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Wordwise Insight, Issue #011 -- World's Best Bible Study Tool, Is Roman Catholicism Christian?
November 14, 2005
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WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Reasons for joy, and dealing with unfulfilled dreams

READER Q & A. Is Roman Catholicism really Christian?

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. The world's best Bible study tool!

NEWS & REVIEWS. A treasure over 200 years old that can still be a blessing to you


BIBLE INSIGHTS

REASONS FOR JOY
Joy, in its outward expression, may range from calm delight to an overflowing holy exuberance, but it is rooted in spiritual perceptions, rather than being a superficial reaction to circumstances. It may, in fact, run counter to the latter, especially in the believer’s response to trials (cf. Jas. 1:2). Here is a sampling of the things that bring joy to the heart of the child of God.

1) Joy in salvation (Isa. 12:3; cf. Lk. 10:20; 15:10)

2) Joy in worship and praise (I Chron. 15:25; II Chron. 23:18; Ezra 6:16)

3) Joy in Christian fellowship (Phil. 1:4-5; II Tim. 1:4)

4) Joy in persecution (Acts 5:41; 13:50-52; Col. 1:11)

5) Joy in victory and deliverance (II Chron. 20:27; Ps. 105:42-43)

6) Joy in studying the Scriptures (I Thess. 1:6; cf. Ps. 1:2; 119:24, 77)

7) Joy in service for the Lord (Ps. 40:8; Acts 20:24; Phil. 1:18; cf. Lk. 10:17)

8) Joy in the spiritual progress of others (Phil. 2:2; I Thess. 2:19; Heb. 13:17; III Jn. 3)

UNFULFILLED DREAMS
Solomon speaks of the desire of King David to build a temple for the Lord, and of God’s response: “Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord. But the Lord said...“You did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the house...” (I Kgs. 8:17-19). God approves of David’s desire, but it is not His will for him.

David’s experience seems to fly in the face of the trite saying of a popular preacher, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” We may have many perfectly fine dreams and ambitions that will never be brought to fruition. A godly desire is not equivalent to the will of God. But how do we sort out the difference?

The difficulty for us is that the Lord does not usually communicate directly now, as He did with David. Here are some practical suggestions on how to distinguish God’s will for us from what is merely a dream or a commendable desire:

1) It ought to conform to the standards and principles of God’s Word. That first of all. Anything less is unworthy of the child of God.

2) It ought to be a persistent desire over time, not a passing whim or notion.

3) We should pray earnestly for direction, and that God will close the door if it is not His will for us.

4) We should seek the counsel and prayers of godly Christian friends who know us well.

5) We usually should be able to see some connection between our desired goal and the gifts or experiences God has given us so far–though sometimes that connection is not evident until we look back at a later time.

6) We should take a first tentative step and see if the Lord gives peace about it, and if He opens the door to the next step.

7) We should be careful not to be possessive of our plans and goals. At any point, God may turn the project over to another for completion (as He did in David’s case).

8) We should realize that God wastes nothing. A heart desire for something that will glorify God can be useful, even if we are not directly involved in its fulfilment. For example, an unfulfilled dream of going to India as a missionary may give the individual greater faithfulness in praying for, and financially supporting, missionary work in that country.


READER Q & A...

Question: I have been asked, “Is Roman Catholicism Christian?”

Answer: In response, we must first come to some common understanding of what is meant by a “Christian.” There are many churches, sects, and cults which claim to be Christian but are not. They may recognize Jesus and the Bible as somehow significant to their belief system, but is that enough? It perhaps makes them a part of Christendom (the professing church) in the broadest sense, but that is all. As Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21-23). Profession of God’s saving grace is not the same as possession of it!

The good news of the gospel of grace is that “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:1, 3). A Christian (a “Christ-one”) is a person who is rightly related to Christ (II Cor. 13:5), through faith alone in His saving work on the cross of Calvary (Rom. 1:16). (Note the emphasis on salvation by faith in Romans 3:21-28.) Through faith, the individual is born again by the Spirit of God and becomes a part of the family of God (Jn. 1:12-13; Gal. 3:26). He is said to have eternal life as a present possession (Jn. 3:16; 5:24). This life is a “gift” of God (Rom. 6:23), and cannot be earned or acquired by any human works or effort (Eph. 2:8-9).

What church the person attends is irrelevant to this. Not that it is unimportant, but it is not what saves us. We are not saved by a church, but by a gracious work of God. In the Bible, sinners were not invited to join a church for salvation, but simply to trust in Christ Acts 16:30-31; cf. 4:12).

With that background, what of the question above? The article on my website entitled Critique of the Passion (Mel Gibson’s film about the sufferings of Christ) deals with some basic errors of the Roman Catholic Church. I will review them here, because they indicate where the Church of Rome stands in relation to biblical Christianity.

1) Rome gives human tradition the authority of Holy Scripture. In some cases even overruling the revealed Word of God with the opinions of men. Christ’s charge against the Pharisees fits: “You reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition....making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down” (Mk. 7:9, 13). One example of this is the Catholic Church’s insistence on the celibacy of her priests. This became law by the decree of Pope Gregory VII in 1079, but nowhere is it taught in the Scriptures. It has opened individuals to unnecessary temptation and led to terrible abuse. In stark contrast, the Christian faith is based upon the revealed Word of God (Rom. 10:17; I Pet. 1:23--2:2; II Pet. 3:15-16), and on that alone (Jude 1:3; cf. Isa. 8:20; Gal. 1:6-9). “Beware lest anyone cheat you through...the tradition of men...and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

2) Rome attempts to keep on crucifying Christ over and over in the Mass. In his book The Faith of Millions, Catholic priest John O’brien says, “When the priest announces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the Victim for the sins of man.” But the Bible teaches that Christ was offered once for all to pay the price of our sins (I Pet. 3:18; Heb. 9:28; 10:10, 14), and that, having risen from the dead, He dies no more (Rom. 6:9-10; Heb. 7:25). “This Man [Christ], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God...there is no longer an offering for sin” (Heb. 10:12, 18). The Lord’s Table is a place where Calvary is to be remembered, not repeated.

3) Rome has a false view of justification–our judicial right-standing with God. The Catholic Church says justification is received "by the sacrament of baptism...without which no one was ever justified" (the Council of Trent)-- and by which they mean a baptism sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, normally infant baptism. Rome teaches that each Catholic must be justified repeatedly by the sacraments and by works, because he loses his justification by sinning. But according to the Scriptures God’s justification is permanent. “Whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified [no exceptions]” (Rom. 8:30). And the Bible says a sinner is justified (pronounced righteous by a holy God) by grace, through simple faith in Christ, apart from any works. “By Him [Christ] everyone who believes is justified from all things...” (Acts 13:39; cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5; cf. II Cor. 5:21).

4) Rome has a weak and inadequate view of grace. The Bible says salvation is not by works, but by grace (a gift) alone (Eph. 2:8-9; cf. Isa. 64:6). It is not by a “do” but by believing in an “already done.” Christ’s Calvary work on our behalf is abundantly sufficient to save the worst of sinners. And God's Word emphasizes that grace mixed with any works ceases to be grace (Rom. 4:4-5). Rome claims to believe that Christ died for our sins. But for them that is not enough. The church, and the priest, and various human works are needed. Romanism often substitutes word "graces" for the glorious Bible word grace, suggesting that salvation is not received entirely and forever at once, but is meted out in little installments earned through participation in the sacraments. This is a different and perverted gospel, a salvation by works (Gal. 1: 6-8). By this heresy the principle of grace is destroyed.

5) Rome exalts Mary to a level with Christ (or above Him). Some teach that she is a "co-redemptrix" with Christ. According to the Catholic Catechism “Mary...by her manifold intercession continues to bring us gifts of eternal salvation.” Much space could be given to this error, as it is a dominant one. That the elevation of Mary amounts to blasphemy and outright idolatry cannot be denied when one reads the vast volume of literature Rome has churned out on the subject. One example: In Soul Magazine, the official organ of the adherents of Our Lady of Fatima, we read (in the Dec. 1984 issue), “Mary is so perfectly united with the Holy Spirit that He acts through [her] His spouse....all our life, every thought, word, and deed is in Her hands...at every moment, She Herself must instruct, guide and transform each one of us into Herself, so that not we but She lives in us...”

But the Bible never tells us the Spirit of God works through Mary to transform our lives. And it is not Mary who lives in us, and into whose likeness we are transformed, it is always and only Christ’s (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 2:20; 4:19; Col. 2:6-10). In contrast to Romanism, the Bible honours Mary for her faith in God (Lk. 1:45), but Mary herself recognizes she is a sinner in need of a Saviour (Lk. 1:46-47). Twice the Lord diverts attention away from Mary (Lk. 8:19-21; 11:27-28). Further, believers have the right and liberty to approach the throne of God directly in prayer through our heavenly Intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:18; Heb. 4:15-16; 7:25). The Bible declares Christ to be the one and only Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5; cf. Jn. 14:6).

Is Roman Catholicism Christian? It is my belief, based on the consistent teaching of God’s Word regarding these fundamental truths, that the answer must be “No.” In spite of many claims to the contrary, it has drifted too far from God’s inspired Word to merit that designation. But what if we were to ask: Are there Roman Catholics who are Christians? In that case the answer could well be “Yes.” It is possible there are individuals who have been able to cut through the heretical doctrines and unbiblical traditions promoted to by Rome to trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Yes, there may be born again Christians who continue to worship in a Catholic Church. However, these individuals will not be able to fully accept Catholic doctrine, since it is so often incompatible with Scripture. And as the Spirit of God continues to work in their hearts through the Word I believe they will become increasingly dissatisfied with where they are. That is what happened to the reformers. They tried to bring changes to the Church of Rome, to rid it of erroneous doctrines and practices. But when they could not, they were compelled to leave by their own Bible-based convictions. They no longer felt at home there.

This brief response to the initial query may leave you with many more questions. If you would like to do further research on this subject I encourage you to check out the website of Mike Gendron, Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries. Mike was a Roman Catholic for 37 years, before coming to Christ. He can speak with authority on many of these issues. See his site at Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries.


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

1) The best Bible study tool ever! At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.
2) On the Website!--Interim Pastoral Ministry
Has the pastor of your church recently resigned? As well as beginning the search for a new undershepherd, have you considered the possibility of calling an interim man to minister for a shorter period of time? On the Wordwise website is an article called

Interim Pastorates. Check out this practical material.

3) Also see, on the website, an article called 12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.
COMING NEXT MONTH: Christmas and New Year's are on a Sunday this year. What will you do with that as far as church programming?


VIEWS & REVIEWS

DAILY LIGHT
Here is a book that is over 200 years old, yet it remains immensely popular. Back in 1794 Samuel Bagster published a compilation of daily readings taken directly from Scripture. There is a morning and an evening reading for each day, plus a selection of topical readings in the back. Each is made up of selected verses on a particular theme. Verses arranged out of context may at times seem forced to mean something other than what was originally intended. This happens occasionally. But with all the references given at the bottom of the page it is possible to look the verse up and check. On the positive side, Bagster’s warm love for the Lord and his soundness in the fundamentals of the faith are evident. This is a small book easy for busy people to carry along and use “on the fly.” In 1998 Anne Graham Lotz published an edition of the book using the New King James Version. Recommended. Check out Daily Light.


If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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