Thursday, March 31, 2011

What are good works for?

Dr. Martin Luther, Reformer
Here's a frequently raised objection against the reformed doctrine of Justification by Faith and how Christians should respond to it:

If Salvation is attained through faith alone, and if works of charity are completely unnecessary and superfluous, why then does the Bible exhort Christians to be holy in all their conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16)? What for if it doesn't have any bearing to one's eternal destiny?

First of all, it is not true that doing service to God or performing acts of charity are completely unnecessary and superfluous. According to Jesus Christ, it is through our obedience to God's law that we evince our love for Him (John 14:21, 23). However, these works won't save us because no amount of human works can suffice to reach God's glorious standard of perfection (Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:20, 23; James 2:10; Revelation 21:27). The psalmist writes, "If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psalms 130:3); and again, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you" (Psalms 143:2; cf. Romans 3:10).

Do we then by grace make void of free will?

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
St. Augustine | Do we then by grace make void free will? God forbid! Nay, rather we establish free will. For even as the law by faith, so free will by grace, is not made void, but established (Rom. 3:31). For neither is the law fulfilled except by free will; but by the law is the knowledge of sin, by faith the acquisition of grace against sin, by grace the healing of the soul from the disease of sin, by the health of the soul freedom of will, by free will the love of righteousness, by love of righteousness the accomplishment of the law. 

Accordingly, as the law is not made void, but is established through faith, since faith procures grace whereby the law is fulfilled; so free will is not made void through grace, but is established, since grace cures the will whereby righteousness is freely loved. Now all the stages which I have here connected together in their successive links, have severally their proper voices in the sacred Scriptures. 

The law says: "Thou shall not covet" (Exo. 20:17). Faith says: "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee" (Psa. 41:4). Grace says: "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (Jn. 5:14). Health says: "O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me" (Psa. 130:2). Free will says: "I will freely sacrifice unto Thee" (Psa. 54:6). Love of righteousness says: "Transgressors told me pleasant tales, but not according to Thy law, O Lord" (Psa. 119:85). 

How is it then that miserable men dare to be proud, either of their free will, before they are freed, or of their own strength, if they have been freed? They do not observe that in the very mention of free will they pronounce the name of liberty. But "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17). If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will? For by what a man is overcome, to the same is he delivered as a slave (2 Pe. 2:19). But if they have been freed, why do they vaunt themselves as if it were by their own doing, and boast, as if they had not received? Or are they free in such sort that they do not choose to have Him for their Lord who says to them: "Without me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5); and "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?" (Jn. 8:36).

~ On the Spirit and the Letter, Ch. 52 [XXX]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Lord I did not choose You

This contemporary song by Matthew Smith is based on the classic Lutheran hymn "Lord, 'Tis Not that I did Choose Thee" by Josiah Conder (1789-1855). Became my instant favorite the first time I heard it because of its theological soundness. I'm pretty sure many reformed folks out there would love it, too. The song reminds us of whose choice is it that initiated and eternally secures our Salvation (Jn. 15:16; 1 Jn. 4:19), taking us back to the greatness of God's mercy.

Here's the video with the lyrics below:

My Lord I did not choose You
by: Matthew Smith

My Lord I did not choose You
For that could never be
My heart will still refuse You,
Had You not chosen me

You took the Sin that stained me,
Cleansed me, made me new
Of old, You have ordained me,
That I should live in You

Unless your Grace had called me
And taught my op'ning mind,
The world would have enthralled me
To heav'nly glories blind

My heart knows none above You,
For Your rich Grace I thirst
I know that if I love You,
You must have loved me first


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Arminian Prayer

C.H. Spurgeon | But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer—for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,
"Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them." 
That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. 

I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, "I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?" If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, "My dear sir, I quite believe it—and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." Do I hear one Christian man saying, "I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me"? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say—
"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o'erflow;
'Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go."
~ Excerpt from Spurgeon's sermon entitled, Free Will - A Slave

The Peace and Harmony of the Universe

St. Clement of Rome (fl. 96)
St. Clement of Rome | The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed. The unsearchable places of abysses, and the indescribable arrangements of the lower world, are restrained by the same laws. The vast unmeasurable sea, gathered together by His working into various basins, never passes beyond the bounds placed around it, but does as He has commanded. For He said, "Thus far shall you come, and your waves shall be broken within you" (Job 38:11). The ocean, impassable to man and the worlds beyond it, are regulated by the same enactments of the Lord. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance. The ever-flowing fountains, formed both for enjoyment and health, furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen.

~ First epistle to the Corinthians, Ch. 20

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The wolf underneath the sheep's clothing

It is still under dispute whether or not Martin Bashir's a "devout Christian", but he sure did an excellent job in this interview with Rob Bell concerning the latter's controversial new book entitled Love Wins. Bashir gets right to the core and heart of the issue in his questions. I love the part when Bashir frankly told Bell that he's amending the Gospel to make it palatable "to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach." Here's the video from youtube:


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Naiwala ba ni Judas Iscariote ang Kaligtasan niya nang ipagkanulo niya ang Panginoon?

Ayon kay Jesus sa talata 47 ng ika-anim na kabanata ng aklat ng Juan, "Katotohanan, katotohanang sinasabi ko sa inyo, Ang sumasampalataya ay may buhay na walang hanggan" (Jn. 6:47, TAB). Isipin itong mabuti: kung tunay na nananalig si Judas kay Cristo bilang kanyang Panginoon at Tagapagligtas, disinsana'y mayroon siyang buhay na walang hanggan, at siya'y isang anak ng Diyos alinsunod sa Juan 1:12. Ngunit bakit tinawag siyang "diablo" ni Cristo sa talata Juan 6:70? "Sinagot sila ni Jesus, Hindi baga hinirang ko kayong labingdalawa, at ang isa sa inyo ay diablo?" (Jn. 6:70, Ibid.). Ito ay sapagkat ang totoo, hindi naman talaga tunay na nananalig si Judas kay Cristo. Ergo, hindi siya tunay na ligtas. Ang katibayan ko sa bagay na yan ay makikita sa talata 64,
"Datapuwa't may ilan sa inyong hindi nagsisisampalataya. Sapagka't talastas na ni Jesus buhat pa nang una kung sino-sino ang hindi nagsisisampalataya, at kung sino ang sa kaniya'y magkakanulo" (Jn. 6:64, Ibid.).
  • Deklarasyon: Datapuwa't may ilan sa inyong hindi nagsisisampalataya...
  • Dahilan ng deklarasyon: Sapagka't talastas na ni Jesus buhat pa nang una kung sino-sino ang hindi nagsisisampalataya, at kung sino ang sa kaniya'y magkakanulo.
Dyan makikita at hindi maitatanggi na inihanay si Judas sa mga hindi sumasampalataya. Heto pa: Sa talata 39 at 40 ay ganito ang sinasabi ng ating Panginoon,
"At ito ang kanyang kalooban: huwag kong pabayaang mawala kahit isa sa mga ibinigay niya sa akin, kundi ibangon sa huling araw. Sapagka't ito ang kalooban ng aking Ama: ang lahat makakita at manalig sa anak ay magkaroon ng buhay na walang hanggan. At sila'y muli kong bubuhayin sa huling araw." (Jn. 6:39-40, MBB).
Ano daw ang kalooban ng Ama na nagsugo kay Jesus? Ito ay ang mailigtas niya nang lubusan ang mga "ibinigay" sa kanya ng Ama. Sino-sino ba ang mga "ibinigay" sa kanya ng Ama? Sila ang mga taong hinirang ng Diyos bago pa man likhain ang sanlibutan (Rom. 8:29-30; Efe. 1:3-5, 10-11), at ang kalooban ng Ama ay 'wag pabayaan ni Jesus na mawala ang sinuman sa kanila. Si Jesu-Cristo ang Mabuting Pastol ng kawan ng Diyos (Juan 10). Hinahanap niya ang mga naliligaw na tupa, at iniingatan niya sa kanyang piling ang mga tupang nasa kawan na. Bilang ang Mabuting Pastol, hindi niya pinababayaang mawala kahit isa man sa mga tupa (i.e. hinirang) na ipinagkatiwala (i.e. ibinigay) sa kanya ng Ama. Samakatuwid, kapag sinabi nating si Judas ay minsang naligtas ngunit kalaunan ay nahulog nang tuluyan, para na rin nating sinabing naging pabayang Pastol si Jesus. Kung magkagayo'y hindi na siya karapat-dapat na tawaging "Mabuting" Pastol. Ito ay sapagkat kung ang kaisa-isang tupa ay hindi niya nagawang pangalagaan, bagkus ay tuluyang napahamak at naagaw ng kaaway, paano pa kaya niya mapangangalagaan ang buong kawan? Hindi ganyan ka-pabaya si Cristo sapagkat siya mismo ang nagsabi: "Binibigyan ko sila ng buhay na walang hanggan, at kailanma'y di sila mapapahamak; hindi sila maaagaw sa akin ninuman" (Jn. 10:28-29, Ibid.). Isa pang katibayan na makikita natin sa Kasulatan na nagpapatunay na si Judas ay hindi kailanman naligtas ay makikita natin sa Juan 13 kung saan hinugasan ni Jesus ang mga paa ng kanyang 12 alagad upang magpakita ng isang dakilang halimbawa ng pagpapakumbaba. Sa mga talata 11-12 at talata 18 ay ganito ang sinasabi:
"Sinabi sa kaniya ni Jesus, Ang napaliguan na ay walang kailangang hugasan maliban ang kaniyang mga paa, sapagka't malinis nang lubos: at kayo'y malilinis na, nguni't hindi ang lahat. Sapagka't nalalaman niya ang sa kaniya'y magkakanulo; kaya't sinabi niya, Hindi kayong lahat ay malilinis... Hindi ko sinasalita tungkol sa inyong lahat: nalalaman ko ang aking mga hinirang: nguni't upang matupad ang kasulatan, Ang kumakain ng aking tinapay ay nagtaas ng kaniyang sakong laban sa akin." (Jn. 13:11-12, 18, TAB).
Pansining mabuti:
  1. Talata 11-12, Ang lahat ng mga alagad, maliban sa isa (na siyang magkakanulo kay Jesus), ay lubusan nang malinis ayon kay Jesus. Kung si Judas ay tunay na nananalig kay Jesus, disinsana'y kasama siya sa mga lubusan nang nilinis sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya (Gaw. 15:9).
  2. Talata 18, Sa Juan 6:70 pa lang ay nagpahiwatig na si Jesus sa kanyang mga alagad na mayroong isang latak sa kanilang grupo. Sa Juan 13 ay isiniwalat na ni Jesus kung sino ang tinutukoy niyang "diablo" sa Juan 6:70, palibhasa'y nalalaman niya kung sino ang kanyang mga hinirang, at kung sino ang pasaway na magkakanulo sa kanya.
At matapos ituro ng Panginoon kung sino ang magkakanulo sa kaniya, dagliang pinasukan ng kademonyohan si Judas at tuluyan nang tumiwalag sa samahan ng mga apostol:
"Yaong aking ipagsawsaw at bigyan ng tinapay ay siya nga (ang magkakanulo sa akin). Kaya't nang maisawsaw niya ang tinapay, ay kinuha niya at ibinigay niya kay Judas, na anak ni Simon Iscariote. At pagkatapos na maisubo, si Satanas nga ay pumasok sa kaniya... Nang kaniya ngang matanggap ang subo ay umalis agad..." (Jn. 13: 26-27a, 30a, Ibid.).
Isiping mabuti:
  1. Ang pagpasok ni Satanas kay Judas ay isang malaking senyales na hindi siya totoong ligtas. Ayon kay apostol Juan: "Alam nating ang mga anak ng Diyos ay hindi nagpapatuloy sa pagkakasala, sapagkat iniingatan sila ni Jesu-Cristo, at hindi sila maaaring anhin ng diablo" (1 Jn. 5:18, MBB).
  2. Ang moralidad ni Judas ay isa ring patotoo na hindi siya tunay na ligtas. "Makikilala ninyo sila nang lubos sa pamamagitan ng kanilang mga bunga" (Mat. 7:16, SND). Makikita natin sa mga bunga ni Judas na ang pananampalatayang taglay niya ay patay. Ayon kay San Tiago, "patay ang pananampalatayang walang kalakip na gawa" (San. 2:17, MBB). Hindi ibig sabihin nito na namatay ang kanyang pananampalataya, kundi bagkus ay patay na ang kanyang pananampalataya sa mula't-mula pa man. Sa kabilang banda ang mga tunay na anak ng Diyos ay "hindi nagpapatuloy sa pagkakasala, sapagkat iniingatan sila ni Jesu-Cristo" (1 Jn. 5:18, Ibid.).
  3. Ang tuluyang pagtiwalag ni Judas sa samahan ng mga banal ay isa ring malakas na katibayan na siya'y hindi tunay na naging ligtas kailanman. Noong panahon ng sinaunang iglesia, maraming nagpapakilalang "mananampalataya" ang natalikod sa dalisay na aral at naging mga anti-Cristo. Dati silang kasa-kasama ng mga banal, kagaya rin naman ni Judas na palaging kasa-kasama sa bawat lakad ni Cristo. Gayunpaman sa bandang huli sila ay nahiwalay at tuluyan silang napahamak. Nawala ba ang Kaligtasan nila? Hindi. Sapagkat hindi naman sila naligtas kailanman. Ayon sa apostol: "Bagamat dati silang kasamahan natin, hindi natin tunay na kaisa ang mga taong iyon. Sapagkat kung sila'y tunay na atin, nanatili sana silang kasama natin" (1 Jn. 2:19, Ibid.).
Kung gayon, totoo ba ang haka-haka na naiwala ni Judas ang kanyang Kaligtasan nang ipagkanulo niya si Jesus? Hindi. Ito ay sapagkat kailanma'y hindi naman siya naligtas, kaya paano niya mabibitawan ang Kaligtasang hindi pa naman niya nahahawakan?


Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami in Japan and God's Justice

An earthquake of 8.9 magnitude has hit Japan today, unleashing huge walls of water that swept away everything in its path in the north-eastern coastal area of the said country all the way to its capital city, Tokyo. As of 9:00 am, 200 to 300 poor souls were reported by the Japanese police to have been found dead and the toll is expected to rise enormously considering the vast effects left by the devastating calamity. A picture paints a thousand words, but a video paints millions:

As soon as I heard the news this morning, my initial response was that I got worried for the safety of one of my elder brothers in Japan. I immediately rushed into my facebook account to check if he's safe, and to my relief, he seems so. He admitted to have felt some shaking but thank God he wasn't hurt. I was more appeased when I learned that the place where he stays at (which is in Nagoya City) is considerably far from the epicenter of the quake and from the horrifying tsunami attack that followed it. Praise the Lord!

God is good, indeed. All the time He is (Psa. 145:17).

But wait. If God is good and infinitely merciful to all mankind as preachers in the pulpit project He is, why did God, in the first place, let these catastrophes to occur? Tomorrow, dead people in Japan will be scattered over and under the rubble and shreds of their own properties destroyed by the tsunami. Stinking corpses will be filling the streets (if ever there were any streets left), and those who managed to survive will have to go through countless days and nights of emotional torment over their lost possessions and loved ones.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

This is God's hand, not ours, that we depart not from Him

"What will separate us from the love
Christ has for us?" (Rom. 8:35, GW)
St. Augustine | This grace He placed “in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things” (Eph. 1:11). And thus as He worketh that we come to Him, so He worketh that we do not depart. Wherefore it was said to Him by the mouth of the prophet, “Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, and upon the Son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself, and we will not depart from Thee” (Psa. 80:17-18). 

This certainly is not the first Adam, in whom we departed from Him, but the second Adam, upon whom His hand is placed, so that we do not depart from Him. For Christ altogether with His members is—for the Church’s sake, which is His body—the fulness of Him. When, therefore, God’s hand is upon Him, that we depart not from God, assuredly God’s work reaches to us (for this is God’s hand); by which work of God we are caused to be abiding in Christ with God—not, as in Adam, departing from God. For “in Christ we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who worketh all things.” 

This, therefore, is God’s hand, not ours, that we depart not from God. That, I say, is His hand who said, “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they depart not from me” (Jer. 32:40).

~ St. Augustine of Hippo, On Perseverance of all Saints, Ch. 14