POLYGAMY

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Photo of: Introduction to Biblical Interpretation; William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr.; Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2004; p. 348.

by Dr. Stephen Kim

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, not for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Jesus, Matthew 19:9)

Can a Christian man marry multiple wives? Did God ever prohibit polygamy? Does the New Testament prohibit polygamy?

Many Christians I meet fall into an interesting category regarding the issue of polygamy. Most, fall into a category that merely holds a “quiet aversion” towards polygamy. While publicly condemning polygamy, they will simultaneously hold the position that the Bible does not ever prohibit it. Christians will bash Mormon and Islamic theology for supporting polygamy; but when push comes to shove, they usually concede something along the lines of popular Christian website, gotquestions.org, which believes:

How does God view polygamy today? Even while allowing polygamy, the Bible presents monogamy as the plan which conforms most closely to God’s ideal for marriage.

So according to gotquestions.org, God presently allows polygamy, and monogamy is merely the ideal. Which is simply another way of saying, “Polygamy is not the best that God has in store for you; but it’s okay, and it’s certainly not a sin.”  This view is perversely wrong. It serves to highlight the mass confusion around the issue of marriage within Christendom. Just today, a reader by the name of “Josh” left me the following comment:

I believe that polygamy is not a sin. There are too many men, godly men, in the OT that had multiple wives. Deut. 25:5 required polygamy, assuming the brother-in-law was already married when his brother died. The NT requires that deacons and preachers only have one wife. If this was unacceptable for all, then they would have broadened this scope to include everyone.

“Josh” sort of summarizes the modern “Christian” view aptly. The assumptions and logic go something like this: Godly men such as Abraham, Jacob, and King David all had more than one wife. God never condemned them for having multiple marriages. Furthermore, the New Testament only instructs pastors and elders to have monogamous marriages. Therefore, polygamy must be okay for the modern-day Christian.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling last year on “gay marriage,” Christians desperately need to get this issue right. The legalization of both incestual and polygamous marriages loom in the horizon and unless we have a firm biblical base for opposing polygamy, churches will crumble under societal pressures and logic.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

THE OLD TESTAMENT

God certainly intended monogamy in the beginning: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife (not wives), and they shall become one flesh (not fleshes)” (Gen 2:24). The first recorded case of polygamy in the Bible was committed by wicked Cain’s descendant, Lamech, who took for himself two wives–Adah and Zillah (Gen 4:19). Thereafter, the Old Testament has several recorded cases of men (both godly and ungodly) taking multiple wives. The Bible acknowledges the women as real, legitimate wives of the men. This therefore, permits one to correctly conclude that God did allow polygamy in the Old Testament (e.g., 2 Samuel 12:8 records God saying to King David: “I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms”).

THE NEW TESTAMENT

However, by the time we get to the teachings of the New Testament, we find that what God once allowed is now strictly prohibited. Just as remarriage after a divorce was once allowed in the Old Testament (Deut 24:1), polygamy was also once allowed in the Old Testament (2 Sam 12:8). Yet, in the New Testament era, Christians are now prohibited from both. Let’s examine a few key texts:

Key Text # 1: Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife. (1 Tim 3:2)

While objections are made that the prohibition is made only for men striving to become clergy members, upon closer examination, one discovers that all the qualities desired in an elder are also expected in the common Christian. Hence, God expects all Christian men to be the husbands of only “one wife.”

Key Text #2: But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Cor 7:2)

The text was written to all Christians (not just clergy members) in Corinth. Polygamy prohibits the faithful execution of 1 Corinthians 7:2. A man who has multiple wives prohibits any one of his wives from having her “own” husband. Polygamy always forces the sharing of one’s spouse. This is sin.

WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT POLYGAMY

Key Text # 3: And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, not for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. (Matt 19:9)

The clearest text of all (Matt 19:9) comes from the mouth of our Lord Jesus himself. Yes, the text immediately bans divorce and remarriage; however, it also bans polygamy. Let me explain.

If you read carefully, you will see that the reason why a divorce and remarriage is considered as adultery in the eyes of God is because God considers the first marriage still to be in full force and in effect. In God’s view, you are still married to your first spouse and hence, a court-sanctioned divorce and subsequent remarriage to another person is really nothing but adultery in the eyes of God (Matt 19:9). But why is that the case if Jesus uses the words, “marries another”?

Answer: Because polygamy is a sin in the eyes of God. You see, you may have legitimately married another person in court, but God does not allow you to have multiple wives. In God’s view, the first marriage is undissolvable, and thus, a remarriage after a divorce is really the sin of bigamy. The first wife is the true wife (for God honors that marital bond) and the second wife is considered an adulterous relationship by the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not even a real marriage in the eyes of God. Instead, God identifies it as sin.

If the first marriage is still valid (Jesus says that it is in Matt 19:9, Matt 5:32, Luke 16:18, and Mark 10:11), and–let’s erroneously assume–that the second marriage is also valid (as per our judicial system and many contemporary Christian leaders); then the person essentially has two marriages. Hence, by calling for divorced and remarried couples to remain in their second marriages, many church leaders unwittingly advocate polygamy! Thankfully, Jesus unilaterally struck down remarriages after all divorces. In doing so, both remarriage and polygamy were effectively made sins of adultery by the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, those who instruct remarried couples to remain in their remarriages are instructing them to continue in the sins of adultery and polygamy. 

CURRENT NEW YORK STATE LAW

Presently, New York State prohibits and annuls polygamous marriages. If a person is married and subsequently marries another, then the second marriage is considered void and is annulled by New York State Penal Law (an annulment is a court ruling that the marriage was never valid in the first place):

S 255.15 Bigamy. A person is guilty of bigamy when he contracts or purports to contract a marriage with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse. Bigamy is a class E felony.

Interestingly, adultery is also still a crime under New York State Law (notice the virtually parallel descriptions between bigamy and adultery):

S 255.17 Adultery. A person is guilty of adultery when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse. Adultery is a class B misdemeanor.

Unwittingly, New York State is simply backing up the teaching of Christ: Polygamy is the same sin as adulterous remarriage, and they’re both not real marriages. If a person is really and truly married to a person, the second marriage is an invalid marriage that ought to be annulled. Bigamy is a crime in New York. According to New York State code, Dom. Rel. §5-7, 24, 140; an undissolved first marriage is grounds for annulment of the second marriage anytime during the lifetimes of parties. Of course, in the eyes of God, the first marriage is never ever truly dissolved (Matt 19:9) and therefore, all second marriages are both adulterous and invalid. Thus, this certainly means that God considers polygamy as sin.

CONCLUSION

In the eyes of God, polygamy is adultery. It is indisputable that God views polygamy as sin. Any marriage, that is in addition to and concurrent to the first, is viewed as the sin of adultery by God (cf. Matt 19:9, Matt 5:32, Lk 16:18, Mk 10:11; and also see the above photo of page 348 of Introduction to Biblical Interpretation). Lastly, if one does not call for the dissolution of a remarriage, then he also does not have any biblical justification for banning polygamy. 

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WOULD GOD EVER GIVE ME A JOB I HATE?

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By Dr. Stephen Kim

Steve Jobs once remarked, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Although Steve Jobs was not a Christian, there’s a lot of truth in that quote. In fact, unbeknownst to Jobs, his quote is actually biblical. Ecclesiastes 2:24 says, “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand.” In other words, the ability to enjoy and rejoice over one’s work are truly gifts from God’s gracious hand. And because our jobs do take up so many hours of our lives, we should search for jobs that we find meaningful and enjoyable.

But are there times in life when–as Christians–we have to roll up our sleeves and do work that is distasteful (and perhaps even loathsome)? The direct answer is yes, but there are some nuances and caveats to work through.

THE HARD TRUTH

Currently, I am a full-time pastor. But for the better part of thirteen years, I worked as a New York City public school math teacher while laboring in ministry. To be totally honest, my secular job was not something I looked forward to each day. Although I was tested and certified to teach high school math, math was really never my forte while growing up. I was far more into subjects like history, public speaking, and English literature. I could functionally do math, but I wasn’t passionate about it. In fact, I never really liked it all that much. My wife can attest to the fact that I was not a fount of over-flowing joy on Sunday nights as I looked ahead to the school week that was coming up. Yet, I got up each weekday and went to work. Why? Because bills had to be paid and food had to be set on the table–that’s why.

“I WANT TO PULL A RICKSHAW WHEN I GROW UP!”

I think that most of the Western world forgets the fact that most of the rest of the world works because they have to–not because they want to. The vast majority of the human population does not particularly enjoy their jobs. The man in Vietnam that pulls a rickshaw, or the woman in India that travels 2 miles with a pot on her head, only does so because their very livelihoods depend on their jobs. Neither are passionate about their jobs. Neither would continue doing their jobs if they were offered more lucrative financial opportunities. They work because they have to. They work because God has ordained them to.

CHRISTIAN SLAVES

Many college students go into college with idealized notions of this thing called, “dream job.” However, once they narrow down to a major and graduate, they often find that the real world is very competitive and that often times, graduates don’t even work in their “field of choice.” After months of job-searching, some graduates just do something for the sake of setting food on the table. Provided that the job is legal and contributes to human flourishing, I would resoundly like to say, “There’s nothing wrong with that!” Earn an honest living. Contribute to society. Get your life started. Good, hard work is better than unemployment for “if a man is unwilling to work, neither shall he eat” (1 Thess 3:10). Stop proudly believing that you “deserve better” and get started at a work: “Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread” (Prov 12:9); “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense” (Prov 12:11).

But what if you hate your job? Is it God’s will that you remain in it?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. The answer is not as simple as, “If you’re not doing what you’re passionate about, then you need to find another job.” I know tons of artists who are passionate about art but who are not doing art in order to pay the bills. And yes, sometimes God does ordain for you to be at an unpleasant job.

2,000 years ago, there were many people who became Christians while they were still slaves (and you thought you hated your job!). What did the apostle Paul tell those Christian slaves?

Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. (1 Cor 7:21-22)

Paul essentially told them four things:

  1. Don’t worry, rejoice, and remain a hard-working slave:”Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” (1 Cor 7:17)
  2. Serve your master as you would serve Christ (in other words, do the best job possible because you’re really doing it for God).
  3. Find your joy and identity in Christ–not in your work.
  4. Seize your freedom if it becomes available (in other words, switch jobs/careers if it is wise and possible for you to do so).

“REJOICE EVERMORE”

1 Thessalonians 5:16 has what seems to be an insurmountable command: “Rejoice at all times” (“Rejoice evermore” in the King James Version). This comprehensive command applies when we have news of a job promotion, a baby’s conception, or a loved one’s homeward-bound travel itinerary. But it also applies when we receive the grim news of unemployment, miscarriage, or a loved one’s recent diagnosis of cancer. Therefore, this comprehensive command would seem cruel if it wasn’t under-girded by the Christian’s knowledge of an omniscient, omnipotent God who promises Christians that all things will ultimately work together for their good (Rom 8:28). This faith in God is what enables the Christian to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:16. As Christians, we can rejoice at all times because we know that our God loves us and is always in control–even in the midst of hardships. Our joy is rooted–not in our circumstances–but in our great God. This then certainly (by God’s grace), enables us to enjoy our distasteful jobs and rejoice at all times.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes we are called by God to unpleasant work. Even Jesus had difficult and unpleasant work to do. Prior to dying on the cross, and finishing the work of the atonement, Jesus cried to the Father that if it were possible, God would pass the work of the cross from him (Matt 26:39). The crucifixion was certainly an unpleasant work for Christ. Yet, God did not let it pass.  He ordained the work for His Son, and Jesus obediently fulfilled the task. Yes, there was joy set before Him, but the work of the crucifixion was itself an unpleasant work and it was something Jesus “endured” (Heb 12:2). Likewise, sometimes we too, will have God-ordained unpleasant work to do. The answer is not to bail-out at the first impulse of difficulty.

We are blessed with grace if God has given us a job that we enjoy.  We are blessed with grace if God has given us a job where our talents are maximized and utilized. But because our identities are ultimately found in Christ–not in our jobs–we are also blessed when we have jobs that give us heartache and difficulty. We recognize that God (yes, God!) has given and assigned us those jobs, and that He is working all things for our good. In the wisdom of God, that job is exactly what God ordains for us in order for us to become more Christlike.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” (1 Corinthians 7:17)

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WHAT IS A CHURCH?

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By Dr. Stephen Kim

“We believe in one, holy, catholic [universal], and apostolic church.” -Nicene Creed

The primary means by which God disciples the world is through the planting of churches. Jesus Himself instituted the church (Matt 16:18), and the apostle Paul in all three of his missionary journeys labored endlessly to plant churches (2 Cor 11:28). If God does not save you on your death bed (i.e., the thief on the cross), then God expects you to join a church. Generally speaking, both Jesus and Paul saw Christians as those individuals “within the church” and unbelievers as those “without the church” (1 Cor 5:12). Cyprian went as far as saying:

Whoever is separated from the church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the church; nor can he who forsakes the church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother. If anyone could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the church.

Although I would not go as far as Cyprian, I would say that church membership is utterly indispensable and vital. Much of Christian life is impossible to practice outside of the church’s context. Your spiritual gifts were given to you first and foremost for the benefit of your local church. Lastly, Jesus’s own words for those cast outside of the church should cause any cavalier attitude towards the church to cease immediately:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:17)

And yes, while we’re at it, I’ll address the, “Is it a sin to miss church on Sunday” question. If you and I were made for worship (i.e., the First Commandment) and the apex of earthly worship is the corporate worship that occurs each Lord’s Day within the church, then, “Yes, it is a sin to miss church on Sunday.” Early Christians knew this and secretly met at the risk of their lives in catacombs each Sunday. Whatever you’re “enjoying” while missing church on Sundays is your idol. It could be Little League baseball or extra hours at work–that to you, is your functional god. Christians must always have their priorities straight. God is first.

WHAT IS A CHURCH?

If church membership is expected and compulsory, “What then, is a church?” That’s an important question. I once met a lady who greeted me with Bible verses and about “how great” her church was. Sadly however, I later discovered that her “church” was nothing more than a home Bible study.

What distinguishes a church from a small group or a Bible study?

The Augsburg Confession has this definition:

The church is the congregation of the saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments rightly administered. And unto the true unity of the church, it is sufficient to agree concerning the doctrine of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

Martin Luther had seven marks for a true church, and the Lutherans focused on the first three marks to hammer out that part of the Augsburg Confession.

Here’s my definition for a church:

A church is a gathering of four or more non-related Christians, who mutually self-identify as a church; believe and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ; rightly practice the two ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., baptism and the Lord’s Supper); has biblical male leadership in place; practices church discipline; and gathers at least each Sunday for worship, fellowship, and preaching from the Bible.

Notice I did not say anything about “where” a church should meet. They could meet in a house, parking lot, or in a school (though they should not meet in a mosque or an idol’s temple). The gathering is what makes a church–not the building.

WHAT IS A “TRUE” CHURCH?

Someone might wonder at this point, “Do Protestants have true churches?”

Of course, we all know that prior to the Reformation and the Schism of 1054, there was only “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” Church. However, due to the rampant immorality and false gospel teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, a break was imminent and necessary in order for the saints to recover the true gospel and of course, to recover a true Church. Yes, there are different denominations within Protestantism, but all true churches have one thing in common irrespective of denomination: They all adhere to the same, vital, apostolic doctrines. Our belief in truths derived from Scripture save us (1 Tim 4:16) and therefore, as a corollary, those same truths identify for us true churches. We hold a connection to apostolic churches [those churches planted by the apostles] through our faith in the teachings of the Bible. Tertullian perhaps said it best when he said, “We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different than theirs.”

Those of us in true churches should count our blessings and also take heed: A true church could become a false one by the abandoning of those central doctrines (e.g., Roman Catholic Church, and the churches of the P.C.U.S.A. denomination). We must stand firm on the Bible for the sake of our souls and the sake of our churches.

ONLY TRUE BELIEVERS SHOULD CONSTITUTE THE CHURCH

John Calvin once used Ephesians 1:13 and 2 Timothy 2:19 to note that only God Himself is aware of who the true Christians are within a church. It is true that the visible church on earth is comprised of both believers and unbelievers pretending to be believers. The two groups are often very difficult to distinguish (sometimes even the goats don’t know that they’re goats–read Matthew 7!)–both have professed Christ as Lord, both have been baptized, both attain membership, etc.–therefore, Calvin urges us to use “charitable judgment.” We have a church covenant and a membership interview, but at the end of the day, only God knows the heart.

We should however, strive to limit church membership to those who we believe are truly saved. In the Bible, many allegories are used to describe the Church of Jesus Christ. Among the more memorable ones is, “The Bride of Christ.” The Church is often referred to as Christ’s Wife. In the second to last chapter of the last book of the Bible, there is a vivid account of the Church by the apostle John:

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, (Revelation 21:9-10)

In case you’re wondering just who exactly will inhabit the city of God, John leaves no room for doubt. He closes the chapter with these words:

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

“Only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Church membership ought to reflect heavenly citizenship. It’s never going to be a perfect match, be we ought to strive for a regenerate church membership. Hence, baptism is always a pre-requisite for church membership.

CHURCH DISCIPLINE

A true church carries with her the power to discipline. A Bible study could never carry out the discipline needed against a member in grave sin. A pizza fellowship could never excommunicate with any real significance. The powers of discipline and excommunication have been reserved by Christ solely for His churches. Hence, when a biblical church properly excommunicates you, you are literally declared “outside of God’s Kingdom.” Hear the words of John Calvin:

Thus the church binds the person whom it excommunicates, not in the sense that it consigns him to permanent doom and despair, but in order to condemn his life and conduct, giving him early warning of his perdition if he does not return to the right path. The church looses the person it welcomes back into fellowship, in that it allows him to share in the unity it has in Jesus Christ. So that none may despise the church’s judgment and regard the verdict of believers as a minor matter, our Lord testifies that such judgment is nothing other than the declaration of his own sentence, and that whatever they have done on earth will be ratified in heaven.

What a tremendous power!  Excommunication is no “minor matter” because church is not a minor matter. Jesus said:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20)

NUMBER OF PEOPLE AND RELATIONS

Suffice it to say, one could write a book on all this. Yet, for the casual reader, let me just quickly say that I believe an assembly needs at least four people to be considered a church. The Jews have a house of prayer (beit tefilah) called the “synagogue.” In Judaism, although prayer takes place outside of the synagogue, group prayer within the synagogue is very important. Certain group prayers can only be said if the synagogue has a “minyan,” or a group of at least ten men. Hence, in order to start a synagogue, Jews needed at least ten men. Obviously, what the Jews practice is not binding to Christians, but it is worth some pause and consideration.

Baptist forerunner, John Smyth, defined the church as: “A visible communion of saints is of two, three, or more joined together by covenant with God and themselves, freely to use all the holy things of God, according to the Word, for their mutual edification and God’s glory.” Unlike Smyth however, I believe that one needs at least four people in order to be able to be considered a church. I believe Smyth derived his number of “two, three, or more” from Matthew 18:19. The text, within proper context, is a church discipline text. Upon closer examination of that chapter, one realizes that one would need at least four (counting the offender) in order to fulfill verses 15-17. Remember that a true church always has the power to excommunicate.

A church planter can not count his own family as a church. They may worship together, but for truth purposes, he did not “plant a church.” This is evidenced by the fact that if his family were to go back home, the “church” would also disappear. Nothing was ever planted! Furthermore, Scripture makes a distinction between a pastor’s family and the church:

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

Notice how if, the terms “pastor’s family/household” and “God’s church” were interchangeable, then the verses would not even make sense. It would be akin to saying “For if someone does not know how to manage his own family, then how will he care for his own family?” Paul’s point was to show trustworthiness. In other words, if a man could manage the smaller unit (i.e., his own family), then he could be trusted with the larger unit (i.e., God’s church). The church may include the pastor’s family, but it must be larger than the pastor’s family.

PASTORAL LEADERSHIP

Church discipline inherently implies the need for church leadership. A church, is therefore, not complete without church leadership. In Greek, the word for “family” is the word “patria” (Gk. πατριά). Yes, it has the same root as “patriarch,” or “father.” In many ways, a family is not really a family without a father. Likewise, a church is severely deficient without a male pastor (females are prohibited from being a pastor or an elder within a church–see 1 Cor 14:35 and 1 Tim 2:12). In fact, this was precisely the reason why the apostle Paul left Titus in Crete: “For this reason I had left you in Crete, that you might set right those things that are lacking, and ordain Elders in each city just as I ordered you” (Titus 1:5). The apostle James also saw pastors and elders as integral to the overall health of a church–literally:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15 )

Of course, the pastor and elders must be qualified [i.e., “ordained” as in Titus 1:5], but it will suffice to say this: A church without a pastor is severely deficient (Paul uses the word “λείποντα” in Titus 1:5) and one must wonder if it is a church at all. Ignatius once said, “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic [universal] church. It is not permissible either to baptize or to hold a love feast without the bishop.”

I might disagree with Ignatius about baptism (I think Philip baptizing the Ethiopian in Acts 8:38 shows us that non-pastors can baptize as well), but his point is well taken. Churches must have good pastors because ultimately, good shepherds are the means by which God demonstrates His steadfast love to His flock: “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jer 3:15).

And there we have it again: “Knowledge and understanding.” It all comes back to God’s Word. Churches, true churches, stand upon and believe in God’s Word.

If you’re a Christian, then make sure you join a Bible believing/Bible preaching/Bible teaching church.

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THE GIFT OF PROPHECY

By Dr. Stephen Kim

There seems to be today, much confusion about the spiritual gift of prophecy.  The Church ought not be lost regarding prophecy for both the Old and New Testaments have solid descriptions of what this gift looks like.  The apostle Paul tells us plainly that prophecy is indeed, a spiritual gift: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1).  Thus, the Scriptural mandate is that we actively and earnestly desire the gift of prophecy.

There are three pervasive errors regarding the gift of prophecy.

  1. The first error is to confuse “preaching” with “prophecy” (e.g., John MacArthur).
  2. The second error is to hold the view that an authentic prophet can occasionally utter false prophecies and still be considered an authentic prophet (e.g., John Piper and Wayne Grudem).
  3. The third error is the view that all true prophecies are on par with Scripture (e.g., Seventh Day Adventists).

My definition of prophecy is a propositional truth stating God’s revelation of future events or of secret matters through an individual (often known as a prophet or a seer).  This individual would then proclaim the God-given revelation to the people (often with the beginning declaration of, “Thus saith the Lord.”)  Unlike what some teach, prophecy is not simply the preaching of the Bible.  (The Greek word for preaching is kérussó but the Greek word for prophecy is prophéteuó.) They are two completely different activities in the very sense of each word.  Anyone can publicly declare the words of the Bible (i.e., preach).  On the other hand, no one can prophesy unless God supernaturally grants him a revelation.  

7 POINTS REGARDING THE GIFT OF PROPHECY

  1. In the Old Testament, all persons in Israel generally knew what the gift of prophecy entailed.  It was always a very special gift that was unique to a select few.  This “general expectation” is seen in statements in passages such as 1 Samuel 9, verses 6 and 9.  1 Samuel 9:6: But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true.  1 Samuel 9:9: Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.
  2. Prophecy sometimes entailed the accurate proclamation of future events. The “coming to pass” of the prophecy would verify the authenticity of the prophet. 1 Samuel 9:15-16: The LORD had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel.”   Acts 11:28: And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius).
  3. Prophecy sometimes entailed the revelation of past or present secret matters that were supernaturally revealed by God to a prophet.  In 1 Samuel 9:19-20 for example, how did Samuel know about the missing donkeys and what was going on in Saul’s mind?  Answer: Because Samuel was a prophet and God had revealed those things to him.  This, by the way, was a common expectation for a prophet by the Jewish public–as shown by the statement made by the Jewish men who blindfolded and beat Jesus during his trial as recorded Luke 22:64: They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?”  Again, notice that this a present, ongoing event that would be completely unknown to the person blindfolded–unless of course, God supernaturally reveals it to the person.
  4. Prophecy cannot simply be the “reading or preaching of Scripture” because such acts are not miraculous, do not reveal any secrets of an unbeliever’s heart, and would not cause an unbeliever to be in the type of shock that is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25: If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. 
  5. True prophecies are propositional and always come to pass. Why? Because no prophecy is ever act of fallible man.  True prophecy always has its origination in the Holy Spirit who is infallible.  “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). Prophets are only true prophets when all that they prophesy actually happen.  There is no “best out of three” policy when it comes to prophesy.  Even one false prophecy constitutes a false prophet.  1 Samuel 9:6, for example, you’ll see that this was certainly the expectation of the Israelites concerning their prophets: “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true.” A  false prophecy would constitute a false prophet, and a false prophet would not be recognized by the Old Testament community. In fact, they would be killed for taking lying in God’s name:  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death (Deut 18:20).  When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him (Deut 18:22). 
  6. True prophets will never contradict Scripture with their prophecies and therefore, true prophets will never be egalitarians who support the ordination of female pastors.  For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.  If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized (1 Cor 14:35-40).  
  7. Finally, although all prophecies are supernatural revelations by God, they are not to be recognized as Scripture.  The canon of Scripture is permanently closed.  God has already sovereignly chosen precisely which words constitute Holy Scripture and any modern prophecy must not be added to Scripture as “God’s Word.”  The modern prophecy might be accurate, but it is never on par with Scripture.  This has actually been true for centuries.  For example, in Scripture, we know for certain that Agabus was a prophet, but none of his actual words are ever recorded in our canon “as Scripture.”  We know with certainty that Philip had four daughters who clearly uttered accurate prophecies (Acts 21:9), but none of their words are ever recorded as part of God’s eternal Word.  Hence, all true modern prophecies are revelations from God, but they are not to be added to the Bible.  The Bible is closed and stands alone as “God’s eternal Word.”
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CHRISTIANS AND EVOLUTION

20151111_133250 - Edited

By Dr. Stephen Kim

As the our cultural milieu becomes increasingly secular, the pressure by academia to conform is becoming increasingly acute within the Church. The current “meta-narrative” of evolution is being used by secular scientists to promote the notion that the universe came into existence without God.  The Bible tells us a story and it begins with God. Evolution tells us a story and it has no God.  Make no mistake, the naturalist’s notion of Darwin’s evolutionary theory is completely godless.  As notorious atheist and college professor, Richard Dawkins, once infamously noted:

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: “I have no explanation for complex biological design.  All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.” I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p. 6)

At a very young age, I knew that either Darwin’s theory of evolution was true or Genesis was true. (For this reason, I intentionally skipped all the questions on the subject of evolution on the Biology Advanced Placement Exam in high school. I did not like the fact that they were treating the theory as fact and it was my way of boycotting the exam. (By God’s grace, I still passed the exam!))  I knew that both evolution and the Bible could not be true. William Provine, the late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University also believed that the two were incompatible.  Dr. Provine said:

“…belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.” (W.B. Provine, “No Free Will,” in Catching Up with the Vision–Essays on the Occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the History of Science Society, ed., 1999, p. S123)

In other words, the only religion one could hold if one properly understood and believed in evolution was the religion of atheism.  I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. Evolution and biblical Christianity are wholly incompatible. For the greater part of 2,000 years of Church history, the Church has held to a literal six (24-hour) day creation:

The church has historically believed that God created the universe ex nihilo–out of nothing–in the relatively recent past, perhaps five or six thousand years ago.  As the consensus of the church, this position was affirmed against philosophical theories that were similar in some ways to modern theories of evolution. It was not until the seventeenth century that a major challenge to this belief was set forth, yet on the whole the church continued to affirm and defend its traditional belief. Following that point, other challenges arose, none of which was greater than Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, that theory has significantly affected the church’s view of divine creation….It should be remembered that, even though Christians are divided–even hotly so, at times–on this issue, it has been only in the last few centuries that any significant controversy has existed over divine creation. Thus, the following discussion will be essentially uniform throughout the periods of the early church, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the early modern period. (Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, 2011, p. 254)

Recently, however, there are those who are beginning to succumb to Darwinian evolution.  As the culture begins to accept evolutionary theory as fact, tremendous pressure is being exerted upon the Church to either believe in evolution or be seen as unintelligent.

As a result of the secular intellectual community’s attempt depict those who do not believe in evolution as ignorant social buffoons, many Christians within the Church are beginning to capitulate and are espousing what is known as, “theistic evolution”–the belief that God used evolution to create this present world.  New Testament scholar, and former Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright is a prime example of the “spirit of compromise” that is currently seeping into our churches.  Wright, who believes that evolution is a fact, not only ridicules those who do not believe in evolution, but has this to say about Christians who take Genesis 1-3 literally:

The root problem we face as Christians is that in articulating a Christian vision of the cosmos the way we want to do, we find ourselves hamstrung because it is assumed that to be Christian is to be anti-intellectual, anti-science, obscurantist, and so forth. (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture, p. 26)

For men like Wright, a Christian who does not believe in evolution is an embarrassment to the Christian community–hamstringing the cause of Christ with “anti-intellectual, anti-science” and “obscurantist” views.  In order to be applauded by the intelligentsia of our era, men like Wright have left the Christian faith.  Yes, I said it.  I do not believe theistic evolutionists are saved.

7 Reasons Why Theistic Evolutionists Are Not Saved

  1. By believing in evolution, they believe that Adam and Eve were not the first humans.  In fact, they believe that Adam and Eve were just two out of some 10 million Neolithic humans who existed concurrently with Adam and Eve.  According to theistic evolutionists, Adam and Eve were only unique because God chose to reveal Himself to them in a manner that He did not to others.  There is no special creation of Adam and Eve.  By believing in evolution, they deny that the ontological source of all humanity is found in Adam and Eve and thus, deny Acts 17:26 which states, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” Furthermore, by believing in evolution, one must believe that Jesus lied when He said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matt 19:4).  Eve was not an evolutionary accident but rather, God directly created her at the very beginning with Adam. Adam and Eve were incontrovertibly the first humans on this planet.
  1. By believing in evolution, they believe that Adam was not uniquely created by God as the apex of creation and deny that he was created directly by God from the ground. Because they hold to evolution, they believe that Adam had human parents and thus, they deny Genesis 2:7 which states, “The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground.”
  1. By believing in evolution, they believe that Eve was not uniquely created by God from Adam’s rib.  Instead, they believe that Eve had human parents.  In holding evolution, they deny Genesis 2:21-22 which states, “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”  The disbelief of Eve having been created from Adam does damage to the theology of marriage, ecclesiology, and soteriology.  
  1. By believing in evolution, they believe that sin existed in the world prior to Adam and Eve’s sin of eating the forbidden fruit.  Thus, they deny Romans 5:12 which states, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  According to theistic evolution, sin not only already existed in the world prior to Adam, but there existed sinners (both now and then) who were not (and are not) sinners through Adam.  As we shall see in point #7, this does serious trauma to the gospel.  
  1. By believing in evolution, they believe that death and decay existed in the world prior to the Fall of Adam and thus, they deny Genesis 1:31 which states that the world was perfect and “very good” prior to Adam’s sin: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31).  The acceptance of death prior to the sin of Adam is inevitable if one holds the theory of evolution to be true:

“This, perhaps, is a way of reading the warning of Genesis 2: in the day you eat of it you too will die. Not that death, the decay and dissolution of plants, animals, and hominids wasn’t a reality already…” (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture, p. 38)

Hence, by believing in evolution, theistic evolutionists reject the doctrine that death, natural disasters, and disease are all results of Adam’s sin.

  1. By believing in evolution, they deny the Fall.  In evolution, mankind is gradually improving and progressing.  However, the Bible informs us that since the Fall of Adam and Eve, mankind (and all of creation) is “groaning” because of continual corruption and decay.  Things are getting worse–not better!  “That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:21-22).
  1. MOST IMPORTANTLY: By believing in evolution, they deny the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore, are not saved.  [I want to mention clearly that naturalistic evolution does not even believe in the existence of God.]  Truly saved persons will believe in the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve’s creation and fall.  At the heart of the gospel is the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Justification involves both the clearing of guilt by God through the blood of Jesus, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  The gospel states, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Rom 5:19-20).”  Theistic evolution breaks this vital parallel.  In theistic evolution, one man’s trespass did not lead to the condemnation of all men.  There is no unity within the human race. Adam was not the first man, he did not commit the first sin, and therefore, we are not condemned through him.  Once this is believed (and evolution necessitates this belief), then the other part of the formula falls apart as well.  Since Christ’s representation (which leads to salvation) is inextricably linked to Adam’s representation (which led to the condemnation of all men), the disappearance of Adam’s representation biblically (and logically) demands the disappearance of Christ’s salvation.  

CONCLUSION

Not only does belief in evolution destroy entire swaths of Scripture passages, but it also dismantles the gospel itself.  Christians must not embrace evolution.  Genesis and the theory of evolution are completely incompatible, and believing in evolution forces one to throw away many passages of the Bible or causes one to twist those passages beyond recognition.  

According to the Bible, God did not use evolution to make this present world.  According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were created directly by God; sin entered the world through Adam’s sin; all men were made sinners through Adam’s sin; death entered the world through Adam’s sin; natural disasters entered into the world through Adam’s sin, and all men who believe in Christ are made righteous through Christ’s death and resurrection. This is what the Bible teaches, and it is completely at odds with the theory of evolution. One could be a theistic evolutionist, but the god that such a one believes is certainly not the God of the Bible.  

Here is a simultaneous equation worth pondering:

Unbelievers believe: Nothing + Evolution = Everything

Theistic Evolutionists believe: God + Evolution = Everything

Therefore: God = Nothing

Let’s not go there.

The Bible and the theory of evolution are completely incompatible.

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MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PROTESTANTS AND CATHOLICS

By Dr. Wayne Grudem (Posted with the permission of Dr. Grudem.)

Numbers refer to pages in Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) and to paragraphs in Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 1994).

THE BIBLE

1. Authority of the Pope and the church Magisterium (= Pope + bishops).**

ST 129, 132  

CCC 882-883: “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor,…by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered…. ‘The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.’ As such, this college has ‘supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”

CCC 889-891: “Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates.  To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.  The exercise of this charism takes several forms: ‘The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith–he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.’”

Response: The apostles left their writings (= the New Testament) to take their place as the governing authority over the church; thus, the Bible, not any human person, has ultimate authority over the church:

1 Cor. 14:37 “the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord”;

2 Tim 1:13 “follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me”; 4:2;

2 Pet 1:19; see lecture on canon

2. Tradition (= the authoritative teaching of the church through history) as an authority alongside Scripture.

ST 21-22, 127-135

CCC 77-86: “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors.  They gave them ‘their own position of teaching authority.’…80 ‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together …. 82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone.  Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.’

Response: The canon of Scripture is closed and no later teachings have authority equal to it (see lecture on canon and Heb 1:1-3)

Hebrews 1:1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

3. Apocrypha as part of the Bible.

ST 57-59

CCC 120, 138: “The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,…Ezra and Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Job,…the Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Isaiah,…Lamentations, Baruch,…138: The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.”

Response: The Apocrypha is not the Word of God and should not be part of the Bible: not counted as such by first century Jews, by Jesus, by NT authors; or by the RC church until 1546. (See lecture on canon.)

GOD, PRAYER, AND WORSHIP

4.  Prayer to Mary and to other saints

Not discussed in ST

CCC 2675-2682: “2675: Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God,…In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another:…the second entrusts the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused. 2679: Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church.  When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father,… We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.”

Response: We should pray to God alone, through Christ alone:

1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

5. “Veneration” of Mary (which seems to Protestants to be worship of Mary).

Not discussed in ST, but see p. 531 note 3

CCC 971-972: “‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’  The Church rightly honors ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion…This very special devotion…differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the Incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.’”

Response: We should worship only God, not any created being:

Isa 48:11 “My glory I will not give to another”

Revelation 22:8 “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.

CHRIST’S REDEMPTIVE WORK

6. Continuing sacrifice of Christ in the mass.

ST 578

CCC 1364-1367: “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: ‘As often as the sacrifice of the Cross … is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.’  …. the Eucharist is also a sacrifice …. In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.

Response: Christ’s sacrifice was finished once for all time on the cross:

John 19:30 “It is finished!”

Hebrews 10:12-13 “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”

Hebrews 9:24 “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

7. Mary as “co-mediatrix” with Christ.

Not discussed in ST

CCC 968-969: ‘In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls.  For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.’  969: ‘This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect.  Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.’”

Response: Salvation is earned for us by Christ alone, and the NT is saturated with praise to Christ alone, not to Mary, for our salvation: 1 Tim. 2:5; John 14:6; Acts 4:12

Philippians 2:8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

SALVATION

8. Justification not by faith alone, but by faith plus use of means of grace to produce moral purity in us, and not completed in this life.

ST 722, 727-729

CCC 1129, 1989: “1129: The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. 1989: ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.’”

Response: Justification is by faith alone (this is the heart of the Gospel):

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, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Galatians 2:16 “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

9. Regeneration and justification come through baptism.

ST 971-975

CCC 1213, 1215, 1250, 1263-1266: “Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 1250: … children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God … 1263: By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.  1265: Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Response:  Baptism is only an outward physical symbol of an inward work of God, and, like all other outward “works,” it does not save anyone: Eph 2:8-9; Gal 2:16; 4:10-11; 5:2-4, 11  

Galatians 5:2 “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

10. Saving power of the sacraments.

ST 951, 971-75

CCC 1127-1128: “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify.  They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. 1128: This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: ‘by the very fact of the action’s being performed’), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all.”

Response: No works (or sacraments) can earn us merit before God or contribute to our salvation: Eph. 2:8-9; Gal 2:16

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, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

11. Purgatory as a place of suffering before people can enter heaven.

ST 817-819

CCC 1030-1032: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.  1031:  The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent.”

Response: Believers who die go directly to heaven to be with Christ at once: Acts 7:59; Rev 14:13

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Luke 23:43 “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Philippians 1:23  “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

12. People who have not heard of Christ or do not believe in him can be saved.

ST 116-118

CCC 839-848: “847: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

Response: The Bible gives us no grounds for believing this or encouragement to believe it: Rom 10:13-17; John 14:6; Acts 4:12

John 14:6  “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Romans 10:13  “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …. 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

THE CHURCH

13. Roman Catholic church as the one true church.

ST 855-856

CCC 815-819, 837-838: “816: ‘The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it…This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.’”

Response: The true church is wherever the Gospel is truly preached and baptism and the Lord’s Supper are rightly observed: Heb 3:6; 1 Tim 3:15; Gal 1:8-9; Rev 2:9

Hebrews 3:6 “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

Galatians 1:8 “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

14.  Priesthood as a necessary system for dispensing grace.

ST 951

CCC 1120: “The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church.  The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.”

Response: All God’s people are now a kingdom of priests (1 Pet 2:9) and all minister grace to one another through the gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1 Cor 12:4-7

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,”

1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

*Several of the sections noted in Systematic Theology also include quotations from and references to Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Herder, 1955), a standard pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic textbook.

**Items in bold are more significant differences because they have more effect on other doctrines and on one’s Christian life.

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THE GOSPEL DEMOLISHES RACISM

By Dr. Stephen Kim

It is not a profound statement to say that racism is still a problem in America. Names of locales such as Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and Staten Island, New York are recent and vivid reminders for all of us that race is still very much an issue in these United States.  And as we just saw in an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina this past June, a person would even murder nine members of another race while pretending to peacefully join them for a Bible study.  

And while the sin of racism runs deep within the hearts of some, the response given by the Christian family members of the victims who were killed during that Bible study are glorious depictions of the fact that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can cleanse the sin of racism from the hearts of men and women.  For example, when a family representative of Ethel Lance, the 70-year-old grandmother who was shot during the massacre, met the killer in court; the representative stood and told the killer:

“You took something very precious away from me.  I will never talk to her ever again.  I will never be able to hold her again.  But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.  You hurt me.  You hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you.

A family member of another victim even invited the killer to a future Bible study with the hopes that the killer would repent and be converted.

Those sorts of responses shocked the nation. “How could anyone forgive such an unrepentant racist killer?” wondered the nation.  The answer, of course, is the gospel. Christians were commanded by Christ to forgive the worst sinners because in Christ, we–the worst of sinners against God–have been forgiven by God.  Since God has so lavishly forgiven us, we have no choice but to lavishly forgive others. We conquer hate with love.  I believe that the gospel is the only solution for mankind’s deep hatred for one another for our hatred against our fellow man is deep and it goes way back to Cain and Abel. Social programs, Nobel Peace prizes, and philanthropy are inept against the racism that lurks deep within our wicked hearts.  Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the way we look at our ethnically variant neighbors.

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH DEMOLISHES RACISM

The reason why the gospel is incompatible with racism is because of the doctrine of “justification by faith alone.”  Justification by faith levels the field for all people.  All men are sinners.  The Jews need to be saved through faith in Christ, and the Gentiles need to be saved through faith in Christ.  It is the same entry-point for all people. It is the same gospel for all people.  In the book of Galatians, Paul vehemently exhorted the Galatian Christians that they were not inferior to their Jewish brethren simply because of this doctrine of “justification by faith alone.”

Anytime you believe in the inherent superiority of a particular race, you are adding to the gospel.  The Jews that came from Jerusalem were part of the circumcision party and were asserting their Jewish superiority over the Gentile Christians.  They were adding Judaism to the gospel.  But when it comes to salvation, the Jews need Jesus just as much as any other ethnic group; and conversely, the other ethnic groups do not have to become Jewish in order to attain eternal life.  Racism is completely incompatible with Christianity for the Bible declares:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

By being racist, you are declaring that the gospel is impotent and false.  Racism declares that the gospel does NOT unite all believers from various ethnicities into one united body through Christ Jesus.  Hence, racism stands in terrible contradiction to the gospel.  Just listen to how the blood of Jesus demolishes racism:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-14)

Did you hear that?  Jesus died for many reasons and one specific reason Jesus died was so that different ethnicities could have peace through His crucified and broken body.  We often declare that Jesus died for sins, but Ephesians 2:14 specifically declares that Jesus died to demolish the ugly sin of racism.  The fact that so many self-proclaiming Christians are also racists is a terrible shame to the gospel that they proclaim.   It is out-of-step with the gospel and when Peter committed a racist sin, Paul stood up and declared that Peter “stood to be condemned”  (Gal 2:11, which also clearly shows that racism is indeed a sin).

CHRISTIAN RACIAL DIVERSITY GLORIFIES JESUS

I fully understand that in certain settings, and in certain cities and nations, ethnic diversity is impossible.  The church (in those settings) will always look uniform because the nation is comprised of one ethnicity (this however, is not the case in global cities like New York City). However, we all ought to thirst for the day when Christians of all races could not merely worship and work together; but also eat, fellowship, reflect, and laugh together.  Racial diversity is something we ought to thirst for because very few things declare the power and transcendence of the gospel like Christian unity within ethnic diversity.  It powerfully declares to the world that Jesus is not merely a king for the Jews, the Arabs, the Koreans, or the Chinese.  Instead, ethnic diversity displays–in a very tangible way–that Jesus is King over the entire world and that the gospel is good news for all people.  Brothers and sisters, rest assured, this glorifies God.  I know this because one day, very soon, in heaven, God will put together a holy city with people from every nation, tribe and tongue.  Listen to the apostle John in the book of Revelation:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9)

There will be no racists in heaven because in that day, we will be perfected by the One who died to make us one. Yes friends, the gospel demolishes racism.

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