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Was Mary Sinless?

Was Mary Sinless?

Virgin of the AnnunciationA lot of focus during the Christmas season gets put on Mary as well as Jesus since she was his mother. There is a lot of incorrect theology about Mary, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. One of these doctrines is the idea of the Immaculate Conception.

The immaculate conception often is misunderstood to mean the supernatural conception of Christ in Mary’s womb. I also misunderstood this in the past. But that is not what this term refers to at all. In fact, the immaculate conception has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Instead, the immaculate conception deals with Mary. Specifically, it teaches that Mary was sinless and free from original sin.

There are two primary texts that Catholics use to make this claim. The first is Genesis 3:15.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15 English Standard Version

The main problem with using this text to define anything about Mary is that Mary is not found in this verse. The woman here is Eve, not Mary. Yes, Mary is part of Eve’s distant offspring through her descendants, but the only people mentioned in this verse specifically are Eve, Satan, Christ, and God the Father. So we can automatically throw this verse out with having anything to do with supposed sinlessness of Mary.

The other major text used by Catholics for the Immaculate Conception is Luke 1:28

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

Luke 1:28 (ESV)

In this verse they use the term favored one to claim that Mary was sinless. But how do they come to this conclusion?

First we must look at the underlying Greek for the term favored one and see whether or not it means sinless. The term is κεχαριτωμένη, which is pronounced kecharitomene. It is derived from the lemma χαριτόω (charitoo). But what do these words mean, and if they mean sinless, why are they translated as favored one?

The underlying Greek has a meaning of showing kindness, favor, giving grace, showing favor. So translators have gotten it right with favored one. But Catholics focus on one portion of this definition, giving grace. In fact, they argue that Mary was so full of grace that she did not receive original sin because she was “fully endowed with grace perfectly.”

But there is a problem with this viewpoint. First, being fully endowed with grace does not mean that you are sinless. All Christians are full of grace and favored and blessed. That is part of being the elect of God. Ephesians 1:6 uses the same word, charitoo, to describe all believers. Yet, all believers have original sin, and continuing sin that must be dealt with. Mary is no different.

The point is that there is no Scriptural basis for the Immaculate Conception. This is an invention and false doctrine of the Catholic Church. Mary was favored only in the sense that she was chosen to have the very special honor of giving birth to the Savior. She is not to be worshiped, not to be prayed to, she is a sinner saved by grace just like everyone else who is a part of the kingdom.

How Should We Read the Early Church Fathers?

How Should We Read the Early Church Fathers?

One of the great challenges as a Protestant is to know and understand how we came to be. The Reformation is our roots in history, but the Bible is our root in theology. Simply put, to be Protestant means you leave the man-made teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and look towards Scripture as your authority for faith and practice.

Why do I make this point when talking about the Early Church Fathers (ECF)? It is simple. Catholics tend to put an inordinate amount of weight and authority in the ECF. They do this to the point of elevating their writings to the level of Scripture. However, they will tell you that they do not do this. Yet, when shown their interpretation is incorrect Biblically, they will say, “But Origen said…” or “But Iraneus argued….” or “But Clement states…” and so on. When you simply say they are wrong, and point out the error, they will say that are we to know better than those that sat under the Apostles?

This, of course, is a logical fallacy. It is an appeal to authority. However, there is no authority there.

We do not hold that the ECF were infallible. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the ECF, or the church today, including the Pope, are infallible in any way (though the Catholics will try to argue that there is). So how are we to use the ECF?

The answer to this is not difficult. We should use the ECF as we use any other commentary. It is useful for study and instruction but must always be tested against the Scriptures. The Scriptures and Scriptures alone have the final say in all matters of faith and practice. The ECF did get things wrong, and often, they even contradicted each other. Scripture, on the other hand, has no contradictions. It is the perfect and holy words of God.

So while we should read the Fathers, we should not elevate their work to the level of Scripture.

What Are We Celebrating?

What Are We Celebrating?

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is past us and we are already full-swing into another Christmas season. Christmas movies are on, presents are being purchased, trees and lights adorn the country. All of these things are fun, exciting, and part of the celebration of Christmas. But what exactly are we celebrating? John’s Gospel gives us the answer:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

John 1:14a (English Standard Version)

We are celebrating the fact that the God of the universe thought enough of His elect that He took on flesh to walk on this earth as one of us. He faced the same trials and temptations yet he remained sinless. He took our place on the cross and took our penalty for our sins in his death. He brought us salvation and redemption that we might have eternal life. There is no greater love.

We often hear that Jesus is the “Reason for the Season.” But do we really take this to heart? Do we really understand the magnitude of what happened on that first Christmas? Do we really think about Immanuel, God with us? Do we consider what Christ did for us on the cross? Does it make a change in our lives?

These are the things that we need to dwell on this Christmas season. And not just Christmas, we need to think about these things every day of the year. So let’s remember what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Do Not Offend

Do Not Offend

In today’s politically correct culture we are often told that we should make sure we do not offend people when we are speaking the truth of the Gospel. We are also told that we need to make sure we are speaking the truth in love. But what does that mean? Does that mean to not offend? Does that mean we should do everything to make sure that feelings are not hurt? Are we really supposed to go about our preaching and teaching in such a way that nobody can take offense? The answer is NO!

The idea that we are not to offend people does not come from Scripture. This is the construct of a culture that is obsessed with being politically correct. A culture that believes there are no absolutes and that everyone can believe what they want to believe and that is true for them, except Christianity. The truth is this, the Bible is an offensive book to those who do not follow it. The truth is offensive to those who wish to reject it. And, could it be, that when feelings are hurt by hearing the truth it isn’t really their feelings but their conscience tugging at their soul because they know they are in the wrong?

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“You Should Have Been Aborted!”

“You Should Have Been Aborted!”

I was heartbroken today to read an article at Pulpit and Pen about a man who yelled at little 4-year-old Quinn Ross that she should have been aborted before she was born. Quinn is in a wheel-chair with a disease called Perthes Disease.

What is troubling is the fact that this man thought it was not only ok, but necessary, to attack a little girl who is obviously suffering in this world enough. What has the culture become?

The abortion culture of death in the United States is appalling. It is disgusting and the fact that millions of children have been murdered in the womb is a stain on our nation. It is even worse that some Christians believe this to be compatible with the Scriptures.

A poll done by Pew Research in 2014 showed that an average of 36.4% of Evangelicals believe that abortion should be legal in all/most cases. That number is staggering. The people who should be the most ardent defenders of life have 1/3 of their people saying there is nothing wrong with abortion.

It is no wonder that this man thought it was okay to tell little Quinn that she should never have been born. If the church will not lead the charge for life, why do we act surprised when the culture turns to death?

So what does the Bible have to say about this?

First and foremost, we know that Scripture says we are not to murder (Exodus 20:13). It does not get any more clear than this. Murder is wrong. Period. But the Government says that a child in the womb is not a human and therefore it is not murder. But why do we allow the Government to dictate our theology?

There are many examples in Scripture that God knew us before we were even born. That he fashioned us together in the womb of our mother. Psalm 139:13 is a great example of this, but it is not the only example. However, this clearly shows that God thinks that we are humans, persons, in the image of God, before we are born. It doesn’t matter what the Government says, abortion is murder in the eyes of God plain and simple.

To little Quinn Ross and her family, I am so sorry that you had to endure this obscene and despicable act by this individual and it is my hope that justice is served in this case.

Joe Biden Denied Communion: A Question of Faith

Joe Biden Denied Communion: A Question of Faith

It has been reported that, over the weekend, former Vice President Joe Biden was denied communion at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina by Rev. Robert Morey due to the presidential candidates public stance on Abortion.. Morey stated:

Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.

Rev. Robert Morey

Naturally, this started a firestorm regarding faith and politics. Biden has long held that his religious beliefs should not dictate his political positions. But the group, Faithful America, said that the Catholic Bishop in South Carolina should rebuke Morey and force him to apologize to Biden. They claim:

Jesus said, ‘Take, eat — when you do this, do this in remembrance of me.’ He didn’t say, ‘Take, eat — but only if you agree with certain American political positions

Rev. Nathan Empsall – Faithful America

But is this truly all the Bible has to say about communion? If it were, then yes, I would agree with the stance that one’s political views should not be taken into account. However, this is not the only thing that the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper.

The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that when we take communion, as a remembrance to what Christ has accomplished, we are to examine ourselves so that we do not take the bread and cup in a manner that is unworthy (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

This is not something that a Christian, or the church, should take lightly. We need to examine ourselves each time we come to the Lord’s Table to see what in our lives needs to be repented of and changed.

Abortion is an intentional killing of a human baby no matter what the United States Supreme Court says. The ten commandments make very clear, you shall not kill (Exodus 20:13). There is no way around that fact. This makes abortion a sin. To advocate abortion, is to openly advocate sin. Paul warns against this as well in Romans 1:32.

While the Catholic Church is in error on many fronts, today, a single priest, has stood up to the culture for truth.

The (Sad) State of Christianity

The (Sad) State of Christianity

I have been witness to things over the years that makes my skin crawl. The state of the church universal, but particularly in the United States and Europe, is appalling. 500 years ago, Martin Luther sparked a Reformation that would forever change the course of church and human history. His courage and steadfastness in his search for truth is inspiring and served the church well. God did, and continues to use Luther in a mighty way.

However, today we are in need of reformation again. The church is falling back into darkness. We see a renewal to have bonds with the Roman Catholic Church that continues in its heresy. We see the rise of LGBT sympathizers in the church defying God and His created order. We see prosperity gospel being preached through the lands. We see the gifts of tongues being abused and falsified.

While all of this is happening we see the church losing the culture. Christianity is no longer an acceptable position in the eyes of the culture. This is nobody’s fault but the church. We have lost our way. We are more worried about appeasing the lost rather than telling the truth to the lost. We cater our church services to the lost which leaves us with shallow theology in the service leading to theological illiteracy in the pew.

Scripture has also lost its place as the source of truth that we are to live by. Science, which changes frequently, has replaced the Bible. Evolution is the mantra of the day despite the fact it goes directly against logic and what the Creator has told us happened. Are we really that wise? No.

Paul tells us in Romans that because we defy God we are left to our own ways. Professing ourselves, the human race, to be wise, we are becoming fools.

Where is the church? Where are the godly leaders? Where is Scripture? Why are we not fighting back? Are we afraid? Or do we just not care?

Church it is time for a new reformation. We must bring back biblical standards and authority. We must bring back rich theology. We must rediscover that the church is to feed the believers so that we can go out and preach to the lost. Stand up church!

The Idea of Free Will

The Idea of Free Will

Do we really have free will? What is free will? Can we choose to accept Christ in our natural condition? These are all questions that have raged for centuries. Of course, there is an answer to this debate that is not hard to discover.

What exactly is free will? Well, that depends on what you are talking about. We do have free will in the sense that we can choose to do what we desire. But that does not mean that we can choose to accept Christ on our own. Why? Because that is not the desire of the natural man. Romans 3:10-12 confirms this.

We also know that salvation does not come from the will of man. John confirms this in his Gospel.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13 ESV

It is not the will of man or the flesh. It is the will of God, his sovereign election, that chooses us. It is not the other way around.

Later in John’s Gospel Jesus says:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44 ESV

We cannot come to God unless He draws us. This is not a denial of free will. This is actually an affirmation of free will. However, the will of natural man will never desire God.

Does John 12:32 Go Against The Doctrines of Grace?

Does John 12:32 Go Against The Doctrines of Grace?

John 12:32 is a verse often used to go against the Reformed Doctrine of Sovereign Election. The argument is that Christ will draw “all people” to Himself, therefore this is not something only reserved to a subset of people known as the elect.

Here is the question. Does “all people” in the verse mean every person on earth or is it talking about something else? How can we answer this question?

To make this verse mean every person you have to ignore a basic rule of biblical interpretation. That is, you must take this verse out of the context of the passage.

If you single out this one verse then yes, it definitely says all people and one can assume that it means every individual person. However, if you look back at verses 20-22 you get the context of what Jesus is talking about.

There were Greeks that had come to the disciples in order to talk to Jesus. This gives us the context. The Jews (which included the disciples) were under the impression that since they were God’s chosen people, they were the ones to whom salvation was promised.

However, John 12:32 shows that Jesus is proclaiming that salvation is to both Jew and Gentile. So “all people” in verse 32 means all people groups Jew and Gentile.

When interpreting Scripture it is crucial that the full context of the passage be looked at in order to arrive at the proper interpretation of that passage.

Pharaoh and Sovereign Election

Pharaoh and Sovereign Election

One of the challenged points of Calvinism is that of Sovereign (unconditional) election. This states that God has chosen some to be saved and passed over others. People challenge this as unfair, unjust, or just plain unbiblical. So do we see any examples of Sovereign Election in Scripture? Of course we do.

In the Exodus story we see the tenth plague, the plague of death. Exodus 11 says the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Israel and he did not let them go. Then, in chapter 12, he gives Moses, and by extension Israel, the instructions on how to be passed over by death. These instructions were not given to the Egyptians. They were not chosen to be saved.

The result of this was that the firstborn children of Egypt died that night. Paul even addresses this in Romans 9. Was God unfair? Was God unjust?

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Romans 9:14-18 ESV

God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. God chose not to have mercy on Egypt. The same way, God chooses not to have mercy on some people today but others he calls by his Sovereign choice to come to a saving faith in Him.