Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED?

By Jason Evert

1. The Bible says in Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. So, when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, I was saved. It’s a done deal.

When a Catholic hears the above assertion, his fist inclination is to immediately launch a litany of verses that emphasize that salvation can be lost. Usually this causes the other person to present just as many verses that speak of salvation as a completed event. Both parties feel as if they have offered plenty of evidence, but no progress has been made.

There’s a better way to go at it. Concede that the Bible does speak of salvation as a past-tense event. Offer some verses of your own, such as Ephesians 2:8–9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith." From there, add that Scripture also speaks of salvation as a present-tense event. In Philippians 2:12, Paul exhorted us to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

Just as we cannot deny that salvation is a past- and present-tense event, the Evangelical Protestant cannot deny that Scripture also speaks of it as a future-tense event. For evidence of this, verses such as Romans 13:11 might be offered: "our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:15; 5:5).

When you emphasize that salvation can be lost, the Protestant often hears, "You have not yet been saved." He knows that the Bible speaks of salvation as a past-tense event, and so no matter how many verses you offer, you will not be able to prove this to be false. The way to move beyond this impasse is to offer the big picture of salvation: past, present, and future.

The Evangelical will then not feel as if you are trying to prove that he has not been saved, but will perhaps be more open to look at salvation in a broader—and more biblical—context. Once you have reached this point, it’s time to offer the evidence that the free gift of salvation can be just as freely forfeited.

2. How could I lose my salvation if Jesus said that no one could snatch me out of God’s hand (John 10:28)?

One mistake that often leads to verse slinging is failing to address a verse that is presented. When we hear a Protestant offer his verse, we think of another verse that seems to argue for our position and we toss it back to him. Then we become frustrated that he never looked seriously as the verse and threw a different one back at us. The remedy for this type of scriptural ping-pong is to take the time to look at each verse that is brought up.

In the case of John 10:28, Jesus says that no one will be able to take us away from God. The language is similar to Paul’s in Romans 8:39 when he says that nothing in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Both of these passages address the same fact that no one is capable of removing you from the grace of God.
No one is capable of nullifying your salvation. It would be like saying that no one is capable of pulling you out of a car driving at eighty miles per hour. This does not mean that you are incapable of opening the door and jumping out. In the same way, John 10:28 does not mean that we are incapable of severing our relationship with God. Read on in John, and you’ll see why.

Five chapters later in John’s Gospel, Christ tells the apostles at the Last Supper to remain in his love. He adds that if we keep his commandments we will remain in his love. But he who does not remain in his love is "cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned" (John 15:6). Now, if salvation were a done deal, why would Jesus feel the need to tell anyone to remain in his love? It would be like locking a person in a closet and telling them to remain there. If they are unable to leave, it is senseless to ask them to remain.

Jesus told his disciples to remain in his love because just as we enter freely into a relationship with Christ, we are free to leave him. Scripture is overflowing with examples of this. In Romans 11:22, Paul says, "Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off."

In Galatians 5:4, Paul says, "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace." This verse implies that they were united with Christ and in grace before they fell. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul again warns the Christians against being overconfident: "I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." This is not the language of "once saved always saved."

3. If you can lose your salvation by sin, doesn’t that imply that you are earning your salvation? Ephesians 2:8–9, says, "for by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast."

Perhaps the best place to begin when dealing with this verse is to turn to the Council of Trent. In chapter eight of the Decree on Justification, the Church said that "none of those things which precede justification—whether faith or works—merit the grace itself of justification." This means that no man can work himself into a state of justification. The New Covenant is not a system of works righteousness whereby a person can please God and earn heaven by doing a number of good deeds. This is what Paul is driving at in Ephesians 2. He is not saying that sin cannot separate us from Christ.

When he gave a litany of created things that can not separate us from the love of God in Romans 8:39, notice that he did not say, "neither fornication nor adultery nor drunkenness nor murder will separate us from the love of God." He was well aware that if we choose sin, we renounce Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–2, Paul says, "Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain." So, you could believe, but fail to hold fast to the gospel, and not be saved (cf. 2 Peter 2:20).

This is why Paul spoke in the book of Romans about the "obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5, 16:26). It is not enough that one call Jesus Lord, for, as he said, "Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21; cf. Matthew 10:33, 18:35). If we are disobedient, God will "take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city" (Revelation 22:19).

Just because you may choose to no longer hold fast to what was freely given to you does not mean that you were ever capable of earning what was given to you in the first place. The same is true of earthly sonship—it cannot be earned. But if you were adopted, you would be free to run away as a prodigal son and lose your inheritance.

4. What’s the history behind the teaching that you could lose your salvation?

The first person to espouse the idea of "once saved, always saved" was John Calvin in the mid-sixteenth century. Even Martin Luther didn’t subscribe to the theory. Prior to Calvin, the unanimous consent of the early Christians was that a person is capable of losing his salvation by committing mortal sin, as John spoke about in 1 John 5:16–17.

In the first century, the Didache, commonly known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, said "Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But you shall assemble together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made complete in the last time" (Didache 16 [A.D. 70]).

In the second century, Irenaeus wrote, "To Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess’ [Philippians 2:10–11] to him, and that he should execute just judgment towards all. . . .

The ungodly and unrighteous and wicked and profane among men [shall go] into everlasting fire; but [he] may, in the exercise of his grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept his commandments, and have persevered in his love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their penance, and may surround them with everlasting glory"
(Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

Such consistent testimony could be given from the dawn of Christianity until today, and no suggestion of "once saved, always saved" can be found on the lips of any Christian before Calvin.

5 comments:

Scooter said...

But Michael, her's a problem. If you believe that your eternal salvation can be lost then it wasn't "eternal" in the first place was it? As finite humans we are usually far off the mark when it comes to such high and lofty matters. Secondly this idea of giving and taking back salvation takes a very poor view of God's character for it makes Him out to be changeable whereas one of His attributes is immutability where He knows the end from the beginning.Thirdly,the character of the Father and Son is impugned since Jesus intercedes to the Father for His elect. Now if His elect become unelected or lost this would mean that the Father had not acted on the Son's intercession.It would also make Jesus out to be a liar for he said in John 6 that all that the father would give Him, he would not lose one. Obviously there are a number of factors to consider if you believe one can lose his salvation.

Scooter said...

Michael, Another point that needs addressing is the idea of working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Paul was writing from a Roman prison and was explaining to the Christians at Philippi to work out salvation meaning to live their salvation out in a proper fashion in the church community, because we know that salvation is only a work of the Spirit (John ch. 3) and you can't really work out a salvation unless its first been worked in. Anyway Paul is telling the saints to be dealing with matters of church life in a proper attitude and also we learn in verse 13 that its God who is doing the work for His good pleasure anyway-so its God who works out what he initially works in. If God saves you, it is by faith plus nothing. Your good works are merely an expression of your faith and signify whether or not you are truly saved.

Michael Gormley said...

Your good works are merely an expression of your faith and signify whether or not you are truly saved.

Dear Scooter,
I agree with you on the above point, but what if one decides to go back to his old life (sinning etc), is he/she still saved?

The early Church Fathers, of course, were unanimous in teaching the reality of mortal sin. They had to embrace the doctrine of mortal sin precisely because they recognized not only the salvific power of baptism but also the damning power of certain serious sins.

The Church taught that "baptism . . . now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21; see the Catholic Answers tracts Baptismal Grace and Born of Water and the Spirit). However, since during the persecutions some baptized people denied Christ, and since Christ taught that "whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33), the Church Fathers recognized that it was possible to lose the grace of salvation after baptism.

Scooter said...

Hello again Michael, An interesting discussion and you bring out a difficult question, "if one goes back is he still saved"? I'm reminded of the parable of the soils in Mt. 13 in which the 2nd and 3rd soils saw no fruit from the seed (gospel message) that was scattered on them. Only the 4th soil produced fruit. Only hearing and understanding the word(obedience being implied-verse 23) results in fruit. There are those who temporarily receive the word but who fall away to avoid earthly discomfort or lose their commitmen in pursuit of earthly wealth. (v.22). Likewise there are differing levels of bearing fruit. There are ultimately only 2 kinds of ground, that which genuinely receives the word to bear fruit and that which does not-ie. the saved and the lost. Its interesting to me that Jesus doesn't talk about levels or types of sins that disqualify a person's salvation but whether or not the word had been actually received. I think it makes sense to understand that this is foundational to salvation and that its the heart that is under scrutiny and that has always been the heart throughout redemptive history. I believe that only God knows the heart as "man looks on the outward but God looks at the heart" so it isn't easy for us to distinguish the wheat from the tares but certainly our desires which affect our daily decisions would be an indicator of whether we're real or not.

The second point you mention is about baptism and its saving power.Seeing that baptism is a sign and seal of God's grace in Jesus Christ, this statement that Peter makes, "now saves you", shows how close is the relationship between the sign and the reality it signifies. Noah's physical salvation through the waters of the Flood prefigured the waters of baptism and the salvation they signify. Baptism symbolizes judgement on sin in the death of Jesus and then also renewal of life (Rom. 6:4). The floodwaters were judgement to the wicked, and at the same time physical salvation for the just, Noah and his family. In verse 21 where Peter says"...not a removal of dirt from the body", lest his readers mistakenly attribute a magical or mechanical power to the sacrament, Peter states that the means of salvation is not performance of the external rite, but what it symbolizes-union with Christ in His death and Resurrection.

Michael Gormley said...

There are ultimately only 2 kinds of ground, that which genuinely receives the word to bear fruit and that which does not-ie. the saved and the lost.

Dear Scooter,
Does that mean one must bear fruit (works) to be saved?

It takes both faith and works to successfully live our lives for Christ. First, I must stress, though, that the works don't save us.

These works of good-will do not save us; only through God's grace and faith in Him are we saved. Good Works allow us to become followers of Christ and serve him.

Look to Matthew 25 that we can be condemned for not being charitable enough. Our Lord said, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

And then He shall say, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

And to those that didn't help others Our Lord shall say, "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me."


As those words illustrate, we can lose our salvation without good works unless of course there are exceptions in a person's abilities.

Again, faith is so important in the Catholic faith because that is what Jesus Christ taught. He didn't just have faith; Jesus Christ had the greatest of all works - the Cross.

Faith in Christ leads to our salvation, but to serve Him and follow Him we must do good.

We are saved by grace - the freely given supernatural gift of God bestowed on us out of love. We are saved by grace.

Peace be with you!
Michael Gorley