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Friday, September 25, 2015

Is Peter the "Petra" of Matthew 16?

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As the Pope makes his visit to America, I find it important to bring some clarity to the subject.  One thing that is sadly missing is any theological significant discussions of the doctrine of the papacy itself.*  Significant in the Roman Catholic system is the understanding that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the head of the true Church, who infallibly can define doctrine.  They believe that the Pope has taken the “seat of Peter”, who they believe to be the Prince and Chief of the apostles, and that those who follow after him as the Bishop of Rome.  This doctrine was first clearly articulated in the Vatican 1 Council.  In this council the church infallibly interpreted Matthew 16:13-20 as well as John 21 to refer to Peter’s primacy.  They also made the claim that this has been the teaching of the church since the beginning.  Vatican 1 reads:

We teach and declare that, according to the gospel evidence, a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the lord.

It was to Simon alone, to whom he had already said You shall be called Cephas , that the Lord, after his confession, You are the Christ, the son of the living God, spoke these words:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

And it was to Peter alone that Jesus, after his resurrection, confided the jurisdiction of Supreme Pastor and ruler of his whole fold, saying: Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.
To this absolutely manifest teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, as it has always been understood by the Catholic Church, are clearly opposed the distorted opinions of those who misrepresent the form of government which Christ the lord established in his Church and deny that Peter, in preference to the rest of the apostles, taken singly or collectively, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction…

And so, supported by the clear witness of Holy Scripture, and adhering to the manifest and explicit decrees both of our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs and of general councils, we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical Council of Florence, which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, true vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christian people.

 That apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching. This Holy See has always maintained this, the constant custom of the Church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it. -Vatican 1, Session 4, 1:1-4, 3:1 4:1 (https://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V1.HTM)

The Roman doctrine of the papacy stands or falls on Matthew 16:13-20.  We will examine this Roman Catholic dogma in three phases: first, looking at Matthew 16:13-20, second, looking at relevant New Testament passage, and third, looking at history before giving concluding thoughts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why You Should #ShoutYourAbortion

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Recently, a hashtag is making its way around the net.  #ShoutYourAbortion is meant to be a defense of Planned Parenthood in the midst of their most recent controversy, along with allowing women to proudly boast in abortion decision.  This hashtag is a celebration of autonomy.  In fact, the pro-abortion narrative is changing.  Not long ago, women who received abortion were “victims”, but now they are being considered heroes.  Any extension of the kingdom of autonomy is something to shout.  Mos may be shocked to hear this, but I agree- abortion is something to shout about, but not in mirth and celebration, but in mourning and lamentation.

In fact, Biblically, seeking full autonomy is not what brings freedom and life (like the culture is promising).  Biblically, full and free moral autonomy breeds death, not life.  This is clear from the third chapter of Genesis.  In fact, the moment they dwelt upon Satan’s question, they exalted their own autonomy above Kingship.  “Did God really say?” has always been the root of our problems, this isn’t changing anytime soon.  The New Testament is clear that autonomy from God is still the root of our problem (Romans 1:18-32).  It also shouldn’t be surprising to us that autonomy has lead our culture to murder the innocent.  It was the next chapter after our first parent’s sought their full autonomy that we see a two-fold slaughter- first of God-given responsibility, and then of human life.  Cain’s question is just as chilling today, “Are we our brother’s keeper?”  To adjust it a bit for our context, “Am I my baby’s keeper?”

Abortion is clear reminder of the fallenness of our world.  Nothing can be more clear than allowing our autonomy to rule and reign over other’s autonomy.  We end life because we think that freedom from their life will bring us life, but death only ever brought life once, and it came not through asserting autonomy, but through humility and obedience to the plans of the Father.  Jesus by His death offers us fullness of life (Jon 10:10).  He died for our sins and rose again to make all things new.  He is the King over this creation, and only through laying down our autonomy and submitting to Him can we find life.  In this new creation we are made kings and queens over all things (Revelation 5:10).  Even those who have performed or received abortions can find forgiveness and newness of life in the gospel.  True freedom is not found in laying down the life of others, but in laying down our own lives.  Jesus modeled this and we are called to lay down our lives and follow Him.  Abortion is antithesis to the gospel, this is why anyone who claims to follow Christ can never support it.

The fallenness of sin should be mourned.  The death of the innocent is never celebrated in Scripture, but something to lament.  Herod thought killing the Messiah as a baby would solve his problem. Instead of celebration, Rachel was left mourning for her babies, and Herod couldn’t kill the baby.  In fact, through one of the babies he sought to destroy, the People of God would be rescued from their exile- a baby would bring life to the people of God.  This is why Matthew would quote from Jeremiah's lament (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:17-18).  Jesus Christ conquered death and the fallenness of this world and rules all the nations with an iron rod from the throne of God (Revelation 12:5).

We must pray to our Sovereign King (who can empathize with those slaughtered babies) for the end of this in our nation.  He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth.  Nothing it too far gone for His power and promise to restore.  But, our work doesn’t stop there.  We have work to do.  Legislation needs to continue and propagation is an essential. Continue in the fight in Congress and elsewhere. But, we must not forget to preach the message of Christ’s obedience to death instead of the culture’s message- autonomy through death.  Abortion is anti-gospel, abortion is anti-joy.  One fact is clear- abortion is pro-death.   Because of this fact abortion is something to shout about, but only with sackcloth and ashes.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

"How Shall we Sing the LORD’s Song in a Foreign Land?" Psalm 137 and Exiles of Religious Conviction

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Psalm 137 is based on a true story.  Not the kind of “based on true story” accounts that needs to be rewritten by Hollywood.  Psalm 137 has all the elements of a good plot- suffering, antagonists, shock-and-awe, and a central theme meant to impact the readers in the present, and empower them for the future.  What makes it even better is that this Psalm, like all of them, are set to music.

In Psalm 137 we find the people of God in exile.  Long had the prophets- Isaiah, Jeremiah and the like- warned of the outcome of Israel’s sin.  In their rebellion they hardened their hearts and as punishment they had been attacked and taken out of the land by Babylon.  As the Psalmist (and presumably the people of God as a whole) set down and reflected on the land God had promised, that they had seem to lose, verse 1 says they wept.  God gave them exactly want they wanted, and as sin always does, it leaves run and misery in its path (Romans 3:16).

“On the willows there we hung up our lyres.” (137:2).  The people had put up their instruments.  This was not a time to sing and celebrate, nor for entertainment, as instruments were often used for.  This was a time for mourning.  Not only were they in a foreign land, but they captors, called “tormentors” were openly mocking the people of God.  They would profane the sacred songs of the Lord!  With mirth (laughter), they would ask them to sing songs about the Promised Land they were taken from (v.3-4).  Mockery of God’s people is not a new invention.  Enemies of God have done it for ages.

This leads the Psalmist to ask a very simple question, “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” (v. 4).   They were taken out of the land of promise.  They were being pressured to allow men to defame and mock their God.  These songs were Holy and not meant to be sang in this foreign land by rebellious people.  People were forcing these men to disobey their conscience and what they knew to be right.  No doubt the mockers said, “It is just a song!  It won’t hurt anyone.”  “It’s the law, you must obey.”  “You can hold to your convictions in your houses, but not in the public square.”  For the Psalmist, to sing songs in mockery to the Lord was to “forget” the city.  To forget His promise.  The Psalmist is clear in verses 5-6, it would be better not to play any music at all than too do it in a way that doesn't acknowledge God and His Word.  For the Psalmist, obedience to conscience is worth suffering for.

Notice the end of verse 6, “Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth…if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”  To sing these songs would blaspheme God and thus show Him to be small.  To sing these songs in this context was disobedience to God.  If they cave to the pressure and obey the commands of their captors, they are showing what they value more: the safety and security that men provide more than God and His promises.  Jesus would speak of sin in a similar way, it is better to faithfully suffer and enter into the presence of God than to succumb to the world’s pressure to sin.  “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell” - Mark 9:47.  The kingdom is greater than the fleeting promises of sin.  Jesus would say in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)  Future grace of perfection empower purity in the present.  The people of God in persecution have always set their hopes on the promises of God.

The Psalmist continues with his hope set on the future promises of God as he finishes the Psalm.  Just as he set his hope on the perfect joy of Jerusalem, he sets his hope on God’s justice.  When God purifies, part of that means He destroys impurity.  The Psalmist cries out for God to remember against His enemies, the Edomites who had laid bare the foundations of Jerusalem and that the one who repays Babylon for what they had done would be blessed (v. 7-8).  Notice the Psalmist’s hope, even as it seems His enemies are winning, Babylon remains “doomed to be destroyed.”  God is a redeemer and rids His people of all enemies.  Notice the severity of the judgement God would give to the enemies of God: “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (v. 9).  At first glance that verse should take us a back.  Why would God consider the man blessed who dashed babies against rocks?  That sounds cruel.  What was ever done to deserve that?  


We recognize that Babylon had dashed the Israelite babies to pieces (Isaiah 13:16).  Babylon was an instrument of judgement against Israel for their sin, but they had gone too far.  They have done what was wicked in God's sight.  What the Psalmist desires is that, as verse 8 says, they be repaid according to what has been done to them.   In other words, He desires that standard Jesus teaches- that measure that they use shall be used back against them (Matthew 7:1-2).  God promises to judge in accordance with the deeds done- how He does it is up to Him.  That was the Psalmist’s confidence

Christians- we face a similar pressure to those of the people of God in Psalm 137.  Not from an enemy nation, but from our own nation.  We facing pressure to cave on God and His Word.  The culture trivializes it, just as I’m sure the Babylonians did- “It’s just a cake.  It’s just a marriage license.”  I’m sure the Israelites were being pressured under the “rule of law.”  But we must stand as they did.  We must place the God and His Word above our highest joys.  We must trust that a new and better country awaits us.  We must not cave on our convictions, but work hard to obey God, even when it is unpopular.

We must trust in God’s justice.  The 21st century church seems to emphasis “mercy” while minimizing “justice”, but in the shadow of the cross those two are intrinsically wed.  We trust and know that Judgement Day is a reality.  2 Thessalonians 1 describes that day as a day of relief because God will destroy those who have sought to destroy us (v. 7-8).  The long awaited promise land is ushered in, and along with it are God’s enemies tossed out.  But, as New Testament people we know God is pleased to judge sin in the death of Another.  We were all once enemies, but God has sought out His enemies in love and mercy.  Christ has come, He has died to reconcile us to Himself, by satisfying God’s wrath, and rising again to stand as our Advocate.  By faith, we die when He died, and we rise as He rose. The only hope for us has never been in obedience to Babylon, for one day all will look and see her judgement (Revelation 18:15-18).  Godless culture cannot keep its promises.  Our hope is in a new and better city, which no unclean will enter (Revelation 21:27).  We must endure in the present, for the promise of the future is greater than the present promises of sin- we will see His face (Rev. 22:4).