Monday, September 5, 2011


This brief article will have little, if anything, to do with Catholics, for a change, except maybe some in the Catholic Charismatic Movement. No, this is mainly for those Protestants who believe in “personal prophecy,” especially those in the “Word of Faith” type churches. Now, the serious problems in the Word of Faith Movement are many, but our focus today will be on this single issue of personal prophecy, i.e., when someone gives a special “word from the Lord” to either an individual or to the whole congregation.

We have a dear Christian friend who used to be part of this Word of Faith Movement. She has a sweet spirit, loves God with all her heart, and would do anything to please God. But her life was pretty much ruined by the Word of Faith church she attended. Through several personal prophecies from others in her church and in prayer meetings, she was led to believe that it was God’s will to marry a particular man in her church to whom she was not physically attracted, nor had any desire whatsoever to even date. But the prophecies seemed to imply that it was her “duty” to marry him. Wanting to be obedient to God, she gave in and married this man. After they got married, the man became very controlling and the spiritual lives of both of them were sorely affected, and they both realized their mistake. They are both now miserable and (not wanting to grieve God further through divorce) are trapped in a very unhappy marriage. These particular “prophecies” deceived them both and swallowed them up into a life of bondage.

No doubt, there are many more tragic stories similar to this one. All too often, this happens because 1) there are many false prophets out there, like Jesus said there would be (Matthew 24:11), and 2) there is a desperate lack of biblical discernment in the church today. These facts provide a major reason that we are in this great apostasy (falling away from the faith) in these last days. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)

Not everything uttered as a “prophecy” is from God. Some of these utterances may simply come from peer pressure, since everyone else in the group may be prophesying, and the person doesn’t want to appear “unspiritual”; or he gets caught up in the moment and all the emotion; or a person’s prophecy can be from his own spirit (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16); and then there are some that will be directly given by the “inspiration” of demons. Either way, none of these are from God. These false messages have done more harm to the body of Christ than we can imagine.

Many have fallen prey to the effects of such prophecies, and this is especially true if one is desperately seeking to “hear from God.” His life can be drastically changed by a single false prophecy.

Now, there is such a thing as the gift of prophecy in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:10), and God does not want us to despise this gift (1 Thessalonians 5:20), but there is also much abuse in this area. So, to balance this, the Bible tells us to “examine everything carefully [and] hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21 - NASB), and we do this with God’s Word, the Scriptures.

Christians, be very careful. The next time you hear someone say, “Thus saith the Lord…”, ask yourself these questions:

  • First and foremost, is what the “prophet” saying lining up with Scripture? Even if what he says comes to pass, and even if miracles are involved, his message should not be accepted if it goes against God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
  • Are the people saying, “Wow! What a great prophet this guy is! What wonderful prophecies!”, or is Jesus Christ the One being glorified?
  • Is he going on and on using flowery speech or “King James” language, or is he getting straight to the point and speaking like he normally would?
  • Is the “prophet” blasting someone with threats and warnings, or is he encouraging / consoling and confirming in the faith (which is the purpose of prophecy in the church)? (1 Corinthians 14:3)
  • Did the prophecy “come out of nowhere,” or was it a confirmation of something that God was already dealing with you about?
  • Is the person known to have given false prophecies before?
  • What is this “prophet’s” life like? Is he really a man of God, showing the fruit of the spirit (before AND after the giving of the message)?

Christians should never rush to accept any prophetic message. All prophecies MUST be tested first. The only prophecies that are infallible (i.e., without the possibility of error) are those in Scripture, and thus, the Bible is our standard by which we test everything.

Let us learn from the mistakes of those who have failed to apply this test, and have suffered the consequences. Because of this failure, some have lost physical / temporal things, some have lost their lives, and it is very likely that some have lost their eternal souls.

Monday, August 8, 2011


If you are a Catholic or if you know many Catholics, then you are probably familiar with the concept of confessing your sins to a priest in a small private room called a “confessional.” While much has been written about the abuses of the Catholic confessional, our focus today will instead be on the Catholic Church’s abuse of John 20:23 (which they claim supports this type of confession). Here is the passage and its context:

19) So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20) And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21) So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22) And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23) If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (John 20:19-23 - NASV)

The Catholic Church tells us that when Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them: if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”… that He was not only giving the disciples the authority to forgive sins, but He also intended to establish the “Sacrament of Penance,” part of which involves the Catholic practice of confessing sins to a priest (also known as “auricular confession”).


Not only do they claim this, but the Catholic Church also condemns anyone who denies this interpretation. According to the Fourteenth Session of the Council of Trent:

If any one saith, that those words of the Lord the Saviour, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, are not to be understood of the power of forgiving and of retaining sins in the Sacrament of penance, as the Catholic Church has always from the beginning understood them; but wrests them, contrary to the institution of this sacrament, to the power of preaching the gospel; let him be anathema. (Canon III – emphasis added)


If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema. (Canon VI – emphasis added)

Note the anathemas at the end of each Canon. When the Catholic Church declares someone “anathema,” she is pronouncing the gravest form of excommunication possible… one which eternally condemns the person to Hell unless and until he does penance to the Church’s satisfaction (see the online New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia – under the topic, “anathema”).

Note also the claim that this type of secret auricular confession was “always from the beginning understood” by the Church in this way, and “ever observed from the beginning.” But this is not true, even according to the Church’s own teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that private confession to a priest was a NEW practice introduced in the seventh century:

…During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the “private” practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on [i.e., from the seventh century], the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament… (CCC #1447)

So, private confession to a priest was NOT “ever observed from the beginning,” and church history verifies this fact. Remember that these statements above (Canon III and VI) are dogmatic statements from a supposedly “infallible ecumenical council” and must be believed by every Catholic, yet they contradict (and condemn) the Catholic Catechism on this point. It seems that the Council of Trent, in a knee-jerk reaction to the Reformation, made false claims, forcing today’s Catholic to have to do damage control.


Just to be clear, we’re not talking here about when someone sins against you personally and you need to forgive him for it. This is about someone officially absolving (forgiving) all your sins, giving you a clean slate. So, in light of this, what about the Catholic Church’s interpretation of John 20:23? Is it really speaking of auricular confession to a priest? Did Jesus actually give anyone the power to forgive sins (like He does)? On the surface, it may look like it, but no, there is something else going on here. The Catholic interpretation is not valid for several reasons…

First of all, although there were “ministerial” priests in the Old Testament, there are NONE in the New Testament, contrary to what the Catholic Church claims. According to the Bible, all Christians are considered to be priests (1 Peter 2: 5, 9; Revelation 1:6). So this special class of ministers does not exist anymore. See this article on the priesthood:

Just this point alone destroys the foundation of the Catholic concept of auricular confession.

Second, there are absolutely no New Testament examples of anyone having his sins absolved by confessing to a designated person (unless that Person was Jesus). There are examples of public confession (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:4-5; Acts 19:18-19), but we find no special person whose “job” it was to hear confessions (as in the Catholic Church).

Third, we DO have examples of those who prayed (or were instructed to pray) directly to God for forgiveness (Matthew 6:9,12; Acts 8:20-22; Luke 18:13-14). Jesus’ dying on the cross gives us direct access to God, without a ministerial priesthood.

Fourth, the structure of the Greek grammar in John 20:23 is rare, and important to recognize. The first pair of verbs (“forgive” and “retain”) are present tense. But the second pair of verbs, ("are forgiven" and "are retained") are both perfect tense, indicating a continual state that began before the action of the first verbs. In other words, the grammar indicates that God’s forgiving or retaining comes first, and then man’s PROCLAIMING of it afterward (based on what the person has chosen to do).

Many scholars will admit that the literal meaning of this verse, although awkward, is more accurately, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins HAVE ALREADY BEEN forgiven,” or … “SHALL HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.” So, Jesus was simply giving the disciples authority to announce forgiveness to people that God had forgiven already. This is not a situation where a man DECIDES to forgive or retain your sins – it is a situation in which a man simply declares / proclaims / confirms what God has already clearly stated in His Word, concerning your response to the gospel. Forgiveness depends on whether a person is repentant and how he reacts to the gospel, not on some special formula that the “priest,” rabbi, or minister uses.

By the way, a very similar type of Greek construction is found in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 concerning “binding” and “loosing.” Here again, it is NOT a case of a man deciding something and afterward, God being obligated to give His seal of approval. It is simply a proclaiming of what God has already done.

For those who may not be quite sure what we mean when we use the term “the gospel,” it means “good news” and is simply the message that God loves us enough to have sent His Son Jesus Christ to Earth to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. He paid our penalty. It is a gift that none of us deserve and the payment of a debt that we could never pay. So, we don’t have to try and earn it… all we need to do is believe / trust Him for it. This is indeed good news.

Fifth, when it comes to absolving (i.e., forgiving all of a person’s sins), it is impossible to do unless you first know with absolute certainty what’s in the person’s heart. That’s why only God can absolve, and He doesn’t need a “middle man” to do it.

It is possible for a Catholic in the confessional to fool a priest into thinking that he is genuinely sorry for his sins, when he is not. And if the priest is convinced, he will mistakenly declare that the person is forgiven. In this case, we would agree with Catholics that this person is certainly not forgiven, since he is not fooling God. On the other hand, the priest could also retain the person’s sins when he is actually repentant. The job of the Catholic priest here is (supposedly) to forgive or retain sins. Yet, he cannot faithfully and “accurately” do it because he does not positively know the person’s heart. The priest is dependent on the honesty of the penitent (the one confessing). But only God really knows the heart of man, therefore, only He can absolve sins. Even the pompous scribes and Pharisees recognized this. (Luke 5:21)

Sixth, we must look to other verses that pertain to the same topic to get a fuller understanding of a passage. Jesus’ words in John 20:23 can be understood in a non-Catholic way when reconciled with the other three gospels. Let’s be sure not to miss the fact that this passage is unmistakably connected to the “Great Commission,” to the preaching of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” He was sending them to preach the gospel. When He breathed on them, He was empowering them by the Holy Spirit to do exactly that.

There are three times in the gospels where a specific group is given this Great Commission of preaching the gospel message and being sent out with power. The first time was after Jesus chose His twelve apostles. (Matthew 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-11; Luke 9:1-5) The second was when He sent out the seventy disciples. (Luke 10:1-12) The third was after He arose from the dead, when He addresses His apostles again. (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:19-23). A close look at all these passages in their contexts will tie them all together as a unit, while never suggesting the concept of auricular confession. John 20:23 must not be interpreted apart from the other three gospel accounts where the Great Commission was issued. When placing the four gospels side-by-side, you can begin to see how John 20:23 is simply the Great Commission stated another way.

Also, within the gospels, there is a common theme of shaking off the dust from the feet of the preacher of the good news, condemning those who have rejected the message:

And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matthew 10:14-15 - NASV)

This practice was to show those who rejected the gospel that he (the preacher) wanted nothing to do with their evil ways, not even wanting their dust clinging to his feet. The concept of shaking off the dust in protest is also found in Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5; 10:10-11, and Acts 13:50-51. This act is an excellent example of “retaining” one’s sins, and is actually applying the principle of John 20:23 to those who reject the message.

Speaking of rejecting the gospel, notice what Jesus says:

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me. (Luke 10:16 - NASV)

This ties in directly with the concepts of “dusting off the feet” and “retaining one’s sins,” yet, notice that Jesus was speaking here to the seventy disciples, not just the apostles. Both of these concepts are about rejecting the gospel, and those who reject the message / messenger are actually rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, there is a common thread here, a continuous line of thought within the four gospel accounts and when they are viewed together, there is no auricular confession.

As stated before, it is the acceptance (believing) of this gospel message with an attitude of repentance that will cause a person to be forgiven of his sins. The gospel has everything to do with forgiveness. This is because it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)



Perhaps so, but this seems to be somewhat confusing, since the Catechism repeatedly tells us that confessing to a priest is “essential.” (CCC #1424, #1448, #1449, #1456) So, this “freedom” for Catholics to go directly to God for forgiveness is questionable. It is either essential to go through the priest, or it’s not. Which is it?


Using this line of reasoning, we could also say that since Jesus came to die on a cross, then every one of the apostles and every one of their “successors” were also expected to be crucified… right? Of course not. Did God also expect all the apostles (and “successors”) to be born of a virgin, since this too, was part of Jesus’ mission? Did He expect each one to be the Messiah, or to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament animal sacrifices? Absolutely not. These things (including forgiving sins) were specific to Jesus and His ministry, not anyone else’s. Not everything that applies to Him applies to us. Being fully God and fully human, He is in a different category than we are. Once again, when Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” He was simply referring to the spreading of the gospel.


The very fact that priests are not mind readers weakens the Catholic position. The power to absolve sins would necessarily require infallible knowledge of what’s in the person’s heart and mind. Priests don’t have this infallible knowledge and they can’t be absolutely sure if the person is repentant, so therefore, they can’t absolve sin.


Notice what Matthew 9:8 actually says:

But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (NASV)

What the crowds actually SAW was the miracle of a healing (v. 6-7) – that’s what they were marveling about.

Furthermore, (if we’re going to be consistent with this passage) if “men” have the power to forgive sins today, then shouldn’t they also have the power to heal today? Can the priest say, “…which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk…’” (v. 5) and then back up his claim like Jesus did? Hardly. The whole point of Jesus’ saying, “Which is easier…” was to demonstrate His authority to do BOTH, because He is God. If priests have the authority for one, why not for both? If the priest can forgive at will (like Jesus), then why can’t he also heal at will (like Jesus)? Because of inconsistent logic, Catholics cannot use this verse to support their claim.


First of all, it says to call for the elders of the church, not the “priests.” These are two different words in the Greek. Secondly, if we should “confess to one another,” then why do we never see Catholic priests confessing their sins to a lay person (non-priest)? That’s what “confessing to one another” would be, wouldn’t it? It means BOTH PARTIES confessing. The confessing is mutual… it is to “each other,” just as this same verse also says to “pray for one another.” Here again, the Catholic argument is inconsistent. If “confessing” is a “one-way” street in this context, then “praying” would have to be also. But we know that Catholics expect both sides (priests and “laity”) to pray for each other. So, the Catholic interpretation reduces this verse to nonsense.

When the Bible says to “confess to one another” or “forgive each other,” it is simply saying that we must be willing to humble ourselves and admit our faults and shortcomings to our brothers and sisters, in order to reconcile with each other. THAT’S what James 5:16 is about. This verse in no way supports auricular confession.


The apostle Paul, when expressing his deep concern for the souls of men, did not ask, “How will they be forgiven without an ‘official absolver’?” No, he asked, “How will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) He was most concerned with the spread of the life-giving message of the gospel. Paul knew very well where to find truth and forgiveness.

Please don’t be deceived – no one -- no “priest,” no rabbi, no minister… has the power to absolve sins. That is reserved for God, alone. God expects men to proclaim the gospel by the authority of His Word. And IF you repent of your sins and trust only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then you are indeed forgiven. We are never told in Scripture to confess our sins to a particular person. Again, forgiveness does not depend on a man telling you that you are forgiven, but it depends on your repenting and accepting the gospel.

The Catholic Church’s attempt to hi-jack John 20:23 and force it (under penalty of anathema, no less) to apply to auricular confession is:

· contradicting many scriptural principles

· ignoring the continuity and context of all four gospels as a unit

· simply reading a Catholic concept into the passage, and

· attempting to put people in bondage to the Catholic sacramental system.

Yes, we CAN and SHOULD go directly to God for forgiveness. We don’t need a “middle man,” a “professional forgiver” – what we do need is a right relationship with the One Who died on the cross for us… because He is the only one who knows our heart.

Monday, June 27, 2011


We already defined the Ecumenical Movement (EM) in a previous article – namely, that it is a movement headed by the Catholic Church, which will bring about the merging of all religions in the last days, that the Bible speaks of in Revelation 13:8, 12, 15. It will be the religion of the antichrist and it will be a perversion of Christianity. This coming together of all religions is being done today in the name of “peace” and “unity” and is actually a move toward the Catholic Church.

This EM is multi-faceted and it will appeal to all the world’s religions, even to many individuals within Christianity. We can see much of this movement in the church world today. It is attracting many, like Rick Warren’s “purpose driven” crowd, the “seeker sensitive” churches, the “emerging church,” the Church Growth Movement (CGM), and those promoting a “social gospel” (who are far more concerned with poverty, social change, civil rights, etc., than they are with saving souls through the gospel).

This ecumenical concept is also welcomed by the “unity at any cost” crowd, those looking for a “mystical” experience, the “contemplative prayer” types, “self-esteem” proponents and the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) crowd. There are even some who are pushing “Chrislam”, which is the merging of Christianity with Islam!

Other promoters of ecumenism are the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship, Promise Keepers, some in the “Positive Confession” and the “Word of Faith” arenas, and many Charismatics, as well. The EM also includes Freemasons, New Agers, nature worshipers / tree huggers / environmentalists and evolutionists. There will be something for everyone in this movement, even for atheists! It seems that one can find the ecumenical spirit almost everywhere today.

Those involved in the EM today are insisting that we put aside our differences and join hands. But consider this analogy:

Imagine a building with many people in it. Everyone in it is in poor health except for only one person, Bill, who happens to have the medicine that can cure everyone in the building. But the sick people complain that Bill is much too “exclusive” and thinks much too highly of himself and his medicine, and that he is always wanting to heal everybody. Bill always talks about his “cure” and wants to “push” it on everyone else. They say, “Who does he think he is? We like the way we are… after all, don’t we sick people also have some value? Let’s put aside the medicine and the good health, because it makes everybody else feel inferior.” So, they get together and demand that they all put their differences aside, tolerate each other, and consider everyone as an equal.

But wouldn’t this be silly? Shouldn’t they be thanking Bill that he has the cure and that he is willing to share it? But this is what the EM is doing with Christianity… they are trying to neutralize Christianity by making it equal to all other religions. Jesus Christ truly is the only cure for this sin-sick world, but the people within the EM don’t like any religion that is “exclusive,” that is, claiming to be the only one that has the answers. It makes others feel “inferior” and it hurts their feelings. When the ecumenists say they want us to “put aside our differences,” they want us to put aside DOCTRINE, so that no one is offended.

But it is this doctrine, this gospel of Jesus Christ, that is the answer to the world’s problems. It is the only “medicine” for solving the world’s hurts, and it is this exclusive nature of Christianity that is most important:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

The message of Jesus Christ certainly is exclusive, and it would be senseless to abandon that which is our only hope.

Now, we’re NOT saying that we shouldn’t feed the hungry or help the poor or the sick, etc. But sharing the gospel and changing hearts should be the church’s MAIN priority. (Mark 16:15) We should not overlook man’s GREATEST need (i.e., salvation) by over-emphasizing his temporal needs. The gospel is God’s gift from which all other blessings flow.

But what could possibly be wrong with joining hands with others, or having a desire for world peace, or social justice? Aren’t these worthy goals? Yes, but they are not going to be achieved by the EM. On the surface, the EM sounds good, but it is a trap, a scheme of the devil. It is a rejection of Christianity and a denial of the gospel, and it is gaining momentum like a runaway freight train. The EM will give the church and the world a false sense of security, which will ultimately lead the majority of the world into apostasy and into the grip of the antichrist, who will be worshiped by the whole world and will cause them to take his mark… 666. (Revelation 13:16-18)

With this in mind, we are urging our Catholic friends to come out of the Catholic Church, and we are urging our Protestant friends to steer clear of these groups mentioned above and any group that embraces unbiblical ideas.

For more information, see this article, which is an online excerpt from chapter 12 of Dave Hunt’s book, “Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist.” Go down to the section “Ecumenism and the Coming New World Order” in this article to find an eye-opening message about the EM:

Another article is by Roger Oakland and it carries a solemn warning and a heartfelt appeal to the Evangelical and Protestant pastors of the world to avoid the EM:

Sunday, May 29, 2011


For those who may not be familiar with the Catholic teaching of the "Immaculate Conception," it is not referring to the conception or sinlessness of Jesus Christ, but to Mary’s. The Catholic Church considers this teaching to be an infallible dogma that must be believed by all Catholics. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (CCC #491)

But there are several problems with this concept of “Immaculate Conception” and sinlessness...


Not Biblical

First, it is an unscriptural concept - that is, except for Christ, Himself (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21), a whole life of sinlessness applies to no human found in the Bible. However, the Catholic Church insists that it also applies to Mary in the passage in Luke chapter 1 where the angel Gabriel addresses Mary and tells her that she is to give birth to the Savior.

The great majority of Bible versions render verse 28 as the angel saying, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you”... or something very similar. But the Catholic Church leans toward the Latin Vulgate (Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin). Catholics translate verse 28 in the Vulgate as “Hail, full of grace...” which they take to mean that Mary was so “full” of grace that there was no room in her life for any sin, and she was this way since the moment of her own conception and throughout her whole life.

In spite of its plain context, Catholics will go to great lengths to explain how they believe this simple verse really means much more than it appears to be saying. They will attempt to take advantage of every possible nuance in the Greek grammar and stretch it into a new meaning altogether. They have attained an amazing level of special pleading in attempting to defend this teaching. But it is a giant and illogical leap to go from the Bible’s description of Mary as a humble handmaid whom God has highly favored... to a person whose own conception was “different from the conception of all other human beings," who has obtained “an entirely unique holiness,” who possessed “a sanctity surpassing... the combined holiness of all angels and other men...”, and was conceived without sin and remained so throughout her lifetime. That’s an awfully big jump.

But how trustworthy is the Catholic interpretation of the Vulgate? As we stated before, most Bible versions we have do not agree with the Vulgate’s “full of grace.” Even Catholic Bibles like the New American Bible (NAB) and the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) do not use “full of grace” in Luke 1:28. But, try as they may, Catholics cannot use this verse as proof of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Concerning the Greek word used for this phrase, one online Catholic source says:

But the term kecharitomene (full of grace) serves only as an illustration, not as a proof of the dogma. (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Immaculate Conception”)

To further weaken the Catholic interpretation of Luke 1:28, we read in this Catholic source:

The words of Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace” (Lk. 1.28), have also been appealed to as a revelation of the Immaculate Conception, on the grounds that to be truly full of grace, Mary must have had it always. This interpretation, however, overlooks the fact that the Greek term κεχαριτωμένη [kecharitomene] is not nearly so explicit as the translation “full of grace” might suggest. It implies only that God’s favor has been lavished on Mary, without defining the degree of grace. (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, Page 378)

So, by their own admission, this exaggerated interpretation of this simple passage in Luke is not at all what many Catholics are wanting us to believe.


Common Sense

But if we look at the context of Luke chapter 1, we can see that Mary is blessed among women (Luke 1:42; and in later manuscripts, 1:28). It is about childbearing. Elizabeth, Mary and the angel Gabriel all make significant statements here in chapter one, but NONE mention anything about Mary‘s “sinlessness” - ALL three refer to the special privilege of giving birth to the Messiah. THIS was how she was favored. No doubt, in those days, most every young Jewish woman would have given anything to have that honor.

But IF the angel is speaking here of Mary being “immaculately conceived,” why would he announce the news of these “special circumstances” surrounding her own conception so late in her lifetime (that is, so many years AFTER it happened)? This would be highly unusual. Why was this special news not announced at or around the time of her birth, like in the case of Jesus and John the Baptist? It seems that most every major announcement about someone in the Bible was “predictive” in nature (before it happens), not AFTER the fact. But this passage is about Jesus’ conception, not Mary’s.


All Have Sinned

The second problem is, not only is the Immaculate Conception not found in Scripture, but it is AGAINST the Scriptures. The Apostle John said:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 - KJV)

Also, the Apostle Paul said:

... that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:19 - KJV)

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 - KJV)

The first three chapters of the book of Romans paint a very bleak picture for anyone who thinks he is free from sin, either Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:10-19).

“But,” the Catholic objects, “there are exceptions to this rule!” He will insist that the phrase “all have sinned” does not really mean all. He’ll say, “Is not Jesus, Himself, an exception?” Of course, He is, but this is Paul’s whole point in the opening chapters of Romans. It goes without saying that He is the only reason that we can be saved at all. This is the common theme throughout Scripture... every person is a sinner and Jesus is the “cure.” He is not AN exception, He is THE ONLY exception.

Some may say that Adam and Eve were exceptions because they were created without sin. Well, that may be true but they later fell into sin, so no one can suggest that they were sinless throughout their lives. They still fall into the category of “all have sinned.”

What about unborn children, babies, or the mentally handicapped? They don’t have any sin, do they? These, like everyone else, are born with the sin nature, and given the chance, they would inevitably sin somewhere down the line. But these are not proper exceptions. They are exceptions only in the sense that they are not responsible for what they do. When Catholics speak of Mary as an exception, they are referring to a person who is accountable. A baby or a mentally ill person may sin, but God, in His grace, does not hold it against them. According to James 4:17:

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (KJV)

So, babies and the mentally handicapped who are not aware of sin are not accountable, and therefore, are not true exceptions to the rule. A true exception would be another human who was tempted in all things, yet victorious over sin, as Jesus was (Hebrews 4:15). Since Mary doesn’t fit into any of these categories, appealing to babies, the mentally handicapped, or Adam and Eve is useless and does not prove that she is (or can be) an exception.


Who Crushes/Bruises the Head of the Serpent?

With very little effort, one can find a multitude of images of Mary standing with her foot on the head of a serpent, because Catholics usually link the Immaculate Conception of Mary with Genesis 3:15, where God says to the serpent:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. (NASV)

Many Catholics reason something along these lines: Satan is the epitome of sin, but Mary had a perfect “enmity” (hostility or opposition) toward the devil. This perfect enmity could not exist if there was any sin in Mary. So, since enmity exists between her and Satan, she could not have any sin. Therefore, somehow she is the one who crushes the head of the serpent. But can this be true? No, it’s not. It is Jesus Who does the crushing. The New Catholic Encyclopedia says:

Much confusion has resulted from the fact that the second half of this verse [Genesis 3:15] was inaccurately translated in the Vulgate to read, “SHE shall crush your head.” This translation, which has strongly affected the traditional representations of the Blessed Virgin, is today generally recognized to be a mistake for “it [or “he,” i.e., the seed of the woman] shall crush...,” and consequently CAN NO LONGER BE CITED in favor of the Immaculate Conception. (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, page 378 - emphasis added)

Most Catholics today seem to be unaware of this correction.


It Just Has to Be

The third problem is that the Catholic Church insists that the Immaculate Conception is not just “fitting,” but necessary:

If it was necessary that the precursor of the Lord [i.e., John the Baptist] should be so pure and "filled with the Holy Ghost" even from his mother’s womb, such a purity was assuredly not less befitting His Mother. (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Immaculate Conception” - Emphasis added)

To become the Mother of the Savior, Mary, 'was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role'. The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as 'full of grace.' In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace. (CCC #490 - Emphasis added)

[Apparently, here, the writers of this Catechism seem to be unaware of the problems associated with “full of grace,” as mentioned above in the New Catholic Encyclopedia]

In one papal article, we read:

In order to be the irreconcilable enemy of the serpent and his offspring, Mary had to be free from all power of sin, and to be so from the first moment of her existence.”


The absolute hostility put between the woman and the devil [Referring to Genesis 3:15] thus demands in Mary the Immaculate Conception, that is, a total absence of sin, from the very beginning of her life.

[Once again, even Pope John Paul II must also have been confused or unaware that Genesis 3:15 “can no longer be cited in favor of the Immaculate Conception," according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia (copyright 1967) above... which was, by the way, in circulation long before the pope uttered this statement]


St Irenaeus presents Mary as the new Eve, who by her faith and obedience compensated for the disbelief and disobedience of Eve. Such a role in the economy of salvation requires the absence of sin. It was fitting that like Christ, the new Adam, Mary too, the new Eve did not know sin and was thus capable of co-operating in the Redemption.

(“MARY’S ENMITY TOWARDS SATAN WAS ABSOLUTE” - Pope John Paul 2 - The Pope's catechesis at the General Audience of Wednesday, 29 May (1996) - the 21st in the series on the Blessed Virgin - Emphasis added)

And in another papal article:

This great doctor of the Church [Augustine] certainly realized that Mary's status as Mother of a completely holy Son required total purity and an extraordinary holiness.”


“...a fundamental insight of faith: the Mother of Christ had to be perfectly holy from the very beginning of her life."

(“CHRIST’S GRACE PRESERVED MARY FROM SIN” - Pope John Paul 2 - The Pope's catechesis at the General Audience of Wednesday, 5 June (1996) - the 22nd in the series on the Blessed Virgin - Emphasis added)

Having said all this, if it was absolutely necessary for Jesus (Who is sinless) to live in a sinless womb, then it was ALSO logically necessary that MARY must have been born in a sinless womb. In other words, if Mary had to be unstained by sin in order to carry Jesus in her womb, then Mary’s mother also had to be sinless in order to carry Mary, and her grandmother before that, and her great grandmother before her, etc, etc... But, of course, this would be absurd.

So, the Catholic has a dilemma: Either, 1) this absurd line of continual sinless pregnancies must have taken place, or 2) these official Catholic sources that insist that sinlessness was necessary, can’t be trusted. If anyone claims a third option here, he will have to show proof of it, from either logic or Scripture.


A Sinless Environment?

The fourth problem with the Immaculate Conception is, if Jesus had to be conceived and sustained in a sinless environment (like Mary’s body), then wouldn’t He also need to be born and raised in a sinless environment? One would think so.

Or does this great “need” to maintain such a pure environment when in the womb, suddenly become irrelevant after Jesus was born? Shouldn’t those places and people in His “outside environment” need to be just as sinless as Mary’s womb? If no, why not? One has to wonder... why would the Catholic Church insist that the only thing in His environment that needed to be sinless was His mother?

Catholics insist that a sinless womb was “deserved” and “fitting" for Him. But, was being born in a smelly stable (Luke 2:7) “fitting"? Did not the Savior of the world deserve better? Of course He did. Did He deserve to die on a cross like a hardened criminal? Absolutely not. But it was NOT His purpose in coming to this earth to receive what people thought He “deserved,” or to receive what “seemed fitting” to man. If that would have been His purpose, then He would not have suffered and died on the cross, and we would all be lost. The bottom line is, He didn’t need to live in a sinless womb, just as He didn’t need to live in a sinless atmosphere outside the womb. His sinlessness did not come from His mother - it came from Himself (being God), so it could not be tainted or defiled by His environment.

So what?

OK, so why would any of this matter to us as Christians? What possible harm could this teaching of the Immaculate Conception cause? Why do we Protestants “pick on Mary," do we hate her or something?

No, we don’t hate Mary and we are not trying to take anything away from her. We believe that Mary was a godly, humble servant who was chosen to give birth to and raise the Christ. But the Catholic Church gives her a role that the Bible does not. The Immaculate Conception of Mary is an extraordinary claim which demands extraordinary proof. Could God have made her sinless? Sure, God could have easily done it if He wanted to, but again, although they claim otherwise, we certainly find no biblical support for this teaching.

Ultimately, it is Catholic Tradition which has produced this teaching and not Scripture. But, unfortunately for the Catholic, Sacred Tradition has a special set of problems all its own. See here:

The idea of someone else being sinless violates one of the main distinctions between Jesus Christ and mere men. This distracts from our focus on the uniqueness of Christ - in fact, it seems that most of the Catholic teachings on Mary seem to blur His uniqueness - and thus will turn some away from Him to over-focus on Mary. For example, in the eyes of many Catholics, Mary seems to be “more approachable” than God. But this is an unbiblical, dangerous and slippery slope. Embracing this kind of mindset will make it much easier to fall victim to false apparitions (visions) of Mary, as well.

No doubt, what started out in the early church as a genuine and well-intentioned study into the life of Mary and how she fits into the scheme of things, has over the centuries gradually transformed into an out-of-control infatuation, obsession, and even idolatry, toward Mary. Catholics will try to downplay this and say that the teaching was always there from the beginning, but that it simply “developed” over the years, like many other Catholic teachings. But this excessive devotion was a result of ignoring scriptural truth and has caused multitudes to fall away from God through idolatry.

My friends, souls are at stake here. If we can’t trust the Catholic Church when she solemnly declares an infallible teaching, then which of her teachings CAN we trust? Let us, rather, learn to trust in the God-inspired Bible, and only those teachings that agree with its principles.



Sunday, March 13, 2011


Having already dealt with the concept of Sola Scriptura (“Bible Alone”) in more detail elsewhere on this blog, this article will briefly address one particular Catholic argument against it.

Many, if not most, of us who believe in Sola Scriptura will admit that this doctrine did not apply during the time of Jesus or His apostles, since the apostolic period was definitely a time when they were still receiving new, infallible, “oral” revelation. But we believe Sola Scriptura came into play in the post-apostolic church, when the apostles were all gone and new divine revelation had ceased.

But some Catholic apologists will say, “For Sola Scriptura to be true, it must have been the norm all along. Jesus and the apostles did not observe it, so we shouldn’t practice it today.”

In other words, they are saying that if it was operating in the beginning of the church, it has to be operating now, and if it was not operating in the beginning, it can’t be operating now. If THEY (the apostles) didn’t practice it, then WE shouldn’t practice it.

But if that’s true, then can anyone show where Jesus or the apostles taught people to pray to the saints in Heaven? Did they believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary or practice indulgences? Did they teach of miracles with no accompanying evidence (like bread and wine supposedly “changing” into flesh and blood)? Do we have any biblical evidence of any of these teachings at that time? No, we don’t. Then why are all of these teachings accepted in the Catholic Church? By their own standard, no one today should be doing these things either, since Jesus and the apostles didn’t teach them.

Catholics may say that these teachings somehow “developed” over time, but then we could also say Sola Scriptura “developed” and was, in fact, a process, a “transition.” Just as the Old Covenant transitioned into the New, just as Judaism is fulfilled in Christianity, just as the “types and shadows” of the Law had to give way to the “real thing,” so does Sola Scriptura emerge as the ultimate Rule of Faith.

Stop and think… if the Bible, as a Rule of Faith, really is “God-breathed” and able to equip the believer for EVERY GOOD WORK (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then it necessarily and effectively eclipses and replaces any other source that claims to be an infallible Rule of Faith. Thus, the transition from “oral plus written,” to “written only.”

In conclusion, the fact that the apostles didn’t practice Sola Scriptura does not nullify that teaching, but pointing out the practices of the apostles does not help the Catholic, since it undercuts his own position.