 2068). Satan's relentless assaults against the Gospel continues to come from two distinct enemies - legalism, which is most prominent in Roman Catholicism, and antinomianism, which is most noticeable throughout liberal Protestantism. Those who teach antinomianism distort the Gospel by declaring any person who has been justified by faith in Christ is no longer obligated to obey the moral law. The apostle Paul corrected this ungodly doctrine in 1 Cor. 5-6.

    Whenever the "Father of Lies" enters the pulpit, he does not deny the Gospel but perverts it with additions or subtractions. Any perversion of the Gospel is ultimately the Devil's delusion which keeps his captives in bondage. With so many perversions in the church today, there is a desperate need for the preaching of the pure Gospel of God. It alone has the power to save sinners from the punishment, power and ultimately, the presence of sin (Rom. 1:16).

    The Sovereignty of God's Grace

    One of the strongest expressions of God's sovereign grace is given by Paul: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world... In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). Clearly it is the will of God, not man's will that determines who will be graciously adopted into The Father's eternal family (John 1:12-13). Yet the Roman Catholic Church rejects God's sovereignty and teaches it is the will of man that determines who becomes a child of God. Consider the teachings of Rome: "Baptism... makes the neophyte a new creature, an adopted son of God ... and co-heir with Him" (CCC, 1265). "The church and the parents, would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God, were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth" (CCC, 1250).

    Sovereign grace is the only means by which our merciful God saves sinners (Eph. 2:8-9). Satan, being fully aware of this, created a false way of salvation which nullifies or suspends God's saving grace. His system of works-righteousness is found in all the religions of the world. From Buddhism to Zoroastrianism, the devil's influence is found in teachings that say you must do good works to merit God's favor or appease His justice.

    The Security of God's Children

    The Prince of Darkness knows he can never kidnap the children of God who have been delivered into the glorious light of the Son, but he can make their walk ineffective. His most effective tool is deception. He uses false teachers to lie about the power and promises of God which are explicitly revealed in the Gospel of grace. The very promise of the Gospel is eternal life backed up by the power of Almighty God to keep those He has saved. This divine gift of everlasting life can never be lost, revoked or rejected once received (John 10:28; Rom. 11:29). Christians who are uncertain about the eternal duration of their salvation are often paralyzed in their walk with Christ. They stumble in doubt and feel defenseless against the attacks of Satan.

    The Sanctity of God's Church

    As the master counterfeiter, Satan depreciates the sanctity of the church by planting tares among the wheat (Mat. 13:25-40). These tares may never realize they are pawns of the devil, but they infect the church and bring much shame to the name of Jesus Christ. No assembly is immune from these demonic infiltrators who cause turmoil, division with their doctrinal error and habitual sin. Paul wrote: "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). We know the primary commission of the church is to equip and encourage believers to go into the world and make disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to counter this objective, Satan brings the world into the church to distract it from its purpose. Rather than feeding the sheep, the church starts entertaining the goats.

    How Must Believers Respond

    As spiritual darkness overcomes the diminishing light of the Gospel, believers must be of sober spirit and be on the alert (1 Peter 5:1). Those who belong to the Lord Jesus must put on the full armor of God each day and be prepared for spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-18). Satan will continue taking advantage of those who are ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). His sustained attacks on the Christian faith will become more and more fierce as we approach the day when Jesus Christ returns triumphantly to the earth. Until that glorious appearing of our Savior, deceiving spirits will continue to influence the great apostasy from the faith. "The falling away" is taking place everywhere as apostates turn from the truth to follow doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).

    How can believers brace for the storm that we know will cause shipwreck to the faith of apostates? Paul exhorts us: "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10). "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). In the epistle of Jude, which is often called the Acts of the Apostates, we are exhorted "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
    Scripture Alone
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Catholics always ask, "Where do you find Scripture alone as the supreme authority for faith in the Bible?" The answer should be obvious since there is no higher authority than almighty God and He has exalted His Word above all things and equal to His holy name (Psalm 138:2). The Bible's supreme authority is established by its divine origin. It is the most authoritative, influential and powerful book ever written. God chose forty men to pen His word as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

    The writers claimed they were transmitting the very word of God, infallible and authoritative to the highest degree. God's word is sufficient to function as the sole, infallible rule of faith because the Bible does not refer to any higher rule of faith. Everything that we must know, understand and believe to become a Christian is found in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

     

     

    The Apostle Paul wrote: "from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15-16). All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Tim. 3:15-16).

    The Apostle Paul commended the Bereans for using Scriptures to verify the truthfulness of his teaching. Since an apostle, who penned over half the New Testament was tested by the Bible, all religious teachers must be tested using the same Scriptural authority. The Bereans... received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). After considering all other sources of authority we must always ask, "But what does the Scripture say?" (Galatians 4:30). Since it is impossible for God to lie, His word must be the standard by which we discern truth from error (Hebrews 6:18; 1 John 4:6). The Lord Jesus used the power and authority of the Scriptures to rebuke Satan (Matthew 4). "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Those who reject the supreme authority of Scripture are easily deceived.
    Seeking Former Catholics
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Our vision and prayer for 1996 is to encourage former Catholics, who have been born again of the Holy Spirit, to reach back into the Catholic Church and rescue those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our prayer is that God will anoint ex-Catholics in local churches around the world with a deep compassion for those Catholics who, unknowingly, are on the road to destruction. We believe that former Catholics are best suited for evangelizing Catholics because they have experienced the deception that holds so many in bondage. To use the popular expression, "they have been there and done that." Ex-Catholics have done the penance that brought only a false hope of forgiveness. They have been in submission to the controlling, irrefutable dogmas of the Catholic clergy. They have experienced the spiritual blindness that comes from trusting in mediators other than Jesus. They can therefore relate to the mind set of Catholics and begin to unravel their web of indoctrination with the truth of God's word.

    We would like to train, equip, and encourage ex-Catholics to be effective witnesses in what may be the largest and most neglected mission field in the world. We envision former Catholics reaching out and making disciples of unsaved Catholics through the formation of small groups Bible studies. These discipleship groups would focus on the essentials of the Gospel and the importance of trusting Christ and His Word over the teachings and traditions of men.

    Five years ago my wife and I sensed God may be calling us to reach out to our Catholic family and friends. We began inviting all the Catholics we knew to our home every Tuesday evening to show them the video Catholicism: Crisis of Faith. After inviting all the Catholics known to us, we asked others to invite their Catholic friends. Our gracious Savior blessed our efforts with much fruit. Seventeen of these people renounced their Catholic faith and trusted Christ alone as their Savior. We then began bi- weekly Bible studies in our home to encourage these new believers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Within a few months we began writing newsletters and publications designed to help others witness to Catholics.

    God began to open doors in other churches for us to encourage still more people through seminars and workshops. Needless to say we never imagined that God would take our desire to reach a few Catholics in our community and develop it into a ministry with subscribers in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries. God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

    If you are interested in exploring this exciting and challenging opportunity, we have put together a "starter kit" that will give you some great tools to begin your outreach. See Books & Tapes on the menu to the left. We will also support you via the telephone or email. Will you join us in prayer about this vision? Ask our Lord if He would like you to become involved. Here are some suggestions for you once you have confirmation: 1) Talk to former Catholics about their possible involvement; 2) Place an announcement in your church bulletin for a showing of the video Catholicism: Crisis of Faith; 3)Contact us if we can resolve any concerns or be a source of encouragement. Together, through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can participate in eternal work for the kingdom and lead many Catholics to a saving faith in Jesus Christ!
    Sola Scriptura
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Bible gives overwhelming evidence as to why Scripture must be always our sole authority for faith. The Word of God is pure, perfect, inerrant, infallible, living, truth, light, holy, eternal, and forever settled in heaven. It illuminates, cleanses, saves, frees, guides, converts, heals, quickens, judges, and sanctifies. It also brings conviction, gives knowledge, gives wisdom, produces faith, refutes error, searches the heart, equips for every good work, and is used as a weapon. The Word of God is even exalted even above the very name of God. Have you read Psalm 138:2?

    Compare this with tradtion ... Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that their tradition was nullifying the very word of God. Yet the religious leaders of today continue to do the same and deceive their followers. Because of this we must take the exhortation of Peter seriously ... that is we ought to obey God rather than men.

    For Christians, the Scriptures provide the only objective basis for authority while the indwelling Holy Spirit provides illumination, conviction and discernment. This dual authority, the Spirit of God working with the Word of God, is sufficient in all matters of faith and Christian living. Catholics, on the other hand, submit to a dual authority of tradition and Scripture, under the subjective interpretation of their church. The pope, speaking for the church, is said to be infallible in matters pertaining to faith and morals. You ask, "Where does it say that Scripture alone should be the authority for faith?" Is "Sola Scriptura," the battle cry of the Reformers, found in the Bible? There are at least nine biblical justifications for the authority of Scripture alone.

    All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and useful for reproof and correction of error (2 Timothy 3:16). Since Scripture is used to correct and reproof then it must be the authoritative standard by which everything else is judged for its truthfulness.

    Jesus said, "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:34). The character of God is on the line. "God is not a man that He should lie ... and hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good (Numbers 23:19). Submitting to the authority of God's revealed word will guide us in His perfect will.

    Christ used the authority of Scripture to rebuke Satan's attempt to deceive Him (Matthew 4:1-11). He gave prepositional statements to accurately convey the truth that Satan attempted to distort. Jesus was our perfect model for rebuking deception.

    Jesus used the authority of Scriptures to rebuke false teachers (Matthew 22:29). The only way false teachers can be confronted and exposed is in the power of God's Word.

    Repented sinners are saved by hearing and believing the Word (Ephesians 1:13-14). The integrity of the Gospel must be maintained and proclaimed for true conversions.

    Jesus prayed for Christians to be sanctified (set apart) by the truth of His Word (John 17:17). Christians must separate themselves from apostate churches and false teachers. God uses division to show those in His approval (1 Cor. 11:19).

    One must continually submit to the authority of Scripture to be a disciple of Christ (John 8:31). Those who follow the traditions and teachings of men are often led astray.

    Christ rebuked the religious leaders for nullifying the Word of God with their tradition (Mark 7:13). Any tradition that nullifies the Scriptures must be exposed and renounced so others will not be deceived.

    The Scriptures were written to all Christians, not to popes and Magisterium to be interpreted for lay people. Anytime we allow others to interpret God's word for us, we leave ourselves open to deception.

    God foreknew the teachings and traditions of men would become corrupt and would lead many astray. In His wisdom, He left us with His Word, the only objective, absolute authority for truth, to lead us back to Him. It is pure, powerful, perfect, inerrant, infallible, living, holy, eternal, and forever settled in heaven. It illuminates, cleanses, frees, guides, converts, quickens, judges, sanctifies, brings conviction, gives wisdom, produces faith, and refutes error. Can you describe tradition in the same way God describes His word? Why would you want to add anything subjective to the objective standard God has given us?

    Catholics will also argue that we would not have the Bible today if it were not for the Catholic Church. Did the Catholic Church really determine which books to include in the Bible and protect it throughout the centuries? I believe we have the Bible today in spite of Rome, who kept it hidden in a dead language for hundreds of years (Latin). In recent history Catholic priests refused to absolve the sins of any person who had possession of a Bible, until it was returned. Catholics must consider the following facts about the Bible.

    Since the books were written under the inspiration of God, they were canonical the moment they were written. A council was not necessary to affirm what was already true. No book became canonical by the action of a church council. What the council did was determine which books did not meet the tests for canonicty.

    All the Old Testament books are quoted in the New Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. None of the books of the Apocrypha, which the Catholic Church added to its canon in the 16th century, are quoted.

    The New Testament books had certain tests for canonicty. They either had to be written or backed by an apostle (Mark by Peter and Luke by Paul). They also had to be circulated and accepted by the majority of churches. By the second century only the 27 books that now make up the NT were accepted by the people of God. Each book had to reflect internal consistency and character with other Scripture.

    Peter referred to the letters written by Paul as Scripture (2 Peter 3:16).

    We have the infallible Word of God today because almighty God has protected it and will continue to do so (Matthew 5:18).
    Speaking the Truth in Love
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    One of the greatest testimonies Christians can offer to an unbelieving world is our love for one another. Our Lord said, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). This love is also a mark of genuine Christian faith: "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death" (1 John 3:14). How are we doing? Some churches, which may be rigidly right in their orthodoxy, are unpleasantly cold in their love for the brethren. Evangelical leaders are saying they have never seen so much division within the church in their lifetime.

    Tragically, the causes of most bitter disputes in the Church are not doctrinal differences, but the hateful manner in which they are handled. Rather than speaking the truth in love with humble teachable spirits, Christians are dismissing one another with arrogant assertions, false accusations, combative disrespect and hateful misrepresentations.

    With today's technology, this unloving behavior is seen far and wide as it spreads from person to person via social networks, blogs and email. It is disheartening to see Christians breaking fellowship with one another and dishonoring the name of Christ over issues not related to the purity of the Gospel.

    As Christians united in the truth of the Gospel, we must recognize that no one is an infallible interpreter of God's Word and no one has perfect theology. Personally, I know parts of my theology may be amiss, but I don't know which parts. If I knew, I would correct them. This is why respectful discussions about theology can be helpful and why we should strive to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11). We may have different opinions on eschatology, spiritual gifts, ecclesiology, the mode of baptism, the sovereignty of God and man's free will, but we should not let these issues cause discord, strife or dissension within the Body of Christ. Too often we stubbornly cling to our traditions and self-serving agendas rather than pursue our Lord's purpose for the church He purchased with His precious blood. Those who obey the truth will purify their souls for a sincere love of the brethren and fervently love one another from the heart (1 Pet. 1:22).

    What can we do to be part of the solution and not part of the problem? First, we must be willing to apologize and seek forgiveness from those we have offended. This is crucial for preserving the unity of the Body and for maintaing a Christ-like testimony to the world. Second, we must offer forgiveness to those who have offended us. Paul wrote: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32). Third, when we have discussions on doctrine, we need to speak with patience and respect, with humility and gentleness and with love and self-control. Let us never forget that love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Lastly, we also need to pray, asking our Lord to give us an accurate understanding of His eternal truths. Only then can we pursue the perfect unity in truth that Jesus prayed for in His high priestly prayer. His prayer for unity had a divine purpose. It was so the world would know that God sent Him to redeem sinners from the bondage of sin (John 17:23). May God give us all the grace to be His witness and a testimony to the unbelieving world.
    The Bondage of Religious Deception
  • Many former Catholics have looked back on their experience of participating in the weekly Sacrifice of the Mass as a "prison sentence." It was something they were forced to attend to avoid the penalty of a mortal sin. Others remember it as a mindless ritual of standing, sitting, kneeling and reciting responses as the priest performed his religious duties. All Catholics are obligated by the laws of their church to attend church every week: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass" (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], para. 2180). With this law so explicit and demanding, the question begs an answer: Why is participation so compulsory for Catholics? The answers are complex and controversial.

    According to the Catechism, "The Mass is...the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated" (CCC para. 1382). "The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents the sacrifice of the cross....the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: The victim is one and the same. In this divine sacrifice...the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner" (CCC para. 1366,1367). Catholics express their faith in the real presence of Jesus by genuflecting as a sign of adoration of the Lord.

    Catholics are given no choice but to believe these oppressive dogmas. The Lord Jesus Christ cannot be physically present in the Eucharist on altars all over the world at the same time. Yet Catholics are between a rock and a hard place. If they deny the presence of Jesus, they are condemned by their church. "If anyone denies, that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ...let him be anathema" (Canon 1, Council of Trent). On the other hand, if they worship the Eucharist as the Lord Jesus, they commit the most serious sin of idolatry, similar to the sin of the Israelites, who worshiped a golden calf as the true God who delivered them out of Egypt. God's wrath burned hot against this sin and 3000 were put to death (Exodus 32:1-28).
     
    Catholics are taught their redemption comes not from the perfect and finished sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary's cross, but through the repetitious sacrifices on altars. "Every time this mystery is celebrated, the work of our redemption is carried on" (CCC, para. 1068, 1405).  This blatantly denies the testimony of Scripture. Jesus "entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12).
     
    The sacrifice of the Mass clearly violates God's Word and is a powerful deception that holds Catholics in bondage. Catholics should heed Paul's sermon in Acts 17:23-30, "The God who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in tabernacles made with hands; neither is He offered with human hands...the Divine Nature is not like gold, or silver or stone." In other words, the Divine Nature is not like flour and water, or an image formed by the thoughts of man. Furthermore, Jesus Christ cannot be offered by the hands of sinful priests. Jesus Christ, the perfect High Priest, offered Himself, the perfect sacrifice, once, to a perfect God who demands perfection. Then He cried out in victory, "It is finished!" There are no more offerings for sin (Hebrews 10:18). In light of all of this, we must call our Catholic friends and loved ones to repentance and faith in the true Christ who secured eternal redemption for His people.
    The Church
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Does The Christian Church Need To Be Evangelized?

    The visible Christian church is no longer a sanctuary for the people of God. Instead, it has become a huge mission field that needs to be evangelized. Churches are now filled with professing Christians who say they have faith but have never been born of God. This should not surprise us because of the parable Jesus gave describing the last days in Matthew 13:25-43. He spoke of a landowner who sowed good seed [sons of the kingdom] in his field, but while his men were sleeping, the enemy came and sowed tares [sons of the devil]. Jesus said the landowner is the Son of Man and the enemy is the devil.

    Today we have many tares in our churches because church leaders are not protecting the fields. Many have been growing their churches man's way instead of God's way. This self-serving strategy has produced some tragic consequences - the most serious of which is the false hope it gives to the unconverted tares. Some of the tares are victims of unbiblical methods of evangelism; others are victims of counterfeit gospels. These victims cannot tell you the essential elements of the Gospel or what God requires for entrance into heaven. Some know their eternal sin debt must be forgiven, but very few know they also need the righteousness of Jesus and to be born again of the Spirit.

    The Necessity of the New Birth

    Jesus told Nicodemus "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Only the triune God can bring forth life. Jesus said: "just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes" (John 5:21). "It is the Spirit that gives life" (John 6:63). God calls the spiritually dead to life through His Word. "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1: 18). God's children are "born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).

    Saving faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. From it we learn the essential doctrines of salvation: the attributes of God, the Gospel of grace and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When people hear the Word of God, enabled by the Spirit of God, to trust the Son of God, they become a child of God, all for the glory of God.

    Just as man could not initiate his physical birth, he is unable to cause his spiritual birth. Before any of us were born, we could not have pleaded with our parents to conceive us. We did not exist! The same is true in the spiritual realm (John 1: 12-13). Children of God are not born of blood (spiritual life is not inherited genetically), nor of the will of the flesh (physical life cannot produce spiritual life, flesh can only produce flesh), nor of the will of man (spiritual life cannot be initiated by the desires of men).

    So, how do we help the unconverted tares see they have been misled or deceived? As believers, we should encourage everyone to test their faith for their own good as well as for the glory of Christ. Paul wrote: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test" (2 Cor 13:5). Peter exhorted us: "Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10).

    I always love to hear testimonies of how our Sovereign Lord calls lost sinners to Himself. So, whenever I meet Christians, I often ask them to describe the events surrounding their conversion. A red flag goes up if they say they became a Christian at the moment they were: baptized, came forward in an altar call, repeated a prayer, signed a commitment card, joined a local church, or were born to Christian parents. Speaking the truth in love, I explain to them that no one can become a Christian without repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

    Many Believe A Counterfeit Gospel

    What about those who say they have faith in Jesus but show no evidence of a changed life. All of them may believe in the historical Jesus who lived 2000 years ago, but few believe what He taught, what he promises, what He commands, what He accomplished and what He is doing now. They may be victims of a counterfeit gospel, a watered down version that is offered by a generic god of love. This gospel offers "fire insurance" with no call to repentance (Luke 24:47). It is a gospel of cheap grace which fails to instruct people to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:12).

    The other counterfeit gospel which deceives people is the grace-killing gospel of works. First introduced by the Judaizers, this gospel nullifies God's grace by adding requirements for salvation such as circumcision, baptism, sacraments, good works, law keeping, penance or indulgences (Gal. 1:6-9).

    If we do not lovingly confront victims of unbiblical evangelism and counterfeit gospels, they may one day hear the most terrifying words anyone could ever hear when Jesus says: "I never knew you; depart from Me." These horrifying words will be heard by many professing Christians on the last day (Mat. 7:22-23).

    Two Ways To Test Faith

    Those who want to test their faith now, before it is too late, can do it two ways - objectively and subjectively. The objective test is this: Have you believed the objective truths of God's word? Paul wrote: "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 1:13). The word of God is our supreme authority for knowing objective truth. We must believe the eternal Gospel as it is revealed in Scripture. It is the same Gospel today as it was 6000 years ago.

    The subjective test asks the question: Is there evidence of saving faith? Genuine faith results in good works but a faith without works is dead (Eph. 2:10; James 2:17). This second test is subjective because there are different levels of maturity and growth as believers walk with Christ. New babes in Christ may not show as much evidence as those who have walked with Him for many years. When we are first born into God's family we look nothing like His Son. But as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are conformed into the image of Christ. We see this in the physical realm also. When a baby is born, he may look nothing like his parents. But as he grows, he begins to take on the physical characteristics of his parents.

    The Apostle John gives us a portrait of what God's children look like in his first epistle. They who are born of God are adopted into His eternal family to walk in the light (_L6-7); keep His commandments (2:3-5); love not the world system (2:15); yearn for the return of Christ so they can be like Him (3:2-3); live to please Him and avoid sin (3:7-8); love His other children (3:14) and use apostolic doctrine for discernment (4_6). Each of us must determine if this is a picture of how we look.

    Two Kinds of Faith

    The test of one's faith is vital because the Bible speaks of two kinds of faith - a "Godgiven, supernatural, saving faith" and a "dead" faith that is found in the unconverted natural man. Paul wrote of people who believed in vain because they did not hold to apostolic teaching (I Cor. 15:2). Jesus spoke of others who believed for the wrong reasons (John 2:23).

    Dead faith is limited to what the natural man can comprehend without divine help because he has been blinded by Satan and cannot see the light of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). That is why Paul wrote: "your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (I Cor. 2:5).

    God-given faith is initiated in the will of God and is a gift granted from the Father above (Phil. 1:29:James 1:17). It will be perfected by the Son of God as the recipient conforms it to the Word of God. Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of this faith which is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1: 12:2).

    Those with God-given faith enter the narrow gate bringing nothing but their sins to the cross (Mat. 7:13). Those with dead faith enter through the wide gate bringing their filthy rags of righteousness (Mat. 7:14).

    Those with God-given faith prove it by bearing much fruit to the glory of God (John 15:8). Those with dead faith prove it by bearing bad fruit for the glory of self (Mat. 7:15-17).

    Those with God-given faith desire to test and prove their faith with Scripture alone (2 Cor. 13:5). Those with dead faith prove their faith by denominational teachings and man's traditions (John 12:42-43: Acts 15:5-10).

    Those with God-given faith will not habitually hear or follow a false teacher (John 10:5.8). Those with dead faith will not habitually follow a true teacher (John 10:19).

    Those with God-given faith trust God's power to protect and keep them (1 Peter 1:5). Those with dead faith trust their own power to keep them from falling away.

    Dead faith touches only the intellect. Godgiven faith involves the whole person. The mind understands, the heart desires and the will acts upon the Word of God.

    In closing, there are several probing questions we can ask those who desire to test their faith. Have you renounced every false way that opposes the Gospel of grace? Do you live in thanksgiving and praise for being chosen and adopted into God's eternal family? Do you prove to be Christ's disciple by abiding in His word? Do you discipline yourself for godliness? Do your friends, neighbors and co-workers know that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? Do you have a desire to share Jesus Christ with others or are you ashamed of His Gospel?

    God's children will know they belong to Him because "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). The Spirit does this through the Scriptures that He inspired. All of God's children take Him at his Word!
    The Death of John Paul II
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Could it be that John Paul II gained the whole world but forfeited his soul? Year after year he was the most loved and admired man in the world. The idolatrous veneration and adoration of this man was unprecedented. His devotees, who are now singing his praises, are probably ignorant of the strong rebuke of Jesus who said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you" (Luke 6:26). Had the pope been devoted to Jesus Christ and His Gospel of grace, he would have been hated and persecuted by the world. No one can judge John Paul's heart but we are all called to judge the fruit of our spiritual leaders. Clearly this man was blinded by the prince of this world and never saw the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ. I mourn the death of this man, not for the reason the world mourns, but because he rejected Jesus as God's only provision for his sins. I also have a solemn compassion for those who blindly followed this pope and his man-centered religion. My heart is painfully burdened to see so many "professing" Christians unable to discern truth from error and genuine Christianity from its counterfeit.

    If ever there was a more important time for faithful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ to take a stand for the truth, it is now. The religious corruption of Rome has been on constant display for the whole world to see. The splendor and pageantry has been extraordinary. Thousands of hopelessly deceived people stood in long lines for as long as 12 hours to venerate a dead man with a rosary in his hands and a twisted crucifix by his side. Bishops and Cardinals encouraged Catholics to pray to and for this dead pope whose body was constantly being "blessed" with incense and "holy" water. They must not be aware that praying to anyone other than God is an abomination to God (Deut. 18:11).

    Tragically the pope has had greater success in deceiving the world since he died than during his 26 year pontificate. The global media has become his mouthpiece and willing partner in spreading his perverted theology. Through non-stop television coverage, the pope's church became the world's stage. Its princes masqueraded in their purple and scarlet robes as "ministers of righteousness." They successfully cast a spell over the TV audience with the splendor or their rituals and the pomp and pageantry of their pagan traditions. The magnificence and grandeur of this corrupt religion bewitched much of the gullible world into believing this is what Christianity is all about.

    Few evangelical leaders, who were interviewed by the media, refused to capitalize on the opportunity to expose the pope's false gospel that shut the kingdom of heaven to those who wanted to enter. They refused to acknowledge that he was condemned by God's word for preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). Instead they took the popular road and said since he "believed in Jesus," he went directly to heaven. They said his salvation was guaranteed because of his suffering, goodness, and holiness. Many are praising John Paul II for being a great spiritual leader. But why give such honor to the head of an apostate church which keeps over a billion people in spiritual darkness. While he never claimed to be God, he took pleasure in being addressed with titles reserved for the triune God alone. He usurped the title "Holy Father" from God the Father, "The Head of the Church" from the Lord Jesus Christ and "The Vicar of Christ" from the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send in His place.

    The pope said he represented Jesus Christ, yet he lived in stark contrast to the Savior who had no place to lay His head. He denied Jesus was man's Creator by teaching evolution is true. On several occasions he denied that Jesus was the only way to the Father. When he addressed Muslim leaders, he said there is "a common spiritual bond that unites us." In 1999 he denied the blood of Jesus was the only purification for sin by awarding a plenary indulgence for anyone who quit smoking or drinking alcohol. John Paul is acclaimed as a great moral leader, yet he failed to discipline American Bishops for tolerating the wicked sexual abuse of deviant priests.

    One thing is certain - the pope knows the truth now. I believe he is experiencing what the rich man in Luke 16 endured. Both of them dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in splendor every day. When the rich man died and found himself tormented in the flames of Hades, he begged the Father to send someone to tell his family the truth so they would repent and not end up in the same place. The pope may now be making the same request.

    There are times in the lives of evangelicals when our faith is tested. This is indeed one of those times and sadly we see many failing the test by capitulating with enemies of the Gospel. Could it be that they are seeking the favor and approval of men rather than the approval of God? The passing of John Paul II opens up a tremendous opportunity for Christians to talk about spiritual issues. We must speak the truth in love and proclaim the Gospel with clarity and completeness! We must also earnestly contend for the faith against everything that stands opposed to God's word. May God help us to be faithful in these times of great deception and compromise! Let me know how we can serve you.
    The Divine Rebuke of Corrupt Religious Authority
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Two streams of Christianity have been operating side-by-side for 2000 years. One is the body of Christ, the apostolic church which includes all who have been born again with the Spirit of God. This true church holds to the faith of the apostles and submits to the authority of Scripture. The other stream is apostate Christianity; those who profess Christ but hold to a different gospel and therefore have never experienced the second birth (1 John 2:19-20).

    Since apostasy also occurred in Judaism, there is a critical question to consider. Was the action that caused the Jews to depart from the only religion God ordained, the same action that caused apostates to depart from the only Church Christ established? Yes! The fatal error common to both occurred when religious leaders replaced God's authority with an authority of their own.

    The Pharisees used the Chair of Moses to distort God's word with their own traditions and the Roman Catholic Church has used the Chair of Peter to do the same. It is indeed astonishing to see how the Catholic clergy resembles the Pharisees of first century Judaism. Both became corrupt when they rejected the absolute supreme authority of Scripture. While we know how Jesus condemned the hypocritical Pharisees for their character and conduct, we can only wonder if the same rebukes would apply to the Catholic clergy today. The Pharisee's stubborn refusal to submit to God's authority ultimately led them to reject Jesus as the Messiah, while the same stubborn refusal has led the Catholic clergy to reject Him as their all-sufficient Savior.

    In Matthew 23 Jesus gives His last public sermon and it is filled with sharp rebukes against the corrupt religious leadership of the Pharisees. The sermon is also a warning for those who follow false shepherds instead of the True Shepherd. It is therefore my prayer that Catholics will take an objective look at their religious leaders. Have they become just as corrupt as the shepherds of God's chosen people? Let us look at the similarities between the Pharisees and the Roman Catholic clergy.

    They Oppose Divine Authority

    In Matthew 23:2, Jesus says: "The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses," the position of authority. Notice that they seated themselves, God did not put them there. In doing so, they opposed divine authority by establishing their own. This is analogous to Catholic priests. They stubbornly continue a sacrificial priesthood which was divinely terminated 2000 years ago. When Jesus, the High Priest offered Himself once, as a sacrifice for sin, for all time, there was no longer a need for priestly sacrifices. Our merciful God made this clear when He tore open the veil that once prevented access into His presence by anyone other than sanctified priests (Mark 15:38). We now "have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith' (Heb. 10:19-22).

    Catholic priests are not called by God, nor are they in the will of God. Their bogus offerings can never take away sin nor can they do what Jesus has already done: "by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:11).

    They Prevent Entrance into Heaven

    In Matthew 23:13, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for doing the same thing Catholic priests are doing. Jesus declares: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Both the Pharisees and Catholic clergy have kept people out of the Kingdom with their legalistic teachings that nullify God's sovereign grace. They bar the gates of heaven with a works-righteousness system that leaves their followers hopelessly guilty and without assurance or peace. Many Catholics, who are zealous for God, are working to establish their own righteousness because they have been taught a perversion of the Gospel. Their priests "malign the way of truth" and point them to the wide road that leads to destruction (Mat. 7:13: 2 Pet. 2:1-2).

    Their Converts Become Sons of Hell

    In verse 15, Jesus again curses the Pharisees. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte [convert]; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." The Catholic clergy also makes their converts "sons of hell." Their ministry is not one of conversion but of perversion. Instead of proclaiming the good news of Christ's finished work of redemption, they pervert the message with continuous offerings for sin that keep converts in ritualistic bondage (Catechism [CCC], 1367). Priests deny the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice by insisting Catholics must make their own satisfaction for sins (CCC, 1459). After doing their penance, Catholics are given the false hope by priests that their sins have been forgiven.

    Catholics are instructed that Jesus merely opened the gates of heaven with His death and resurrection. Since He only made salvation possible, a perversion of the true gospel is necessary to instruct Catholics what they must do to enter the gates of heaven (CCC, 2027). Converts to this damning gospel of works and sacraments remain under God's wrath. Their destiny remains unchanged - a Christ-less eternity of torment.

    They Are Self Indulgent and Robbers

    In verse 25, Jesus cursed the Jewish leaders for their external piety which hid their internal corruption. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence." The Catholic clergy is also guilty of robbery and self-indulgence. Although their subjects view them as trustworthy with a supernatural touch of holiness, they have a long history of sexual immorality that includes raping and robbing children of their innocence. Some of the pedophile priests have been caught and exposed, but their bishops relocated them to other parishes where they continued indulging in sexual perversions. Rather than being godly shepherds who protect their flock, they are wicked wolves who destroy the flock.

    There is no gentle way to expose the Catholic clergy who rob and extort millions of dollars each year from their congregations with the ungodly practice of indulgences. Priests perpetuate the fraudulent scam of indulgences and purgatory in order to collect stipends from grieving individuals who want to reduce the time of suffering for their loved ones. This may be the cruelest hoax of all time. It is a deceptive practice that holds people in bondage to their church not only in this life but even after death.

    They Are Hypocrites

    In verse 27, Jesus curses them for their hypocrisy. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." This hypocrisy is also common among the Catholic clergy. They appear pious in their liturgical robes, but underneath the vestments are spiritually dead men. Their unregenerate hearts cause others to fall into hypocrisy. Since they do not have hearts controlled by the Spirit they must hide their wicked hearts with outward pomp. They say they represent Jesus Christ but, by means of hypocrisy, they follow doctrines of demons (I Tim. 4:1-3). Since they reject "doctrines conforming to godliness," their lives are marked by sin instead of godliness ( I Tim. 6:3; Jude 4, 8-16).

    They Are Boastful and Proud

    In verse 29, Jesus condemns the religious leaders for boasting that they were better than their forefathers. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets."' Recently we have heard apologies from the Vatican for the persecution of Jews and Christians throughout history. The Catholic clergy of today is saying, we are not like our forefathers, we no longer kill the servants of God; you can trust us. We would agree they are better today than in the past, but that is nothing to boast about. History reveals that previous popes were guilty of committing nearly every sin and crime possible, including assassinations, murder, rape, adultery, fornication, incest, robbery, conspiracy, bribery, fraud and perjury. The corruption of 29 popes as so contemptible that the Vatican has listed them as "anti-popes." However, its attempt at revising history cannot erase the ungodly scandals and crimes of the papacy.

    Jesus accentuates his rebukes with a sobering question. "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?" May we all learn from biblical history and urgently and forcefully warn our loved ones, who are following false shepherds, to turn to the only True Shepherd!
    The Gift of Salvation
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    A group of Evangelicals and Roman Catholic theologians have agreed that "justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own; it is entirely God's gift." Their six page document, The Gift of Salvation (GOS), attempts to reconcile their fundamentally different views about the meaning of salvation that began at the Reformation. The new document of compromise marked the first time Evangelicals and Catholics "have publicly agreed to a common understanding of salvation," according to Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic signer, who also coauthored the Evangelicals and Catholics Together Accord with Chuck Colson. Bill Bright, and J.I. Packer. Colson and 16 other Evangelicals signed The Gift of Salvation along with 15 Roman Catholics.

    The language employed by the authors to clarify important theological doctrines appears to be deliberately vague so that terms can be affirmed by both sides. Consider this statement, "We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone." Are the signers telling us the Reformation debate is now over? This is not the first time Catholics have tried to convince Protestants that sola fide (faith alone) has been the essence of Catholic teaching all along, and that the Reformation was just a misunderstanding of Catholicism.

    In 1541 at Regensburg, King Charles V invited three Lutheran and three Catholic theologians to search for a compromise to heal the breach in the German church. The six men issued a statement expressing full agreement with the doctrine of sola fide. Their language was also ambiguous so as to allow for opposing views of justification to be harmonized. The Roman Church has always taught that justification is a process that begins at baptism. Through good works and receiving the sacraments Catholics can then merit for themselves and others, "all the graces needed to attain eternal life."2 The Reformers, on the other hand, taught that justification is the immediate imputation of Christ's righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone. It is only by having the alien righteousness of Christ that we can ever be acceptable to God. Luther, who was keenly aware of this, immediately rebuked the Regensburg agreement with these words:

    "Popish writers pretend that they have always taught, what we now teach, concerning faith and good works, and that they are unjustly accused of the contrary; thus the wolf puts on the sheep's skin till he gains admission into the fold."1

    The creators of the GOS document may want us to believe they are affirming "justification by faith alone." However, they are merely affirming a "misrepresentation" of what the Reformers meant by "justification by faith alone." The Reformers were never so careless as to limit the definition to "the gift of justification is received through faith," as GOS proposes. The Reformers knew that Catholic theologians could affirm language like that and still miss the Gospel. If we choose to be ambiguous on the doctrine of justification, then we end up with a gospel that anyone can embrace, a gospel void of the power of God to save. It is quite strange that leading RC priests and theologians would agree to sola fide, knowing that it brings condemnation upon them from their church. From the 6th Session of the Council of Trent, Canon 9, we read: "If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification...let him be anathema."Thus, in doctrine and practice, Rome denies justification by faith alone.

    Another statement from the GOS is disturbing: "We have found that, notwithstanding some persistent and serious differences, we can together bear witness to the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ." For the signers to profess they have "some persistent and serious differences" is an admission to professing different gospels. Paul gave the strongest of warnings to those teaching another gospel: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:8)

    Another apparent contradiction with Catholic teaching is the GOS statement: "The restoration of communion with God is absolutely dependent upon Jesus Christ, true God and true man, for he is the one mediator between God and men." (I Timothy 2:5) The Catholic Church nullifies this truth in stating that Mary, the Mediatrix, also mediates salvation. "Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gift of eternal salvation."3

    Many questions arise from the GOS statement: "As believers we are sent into the world and commissioned to be bearers of the good news, to serve one another in love, to do good to all, and to evangelize everyone everywhere." Which gospel have they agreed to proclaim? The essential elements of the Gospel are nowhere to be seen in this document. Where do the authors say how one receives the salvation accomplished by Jesus? Rome's gospel directly opposes the Gospel of Christ, yet the authors insist that "Evangelicals must speak the gospel to Catholics and Catholics to Evangelicals."

    The Gift of Salvation concludes with: "...we recognize that there are necessarily interrelated questions that require further and urgent exploration. Among such questions are these: the meaning of baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, sacramental grace...diverse understandings of merit, reward, purgatory, and indulgences; Marian devotion and the assistance of the saints in the life of salvation; and the possibility of salvation for those who have not been evangelized." If the evangelical signers of this document really wish to "urgently" explore these elements which oppose the Biblical Gospel, we wonder what is keeping them from doing so. They are all readily available in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. Is it more likely they are trying to say something like this? "We must urgently explore language vague enough so that these disagreements can also be affirmed by both sides."

    The compromise of the Gospel is made clear with this final statement: We affirm our unity in the gospel that we have here professed." The gospel which they have professed is neither the Gospel of grace nor the gospel of Rome. It is a gospel of ecumenical unity that will only bring a deeper division within the evangelical church.

    End Notes

    Quoted in James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1977).

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1994), 2010.

    Ibid, 969.
    The Last Days
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Virtually all attention these days is focused on the coming antichrist -- but he is only half the story. Many are amazed to discover there is also another mysterious character at the heart of prophecy -- a woman who rides the beast. Prophecy expert Dave Hunt sifts through biblical truth and global events to present a well defined portrait of the woman and her powerful place in the antichrist's future empire. Eight remarkable clues in Revelation 17 and 18 prove the woman's identity beyond any reasonable doubt.

    Dave Hunt's love and compassion for Roman Catholics, that they might be saved, is what motivated him to write this provocative book, A Woman Rides The Beast. It is published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 97402, Copyright 1994, by Dave Hunt. This 544 page, carefully documented book is highly recommended for anyone trying to lead a Roman Catholic to a saving knowledge of Christ. It is also a disturbing wake up call for Roman Catholics who have never questioned the history of deception and controlling dogmas of their church. Any Catholic who is earnestly seeking the truth will no longer be deceived after reading this eye-opening book.

    Following are excepts from A Woman Rides the Beast:

    "A woman rides the beast, and that woman is a city built on seven hills that reigns over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:9, 18). The Catholic Encyclopedia states: 'It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined.' There are, of course other cities such as Rio De Janeiro, that were also built on seven hills. Therefore John provides at least seven more characteristics to limit the identification to Rome alone. As we shall see, there is only one city on the earth which, in both historical and contemporary perspectives, passes every test John gives, including its identification as Mystery Babylon. That city is Rome, and more specifically, Vatican City.

    "The first thing we are told about the woman is that she is a 'whore' (Revelation 17:1) that earthly kings 'have committed fornication' with her and that 'all the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.' Fornication and adultery are used in the Bible in both the physical and spiritual sense. Of Jerusalem, God said, 'How is the faithful become a harlot!' (Isaiah 1:21). Israel, whom God had set apart from all ot her peoples to be holy for His purposes, had entered into unholy alliances with the idol worshipping nations about her.

    "The city therefore must claim a spiritual relationship with God. (Rome) claims to have been the worldwide headquarters of Christianity since its beginning and maintains that claim to this day. Her pope enthroned in Rome claims to be the exclusive representative of God, the vicar of Christ. Popes have fought with armies and navies in the name of Christ to build a huge kingdom. And to amass their earthly empire they have repeatedly engaged in spiritual fornication with emperors, kings, and princes. Claiming to be the bride of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church has been in bed with godless rulers through history.

    "The incredible wealth of this woman caught John's attention next. She was dressed 'in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication' (Revelation 17:4). The woman's colors are literally still the colors of the Catholic clergy!

    "The 'golden cup (chalice) in her hand' again identifies the woman with the Roman Catholic Church . . . which possesses many thousands of solid gold chalices kept in its churches around the world. Most of Rome's wealth has been acquired through the sale of salvation. Untold billions of dollars have been paid to her by those who thought they were purchasing heaven on the installment plan for themselves or loved ones. In addition to such perversions of the Gospel which have led hundreds of millions astray, there are further abominations of corrupt backing practices, laundering of drug money . . . and dealings with the Mafia. The Roman Catholic Church is by far the wealthiest institution on earth.

    "The Roman Catholic Church fits the description 'mother of harlots and abominations' as precisely as she fits the others. Much of the cause can be traced to the unbiblical demands that her priests be celibates. Not only has celibacy made sinners of the clergy who engage in fornication, but it makes harlots out of those with whom they secretly cohabit. Pius II declared that Rome was 'the only city run by bastards' (sons of popes and cardinals).

    "As for abominations, even Catholic historians admit that among the popes were some of the most degenerate and unconscionable ogres in all of history. Yet the name of each one of these unbelievably wicked popes, mass murderers, fornicators, robbers, warmongers . . . is emblazoned in honor of the Church's official list of popes.

    "John next notices the woman is drunk . . . with 'the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus . . . ' (Revelation 17:6). Besides those victims of the Inquisition, there were Huguenots, Albigenses, Waldenses, and other Christians who were massacred, tortured, and burned at the stake by the hundreds of thousands simply because they refused to align themselves with the Roman Catholic Church and its corruption and heretical dogmas and practices. Out of conscience they tried to follow the teachings of Christ and the apostles independent of Rome, and for that crime they were maligned, hunted, imprisoned, tortured and slain.

    "Finally, the angel reveals to John that the woman 'is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth' (Revelation 17:18). Is there such a city? Yes, and again only one: Vatican City. Popes crowned and deposed kings and emperors, exacting obedience by threatening them with excommunication. The Vatican is the only city which exchanges ambassadors with nations, and she does so with every major country on earth. Ambassadors come to the Vatican . . . not out of mere courtesy but because the pope is the most powerful ruler on earth today. Unlike any other city on earth, the Vatican is acknowledged as a sovereign state in its own right, separate from the nation of Italy surrounding it. There is no city upon earth, past or present, which meets all of these criteria except Catholic Rome and now Vatican City."
    The Lord Jesus Christ The Alpha and Omega
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The more we reflect on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the greater our love for Him grows! How true are the inspired words of the apostle Paul: "Those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Cor. 5:14). Take a moment to meditate on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for His people. He is the...

    Almighty and awesome advocate, abased for aliens, adulterers and alcoholics

    Blessed bread of life, the bridegroom bludgeoned and bloodied for His bride

    Creator and Christ, crucified on a cross for crooks and criminals

    Divine deity, who descended and died to deliver dirty, depraved degenerates from death

    Exalted eternal Emmanuel who endured enmity to enrich His enemies

    Faithful and fairest forerunner who freely forfeited His life to forgive failures

    Glorious God, goaded and gashed to give the Gospel of grace to the guilty

    Holy and heavenly head who humbled Himself to heal the helpless and hopeless

    Incomparable "I AM," the incarnation of innocence, insulted for idolaters

    Judge and justifier of the unjust

    King of kings before which every knee shall kneel

    Lion and lamb, Lord and life, light and love, lowered to lay down His life for the lost

    Majestic Maker, Master and Messiah murdered to mediate mercy to mankind

    Name above every name, nailed naked for the nasty and naughty

    Only omnipotent, omniscient One who overcame for the offenses of outcasts

    Perfect and pure Prince of Peace, passover and priest, pierced and persecuted to pardon prodigals, prisoners and prostitutes

    Quintessence of quality, quashed for quarreling quacks

    Resurrected righteous ruler and redeemer who resigned His royal residence to ransom and reconcile ruthless rebels

    Supreme Savior and sufficient substitute, savagely sacrificed to sovereignly secure salvation for the sorriest of sinners

    Testifier of truth tortured for thieves, trespassers and transgressors

    Unchanging and uniquely unblemished One upended for the unworthy and unrighteous

    Venerated vine who verily, verily voiced victory over our vices

    Wonderful Word, worthy to be worshipped yet wounded for the worst of the wicked

    eXalted example, executed to excuse the excluded

    Yahweh, saying yes and yielding to yahoos

    Zenith, zealously zapped for zeroes like me
    The Most Trustworthy Source for Knowing Truth
  • The Most Trustworthy Source for Knowing Truth

    A record number of Evangelicals and Protestants are departing from the faith of the apostles to the apostate

    religion of Roman Catholicism. We must wonder if they are departing because they were never part of us? If they had been part of us, they would have remained with us (1 John 2:19). Only God knows their hearts, but it is difficult to understand how anyone can join a false religion after being born again of the Spirit of Truth. True converts to Christ are instantly sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing their eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). False converts are prone to apostasy because they do not have a Divine Shepherd protecting them from thieves who seek to steal, kill and destroy them (John 10). This growing number of apostates is a tragic fulfillment of end-time prophecy. Jesus warned that during the last days many will be deceived by many false prophets in His Name (Mat. 24:4-24).

    I believe one of the catalysts for the mass exodus of Evangelicals to Rome is the push to reverse the Reformation. As more Evangelical leaders sign unity accords with Ro- man Catholics, we will see more defections. Every Evangelical leader who signs a document stating he shares a common faith in the Gospel with Roman Catholics has, knowingly or unknowingly, endorsed Catholicism as a valid expression of true Christianity. But there is another catalyst I would like to ad- dress with a hope that we can be better pre- pared in our witness for Christ.

    The Question of Authority

    During the past two months, I have been corresponding with two former Dallas Semi- nary students who left to join the Roman Catholic religion. Their departures were over the issue of authority. Both contend that the Catholic Church gave birth to the Bible, established the canon and therefore, is the only infallible interpreter of Scripture. However, history reveals a different story on the development of the canon. Long before a church council formally recognized the canon, the books were received and recognized as being the inspired Word of God. They were functioning with supreme and complete authority in matters of faith and doctrine. To separate the inspired writings from other spurious writings and place them into one volume was the task given to Christians who were already converted to Christ through the Word (1 Pet. 1:23). Therefore it was the Bible that gave birth to the church, not the church that gave birth to the Bible.

    Two Competing Authorities

    Roman Catholics argue that the reason there are over 25,000 Protestant denominations is because there is no infallible Protestant interpreter to teach the Bible correctly. They contend that there is no unity, only divisions, among the churches and denominations that submit to "Sola Scriptura." We need to correct this misunderstanding with the truth. The denominations that submit to "Sola Scriptura" are much more unified than religious institutions and cults that submit to the "Bible plus an infallible interpreter." Mormons and Catholics, who both use the "Bible plus an infallible interpreter" system do not refer to one another as brothers-in-Christ but exclude one another as heretics. On the other hand, most denominations in the "Sola Scriptura" camp would definitely refer to one another as brothers. In fact, if we were to

    randomly select five denominations that submit to "Sola Scriptura" and compare them with five that submit to the "Bible plus and infallible interpreter" as the rule of faith, the former group would be much more unified than the latter. True unity is found whenever it is centered on the true Gospel.

    Are "Infallible" Interpreters Trustworthy?

    Roman Catholics claim that anyone who studies church history and the early church will lead them to the "one true church" of Rome. However, for anyone to rely on their own interpretation to come to any such conclusion goes against the very teaching of Ro- man Catholicism. According to Rome, we cannot trust our own ability to understand and interpret Matthew 16:18 and church his- tory. So if this is true, how can anyone be sure that God's infallible interpreter is Ro- man Catholicism? In other words, how can a Catholic know his religion is infallible

    when he must rely on his fallible interpretation to arrive at that conclusion? Every "infallible interpreter" claims you cannot understand Scripture and church history without their help. Eastern Orthodox, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses all make the same claim. Therefore, if we were to choose one of the "infallible interpreters" over the others, how can we possibly know we have made the right choice? Furthermore, if we make the wrong choice, we risk eternal damnation for trusting an "in- fallible" interpreter rather than our own judgment of what the infallible Word of God says.

    Rome Forbids Private Interpretation

    Some Catholics may argue that their religion does not forbid private interpretation of Scripture. However, when the truth of God's Word began setting thousands of people free from the bondage of religious deception, Rome tried to prevent access to the truth. The 16th Century Council of Trent gathered the Bishops of the Catholic Church together to counter the Reformation. The Bishops not only placed the Bible on the list of forbidden books, but also outlawed private interpretation of Scriptures. From the 4th Session of the Council we read, "In order to restrain petulant spirits, it decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures." The Second Vatican Council restated the dogma this way: "The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church." The Council went on to pronounce: "The way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guard- ing and interpreting the word of God" (Dei Verbum, II, 10 and III,12).

    Paul Encouraged Private Interpretation

    The apostle Paul, who wrote more than half the New Testament, understood Scripture to be the final and supreme authority in matters of faith. In his letter to the churches of Galatia, he encourages every believer to use

    private judgment in discerning truth from error. He warns read- ers not to believe anyone who comes

    preaching a gospel that is different from the one already delivered by the apostles (Gal. 1:6-9). Since the original Gospel is completely contained in Scripture, it must be every Christian's standard for making private judgments (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Paul includes himself and even angels from heaven as "religious authorities" that must be tested for veracity. Every man's teaching, whether it be popes, bishops, pastors, evangelists or faith heal- ers, must conform to the written Word of God. If it does not conform, it must be rejected. We know that the books of the New Testament were not addressed to bishops but, in most cases, to individual saints. Paul said, "by the manifestation of truth we com- mend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2). If we take Paul seriously, we will engage in private judgment and interpretation of God's Word to test the authenticity of any religious teachers (Acts 17:11). Those who do not heed his exhortation risk the fatal mistake of follow- ing false teachers and turning from Jesus.

    Principles of Interpretation

    Christians must become serious students of the Bible to avoid being deceived by religious teachers. In doing so, we need to follow some important principles of interpretation. Always approach the study of God's Word with a teachable spirit and a desire to be taught by the Holy Spirit, our most trust-worthy teacher (1 John 2:27). We must interpret passages literally unless they were writ- ten in a figurative or allegorical sense. It is important to observe the context for each verse and seek to understand the writer's intent and the historical and cultural setting in which the events took place. It is always wise to compare Scripture with Scripture and interpret each passage consistent with God's complete revelation. Difficult passages can be cleared up by comparing other passages that relate to the same subject. By studying word meanings and grammar carefully and consulting the original languages, we can gain a deeper understanding of a passage.

    One Infallible Authority

    There is no higher authority than almighty God who speaks only the truth and cannot lie (Titus 1:2). He inspired the Scriptures to reveal Himself to mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator, Lord and Savior. Since Jesus Christ is the personification of truth and His Word is truth (John 14:6; 17:17), why would anyone choose to look anywhere else for truth? Scripture must be the supreme and infallible authority in all that it reveals.

    Application for Christians

    The prevailing tendency in the church today is to avoid confrontation and just be "positive." This is no way to contend against "in- fallible interpreters" who masquerade as ministers of righteousness (1 Tim. 1:8). Their clever counterfeit gospels appear genuine to the undiscerning and are deceiving millions. It is the duty of every Christian to know, pro- claim, guard, defend and pass on the truth of God's word to the next generation (1 Tim. 6:20-21). To allow error to go unabated is to be unmoved by the truth. Christians who sim- ply proclaim truth without confronting error could be endorsing errors that are covered with a veneer of truth. Subtle errors give birth to fatal errors unless they are exposed and confronted. As false teachers become more subtle in their propagation of error, truth must be proclaimed with greater clarity!

    We know God does not try to confuse any- one about life's most critical issue - "What must I do to be saved?" However, to avoid being confused or deceived by religious teachers, we must put away any Catholic or Protestant tradition or teaching that opposes His inspired authoritative Word!

    Should "Infallible Interpreters" Be Trusted?

    • "Infallible interpreters" rule with un- challenged authority in every cult.

    • Let God be true and every man a liar (Rom. 3:4).

    • It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man (Ps. 118:8). • Do not trust in princes,in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation (Ps. 146:3).

    • Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind...and whose heart turns away from the Lord (Jer. 17:5).

    • From among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert (Acts 20:30). • If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ...he is conceited and under- stands nothing (1 Timothy 6:3-4).
    The Passion of the Christ
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Many questions are being asked about Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. Is it biblically accurate? How much Roman Catholic theology is embedded in the film? What gospel, if any, does it communicate? Does it bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ?

    The good news is this controversial movie has the world talking about Jesus! This is an invitation for every born again Christian to boldly and clearly communicate the Gospel of grace. Many who have seen the film now desire to know more about the person and work of Jesus Christ. There are some key questions that are not answered in the movie that must be answered with the truth of Scripture. Why did Jesus have to die? What did His death and resurrection accomplish? Is the Roman Catholic theology depicted in the movie a valid expression of Christianity?

    Mel Gibson, a devout Roman Catholic who produced and directed The Passion of the Christ, proudly declared: "It reflects my beliefs." His film is consistent with Roman Catholic teaching in that it is not based on Scripture alone. It also incorporates visions, traditions, apparitions and experiences that often conflict with the word of God. Gibson's inspiration for the film came from a book written by a Roman Catholic nun and mystic, St. Anne Catherine Emmerich. Her faulty visions on the suffering of Christ include many details that do not appear in Scripture. In one example she wrote that Christ "quivered and writhed like a poor worm." Her visions prompted Gibson to say, "She supplied me with stuff I never would have thought of." (The New Yorker, 9/15/03)

    Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in the film, is also a staunch Roman Catholic. He prays the rosary daily and carries relics of several saints. Caviezel said his goal for the movie is to "bring mankind back together." Gibson's stated goal is "to shake modern audiences by brashly juxtaposing the sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar -- which is the same thing." It is no wonder that Gibson has Jesus saying: "It is accomplished" rather than "It is finished." Roman Catholics are taught that Jesus did not finish the work of redemption. Consequently, Jesus must be offered daily in the Eucharist as a sacrificial victim to make satisfaction for sin. Catholics must participate in the perpetual crucifixion of Christ in the Mass to be cleansed from sin. During the filming, Gibson and Caviezel both attended Mass every morning because "we had to be squeaky clean just working on this." Caviezel said: "I think it's very important that we have mass every day; I need that to play this guy."

    When Jim Caviezel had an audience with Pope John Paul II, he thanked him for his witness which has profoundly inspired his own life. "John Paul II is a very special man for a very special world. He is the Pope of Fatima," Caviezel said in reference to the so-called third secret of the Virgin confided to the three little Portuguese shepherds. John Paul II gave Caviezel a rosary. Caviezel said of the film's director: "Mel Gibson is very, very Catholic, very Roman Catholic." Caviezel added. "When you see Mel Gibson's film, it is very Catholic, very universal. It is a great way to introduce people to what it means to be Catholic: It is universal, for all peoples, for all times." In acting the part, Caviezel said to himself: "I don't want people to see me; I just want them to see Jesus." To come to this experience, Caviezel added, "I began with the rosary, the rosary led me to confession, confession led me to the Mass, every day, and always when I have the Eucharist in my body, I feel more like being in Christ" (Zenit.org, 3/16/04).

    The structure and framework for the movie was based on the fourteen Stations of the Cross, a popular Roman Catholic ritual that is performed to gain plenary indulgences. Catholics gain these indulgences for the purpose of remitting temporal punishment for their sins in purgatory. Neither the doctrines of indulgences and purgatory, nor six of the 14 Stations of the Cross are found in the Bible. An event that is found in Scripture and essential to the Gospel, but almost an oversight in the film, is the glorious resurrection of Christ. In the two-hour movie, the most important event in human history is given less than a minute. If Jesus were not raised from the dead, His suffering and death would have been for naught. There would be no victory over sin, death and Satan and we would all remain dead in our sins.

    Gibson, who relied heavily on Roman Catholic scholars for his theological input, has indicated he does not know the biblical Gospel. He said, "To atone for the sins of everybody, [Christ] could have done it by pricking His finger and shedding His blood. He didn't choose to do that. He went all the way." When asked by Diane Sawyer does your "traditionalist view bar the door to heaven for Jews, Protestants, Muslims?" Gibson said, "That is not the case at all, absolutely not. It is possible for people who are not even Christians to get into the kingdom of heaven. It's just easier and I have to say this because that's what I believe." These statements propagate a false gospel to the world and make Christ's life, death and resurrection meaningless! The Apostle Paul said if there is any other way to heaven, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21).

    The movie's use of extra-biblical material and persuasive Roman Catholic theology, along with the over emphasis on Christ's physical suffering and the role of Mary, has prompted many to convert to Catholicism. Mary's role as Mother of the Catholic Church, Mediatrix and co-Redemptrix is highlighted in several scenes. The apostles call her Mother throughout the film. Peter is seen falling at her feet to ask for her pardon after he denied Jesus three times. In the end Mary is seen at the foot of the cross, stained with Christ's blood, desiring to die with Him. Tragically, the movie fails to answer the most important question: "Why did Jesus have to die?" Sinners are not saved by knowing HOW Jesus suffered and died, but by believing WHY He died.

    A question that demands an answer is this: "Why are evangelicals promoting a movie produced by a man who has been deceived by Roman Catholicism and is now deceiving others?" Gibson delivers a lethal message that blurs the lines separating the truth of Christianity with the errors of a sacramental gospel. Evangelicals promoting a Roman Catholic film would be equivalent to Paul endorsing a message proclaimed by the Judaizers (Gal. 1:6-9). Can a bad tree produce good fruit? (Mat. 7:18). What fellowship has light with darkness or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Cor. 6:14-15).

    Those who know the truth must strive to establish it in whatever circle of influence the Lord provides. This however is an unpopular position because of the onslaught of people who cannot handle the truth. Too often people would rather embrace the opinions of highly visible evangelicals than search the Scriptures to determine what is true. We must rely on the Bible as the source of truth and reject anything that compromises or distorts the Gospel. We must proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ secures salvation for all who believe! We must share this good news because the movie fails to do so.
    The Sacrifice of the Mass
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Roman Catholic Mass must be attended by Catholics every Sunday and holy days of obligation under the penalty of mortal sin. Following are seven bibilcal reasons why the Mass is a Catholic tradition that violates the perfect sacrifice for sin that was offered once, for all sin, for all time.

    1. Jesus was never a "victim" as Rome purports, He went to the cross willingly in humble obedience to His Father (Philippians 2:8).

    2. When Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, His words were spiritual and not to be taken literally (John. 6:63). He was using figurative language, as He often did (John 16:25). His disciples were familiar with the figurative phrase "eating and drinking" to describe the appropriation of divine blessings to one's innermost being (Jeremiah 15:16; Isaiah 55:1-3).

    3. Those who take "eating and drinking" literally must become cannibals to gain eternal life. Furthermore, consuming blood was forbidden; those who did were to be cut off. Jesus would not have asked the Jews to break the law (Leviticus 17:10-14). This also presents a dilemma, "What if a person eats and drinks but does not believe?" Or "what if a person believes but does not eat and drink?"

    4. The alleged change of bread and wine into flesh and blood is not a miracle but a hoax because there is no change in appearance, substance and taste. True biblical miracles were real and observable.

    5. Rome says the Mass is a bloodless sacrifice, but a sacrifice without blood cannot atone for sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper as a memorial not a sacrifice (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).

    6. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find priests offering sacrifices for sin or Masses for the dead. Catholic priests violate Christ's unique role as mediator between God and men. (1Timothy 2:5).

    7. To worship the elements of the Mass is to commit the sin of idolatry (Exodus 20:4-5).
    Three Common Errors of False Teachers
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Since we are now living in the age of religious tolerance and ecumenical unity, there are some people who will immediately call this article unloving and divisive. Others will ask, "What right do you have to judge another religion?" The answer is given in Scripture. All God-fearing people are called to make right judgments, judgments that have already been established by the objective principles of God's Word (John 7:24). There may be nothing more important than warning people who are being deceived about their eternal destiny. If we do not lovingly confront them with God's Gospel, they may never know how to escape the eternal fire of God's punishment. Clearly, the most unloving thing we can do is to ignore them and let them continue down the road to destruction. For this reason, I am always willing to offend people with the offense and exclusivity of the Gospel in the hopes that God may grant some of them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 2: 25). Let us look at three fatal errors of false prophets and how to handle them.

    False Teachers Usurp the Authority of God

    The supreme authority of the Bible is established both by its divine origin and inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21). It is the infallible Word of God, and it will accomplish God's purpose (Isaiah 55:11). It is the very foundation upon which all Christian truths rest. For followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible is the final court of appeal in all matters pertaining to faith and godliness. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). The divine authority of Scripture corrects and rebukes all false teaching because there is no higher authority or infallible source in which to appeal. It is the Word of God, and God cannot lie, cannot break His promise and cannot deceive.


    People fall into serious error and sin when they exalt their own authority over God's authority or when they suppress the truth of God's Word to promote their own self-serving agendas. The Roman Catholic religion has done this by establishing its traditions and teachings to be equal in authority with Scripture (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] par. 82). In doing so, it has usurped the supreme authority of our sovereign God who alone has the right to rule and determine the eternal destinies of men. This fatal error has opened the flood gates to numerous other deadly heresies including: the preaching of another gospel, the worship of a counterfeit Jesus, the buying and selling of God's grace through indulgences, the creation of a fictitious place called purgatory, the establishment of other mediators and praying to and for the dead. These errors are fatal because anyone who is embracing them when they take their last breath will experience eternal death.


    Catholics who are being deceived by these fatal errors must be told that the world has known only one infallible teacher. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the personification of truth and every word He spoke was truth (John 14:6, 17:17). Those who are seeking the truth need to look only to Christ and His Word. The Catholic religion has become corrupt the same way Judaism became corrupt - by following the traditions of men instead of the Word of God (Mark 7:13). The Pharisees taught much truth, but by mixing it with error, they "made the word of God of no effect." We must never forget that the Bible is what God says and religion is what man says God says.

    False Teachers Distort the Person of Christ


    Jesus Christ is God's perfect man and man's perfect God. He is the perfect High Priest who offered Himself - the perfect sacrifice - once for the sins of His people. This one sin offering has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb. 10:14). For this reason there are no more offerings for sin (Heb. 10:18). The believer's eternal sin debt was paid in full and their redemption was secured when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Rom. 4:25). Would there be false teachers who would deny this and steal away the honor and glory of our Savior?


    Yes, Paul even warned us that some would come preaching another Jesus. They will offer a counterfeit Jesus "whom we [the apostles] have not preached" (2 Cor. 11:4). Many of these false teachers are Roman Catholics who preach a "Jesus" who does not save sinners completely and forever. They say Catholics must do their part by expiating and making satisfaction for their own sins through penance (CCC, 1459). In this way they attain their own salvation through good works (CCC, 1477). The Catholic Jesus offers conditional life, not eternal life (CCC, 1035). This counterfeit Christ is said to return physically to Catholic altars over 200,000 times each day to be a sin offering for the living and the dead (CCC, 1367).


    Catholics must be warned of the consequences for not knowing and believing the true Jesus. This was made clear by Jesus when He said: "unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). Whenever religion rejects God's authority, it creates "another Jesus" which always leads to "another gospel." Why? Because whenever the sufficiency of Christ is denied, another gospel must be concocted to instruct people what they must do to be saved.

    False Teachers Pervert the Gospel of Christ


    The Gospel is the joyous proclamation of God's redeeming work through Jesus Christ which saves His people from the punishment, power and ultimately, the presence of sin. It is the one and only message of redemption and the same message for every generation (Eph. 4:4-6, Rev. 14:6). Since the Gospel is about one Savior, it is exclusive and thus declares that all other faiths and religions are false (John 14:6; Mat. 7:13-14). This glorious Gospel declares that salvation is entirely of grace and those who add anything to it stand condemned (Gal. 1:6-9). It comes as no surprise that the most popular perversion of the Gospel is the fatal lie that good works or inherent righteousness are necessary to appease a holy God. Every religion in the world perpetrates this lie of the devil. However, Satan's oldest and most deadly lie is "You surely shall not die" (Gen. 3:4). This lie is still spread in Catholicism (CCC, 1863).


    Why would any religious leader want to distort the glorious Gospel of grace? The primary reason is to control people by holding them captive in legalistic bondage. It is for this reason the Lord Jesus gave the mark of a true disciple. He said, "If you abide in My word...and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). People in religious bondage can only be set free when they come to a knowledge of the truth found in Scripture.
    Roman Catholicism is not alone in perverting the Gospel of God. There are many cults and Protestant sects which do the same. Catholicism, however, not only deceives its people with a false gospel, but foolishly condemns those who believe the true Gospel. Over 100 condemnations from the Council of Trent are pronounced on Christians who believe the Lord Jesus is sufficient to save sinners completely and forever. The Catholic "gospel" emphasizes what man must DO to be saved instead of what Christ has DONE. This would include the necessity of doing good works (CCC, 2016), receiving sacraments (1129), attending meritorious masses (1405), keeping the law (2068), buying indulgences (1498) and purgatory (1030).


    False Teachers Must Be Confronted


    We must never let doctrinal error go unabated because it dishonors God and deceives the unsuspecting. It defiles the conscience, corrupts the heart and destroys the soul. According to Scripture, that which flows from the lips of false teachers includes: "strange doctrines," "commandments of men," "doctrines of devils," "damnable heresies," "traditions of men," "lies," "falsehood," "vain deceit" and "deceptive philosophy." Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord at all times and in all cases (Prov. 12:22). Knowing the fruit of false teachers, we must earnestly contend against them. Peter and Paul said false teachers cause believers to fall from their steadfastness and pure devotion to Christ (2 Pet. 3:17; 2 Cor. 11:3). They disagree with the words of Jesus and bring constant friction within the church (1 Tim. 6:4-5). They give rise to speculation and fruitless discussion which hinder the purposes of God (1 Tim. 1:4-6).


    Many who profess Christ are no longer embracing sound doctrine because they want their ears tickled and are seeking teachers who will do just that (2 Tim. 4:2). Using the Word of God, we must be ready to reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience and instruction. Those who have been entrusted with the truth must take a stand against those who try to lead men astray. Even when Peter was not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, Paul withstood him to his face, and rebuked him sharply (Gal. 2:11-14). Jude exhorted us to "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Those who refuse to defend God's truth are demonstrating their lack of passion for the truth. We must love the truth and hate every false way (Ps. 119:104). Let us never be intimidated by false teachers because "the fear of man brings a snare" (Prov. 29:25).

    The Battle for Truth


    Let us be mindful of the words of A.W. Tozer, who wrote: "So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It is therefore critically important that the Christian take full advantage of every provision God has made to save him from delusion - prayer, faith, constant meditation of the Scriptures, obedience, humility and the illumination of the Holy Spirit" (That Incredible Christian).


    We need to ask God for courage and boldness as we rely on the power of His Word. May we all become more like the apostles who were strong, bold, fearless, dogmatic, unaccommodating of error, courageous, intolerant of sin, inflexible concerning the Gospel, controversial, willing to die for the truth and fully devoted to Christ. We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Eph. 4:14). During these times of great deception, the Body of Christ must respond with a theological, biblical worldview that defends the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must protect the purity of His Gospel for the sake of His elect.
    Two Dreaded Diseases With No Human Cure
  • By Mike Gendron 1997

    Last month when my urologist told me the dreaded news that my biopsy revealed cancer, I was stunned. As a 50 year old man, in perfect health (so I thought), the news hit me like a ton of bricks. My mind began spinning. I felt as if I had been suddenly cast into a state of confusion and hopelessness. It did not take me long to realize how little I knew about prostate cancer. The answers to my questions were not very comforting. The doctor could not tell me how long the tumor had been growing. He told me, based on the results of the test, there was a 20% chance that it has metastasized or gone to other parts of the body. When I asked him about my options, he said, “There is no cure, we can eitherremove the prostate and hope the cancer has not spread, or try to destroy the tumor with radiation.” 
    In the weeks that have passed, I have been encouraged by so many verses of scripture. I recognize that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It is so heartening to know that God has caused this affliction for His good purpose. This gives me a peace that surpasses all understanding as I trust my sovereign Lord, "who comforts us in all our afflictions” (2 Cor.1:3). By the measure of grace God has given me, I can rejoice in my sufferings “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5). 

    I have been gathering what has turned out to be a maze of information on treatments for cancer. There are so many different authorities and expert opinions to sort through. I must say it has left me bewildered and confused. This prompted me to compare and contrast the disease of cancer with the disease of sin. We can praise God there is no confusion about the sin disease. He has given us His Word, the one infallible authority to know, understand and trust His only provision for sin! The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is so clear and indeed powerful enough to save sinners from the penalty, power, and presence of sin (Romans 1:16). We must persuade those who have been putting all their faith in the authority and wisdom of men to get a second opinion from the one who created them, our omniscient God. There is no higher authority to seek. His Word is our very best counsel because our "faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (2 Cor. 2:5). 

    Both diseases often go undetected 
    There are many walking the earth today who are unaware they are carrying the sin disease they inherited at conception (Psalm 51:5). The reason: there are very few willing to give them their true diagnosis. It is the duty of every Christian to carry out their role of spiritual doctors. They must speak the truth in love and give the true diagnosis that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I am so thankful my doctor told me the truth about my condition rather than withholding the unpleasant and alarming news. How often we avoid telling lost sinners of their true condition for fear it will cause hurtful feelings and harm the relationship. We must tell them sin causes separation from God (Isaiah 59:2). 

    Both diseases are deadly 
    There are some people afflicted with cancer who do not take it seriously or seek treatment. Ultimately their lives are cut short. Likewise, there are many who do not take the consequence of their sin disease seriously. Like cancer, the sin disease is deadly. With cancer, the death is solely physical but sin causes physical as well as spiritual and eternal death (Rom. 6:23, Rev. 20:14). Catholics believe that some lesser sins (venial) are not serious enough to cause death to the soul. We must tell them, “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). Many go through life convinced that a loving God would never send sinners to the eternal fires of hell. We must tell them the truth! Sinners are destined to be “punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thes. 1:9). 

    Both have no human cure 
    For as long as we have had cancer, billions of dollars have been invested in research for a human cure. Likewise, ever since the first sin in the garden of Eden, man has made futile attempts to cover his sin by the work of his hands. Sinful man continues to fail in his own efforts to be accepted by our holy and righteous God. There is no human cure for sin. The Lord says, “Your wound is incurable...There is no one to plead your cause, no healing for your sore, no recovery for you. Because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous" (Jeremiah 30:12- 14). Yet Catholics have invested billions of dollars for indulgences to expiate the sins of their loved ones to remove them from a nonexistent place called purgatory. We must tell them there is no human cure. “No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever” (Psalm 49:7-8). But Catholics are not the only ones who believe there is a human cure for sin. All the religions of the world declare their litany of good works and rituals will make them acceptable to God. As a result, billions of people are trusting in a human cure that is ineffective in removing the sting of death. They go through life believing they are being cured because they refuse to seek and trust their creator through His Word. 

    Think for a moment, what if you were to discover a cure for cancer? Would you hold it to yourself or would you tell the whole world the cure for this deadly disease has finally been found! As Christians who have been born again by the precious blood of our Savior, we know the cure for the sin disease. We must actively pursue our roles of spiritual doctors. We must give our lost friends and loved ones the true diagnosis of their condition. They were born with a deadly disease called sin, which has no human cure. That’s the bad news. The good news is a divine cure is available! It is offered to those who cease from trusting any human cure. The divine cure is available free for the asking because of a love story, written in blood, on a wooden cross, two thousand years ago. Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). 

    By combining our passion for Christ along with our compassion for the lost we will be motivated to follow the example of Paul, who wrote: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:10). May God give us all a greater desire to proclaim the glorious gospel of grace, the divine cure for the dreaded disease of sin. 

    In the days that have passed since I was first diagnosed with cancer, I have been overwhelmed with the love, support and prayers from all of you who are on our e-mail prayer list. This has truly been a blessing and a reason to rejoice! What a beautiful example you have been of the body of Christ manifesting God's love! As I seek God's healing hand and wisdom in treating my cancer, I ask for your continued prayers. May He be glorified as I learn to trust Him more! "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song" (Psalm 28:7). Therefore I will not lose heart, even though my body is decaying, my inner man is being renewed day by day. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:16-17) 
    Two Kinds of Faith
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    The Bible clearly tells us that the only way to come to God is through faith in Jesus Christ. However, faith is misunderstood. Jesus warned against false faith or non-saving faith in Matthew 7:21-23. He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you: Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" Saving faith should not be confused with faith in a profession, or faith in faith, or faith in a decision, or faith in a prayer. Let us look at two kinds of faith.

    First, there is non-saving faith, which is temporal and usually is found in a person's head but not their heart. It is faith based on a historical event that Jesus is the one true God who died for the sins of the world. Many have this head knowledge but this kind of faith cannot save. The demons exercise this kind of faith and they certainly are not saved! "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19). Professing Christians who merely acknowledge the historical facts of Jesus Christ without repentance are not saved.

    Temporary faith lasts for a while, then fades away because it does not have any roots (Matthew 13:18-23). Jesus describes this in the parable of the sower in which the Word of God is sown upon shallow soil. But because of the shallow soil, there are no deep roots and the life is only temporary and quickly withers. Temporary faith is also like the seed which was sown on rocky places. This is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the Word, immediately he falls away. Some people have a religious experience or make a public profession of Christ but their faith fades away when the demands of the Christian life confront them.

    True saving faith is a gift of God that will persevere. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). True faith is based on what God has revealed in His Word. The object of saving or justifying faith is Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on behalf of sinners through His substitutionary death and resurrection. It is granted by God when the sinner, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is humbled in godly sorrow for his sin. When God gives him grace to believe in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross, that person is transformed by the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

    Saving faith is exercised when a person comes to the end of himself, recognizes his hopelessness before God, and turns from his sin and self-righteousness to the Lord Jesus Christ as the ONLY One who can save him. This repentance involves a change of mind such that the person turns away from his life of rebellion toward God and casts himself wholly upon the mercy of God to save him (Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3; Mark 1:15). The Apostle Paul described this work in his own life in Philippians 3:8-9. "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."

    Saving faith also involves a total reliance upon Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. This belief in Christ goes beyond a mere head knowledge of Jesus to a trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation. Faith means "Forsaking All, I Trust Him." The Apostle Paul never boasted about anything he did in order to be saved, because he realized that it was all of Christ and none of him. "May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

    Saving faith also involves receiving Christ Himself as your Redeemer, Savior, and Lord.

    "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). The adopted child of God enters into a living, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ as his Lord. Jesus has redeemed him from the power of sin and has applied His blood and righteousness to his life and declared him to be righteous before God. Jesus has saved him from the wrath of God and there is now no condemnation to fear (Rom. 8:1). Praise be to God!
    Two Paths to Eternity
  • One is narrow and leads to life (Mat. 7:14)
        The other is broad and leads to destruction (Mat. 7:13)
    one is guided by pure truth (1 Jn 2:21)
        the other by truth mixed with error (1 John 4:6)
    one is by truth plainly presented to man's conscience (2 Cor. 4:2)
        the other is by distortions of the truth (Gal. 1:6-9)
    one path sets men free (John 8:31-32)
        the other holds men in bondage (2 Tim. 2:26)
    one is found in the word of God (John 14:6)
        the other is found in traditions of men (Mark 7:7-8)
    one follows the true shepherd (John 10:3)
        the other follows wolves in sheep's clothing (Mat. 7:15) 
    one leads to eternal life with the Creator (John 5:24)
        the other leads to the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:14)
    one is gained by divine accomplishment (Heb. 7:25)
        the other through human achievement (Luke 18:9)
    one is by grace and totally undeserved (Eph. 2:8-9)
        the other is by good intentions (Rom. 3:10)
    one is traveled by the humble and merciful who know they deserve hell (Jas. 4:6)    
        the other by the proud and self righteous who think they deserve heaven
    one is led by Jesus Who is the only way (John 14:6)
        the other by religious leaders who err because they know not the Scriptures (Mat. 22:29)
    one is entered by believing what was DONE by Christ (John 19:30).
        the other by those who think they must DO things (Rom. 11:6)
    one group will arrive expectantly because of God's promises (1 John 5:13)
        the other will be surprised when they arrive at their final destination (Mat. 7:22)
    Unless You Eat My Flesh
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    "Unless You Eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and Drink His Blood You Have No Life In You"

    Are these words of Jesus from John 6:53 to be taken literally or figuratively? The Roman Catholic Church teaches the context of John chapter six and the above headlined verse 53 are literal. Thus Jesus is giving absolute and unconditional requirements for eternal life. In fact, this literal interpretation forms the foundation for Rome's doctrine of transubstantiation -- the miraculous changing of bread and wine into the living Christ, His body and blood, soul and divinity. Each Catholic priest is said to have the power to call Jesus down from the right hand of the Father when he elevates the wafer and whispers the words "Hoc corpus meus est." Catholics believe as they consume the lifeless wafer they are actually eating and drinking the living body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is a vital and important step in their salvation and a doctrine they must believe and accept to become a Catholic.

    If priests indeed have the exclusive power to change finite bread and wine into the body and blood of the infinite Christ, and if indeed consuming His body and blood is necessary for salvation, then the whole world must become Catholic to escape the wrath of God. On the other hand, if Jesus was speaking in figurative language then this teaching becomes the most blasphemous and deceptive hoax any religion could impose on its people. There is no middle ground. Therefore the question of utmost importance is -- Was the message Jesus conveyed to the Jewish multitude to be understood as literal or figurative? Rome has never presented a good argument for defending its literal interpretation. Yet there are at least seven convincing reasons why this passage must be taken figuratively.

    Counterfeit Miracle

    There is no Biblical precedent where something supernatural occurred where the outward evidence indicated no miracle had taken place. (The wafer and wine look, taste and feel the same before and after the supposed miracle of transubstantion). When Jesus changed water into wine, all the elements of water changed into the actual elements of wine.

    Drinking Blood Forbidden

    The Law of Moses strictly forbade Jews from drinking blood (Leviticus 17:10-14) A literal interpretation would have Jesus teaching the Jews to disobey the Mosaic Law. This would have been enough cause to persecute Jesus. (See John 5:16)

    Biblical Disharmony

    When John 6:53 is interpreted literally it is in disharmony with the rest of the Bible. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you," gives no hope of eternal life to any Christian who has not consumed the literal body and blood of Christ. It opposes hundreds of Scriptures that declare justification and salvation are by faith alone in Christ.

    Produces Dilemma

    It appears that the "eating and drinking" in verse 6:54 and the "believing" in verse 6:40 produce the same result - eternal life. If both are literal we have a dilemma. What if a person "believes" but does not "eat or drink"? Or what if a person "eats and drinks" but does not "believe?" This could happen any time a non-believer walked into a Catholic Church and received the Eucharist. Does this person have eternal life because he met one of the requirements but not the other? The only possible way to harmonize these two verses is to accept one verse as figurative and one as literal.

    Figurative In Old Testament

    The Jews were familiar with "eating and drinking" being used figuratively in the Old Testament to describe the appropriation of divine blessings to one's innermost being. It was God's way of providing spiritual nourishment for the soul. (See Jeremiah 15:16; Isaiah 55:1-3; and Ezekiel 2:8,3:1)

    Jesus Confirmed

    Jesus informed His disciples there were times when He spoke figuratively (John 16:25) and often used that type of language to describe Himself. The Gospel of John records seven figurative declarations Jesus made of Himself -- "the bread of life" (6:48), "the light of the world" (8:12), "the door" (10:9), "the good shepherd" (10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (11:25), "the way, the truth and the life" (14:6), and "the true vine" (15:1). He also referred to His body as the temple (2:19).

    Words Were Spiritual

    Jesus ended this teaching by revealing "the words I have spoken to you are spirit" (6:63). As with each of the seven miracles in John's Gospel, Jesus uses the miracle to convey a spiritual truth. Here Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and fish and uses a human analogy to teach the necessity of spiritual nourishment. This is consistent with His teaching on how we are to worship God. "God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). As we worship Christ He is present spiritually, not physically. In fact, Jesus can only be bodily present at one place at one time. His omnipresence refers only to His spirit. It is impossible for Christ to be bodily present in thousands of Catholic Churches around the world.

    When Jesus is received spiritually, one time in the heart, there is no need to receive him physically, over and over again in the stomach.
    "Visits" to Heaven and Hell
  • Written by Justin Peters

    The Bible describes Heaven as a place of surpassing beauty where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, no disease, no death. It is where the triune God resides in all of His glory. For those of us who are saved, the redeemed of God through Christ, it is our eternal home. Though none of us look forward to the process of dying, as Christians we enthusiastically answer the question asked by Job, “If a man dies, will he live again?”[1] with a resounding “yes.” We look forward to being completely and eternally free of fallen bodies living in a fallen world. But for some people, it seems that Heaven (and occasionally Hell) can’t wait.

    Though Near Death Experiences (NDEs)[2] have been reported for hundreds and even thousands of years, the last several decades have seen an explosion of people come forward claiming that they have seen the other side, both Heaven and Hell. Many of these people are not Christian at all.[3] For the purposes of this article, however, we will focus on some of the more prominent ones claiming to be believers in Christ. I will begin this article by providing an overview of some of the more prominent recent examples and will then offer an evaluation of each. While space does not permit an exhaustive review of each account, some of the more important and theologically pertinent points will examined.

    Heaven is for Real – Colton Burpo

    When Colton Burpo, now aged 12, was just four years old he suffered from an undiagnosed ruptured appendix and almost died while undergoing surgery. During this NDE[4], Colton claims that he left his body and went to Heaven. According to his father, Todd Burpo, pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, NE, over the next several months and years Colton slowly began to give details of people already deceased and events of which he could not possibly have known. Heaven is for Real , written by Mr. Burpo, is the account of his son’s incredible journey.

    During his NDE, Colton left his body and saw doctors working on him from above. He also saw the location of his parents and what they were doing while he underwent surgery. Colton says he then went to Heaven. Some of his notable experiences included “sitting beside the Holy Spirit” when his paternal great-grandfather, “Pop,” walked up to him. Colton met his sister who died in a miscarriage of whom Colton had never been told. While in heaven, Colton heard the songs “Jesus Loves Me” and “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,”[5] saw John the Baptist, many different animals, thousands of colors not known on earth, and gates of gold and pearls. Colton describes all of the people (himself included) as having wings and showing no signs of old age. The boy says that he sat in Jesus’ lap and saw “markers” on His hands[6] and feet, later to be interpreted by Todd to be the nail prints. Asked in 2010 by Gretchen Carlson of Fox News to describe Jesus, Colton reported that He has a “rough but kind face, sea-blue eyes, and a smile that lit up the Heavens”[7] and describes God as a very big Person Who “can actually fit the entire world into His hands.”[8] Jesus also instructed the angels to sing to him for comfort and even helped him with his homework.[9] Colton describes not only the physical aspects of people and things in Heaven but was also apparently granted a sneak peek into eschatological events such as Armageddon.[10]

    Evaluation

    Regardless of our position on Colton Burpo’s claimed heavenly visitation, we unanimously rejoice that God in His sovereignty spared the life of this young boy. Colton was obviously very sick and was apparently not far from death and yet God graciously spared his life. For this we all rejoice. It is upon evaluating Colton’s claims, however, in which this unanimity dissolves.

    At the time of this writing in late August, 2011, Heaven is for Real has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for paperback non-fiction for 40 weeks where it currently holds the #1 spot.[11] From what I hear, there is even talk of a movie based on the book. More will be said on the tremendous success of books in the ‘I’ve been to Heaven’ genre later but for now we focus on the biblical evaluation.

    Many of the details Colton provides us of the other side though not necessarily “unbiblical” per se, they are certainly extra-biblical. For instance, he claims there are thousands of colors not known here on earth, that all in Heaven have a light over their heads and wings, and that there were all kinds of animals everywhere. These cannot be said to contradict Scripture necessarily, but neither does Scripture validate such descriptions. While many would have no problems with such claims, I believe there are several.

    Firstly, if young Colton did indeed go to Heaven and see these things, then we can take them to the proverbial bank. The myriads of colors, lights over heads, wings, animals, etc., must all be taken as actual, real, authoritative revelation of what Heaven is truly like. This comes dangerously close to violating the warning provided in Revelation 22:18 to not add to “the words of the prophecy of this book.” Even if one holds that “this book” refers only to the book of Revelation, the difficulty is by no means alleviated. Given that all Scripture is equally authoritative, we find in that warning a principle that applies to adding to anything God has spoken. That warning is repeated in other places showing that God is serious about not adding to His revelation.[12]

    If Colton went to Heaven, his extra-biblical revelations should indeed be authoritative and words have, de facto, been added to the canon of Scripture. This is the problem not just with Colton’s alleged trip to Heaven but with all who make such claims. Secondly, the Apostles Paul and Peter taught that all Scripture is inspired and wholly sufficient to fully equip us as believers (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). In other words, there simply is no need for such revelations; they are wholly unprofitable. The question then arises, if God wanted for us to know these details of Heaven via Colton Burpo, why did He not just include them for us in His sufficient Word?

    Other details that Colton relates seem, well, odd. While the Bible does not necessarily negate the possibility of people having wings in Heaven outright, it certainly gives no indication that such is the case. Two orders of angels are described in the Bible as having wings, Cherubim (Ex. 25:20; Ez. 10) and Seraphim (Isaiah 6), but people are never described this way. Though details like this are not necessarily “unbiblical,” others are. Take for instance Colton’s description of God as a “very big Person.” Later when asked by Pat Boone in a TBN appearance, Colton describes God as a “huge angel with massive wings (emphasis mine).”[13] This is clearly unbiblical. Not only does the Bible give no description of God as having wings, but He most certainly is not an angel. Angels are creations of God. God is Spirit Who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

    Equally odd is Colton’s description of Jesus helping him with his homework in Heaven. We will never know this side of the veil the full activity of Heaven but clearly it will center around the unhindered, eternal, and full worship of God (Rev. 22:3). That the Alpha and Omega would be helping Colton with something as trivial (given where Colton supposedly was) as homework is, in my opinion, a stretch too far.

    In doing research for this article, I have watched numerous interviews of Todd and Colton Burpo. In so doing, I could not help but be struck by how so many of Colton’s answers seemed very pat and rote. For example, his description of Jesus as having a “rough but kind face, sea-blue eyes and a smile that lit up the Heavens” he has repeated on multiple interviews from TBN to FoxNews to CNN and others verbatim. His answers seem canned at best and coached at worst. His description of God as being able to “fit the entire world into His hands” also seems a bit suspect, reflecting a popular children’s song that says the same thing.

    Todd Burpo made a theological statement which raises a red flag. On page 149 he wrote, “The Scripture says that as Jesus gave up His spirit (on the cross)…God the Father turned his back. I am convinced that he did that because if he had kept on watching, he couldn’t have gone through with it.” Scripture does not actually teach this at all[14] but even more to the point is that Todd is drawing a theological conclusion that at best is un-provable and at worst is patently unbiblical given that Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus’ sacrifice was planned from eternity past (Rev. 13:8). That God might not have “gone through with it” not so subtly implies that His plan of redemption, the absolute focal point of Scripture, was quite a precarious one indeed. Here again, the problem with extra-biblical revelation comes into clear focus. Todd Burpo offers us revelation concerning the motives, thoughts, intentions, and musings of God the Father. He, in effect, puts words into God’s mouth as he supposedly reveals the thoughts of God concerning His Son’s death on the cross. Burpo’s assessment is that the Father did not have the moral fortitude to go through with His divine plan.

    Equally troubling theologically is Colton’s claim that he was upset because he “did not know what was happening” and so “He (God) used people that, people or things that I liked to calm me down. From there on I felt better.”[15] That anyone, even a small child, would feel any kind of fear, confusion, or apprehension in the presence of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God in Heaven is doubtful at best.

    90 Minutes in Heaven – Don Piper

    Overview

    On January 18, 1989, Don Piper says he died and went to Heaven. The Baptist preacher was returning home to Alvin, TX from a BGCT[16] conference held on the north shore of Lake Livingston via I-45. On his journey home, Don’s Ford Escort collided with an eighteen-wheeler. He was pronounced dead by EMT’s on the scene. Fellow pastor and conference attendee Dick Onerecker came upon the accident roughly one hour later and asked personnel on scene if there was anyone there for whom he could pray. He was informed that everyone was ok except for the man in the Escort who was dead. Despite this information and seemingly contrary to all logic, Onerecker reports that God spoke to him and said, “You need to pray for the man in the red car.”[17] Onerecker reached his hand through the tangled wreckage, touched the body of Don Piper, and began to pray and sing hymns. An hour and a half after the devastating collision, to everyone’s shock and disbelief, the dead man began to sing along with him. It was during this 90 minutes, that Don Piper says he went to Heaven.

    Piper reports that immediately upon impact he found himself in Heaven and was greeted by a large crowd of people. The first person he recognized was his grandfather Joe Kulbeth who still had his “shock of white hair” and “big banana nose.”[18] He also met his great-grandmother, Hattie Mann, whose false teeth and slumped back on earth now sparkled and was straight, respectively, in Heaven. Piper was also greeted by friends, former teachers, and relatives, all of whom, he says, “spiritually impacted me in some way and helped make me a better disciple.”[19] Piper describes Heaven as a place of brilliant luminescence yet not such that it was painful to the eyes. There was no darkness at all, no shadows. Everything was of a beauty the magnitude of which simply cannot be described by words. There was music as well, but not, apparently, the kind described by Colton Burpo. Rather, Piper heard music unlike anything he had ever heard on earth. It was music that he not only heard, but experienced. The music permeated his very body and seemed to be thousands of songs all at once and yet they blended in a perfect, glorious symphony. The music included hymns he knew from earth as well as hundreds of songs he had never before heard. Piper is careful to point out that, though he came right up to Heaven, he never actually went inside the walls. He says that he could not see the ends of the massive walls in either direction, nor could he see their top. The gates were not made of pearls, says Piper, but rather were “pearlescent.”[20] Looking through the massive gate Piper describes Heaven as having streets constructed of literal gold and everything was bathed in brilliant, powerful colors. He said he felt “deliriously happy” and then, suddenly, he left Heaven and was joined back to his body in the wreckage of his Ford Escort. Of all those whom Piper reported seeing in Heaven, there is One he clearly states he did not see: “I did not see God. Although I knew God was there I never saw any kind of image or luminous glow to indicate his divine presence.”[21]

    Evaluation

    The title of Piper’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, is a bit misleading since only about 7% of his book is devoted to describing his visit to Heaven. The vast majority of it concerns his excruciating recovery from the collision on I-45. Piper’s recovery process was a very lengthy, and an almost incomprehensibly painful journey; a journey which, to an extent, continues to this day. One cannot help but to feel for him. As with little Colton Burpo, we all rejoice that God spared Don Piper’s life. That having been said, there are several things with Piper’s story which should give the biblically informed reader pause.

    A number of things stand out. First is Piper’s description of the music. He said that at least part of the heavenly anthem was comprised of songs that he heard while on earth. Carried out to its logical conclusion, this is a troubling statement. Given that Heaven is perfect, the worship in Heaven will also be perfect, pure, wholly pleasing and glorifying to God. It will be inspired – but by inspired I do not mean in an earthly inspirational sense – I mean inspired by God Himself. Perfection comes only from God because only He is perfect. Worship of the perfect God emanating from His perfect angels and His perfected children within His perfect kingdom must be in and of itself just that – perfect. Though the hymns with which we are all familiar are beautiful and many contain sound doctrine, they are not perfect, nor are they inspired in the fullest sense of the term. I am reminded of the words of Puritan preacher John Bunyan, “The best prayer I ever prayed had enough sin to damn the whole word.”[22] In a similar vein, no matter how beautiful we deem the hymns and songs with which we are familiar on earth, they are certainly not perfect and, therefore, are not worthy of inclusion in the heavenly choir.

    Especially worthy of notice is Piper’s claim as to what hymns were absent from the heavenly worship; hymns such as “The Old Rugged Cross” or “The Nail-Scarred Hand.” Writes Piper, “None of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus’ sacrifice or death.”[23] Inspired Scripture tells a different story. The Apostle John records, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders… saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’”[24] Though we can confidently affirm that these specific songs mentioned by Piper will not be in Heaven for the reason just stated, it is interesting (and more than a little ironic) that what we do know from the Bible of the worship in Heaven is that it, at least in part, will deal with exactly what he claims it does not – the sacrifice and death of Jesus. Contrary to Piper’s claims, the worship of Heaven is Cross-centered, offering to the Lamb praise for His sacrifice.

    Second, throughout Piper’s book and interviews there seems to be a lack of theological precision. In a TBN appearance on May 27, 2011, Piper says that one of the people who met him at the gates of Heaven was Mrs. Norris, a lady who took him to church as a child. Said Piper, “Why do you suppose she was there? I’ll tell you why she was there, she helped me get there. She deserved to be there.”[25] Commendable though Mrs. Norris’ actions were, she certainly does not deserve to be in Heaven. That is the entire point of the Gospel: None of us deserves to be there.

    A third troubling aspect about Piper’s description of Heaven is one which is characteristic about nearly every extra biblical description of Heaven: they are so…earthy. Piper writes, “Heaven was many things, but without a doubt, it was the greatest family reunion of all”[26] and gives physical descriptions of how friends and family members looked with their now perfect bodies (more on this later). Says Piper, “If you want to look good, Heaven is where you want to be.”[27] He speaks of feeling great love but the love he felt seemed to come from the crowd which greeted him and followed him around, not from God. Unfortunately it seems that many, if not most, of us professing Christians when discussing Heaven seem to speak in terms of it as being a big “family reunion” at which we will see our friends and loved ones who “have gone on before.” While it is true that Heaven will indeed have streets of gold (Rev. 21:21) and will indeed include a reunion with loved ones who died in Christ before us (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and will be free of sickness and disease; these are secondary – at best. The true joy and glory of Heaven is God Himself. He is what makes Heaven Heaven.

    Fourth, Piper makes serious contradictions between his various accounts of his trip. He clearly states in his book that he did not see God. This is one of the more troubling aspects of Don Piper’s alleged visit to Heaven. 90 Minutes in Heaven in which Piper states in no uncertain terms that he did not see God because, in his opinion, had he done so he “would never have wanted to return,”[28] was published in 2004. In the years since, the overwhelming popularity of the book has propelled Piper into his current activity of traveling around the country, speaking in churches and various conferences, hosting cruises, doing numerous radio interviews and appearing on many television programs to tell his story. It seems that over the years his story has changed in at least one significant way: he now claims he did see God.

    On March 29 of this year my wife and I went to see Don Piper speak at First Baptist Church of Bristow, OK. Having read his book, I was quite surprised to hear him say that, in fact, he did see God ‘way down the golden road up on a hill on His throne.’[29] This is a huge discrepancy. Wanting to make sure I did not misunderstand, I talked to him after the service and asked him why he said in his book that he did not see God when he now says that he did.

    Piper: “Really in the distance, yes, in the distance I saw Him.”
    Me: “But in 90 Minutes in Heaven you said, ‘I did not see God.’”
    Piper: “I am telling you I did
    Me: “Ok, so why did you say in the book you didn’t?” Piper,”I didn’t say I didn’t see Him. I, I, I, I was looking from a distance through the gate. You could see the golden street, you could see the buildings, there are mansions, and you could see a hill with a river flowing down the side of it. …It was just so personal to me and so incredibly difficult to describe (that) I just didn’t include that. And that’s one of the things I did not include. Let me tell you something, I didn’t write the book by myself. I had a co-writer who writes. His name is Cec[30] Murphy. So, there are probably some things in there that he interpreted differently than I did and that may be one of them.”[31]

    That one could leave out of a book entitled “90 Minutes in Heaven” such a magnanimous privilege as seeing the Alpha and Omega on His throne is incomprehensible. It is not merely a difference in “interpretation.” This is a big deal. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine anything much bigger than seeing God and equally difficult to imagine leaving such an experience out. This is not just a mere oversight.

    23 Minutes in Hell – Bill Weise

    Overview

    On November 23, 1998 at 3:00 am, Bill Weise says that he suddenly found himself hurtling through the air, falling to the ground, and then landing completely naked in a prison cell of rough-hewn stone and thick metal bars.[32] Weise says that the first thing he noticed was the tremendous heat – heat so intense that he could not believe that he was alive. He saw two creatures in the cell with him. They were ten to thirteen feet tall, reptilian in appearance but with a human form, scaly, foul-smelling, foot-long claws, massively powerful with the strength of a thousand men, and were seething with evil and hatred. They spoke to one another in “terrible, blasphemous language…expressing extreme hatred for God.”[33] The demons were then joined by two more demons coming into the cell and the four then turned their collective hatred and hostility toward Weise and began to torment him. They picked Weise up, threw him against the wall, plunged their claws into his chest, and ripped his flesh. Though his flesh was mangled, no fluids came forth. The pain, the stench, the agonizing thirst and the absolute hopelessness was beyond anything we can imagine here on earth. According to Weise the demons seemed to derive sadistic joy from the pain and horror they were inflicting upon their helpless victim. He pleaded for mercy but none was given. Says Weise “Death penetrated me, but eluded me.”[34]

    Weise managed to crawl outside of his cell through an open door where he “heard the screams of an untold multitude of people crying in torment.” He saw “a gigantic raging inferno approximately one mile in diameter” and “many people reaching out of the pit of fire, desperately trying to claw their way out. But there was no escape.”[35] The pit was rimmed with various demons and any attempt by the condemned to escape was futile; “Human strength was no match for the demons.”[36] Weise later found himself in a cave the walls of which were “covered with thousands of hideous creatures. These demonic creatures were all sizes and shapes. …There were also gigantic rats and huge spiders at least three feet wide and two or three feet high. I also saw snakes and worms, ranging from small to enormously large. I was petrified and could not believe my eyes.”[37] Finally, after 23 minutes of unspeakable horror, Weise says he began to ascend when a burst of brilliant light invaded the tunnel and though he could not see His face, he knew Who it was. “Jesus,” said Weise. Jesus replied, “I AM.” The horror was over.

    Evaluation

    The description Weise gives of Hell is exceedingly graphic and disturbing. Many of his descriptions such as the heat and thirst, the palpable darkness, the pain, the hopelessness, and lack of mercy do indeed have ample biblical support. I would, however, point out at least two significant biblical problems with his story. One is that in Weise’s Hell it seems that the torture and punishment are inflicted upon the lost not by God’s pouring out His wrath but rather by the demons and fire. Mary Baxter’s A Divine Revelation of Hell also describes hell as being run by Satan and his angels.[38] This description fails biblically on two counts. One is that contrary to popular perception, Hell is not Satan’s playground. Hell is not to Satan as the briar patch is to Brer Rabbit; a place where he longs to go and roam about freely. Satan and the demonic hordes do not want to go to Hell any more than do we. In Matthew 8:28-34 the demons begged Christ to send them into a herd of pigs rather than to what they knew would be their eventual eternal destiny – Hell. Even a brief delay in their sure judgment was welcome. Hell was the last place they wanted to go. Revelation 20:7-10 teaches that Satan will be “thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone” and “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

    Two, it has become commonplace in the evangelical world to describe Hell merely as a place of being eternally separated from God. Says Weise, “The fact that I knew God was kept from my mind.”[39] On TBN he stated, “If you want nothing to do with God, there is a place prepared that has nothing to do with Him (Hell).”[40] It is rare today to hear a preacher expound upon the horrors of Hell. Rather, in an effort to soften truth so as to not offend the sensibilities of “seekers,” Hell, if mentioned at all, is portrayed as being the eternal absence of God’s presence. To his credit, Weise does not soften the description of Hell – far from it. One would be hard pressed to find a more vivid and disturbing picture of Hell than the one Weise provides. However, he still falls into the same theological error, even if he does so from a completely different direction. The worst thing about Hell is not the eternal absence of God – it is the eternal presence of God. The Apostle Paul states in Romans 5:9 that “we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (emphasis mine).” God is omnipresent and Hell is His eternal presence in the mode of judgment. Salvation is as much being saved from God as it is being saved to God.

    A second theological problem with Weise’s story is his claim that as a professing believer he was taken by Christ to the very place from which Christ died to save him. Weise was very clear to state in his book that this was no dream. He writes, “I landed in what appeared to be a prison cell. …I was completely naked… . This was not a dream – I was actually in this strange place.”[41] We must categorically reject that Jesus would take a believer to hell. There is neither biblical support nor logical reason for such a thing to ever happen or even be possible to happen. This is an affront not only to the Gospel message but also to the character of Christ Himself. Since the publication of the book in 2006, blogs and reviews have discussed this theological difficulty and, apparently, Weise has taken notice because his story, like Piper’s, has changed over the years.

    On May 27, 2011, on the same TBN program on which Piper appeared, Weise attempts to extricate himself from the theological dilemma: “This was not a near death experience, this was an out-of-body experience that comes under the classification of a vision in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-2, Paul when he was caught up into heaven in a vision and he said whether in the body or out of the body he didn’t know. The Lord just happened to show me that I left my body. That’s the only way a Christian can see hell – in a vision.”[42] Weise seems to make a distinction without a great deal of difference. Even if he now claims it was a vision, he maintains that it was very real, very physical. He experienced real pain, real thirst, real hopelessness and, real abandonment. As Christians, we can and should expect trials, tribulations, persecutions, pain and suffering in this life. However, one thing that the Bible gives us complete assurance that we will never experience is abandonment. Jesus promised us that He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5) and as one of His own there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35) – not for eternity, not even for 23 minutes.

    Summary

    Thus far we have examined specific, current, and popular accounts of people claiming to have been to Heaven and to Hell. With these specific accounts still in view, we will now look at some of the broader challenges, both logical and theological, confronting anyone claiming to have made such journeys.

    There is a logical problem with these accounts that is so glaring, it is hard to understand why more people do not take note of it; namely, these various accounts often contradict one another. The three individuals examined in this article only scratch the surface of those claiming to have been to the other side. Mary Baxter (who claimed she went to both Heaven and Hell), Betty Malz, Roberts Liardon, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Richard Eby, Todd Bentley, etc. also would have you believe they were given a sneak peek into the afterlife. It takes only a cursory reading of these stories to realize that they all contradict one another – and often even contradict themselves! Colton Burpo reports that everyone in heaven, even God Himself, had wings. Piper saw many people in heaven but they apparently did not have wings. Some report that heaven is completely urban whereas Duplantis[43] says he saw homes out in the country. Some saw God on His throne, others did not see Him at all, and some, like Don Piper, can’t seem to remember whether they saw Him or not. Colton claims that those in Heaven show no signs of age, yet Piper claims that his grandfather, Joe Kulbeth, still had his “shock of white hair.”

    Some heavenly tourists say that Jesus has brown hair, others say it is blond. Some report Jesus as having a purple sash about his waist, others say it is blue. Benny Hinn claims to see Jesus often and can even describe what He is wearing from day to day. Some, like Colton Burpo, say Jesus’ eyes are blue, others say they are brown. One thing that all of the supposed accounts of Heaven have in common is a minimized description of the glory of Christ. Rather than a description like that in Revelation 1:14: “His chest was girded with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire,” these accounts describe Jesus as being rather ordinary and non-glorious. God would never be the source of a vision which downplays the glory of His Son.

    The list of contradictions is almost endless. The obvious point is that these accounts cannot all be true. In all likelihood, none of them are.

    Now let’s turn to the theological issues with all of these accounts. Though with varying degrees of specificity, all who have been to the hereafter and have returned describe people as having physical bodies. They report that the heavenly residents are perfect in every way showing no signs of sickness, disease, arthritis, handicaps, etc. They describe these glorified bodies as beautiful in appearance and perfect in function. There is only one problem with this: the redeemed in Heaven do not yet have their glorified bodies. This statement will likely surprise many readers and, unfortunately, the theological nuances are too involved to fully address here. It is, however, sufficient to note that the Bible teaches that those presently in Heaven are not yet in possession of their permanent, glorified bodies. In fact, Heaven itself is not yet in its perfected, eternal state. Those events will not transpire until the timing of Revelation 21. At present, Heaven is in its “intermediate” state, if you will, and the redeemed there are also in an intermediate state. In Revelation 6:9-11 and 20:4, John saw the “souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God” and the “souls of those who had been beheaded” respectively. Those that John saw were not in possession of physical bodies but rather were in a non-corporeal state. The redeemed will be given glorified bodies at the rapture or Christ’s return to earth (Parousia).[44] Therefore, the reports of people in the intermediate Heaven as possessing glorified bodies must be rejected.

    The second theological problem is one which plagues all the books in the “I’ve been to Heaven and/or Hell” genre; they are all an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture. Even if an account does not directly contradict the Bible per se (and most do), these accounts propose to add to biblical revelation. In these accounts, for example, we learn that hell is 3,700 miles below the surface of the earth, that it is inhabited by ghastly creatures and giant spiders, the pit of fire is shaped like a giant human or maybe it’s one mile in diameter (depending on whose account you read) and is ruled by demons – none of which can be found in the Bible. Likewise, Heaven apparently has suburbs, the flowers turn themselves to watch you as you pass by, the fruit is copper colored, individual homes are furnished with ball and claw Queen Anne furniture, people have wings or they don’t (again, depending on the particular account), and the souls of babies fly around God on His throne. None of this is biblically supported.

    All of this information is unbiblical at worst and extra-biblical at best. This leads us to the issue of new divine revelation knowledge. Is God giving certain individuals new revelation and speaking to them apart from and in addition to the Bible? If any of these accounts are even partly true, then the inescapable conclusion is “yes.”

    The implications of new revelation are huge. If it is necessary for us to know this information, why has God delayed nearly 2,000 years in giving it to us? Did the saints of previous generations have inadequate revelation of Heaven? Did they not have a sufficient supply of God’s truth? If they did, then these and all other accounts of visiting the other side are entirely unnecessary and of no profit to the church.

    Whatever God reveals and says to these individuals (most of these individuals quote God directly) should carry with it the very same authority as any verse of Scripture since God cannot speak less authoritatively on one occasion than He does on another. In other words, God cannot speak to us in the Bible and “really, really mean it” but when He speaks to individuals outside of the Bible whether in a dream, vision, audible voice, or trip to Heaven still mean it, but somehow mean it less so than He did in the Bible. It is illogical. It is an untenable position. If God is speaking, then God is speaking. If God is indeed speaking to people outside of Scripture then these communications would add to the Bible. Carried to its logical conclusion we are left with an open canon of Scripture. If the canon of Scripture is still open, then anything goes. Consider how many false religions have begun by an individual claiming to have received new revelation from God. Almost every false religion was begun by an individual saying, ‘God has spoken to me. Let me tell you what He has to say.’ Most notable: Mormonism and Islam. Both Joseph Smith and Mohammed, respectively, reported that an entity claiming to speak for God appeared to them and gave them new divine revelation knowledge. Interestingly, both of these men initially believed the entity to be malevolent, but, over time, became convinced that it was from God. From these eerily similar encounters in which extra-biblical revelation was given, two huge false religions were born. The canon of Scripture is complete and it is closed – for good reason.

    All who claim to have been to Heaven or Hell report that God the Father or God the Son brought them there for the purpose of allowing them to go back to earth and let people know that these places are real. For example, Weise quotes Jesus as saying, “Go and tell them about this place. It is not my desire that any should go there.”[45]

    Duplantis quotes Jesus as saying, “Go tell My people I’m coming.”

    Replied Duplantis, “They know that.”

    Jesus answered, “No they don’t know that. Go tell My people I’m coming! I brought you here to tell them I’m coming!”[46]

    Duplantis is wrong. God’s people do, in fact, “know that” because the Bible states it clearly. We do not need anyone to go to Heaven or Hell to tell us these places are real. Scripture reveals this information for us. If such excursions are necessary to give us this information (or at least impress upon us the urgency of it) then the inescapable conclusion is that the Bible is insufficient in and of itself to do so.

    Most of these individuals would at least give verbal ascent to the Bible as God’s inerrant Word, but they clearly do not believe in its sufficiency. If they had such a high view of Scripture they would quickly see that these trips are completely unnecessary. Recall Abraham’s words to the rich man in the lake of fire upon the latter’s request to send the deceased Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brothers to repent while they still had time: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets (the Bible), they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:19-31).” There is an inherent power in the Word of God that no miracle, no sign, no alleged visit to Heaven or Hell can boast. If people will not believe the Bible, then neither will they be persuaded by stories such as these.

    Third, there is clearly a difference between the response of those inspired writers who were allowed to glimpse Heaven and those in our modern day who make the same claims. The New Testament records only three men who were allowed to see Heaven: Stephen just before he was stoned, John, and Paul.[47] Interestingly all three of these men were very much alive when they were given glimpses into Heaven contrary to some, but not all, of our modern cases. Stephen’s glimpse was very brief and offers little detail other than seeing Jesus at the right hand of God. John’s account is by far the most detailed we have, was revealed to him personally by Christ Himself. That leaves us with the Apostle Paul. What do we know, though, of what he saw and heard in Heaven? Absolutely nothing. Paul writes, “I know a man in Christ who…was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”[48] We have no idea what he saw or what he heard. Why? Because what he saw was “inexpressible” and he was “not permitted” to speak it.

    Ponder this for a moment. Here we have the man who wrote roughly one-third of the New Testament. Not only did he not give us any details of his rapturous visit to Heaven, but he did not even want to mention the experience at all. He did so only reluctantly because his apostleship was being questioned by some in Corinth; hence his reference to himself in the third person, “I know a man.” Paul was so humbled by his experience he would not even refer to himself in the first person. Even with that degree of humility, God still gave him a “thorn in the flesh” to humble him even further. Contrast Paul’s humility with the attitude of those making such claims today. In contrast to Paul who gave no details and only reluctantly mentioned it at all, people today who claim to have been to Heaven write books about it and go on national and global speaking tours. Some of these books sell millions and millions of copies. Spin-off books and courses complete with instructional DVDs often follow. Movies are even being made.[49] Paul wouldn’t even speak of his vision while some today use their “revelations” to catapult them into stardom, celebrity status, and the New York Times Best Seller list. The contrast is stark, is it not?

    Finally, it is worth observing what is mysteriously absent from most of these accounts: the Gospel. It is striking that so many of these people who claim to have been to Heaven and to have not only seen Jesus but spoken to Him do not mention the Gospel. For example, in Heaven is for Real, the closes thing to the Gospel is when Colton quotes Jesus as saying, “I had to die on the cross so that people on earth could come to see my Dad.”[50] Granted, this is coming from a child, but the author of the book and father of the child, Todd Burpo, is a pastor. If this experience helped make Heaven “real” for them, why is the Gospel never presented so the millions of readers can know how to get there?

    The same can be said of Don Piper, another pastor. He supposedly spent 90 minutes in Heaven and yet, save for a few clichés like “accepting Jesus” and “turning to Christ,” one will search his book in vain for the Gospel message. It’s just not there. There is no mention of the seriousness of sin or its eternal consequences. There is no mention of the wrath of God. There is no mention of the Deity of Jesus, the meaning of His sacrificial and substitutionary death, or His resurrection. There is no mention of repentance from sin and placing faith in His finished work. There is, in short, no Gospel.

    To be fair, Bill Weise is different. Weise does give an excellent, complete, detailed and non-compromising Gospel presentation. I watched him do so on TBN and he did so very, very well. There was no fault to be found. However, what of Burpo and especially Piper? For the reasons already presented I do not believe that such visits to Heaven and Hell are even possible, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that something like that really happened to me. Let’s assume I had truly seen the majesties of Heaven and the glory of God, I would expect that I would be absolutely consumed with telling people about the Gospel. My preaching would not be characterized by waxing eloquent about how “good you’re gonna look in Heaven” but rather pleading with people to repent and escape the coming judgment. I would expect I would have the attitude of Peter and John who, when in response to warnings not to teach in the name of Jesus replied, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” I would expect I would share Paul’s desire to preach nothing but “Christ crucified.”[51] It is difficult to understand how the Gospel would not be central to any believer’s preaching or writing, but especially so for one claiming to have actually seen what for the rest of us is accepted by faith alone.

    Based on the authority of the complete and sufficient Word of God we are forced to reject all of these claims as valid.

    This raises an obvious question which I have not yet addressed: are they lying? This is where my assessment must leave the objectivity of Scripture and delve into the subjective realm of people’s thoughts and intentions.

    Some of these people I do believe are complete frauds. Some I have studied for years and believe they are motivated by money and fame and have been very successful in acquiring both. Others, however, I am not so sure.

    In watching many interviews of Todd Burpo it is obvious that he loves his son dearly. He certainly seems like a nice guy. The story he tells tugs at one’s heart strings to be sure. Don Piper undoubtedly had a devastating wreck and suffered excruciating pain. However, his claim of seeing God on His throne when he had previously denied this, and denied it quite thoroughly, is difficult to understand. Bill Weise certainly presents the Gospel well and definitely warns people of coming judgment. I think it would be neither right nor fair to make such a serious charge of lying against any of these men. That having been said, neither is it possible to be completely confident of their truthfulness. I think it is entirely possible that some of these stories began with a vivid dream which, at the time, seemed quite real. Dreams often do seem very real. I would imagine that the dream was told to one or two people who then told it to others who in turn told it to others and on and on. Likely the reports grew and became more and more elaborate. A radio interview here, a newspaper report there, the story snowballs and before long it takes on a life of its own. To keep up with the hype and publicity the individuals must keep up the story and may even begin to believe it themselves to a degree. Publicity and the praise of men is an intoxicating elixir and it poses a threat to every preacher no matter how humble – this writer included.

    However, our final authority is the Word of God. No matter how real an experience may seem to us, if it does not plumb with the Word of God then it is an illegitimate experience. Those who promote an illegitimate experience exceeded biblical parameters. They have begun to divorce themselves and those who listen to them from sole reliance upon the Scriptures.

    Anything that is not of the truth is a lie. Whether the person telling the lie has malicious motives or not is irrelevant to the nature of the information being given. Colton Burpo may have the purest of motives in telling us that God has wings, but when his statement contradicts Scripture, it is not just a fresh perspective, it is a lie. Contradicting Scripture is the work of Satan, not God. Whether Burpo, Piper or Weise intend to lie, contradict Scripture, or promote error, their reports end up doing that very thing.

    The question about the sincerity or lack thereof of any of these individuals may be an interesting one to ponder, but, in the final analysis it does not matter. Whether someone is sincere in his promotion of error does not make the error any less harmful to those who believe it. Error is still error. Millions of unsuspecting people are slowly but surely being pulled away from the authority and sufficieny of Scripture and are instead turning to other sources of “truth” for their spiritual knowledge and nourishment. The dangers of this cannot be overstated.

    These accounts are extra-biblical and often unbiblical. They divert attention away from the true power of God, the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), and emphasize subjective experiences. They may be motivational in a superficial sense but they are not capable of convicting people of their sin and need of the Savior. In the words of hymn writer John Keith, “How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He hath said? To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?” What more can He say to us, dear friends, than what He has already said in His Word?

    ——————————————————————————–

    [1] Job 14:4. All Scripture cited in this article is taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

    [2] Abbreviation for a phenomenon known as Near Death Experiences. Many who have been near physical death report seeing visions of Heaven and sometimes Hell. Much in both scientific and theological literature has been written of this phenomenon that is claimed by both Christians and non-Christians.

    [3] Hindus, Mulsims, Buddhists, etc. all claim to have had NDEs in which they were given glimpses of the other side. Source: www.iands.org Accessed 08/26/11.

    [4] According to medical reports Colton’s heart never stopped.

    [5] Source: www.heavenisforreal.net Video clip embedded on site accessed 08/26/11.

    [6] Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHBmoJiIfUE Accessed 08/26/11. Of note is that Colton reports Jesus’ nail prints were in His palms. However, most evidence both archeological and medical indicates that victims of crucifixion were nailed through the wrists given that the palms would not have supported the weight of the body.

    [7] Source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVtNzONbaiU Accessed 08/25/11.

    [8] Ibid.

    [9] Source: www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=HBnzAXbqGcY Accessed 08/26/11.

    [10] Burpo, Todd, and Lynn Vincent. Heaven is for Real. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010. Pgs. 135-139.

    [11] Source: www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2011-09-04/paperback-nonfiction/list.html Accessed 08/29/11.

    [12] See Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6.

    [13] Source: www.heavenisforreal.net embedded clip accessed 08/26/11.

    [14] This is, essentially, the Word of Faith doctrine known as the Spiritual Death of Jesus (SDJ) doctrine. A careful reading of Psalm 22, the passage which Jesus cites while on the cross, in its entire context lends support that the Father did not abandon the Son on the cross. See verses 19 and 24.

    [15] Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHBmoJiIfUE Accessed 08/26/11.

    [16] Piper is associated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

    [17] Piper, Don. 90 Minutes in Heaven. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2004. 42.

    [18] Ibid., 22.

    [19] Ibid., 26.

    [20] Ibid., 34.

    [21] Ibid., 33.

    [22] Source: http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/John-Bunyan-Quotes/page-5.shtml Accessed 08/30/11.

    [23] Ibid, 31.

    [24] Revelation 5:11-12. Emphasis this writer’s.

    [25] Piper. TBNs Praise the Lord program. 05/27/11.

    [26] Piper, 25.

    [27] Piper. TBN Praise the Lord program. 05/27/11.

    [28] Ibid.

    [29] I have this in single quotes because I do not know these were his exact words but, if not, they are very close. Piper reiterated this claim next month story. Later, on May 27, 2011, On TBN’s “Praise the Lord” program, he reiterated the same story: “I began to look up through the gate and I could see this kind of pinnacle in the middle of the city. It’s kind of a hill high and lifted up. There’s a river flowing down the side of this, well, it’s the River of Life and it’s coming down the side of this mountain, or hill if you will, and at the top of that is the brightest light I’ve ever seen and I know Who that is, it’s the Lord high and lifted up.”

    [30] “Cec” is short for Cecil. Cecil Murphey is listed as co-author of 90 Minutes in Heaven.

    [31] For the sake of accuracy, I recorded the audio of this conversation.

    [32] Weise, Bill. 23 Minutes in Hell. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2006. xiii.

    [33] Ibid., 3-7.

    [34] Ibid., 6.

    [35] Ibid., 8, 10, 29.

    [36] Ibid., 22.

    [37] Ibid., 30.

    [38] Baxter, Mary. A Divine Revelation of Hell. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1997. The perception of hell as being ruled by Satan and his fallen angels can likely be traced back to The Divine Comedy written by the Italian Dante Alighieri in the early 1300s. This epic poem depicts hell as being a place where demons and Satan rule over and torture the condemned. It is considered to be one of the greatest works of literature of all time.

    [39] Ibid., 9. Emphasis in the original.

    [40] Weise. TBN Praise the Lord program. 05/27/11.

    [41] Weise, xiii.

    [42] Weise. TBN Praise the Lord program. 05/27/11.

    [43] Jesse Duplantis is a prominent Word-Faith preacher whose weekly television program is broadcast globally. Duplantis claims that he was sucked out of his hotel room in Magnolia, AR in 1988 and found himself on a cable car travelling through space at a phenomenal rate of speed. When the cable car stopped, the doors opened and Jesse stepped out into Heaven. His account is entitled Close Encounters of the God Kind and is available in both DVD and book form.

    [44] See 1 Thess.4; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 5:1-2. Which option is preferred depends upon one’s eschatological position.

    [45] Weise, 34.

    [46] Duplantis, Jesse. Close Encounters of the God Kind. DVD on file.

    [47] Acts 7:54-60, the book of Revelation, and 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 respectively.

    [48] 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.

    [49] Source: http://www.donpiperministries.com/newsletter_and_schedule.asp Accessed 09/05/11.

    [50] Burpo, 111.

    [51] Acts 4:20 and 1 Corinthians 1:23 respectively. Emphasis mine.
    What Must I Do To Be Saved?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Can you think of a question any more important than the one asked by the Philippians jailer, "What must I do to be saved?" Is there any other issue in life more critical or urgent than determining where one will spend eternity? The guard of the Philippian jail must have known he was facing eternal punishment to even ask the question. He must have known that God will deal with sin either with His wrath or with His grace. The answer Paul and Silas gave to his question was very clear and profound, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." (Acts 16:30-31) Today there are 5 billion people in the world that will not accept this answer as God's truth. Many are convinced they must do more than believe. They fail to realize that "to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ" necessitates understanding the following:

    Who Jesus Christ is

    What Jesus Christ accomplished

    What the Lord Jesus Christ commands and promises

    If anyone hears the message about Christ and His Kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches it away. (Matthew 13:19) But the one who hears the Word of Christ and understands it will share the good news with many others, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Christ (Matthew 13:23). The good news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which has the power to save all who believe it (Romans 1:16). If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved! Saving faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:9-17).

    Many Catholics do not understand "who Christ is" because the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church paints a different picture of Him than what is revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. Vatican Council II declares that we attain our own salvation and co-operate in saving our brothers through prayer and good works (p. 66, Vatican Council II Documents; Flannery). Was Christ merely "the gate opener" of heaven or was He the Savior? If we can attain our own salvation, then why did Christ have to die for us? Is Christ the only sinless Mediator between God and man or does He share that role with Mary as Roman Catholicism teaches? According to VC II, when Mary was "taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside her saving office, but by her manifold intercession, continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation," (page 419).

    Is Jesus the only Way to the Father, or are Moslems, who reject the deity of Christ, part of God's plan of salvation as stated by VC II, (page 367). Is Christ and His Word the Truth or should we believe the Dogmas of the Catholic Church that nullify the sufficiency of His perfect sacrifice, His grace and His Word. Vatican II states, "In the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the other," (page 756).

    The Scripture reveal that Jesus is the Savior who appeared "to take away sin once for all by his sacrifice" (Hebrew 9:26). Jesus is the only one qualified to save us. He has to be both God and man. Only as God could His sacrifice produce the infinite value needed to save all men, for all time. Only a man could be our kinsman-redeemer. And only a man, who lived a sinless life, could die for someone else. Otherwise he would have to die for his own sin. It is clear that God provided the only way possible for us to be saved. He became man, lived a perfect life and willingly paid the death penalty for sin that His justice demanded. "There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men which we are to be saved," (Acts 4:12). There is no other mediator between God and man, "God is one, one also is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (I Timothy 2:5). The importance of believing who Christ is can best be summed up by the words of Christ Himself, "You will surely die in your sins unless you come to believe who I am," (John 8:24). Those who believe salvation can be obtained by adding to the perfect, finished and all-sufficient work of the Lord Jesus Christ must repent and come to the cross with empty hands of faith, bringing nothing but their sins (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Adding human achievement to grace nullifies God's saving grace which is the only way God saves sinners (Rom. 11:6).
    Who Holds the Keys?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    Two thousand years ago Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loose in heaven." This reference to the "keys of the kingdom" is found only in Matthew 16:19, however the authority to "bind and loose" is given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18. Many biblical scholars believe the "keys" are symbols representing the authority to govern and minister theocratic principles on earth. However, the interpretation of this verse has been the subject of debate for hundreds of years.

    Within the Roman Catholic tradition, doctrines have developed that give the papacy authority to delegate the power to forgive or retain sins through a sacramental system of penance and absolution. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "The power to confer or withhold forgiveness might well be viewed as the opening and shutting of the gates of heaven." It was used both as "admission to" as well as "excommunication from" the kingdom. The power to "bind and loose" also gives the Popes authority to pronounce doctrinal judgments, making disciplinary decisions in the Church and even canonize saints. This authority and power prescribes what and who Catholics must believe and how and when they must worship.

    The Vatican teaches that Peter's keys have been handed down to his successors throughout the centuries. This has given credence to the papacy to govern the kingdom of God, which they believe, is the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, Peter and his successors are said to have special spiritual powers as Christ's representative on earth.

    Proponents of the Roman Catholic tradition point to history as supporting evidence for their interpretation of the keys of the kingdom. However, most of their historical support comes from tradition dating back only the fourth century.

    An accurate historical and grammatical interpretation must consider the use of terms at the time of the writing of the original text. The concept of the kingdom and the keys must be understood from their usage in the first century. Peter and the disciples understood the kingdom to be the visible rule of Christ over the earth, not the spiritual rule of Christ over His invisible church. The king would rule from Jerusalem, free Israel from political bondage and destroy her enemies. After Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom, Christ began to teach about it from a different perspective. He taught that it would be a mystery, invisible, and progressive. It would be both present and future and could be entered only by regeneration. The kingdom would not be limited to the church, but would work through the church to proclaim the good news of God's redemptive rule.

    After the events of Pentecost, Christ's teaching and the indwelling Holy Spirit, gave the disciples a clearer understanding of this kingdom. The real authority of the keys given by Christ is ultimately in the revelation of God's principles from the Scriptures for His theocratic kingdom. Men of God were able to discern the correctness of doctrine and practice using the whole counsel of God (Acts 17:11). An example of this is found in Luke 11:52, where Jesus denounces the Pharisees for misrepresenting God and the Scriptures with a religion of their own making. As a result they were shutting the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

    The ultimate power to open and close the gates of heaven is the Gospel, which "is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe" (Romans 1:16). Peter's first proclamation of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, opened the door of the kingdom to thousands. Since then, the disciples, and all Christians who have succeeded them, have been opening and closing the doors of the kingdom with the Gospel. Those who hear it and believe it are forgiven (loosed) of their sin and enter the kingdom, while those who reject the Gospel remain unforgiven (bound) of their sins and can not enter the kingdom (John 3:36).

    The contrast between the Catholic interpretation of the "keys of the kingdom" and the historical-grammatical interpretation is significant. One centers around the teachings of men and is based on tradition and reason, while the other centers around the Word of God and is based on His revealed will and reign.
    Why Evangelize If God Has Already Chosen Who Will Be Saved?
  • Written by Mike Gendron.

    This engaging question has prompted many discussions and debates over God's sovereignty and man's free will. In answering the question, I am aware of the stricter judgment that awaits me if I mishandle the word of God (Jas. 3:1). My passion is to always honor and glorify God and never misrepresent His character. Scripture reveals that our sovereign Lord not only chose to save certain sinners, but He also ordained the means by which He will convert them. God established His eternal decree to save His people when they hear and believe His Word (Rom. 10:13-17). It is for this reason the Lord of the Harvest commissioned His church to proclaim His Gospel. Every Christian has been given the awesome responsibility and highest privilege to call people to repent and trust Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

    God Promises Success in Evangelism

    As an evangelist, I have come to love the doctrine of election. There is a sense of relief knowing, that when I evangelize, the eternal destinies of souls are not dependent upon my persuasive ability to convert them. God guarantees success whenever His elect hear His Gospel. Jesus promised, "All that the Father gives me shall come to me" (John 6:37, 65). Not some, not most, but all. This sovereign act of God will eventually result in the conversion of those He has given to the Son. This occurred when Paul proclaimed the Gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch - "as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). The elect will come to Jesus as Christians proclaim the voice of the Good Shepherd. He promised that when His sheep hear His voice, they will follow Him (John 10:27). Whenever Christians sow the imperishable seed of God's living Word, He promises to bring forth life when the seeds fall on fertile soil (1 Cor. 3:7; 1 Pet. 1:23). Success in evangelism is therefore guaranteed by God's sovereign decree. What an encouragement it is to know that God causes those whom He has chosen to come to Him (Psalm 65:4). Man can never thwart God's predetermined plan and purpose.

    Doctrine of Election

    Election, as defined in Scripture, tells us that God, in eternity past, before all things were created, chose specific individuals to be saved by His unmerited grace. He chose them according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will. Paul wrote, "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (2 Thes. 2:13). In another epistle Paul said, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). The Father chose His elect to be justified and totally glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). In a general sense God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). However, He decreed to save only some, and then He wrote their names in the Lamb's Book of Life (Rev. 17:8).

    If the choice were left up to man, no one would choose God. Paul makes this clear without exception, "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God" (Rom. 3:11; Ps. 14:2-3). Clearly, rebellious sinners could never choose Christ on their own free will; they choose Christ because He first chose them (John 15:16). Why does God choose some and pass over others? His purpose is hidden in the secret counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). God's purpose has been established, and He will accomplish it all for His good pleasure (Isa. 46:10).

    Man's Inability to Choose God

    Scripture presents a clear contrast between God who is able to save and man who is unable. Man's inability is due to the corruption of his nature and his rebellion and hatred of God (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:1-7). God includes everyone in His invitations, but sinners exclude themselves because of their enslavement to sin. Their bondage to sin keeps them from coming to God. The Bible teaches that we are all born spiritually dead with a sin nature that corrupts our senses and limits our "free will." Opponents of divine election deny this and teach that man has the free will to choose God and come to Him for salvation. However, Scripture proves this is humanly impossible. We cannot know God (Mat. 11:27); we cannot please God (Rom. 8:8); we cannot see the light of the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4); we cannot understand spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:14); we cannot hear the Words of Christ (John 8:43); and we cannot come to Jesus (John 6:44).

    The unregenerate man lives in the lusts of his flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Only when God causes the spiritually dead to come alive in Christ can they see, hear, know and understand the Gospel, and thus, come to Jesus in faith (Col. 2:13). No one can become a child of God by their own will or by the will of their flesh (John 1:13). There is nothing man can do on his own to be adopted into God's family. Only by God's will can anyone be brought forth through the word of truth (Jas 1:18). "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Sovereign election underscores not only the inability of man but also the freedom of God to save sinners according to His own purpose and grace (Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9). Those who are not recipients of His grace will remain in bondage to sin, captive to their own fleshly desires and hostile towards God (Rom. 8:7).

    A Doctrine Hotly Contested

    Although divine election is clearly presented throughout Scripture, it remains one of the most hotly debated doctrines in church history. Christians who reject the biblical doctrine of election do so for one of the following reasons: 1) pride - they believe man has the free will to release himself from the bondage and power of sin, and then come to Jesus; 2) man-centered evangelism - they enjoy taking credit for persuading people to "accept" Jesus; 3) fear - they refuse to accept that their loved ones may not belong to the elect; and 4) a distorted view of God - they say God is unjust by choosing to save some while passing over others. Paul anticipated these objections when he wrote, "Who are you, O man, who answers back to God...Does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?" (Rom. 9:19-23). Is man so prideful that, as a depraved sinner, he has a better plan than an infinitely holy and eternally righteous God? Scripture soundly rebukes this foolish idea! "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isa. 55:8-9). Those who deny election are usurping God of His absolute control over His creation and the right to choose His own family. They wittingly or unwittingly rob God of His glory, which is a dangerous position to take.

    God does not treat everyone the same, but He does treat everyone justly. Some receive justice, which they deserve, and some receive mercy, which they don't deserve (Rom. 9:15). Election does not mean that God chose some for heaven and some for hell. Every passage of the Bible that reveals divine election deals with it in the context of salvation, not damnation. Nowhere is anyone elected for hell. The only support for such a view is human logic, not Scripture. Clearly, all of us deserve the eternal fires of hell as the just punishment for our sin. People end up in hell because they rebelled against their Holy God and Creator. It is not man's love for God that is the motivating factor behind anyone being saved but God's amazing, unfathomable love for fallen man (Rom. 5:8;1 John 3:1). We must never forget that God is glorified both when His righteous justice is executed on sinners as well as when His mercy is graciously bestowed on the elect. "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy...for Thy righteous acts have been revealed" (Rev. 15:4).

    Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

    God is sovereign, but He made man responsible for his actions. To some, this appears to be a paradox. The two subjects are often set in opposition to each other rather than harmonized together. Both are true and both are found in the Word of God. We see that all men are held responsible for what they believe. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life...He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:16, 18). Yet we also hear Jesus saying, "You do not believe because you are not my sheep" (John 10:26).

    The harmony of these two subjects are hidden somewhere in the infinite mind of God. They stretch man's ability to comprehend the perfect purpose of God (Ecc. 11:5). This is good, since it gives us a greater desire to know Him and, in turn, it causes us to dig deeper into His Word. We must praise God for who He is and honor Him for His sovereign grace.

    Motivations to Proclaim the Gospel

    We must be diligent in proclaiming the Gospel because God is pleased to save those who believe it as His Spirit works in their hearts. The faithful Christian knows that God is in control and He moves us to do the work He has prepared for us. We evangelize because we are sent by God to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ. What a royal privilege it is to represent the King of kings as His ambassadors to a lost and dying world. Like Paul, we must "endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10). It is true we do not know who the chosen ones are, but we do know this: "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). We also know that people will believe the Gospel as the Spirit of Truth reveals it's glory and illuminates the Word to them.

    The answer to "why evangelize?" is very simple - obedience! God has commissioned His saints to call the lost sheep to the Shepherd. No longer thundering from the mountain or from the burning bush, He uses Christians to accomplish His task of getting His Word to the elect. In closing, let us be motivated with this encouraging thought: Divine election is like a net cast into the sea - it does not drive the fish away, but draws them in. This should inspire us all to cast out the Gospel net more faithfully for God's glory!