A Note of Concern to Roman Catholics

Catechism ClipsA Note of Concern to Roman Catholics

 James R. Aist

I was a Roman Catholic for 20 years of my adult life. There are a number of things about the Roman Catholic Church with which I agree, and admire and appreciate. And I know several Roman Catholics who, by all indications, are born-again Christians, as I am. But I do have one concern in particular that I feel compelled to share with you.

To the best of my knowledge, the most important single doctrine of the Christian church is the doctrine of salvation, for it is what you believe (or, more precisely, in whom you believe!) about salvation that will ultimately determine your eternal destiny, whether it be heaven or hell. I developed the case (click HERE) for the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), and not by either works alone or faith plus works. In the official Roman Catholic Catechism posted on the Vatican website, under the heading “Merit” (click HERE), the following paragraph speaks about the roles of “merit” (the particular term used in this Catechism to mean “good works” or “good deeds”) in the life and eternal destiny of the believer:

“2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (italics mine).

Here is the (italicized) excerpt to which I want to draw your attention: “…we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces neededfor the attainment of eternal life.” Now, with the understanding that “merit” is taken to mean “good works” or “good deeds” in this Catechism, what this paragraph is saying is that, once we are saved, our good works will earn for us the grace needed for eternal life.  Thus, it appears that the Roman Catholic Church clearly teaches a salvation doctrine of faith (in Jesus Christ) plus good works (merit), rather than the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone, and not by works.

Now, you may have the impression that this is probably a trivial and meaningless distinction, but let me bring to your attention the following words of the apostle Paul in this regard:

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith, apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28);

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3);

and now, the clinchers…

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4). In other words, if you are trying to justify yourself by your good works, then you are alienated from Christ and have fallen away from the very grace that is necessary to attain eternal life, rather than having earned that grace by your good works!

AND

For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless…” (Romans 4:13-15). That is to say, if you depend on your good works to qualify you for heaven, then your faith (in Jesus) is nullified and the promise (of eternal life) through that faith is worthless.

AND

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5). In other words, if your salvation is wages for your good works, then it is not by grace (a free gift) that you are saved. But if your salvation is a result of your faith in Jesus, then you are saved by grace, not by works.

AND, in Jesus’ own words…

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29). No “works” at all are required, in the usual sense of the word, for one to be saved; only faith is required (belief).

How, then can we understand James 2:14-26, which seems to imply that works play a necessary role in our salvation? When one takes this passage in its entirety, it becomes evident that James is talking about two kinds of “faith” here. One kind is the same as the demons have, is dead, does not lead to salvation and does not produce good works. It is merely “mental ascent” to certain facts about the things of God.  The other kind of faith is alive, leads to salvation (i.e., it is “saving faith”) and produces good works. The good works are a result of, and evidence of, the kind of faith that saves, but they are not what brings about salvation; only saving faith does that.

One might reasonably summarize the teachings of Jesus, Paul and James on faith and works as they relate to salvation with this paraphrase: “A special kind of faith is required for salvation. It is a faith that leads to good works. The good works are evidence that one has “saving faith”, but they do not help one earn a place in heaven. God requires only that we have saving faith in Jesus Christ to qualify for heaven; the good works will follow naturally after one is saved.”

It would seem to me that the distinction I am making here is neither trivial nor meaningless; rather, it is vital and necessary for the attainment of eternal life, according the Bible, that is. For this reason, I sincerely hope that you will weigh my concern carefully, and then make any necessary adjustments, if any, to your professed doctrinal belief regarding salvation. After all, this is the doctrinal belief upon which your very eternal destiny hinges!

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Abortion: Biology, Bible and Forgiveness

A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 17 weeks.Abortion: Biology, Bible and Forgiveness

James R. Aist

 “I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.” (Psalm 37:25-27)

Introduction

There is no moral issue that grieves and saddens me more than abortion. I believe that abortion is, perhaps, the most egregious example of man’s inhumanity to man. But I am not writing this article to preach, judge or condemn. My purpose and motivation are to have a positive influence, to help save the life of at least one unborn child and to encourage at least one regretful mother to find forgiveness and peace.

Biology

When I took my first formal course in high school Biology in about 1960, everyone seemed to know that human life begins at conception, the union of a man’s sperm with a woman’s egg. Without uniting in the womb, the egg and sperm have no human life at all and do not develop into anything; they remain just an egg and a sperm and soon die. The part of the human “life cycle” that we universally agree includes all of the developmental stages of human life from babies to teens to adults actually begins with conception in the mother’s womb. Those are the basic, biological facts of human reproduction. So, from a biological perspective, human life begins at conception and proceeds on an uninterrupted continuum of developmental stages, first in the womb, and then outside of the womb. There is no identifiable point in this continuum at which an unborn child becomes suddenly human; the unborn child is a human being all along. The idea that there is a moment when a developing child changes suddenly from non-human to human is a fantasy that has no basis whatsoever in the science of biology. Rather, it is purely a figment of the human imagination, designed to rationalize the termination of innocent human life in the womb and, thus, avoid the enormous emotional toll that routinely follows in the aftermath of an abortion.

Ultrasound images or videos — especially the new 3-D versions, see above — of a developing child in his/her mother’s womb will provide conclusive and convincing evidence that the unborn child is, indeed, a human being in the early stages of development.

Bible

To receive the guidance of the God of the Bible – the Creator of human life — let’s have a look at some Scripture passages relating to abortion:

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

How could David have been sinful before he was a person? If he was sinful from the moment of conception, then he must also have been a person from the moment of conception!

  • “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
  • “I have been a Nazarite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb.” (Judges 16:17)
  • “… God… set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace…” (Galatians 1:15)

God has a plan for each of us, before we are even born! What is God’s plan for your unborn child?

  • “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them….” (Genesis 1:27)
  • “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:6)

Abortion is an attack on the very image of God himself.

I would guess that very few people are aware that the Bible has stern rebukes and dire warnings for those who approve of sin or encourage others to sin, but it does (Leviticus 19:1; Isaiah 5:20; Malachi 2:17; Matthew 5:19-20; Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:22). Thus, anyone, including born-again Christians, who even approves of or encourages the sin of abortion will, someday, have to answer to God for it. If that’s you, then now is the time to repent!

Forgiveness

Abortion is, first and foremost, a sin against God (see above). So, forgiveness and peace will come only through and from Him. Here’s how you can receive God’s forgiveness and peace:

  • Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It’s important to keep in mind that there is no sin that is so big and so bad that God will not forgive it. In fact, God wants to forgive you and bring you peace. He has made this promise to you: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). He is “faithful” to forgive you because He has promised to do so, and God does not lie or break His promises (Numbers 23:19); He is “just” to forgive you because Jesus paid the full price for your sins when He suffered and died for them, in your place, and, therefore, it would be unjust to not forgive you. And He doesn’t stop there. He will also cleanse you from the stain of your sin and of the guilt and shame associated with it; God will separate your sins from you “as far as the East is from the West” (Psalm 103:12), and he will not keep bringing it up and holding it against you (Isaiah 43:25). You have God’s word on it (Numbers 23:19), so take Him at His word, receive His forgiveness and move on with the peace of Christ; God has a wonderful plan for your life.

An Appeal for the Rights of the Unborn

If you want to make me cry, then remind me of the accidental traffic death of my daughter, Liesel, when she was only 20 years old. Or, remind me of the accidental drowning deaths of twin toddlers in Knoxville a few days ago. But, if you really want me to weep and mourn deeply, then remind me of the intentional deaths of tens of millions of innocent, helpless, unborn babies, murdered in their mother’s womb, in America since Roe v. Wade. The United States will have no claim whatsoever to any moral high ground concerning anything, unless and until we, as a nation, rise up against this, the most despicable of man’s inhumanity to man, and legally declare it to be what it is: murder of the worst kind. And that’s why we need more and more pro-life justices, judges, governors, legislators, presidents and God-fearing voters to lead the charge against abortion. America, bless God and stand against this national tragedy!

(For more articles on ABORTION, click HERE)

What Does “Born Again” Mean?

born againWhat Does “Born Again” Mean?

by James R. Aist

Introduction

Many in the Christian church today have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of what Jesus was talking about when he said “You must be born again (from above).” False teachers are often quick to invent their own concept of “born again” apart from sound biblical information, so be careful to compare what they teach to the Word of God. A good grasp of the biblical teaching on this subject is important to the understanding of how God saves people and transforms their lives – the very essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ — so let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about “born again.”

Our Original Condition

When God first created Adam, his human spirit was in harmony with God and they were in close, intimate fellowship. Sin had not yet entered the world, and Adam was living in obedience to God’s commands. But when Adam sinned, there was a profound effect on the nature of the spirit of man: the human spirit was changed from one of harmony and obedience to a spirit of rebellion and enmity toward God, and this “sin nature” of the human spirit was inherited by all generations following Adam (that’s us). As a result, everyone is born into this world with a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and deaf ears (Deuteronomy 29:3-4). The only ones who can listen to the word of God and believe it are those to whom God has given a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26) and “ears to hear” (Isaiah 32:1-4). Only God can remedy this problem. (For a more complete treatment of “Ears to Hear”, Click HERE.)

God’s Remedy: A New Human Spirit

Those to whom God gives a “heart of flesh” and “ears to hear” will, at some point in their conversion process, become “born again.” To be “born again” is not an option for salvation; it is an absolute requirement (John 3:1-8). When one is “born again”, God the Father draws them to Jesus (John 6:44), reveals to them that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-17), replaces their sinful heart of stone with an obedient heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26); that is, He removes the old, rebellious human spirit they were born with, which is at enmity with God, and replaces it with a new, obedient human spirit (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26), which is from God (John 3:1-8) and in harmony with God. Here is how the Apostle Paul described this harmony with God, in 1 Corinthians 6:17, “But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”  Jesus, the Second Adam, has undone the spiritual damage caused by the “original sin” of the First Adam; our “sin nature” has been undone! Moreover, God puts the Holy Spirit into the born-again person (Exekiel 36:27) to sanctify him, help him to understand spiritual truths and to be an internal witness to the veracity of biblical truth. A “born again” person loves the word of God and eagerly receives and believes it (1 John 4:6). But to those who are not “born again”, it is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2:13). And we should not expect them to believe it, because in their fallen, dead, spiritual condition, they cannot (1 Corinthians 2:13 and 1 John 4:6).

Are There Other Bible References to “Born Again”?

Where else in the Bible can we find teachings about being “born again?” As it turns out, Peter used the same phrase that Jesus had coined in referring to Christian believers: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23). What does Peter mean by “perishable” and “imperishable” seed, and what is the significance, if any, for us? Well, we can understand this reference to the two kinds of seed if we consider what happens to unbelievers vs. believers in the judgment: “To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.But the…unbelieving—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14-15). The believers will not experience the second death because they are born again of imperishable seed (a new human spirit), whereas the unbelievers are still of their original, perishable seed (old human spirit) and will die a second death (i.e., “perish”).

One can also recognize a reference to being “born again” in Paul’s description of what happens when an unbeliever is converted into a believer: “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, the Amplified Bible). Now, we know, of course, that the salvation experience does not immediately change everything about the “old” person (e.g., his body is still the same age and his ability to resist temptation is not yet perfect), so how, then, can Paul say that this experience makes one “a new creature altogether?” It’s because Paul is referring here to just the “spirit man” (the man’s human spirit) which is changed from the original, fallen spiritual condition in which he was born into this world, to a new, regenerated and undefiled spiritual condition when he is born again. In other words, his original human spirit (“previous moral and spiritual condition”) has been replaced with a new human spirit (thus, “a new creature altogether”).

And, finally, the Apostle John also refers to this experience as being “born of God”: “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the Devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10). Note that here, John is giving us a litmus test that separates the true believers (those who are “born of God” or “born again”) from the unbelievers (the “children of the Devil”): the “born-again Christians” will not continue to sin.

Am I born again?

Since one must be born again in order to spend their eternity in heaven, it is natural to wonder, “Am I born again?!” Of course, I cannot answer that question for you, but I can show you some very important things that the Bible has to say about it, and that may help you answer it for yourself. First, the Bible says that we can know, here and now, that we possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Therefore, it is possible for you to find the answer to this question as it pertains to your own spiritual condition. Second, a born-again person will testify that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:12). Third, the genuineness of their verbal testimony will be confirmed by a changed life: they will repent and turn away from their sins (Galatians 5:24; 2 Timothy 2:19) and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22) —  in ways and with a consistency that was not evident before. And fourth, a born-again person will begin to live their life more for Jesus and less for themselves (1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 2:19-20). This new outlook on life will create a whole new purpose and meaning for the life of the believer and will have a profound effect on their approach to life in general. Finally, here are some key Scripture verses that may help you answer this very important question for yourself (John 1:12; John 3:18-21; Romans 8:16-17; Ephesians 1:13; 1 John 4:12-15; and 1 John 5:6-12). If, after pondering the points and verses presented here, you are still unsure that you are born again, you may want to take a moment to pray and ask God to give you saving faith in Jesus Christ and an unshakable assurance that He has saved you. Then go back through this section of the study again and meditate intently on each point and verse, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Finally, one can understand and follow these steps to become born again, if you are being genuine and sincere:

  • Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)