Works brought about by Faith

It is absolutely crucial that we understand that our works arise from faith in the fact that we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ and that alone.  Our works have no merit at all in relation to our legal standing before God our Father and our ability to come to Him freely.  We approach God our Father freely because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.

That is basic theology.  It needs to underpin everything we think about who we are and what we do.

So, with that understanding, we read the rest of the Scriptures in a different light.  The Old Testament Law (the Torah, or first five books of the bible) are now expositions of what pleases God.  They become a place to learn how to live in a way that blesses both God and us.  The 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), for instance, describe the fundamental ways in which we can please God and be a blessing to others.

All of Scripture is God breathed and useful for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16).  In Exodus 18 there is a lovely passage about Moses father-in-law Jethro.  The respect that Moses shows Jethro is an example to us all of how we should treat our elderly relatives.  Moses bowed low before Jethro and kissed him (Exodus 18:7), he showed respect and affection in equal measures.  Moses then took on Jethro’s advice without quibbling with him.  Considering that Moses was hearing directly from God and would go on to write the Torah, this was an impressive sign of his humility.  But then he was the most humble person on the face of the earth at the time (Numbers 12:3).

One of the most fundamental ways we can read the Old Testament with New Testament eyes is to understand that the law is not given as a stick to beat us with but that that stick was already used on Jesus (Col. 2:14).  The Law is now powerless in that regard. But as a way of knowing God and what He wants, the Law is crucial.  If you love God because of what He has done for you, then you will also love His Law because it shows you His heart.

The True Nature of the Present Pope

Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun.  The same pretensions to power that Luther pointed out 500 years ago are still being adopted by the present Pope Francis as have been adopted by all his predecessors.  The following is based on one of Luther’s most famous writings (‘Appeal to his Imperial Majesty, and the Christian Nobility of Germany, on the Reformation of Christianity.’)

Basically there are three walls that the Pope puts up as defences against being called to account for the actions of the Roman Catholic clergy which he is ultimately responsible for:


  1. When attacked by the temporal power, they denied its jurisdiction over them, and maintained the superiority of the spiritual power.  The idea that Canon Law is superior to Civil Law has been used as recently as 2009 by Bishop Murphy of Cork to justify not handing over paedophile priests to the Gardai.
  2. When tested by Scripture, they replied, that none could interpret it but the pope. This hasn’t changed since the Reformation.
  3. When threatened with a council, they again replied, that none but the pope could convene it.

In the present day it is the first of these walls that causes the most obvious problems.  Wherever there is the covering up of scandalous abuses, this idea that the RC church (canon) law is above the secular law is trotted out by its adherents.  Every accused clergy man knows that the Pope and all the cardinals support this position and therefore they feel justified in adopting it.

However the Scripture says that everyone is subject to the secular powers including the pope:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

(Romans 13:1-5)

What is pertinent about the above passage is that when Paul wrote it perhaps one of the most pagan and oppressive empires that was ever on the earth was the one whose authority he was telling Christians to submit to!  How much more then should evil doers be brought to account in the relatively easy governments of our day?  It should go without saying that no title that you give yourself should excuse you from being accountable for doing the wrong thing.  The fact that in practice that is often not the case doesn’t mean we should give up trying to ensure it is.  The heart of Christian justice is that no one is above the law.

In the same epistle, Luther writes: “The pope should be ready to renounce the popedom, and all his wealth, and all his honours, if he could thereby save a single soul. But he would see the universe go to destruction sooner than yield a hair-breadth of his usurped power.”

You only have to visit the Vatican museum to see how true this statement still is.


On this Rock

One of the most often quoted passages in relation to the reason why Roman Catholics consider the Pope to be the head of the universal christian church on earth is this from Matthew 16:

15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Two arguments in Scripture can be aligned against this passage being used to say that the successors of Peter (as the Popes like to consider themselves) are the rock on which the church is built.  The first is from the Apostle Paul:

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:11)

And the second is from Peter himself:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”

(1 Peter 2:4-7)

It is therefore clear that the rock on which the universal (or catholic) Church is built is the Word of Jesus Himself.  It is also clear that we cannot see Him now in a physical body on the earth and so, like Peter, we need to have Him revealed to us by the Father.  It is upon this revelation that God will build His church.

The question for the reader is:  Do you know Jesus? Really?  Has He spoken to you?  If so what He has said to you will change the world if you do it.


The Rules of the Game

Recently my head has been swimming with ideas about dimensions beyond the four we live in (height, length, breath and time).  No more!  I’m going to play by the rules of the game God has set up in those four dimensions.  There is where sanity lies.

So what are the rules?  This is how I understand them:

  1. We all make mistakes, fail, sin, whatever you want to call it. Perfection in this game is impossible except for Jesus.  The rule is that when you sin you confess it, receive forgiveness, get up and go again (1 John 1:5 – 10).
  2. Love is the answer to everything.  As long as we keep on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbours as ourselves we can’t go wrong (e.g. Matthew 22:37).
  3. Love starts and ends with God and particularly with an understanding that Jesus died a horrible death on the cross for us.  Keep remembering this and it cannot but produce love in you (e.g. 1 John 4:19).
  4. God’s means for remembering is what some denominations call “Breaking of Bread” and others “Holy Communion”.  Jesus wants us to meet together with others regularly and remember what He did together (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11: 23-25).
  5. The mechanisms that God uses to enable us to please Him are grace working through our faith in Him we don’t see (see Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Romans).  So we believe and God in response gives us a whole pile of good things we don’t deserve including peace, health and (dare I say it) wealth primarily in our relationships.  The thing is not to take them for granted, we really don’t deserve all the blessings we receive. God blesses us so we can bless others who He also loves just as much as us.
  6. Faith is a gift of God which we receive when God first intervenes in our lives and grows as we continue to let Him intervene.  Some people call the first intervention the baptism of Christ, others the baptism of the Holy Spirit, others call it being born again.  The important thing is that you have it and continue to experience the reality of God’s presence in your life since it is He (the Living Word) that creates faith in you and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Most Christians acknowledge that they have had this encounter by being baptised in water – an outward sign of an inward reality (1 Peter 3:21).

That’s it!  Simple really.