Sunday, January 18, 2015

Scripture Short - Church is Visible and Authoritative

“The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher…(7) Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be serious…(10) And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious…(13) for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1Tim 3:1-13)

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,” (Eph 4:11)

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?” (1Cor 12:28-29)

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Mt 18:15-17)

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18)

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20)

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16)

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” “ (1Cor 11:23-24)

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” “ (Jn 20:21-23)

“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Lk 10:16)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Call No Man Father, Mt 23:9

Christ said, But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.   And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.    Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.”  (Mt 23:8-10)

 Usually when Catholics are being pointed to the fact that we call our Priests “father”, it is only verse 9 that we see, “And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven”.  For some reason, those who like to hone in on “call no one your father” are willing to make exceptions for “teacher” and “instructor”, unless they are only reading the KJV, which translates “master” in those instances.  But even those are willing to make exceptions for our biological fathers.  There is a problem there, however, because this passage makes no distinction between spiritual and biological fathers.  It simply says, “call no one your father on earth”.

 While some folks may not be willing to allow for exceptions to spiritual fatherhood, it is worth noting that the earliest Christians, including Christ and His Apostles, DID.  The reason, as we might explain it, may be in part that Christ was not making a blanket law against calling any man on earth “father” or “teacher”, but was speaking against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who liked to have titles of power which puffed up their pride, causing them to forget who their true Father is, usurping God’s supreme Fatherhood.  You can get a better idea of what Christ was talking about by reading the immediately preceding verses, 1-7.  Altogether, it reads like this,

 “[1]Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  [2]“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.   [3] So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.   [4] They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.    [5] “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries  wide and the tassels on their garments long;  [6] they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  [7] they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.   [8] “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.   [9] And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.   [10] Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.”  (Mt 23:1-10)

Mt 23:2-3 may give a clue as to why some non-Catholics are quick to overlook the preceding text when pointing out “call no one your father”.  Regardless, if a Christian is going to be consistent with the Scriptures, he/she is going to have to admit that there are many exceptions to calling men “father” and that there must have been something deeper that Christ was talking about.  The Apostles had no problem at all with using the word “father” in its proper place, whether in a biological or spiritual sense.  They not only speak of “fathers” of the OT , and refer to themselves as being *like* fathers, but Paul even refers to himself as a “father”, and some of the Jewish leaders are called “father”. 

 For example*:

 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.”  (Acts 21:40-22:1)

 And he [Stephen] said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,  (Acts 7:2)

 I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
    because you have conquered the evil one.
I write to you, children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.” (1Jn 2:12-14)

 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children,” (1Thess 2:11)

 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?   But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.   Furthermore, we had  earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb 12:7-9)

 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,  (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” (Rom 4:16-17)

 Even Christ used “father” in its proper context regarding man, showing us that every use of the word in relation to man is not forbidden:

 Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”  (Lk 14:16)

 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’” (Lk 16:30)

 Paul and others show us more examples of their spiritual fatherhood to their “children”, and then Paul explicitly shows us the very context in which Catholics use the word for Priests:

 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,”  (Gal 4:19)

 To Titus, my loyal child in the faith we share:  Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” (Tit 1:4)

 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1Tim 1:2)

 I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight,”  (1Tim 1:18)

 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”  (2Tim 2:1)

 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  (1Jn 2:1)

 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”  (3Jn 1:4)

 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.” (Philemon 1:10)

 I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.    For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers.  Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  (1Cor 4:14-15)

 We even have Old Testament examples of men being called “father” in their proper spiritual sense, without detracting from God’s Fatherhood.  And since we know that “…all Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for… instruction…” (2Tim 3:16), here are some examples:

 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  (Gen 45:8)

 I was a father to the needy,    and I championed the cause of the stranger.”  (Job 29:16)

 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him [Elijah] no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.”  (2Kng 2:12)

 And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?  (2Kng 6:21)

 Even God, Himself, says that He will appoint a man to be “a father” to the Jews:

 On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah,  and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”  (Is 22:20-21)

 Was God speaking against His own future command to “call no one father” when He spoke through Isaiah? 
Did Christ give scandal and contradict Himself by referring to earthly and spiritual fathers as “father”?
Was Stephen wrong to call the Jewish leaders “fathers”?
Was Paul wrong to call himself “father” to the Gentiles and Onesimus? 

 No, none of these are misuses of “father” and none of them contradict what Christ taught in Mt 23.  Catholics call their Priests “father” in the exact same sense as what is shown in Scripture, and in the same way condoned and used by God and the Apostles.

John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society sums it up like this:

 “If you interpret this passage from Matthew 23 as an absolute ban against calling anyone your spiritual father, then there are some problems for you in the rest of Scripture. For example, Jesus, in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, has the rich man referring to Abraham as "father" several times. Paul, in Romans chapter 4, refers to Abraham as the "father" of the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. That's referring to spiritual fatherhood, not biological fatherhood.

 In Acts 7:1-2, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, referred to the Jewish authorities and elders who were about to stone him as brothers and "fathers," as does Paul in Acts, chapter 22. This is referring to spiritual fatherhood. So, if you interpret Matthew 23 as saying we cannot call anyone our spiritual father, then you have a problem with Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and the Holy Spirit...they must have all gotten it wrong.

 It is okay to call priests "father", just as it was okay for Jesus and Paul to call Abraham "father" and for Stephen and Paul to call the Jewish elders "father." As long as we remember that our true Father is God the Father and that all aspects of fatherhood, biological and spiritual, are derived from Him. And as long as we do not allow anyone else to usurp that role in any way, shape, or form, as the Pharisees and Scribes were prone to do.”  (J. Martignoni, Bible Christian Society, emphasis mine)


(*At you can select whichever translation you prefer and see how your favorite edition translates these passages.  I used NASB, NRSVCE, NIV and KJV. )

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pastor Charles Lawson on the Virgin Birth

My wife and I were sent a video link to a Fundamental Baptist preacher's sermon on the Virgin Birth, and what that means for Christians. (The Virgin Birth as explained by pastor Charles Lawson.) 

I half-expected the sermon to be the usual anti-Catholic hate-speech that I am sent from time to time by anonymous readers.  But instead of an anonymous person, this was sent to us by a good friend of my wife's, someone who genuinely cares about us and for whom we also care and pray daily.  So it should not have surprised me when the sermon was far from the usual.  While he did accuse Catholics of "worshipping" Mary a couple times, he spent most of his time sounding Catholic on the topic of Mary.  Compared to the usual, it was music to my ears. 

In watching the video, I was excited to find that we have so much common ground on such an important person as Christ's Mother. I couldn't help but wonder if this pastor knows that his views on Mary are mirrored in the Catholic Church.  The Mother of God (Christ, the "God-Man") , giving her flesh/DNA to the Word, Mary as the fulfillment of the OT Tabernacle and Arc of the New!  I've watched many non-Catholic preachers talk about Mary, but never in such a positive light and with such adherence to the Catholic perspective.  The parts of his sermon about Mary that really excited me were from the beginning to about 8:41, 9:09, 10:20 - 10:30, 10:48 (minus the accusation), 12:21 and 12:45 - 14:33 where he talks about all of the above, and more.  I think every Catholic can give a hearty AMEN! to much of that. 

At 8:41 and at 10:48 he says that Catholics go too far and "worship" her and "elevate her to the level of the Godhead".  Unfortunately he doesn't give any examples or explanation of why he believes that.  He doesn't provide any Church doctrine that makes him conclude it.  He simply says that we do.  He then says that, while we say we don't, we really do.  That's false witness on his part, and the only part of his sermon with which I take serious issue.

Catholic doctrine could not be any clearer that we are to worship God, and Him Alone.  Even our Catechism has an entire section devoted to "You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me", and the topic of worship and adoration of God is discussed in several places.  My guess is that the pastor has a different definition of "worship"?  Catholics (along with some other protestants) still believe in Sacramental worship of God.  Some non-Catholics define worship as "prayer".  I've discussed this before, whether worship equals prayer and the worship that was prophesied in Malachi 1:11.  In my own opinion, if this pastor is thinking that "prayer" equals "worship", it's because very few Christians have retained that Sacramental worship of God and are only left with prayer.  While Catholic worship of God *involves* prayer, and is sometimes in the form of prayer, it is ever so much more than that.

Or maybe he thinks we give Mary "too much" honor, and thereby "worship" her?  Given the honor that God gave Mary, the honor of giving birth to the Second Person of the Trinity, I don't think any Christian can ever honor Mary more than God did, do you?    However, this pastor gave no examples or explanation of what he meant, so we don't really know how he views worship, or why he believes Catholics "worship" Mary. 

The irony here is that, while he accuses us of worshipping Mary, he says that Christians SHOULD honor her and call her Blessed, and he hammers hard on these points.  Well, that's exactly what Catholics DO.  So, why are we "worshipping" her for doing exactly what even he says we should be doing?

Near the middle of the sermon he began to hone in on other points.  There were a couple other really neat things he mentioned that I want to point out.  At around 19:45, he talks about the "power of God" and "power of the Holy Spirit of God".  Scripture talks about the power of God in many places.  Paul, especially, talks about this in 1 Cor 23-25...that we  "preach Christ crucified" because that's "the power of God".  That's why you see so many Catholics with crucifixes!

At 25:27 and 29:48 he talks about Christ the King.  AMEN!  Christ IS the King!  Doesn't that give us a deeper and more profound look at what Jesus tells Peter in Mt 16:18-19?  Those words, in light of Christ being King, would only naturally be read in the same light as Is 22:22.  That's why Catholics, pointing to the keys being given to Peter, and Peter alone, recognize Peter and his office as being conferred by Christ.  Christ made him a "vicar" or "steward" of Christ.  That's one reason why we call the Pope the "Vicar of Christ". (See also Jn 21:15-17.)

I mostly ignored the short portion on the end-times.  Since Christ said we won't know, I figure we really won't know and had all just better make sure we are prepared for our own death, which we also cannot predict.

I loved the closing remarks about the depth of Christ's sacrifice for us (34:00 - 35:30).  That was touching and profound.  There are depths we will likely never reach in understanding just how much God sacrificed to become man and suffer for us.  I had to chuckle and wonder how this preacher wasn't already Catholic.  My guess is that it's due to the typical misunderstandings. 

Archbishop Fulton J Sheen once said, "There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church....As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do." (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen -- preface to RADIO REPLIES )

I wonder, since he didn't give any examples of how to do it, how exactly is a Christian to go about honoring Mary as he says we should?  What act(s) of honor would be worthy of honoring the Mother of Jesus Christ, whom God first honored?