Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A few questions...

      As I write, a relative of mine might be dying;  she has been Roman Catholic as long as I've known her.  In all honesty, she was the one I was thinking of in our recent series on sola fide, as the closest person to me that most desperately needed to hear the Scripture's truth on how we as death-row convicts can be made right with a holy God.  She is unconscious, and her immediate family has made the decision to take her off life support.  She has been ill for some time with various ailments, and my parents (who spend a third of the year in her state) have ministered to her often over the last couple years.  If I had the chance to speak to my relative one last time, I would probably like to ask her these questions, in a last ditch effort to reach her for Christ...

"What level of justification do you think you've achieved?"  In the Roman view, justification, and therefore salvation, is progressive:  you start down the road with baptism, and then by faith you begin storing up merit by partaking of the mass, prayers, helping little old ladies across the street, and the like.  But just as it is possible to make a deposit in your heavenly bank account, it is also possible (and easier!) to make a withdrawal by say, skipping mass to watch football, neglecting to pray and running down those little old ladies in the street.  So the constant concern of the faithful Catholic is "What's my balance?"  If they die with an overdrawn account, they can expect millions of years suffering in purgatory to work it off (and you thought it was bad to bounce a check here!).  If anyone's eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit, they can see that our good deeds (works that we consider good) can never outweigh our crimes and apathy in obeying God... quite the opposite.  Every person in history ends their lives several million "merit dollars" in God's debt.  And the currency our suffering is thought to earn by Rome has no lasting worth in God's sight... it must be continually offered (Heb 10:1-2).

This guy's been dead a long time!
"Who is your priest, to intercede for you before God's throne?"  It is true in Israel under the the Old Covenant, there were thousands of priests, a whole tribe to minister to and intercede for the people before God.  They administered the holy days, they offered votive and incense offerings, but most importantly, they killed animals to atone for the sins of themselves and the people.  The central importance of the shedding of blood points to and climaxes in the work of Jesus... this is exactly what the book of Hebrews explains in detail.  Also, Hebrews outlines the picture that the Levitical priesthood was meant to convey in keeping with the weakness of the flesh and the Old Covenant:  not only are human priests riddled with sin, which hinders their intercessory work, they die, and they can no longer intercede (Heb 7:18ff).  There is one final qualification of priests:  "And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was" (Heb 5:4)  There is only one Man under the New Covenant who has been appointed by God, who "holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever" (Heb 7:25), who can offer a sacrifice that has enduring, perfect potency (7:27):  Jesus Christ.  All other priests, especially those installed and authorized by a old guy in a funny hat, are disqualified.

"What do you trust the most?"  As I hinted when dealing with sola fide, all the departures of Rome from
The Word of God is living and active...
the Scriptures can be traced to the issue of authority.  If your trust resides in a hierarchical, worldwide church headed by a man who appropriates a position given to Christ, if you believe that he alone has the ability and right to tell you what the Bible means, you will swim the Tiber river and cling to the church of Rome.  But if you trust the Scripture supremely, if you believe that God has spoken in them in such a way that His people can know and understand, you will trust God the Holy Spirit to use them to "bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26).  You will know that Christ's words alone can give life and truth:  "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68). 

Photos courtesy of Thomas Hawk, Ryk Neethling

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