Wednesday, September 5, 2012


(Last Updated 10-16-12)
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (Romans 2:13)
In the Sola Fide (“faith alone”) debate, Catholic apologists will often insist that the verse above strongly indicates that a person is saved by good works, along with faith in Jesus Christ. In their zeal to promote a “faith plus works” system of salvation, Catholics will often use this verse, but overlook or ignore its context.

But what is the context of this passage? Starting from verse 12 to the end of the chapter, the phrase “the law” is clearly speaking of the Mosaic Law… that is, the law that God handed down to Moses to give to the Jews. But do Catholics really want to claim that it is the Mosaic Law that justifies a person? Is it really doing the works of the Mosaic Law that causes a person to be saved? That is certainly not what the Catholic Church teaches (CCC #1963). But that is the conclusion that the Catholic must come to, if using this verse to deny “faith alone,” and he will end up contradicting his own church’s teachings.

Ok, so what does Romans 2:13 really mean if the works of the law don’t save us? The context is about the Jews proudly possessing the law, but they didn’t keep the law. The Apostle Paul is telling certain Jews, “You are just a ‘hearer’, so how does the law help you there? You will not escape punishment.” The emphasis is NOT that certain types of works will save; the emphasis is that God is impartial when it comes to punishing sin, whether committed by Jew or Gentile. And Paul goes on to say that we’ve all sinned, and all stand guilty before God. So, what’s a sinner to do? Should he find a new category of good works to try to live up to? No, indeed. Because of man’s sin nature, the law (actually, any law of works) is not sufficient as a means of justification.

Paul goes on for another two chapters, telling us that NO ONE (except for Jesus), neither Jew nor Gentile, has ever kept the law according to God’s standard (which is perfectionGalatians 3:10-12; 5:3; James 2:10). So no one has a perfect record. That’s the whole point that Paul is building up to, and that is why God lumps us all together in sin (Romans 3:19; 11:32; Galatians 3:22). But God mercifully gives man a way out… and this way is by faith in Christ, apart from works of the law (Romans 3:28).

The "doers" in Romans 2:13 are not justified because they are following the law... they are following the law because they are justified; and they are justified by faith (and not works), as Paul will soon demonstrate.  In justification, God gives a man a new heart and gives him the desire to obey Him.
You see, the Apostle Paul is building his case here a step at a time. His argument is progressive (i.e., proceeding point by point in a certain order). In Romans chapter 1, Paul speaks of the guilt and sinfulness of the Gentiles. In chapter 2, he demonstrates that the Jews are just as guilty of sin, as well. But the specific context of “how a man is saved / justified” comes later on, starting at about chapter 3, verse 20.

But his argument in Romans 2 doesn’t stop at verse 13. Paul concludes his argument at 3:28 (“Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law”) and he then fully discusses this concept in chapter 4. But you cannot go backwards by starting with 3:28 and conclude with 2:132:13 is NOT a conclusion, and 2:13 is not Paul’s main point in chapter 2 and following. Again, he is advancing his argument from one point to the next and (for it to make sense) one must follow the sequence.
Is this the only place that Paul uses this type of progressive argument? Not at all. In the same way, Paul argues in Romans chapters 9 through 11 that God has not rejected His people, Israel. One may read in this passage that the Jews have “not attained to the law of righteousness” (9:31), that they “stumbled” over Jesus Christ (9:32-33), and have been a “disobedient and gainsaying [contradicting] people” who have rejected God’s outstretched hand (10:21). But these passages cannot be considered a “conclusion,” because Paul’s argument does not stop with these. He goes on to say that this is not their end. This is only a “partial hardening” and is only temporary, because Israel will ultimately be saved (11:25-27). If the sequence of Romans 9-11 is ignored, then one could mistakenly think that God is through with Israel.

The point is simply that it is important to recognize when a Bible writer is using such a “progressive” argument, as Paul does in Romans 2 (and following), lest we miss the whole point. And of course, determining the proper context is always essential. Otherwise, one can fall victim to distorted interpretations, as many Catholics do here.
As we have said before on this blog, good works are certainly God’s will for us and we should be doing them. We will get rewards for our good works (which are done in the right spirit) when we get to Heaven. But we do them out of love and gratitude toward God… we don’t do them to be saved. We are only saved by faith / trusting in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and ONLY that work.
See these articles on this blog on “Faith Alone”:

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I was recently listening to a broadcast on which I heard the popular story of three young sheepherding children from the town of Fatima, in Portugal. These youngsters were age 7, 8 and 10 when they first started having visions in 1917 of what appeared to be a woman clothed in white, who was “brighter than the sun.” This entity, claiming to be from Heaven, called herself “the Lady of the Rosary” (supposedly Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ). The children had one of these visions each month for six months, the last month climaxing with a great “miracle” where the sun appeared to be “dancing” in the sky in the presence of 70,000 people.

One can often determine the true source of a vision or apparition by the substance of its message. So let’s take a look at some of the details of the message proclaimed in these visions.

7 Points to Consider

The first point we want to mention is that the “woman” in the vision made a request to the children to bear and accept sufferings “as an act of reparation for the conversion of sinners.”

Apparently, this influenced the children to do certain things, like wearing tight cords around their waists to cause pain, beating themselves with stinging nettles, refusing to drink water on hot days and other works of “penance,” sacrifice, and suffering.

There are different meanings of the word “reparations,” like a payment, compensation, or satisfaction for a debt, etc. But the “reparations” in this context are not speaking of the type of personal reparations where your neighbor accidentally throws a baseball through your window and is then obligated to fix it… no, it’s speaking of conversion and having your sins forgiven as it is used in paragraphs #616 and #1414 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

But suffering for the sake of “reparation” for the forgiveness of sins of yourself or others is totally unbiblical, and should be especially insulting to true believers. According to the Bible (Hebrews 10:14-18), Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross has already provided any and all the “reparations” that we could ever need to be forgiven for our sins, and He doesn’t need any “help.” That one sacrifice, and it alone, is what every one of us needs to trust in for salvation, not anyone else’s suffering, penance or sacrifices.

Second, the woman in the vision gave instructions to say the rosary every day “to bring peace to the world and the end of the war” (i.e., World War I).

It is a fact that one of the main purposes of the rosary is to honor Mary (see Rosarium Virginis Mariae, an apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II). When praying the rosary, the prayers directed to Mary far outnumber any other prayers recited. So why promote the rosary if Jesus is supposed to be the center of attention? To make matters worse, the rosary has some other serious problems. It is not a Christian concept at all -- not only is it unbiblical, it also has connections with paganism and (worse yet) the occult. See this article:

Third, she told them that God wished there to be devotion to her Immaculate Heart for world peace and for the salvation of souls.

Devotion to “her Immaculate Heart”? What exactly is that, anyway? There is no reason to think that the heart of anyone (other than Jesus Christ) is “immaculate,” since we have all sinned (1 John 1:8-10). Of course, we know that the Catholic Church teaches that Mary was sinless, so those interested might want to see this article, as well:

Anyway, why would devotion to HER bring about world peace and salvation? The real Mary would never request something like this. Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? (Isaiah 9:6) Isn’t it Jesus Who is our Salvation? (Hebrews 5:9) Furthermore, there will never be world peace until Jesus Christ, Himself, returns to this sin-sick world. Mary won’t bring it, nor will anyone else.

Fourthly, the lady in the vision also requested that people pray that Russia would be consecrated to “her Immaculate Heart.”

But Russia, as a whole, will most likely never be converted before Christ returns, since they will be one of the main countries attacking Israel in the end times (Ezekiel 38, 39). Remember, Israel’s enemies are cursed (Genesis 12:3). And again, even if there is a chance of their conversion, why should anyone consecrate them (or any country) to Mary, rather than consecrate them to Jesus? The “lady” in this vision seems to be hungry for attention. But this distracts from attention to the Savior.

Fifth, she asked that a chapel be built there in her honor. Why does the woman in this vision keep pointing to herself? Even the Holy Spirit does not point to Himself, but to Jesus! (John 16:13) But the focus of this woman’s message is certainly not on Jesus. Once again, the real Mary would not make such a request. The real Mary was there near her Son at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). She saw His tremendous suffering firsthand. It would be utterly selfish to request anything in her honor after witnessing that event. The Mary of the Bible would agree with John the baptist and say, “He [Jesus] must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Sixth, in one of the visions, the lady “ascended into the Heavens and the three children were given a vision of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus and blessing the world…” (Emphasis added)

Why in the world would Jesus be depicted as a “child” here, when He is no longer a child and when His greatest work was done as an adult on the cross? Once again, this is a subtle substitution, in a deliberate attempt to rob Jesus of His rightful glory. In visions like this, Jesus is subtly minimized while Mary is being continually exalted.

Seventh, in one of the visions the woman said:

In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world. ONLY I CAN HELP YOU. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God." (Emphasis added)

What blasphemy! Only SHE can help??? (Psalm 30:10; 40:17; 70:5) SHE is our refuge??? (Psalm 94:22; 91:2, 9; 9:9) SHE is the one to lead us to God??? (John 14:6) What’s wrong with this picture? Can Catholics not see the problem with this kind of language? Of course, some Catholics will attempt to split hairs on possible meanings of her statement here and try to explain this away. But, my friends, there appear to be no deep theological concepts here. She is speaking plainly here because she is speaking to children! Once again, Jesus is demoted, while the “Mary” in this vision is progressively replacing Him.

But Are They Approved by the Church?

Ok, so hopefully, now it is obvious that there are problems with the visions of Fatima. They are unbiblical and questionable at best, and blasphemous at worst. In light of this, would the Catholic Church approve of such visions?

There is some debate among Catholics as to whether they are obligated to believe and obey the visions of Fatima or not. Catholics may not be forced to believe them, but they are certainly encouraged to.

But the evidence points to the Church’s approval of them…

· According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia:

“The bishop of Leiria (Oct. 13, 1930) pronounced the 1917 visions at Cova da Iria worthy of credence and authorized the cult of Our Lady of Fatima.”

· The two youngest of the children (who both died shortly after the visions) were “beatified” in the year 2000. Beatification is the step prior to canonization (becoming a saint). This seems to suggest that the Catholic Church considers the “miracle” at Fatima to be legitimate and possibly even the basis for their beatification.

· The visions of Fatima were clearly approved by at least six of the eight popes who reigned since the visions in Fatima began in 1917 (including John Paul II and Benedict XVI), according to this website:

· According to an official Vatican document titled “The Message of Fatima,” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it is stated that Fatima is one of those events that is approved by the Church:

“…In the private revelations approved by the Church—and therefore also in Fatima…”

What About the Miracle?

Ok, so doesn’t the “miracle of the dancing sun” at Fatima prove that the visions were authentic, that they were indeed from God?

As we stated earlier, the true source of a vision can be determined by its message. The Bible tells us to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), so if the message (of any vision) does not line up or agree with Scripture, it should not be accepted. You cannot depend on a “miracle” that confirms an unbiblical teaching. The visions of Fatima are a deception of the enemy. They were not the real mother of Jesus, the humble handmaid that we find in the Bible, but this was the work of demonic forces specifically designed to “look like Mary,” but sent to deceive the multitudes.

Remember the sorcerers in Exodus 7:11, who copied Aaron's miracle by turning a rod into a serpent? Should we believe that these magicians were also approved by God just because they showed “signs and wonders”? It seems they MUST have been from God, since they were able to duplicate Aaron’s miracle, right? No, they were sent to deceive the people. We know the sorcerers were not from God because their “message” (i.e., what they stood for) was not from God.

Also, the “prophet” in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 found himself in trouble (even though he was exhibiting “signs and wonders”) because his message did not line up with God’s commandments. The enemy can (to some extent, at least) duplicate / counterfeit miracles to deceive God's people. The Bible speaks of lying signs and wonders in the last days (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12; Revelation 13:11-17; 16:13-14) in order to deceive many. We have the same thing happening at Fatima and, unfortunately, it is working well. So many Catholics have fallen for it.


Fatima is just one example of “Mary” overshadowing Jesus, and there are probably countless others. For example, there are places in the Catholic Church in which we find Mary on the cross! It is reported that in the Church of the Mother of God of Polish Martyrs (located in Warsaw, Poland) there is a painting of Mary hanging on the cross while holding Jesus as a child. It is also reported that in Rome, just outside the basilica called “Santa Maria Maggiore,” there is a crucifix with both Jesus and Mary hanging on it, one on either side.

On May 31, 2008, an “iconic monstrance” (sort of a statue which holds the Catholic Eucharist) was unveiled at Saint Stanislaus Kostka church in Chicago, Illinois. It is called the “Our Lady of the Sign, Ark of Mercy.” This monstrance depicts Mary seated between the cherubim (angels) on the Ark of the Covenant. But that space is reserved FOR GOD ALONE! (Numbers 7:89; Exodus 25:22; 2 Samuel 6:2) In the Old Testament, God’s very presence was there on the mercy seat between the two cherubim. Interestingly, this is exactly where the antichrist will seat himself to declare that he is “above all that is called God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 24:15) This “work of art,” this Catholic monstrance, is utterly blasphemous.

It is exactly this type of environment that breeds the “excessive devotion” we find so often in Catholicism. And a big part of the problem is that (apparently) the leaders of the Church not only allow it to continue freely without correction, but they even encourage it.

My Catholic friends, please don’t allow yourself to be deceived. Don’t let the emotion surrounding these visions override the simple truth of God’s Word. The bottom line is that Fatima can only offer us a false message with false signs and wonders.

"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14 - NASV)

Friday, June 29, 2012


It happens every day.  You will often hear Catholics respectfully calling their priests “Father” as a title of honor.  But let’s get right to the issue.  Didn’t Jesus forbid us to call anyone by this title when He said, “Call no man Father” (Matthew 23:9)?   Or did He really mean something else?

But we’re not just going to address Catholics today, because members of the Orthodox Church and even some Protestants (Anglicans / Episcopalians) call their priests by this title as well.  If it’s wrong, it’s wrong for all of them.  And it is wrong.  Whether one happens to be a Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant priest, the words of this article’s title should be applied… instead of encouraging  the practice, they should be saying, “Don’t call me Father.”

Let’s look at the context of what Jesus was saying in Matthew chapter 23Speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, He said:

(v. 5)  But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments.
(v. 6)  And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
(v. 7)  and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.
(v. 8)  But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
(v. 9)  And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
(v. 10)  And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
(v. 11)  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
(v. 12)  And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.  (NASV)

Catholics (and others) will often argue that Jesus was really only saying for us not to call someone “Father” if they don’t deserve it, like the scribes and Pharisees.  But Jesus didn’t say, “You can call others ‘Father,’ but not the scribes and Pharisees.”   He didn’t say, “Only call the deserving leaders ‘Father’.”  And He didn’t say, “Call no one ‘Father,’ except for priests.”  No, He said to CALL NO MAN “Father.”  Jesus clearly tells us who is deserving of the title:  No one on earth (v. 9).

But some will object and say, “But He had to be using hyperbole (that is, a figure of speech which uses exaggeration to emphasize a particular point) when He said to call no one “Father,” because other people in the Bible are called ‘fathers’.  So He couldn’t have meant it in an absolute sense.”  

But there is no exaggeration if this passage is taken in its right sense.  And the context bears out this sense… He forbids such terms when used AS FORMAL RELIGIOUS TITLES OF HONOR. 
Notice that the scribes and Pharisees craved the attention and approval of men (v. 5).  They loved the honor and devotion of men (v. 6).  And they loved the respectful greetings of men - and Jesus even gives examples of these greetings, which included titles (v. 7-10).  Was Jesus “exaggerating” about the scribes and Pharisees when He said these things, or when He said, “You are all brothers”?  No, not at all.  Again, context is the key.  When He said, “Call no man Father / Teacher / Leader…” He was not denying the role or the function of fathers, teachers or leaders in the church – He simply forbids the use of these terms as personal titles of honor.  

It is ok to refer to someone as a spiritual father, spiritual teacher, spiritual leader, bishop, elder, overseer, pastor, deacon, etc., because these are biblical roles.  But in the New Testament we see no titles like “Father Paul,” “Bishop Titus,” “Reverend John,” “Elder Nathaniel,” “Pastor James,” “Doctor Andrew,” “Monsignor Bartholomew,” or “Holy Father Peter.”  The context of Matthew 23:5-10 is specifically speaking of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ love of flattering religious titles and special attention 

Hyperbole is indeed exaggeration.  But it is certainly not an exaggeration to say that only God is worthy of such titles of honor.  There is nothing confusing or “exaggerated” about this passage – it is very simple and straightforward.  

Understanding the passage in this way places all Christians on the same plane as brothers (v. 8), yet with each having his own function and role in the church.  Yes, there are leaders in the church of Jesus Christ, but there is no “big I” and “little you.”  There should be no elevated religious titles if we are all brothers in Christ.

Once again, we want to make it clear that we acknowledge that the term “father / fathers” is indeed used in many places in the Old and New Testament.  Sometimes, the term simply refers to natural fathers (male parents).  Sometimes it refers to ancestors.  Sometimes it refers to “spiritual” fathers (leaders or founders of the church, for example).  But in the case of Matthew 23, it refers to none of these.

Now, we are not denying that there are some with titles in the church who are still humble.  But they are still disobedient to Matthew 23:7-10.  Sooner or later, the enemy will capitalize on this and will either cause the title-bearer to fall because of pride (Proverbs 16:18), or he will cause others to stumble because of him.

Why should we not call someone “Father”?  Simple… because it usually goes to his head!  That’s the nature of man.  Ministries and church offices or positions are gifts from God, not something we earn.  But personal spiritual titles tend to puff us up.

Whatever happened to, “I must decrease and He must increase” (John 3:30)?  It’s got to be pretty hard to “decrease” when you allow people to call you “Father,” “Doctor,” or “Reverend.”

Let us ask a serious question:  If you thought that there was any remote possibility that a title in front of your name offends God, even if only slightly, would you be willing to drop your title?  If your answer is yes, then by all means, get rid of it.  This would go a long way toward avoiding the type of inflated egos that Jesus was speaking of.

If your answer is no, why not?  Why demand to keep your title?  God knows your work and the level of your faithfulness.  If you can’t be content with losing a title, that’s just more proof that you don’t deserve any title.

Whether a “priest” is Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, he is not my father in any sense of the word.  These groups may try hard to deny it, but the concept of priests using the title “Father” seems to be EXACTLY the type of thing that Jesus was condemning.  Those using these types of religious, self-exalting titles of themselves need to repent.

By the way, not only should we not call priests “Father,” but these groups that we just mentioned all have a more serious problem:  there is no ministerial priesthood in the New Testament.  See here: