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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What St. John Never Told Us

While it is not listed last, the Gospel of John was probably the last book of the Bible to be written. Hidden inside is a code. That’s right, a Bible code.

The code that is hidden inside of the Gospel of John is called…Tradition!!! That is right, Tradition. And you thought it was going to be something boring. Now, what do I mean when I say that Tradition is the code for the Gospel of John?

I mean that John presupposes that you have already heard the Gospel message or have at least read one of the other Gospels. Inside the Gospel of John, if you pay close attention, you can see that John figures the reader already knows what is going on.

So, John’s audience has already heard the Good News, he is just giving this Gospel to fill in the gaps.

Where is the evidence of this inside the Gospel?

There are really four verses that suggest this:

Let’s begin in John 3:24. For John had not yet been put in prison.

Now, this sounds innocent enough except that it only makes sense if you already knew that at some time John the Baptist would be thrown into prison. How did the readers know? John or someone else would have had to have told them.

John 6:70 Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"

What are you trying to point out here? Seems pretty innocent. If this is the first book of the Bible that you have ever read, at this point you should be asking a question. “Who are the twelve? When did Jesus choose twelve?”

This is the first time that the apostles by number have been named. It is only in the other Gospels that Jesus actually chooses them.

The next verse is John 7:42. Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?

Now, the Gospel of John NEVER says where Jesus is from. It says that He is from Heaven, but it never says that He was born in Bethlehem. You either have to have read Matthew, Luke, or heard that is where he was born. So John opens up a controversy that he never answers in his Gospel, yet the readers would have already had the answer.

One last verse.

In the Gospel of John chapter 11 it talks about the death of Lazarus and mentions Mary and Martha.

Then John clarifies in verse 2.
John 11:2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.

The reader at this point would be saying, okay, that’s who it was. That is the woman that anointed Jesus’ head.

John is referring to the story in Mark.
Mark 14:3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

So, the woman is Mary. Now a funny thing about this is that while John mentions that this is the Mary in John 11, he actually then goes on to record the event in the next chapter. John knows that you already know the story, but he wil add a few more details.

John 12:1-3 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.


In conclusion, John is writting this to Christians who have already heard the Gospel. When you come to see this, you also understand why he is more explicite in matters of doctrine; to solitify the faith of believers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Once Saved Always Saved?

Let’s discuss the main Bible verses that some non-Catholics point to that suggest that we cannot loose our salvation.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

They say, “See, nothing at all can separate us from God’s love.”

Notice what is NOT mentioned here - Sin! Sin can separate us from the love of God. God will never stop loving us, but we can refuse to return that love. When we refuse to return that love we cut ourselves off from God.

Just like the Prodigal Son who asks for his inheritance. You would normally get the inheritance at the death of your parents. So what is the son saying to the Father, but that he wishes he were dead? It is in fact the son that in a sense dies. He goes off, realizes his error and when he comes back, the Father has been waiting for him and runs out to meet him. The Father tells the older son that the younger son was dead and now he is alive. That is spiritual death because he cut himself away from the Father.

John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

They say, “Once you are in the Son’s hand you cannot get out, you cannot even leap out through sin. Also, look at how it says that they shall never perish. See, once saved always saved.”

It is at this point that I would like to point out some great advise that my godfather, who is a lawyer, gave to me. He said that in secular courts, you interpret a sentence in the context of the paragraph that it is set in, and you interpret the paragraph in the context of the whole document.

Now if the entirety of the Gospel was John 10:27 - 29, I would agree with the protestant objector. Yet, there are 35,801 other verses that I need to keep in mind when I am interpreting these three verses. We also want to make sure that we don’t read everything through the lense of these three verses or we rob both of what they are really trying to say.

Let’s take for example Adam, who had eternal life. Provided that he didn’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it seems to suggest that he would have lived forever. Now, what happened? Wasn’t the hand of God protecting him? It was protecting him provided that he obeyed his Heavenly Father. He just chose not to obey.

The same thing is true here. Christians are protected by Christ and are in his hand. Yet, in John 15 it says that we need to stay connected to Christ through bearing fruit. If not, we are cut off and thrown into the fire. Now do we read John 15 through the lense of John 10 and say we don’t understand it? I have heard this. Or do we read them in light of each other. I think the latter makes John 10 more sensible.

Look at verse 37. Jesus says, “my sheep hear my voice.” The Greek word for hear is akouo. It means hear, learn, obey, and understand. Notice that it has the meaning of obedience. We use this sense all the time. I ask my children, “Didn’t you hear me? I said not to do that!” Oh, they did hear me, but they are being disobedient.

Jesus is saying in verse 37 that his sheep obey him and to them he gives eternal life. And John 15 tells us about those who stop obeying. They get cut off.

But the objector continues, telling us to look at verse 28 where Jesus says, “I give them eternal life.” So then they reason that if eternal life can be lost, then it is not eternal.

While on the surface this seems attractive and possible, I think that it is misplaced a bit.

We only have eternal life because we are connected to the source of that life, Jesus. When Jesus says that He gives us eternal life He is really just saying that He is giving us himself. Now, while He will never stop loving us, we can stop loving Him. God is a gentleman and will respect the great gift of free will that He has given to us.

We cannot confuse the possessor with what He possesses. Christ is the Eternal Life that is given to us. Provided we have Christ, we also have eternal life. Now, while someone that you hate can give you a gift and you can keep it and love the gift, but hate the giver, in the case of salvation, you cannot reject Christ and yet keep His eternal life, because the gift and the giver are one and the same.

One more final verse, which I have never seen a good response to is 2 Peter, Chapter 2. Peter is warning Christians against false prophets that will lead Christians astray.

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they (Christians) have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Are We Saved?

There are so many competing voices out there today all claiming to have the truth of the Gospel and the way of salvation. What does the Bible say on this subject of salvation?

The Bible says a lot about salvation and reading only part without reading the whole can confuse the matter. Let me give you some examples:

Romans 10:13 For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Mark 13:13 But he who endures to the end will be saved.
1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God --
Acts 16:30-31 and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Matthew 19:16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" Jesus lists some commandments and then tells him to sell his things.
Hebrews 5:9 and being made perfect Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

So how do we navigate through verses such as these?

A temptation among non-Catholics is to stress one verse and either ignore the others, which isn’t very often, or put the others into a kind of second-class category.

A great example of this is Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- not because of works, lest any man should boast.

Protestants interpret this verse to mean that works can’t ever save you, only grace through faith. But St. Paul is saying, in the context, that there is nothing we can do for our initial salvation, but once we are saved, we must obey God in faith.

Now, many protestants tend to put on the Ephesians 2:8 and 9 glasses and read the rest of the Scriptures through those lenses. So when they read any kind of verse that talks about obedience or works, it looses some weight because St. Paul said there is nothing we can do to be saved in Ephesians 2:8 and 9.

I am sure it is not intentional, it is just what they have been taught in Sunday school.

Even when you come up with a great verse like:
James 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
It is often put in second place or explained away because it doesn’t pass the Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 test.

What we need to do is obey all the verses equally and not stress one over another.

We need to show them the proper interpretation of Ephesians 2:8, 9, and 10.

Before I continue, I must confess three things: This apologetic argument comes from Gary Michuta. I have used it in three conversations with great success, and I will not be giving Gary’s complete argument. You will need to contact him for his awesome classes.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God --
not because of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

See, everything needs to be read in context.

St. Paul is saying that if I am not a believer in Christ, there isn’t a certain number of good works that I can do to earn salvation. I can’t say, “Look God, I just helped about 100 old ladies across the street. You owe me salvation and eternal life!”

St. Paul is saying that this attitude isn’t going to fly with God. God doesn’t owe us anything.

God doesn’t want an employee/employer relationship with us. He wants to make us His family by way of giving it to us as a gift. He does this so no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God --
not because of works, lest any man should boast.

Now comes verse 10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus. See, now our relationship has changed. Now we are a new creation in Christ as Paul says elsewhere. What did God make us a new creation in Christ FOR? FOR good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Absolutely all of this is given to us through God’s grace.

Now the playing field of Ephesians 2 has been leveled and now the other verses that we mentioned above can be re interpreted.

Acts 16:30-31 and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Romans 10:13 For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you
Hebrews 5:9 and being made perfect Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
Matthew 19:16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" Jesus lists some commandments and then tells him to sell his things.
Mark 13:13 But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Bible As Tidbit

Let’s look today into the Bible in general.

Beginning with the word Bible. The word Bible means book or scroll. The Holy Bible, as we know it, is a kind of library consisting of 73 books. It is divided into two parts the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Testament means witness. You might know that people in court give their testimony to an event. This is the same. There is an old witness and a new witness, but just because it is called old doesn’t mean that it is invalid. On the contrary, if you don’t understand the Old Testament, you will not understand the New Testament.

The Old Testament begins with the Torah, which is the Hebrew word for the Law. Moses records the early dealing of God with mankind in these books. This consists of the first five books of the Bible. It is also called the Pentateuch, which is Greek for “five books.”

The next set of books deals with the history of the people of Israel as a Nation. These are really a historical record.

Then there is the wisdom literature consisting of Job, Psalms, Proverbs Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, and Sirach.

Finally, there are the prophetic books like Jonah, Daniel, MalachI. These books were written by prophets and range from historical narratives like Jonah, to apocalyptic visions with Ezekiel.

You may heave heard of the major prophets and the minor prophets. The 4 major prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, are called major because their books are longer.

There is a similar structure in the New Testament. Again we begin with the Law, not of Moses but of Jesus. It is not a law written on stone, but on hearts.

Then, like the Old Testament, we have the historical book of Acts, which tells of the early Church and the travels of St. Paul.

Then, in a sense, there is the wisdom literature from Romans to Jude. Inside of that we have the writings of St. Paul, which have an interesting structure in themselves.

The writings of St. Paul can be divided into two groups, letters to cities and letters to individuals. Inside both groups they go from longest to shortest. So, they are not in chronological order, but order by length.

Finally, also like the Old Testament, there is the prophetic book of Revelation.

Reading the Bible cover to cover might not be the best plan if you are going for the historical approach. Now, while any kind of reading of the Bible is good, there is a way to study it that is better. Right now I would say that Jeff Cavins and the Great Adventure Series is the best way to understand the story of the Bible.

While this Bible study is lengthy and kind of pricey, I would say get together with 10 friends and divide up the cost because it is worth every penny. His study is like one Bible tidbit after another.

It wasn’t until 380 at the council of Rome that the Bible and its 73 books were first recognized as a whole to be inspired.

So, people always pointed to the 4 gospels as being inspired and most of St. Paul’s writings, but there was dispute over other books. This was settled in 380.

It was not settled by Constantine either. I remember my friend telling me that Emperor Constantine put the books of the Bible together. When I asked him if he’d gotten that from the DaVinci Code or other nonsense, he said, “How did you know?”

Now while Dan Brown certainly believes that Constantine had his hand in choosing which books went into the Bible, all of history says otherwise.

Protestants have less books in their Bibles because some of the reformers said that they weren’t inspired. By “not inspired,” they sometimes meant, “these books are too Catholic and don‘t fit with my interpretation. Let’s get rid of them.”

So Protestants have 7 less books in their Bible, bringing their total down to 66.

Here are some questions that I like to ask Protestants, though:

Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?

They say yes, which is good. We believe that too.

I say, “Do you believe that that same Spirit that inspired them being written also guided those men who recognized them as being inspired to put them all together. So were those men in the 300’s also being driven by the same Holy Spirit to say officially that they are inspired?”

They say yes.

I point out that they also included those 7 books that the Reformers rejected. I ask, “Who should I trust? Should I trust the guys that said yes these 27 books of the New Testament are inspired along with these 46 books of the Old Testament?”

Or should I trust guys that came 1300 years later and said, “Well, they were right about the New Testament, but wrong about these 7 in the Old Testament? The Holy Spirit only partially lead them.”

To me that doesn’t make sense.