Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Powerful Joyful Future is found in God

Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Enjoying the already and the not yet
Joy occurs when we have confidently apprehended what we have hoped for.  Now when it comes to the events of the age to come, we understand from the scripture that even though Christ’s return and His coming kingdom have not yet taken place, yet at the same time we are getting the foretaste of those realities right now. 

"Right now" is spoken of in that first part of Jude 24, wherein we see the first reason why we can increase our joy over prophetic events by centering on the Word, namely because of…

Now who is the power source of your joy?  Clearly God Himself is the one spoken of here, and more particularly God that is existing through the interacting relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In the September 5, 2005 edition of the Boston Globe, the question was asked: "how much energy does the sun put out in one second?"  The answer is astonishing: Enough energy to sustain our planet’s civilization for 500,000 years!  Now the Sun is huge, but it is of no comparison to the infinite power source we find from God communicating His unending power in union with the Living Word Jesus Christ.  Notice what Jude communicates about the believer’s unending power source for joy:

1. God’s Omnipotence – “To Him Who is Able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy”

2. God’s Omniscience – “to the only (wise) God”

3. God’s Omni benevolence (All goodness) – “be glory, majesty, dominion and authority”

4. God’s Omnipresence – before all time and now and forever. Amen”

This power source of your joy is experienced in and through the Living Word, for the text says about God’s unlimited power as being “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  When we center ourselves upon the Living Word in terms of His soon return, our joy is truly fulfilled.  1 Peter 1:7-8 states -  “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

God the Father, through His co-equality with God the Son, as shared by the Holy Spirit, gives us the power source for our joy as we look forward to what is revealed in prophetic scripture.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Link between Bible prophecy and joy

Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25to the only wise God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Defining the meaning and significance of eschatology
Bible teachers calls the study of prophecy “eschatology” or the study of last things (from "eschatos" = "last things" and "ology" = study of).  To center upon a subject of which ¼ of scripture is devoted to should cause great joy – since 224 predictions are made of Christ’s soon return.  Yet how often  have you heard a sermon or a read a book on Bible prophecy where the end result is fear and dread rather than hope and joy?  Repeatedly scripture connects the Christian's current joy with the soon return of Jesus Christ. 

Demonstrating the link between prophecy and joy
Jude in his short little book states his purpose in verse 3: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”  How can you and I as Christians contend for the faith in this present time if we do not have a joyful expectation of Christ's return?  Centering upon the Word written and the Living WORD produces joy not only for the current age, but the age to come.  Scriptures bear out this important link between prophecy and joy:

1. Notice what Israel will experience at Christ’s return in Isaiah 51:11 So the ransomed of the LORD will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
And everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

2. When Christ returns, we know that there will be a judgment of believers, as recorded in Matthew 25:21 - “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

3. Peter reveals that for the saints of God, joy will characterized their state of existence at Christ’s coming in 1 Peter 4:13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

4. In one of the final visions of our activity in Eternity, we see these words in Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Overwhelmingly the core theme of Bible prophecy is the joy we have in the Living Word, Jesus Christ and the certainty of what is said about Him in the written Word. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Provisions for Christian Victory over temptation

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Introduction: Christ was also tempted
Yesterday we noted some thoughts on how it is that Christians can have victory over temptation.  In the Bible, Christ's temptation in the wilderness stands as the epicenter on all scriptures dealing with the subject of temptation.  Christ's earthly ministry was characterized as being under constant barrage of various trials and temptations. (Luke 22:28)  Thankfully Christ never gave into such temptations despite being tempted at all points like we are. (Hebrews 4:15).

So why was Christ tempted?  What does His temptation have to do with Christian living? In today's blog, I want to list for you five provisions Christ gained for every believer as a result of His defeat of satan in temptations such as He endured in Matthew 4:1-11.  We will then close with two verses that explain why Christ had to undergo temptation.

5 provisions for victory over temptation gained by Christ for every Christian as taken from Matthew 4:1-11 and other verses:

1. God’s Holy Spirit.  Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1; Gal 5:16
The Holy Spirit was the One who led Christ into the wilderness.  It was a place full of wild beasts. (Mark 1:12-13)  The Holy Spirit's leading of Christ into the wilderness was for the purpose of victory, not failure.  Every child of God who is led by the Holy Spirit will be able to overcome whatever temptation may come.  At every point in our own humanity, we have to make a choice whether we will be self-led or Spirit-led.  Thankfully, Christ at every point in His humanity chose to be led by the Holy Spirit.

2. God’s Word. Mt 4:4; Ps 119:11
The counsel of the scriptures cannot be over estimated.  Whenever I as a Christian choose to subject myself to the word of God, I am indicating that I am also choosing to be led by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16)  As much as Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, He nonetheless chose to forego accessing His Divine attributes in preference to drawing from the scriptures. 

3. God’s character. Mt 4:5-6; 1 Cor 10:13
In every temptation, God's character is posed as a question in the believer's mind.  If we conclude that God is not trustworthy, we will fail.  However if we conclude that God is trustworthy, then we will prevail.  This is what Christ did consistently in His rejection of Satan's words.  The Character of God, standing as the backdrop of revealed scripture, guided Christ in His humanity, since in His Deity he shared in such character.  As fully God, He could not sin and as sinless man he would not sin.
4. God’s Glory. Mt 4:7-10; Ps 121:1-12
Though in the stark Judean Wilderness in Matthew 4;1-11, the glory of God functioned for Jesus like a morning dawn on the horizon of His life.  He never lost hope, He never let discouragement get the best of Him.  God's glory far outshown the glories of the kingdoms shown to him by the Devil.  Anyone who has ever seen a sunset or sunrise over a city skyline knows that the city lights pale in comparison to the light-show God can put on display. 
5. God’s Angelic Hosts. Mt 4:11; Heb 1:14; Acts 27:23,24
The Bible tells us that after Satan left, angels came to minister to Him.  Angels are ministering spirits who to this day minister to God's people. (Hebrews 1:14)  Our invisible Angelic friends were made possible through what Christ accomplished.  They are servants of the most high God.  We know Peter had such assistance (Acts 12:7-10) and Paul had such assistance (Acts 27:23,24).  Furthermore we as Christians today, in ways we cannot even begin to understand, have angels dispatched by the authority of Christ to protect every believer. (Hebrews 1:14, 13:2)

Why Christ had to undergo temptations for every believer: empathy with believers and enablement of believers
Whatever Christ experienced in the course of His humanity during the days of His time here on earth, we as believer's have access to the provisions he won for us.  Hebrews 2:18 states - "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."  That verse tells us that Christ can enable every Christian, who so avail themselves of Christ provision, to overcome temptation.  Then Hebrews 4:15 explains even more: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."  Thankfully our High Priest understands what we are undergoing.  Just to know that He knows means that there is no better One to flee to in times of trouble than Jesus Christ. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christian Victory over Temptation

2 Peter 2:9a "then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials...."

In today's blog we want to consider what the Bible has to say on the subject of temptation.  I thought we would do this by noting some observations we learn about temptation from God's Word.

1. Temptation by itself is not sin
James 1:12-13 "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

2. When I give in to temptation, it is sin   
James 1:14-16 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

3. God is faithful.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

4. Three sources of temptation.
a. Devil (temptation’s adversary) 1 John 2:14
b. World (temptation’s arena) 1 John 2:15
c. Flesh (temptations active target). 1 John 2:16

1 John 2:14-16 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

5. Why do people give into temptation?
 James 4:1-3 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

6. Can Christians have victory over temptation? Yes.
Hebrews 2:18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, Heresy

Daniel 2:43 "And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery."

What happens when you mix iron and clay
When Daniel was interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the Colussus or Large statue, he got to a part in the dream where the statue's feet was made of a mixture of iron and clay.  In the next verse, Daniel explains that the final kingdom to rise up before the return of Jesus Christ will have two properties: partially strong and partially brittle. 

Defining Orthodoxy
When examining any belief system to determine its adherence or non-adherence to the gospel, three terms can be used: Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy and Heresy.  In thinking on the properties of iron and clay, orthodoxy can be likened unto iron: something that is strong, reliable, consistent.  Orthodoxy comes from two Greek words: "ortho" meaning "straight" and "dokeo" meaning "thinking, thought".  So a Christian who holds to an orthodox understanding of the Bible, Christ and Salvation (note: our use of "orthodox" here is not to be confused with how the term is employed by the Eastern Orthodox Church), is holding straight and parallel with the teaching of scripture. 

Defining Heresy
Heresy represents another end of the spectrum.  It can be likened unto clay, since it is subject to constant change and moves in response to the preferences of men.  Heresy comes from a Greek word meaning "opinion".  Thus, a heresy is a belief system that claims to be Christian, however it is utterly "un-orthodox" in its views of the Bible, Christ and Salvation.  Heresies contain no redemptive value and over time end up producing there own literature that completely replaces the Bible. (i.e Mormonism for example) 

Defining Heterodoxy
There is a third class of belief system that functions much like the part of Nebuchadnezzar's vision, in that it mixes together elements of sound orthodoxy (i.e iron) and unsound heresy (i.e clay).  Heterodoxy comes from two Greek words: "hetero" meaning "of a different kind" and "dokeo" meaning "thinking, thought".  A heterodox belief system occupies a wide range of territory between orthodoxy and heresy.  Heterodoxy will usually be sound in at least one of the three major areas of the Bible, Jesus Christ or salvation, while retaining heretical elements in at least one of those same areas.

Understanding how Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy and Heresy are related
If we were to picture all three on a scale, we could picture them accordingly:

Heterodoxy is dangerous because while claiming to be orthodox, it finds comfort in retaining beliefs that are not taught in the Bible.  As seen in the above diagram, heterodoxy can cover the chasm between orthodoxy and heresy.  Depending on the amount of "iron" to that of "clay", some forms of heterodoxy will seem closer at times to true biblical Christianity than others.  However, as can be noted also in the diagram above, the manner in which heterodoxy drifts will lead to an abandonment of the Gospel if not corrected.

Where do we place Roman Catholicism on this scale?
As we have examined Roman Catholic belief and practice for the past two weeks, we have noted that at some points, Roman Catholic belief does hold to "iron" truths revealed in scripture, such as:
1. The Trinity
2. Christ's Deity and Humanity
3. The Inspiration of the Bible

However there is a lot more "clay" or heretical elements not taught anywhere in the Bible, including:
1. The Co-redeemer role and elevation of Mary
2. The cult of the saints
3. The equality of tradition and the Majesterium to Biblical authority
4. Salvation by faith plus baptism, which maintained to adherence to the Roman Catholic sacramental system
5. The departure from the Gospel, thus compromising the legitimacy of its claim to be the mission of Christ to the world
6. The sacramental system's function as a substitute Jesus in the application of salvation
7. Addition of other books to the 66 inspired books of the Bible

Other teachings could be mentioned, but as it can be plainly seen, Roman Catholicism is a heterodox system.  Its departure from the Gospel makes it even more dangerous to remain a part of, since its "clay" content cannot be supported by scripture.  Its system is ultimately brittle.  Only Christianity that adheres to salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone of the Bible alone for the glory of God alone can be deemed orthodox, biblical Christianity.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Credit or Debit? Justification in scripture vs Roman Catholicism

Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Credit or Debit?
Whenever I go to a gas station or grocery store, the clerk will usually ask the question: Will that be credit or debit?  A New York Times Article on this subject states: "Debit cards are linked to your bank account so the money you spend is automatically deducted from your account."1   Then in distinguishing credit cards, the article defines them: "Credit cards basically allow you to use someone else’s money (the card issuer’s) to make a purchase while you pay the money back later." 2

When we consider the difference between the biblical view of Justification by Faith Alone vs the Roman Catholic view of justification, we can liken both to a Perfectly pure credit based system of salvation vs a debt based system of salvation.

The Biblical View - Credited Righteousness
As we saw in yesterday's post, the Bible teaches that at saving faith, God credits or "imputes" the righteousness of Jesus Christ to the sinner, thus making him or her positionally right with God.  This crediting of righteousness means that all the sinner's debts have been paid in full.  From that standpoint, the Bible then teaches that the saint of God will grow experientially in the practice of right godly living, or sanctification.  The ability to live the Christian life stems from the Holy Spirit working through sanctifying grace, which is distinguished but nonetheless rooted in the justifying grace received by faith at salvation.

The Biblical view of Christ's credited righteousness means the bill for salvation is paid in full for believers
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  The Biblical view of justification by faith alone has the righteousness of Christ being credited to the believer.  Unlike the credit of credit cards, there is no bill coming from God, expecting the believer to "hold up his end of the bargain" so as to make payments.  Romans 4:4-5 states: "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness."

The Biblical view of Christ's credited righteousness provides the basis for wanting to live right for God
Often I have heard the accusation that for God to credit a sinner at salvation with a righteousness that is not His own amounts to some type of legal fiction.  Furthermore, some will say that the crediting of Christ's righteousness leads to a person living anyway they want, since God forgives no matter what.  True saving faith receives the grace of justification by itself.  However the believer's life from thereon is characterized by a faith that aims to live right for God.  James 2:26 states: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead". 

In the credit based system of biblical salvation, I have the infinite merit of Jesus Christ's righteousness to draw from in living the Christian life.  There is no credit limit, and furthermore, it is by using that credit of His righteousness that I more and more begin to look like the One who issues the credit!  As I use the credit of Jesus Christ, I learn how to live for God plus I gain the desire to want to live for Him. By being in Christ, and he working through me, God's declaration of me as righteous is not fictional - but factual! (Philippians 2:12-13) 

The Roman Catholic System - Debt Based view of salvation
In the Roman Catholic system, the type of righteousness in their view of justification is not Christ's righteousness, but the believer's righteousness.  Furthermore, there is no "crediting" or "imputing" of Christ's righteousness to the sinner's account, rather, in the Roman Catholic perspective, God "infuses" or "begins to pour in" gradual righteousness into the sinner. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out:  "The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity." 3

A debt based system of salvation leads to the impossible of finding assurance
This righteousness of the believer is begun in the Roman Catholic rite of baptism, and must be maintained through confession, participation in the Mass and the whole Roman Catholic system.  In short, the individual is always in debt.  Roman Catholicism teaches that one can lose their status of rightness (or justification) before God, and thus must reconnect via confession, paying penance and the Mass.  In Roman Catholic thought, justification and sanctification are one and the same.  This confusion leads to trying to attain right standing before God, since in Roman Catholic thinking, one cannot be declared righteous by God until they are actually righteous. 

So which would you have? Credit or debit?
The Biblical view of Justification by faith alone advocates the crediting of Christ's righteousness to the one who receives salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  Roman Catholicism teaches that in order for God to declare me righteous, I have to become actually righteous by my faith, plus baptism and participation in the Roman Catholic system.  The first one is credit based, meaning the price of my salvation is paid in full and applied to me in saving faith, resulting in me wanting to live right as I draw from the infinite merit of Jesus Christ.  Roman Catholicism is debt based, meaning that I can never be assured of whether I truly right with God, since I'm attempting to achieve right standing through faith in the Roman Catholic system. 

I would urge you today dear friend, if you have not done so, to by faith enter into God's credit based system which is from Jesus Christ and by Jesus Christ.  (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) 
End Notes
1 Jennifer Barrett, New York Times January 6 2009.
2  Jennifer Barrett, New York Times January 6 2009.
3  Catechism of the Catholic Church

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Justification by Faith Alone: How people are made right with God


Four questions to consider on the subject of how people are made right with God?
This question is given an answer through a word Bible teachers use called "justification".  This one area of the doctrine of salvation is "the area" that lies at the heart of the Gospel.  It is this very issue that the Reformer Martin Luther determined to be what causes the church to rise or fall.  It was, and to this day still is the continental divide between Roman Catholics and Bible believing Christianity. 

What exactly is meant by the phrase "Justification by faith"?
The late James Montgomery Boice, an ardent defender of Biblical inerrancy in the twentieth century, writes this definition of justification in his book - "Whatever happened to the Gospel of Grace?": "Justification is an act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone." 1

The biblical doctrine of Justification by faith aims to answer four very important questions: "How are people made right with God?" "What is it that makes a person right with God?" Thirdly, "How does God go about making a person right with Himself?" Then fourthly, "how does a person stay in the right with God?" 

Where Baptists have stood on the issue of Justification by Faith Alone
With a clearer understanding of what we mean by the term: "Justification by Faith Alone", what then of groups such as Baptists?  A recent book commenting on the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message has this to say about Justification by Faith: "Given current confusions concerning the doctrine of Justification prevalent in the larger evangelical world, it is helpful that the Baptist Faith and Message makes it clear that sinners are justified by faith alone - on the basis of Christ's righteousness alone."2

Other older Baptist doctrinal statements, from the New Hampshire Confession of 1833, to the Philadelphia Baptist Confession of 1742, to the Baptist Confession of faith 1689, echo this same idea.  Those former generations defined justification as occuring by grace alone, through faith alone, whereby the work of Christ is "credited" to the sinner who trusts in Him.

How the Bible unfolds the issue of how one is made right with God
The reason I have labored the above is to demonstrate the importance and consistent testimony of other Christians back through the ages.  Hearing the testimony of the past Christians is an important part of developing a sharper understanding of doctrine.  However that testimony can never be equated with scripture.  It is the scriptures which govern what we ultimately believe about issues such as Justification by faith.  So how does Scripture answer the above four questions through its teaching of justification by faith.

1. How are people made right with God? By Grace Alone through Faith Alone.  Through God's declaration of that person's "rightness" or righteousness before His sight by grace alone through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9) 

2. What is it that makes a person right with God? Christ's righteousness.  That is, the righteousness of God earned by Jesus Christ in His perfect life, perfect death and powerful resurrection. (Philippians 3:7-14)  At saving faith, God justifies or aquits the sinner by crediting them with the righteousness of Christ.  This idea of crediting someone with another's accomplishments is what we call "imputation". 

3. How does God go about granting the righteousness of Christ to a person? God credits the believer with the righteousness earned by Christ.  When a person by grace alone through faith alone trusts in Christ Person and work on their behalf, God credits them with Christ's righteousness.  This means then that even though the sinner is not actually righteous at salvation, God declares Him to be so, since it is Christ's righteousness that is being credited to the sinner's account.  For it was on the cross that God credited to Christ's account my unrighteousness, even though Christ was actually sinless. (Romans 3-4; Galatians 3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:15-21) 

4. How does a person stay in the "right" with God?  Justification deals with God declaring me and crediting me with Christ's righteousness at saving faith.  It is from the root of Christ's righteousness credited in justification that my own progressive, experiential righteousness (what is called "sanctification") bears fruit.  I'm essentially kept in my salvation by the same basis I first entered - by reliance upon Christ's Person and accomplishment.  
Justification and Sanctification, though related, must be distinguished if the Gospel is to be understood rightly
I'm becoming in experience through sanctification whom God has declared me to be already in Christ at justification.  Though related graces, both justification and sanctification must be distinguished if a biblical understanding of salvation is to be maintained.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church consistently confuses these two doctrines, leading it to an incorrect view on how a man is made right with God.  3

Biblically understanding the relationship between faith and actions (or works)
A truly converted heart is saved by grace through faith alone, and lives out the Christian life with a faith that is never alone.  Works proceed from true saving faith. (James 2:13)  My experiential righteousness grows forth from who I am in Christ's righteousness credited to me in justification.  Thus it only stands that I remain right with God in the same manner I entered into relationship with Him - in Christ's righteousness alone. (Philippians 3:7-14; Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:4-11) A true Christian, operating from the once credited justifying grace, will want to continue progressing experientially in sanctifying grace.

End Notes_____________
1 Boice, James Montgomery. "Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?" Cross Way Books. 2001

2 Blount, Douglass K. and Joseph D. Wooddell. Rowan and Littlefield Publishers. 2007 

3 Catechism of the Catholic Church -  Part Three: Life In Christ Section One Man's Vocation Life in the Spirit, Chapter Three- God's Salvation: Law and Grace, Article 2 - Grace and Justification.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Knowing whose in charge: Catholicism vs the Bible

Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Why the Bible Alone must be asserted as uniquely authoritative
It is obvious that the system of the Roman Catholic Church is complex, involved and not as straightforward as claimed by its proponents. Again when we advocate the Bible Alone as the believer's authority, we are not ignoring things like tradition or church history. However, the scriptures, in their 66 books of the Old and New Testament, are the most stable authority available.  Theology, Church History and Bible teachers, no doubt representing the working of God the Holy Spirit through response to the scriptures, nonetheless must acknowledge the superiority of the Bible to all other authorities.

The aim of today's blog
In light of the above statement, we want to see why the Bible alone must be declared the final authority on all matters, and why things like tradition, though important, cannot be equated with the scriptures.  As will be seen, Roman Catholic Church Tradition is not fixed, and represents a source of authority that has departed from the true Gospel. Today I want to outline how the Roman Catholic system developed in its view of authority, with some closing tips on how to share the Gospel in light of such observations.

What makes Roman Catholicism the system that it is?
Knowing how a particular movement developed and knowing its underlying assumptions for understanding the world or its "worldview" is key to effectively sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
It must be remembered that words such as "faith", "Christ" and "authority" will have different meanings for Roman Catholics from those of Bible believing Christianity. 

The Three-fold Source of Divine Truth in Roman Catholic thought.  Three equal sources of authority or Divinely revealed truth Teaching Authority of the Papal Heirarchy (Majesterium); Church Tradition and the Scriptures.1 Paragraph #95 of Catechism.  How did the system come to view these three as equals?

a. How Roman Catholicism came to view the scripture. 
In terms of the authority of scripture, the Roman Catholic Church affirms the Bible to be Divinely inspired and without error, much in line with Bible believing Christianity.  However it also has added other books called the Apocrypha to the collection of Bible books or the "Canon", a decision that came about in 1546 A.D at the Roman Catholic Church's Council of Trent, and which is still retained in the current version of the Catholic Catechism. 1

b. How Roman Catholicism came to its view of Teaching Authority as Equal with the Bible
The tradition of the Catholic Church finds its central embodiment and communication in the Pope and the teaching heirarchy of the Roman Catholic system called "The Majesterium".  This component of Roman Catholicism has its root in their doctrine called "Apostolic Succession".  It began with a right motive of identifying which churches taught true doctrine, since there were heresies masquerading as Christianity.  Early Christians such a Iranaeus in 180 A.D wrote that a true church taught the traditions handed down by the apostles through a succession of Bishops.2

Since the Apostles Peter and Paul both influenced Christianity and died in Rome, and since the Roman Church (by and large) had avoided the corruptions of heresy in the first three centuries, the Roman Bishop came to be viewed as the rightful heir of apostolic authority in Roman Catholic thinking.  After Christianity became legalized in 313 A.D, the ceasing of persecution gradually led Institutional Christianity to allign with the Roman empire.  In 440 A.D the Roman Bishop, Leo I, declared the Roman Bishop to be "papas" or Uniter of the secular and spiritual powers of the empire and the church. 3

From Leo I in 440 A.D to a man named Gregory 1 in 590 A.D we see what would be the pattern for the remaining development of the position of Pope, the majesterium or teaching authority of the Catholic Church and thus the belief that such authority was binding upon the consciences of men.  In 800 A.D a man by the name of Charlemane, of ancient French and German descent, was crowned "Holy Roman Emperor" by Pope Boniface on Christmas day 800 A.D.  Through the period of the Middle Ages, the Pope's power continue to increase, with the declaration of his ability to speak infallible truth in the Vatican I council of 1871.

c. How Roman Catholicism came to view Church Tradition as equal with the Bible
With the development of the Heirarchy system of the Roman Catholic Church, it led logically to the Church viewing itself as having equal authority to the Bible.  Again through the centuries, the church had to battle heresies that denied Biblical doctrines such as the Deity of Christ, the Trinity and Salvation by Grace through Faith.  Through the convening of meetings called Church Councils, Godly pastors and theologians did right in making declarations that communicated the Gospel clearly.4

However many of those who alligned themselves with the system that would become the Roman Catholic Church, came to view the church as equally authoritative due to the Pope's allignment with the Roman Empire and then later on other prevailing secular authorities.  Like a snowball going down a hill, the Roman Catholic Church picked up a combination of Biblical and non-biblical assumptions.  From roughly 200-800 A.D it picked up the remnants of left over Greek and Roman beliefs.  In what is called the Middle Ages (900-1500 A.D), it came to interpret the Bible through the Ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle. 

Right down through today, the Roman Catholic system views itself as a living tradition, meaning that the Holy Spirit speaks not only through the scriptures, but equally through the growing understanding of the Roman Catholic Church as led by the Pope and accompanying Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops. 6

Practical tips to remember when sharing the Gospel with Roman Catholic Friends and Family
When sharing the Gospel with Roman Catholic Friends and Family, these differences must be acknowledged.  If your friend still insists on hanging onto the equal authority of the Pope and Church Tradition, you will find it very difficult to continue sharing the Gospel.  However pray the Holy Spirit would open their eyes to the truth of the Unique and Binding authority of the scriptures, and how Christ through the Bible, works through His Spirit to uniquely bring about conversion and spiritual transformation. (Psalm 19:7; Romans 10:17) In understanding these differences, we will have a better idea of how to proceed as we aim to share the Gospel with our Roman Catholic friends, families and neighbors. 

End Notes_________________
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 1, Chapter 2 Article 2, Chapter 3, Section 4

2 Quoting Iranaeus' book against heresies in Henry Bettenson's: "Documents of the Christian" Church pg 97 

3 Earle E. Cairnes:  Christianity Throught the Centuries. ppgs 154-155. 

4 Early Christians would convene church councils to decide, clarify or defend important truths already outlinedin scripture.  The earliest of these was the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, which defined how the Jewish Christians were to proclaim the Gospel to an increasing converted Gentile Church.  In Church History the four main church councils to which many Christians to one degree or another appeal to are the following: Council of Nicea which affirmed Christ's Deity against the Arians who denied such in 325 A.D; Council of Constantinople of 381 A.D which affirmed the Deity of the Holy Spirit; Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D which reaffirmed the conclusions of Nicea and finally, perhaps the most significant of them all, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D which affirmed the dual natures of Jesus Christ

5 A Theologian in the Middle Ages by the name of Thomas Aquinas took much of Aristotle's thought and shaped biblical interpretation around it. 

When we think about it, the system known as the Roman Catholic Church did not become formalized, at least in a reconizeable way, until after the fifth century.  This would mean then that the Roman Catholic system is at least five centuries removed from the original biblical Christianity that, running parallel, has remained unbroken since the days of Christ and the Apostles.  Thankfully God in His providence has seen fit to use Revivals, Reformations, Godly Men, and at of course preservation of the biblical text to ensure that the Gospel would never be finally lost.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Gospel's True Jesus and a substitute Jesus

Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Today's blog will be dealing with this significant question: how is the salvation of Jesus Christ accessed and applied to human beings?

1. The True Gospel teaches Salvation is Accomplished by Christ and Applied by the Holy Spirit through the scriptures to his Church

The Bible's teaching on salvation Accomplished and Applied
By Grace Alone
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Bible teaches that salvation, and its application, are worked forth by Christ through His Spirit to His people. 
Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone
It is the Holy Spirit who applies the gifts of faith and repentance whereby the sinner makes a decision of trust in Jesus Christ. (John 1:12-13; 16:8-16; 2 Timothy 2:24-26) 
By the Bible Alone
It is the Holy Spirit who strengthens the Christian in following through in obedience to the commands of God. (Galatians 5:16, 22) 
Leading to a Faith that is not Alone
It is through the scriptures that the salvation to turn a heart of rebellion into worship is brought, as well as the desire to live out the Christian faith. (Psalm 19:7-14) By faith without works one recevies salvation which leads to an ongoing faith that works, or is never unaccompanied without evidence of a changed life. (James 2:14-18)

The Bible's teaching on Baptism and the Lord's Supper
Pertaining to the place of baptism and the Lord's table, they function mainly a pictures of the prior work of salvation received by faith in the believer. (Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21) Baptism is an act of obedience done by converted people, and the Lord's Table is for those converted people who have been immersed in a church which practices believer's baptism as a picture of salvation. (Acts 2:38-41)  We see no evidence whatsoever of these two ordinances conveying salvation.

This point express the fact that only two ordinances, or Divinely prescribed wordpictures were given by Christ to His church - Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

The Bible's teaching on the role of the church
In the Bible, Baptism initiates the believer into the membership of the church, not life in the kingdom. Jesus taught that the new birth, recevied by grace through faith, is what initiates one into salvation or the Kingdom. (John 3:3-6). The Church functions to be the means by which the Christian gorws in their faith with other Christians. (Hebrews 10:24-25) However, the church is to never replace Christ nor the ministry of the Spirit in matters of salvation. Only through the scriptures, preached and taught, can salvation be begun and received in the heart. (Romans 10:17)

2. Roman Catholicism teaches salvation accomplished by Christ and is applied through participation in its Church system

The Roman Catholic Church Sacramental System: Functioning as a substitute Jesus
In Roman Catholic teaching, especially in Part Two of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the way in which one receives salvation and participates in it is through what are called "sacraments".  When something is termed a "sacrament", it is simply a conveyor or vehicle of God's grace.  This word in other Christian communions refers more to how God strengthens or encourages the believer.  However in Roman Catholic theology, a sacrament is taken a step beyond, and refers to conveying actual saving faith and sustaining of the participant in salvation. 

For the Roman Catholic Church there are seven such "sacraments" which we'll just simply list and describe.  Please note that the definitions assigned to these words are not from scripture, but rather meanings given by Roman Catholicism itself:

1. Baptism - That which, when combined by faith, brings about Christian conversion.1 

2. Confirmation - Small children are taken through a ceremony whereby they learn and recite the teachings of the church. 
3. Confession - Roman Catholic Theology believes that when one sins, they can lose the grace of justification (salvation) they received in baptism.  Thus by going to the priest, the priest assigns a means for them to get right with God again through certain moral acts or "penance".2

4. The Mass -  In Roman Catholic teaching, this is literally a re-sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the participants - albeit a bloodless sacrifice. 3

5. Marriage - When a Roman Catholic wedding is performed, you will commonly see the celebration of a mass.4 

6. Anointing of the sick - Sometimes still viewed as "last rites", this particular act is done for those near death or extremely ill.

7. Holy Orders or Ordaining to the Preisthood - The Priests, Bishops and the entire Roman Catholic Heirarchy has their own "sacrament" that is believed to convey some level of authority to them.  This means they represent the interests of Christ and the church, especially in the Mass. 

The Sacramental system is how the Roman Catholic Church believes the benefits and experience of salvation are applied and experienced.  In a large way, though claiming in their theology to believe in accomplished work of Jesus Christ, yet the application of such work is accomplished through the Roman Catholic system.  If anything, the sacramental system functions like a substitute Jesus. 

Once again the Roman Catholic system, when compared to scripture, shows a completely different gospel.  May we through the study of God's Word aim to understand and proclaim the True Gospel, which must ever be contended for in every generation.

1 Also too, since Roman Catholicism believes in sprinkling infants, quite literally that infant, when sprinkled, is believed to be infused with the regenerating grace that leads to salvation. 

2 Thus the Roman Catholic never has full assurance of salvation, and is thus tied to the sacramental system. Once they pay there penance, the priest declares their sins forgiven or "remitted" and thus they can particpate in the Mass.

3 This Roman Catholic version of the Lord's supper has the priest blessing the bread and the wine with them being transformed into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. Roman Catholicism teaches that when a participant has payed penance, the mass restored them to fellowship within the church.

4 This rite is viewed as a sacrament as well, a conveyor of grace. Quite literally the sacramental system covers a Roman Catholic from cradle to grave.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Roman Catholicism vs the Bible: The saints, the church

Romans 1:7 to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we again want to explore another major area that one hears about in Roman Catholic circles - namely the issue of saints and the church.  What does the Bible present on this subject in comparison to Roman Catholicism?  Lets discover.

1. The idea of "saints' in the Bible
Some 117 times do we find mention of "saints" in the Bible.  In the Old Testament I find at least three of those references pointing to the angelic hosts surrounding the throne of God, with the remainder referring to believers in the Old Testament (called "qadosh" in the Hebrew) and believers in the New Testament (called "hagioy" in the Greek). 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:2 gives us a clear example and definition of what a saint is in the New Testament.  By seeing Paul's definition working from the Corinthian's post-conversion state back to the point of their conversion, we can reassemble the sequence by which one becomes a saint of God:

a. They were first called by God in Grace unto salvation
b. They confessed Christ as Savior and Lord by faith
c. They from saving faith began progressing in growth of faith or sanctification
d. They became members of the local church, presumably after  having received believer's baptism. (compare Acts 2:38-41)

2. Alive Saints as well as dead saints in the Bible
In the over 110 passages referring to believer's as saints in the Old and New Testaments, about ten references refer to those who have went on before us, whereas the overwhelming remainder deal with those who are here and alive.  Hebrews 12:1 indicates to us that we as Christians are surrounded by a "Great Cloud of Witnesses", pointing mainly to the listing of saints in the famous faith chapter of Hebrews 11, as well as those believer's who are now in the presence of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-6)

3. The Biblical understanding of saints and the church
In building off the biblical survey of "sainthood", we discover that everyone in the Bible who is converted by grace through faith is deemed as saint.  Undoubtedly the Bible describes what Bible teachers refer to as the "church triumphant", or those saints who have went on before us in death; and the "church militant", or the remaining Christians who are here on earth, contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1-4) Some important things need to be noted in the light of these truths:

a. Never once do we see evidence of the saints now in Heaven communicating with Saints here on earth.
b. Although it is likely that the saints now in Heaven can act as spectators of things here on earth, they do not function in any way in terms of offering prayers or interceding for the saints here on earth.
c. When reading in the Bible about prayers and saints, ask yourself whether those prayers came from saints here on earth or saints who are now in heaven.  In all instances, the prayers stored in heaven came from saints here on earth.
d. One does not have to die before coming a saint.

3. The Roman Catholic teaching on saints
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following about its view of saints: "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" 1

This summary occurs in chapter three of the Catechism on the teaching about the Holy Spirit and the phrase "communion of saints".  In reading this section, one can note the following characteristics about saints in Roman Catholic Theology:

a. Believer's here on earth are termed "the faithful" or "pilgrims", while those who die become "saints" eventually
b. The Church is composed of three groups (not just two): Those who are here on earth, those who are being purified in purgatory2, those who have finally went onto heaven
c. The Saints in heaven are able to receive and intercede in prayer for the faithful here on earth 
d. In the wider belief system of Roman Catholicism, a specific 3 step sequence is followed for one who died a Catholic to be deemed a "saint": Venerability, Beatification and then Sainthood 3

Now when you compare the four point summary of "sainthood" and "the Church" in Roman Catholic teaching to that of the scripture above, both are clearly different from one another.  Everything from the definition of saints to the church itself is totally redefined in contrast to the clear teaching of scripture. 

Drawing together what the Bible teaches on saints and the church in comparison to the Roman Catholic Church
Having seen what the Bible teaches versus what the Roman Catholic Church teaches on saints and the church, there are definite differences.  I want to close today's blog with the Biblically based summary from The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message on it's two-fold summary of the saints and the church:4

The Church as a local body of saints
" A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel"

The Church entails the redeemed of all the ages
Then later on we read: "The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church
2 In Roman Catholicism, purgatory is an "intermediate" place that Catholic believer's go after they die. Since the Roman Catholics teach that a person cannot be finally declared righteous by God until they are actually righteous and pure in His sight, additional purification or "purgation" must occur after death.  Once the person has been "purified" from the last remaining remnants of sin, they are then deemed worthy to enter into heaven.  The problem with this teaching is that it is nowhere taught in the 66 inspired books of the Bible. 
3 I got the following quote from the reliable Catholic website
a. "Often, the process starts many years after death in order give perspective on the candidate. The local bishop investigates the candidate's life and writings for heroic virtue (or martyrdom) and orthodoxy of doctrine. Then a panel of theologians at the Vatican evaluates the candidate. After approval by the panel and cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope proclaims the candidate "venerable."
b. The next step, beatification, requires evidence of one miracle (except in the case of martyrs). Since miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us, the miracle must take place after the candidate's death and as a result of a specific petition to the candidate. When the pope proclaims the candidate beatified or "blessed," the person can be venerated by a particular region or group of people with whom the person holds special importance.
c. Only after one more miracle will the pope canonize the saint (this includes martyrs as well). The title of saint tells us that the person lived a holy life, is in heaven, and is to be honored by the universal Church. Canonization does not "make" a person a saint; it recognizes what God has already done."

4. The entire text of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is available onthe website:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Roman Catholicism vs the Bible on Jesus Christ

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

Quick Review
Over the past few days we have been comparing Roman Catholicism to what the Bible teaches on three main areas:
1. Salvation by grace through faith alone
2. The Bible
3. Jesus Christ. 

In today's blog we are going to look more specifically at the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Again we ask the question: Is the Roman Catholic Church departing from the Gospel in its teaching on Jesus Christ? Let's explore...

1. The Roman Catholic position limits Christ's ministry whereas the Bible affirms the uniqueness of Christ's Ministry
The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church spells out the following viewpoint about the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary:
“Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest…Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and mediatrix”.1 In contrast to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, the scriptures says these words about there only being One Mediator:

a. 1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus"

b. 1 John 2:1 "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"

As Mediator, Christ ministers effectively to His people.  He prays for them (Hebrews 4:15-16); feeds them by the scriptures (Ephesians 5:24-26); sustains them by the Holy Spirit (John 14:8-16; Romans 8:26). 

2. The Roman Catholic Church's position limits Christ's Mercy whereas the Bible affirms Christ's Mercy
The Catholic Church teaches that Christ is the mediator, but also the judge to whom we must give an account.  Being that the Judge can only deal with us in one way - Justice, the Roman Catholic Church insists upon a second mediator of mercy.  In Roman Catholic thought, Marys equips Christ to dispense mercy to those who pray to Him through Mary.2  

To limit Christ to one activity, or to lessen His ability to show mercy, is to deny the very testimony of scripture about His sole ability and desire to dispense mercy to the Christian. (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 7:24-25; 1 John 1:9-2:1)  Romans 3:25-26 give us the clearest evidence of Christ being equally Just and merciful: "whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."   

3. Roman Catholicism detracts from Christ's Majesty whereas the Bible affirms Christ's Majesty
When one reads through the Catholic Catechism, or hears messages delivered by the Pope, or reads documents produced from Vatican II, there is no doubt that Christ is viewed quite highly.  However the Roman Catholic Church also venerates or pays homage Mary.  To be fair, the Roman Catholics do not view Mary as being God along with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as seen in this quote:
"The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship."513 The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... 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."3

However, by virtue of the fact that such high veneration is paid to Mary detracts from the glory that should only be reserved to Christ alone.  Despite all attempts to avoid deification of Mary, the system itself logically and practically results in a diminishing of the Majesty of Christ.  It leads the worshipper to the doorstep of idolatry.  Whenever we add to Christ, we subtract from Him. 

The Bible tells us that Christ alone is the full revelation of God's very being. (Hebrews 1:2-4)  To make modifications to either His humanity or to His Deity marks any movement or person as seriously departing from the Gospel. (John 17:3; 2 John 2:7-9) 

Conclusions: The Roman Catholic Church's adding of Mary alongside Jesus Christ has been shown to diminish His Ministry, His Mercy and His Majesty.  In contrast, the Bible emphasizes that Christ alone can minister as the Believer's Mediator.  Christ alone is the soul source of Mercy and Justice.  Christ alone is Majestic, since being God He will not share his glory with any other creature.  We must affirm the cry of the scriptures: by faith alone, in Christ alone, of the Bible alone can we put our trust. 

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Pages 271-272

2. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph # 971

3. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraph #971

Friday, July 20, 2012

Roman Catholicism versus the Biblical View of Mary, the mother of Jesus

Luke 1:47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

Since Roman Catholicism places such an emphasis on the role of Mary in its theology, we want to consider what the Bible teaches about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

What the Bible presents to us about Mary
Mary is the mother of Jesus with regards to his humanity.  Anyone who is either Roman Catholic or a reader of its history, theology and practice, may be surprised to note that Mary is only mentioned in five places in the Bible.  Furthermore, of the 27 books of the New Testament, Mary only appears in the first five.  Below is a summary of those biblical references:

1. Mary and the Infancy narratives of Matt 1:18-25 and Luke 1-2. 
In Matthew's account, even though Christ is described as being conceived in her virgin womb as a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14; yet we read nothing of Mary herself have been conceived without sin (what Catholics call "the immaculate conception). 

Luke's account gives us statements that point to the inportance of Mary, but certainly not to the degree that Roman Catholicism ascribes her.1  Even in Luke 1:42-43, where we see Elizabeth refer to Mary as "mother of my Lord", that term is in reference to her as the carrier of the Messiah, God made in human flesh. 

Furthermore, in Luke 1:47 Mary's response to Elizabeth's song records these words: "And my spirit hath rejoice in God my Saviour".  Mary is acknowledging Christ as her Savior, clearly indicating that she was in need of the Savior as much as anyone else - negating the notion that she was sinless.    

2. Mary at Jesus' First Miracle - John 2:1-11 
In Jesus' first miracle or "sign", Mary has accompanied Jesus to the wedding  of Cana.  In this scene, Mary's role is secondary, and Christ's primary.  Within the episode Jesus gives Mary a respectful but firm admonition to not interfere, since "his time had not yet come". (John 2:4)  If Mary was the "co-mediatrix" as claimed by the Roman Catholic Church, surely her appeal to help out at the wedding would had moved Christ to instant action.  Yet it was not Mary's suggestion that moved Jesus to aid in the need for wine. (John 2:3-4)  Jesus Himself chose to help in obedience to the timing and leading of His heavenly Father. 

3. Mary and the family of Jesus - Matthew 12:46; Mark 3:21,31
Throughout the course of Jesus' life and minstry, Mary would play an diminishing role.  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, who has given Mary an increasingly exalted title and position, the scriptures tend to go in the opposite direction.  In this third mention of Mary,  Jesus' earthly family is numbered among the rest of Jesus' disciples.  As He goes further into his mission, you begin to see Mary's influence decrease even more.

4. Mary at the cross - John 19:25 
If there was any chance for Mary to function as a sharer in the redemption of humanity, as so claimed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, surely this episode in the Gospels would be it.  Jesus on the cross assigns the care of His mother in the flesh to the Apostle John.  Certainly despite her decreasing role throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus still gives her the respect and dignity befitting her.  However, there is no exalted status or assigning of near-divine devotion like we see in Roman Catholic teaching.Jesus went to the cross all alone and bore the wrath of God alone. 

5. Mary on the day of Pentecost - Acts 1:14
In this final appearance of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we see her numbered among the 120 gathered in the upper room following Jesus' ascension.  In this text she is viewed no higher than the others, aside from the honorable mention out of respect.  After this verse, Mary's role in the early church is never mentioned again.  Unlike the Roman Catholic System, we see no evidence whatsoever of the Apostles nor the early church leaders of the first two centuries advocating devotion to Mary.3  It wasn't until the second to third century that we begin to see feasts dedicated to her. 

Having now surveyed the biblical record on Mary, the mother of Jesus, we can draw some definite conclusions:

A. First, Mary was never an exalted figure, but was shown respect due to her carrying the humanity of the Lord. 

B. Second, despite her special role, Mary's influence diminishes with every appearance in the Biblical record. 

C. Third, Mary passes off the Biblical record in quiet obscurity. 

D. Fourthly, the Apostles and early church leaders never sanctioned feasts, celebrations or devotion to Mary.  Thus when compared to Roman Catholicism, the Bible once again paints a different picture from the teaching and theology espoused by the Roman Catholic System. 
End Notes_________________________
1. The early church had called Mary by the more biblical title "Christ-bearer".  However the title "God-bearer" was officially sanctioned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.  Although meant to preserve the humanity and Deity of Christ, the title came to be used very shortly as a springboard into the growing formation of the Marian Cult.  By the days of this council, much of the Catholic system was celebrating feasts of Mary.

2. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #971, we read the following sample of the over-the-top devotion associated with Mary:
"All generations will call me blessed": "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." The Church rightly honors "the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... 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." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

3. Three modern day examples will suffice to show the over-the-top view of Mary's role in contrast to the Apostles treatment of her.  First, the Roman Catholic Church convened a council called "Vatican I" 1869-1870, wherein they asserted the doctrine of Mary's immaculate conception (her sinlessness from conception).  In that council the Catholic church also asserted that when the Pope sat on his throne in the Vatican, and made authoritative statements (along with the College of Cardinals - the Majesterium), he was termed to be speaking forth infallible truth.  Thus in 1950, the Pope issued a declaration of Mary's bodily Assumption in Heaven (in simlitude to ther ascension of Jesus).  In the Vatican II council of 1967, as well as the current Catechism of the Catholic Church, we see no alteration to the affirmation of these two doctrines held by Roman Catholicism.  Both doctrines of course are alien to scripture, and were never championed by the apostles.