Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Interpreting Romans 2:13: Being Out of Context?

At, I had a Roman Catholic forumer named Kolbe who wrote:
But as you have said, CONTEXT is of prime importance. Prior to this in writing to the church at Rome, Paul has already stated directly that "it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but those who obey the law who will be declared righteous" (Rom 2:13).

Why? Because faith and works of OBEDIENCE are inseparable. This is different from works of the LAW-- Old Covenant-- which are UNABLE to save in any way. The very quotation that Paul uses in referring to Abraham takes place in Genesis after he has RESPONDED to God's Word by leaving for a foreign land, not at the very moment he believes!
I replied:
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13 NIV)
I do not know whether to be amused or to be astonished by your "out-of-context" reference to this verse, for the Apostle Paul was obviously writing about the Jews, NOT the Christians. Please read the whole of chapter 2 and 3 in the book of Romans:
  1. Romans 2:14 "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law"
  2. Romans 2:17 "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God."
  3. Romans 3:20 "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."
  4. The CONCLUDING verse Romans 3:28 "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."
The Apostle Paul was telling the Jews that if they wish to be under the Law of Moses, they should better be sure to obey every single law found in it. If a single law is broken, the Jew will not be righteous before God. In Romans 2:17-24, the Apostle Paul was mocking the Jews for breaking the Law of Moses: "You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself ... You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?"

Interpreting James 2:21-24: Salvation by Works?

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24 NIV)
When you interpret James 2:21-24, you must be careful to interpret this verse in context with the book of James. In James 1:2-18, the author started off by writing about perseverance under trials and temptations; that is, not to be tempted by evil. The Apostle James was urging his readers not to give in to "all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21).

In James 1:22, the Apostle James encouraged his readers who were experiencing trials and temptations: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Thus, the apostle was telling the readers to display good deeds without succumbing to their trials and temptations.

In James 2:1-13, the apostle accused some of his readers of doing evil deeds by showing favoritism to the rich people and despising the poor: "Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" (James 2:4) In verse 12, he told the readers: "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom." In context to verses 9 to 11 which is about the Law of Moses, "the law that gives freedom" is obviously referring to the Law of Christ that sets the believers free from obeying the Law of Moses for salvation.

When the Apostle James wrote "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" (James 3:14), he was clearly referring to those who OUTWARDLY claim to have true faith but instead "show favoritism" to the rich and gave in to trials and temptations. He was telling the readers that the ultimate test of true inward faith is shown by the outward display of good works: "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." (James 2:18)

Therefore, James 2:21-24 is NOT about salvation by faith plus good works, but about the external test of true faith in Jesus Christ alone by the outward display of good works. True believers are saved by faith alone, NOT by faith that is alone.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Forced Baptisms by the Roman Catholic Church

The following quotations taken from the book "The Popes Against the Jews" depict how the Roman Catholic Church used the sacrament of baptism to force the Jews into acknowledging its false gospel. It is clear from these historical accounts, as well as its false doctrines, that the god of the Roman Catholic Church is not the God of the Bible. Neither is the "Jesus" of Roman Catholicism the same Jesus Christ of the Word of God.
p. 49-50 The case of Maddalena, the Catholic widow who surreptitiously baptized the infant in the ghetto, reflects a practice that had gone on for centuries, and had produced an unending stream of protests from the Jews. Rather than dying out in the nineteenth century, these forced baptisms continued. In responding to the anguished pleas for mercy coming from parents whose babies had been taken by papal police, Vatican officials stuck to the same position that the popes had embraced for centuries: Christians should not go around secretly baptizing Jewish children against their parents' will. Yet a baptism, once performed, was valid, even in cases where it was illicit. The Holy Spirit had entered the child, and in the act of baptism the child's soul was regenerated by Christ's spirit. Such an act of God could not be undone by mere humans. That child was now a Catholic and could not be raised by Jewish parents, for they would undermine that holy transformation. In practice, this meant that whenever Church authorities were informed about such a baptism, they ordered the local police to remove the child from the parents' home and send it to the House of the Catechumens (whether in Rome or in the city where the parents and child lived).

p. 53 Having been called that very morning to the hospital, he wrote, he had been directed to the bed of a dying Jew. The chaplain beseeched the man to embrace the holy faith. "Sabato," he said, "the Messiah, the Savior of the People of Israel, has sent me to you; He does not want you to wait any longer, because He has come, and He wants you to be baptized, and to become a Christian." The chaplain then asked: "If you want to be baptized, and to become a Christian, give me a sign, close your eyes" - and here the chaplain wrote in parentheses, "he had them wide open" - "and grip my hand." And, lo and behold, the chaplain went on, the dying man did give him two signs, closing his eyes and holding his hand more firmly, so he baptized him. It turned out to be just in time. Within minutes of receiving the baptismal rites, Sabato died.

For the Church, the case was clear: the old man died a Catholic, having been validly and properly baptized, and thereby narrowly avoiding eternal damnation. It was an event to be celebrated. His body could not be returned to the Jews.

p. 54 Nowhere was the force used by the Church against the Jews in this period clearer than in such cases as these. In the three and a half years from the middle of 1814 through 1818, Church authorities sent the police into the Roman ghetto on twenty-two different occasions, always at night, to extract Jews by force and take them to the House of the Catechumens. In that brief period alone, the police took seventeen married women, three fiancées, and twenty-seven children. The night hours were a time of fear for Rome's Jews.

p. 59 The feeling of dread that hung over the ghetto in the years after the Pope's return to power in Rome, produced by the frequent nocturnal visits of the police and the seizure of women and children, continued for as long as did the Papal States. But the first years of restoration of the papal regime were the worst for the Jews in this respect, despite the fact that, as we will see, Pius VII's successors in other ways made Pius look magnanimous in his treatment of the Jews. In the four and a half years from mid-1814 - when the House of the Catechumens was reestablished - to the end of 1818, sixty women and children were extracted by force from Rome's ghetto and confined to the House of the Catechumens. Some of them came back, but for the children it was a one-way trip.

Friday, January 21, 2005

On the Necessity of Baptism in the Roman Catholic Church

In the section The Necessity of Baptism of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church explicitly states that "Baptism is necessary for salvation" (1257, 1277). The teachings of Roman Catholicism also calls water baptism an "essential rite" (1278, Catechism of the Catholic Church) and "The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments." (1257, Catechism of the Catholic Church)

In spite of its teaching on the "Necessity of Baptism", I think the Roman Catholic Church is trying to "have its cake and eat it". The Roman Catholic Church is making minor exceptions in its doctrines with regard to unreached people who are "ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church" and "supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (1260, Catechism of the Catholic Church) Point 1281 also addresses the same group of people and those "who die for the faith" who "seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will", but "have not been baptized". This, I believe, is a pretty recent doctrinal development in the Roman Catholic Church which the Council of Trent did not support: "Canon 5. If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema." (Canons On Baptism, Session VII, Council of Trent) However, these recent minor exceptions does not negate Roman Catholicism's major doctrine that teaches the necessity of water baptism in salvation.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Roman Catholicism's Baptism and Saving Faith

In the Bible, true believers possess only one type of faith; that is, a PERFECT faith that results in justification from God and everlasting salvation. The Word of God makes NO distinction between the faith before and the faith after water baptism. True believers are "justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16) Saving faith "comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) True believers cannot lose their faith and justification because Jesus Christ said: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish." (John 10:28) This saving faith is the same kind of faith as Abraham's, who was justified by faith alone WITHOUT water baptism (Romans 4:3).

in the context of Roman Catholicism, the "faith" that occurs before water baptism, is not "true faith". Unlike the Bible, the Roman Catholic Church draws a distinction between the "faith" before and the "faith" after water baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in point 1253 writes of the pre-baptismal "faith" as "not a perfect and mature faith" and "it is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe." Thus, in Roman Catholicism, one has not truly believed in Jesus Christ before water baptism.

This statement by the Roman Catholic Church says it best: "It is through the Church that we receive faith and new life in Christ by Baptism. In the Rituale Romanum, the minister of Baptism asks the catechumen: "What do you ask of God's Church?" and the answer is: "Faith." "What does faith offer you?" "Eternal life." " (168, Catechism of the Catholic Church) In Roman Catholicism, only the faith after water baptism counts. "Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians." (1271, Catechism of the Catholic Church) Therefore, I would not be wrong in saying the Roman Catholic Church falsely teaches faith, that is saving faith, comes upon and after water baptism.

It is very clear from the Word of God that it is faith in the HEART, not water baptism, which results in justification and salvation: "That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Interpreting John 15:1-5: The Unfruitful Branch

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5 NIV)

Once Saved, Always Saved
The issue that we are dealing here is whether the "unfruitful branches" refers to true believers or false believers. Is it possible for true believers to be "cut off from the true vine"? No, it is not. For in John 10:27-28, it is written of true believers: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."

It is written in 1 John 3:6, "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him." This verse explicitly tells us that the false believers has never "remain in Christ" in the first place, as they have neither SEEN Jesus Christ nor KNOWN Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:19 also refers to false believers as never being part of the body of Christ: "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

Before salvation, true believers who were unbelievers cannot "bear fruit to God". (Romans 7:4) Can false believers and unbelievers bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit? Definitely not. Only with the Holy Spirit working in us, we can bear fruit, which is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol." (Galatians 5:22-23) False prophets, who are false believers, are recognized by their fruit: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-16) The unbelievers' fruit is also referred to as the "fruit for death" (Romans 7:5)

In conclusion, the "unfruitful branches" in John 15:1-5 refers to false believers, NOT true believers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Evaluating the Trinity Christian Centre (TCC) website

I hopped over to the Trinity Christian Centre (TCC) website and was surprised to discover that Naomi Dowdy, the Senior Pastor of the church, calls herself an "apostle". Maybe most of you guys know about this fact long ago, but however I did not. Together with Lawrence Khong (Faith Community Baptist Church), both of them are members of an international exclusive club that calls itself the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). This organization was started by C. Peter Wagner, who designated himself the "Presiding Apostle".

I could not find much information about Trinity Christian Centre's beliefs, except for what is written in the vision and mission statement. The statement has power phrases like "vibrant atmosphere", "manifestation of signs, wonders and miracles", "covenantal relationships", "corporate unity", "strategically positioned and deployed", "strategic leadership", "passionate heartbeat", and "global agenda" etc. Curious to say, words like "Word of God" and "Bible" are not mentioned in the lengthly statement. Instead of sentences like "people hungering for the Word of God" and "leaders grounded on sound doctrines based on the Word of God", the statement consists of sentences such as "people hunger for the presence of God" and "Spirit-filled leaders". Since the Senior Pastor of TCC belongs to ICA, I believe TCC is one of those "new apostolic churches" that is part of an unorthodox movement called the "New Apostolic Reformation".

Here's a screenshot of Trinity Christian Centre website's mission and vision statement (just in case the page gets taken down).

Monday, January 10, 2005

God's Judgment: Justice, Mercy and Fairness

snake wrote:
And back to your point, once again I ask if we have no free moral ability, how can we be judged on our morality? This is what He judges us on, isn't it? Whether or not we're moral enough to get to Heaven?
I replied:

Your question presupposes that all men has the right to go to Heaven. That is precisely where you are wrong about the nature of Christianity. Man, because of his sinful nature, is automatically disqualified from Heaven. No man has the moral qualifications to enter Heaven. The divine benchmark of morality is found in the Mosaic Law, which no man can fully obey. You must understand that membership into Heaven is a gift from God. God is not obligated to let anyone into Heaven. The reason why some of us are going to Heaven is simply because God chooses some of us to go to Heaven. Entry into Heaven is God's choice, not Man's choice.

There are three words that are related to this issue: justice, mercy and fairness. By declaring a sinful person guilty of sin, God is delivering a just verdict. An injust verdict is where God declares a holy person (i.e. a person without sin) guilty of sin. However, God is merciful in selecting some of the guilty persons to be pardoned, thus allowing them entry into Heaven. This is the Christian concept of grace.

Because of our limited human perspective, we think that God is not fair. We will question: why did God elect person A, B, and C, but not person D, E and F? Why did God choose the people of Israel, instead of the Canaanites? Why did God choose Moses instead of the Pharaoh? Why are some people rich and some people poor? Why aren't all of us granted equal opportunities in life? I honestly do not know.

Sovereignty of God versus Man's Free Will

At, a forumer named Snake, who has atheistic beliefs, asked me:
snake wrote: Determinism does not govern *some* things, it wouldn't work. For determinism to work, it has to control EVERY aspect of that which it determines, otherwise everything else would throw it all off.
At which I replied:

If you think the meaning of predestination is God coercing Man to come to Him, then I believe you have the wrong concept of predestination.

Let me reemphasize this point: what was lost in the Fall is Man's inclination to desire God at all. Man has free will, but his free will revolves around his evil desires, not the things of God. Man has self-determinism, which means his choices are determined by what he think is most desirable at any given moment. Unfortunately, Man by nature do not have the moral ability to choose God, because his choices only consist of evil desires.

The regeneration of the Holy Spirit causes a person to open his heart to godly desires. God liberates the unregenerated person, who was bounded by evil desires which causes his inability to choose God, by restoring godly desires to him. Now faced with both evil desires and godly desires, the regenerated person's heart tends towards godly desires rather than evil desires, enabling him to choose Jesus Christ. Our desires influence our free will, but the will itself is not violated.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Spiritual Gifts

The topic of spiritual gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. There are several spiritual gifts mentioned in verses 8 to 10. They are (according to the Amplied Bible):
  1. [the power to speak] a message of wisdom
  2. [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit
  3. [wonder-working] faith by the same [Holy] Spirit
  4. extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit
  5. the working of miracles
  6. prophetic insight (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose)
  7. the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones]
  8. various kinds of [unknown] tongues
  9. the ability to interpret [such] tongues
The reason for the spiritual gifts is given in verse 7 where it is stated "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." The phrase "common good" in Greek means sumpherō, which is to bear or bring together or to collect or contribute in order to help. Therefore, the gifts given by the Holy Spirit is meant to help the body of Christ.

Does the baptism of the Holy Spirit mean that the gift of tongues is automatically given? I don't think so, for it is clearly written in verse 30: "Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" Verse 11 also says, "All these (spiritual gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." This means that the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts according to His will. And lastly, verse 31 tells the believers to "eagerly desire the greater gifts."

Do also take note in verse 13, it explicitly states all believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit: "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." While the verse means that salvation requires the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it also means that at the point of faith and repentance, all believers are already baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. In Colossians 3:15, it is written: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." It is also written in Titus 3:5-6, "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior."

Anyway, instead of trying to detect the "movement" of the Holy Spirit by looking for spiritual gifts, if anything, the fruit of the Spirit should be the clearest indicator of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer. As it is written: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)