Archive for October, 2008

31
Oct
08

Adiaphoron

Now that is a great word to add to your vocabulary – adiaphoron.   A Lutheran brother in Christ introduced me to the term last week.

In our most recent discussion on the JUSTONEMORE blog many have made some comments about what they believe or do not believe.  In some instances, some of what we was discussed falls into the adiaphorous category.

The word is Greek in origin.  It is defined as: A matter having no moral merit or demerit; a religious ceremonial observance that is held to be an affair of the individual conscience because it is neither forbidden nor enjoined by Scripture…

Adiaphoron can also be defined as non-essential adornments we tack onto matters of the Christian faith.

These matters may be worthy of “angelic smile” as my Lutheran friend commented, but they are not Scriptural.
We must be careful not to elevate our adiaphoristic observances to the place of Scripture.

Advertisements
30
Oct
08

The Lord’s Supper and Communion with Christ – the bread and cup

Many people refer to John 6 to substantiate the belief that Jesus is actually, literally, physically present in the wine and bread.  Since that is the case, I would like to use that text for our final discussion on the Lord’s Supper.  After reading the text we will attempt to answer a few questions to clarify a biblical understanding.

Please take a moment to read the text:

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”  28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—  46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48  I am the bread of life.  49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  58  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”  59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?  62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

John 6:22-65

Question:  What is the context? Or, what is Jesus talking about?

Let there be no mistake, Jesus is teaching about eternal life.  Herein is the proof:

27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”  28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—  46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48  I am the bread of life.  49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 6:27-51 (underline added)

Question: Is Jesus talking about the Lord’s Supper?

No, Christ is not talking about the bread and cup of the Lord’s Supper or any other religious act.  The Lord’s Supper has not even been instituted at this juncture in His earthly ministry.  Moreover, it is not even mentioned in this passage.

When the Lord’s Supper was instituted, Jesus clearly stated that it was a memorial.  The Bible says,

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:19-21

This is why Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Additionally, you cannot find one incident in which Jesus said that the Lord’s Supper imparted life.

To say that a man receives eternal life by eating bread and drinking wine is to deny the grace of God in salvation.

God’s Word teaches,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Thus the Bible clearly teaches we are saved by grace through faith, not through the observance or the participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Question: since Jesus is not teaching about the Lord’s Supper, then what does Jesus mean by “eat flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” (v. 53)?  Is He speaking in literal terms?

Jesus is not speaking in literal terms.  Note later in v. 63 He clearly says, “The flesh is of no avail”.

If Jesus were speaking in literal terms He would be advocating cannibalism.  And we know eating human flesh and drinking human blood would be contrary to the teaching of Scripture.  So, we know Jesus cannot be speaking in literal terms.

Question: If Jesus is not speaking in literal terms, then what does He mean by “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” (v. 53)?

Again, we must return to the context, and the context is eternal life.  Thus, the words of Christ are highly symbolic.  When a person symbolically eats Christ’s flesh and drinks His blood, they are – that is, he or she partakes of Christ and receives Him – by receiving the Word as taught by the Spirit.

Question: Since “the flesh is of no avail” – meaning it does not give life – then what does it give?  Of, if the flesh of Jesus does not give life, then what gives life?

Again, Jesus provides the answer in verse 63:  “It is the Spirit who gives life…The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

John 1:1-4 is critical to our understanding about Jesus giving life.  The Bible says,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:14 adds,

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As one commentator noticed, whatever the Bible says about Jesus, it also says about itself.  Note both Jesus and the Bible are:

  • holy (Luke 1:35 and 2 Tim 3:15)
  • truth (John 14:6; 17:17).
  • light (John 8:12; Ps 119:105).
  • give life (John 5:21; Ps 119:93).
  • produce the new birth (1 John 5:18; 1 Peter 1:23).
  • eternal (Rev 4:10; 1 Peter 1:23).
  • the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24; Rom 1:16).

The conclusion is obvious: when you receive the Word into your heart, you receive Jesus Christ.   We “eat His flesh” by partaking of the Word of God.

Look at verse 51 again from John 6.  Jesus said, “I am the living Bread that came down from heaven.”  In Matthew 4:4 He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The concluding section of this passage helps us understand that much more deeply by what Jesus meant when we read where Peter grasped the meaning of the sermon.  In John 6:68-69 Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

29
Oct
08

The Lord’s Supper and Communion with Christ – the Baptist View

As a Baptist, I would predictably side with the last approach we discussed yesterday – the symbolic view.  However, in the last few years, as I move toward the Lord’s Table with greater regularity, I tend take to the “spiritual” view of the meal—the teaching that Jesus is spiritually present with the elements.

Although I cannot hold to the Catholic (transubstantiation) or the Lutheran view (consubstantiation) of the Lord’s Supper, I do believe we Baptist could benefit with a more regular and consistent observance as these traditions practice.  At CrossPoint we have increased our awareness of the Lord’s Supper by taking the bread and juice each month.  Speaking personally, I find a spiritual refreshing that comes with taking the bread and the juice.  For the lack of a better explanation, my soul is reinvigorated each time I take the Meal.  My remembering Christ and His sacrifice creates a deeper appreciation and a more solemn understanding of my salvation.

Let’s make sure we understand another simple truth about the Lord’s Supper: it is a mystery.
The Lord’s Supper is one of the most unfathomable acts of the New Testament Church.  What takes place during that sacred occasion is inexplicable.  Yet Jesus instructed the church to remember Him through this meal, albeit an unfathomable observance.

In addition to the Meal being mysterious, I find it to be one of the most solemn and serious moments in the life of a church.  If you do not agree with the profundity of the Lord’s Supper, then read what the Word of God says in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30,

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

1 Corinthians 11:27-30

Tomorrow, we conclude our brief discussion.

28
Oct
08

The Lord’s Supper and Communion with Christ – the different views

In the midst of the ongoing dialogue pertaining to the differences between Protestants and Catholics, there was a comment made as to why Protestants do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.  After reading that comment I decided it was necessary to discuss the Protestant view of the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is a fascinating subject.  It is the only practice found in every Christian denomination.  Christian churches may baptize different ways, worship in their own unique fashion, and even preach for different reasons, but for the most part every Christian church I know of has some kind of activity which involves bread and wine (or unfermented juice for Baptist).

To get straight to the point, the primary difference in each tradition is discovered when we ask a very simple question: WHY?

It is my desire to attempt to answer that question the next few days.  I begin today by trying to discuss the different views:

  • The Roman Catholic position teaches that the body and wine are the physical body and blood of Christ.
  • The Lutheran view says that Jesus is physically present “in, with, and under” the elements, though they remain bread and wine.
  • Calvin maintained that Jesus is spiritually present with the elements.
  • The Baptist view teaches that the elements symbolize Jesus’ body and blood.

Please note: the core difference is the meaning of Jesus’ statement at the Last Supper:

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Luke 22:19-21 (underline added)

Catholic theologians believe in transubstantiation; that is Jesus meant his words to be understood literally, so that the bread and the wine change their substance to become his body and blood when the administering priest consecrates the elements during Mass.  They still appear to be bread and wine, but their essence changes to that of Jesus’ body and blood.

As explained to me by a Luther brother just week, Luther argued that Jesus’ words were meant literally, but that they do not require the elements to change their substance.  Rather, Jesus’ physical presence is “with” the elements.  This is a belief sometimes described as consubstantiation.  Luther spoke of an iron bar in the fire-it is still iron, though the heat of the fire is physically present in the bar.

Calvin saw Jesus’ presence at Communion to be spiritual rather than physical.  In the same way the sun remains in the heavens but radiates light and heat on the earth, so Jesus mediates his presence spiritually through the elements of his Supper.

Baptists interpreted Jesus’ words to be symbolic in intent: as we break bread in our hands and teeth, so Jesus’ body was “broken” on the cross; as we drink wine made from the “blood” of crushed grapes, so Jesus’ blood was poured out for us.  The Supper causes us to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), remembering Jesus’ sacrifice with gratitude.

The discussion continues tomorrow.

27
Oct
08

The veneration of Mary and other matters

There is nothing like good dialogue between a Roman Catholic believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and a Baptist preacher.  Walt, I believe I speak for many of us when I say thank you for the conversation.  You have certainly created great discussion.

With that in mind, I want to delve into a few more differences between Protestants and Catholics before I head in another direction with my blogs later this week.  And, before anyone accuses me of kicking the Roman Catholic Church in the teeth, please read the blog posts from October 20 and 21, especially with regard to the disclaimer.

Walt and/or Phillip I would be curious to learn where the Bible teaches the following Roman Catholic teachings:

  1. The veneration of Mary.
  2. Mary portrayed as the Mother of God
  3. Mary’s perpetual virginity
  4. The Immaculate Conception (for the Baptists reading this blog, this has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus but it is the Catholic teaching that Mary was born without sin and remained that way).
  5. The assumption of Mary (i.e., instead of dying, God assumed Mary into heaven).
  6. Prayer directed to Mary
  7. The transubstantiation of the Lord’s Supper elements (i.e., wine changing into the blood of Jesus and bread changing into His body.  Please do not use John 6 as your proof text since Jesus’ words are obviously symbolic—see tomorrow’s blog).
  8. The Doctrine of Purgatory
  9. Origin of the Papacy
  10. Worship of the cross
  11. Use of Holy Water
  12. Use of the Rosary
  13. Confession of sin to an earthly priest
  14. Inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Catholic Bible

Again, this is not to disparage Catholicism, but where in the Bible does someone find a legitimate argument for the preceding subjects?

Since I consider the Bible the final authority for life and faith, I have difficulty understanding, even grasping these teachings.

Grace always.

24
Oct
08

Only Jesus and Jesus only

In my last installment on salvation this week, I want to recount a story my friend, Harry Lucenay, shared to me.  As many of you know, Harry is the shepherd of an English-speaking, International congregation in Hong Kong.

Harry writes:

Bill, a British man who works in Southeast Asia and occasionally is in Hong Kong, spoke up in Prayer Meeting.  He said, “My neighbor, Ed, is Buddhist.  I told him he ought to just add Jesus to what he believes.  After all, it is easier to add to what one believes than it is to subtract.  After a while, when he sees the Spirit of Jesus, he may drop some of the other things.   Preacher, what do you think of that?”  Well, that certainly changed the direction of the Prayer Meeting discussion.  I spoke to him for a few minutes about Jesus being the only way of salvation.  M.W. was sitting next to Bill. When I finished M.W. turned to Bill and said, “Jesus is the only one who loved me enough to die for me.  The rest of them teach contentment or some such things.  Jesus invites me to share eternity with him.  That love and that eternal relationship is why I gave my heart to him.”

That love and that eternal relationship is why I gave my heart to him.  Amen, and amen. Only Jesus and Jesus only.

23
Oct
08

Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

The Bible says Jesus is the only way.

The Bible says there is NO OTHER WAY.

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

John 14:6

The Bible says there is NO OTHER NAME.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12

The Bible says there is NO OTHER FOUNDATION.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus    Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11

The Bible says there is NO OTHER MEDIATOR.

5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1Timothy 2:5-6

Good information is not enough.
Good decision-making is not enough.
Good living is not enough.
Good parents are not enough.
Good habits are not enough.
Good desires are not enough.
Good religion is not enough.
Good thoughts are not enough.
Good choices are not enough.

Being good is not enough.

There is only One who is enough.
There is only One who sufficient.
There is only One who is competent.
There is only One who is able.
There is only One who is Lord.

Of Jesus, John the Baptist said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29

Speaking of Himself, Jesus said,

…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:28

Again, referring to Himself, Jesus said,

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

The Bible says this about Jesus,

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for    us.

Romans 5:8

Why is Jesus the only way to heaven?

Jesus is the only way to heaven because we are LOST – I am the way.
Jesus is the only way to heaven because we are DUMB – and the truth.
Jesus is the only way to heaven because we are DEAD – and the life.
Jesus is the only way to heaven because HE SAID SO – No one comes to the Father except through me.