Jesus Christ Is Lord

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Should Christians Practice Lent?

Posted by Job on March 15, 2011

This is in response to a question received in the comments area.

It appears that as the ecumenical tendencies of evangelical churches increase, they are adopting more practices associated with Catholicism. While that is a worrisome trend in general, with regards to Lent in particular I cannot find anything with this tradition that transgresses New Testament teaching. It is also true that some Protestant groups have long had this ritual in their backgrounds. Anglicans, for instance, have traditionally celebrated Lent, as have Methodists and Lutherans. Presbyterians, by contrast, generally did not until recently precisely because of its Catholic origins. Other groups and traditions (i.e. Baptists) haven’t, but more so because they aren’t liturgical than because of its origins.

The question is whether the practice of Lent can be separated from the Roman Catholic doctrine of Lent. That is the same question being asked about whether a Christian should practice yoga or other traditions that come from other religions. Apart from the Catholic doctrines, Lent is simply fasting, and moreover fasting in honor of the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Certainly, there can be no law against such a thing! I have practiced fasting myself in the past, and will start back in the future, sometime later this year

However, my issue is this: if you want to fast, just fast. (And fast the way that Jesus Christ instructed us to in the gospels!) And if it is to be a corporate fast initiated by the pastor of a local congregation, and the members of that congregation touch and agree on it, even better still. Or if a group of Christians from one congregation or several congregations decide that they want to come together and devote themselves to a time of fasting and prayer without being led to do so by their pastor, again, against such thing there is no law. Indeed, such good works are praiseworthy. And we certainly should not avoid fasting during this time of year just because the Catholics are fasting.

However, in addition to avoiding Catholic doctrines regarding this ritual of theirs, what is the purpose of calling it “Lent”? Why not just call it a fast? If the reason is merely to emulate or show some sort of solidarity with Catholicism, then in my opinion, that is extremely problematic. The Bible verse that I would use is this: 2 Corinthians 6:14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” Now that verse is often improperly applied to marriage (when the opposite is true; instead the Bible states that a believing spouse can often be used by God to convert an unbelieving one, see 1 Corinthians 7:10-16). Instead, this scripture and its context obviously refers to not being in religious communion or fellowship with non-Christians. That means that we cannot and should not emulate their beliefs, ways, traditions and rituals. Of course, in this age of ecumenism, pluralism, diversity, tolerance and other forms of ecclesiastical indulgence and compromise, it is no wonder that this 2 Corinthians 6:14 is applied to an area where it was never intended (ironically, consider the evangelical Christian dating site equallyyoked.com!) and neglected where it actually applies, which is to not keep church company with false religions, apostates, heretics, cultists, and anyone else who is operating beyond the bounds of New Testament Christianity, which most certainly includes Catholics, who do not even use our same canon of scripture.

Along with the National Association of Evangelical’s outreach to Mormons, it is a sign of the times. But make no mistake, it is a time that people serious about 2 Corinthians 6:14 and scripture in general should not join! Again, if your Protestant denomination has a legitimate longstanding Lent tradition of its own apart from Roman Catholicism, that is probably legitimate. But if it is some new thing, some fad that people are joining themselves to, it is perfectly appropriate to ask “why” and turn away!

32 Responses to “Should Christians Practice Lent?”

  1. David said

    First, you show your bias when you try to exclude “Catholics” from the larger body of “Christians”. You can’t be Catholic and not be Christian. Secondly, the tradition of Lent calls Catholics to remember Christ spending 40 days in fasting and prayer, as Jesus did. How people actually practice Lent is a different story, but The Church, the Catholic Church embodied by the Pope, Christ’s visible representative on earth, teaches that during this time we’re to fast, give alms, and pray. Some Catholics do, some don’t. That doesn’t diminish what the Church teaches. There are many ways to fast. For Catholics, it is simply a reduction in food intake, not the absolute fast of Jesus. Almsgiving means giving the fruits of our fast to the poor. For example, if you’re not drinking Starbuck’s for Lent, the money you save (the fruit) should be given to the poor. Finally, we’re to pray more. Go to Church more frequently, walk with Jesus in the stations of the cross, pray the Psalms, and so on.

    By the way, Catholics are the first believers in Christ (Mary is the first Christian), so to avoid Catholic practices simply because they’re Catholic is wrong.

    • Job said

      Hello David:

      It is precisely because of the doctrines of which you provided a sampling representative (“the Pope, Christ’s visible representative on earth”) and (“Mary is the first Christian”); doctrines that were not developed until hundreds of years after the apostolic church and the closing of the canon, that New Testament Christians should not observe Catholic rituals or practices. I write this not to mock you or demean you or your faith, but rather to use your words to provide an illustration of the very point that I was making. For that – and for your respectful correspondence in the interests of providing an alternate viewpoint – I thank you.

      • David said

        It’s not true that those doctrines weren’t developed for several hundred years. What’s true is that they were always believed and definitively defined hundreds of years later, just as the doctrine’s of Jesus’ divinity and humanity were believed, but not fully defined for hundreds of years.

        Are you saying you don’t believe Mary was the first Christian? She believed in Christ’s divinity before he was born, how can you say she wasn’t the first Christian? It’s right there in Luke Chapter 1. Matthew 18:16-20 provides you with Biblical proof of the institution of the papacy, and there were a long line of popes martyred for their faith before Constantine legalized Christianity.

        • Job said

          David:

          Allow me to say that based on the literal reading of the Bible itself and on my readings of several academic books on the history of Christianity and of the history of Christian doctrines (which are considered among their standards in the field), I disagree with you. Some examples.

          The Bible clearly bears witness to the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ in many places. Thus, your comparisons of the Roman Catholic doctrines with battles with heretics who denied the plain meaning of the Bible, normally because the meaning of the Bible were in conflict with their pagan Hellenistic worldview, is untenable.

          Also, many places in the New Testament act against the notion of an institutional church led by a hierarchy or pope. Quite the contrary, the epistles depict churches electing their own elders (or pastors) and deacons from their own congregations. Also, Revelation depicts Jesus Christ instructing John to send seven letters to the seven elders of seven different churches. Were the church “Catholic” at the time, instead of addressing those 7 churches individually (and the entire church through them) the letters would have been simply sent to the pope.

          Those are just two examples. There are many others. Thank you for your correspondence on this matter.

          • David said

            Could you show me in the Bible where Jesus created more than one Church? Can you tell me, based on a literal reading of John Chapter 6, what Jesus meant? How could Mary not be the first Christian? How is Peter not the foundation of the Christian Church?

            • Job said

              I was updating my comment as you were writing this one. Please see it above. And incidentally, with my being one that has spent years studying these issues from both the perspective of the Bible text itself and church history, I would hope that you would realize the futility of attempting to get me to either abandon these beliefs or affirm the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic positions. Thank you.

          • David said

            The seven churches that John sent letters to were all Catholic Churches, founded by Christ’s apostles, who were commissioned to go out and do so. Catholic, in the strictest sense, means universal. Paul went to many of these churches instructing them in the faith. It was one faith. Also, the churches did not elect their leaders, Paul appointed leaders from among the faithful. Timothy is an example of that.
            The point about the question of Christ’s humanity and divinity was a valid one. How COULD someone be both God and man? And was he half-God, half-man? Was he God who only looked human? Or was he just a very good man? That’s where the doctrine of 100% human 100% God came from. They questioned Mary’s ever-virginity, too. But they ALWAYS believed that Jesus was God and Mary was the Mother of God. The definition is what came out of those questions as ‘doctrine’ or ‘dogma’.
            Again, can you show me the doctrine of denominalism in the Bible? As for your years of study, and getting you to abandon your beliefs, I wouldn’t dare try to pry you away. I’m only pointing to the truth, as it was taught for 2000 years. There could be no more legitimate Christian church than the Catholic Church. If you’re willing to listen to logic, that’s different. Your conversion has to come from you. With help from the Holy Spirit.

            I just object to you saying that Catholics are not Christians. Considering who put the Bible together for all Christianity (Catholics compiled the Bible, FYI), if you’re basing your faith on the Bible, you’re basing it on Catholic faith.

    • Job said

      David:

      Moreover, is it not also true that Roman Catholics do not recognize either Protestants or other Catholics (i.e. Eastern Orthodox) as Christians but rather as “separated brethren”? The fact that accommodations were made for such “separated brethren” in your doctrines does not change this fact, especially when one considers that similar accommodations for other religions were also made. Because of this, for all intents and purposes, Baptists are on the same ground as Muslims. Is this not the case? So, your opening statement “First, you show your bias when you try to exclude “Catholics” from the larger body of “Christians”. You can’t be Catholic and not be Christian”, while undoubtedly sincere, is not in line with Catholic doctrines, for it is still the Catholic teaching that Roman Catholics are the only legitimate Christians and the Roman Catholic Church is the only legitimate church.

      • David said

        It is true that we regard those as separated, but we regard them as bretheren, nonetheless,and we pray for them to come back to the fullness of the Church Christ founded. Believe me, I know that Protestants do so much for their Christian faith, and most Catholics do so little. It’s known that most Catholics do the minimum, if that, to be in good standing with their faith, while most Protestants are very fervent. Catholics spend an average of slightly more than 1 hour a week for their Christ, including going to Mass, where most Protestants spend at least 3-5 hours a week for theirs.
        What we know is that Christ preached one Church, and that Church is Catholic. All other Christian Churches are something less than that. Other Christian churches are not lumped with Muslims, who believe in a different God, who they cannot have a personal relationship with. You call God “Abba” as Christ did, you’re a Christian, no doubt.
        That’s not Catholic doctrine at all, anyone who says so is misinformed. Catholic doctrine is that we have the fullness of truth, Protestants have a portion of truth. As a sign of that, any Protestant baptism in the Trinitarian formula is accepted as valid in the Catholic Church. Any Protestant wedding can be considered for acceptance in the Catholic Church. (If there’s divorce issues or something, these could be excluded, but will be considered.) Those who are baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit are in some way connected to the Catholic Church.

    • moses said

      It doesnt matter mary was even an angel. The only one we pray to is Gpd praying to anything else than God is a sign of worship

  2. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well.

    The truth is the teachings of the ‘Catholic’ church conflicts with the teachings of the Bible and Word of God. Calling preists ‘father’, having a seperate class of preists, the office of popes and cardinals, the fact that bishops are not married and have families, the concept of mass as a daily sacrifice when Jesus made the final sacrifice, the holiness of the building, the praying to saints, the concept of sainthood, the diefication of Mary. I could go on.

    Also please examine the fruits of the ‘Catholic’ church going from the Crusades to the inquisition, to Cortez and Pizaro.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      Actually, it’s your understanding of the teachings of the Church that’s wrong. The imperative “call no man father” does not apply to one’s biological father. It also doesn’t exclude calling one’s ancestors “father,” as is shown in Acts 7:2, where Stephen refers to “our father Abraham,” or in Romans 9:10, where Paul speaks of “our father Isaac.”

      Second, there are numerous examples in the New Testament of the term “father” being used as a form of address and reference, even for men who are not biologically related to the speaker. There are, in fact, so many uses of “father” in the New Testament, that the Fundamentalist interpretation of Matthew 23 (and the objection to Catholics calling priests “father”) must be wrong.

      Third, a careful examination of the context of Matthew 23 shows that Jesus didn’t intend for his words here to be understood literally. The whole passage reads, “But you are not to be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8–10).

      Jesus criticized Jewish leaders who love “the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called ‘rabbi’ by men” (Matt. 23:6–7). His admonition here is a response to the Pharisees’ proud hearts and their g.asping after marks of status and prestige.

      He was using hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point) to show the scribes and Pharisees how sinful and proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, and instead setting themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers.

      The first problem is that although Jesus seems to prohibit the use of the term “teacher,” in Matthew 28:19–20, Christ himself appointed certain men to be teachers in his Church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Paul speaks of his commission as a teacher: “For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle . . . a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7); “For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Tim. 1:11). He also reminds us that the Church has an office of teacher: “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28); and “his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). There is no doubt that Paul was not violating Christ’s teaching in Matthew 23 by referring so often to others as “teachers.”

      This also shows how Christ created a hierarchy of priests and bishops, indeed a separate class. The pope is one of them, as are the cardinals. Giving up marriage is the sacrifice the church asks its priests to give up. They are given a choice. Marry and be in the world, be consecrated to God and don’t marry. Mass is not a daily sacrifice, it’s a daily entering in to the one sacrifice of Jesus. Regarding praying to saints, do you ever ask anyone to pray for you, or is that forbidden? That’s exactly what we do when we ask the saints intercession. If you have read Revelation, there is your Biblical proof of the concept of sainthood. Mary is not God. You could go on and you’d continue to be wrong.

      Regarding the Crusades, in a nutshell, since when is it wrong to fight for what you believe, or to protect the innocent? Regarding the Inquisition, when did it become wrong to have a judicial system? Regarding Cortez or Pizarro, can you show me their connection to the Catholic Church? They may have been Catholic, but Nancy Pelosi says she’s a Catholic, too, and based on her actions, I don’t think it’s true. But lets look at a few of the fruits of the Catholic Church. It’s the largest charitable organization in the world, it developed the legal system, the university system, the hospital, the concept of helping innocent people live, the justice system, the prison system, the lower school system. We developed the sciences, from Gregor Mendel to Copernicus, we saved Europe during the plagues. We developed the banking system. So many things you take for granted were developed and improved by the Catholic Church.

      God bless,
      David

      • Job said

        “Actually, it’s your understanding of the teachings of the Church that’s wrong.”

        John, the person to whom you replied, was raised Roman Catholic.

        • David said

          It doesn’t matter if he’s Roman Catholic, whether current, or existing. Whoever he is has a mistaken understanding of what Catholicism teaches. That’s not meant to be accusatory, many have an imperfect understanding. That’s why we continue to study.

  3. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hope you are well.

    As human being we cannot escape the origins from whence we come without the power of the Holy Spirit. You understand Christ’s clear admonition to call now man ‘Father’ as a hyperbole. I do not.

    This leads to the Crusades. Is it wrong to fight a carnal warfare. Yes it is. Jesus commanded us to both Love our enemies and to turn the other cheek as well. Will you dismiss these clear commands as hyperbole as well. Did not Christ say “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.” “One will reap what ones sows.” Physical, carnal warfare is evil and unGodly.

    Furthermore in the Inquisition the issue is the oppression and torture of people. Is this acceptable in the sight of God. If the ‘Catholic’ church had any sense of righteousness it would condemn the evil perpetrated in it’s midsts.

    It all returns to Love. Christ says “If you Love me you will keep my commandments.” You speak of cardinals and a pope. Where are these words in the Bible. You speak of bishops where 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 clearly states that Bishops must be both married and have children.

    In my youth raised in the Catholic Church and going through the sacraments we never once opened the Bible. And what of the sacraments another fabrication of the ‘catholic’ church nowhere to be found in the Word of God.

    I will pray for you.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      It’s not ‘my’ understanding, it’s the understanding of those who sat at Christ’s feet.

      Regarding war, in most cases it is wrong. But the Cruades were not meant to be war, they were meant to protect Christians who were on holy pilgrimages to the sites where Jesus walked. That, alone, was their purpose. Certainly, men corrupted that endeavor, in many cases, but the Church’s reason for going to the Holy Land was to protect Christians who lived there and those who visited for holy purposes. Regarding Jesus teaching on ‘turn the other cheek’, it is true in one-on-one relationships. But our Lord himself did not do as he preached-he went through the temple with a self-made whip, overturning tables. He also said he didn’t come to unite but to divide, three against two and two against three. Certainly, many of the soldiers in the Crusades either died during the Crusades or later.

      Regarding the Inquisition, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. There was little to no torture or oppresion as a result of the Inquisition. In fact, many people committed heresy in order to receive the just judgement of the inquisition over the secular courts.

      Regarding words not being in the Bible, “trinity” is not in the Bible, nor is “Bible”. Nor are the words “scripture alone”. Just because we have a different word means nothing. The concept is there.

      Paul is saying that a bishop must not have unruly or undisciplined children (not that he must have children who are well behaved), and must not be married more than once (not that he must be married).

      If you didn’t open a Bible as you were raised Catholic, you weren’t trained very well. We are ENCOURAGED to read scripture daily and to study the Church Fathers and pray daily as well. Regarding the sacraments, they are entirely biblical. John Chapter 6 institutes the Eucharist, it’s a contradiction for you, in one plce, to say bishops must be married, yet to say that the sacrament is nowhere in scripture. Baptism is Biblical as well. They all are totally scriptural.

      Thanks for your prayers (which shows what prayer to the saints is).
      David

  4. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Christ definitely divides society. Either we or for him or against him. There is no middle ground. Which brings me to think of purgatory another invention without scriptural basis.

    I think the fundamental divide between you and I is that I recognize my authority as the Bible as enlightened by the Holy Spirit which dwells in me and you some other combination including your church.

    I once talked to a Catholic Bishop who was teaching a course in Greek I was a student in. We had a very friendly conversation regarding the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ. He told me that the formation or rules for the Catholic Church came from the Church.

    As far as evil, evil abounds everywhere unfortunately. For example slave owners who claimed to be Christians and then raped their female slaves, whipped, starved and overworked their other slaves among other evils. I would quickly condemn anyone involved in those practices that what they were doing was unGodly as many abolitionists did.

    Now look at what the Catholic Church did in regards to this sex scandal where so called ‘preists’ were taking sexual advantage of children. The church officials aquired knowledge of this activity and instead of rebuke offenders were transferred only to indulge further in their sin at other locations. In Ireland the ‘catholic’ church told devout followers that if they reported the offenses of the preists they would be cast out of the church!! There are bad people everywhere but this was a systematic repression and oppression going to the highest levels of the ‘Catholic’ church.

    I point this out not to pick on the Catholic church as being more evil than any other organization. As I said evil abounds and evil will be found everywhere. Christ’s parable of the wheat and tares explains this as does other passages.

    What I hope to expose is the way that evil is handled in the Catholic Church and this is not something new.

    I recall an man I went to high school with and whom I participated together the upbringing of the ‘Catholic’ church. I saw him and told him that I had become a Christian. His reaction was “I used to belong to the Catholic Church and I know that ain’t right.” I do not believe this person could go to the Bible and quote book chapter and verse to point out the errors there. However by the lack of Love, and other experiences that we shared he came to this conclusion.

    Back to this it is only recently that the Catholic church admitted they were wrong involving Galleo. I would not consider ‘Catholics’ Christians at all. I used to be among the crowd that you are in and I know it from the inside. I also know scripture. Both testimonies agree that the Catholic Church is not an institution pleasing to God.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      John, I notice, other than your agreement that Christ was a divider, you didn’t respond at all to one of my arguments. Does that mean you agree?

      You’re right, you find your authority in a different place than I do. You find it in yourself. We find our authority in the teaching office of the Church, the apostles and their successors, which Christ gave us and protected from error by the Holy Spirit, and the scripture for that is Matthew 28:19-20. The bishop you spoke to was right, in that the Church is the Body of Christ, with Christ as its head.
      Regarding the evil done by men, granted, the Body of Christ is human, and humans are able to commit evil. What those (few) priests did to those (few) boys and girls was wrong. How the hierarchy chose to deal with it, in hindsight, was wrong, too, in some cases, not very many. You’re a sinner, too. So am I. I pray every night “There, but for the grace of God, go I” and “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Every priest, right on up to the pope, is a sinner, there’s no doubt. But when that bishop in communion with the pope, or that pope teaches something to the universal church in matters of faith and morals, he is protected by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised. The human side of the church is learning how to deal ith its problems, whereas the problem is still rampant in public school systems all around the country.
      There is no man on the face of the earth that can quote Bible correctly and show inconsistancies in the Catholic Church. If you think there’s a contradiction, one or the other, your understanding of the scripture or the teaching, is wrong. The Church is Christ on earth.
      The humanity of the Catholic church does make mistakes. So does every other human body on earth. What does that prove? The church only apologized in so far as they were wrong, not for the whole affair. In many ways, the Church was right.
      If you know scripture so well, you sure haven’t used it to refute Catholicism in any way or shape or form.

      Oh, and purgatory? The concept of an after-death purification from sin and the consequences of sin is stated in the New Testament in passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:11–15 and Matthew 5:25–26, 12:31–32.

      I wonder what the Church did to hurt you? If you knew that Jesus was living there, behind the altar, in the tabernacle, nothing a man oould say or do to you would make you leave his presence.

      God bless,
      David

  5. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well. I am sorry if I did not address a point. I only have limited time. Please direct me to do your comments and I will do the best to address it.

    To say I find that I get my authority from myself is a gross misinterpretation of what I said. I am trying to have a civil discussion though we have very conflicting views. I base my views on the Bible as to the best I understand it.

    Concerning your scriptures involving purgatory I would have you look at Mathew 25 especially the sheeps and the goats.

    Gotta run.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      Believe me, brother, I’m not disrespecting you. I would like very much to explain Catholicism to you, if you have an open heart.

      You said “I base my views on the Bible as to the best I understand it.” That tells me that your authority is you. The authority of Catholics is 2000 years of Church magisterial teaching. We know what passages mean what based on what those closest to Jesus when he was alive taught us. I’m not even saying that your interpretation is wrong, because scripture is very deep. I’m not making that judgement at all.

      The points we were talking about, you brought up in post #2 above, and I addressed them directly in post #3. I wonder if you have any comment about the Catholic reasoning.

      John, I’m dialoguing with you as a brother, not as an enemy. On my blog I recently wrote that Christ formed one Church-the Christian church, and that all Christians are brothers. I’m just trying to explain a faith to you that was obviously poorly explained. As I said above, if you knew that Jesus was living right there in every Catholic Church in the tabernacle, you would not leave the Catholic church for anything a man might do.

  6. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Let’s look at heirarchy.

    Romans 12:4 Members same body,
    Colossians 1:18 He Christ is head of the body
    Titus 1:9 Elders exhort by sound doctrine
    I Peter 5:3 Neither as being Lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

    Note the last one not being Lords. What would I consider Lording over.

    Telling people where they have to serve. Dictating policies and rulings. Is Christ or the Pope the head of your church.

    Let’s look at other things in scripture. Paul rebuking Peter. If Peter was Pope then he certainly wasn’t perfect or even practicing correct doctrine.

    What about the events of Acts 15. Especially verse 22. Clearly there is no pope here.

    Regarding Mathew 16 is the rock Peter or the Confession that Jesus is the Christ. Look at all other scriptures pertaining to the rock or cornerstone and you will clearly see they are talking about Jesus. Ephesians 2:20 for example. Here Jesus is the corner stone and the apostles the foundation.

    There is never in the Bible an elevation of Peter over others.

    There is no mention of Cardinals or Pope in the Bible.

    Hey now please answer. If we are to turn the other cheek and Love oru enemies. And as Jesus said ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ How do you justify carnal warfare. Ephesians 6, 2 Corinthians 10.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    1 Peter 2:9 Not 1 Peter is addressed to the strangers gathtered and calls them a Royal Priesthood.

    • David said

      I’m not sure I understand your objections to the hierarchy. Having ordained priests, bishops and a pope does not contradict any of that. In fact, I don’t know if you’re aware, but our hierarchy goes like this. We are the sheep, the priest is the shepherd (which makes him the one serving the sheep, not the other way around). A bishop is like the lead shepherd who is ultimately responsible for all those priests and their flocks, and the pope is the leader among equals. They (priests, bishops and pope) do not lord over anything. Other than trying to keep their sheep safe, what are they lording over? Christ is the head of the Church, the Pope is his Prime Minister on Earth (Keys to the kingdom representing the passage in Isaiah’s keys)

      Let’s get another thing straight. There are no perfect human beings except for one. When Jesus chose his apostles, he didn’t exclude sinners, because he wouldn’t have had any apostles. Peter wasn’t perfect, he denied the Lord three times, and cut off the ear of the centurion. We never claimed that a pope was perfect. Only that he is Christ’s representative on earth. Jesus rebuked Peter, too “Get behind me Satan.”

      But let’s look at Galatians Chapters 1 and 2. Particularly stinging to Paul was the charge, by some in Galatia, that his gospel of justification by faith in Christ was a watered-down version of the “true gospel,” which supposedly also required the observance of the Mosaic Law. Paul had watered down his gospel, the charge went, to please men by not making strong demands of them. His was a “human” gospel. Paul responded to this charge by pronouncing an anathema on anyone who preached a gospel different from his, and, after this fiery condemnation, he sarcastically added, “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?” (1:10).

      He then turned to a defense of his gospel, to show that it was not of human origin (1:11) but was revealed to him by God (1:12). Paul pointed out that he, of all people, was zealous for the Mosaic Law before his conversion to Christianity (1:13-14) and declared that, when Christ appeared to him (Acts 9), he did not confer with other men about the content of the gospel (1:15-16). He did not even visit with the other apostles (1:17).

      Only after three years did Paul go up to Jerusalem and spend a fortnight with Peter (1:18-24). While he was there he happened to see James the Just, but nobody else (1:19). Paul even assured his readers that he was not lying about this (1:20), for they might have thought, “How could one go to Jerusalem and not try to meet as many apostles as one could?” But Paul wasn’t interested in meeting the others, only Peter, whom he went to see. Why? Because Peter was the one to see. He was the head apostle, and so Paul wanted to confer with him.

      Fourteen years after his conversion, Paul made another visit, in which he did see the other apostles (2:1-10). He stressed that he did not curry the favor of others, saying that the reputations of the most important apostles did not matter to him, for God judges impartially (2:6a). But Paul did have regard for the teaching of the Jerusalem apostles, who also had been instructed by Christ. His gospel had to agree with theirs, so he explained it to them privately, “lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain” (2:2). He thus submitted his gospel to the Jerusalem apostles.

      The fact that God judges impartiality does not do away with offices in the Church; it means that God will judge the officeholders impartially. Paul singled out Peter as one who had a special office, above James and John, as the one God entrusted with leading the mission to the Jews (2:7-8). This made Peter a perfect test case to show the transcendent importance of the gospel. It is more important than any person, so Paul used Peter, the most important person in the early Church, to show this.

      He recounted an incident in which Peter visited the Church in Antioch (2:11-17). Peter had been the one who first admitted Gentiles to the Church (Acts 10), though doing so subjected him to criticism (Acts 11). When Peter visited Antioch, he kept his usual practice of holding table fellowship with Gentile Christians, but drew back when some Jewish Christians arrived (2:12). Paul rebuked Peter since this action could be misunderstood as implying that Jews should not sit at table with Gentiles and that the Mosaic Law is binding (2:14-16). (We should also note that Paul himself later did something similar, and it led to his arrest [Acts 21:17-33]).

      Peter knew that keeping the Mosaic Law was not necessary, and Paul reminded him of this fact (2:15-16). Peter’s understanding of the gospel was correct. The problem was with his behavior, not his teaching (making this totally irrelevant to the issue of papal infallibility, especially since Peter was not trying to define solemnly a dogma of the faith). Nor did Paul’s rebuke impugn Peter’s authority. If a pope’s behavior causes scandal, he should be rebuked by someone. Catherine of Sienna rebuked the pope in her day, and she is regarded as a doctor of the Church. In fact, it is precisely because Peter is so important-because he is the chief apostle-that he provides such a useful illustration for Paul’s exposition of the gospel’s supreme importance.

      Regarding Acts 15, Verse 7 clearly shows Peter in a leadership role.

      Regarding Peter’s primacy and being renamed Kepha, there is ample evidence in the New Testament that Peter was first in authority among the apostles. Whenever they were named, Peter headed the list (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); sometimes the apostles were referred to as “Peter and those who were with him” (Luke 9:32). Peter was the one who generally spoke for the apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he figured in many of the most dramatic scenes (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28). On Pentecost it was Peter who first preached to the crowds (Acts 2:14-40), and he worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7). It is Peter’s faith that will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) and Peter is given Christ’s flock to shepherd (John 21:17). An angel was sent to announce the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7), and the risen Christ first appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). He headed the meeting that elected Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26), and he received the first converts (Acts 2:41). He inflicted the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11), and excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23). He led the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and announced the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7-11). It was to Peter that the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48).

      Peter’s preeminent position among the apostles was symbolized at the very beginning of his relationship with Christ. At their first meeting, Christ told Simon that his name would thereafter be Peter, which translates as “Rock” (John 1:42). The startling thing was that—aside from the single time that Abraham is called a “rock” (Hebrew: Tsur; Aramaic: Kepha) in Isaiah 51:1-2—in the Old Testament only God was called a rock. The word rock was not used as a proper name in the ancient world. If you were to turn to a companion and say, “From now on your name is Asparagus,” people would wonder: Why Asparagus? What is the meaning of it? What does it signify? Indeed, why call Simon the fisherman “Rock”? Christ was not given to meaningless gestures, and neither were the Jews as a whole when it came to names. Giving a new name meant that the status of the person was changed, as when Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Gen.17:5), Jacob’s to Israel (Gen. 32:28), Eliakim’s to Joakim (2 Kgs. 23:34), or the names of the four Hebrew youths—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 1:6-7). But no Jew had ever been called “Rock.” The Jews would give other names taken from nature, such as Deborah (“bee,” Gen. 35:8), and Rachel (“ewe,” Gen. 29:16), but never “Rock.” In the New Testament James and John were nicknamed Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder,” by Christ, but that was never regularly used in place of their original names, and it certainly was not given as a new name. But in the case of Simon-bar-Jonah, his new name Kephas (Greek: Petros) definitely replaced the old.

      Not only was there significance in Simon being given a new and unusual name, but the place where Jesus solemnly conferred it upon Peter was also important. It happened when “Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi” (Matt. 16:13), a city that Philip the Tetrarch built and named in honor of Caesar Augustus, who had died in A.D. 14. The city lay near cascades in the Jordan River and near a gigantic wall of rock, a wall about 200 feet high and 500 feet long, which is part of the southern foothills of Mount Hermon. The city no longer exists, but its ruins are near the small Arab town of Banias; and at the base of the rock wall may be found what is left of one of the springs that fed the Jordan. It was here that Jesus pointed to Simon and said, “You are Peter” (Matt. 16:18).

      The significance of the event must have been clear to the other apostles. As devout Jews they knew at once that the location was meant to emphasize the importance of what was being done. None complained of Simon being singled out for this honor; and in the rest of the New Testament he is called by his new name, while James and John remain just James and John, not Boanerges.

      When he first saw Simon, “Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)’” (John 1:42). The word Cephas is merely the transliteration of the Aramaic Kepha into Greek. Later, after Peter and the other disciples had been with Christ for some time, they went to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his profession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus told him that this truth was specially revealed to him, and then he solemnly reiterated: “And I tell you, you are Peter” (Matt. 16:18). To this was added the promise that the Church would be founded, in some way, on Peter (Matt. 16:18).

      Then two important things were told the apostle. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). Here Peter was singled out for the authority that provides for the forgiveness of sins and the making of disciplinary rules. Later the apostles as a whole would be given similar power [Matt.18:18], but here Peter received it in a special sense.

      Peter alone was promised something else also: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). In ancient times, keys were the hallmark of authority. A walled city might have one great gate; and that gate had one great lock, worked by one great key. To be given the key to the city—an honor that exists even today, though its import is lost—meant to be given free access to and authority over the city. The city to which Peter was given the keys was the heavenly city itself. This symbolism for authority is used elsewhere in the Bible (Is. 22:22, Rev. 1:18).

      Finally, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). In repentance for his threefold denial, Peter gave a threefold affirmation of love. Then Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), gave Peter the authority he earlier had promised: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). This specifically included the other apostles, since Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15), the word “these” referring to the other apostles who were present (John 21:2). Thus was completed the prediction made just before Jesus and his followers went for the last time to the Mount of Olives.

      Immediately before his denials were predicted, Peter was told, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again [after the denials], strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). It was Peter who Christ prayed would have faith that would not fail and that would be a guide for the others; and his prayer, being perfectly efficacious, was sure to be fulfilled.

      Now take a closer look at the key verse: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18). Disputes about this passage have always been related to the meaning of the term “rock.” To whom, or to what, does it refer? Since Simon’s new name of Peter itself means rock, the sentence could be rewritten as: “You are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church.” The play on words seems obvious, but commentators wishing to avoid what follows from this—namely the establishment of the papacy—have suggested that the word rock could not refer to Peter but must refer to his profession of faith or to Christ.

      From the grammatical point of view, the phrase “this rock” must relate back to the closest noun. Peter’s profession of faith (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) is two verses earlier, while his name, a proper noun, is in the immediately preceding clause.

      As an analogy, consider this artificial sentence: “I have a car and a truck, and it is blue.” Which is blue? The truck, because that is the noun closest to the pronoun “it.” This is all the more clear if the reference to the car is two sentences earlier, as the reference to Peter’s profession is two sentences earlier than the term rock.

      The previous argument also settles the question of whether the word refers to Christ himself, since he is mentioned within the profession of faith. The fact that he is elsewhere, by a different metaphor, called the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:4-8) does not disprove that here Peter is the foundation. Christ is naturally the principal and, since he will be returning to heaven, the invisible foundation of the Church that he will establish; but Peter is named by him as the secondary and, because he and his successors will remain on earth, the visible foundation. Peter can be a foundation only because Christ is the cornerstone.

      In fact, the New Testament contains five different metaphors for the foundation of the Church (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:5-6, Rev. 21:14). One cannot take a single metaphor from a single passage and use it to twist the plain meaning of other passages. Rather, one must respect and harmonize the different passages, for the Church can be described as having different foundations since the word foundation can be used in different senses.

      Opponents of the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18 sometimes argue that in the Greek text the name of the apostle is Petros, while “rock” is rendered as petra. They claim that the former refers to a small stone, while the latter refers to a massive rock; so, if Peter was meant to be the massive rock, why isn’t his name Petra?

      Note that Christ did not speak to the disciples in Greek. He spoke Aramaic, the common language of Palestine at that time. In that language the word for rock is kepha, which is what Jesus called him in everyday speech (note that in John 1:42 he was told, “You will be called Cephas”). What Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 was: “You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church.”

      When Matthew’s Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christ’s life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a man’s name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros.

      Furthermore, the premise of the argument against Peter being the rock is simply false. In first century Greek the words petros and petra were synonyms. They had previously possessed the meanings of “small stone” and “large rock” in some early Greek poetry, but by the first century this distinction was gone, as Protestant Bible scholars admit (see D. A. Carson’s remarks on this passage in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Books]).

      Some of the effect of Christ’s play on words was lost when his statement was translated from the Aramaic into Greek, but that was the best that could be done in Greek. In English, like Aramaic, there is no problem with endings; so an English rendition could read: “You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church.”

      Consider another point: If the rock really did refer to Christ (as some claim, based on 1 Cor. 10:4, “and the Rock was Christ” though the rock there was a literal, physical rock), why did Matthew leave the passage as it was? In the original Aramaic, and in the English which is a closer parallel to it than is the Greek, the passage is clear enough. Matthew must have realized that his readers would conclude the obvious from “Rock . . . rock.”

      If he meant Christ to be understood as the rock, why didn’t he say so? Why did he take a chance and leave it up to Paul to write a clarifying text? This presumes, of course, that 1 Corinthians was written after Matthew’s Gospel; if it came first, it could not have been written to clarify it.

      The reason, of course, is that Matthew knew full well that what the sentence seemed to say was just what it really was saying. It was Simon, weak as he was, who was chosen to become the rock and thus the first link in the chain of the papacy.

      Regarding terms in the Bible, the word Trinity is not there either, neither is Bible, for that matter. These are man-made titles, for sure. By the way, did you know that the highest rank for a priest is Archbishop? Cardinal is just a bishop with additional responsibilities.

      Regarding warfare, there are times and reasons to go to war, but never on the offensive, only on the defensive. You can never invade another man’s country justly, and be Christian. Certainly, Catholics never invaded any country. They had secured armies to protect pilgrims, but always defensively. As I said before, Jesus wasn’t a wimp. He ran through the temple grounds upsetting the money changers with a whip in hand. The Church is at war constantly with the devil, and we are in a philosophical war against abortion.

      Have a great weekend.
      God bless you and your family.

  7. John Kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well. I thank you for the time you put into you lengthy reply, it speaks well of you.

    I am trying to trap you with the following question so beware. At my dad’s funeral the preist said the Convenant with Sinai is in effect. I would like a yes or no answer as to whether it is our not but feel free to elaborate as I would not want those restrictions placed on me.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the context of what he said. I think it’s important to know the whole context, word for word. This is just a snippet.

      That said, if by Covenant with Sinai, you refer to the Decalogue, yes, it is in effect. For the Lord said “I did not come to abolish the law.” And that ‘not one jot or tittle would be removed’. Now, if you’re talking about dietary stuff, that’s different. Jesus also said that the laws regarding divorce were there because of the Israelites’ hardened hearts.

      Catholics believe the Bible is the true word of God.

  8. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hope you are well.

    Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way nailing it to the cross.

    Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant,he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish.

    Galatians 3:25 “..we are no longer under the school master.”

    But the main one which I felt to quote to the preist was Galatians 4:21-31. I did not get an opportunity to do so though.

    I am a lot more meek and gentle in person. However when you put something in a public forum it is more than to the person addressed.

    We are not under the convenant of Sinai or the Old Covenant. I believe those scriptures and other teach that.

    The preist said that we were.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      John,
      I hope you aren’t saying that the Ten Commandments no longer apply?
      Col 2:14 talks about how Christ’s crucifixion safes us from our sins. Same with Hebrews. The whole letter to the Galatians is talking to a group of people who are being divided by those who tell them they must be a slave to the old Covenant, referring specifically to circumcision. See Acts around chapter 15. We are not under the man-made laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in that we aren’t required to stone women who commit adultery or free our slaves every seven years. Those are man-made laws which are used to make sure the Israelites followed the God-given Ten Commandments, which, to me, is what’s meant by the Sinai Covenant.
      As I said, I’m not going to affirm the priest or deny what he said. Priests can and do make mistakes. That’s why it’s important for us to know our faith, and know when our shepherds are faithfully leading their flock. Priests aren’t perfect, even the Pope. He confesses his sins weekly. But when it comes to leading the Universal Church, he’s guided, as are the Bishops, by the Holy Spirit.

  9. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Please read Romans 13:8-10. No we are no longer under the ten commandments which was part of the law.

    Christ came and gave us a more strict standard. If one looks at a woman with lust then they have committed aldutry.

    John 1:17 For the law was given by Mosese, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

    No we are no loner under the law we are under grace.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      Thanks for your good wishes, John, mine go out to you as well. Would you mind telling me what your faith background is? What denomination do you belong to now?

      As for Romans 13: 8-10, when love directs the Christian’s moral decisions, the interest of law in basic concerns, such as familial relationships, sanctity of life, and security of property, is safeguarded (Romans 13:9). Indeed, says Paul, the same applies to any other commandment (Romans 13:9), whether one in the Mosaic code or one drawn up by local magistrates under imperial authority. Love anticipates the purpose of public legislation, namely, to secure the best interests of the citizenry. Since Caesar’s obligation is to punish the wrongdoer (Romans 13:4), the Christian who acts in love is free from all legitimate indictment.
      Jesus summed up the Mosaic law this way: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. The first part, Love the Lord your God, is summation of the first three commandments, and the second part is a summation of the last 7. Also, in Matt 5:17-19 Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

      We find our grace by obeying God’s law. When we disobey, which is usually our own selfishness, we must give our selves back to God with an act of contrition and a firm purpose not to do that sin again. God forgives us when we humble ourselves to Him.

  10. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well.

    I was raised in the Catholic Church until I went to school at 18. My mother took me to church and we were habitually late. One day we were walking in late as usual when the preist stopped his talking and gave a lecture on being to worship on time. It was the last time my mother ever took me to a Catholic Church.

    When I was 19 I started to study the Bible. I got baptized into the Church of Christ. That was about twenty four years ago.

    Back to the ten commandments. Why do catholics say if they keep the ten commandments they will go to heaven? and Why do catholics say good people go to heaven?

    No personal offense to you but most catholics no next to nothing about what they believe. Also why did the catholic church persecute people who were translating the Bible in the common language?

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      While I agree that it’s not right for the priest to call someone out like that in public, the message is true. We should give first to God,and show Him how important He is to us. That means going to mass early if possible. Being habitually late is not proper.
      If you only started to study the Bible after you left theChurch, I feel sorry for that. We are the first Bible Church. By the way, I grew up until high school as a member of the United Church of Christ. I fell away from religion all together when my mom,without telling me why, decided to shop for a new faith home. I found out why just last year, and it was because of the liberalism in the UCoC.
      Keeping the commandments is only one aspect of getting us to heaven. We, of ourselves, can do nothing. Only God’s grace gets us to heaven. We only get to heaven by God’s grace.
      I know that most Catholics don’t know their faith, but it’s pretty simple. There’s three creeds which show what we believe. The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
      Can you cite me some reference to what you’re talking about “persecuting people who were trnslating the Bible in the common language”?

      God bless, John.

  11. john kaniecki said

    David,

    Hi hope you are well. Perhaps Job could help. Look at the history of Wycliffe. (Spelling may be wrong.)

    I will inquire to find some good websites.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    • David said

      The trouble with Wycliffe is that he was another Catholic priest gone astray. That put him immediately under the scrutiny of Catholic hierarchy. He led a movement against the Catholic Church,and that alone would make him a candidate for suppression. So long as he limited his attack to abuses and the wealth of the Church, he could rely on the support of a part of the clergy and aristocracy, but once he dismissed the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation, his theses could not be defended any more. Thus in 1382 Archbishop Courtenay had twenty-four propositions that were attributed to Wyclif condemned by a council of theologians, and could force Wyclif’s followers at Oxford University to retract their views or flee. The Council of Constance (1414-18) condemned Wyclif’s writings and ordered his books burned and his body removed from consecrated ground. This last order, confirmed by Pope Martin V, was carried out in 1428.

      It was not the translation of the Bible into English which was condemned, it was his ideas.

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