Faith Only And Luther’s Mistranslation

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The Reformation Movement produced five main ideas:  Sola Scriptura (The Scriptures only–in refutation of the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church (ex-cathedra); Sola Fide (Faith only in refutation of the Catholic doctrine of works); Sola Gratia (Grace only in reaction to the Catholic Church’s doctrine of merits); Sola Christa (Christ alone-salvation is through Jesus Christ); and Sola Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone).  The problem lies with the doctrine of faith alone.  This doctrine omits love and love for God is the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-39).  There cannot be love for neighbor without love for God.  Love for God is the most important commandment.  “Faith worketh by love,” Paul states in Gal. 5:6.
Martin Luther mistranslated Romans 1:17 using a phrase borrowed from Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples.  Ben Witherington III makes the following statement, “Erasmus was prepared, however, for criticism when he prepared his Greek NT, and he got it, though there was a bit of a delayed response.  The first edition of 1516 produced few ripples, but when the second edition was published in 1519 this set off the fire alarm bell.  Erasmus would argue that correcting errors in a translation or copy of an original biblical text did not in any way count to disputing the inspiration of the divinely inspired text.  If someone argued it was impious to change anything in Holy Writ, he retorted that it must be worse then to allow scribal errors to stand uncorrected as they obscured the original meaning of Scripture!  Erasmus, in fact, when he publishes this own annotations, not only borrowed the title of Valla, but simply reran various of Valla’s notes.  Note that Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples also followed Valla’s lead, and mentions him in his 1512 commentary on Paul’s Epistles.  This is important for our purposes because Lefevre’s is the work which Martin Luther based his game-changing Wittenburg lectures in 1515-1519.  And here is where I note that it was Lefevre’s commentary on Romans that produced the phrase “by faith alone” which seems to have been noticed by no one–except Luther, who then mistranslated Rom. 1:17 as “for the righteousness of God was revealed by faith alone,” though it actually reads dikaiosune gar theou en auto apokaluptetai ek pisteos eis pistin. That last phrase can be rendered “from faith to faith” or “from the faithful (one) unto faith,” but it cannot be rendered “by faith alone.” So much for the Lutheran stress on sole fide.  (Sola Scriptura And The Reformation: But Which Scripture, and What Translation? JETS, 60/4 (2017): 817-828, p. 822).
Actually, the only place where “faith only” occurs in the NT is James 2:24.  “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”  Notice that the phrase is negated, “not by faith only.”  Luther did not like this statement in James and consequently desired to remove the book of James from the canon of the NT.  James argues that works (works of obedience) are required for justification.  Obedience to the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ is precisely what love for God demands.  “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (John 14:23-24).  Love and obedience go together.  Faith and obedience do too!  James illustrates justification by works using the example of Abraham.  Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac (his son) to God as God commanded him to do.  Whenever the word “works” is understood properly as acts of obedience to God and not as self-righteousness, then faith and works are not mutually exclusive.  Faith without works is dead (James 2:26).  No one will be saved by a dead faith.  A living faith is an obedient faith (Heb. 11:17-19; 11:8).  Faith worketh by love (Gal. 5:6) and so both faith and love lead to obedience to God’s commands.  Obedience to the Lord’s commandments is the way that disciples of Jesus are made.  “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe also things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20–The Great Commission).

The Importance of Love in Parenting

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Researchers have discovered that one of the most important elements involved in transmitting one’s faith to children is emotional bonding or love.  Within tight-knit religious traditions, the chances of passing on faith are highly dependent on the quality of parent-child relationships.  This may run counter to advice about effective religious socialization in these communities that emphasize parental piety as the crucial factor–setting a good example, teaching the right beliefs and practices, and keeping strictly to the law.  Without emotional bonding, this is not sufficient for transmission.  A distant or non-affirming parent-child relationship–particularly with the father–is a catalyst for conversion to another faith or dropping out of religion altogether (Families and Faith, pp. 78-79).
Emotional bonding involves feelings of love and warmth.  A child must feel connected to his/her parents in a meaningful way.  Cold, distant, authoritarian parenting or ambivalent or mixed-messaging parenting (sometimes cold sometimes warm) is not sufficient.  Strained or preoccupied parenting won’t work either.  This occurs when parents are distracted by marital, financial, health or substance abuse problems.  The bond of love must be real and must be felt strongly in both the parent and the child.  Parents should read I Cor. 13:1-13 to learn how to love in a dynamic and effective way.  Authentic love must be shown in a personal and impactful way in the home.
The gender of the parent also plays a significant role in religious transmission.  Having close emotional bonds with the father is strongly associated with transmission of one’s faith to the next generation.  Fathers must lead spiritually in the home.  “And ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).  Fathers must take the lead in demonstrating love for mom and for children in the home.  Love must be more than lip-service.  Love must be communicated both verbally and through concrete actions that leave no doubt about the strength of the emotional connection.  Through authentic love and fidelity to God parents have the greatest opportunity to transmit their faith to the next generation.

Atheists in Heaven?

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The Trinity Review, no. 337, September/October, 2016, pp. 1-2,contained an article by Thomas W. Juodaitis titled, Antichrist’s Ecumenical Endeavors, “Evangelical” Enablers, and the Evisceration of the Protestant Reformation. In this article, Juodaitis shows how the Roman Catholic church is working to take over the Ecumenical Movement with the aim of returning Protestantism to the mother church (Catholicism).  Juodaitis quotes from an article by Michael Day titled, Pope Francis Assures Atheists:  You Don’t Have to Believe in God to Go to Heaven (cited in The Independent, September 11, 2013).
The quote from Pope Francis was made in the context of answering questions posed to him.  In an open letter responding to questions published by Eugenio Scalfari, founder of La Repubblica, Francis wrote, “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith.  I start by saying–and this is the fundamental thing–that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to  him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience…Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Any proposition or doctrine can be proven to be false by showing that it contradicts a plain passage of Scripture.  Here are a few Scriptures to compare with the statement of Francis.
1.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.
2.  Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
3.  Jesus remarked, “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).
4.  In the Great Commission recorded in Mark, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16).
5.  In John 3:18, Jesus said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
6.  In John 3:36, John records, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Let God be true and every man a liar! (Rom. 3:4).



“As Sure As Eggs is Eggs”

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“As sure as eggs is eggs” is a phrase used to describe absolute certainty.  In formal logic and mathematics the formula “x is x” is used to describe complete certainty.  It is unclear how or when “x is x” became “eggs is eggs”, but it is known that Charles Dickens used the phrase “eggs is eggs” in The Pickwick Papers published in 1837.  Maybe Dickens was joking or playing on words or possibly it was a simple mistake that proved amusing enough to be left unchanged (Albert Jack, Red Herrings and White Elephants, pp. 35-36).
Can We Know Anything With Absolute Certainty?
-Do you exist?
-Do you know that you exist?
-Do you believe that you exist?
-Is there a difference between knowing and believing?
-Do you believe because you know or do you know because you believe?
In biblical terms, knowing precedes believing.  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).  “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher” (Rom. 10:14).  Faith is taking God at His Word.  It is trust, conviction and confidence that comes by hearing and knowing the Word of God.  Heb. 11:1.  Faith means that we are fully persuaded of the truth.  Truth is that which conforms to reality as God defines reality.  If I can know surely, then I can believe without a doubt.
Words and Knowledge
Luke 1:1-4, “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
The Words Known
Luke instructed Theophilus.  Luke wrote words that formed a body of knowledge that was rooted in historical reality (truth).  The body of knowledge is a body of truth.  Instruction involves teaching that body of truth to another human being who has to hear and understand it correctly and then that person can claim to know it.  Luke had meticulously traced out this body of knowledge.  He gleaned information from eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.  He had perfect understanding of all things from the very first which related to the life of Jesus Christ.  The word that he taught was verifiable.  Luke desired that Theophilus would know with certainty the body of truth concerning Jesus Christ.  The word know is epignosis which is a strengthened form of knowing.  The word certainty is asphaleian and means “not liable to fall, stedfast, firm, sure” (W. E. Vine).  It refers to knowledge that cannot be assailed or overthrown.  Certainty means that there is no doubt.  To know with certainty means that one cannot be wrong about the information.  Luke establishes the veracity of what he teaches or writes.
The Words Believed
In Luke 1:1, the phrase, “things most surely believed” comes from the Greek word peplerophoremenon, from plerophoreo which means “have had full course” or “having been fully borne out” (W. E. Vine, I, 117).  Fully proved and so fully believed.  The Greek word contains the idea that there is certainty with regard to the evidence known.  Faith follows knowledge.  Faith is a firm persuasion that God’s Word is reliable and trustworthy.  Luke removes all doubt about the content of the message that he is writing about.  The message is true.  The knowledge is certain.  Therefore, the faith can be full, complete and lacking nothing.  God never asks us to believe in some fact or doctrine for which He has not given us adequate evidence.  Consequently, the leap of faith notion is false.  Faith is grounded in truth.
I can know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I can know it as much as I know that “eggs is eggs.”  I can know that God exists and I can know it as much as I know that “eggs is eggs.”  I can know that the Bible is the Word of God and I can know it as much as I know that “eggs is eggs.”  I can know the truth.  I can believe the truth.  I can obey the truth (John 3:21). I can know, believe and obey the truth to the salvation of my soul (John 8:31-32).


Hope Against Hope

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Speaking of Abraham, Paul wrote, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall they seed be” (Rom. 4:18).  Paul gives us the essential elements of hope.
First, God’s word is essential to hope.  In Abraham’s situation the word of God came in the form of a promise. The promise was repeated to Abraham on various occasions.  However, a complete statement of it is given in Gen. 22:17-18, “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.  And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”  Paul references this prophecy and applies it specifically to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment (Gal. 3:16).  This promise was not fulfilled in Ishmael.  It was fulfilled through Isaac (the son of promise).
Second, God’s power is essential to hope.  Abraham and Sarah were old.  Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90.  In addition to their old age, Sarah was barren.  Paul mentions both obstacles in Rom. 4:19.  The seed promise could not be fulfilled without God’s power.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD? (Gen. 18:14).  God has the power to accomplish His purposes!  God’s power is also a grounds for hope.
Third, man’s faith is essential to hope.  Abraham’s faith was not weak.  Yea, it was strong!  Abraham is known as the “father of the faithful” (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 5:26-29).
Abraham did not reject God’s promise in the face of his own impotence and Sarah’s barrenness.  He believed God.  He believed the promise that God made to him.  As a result, he hoped against hope.  His faith in God’s promise and power gave him hope in the face of his and his wife’s physical “deadness” (Rom. 4:19).  He was fully persuaded that God could perform what He had promised (Rom. 4:21).  Abraham’s faith in God’s ability to perform His promise was tested when God commanded him to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice (Gen. 22).  Abraham believed that if he took the life of his son, that God could raise him to life again and so continue with His promise and its fulfillment (Heb. 11:19).
Hope is confident expectation of good things to come.  This confidence is based upon God’s Word and God’s power to accomplish His purposes.  Faith in God’s promises working by God’s power gives hope.  Abraham’s hope was realized when Isaac was born.  Isaac’s birth strengthened Abraham’s faith even more.
Without faith in God’s promises and power we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).  Without faith in God’s promises and power we cannot have hope.  Unbelief is a bandit that robs of hope.  Faith and hope are inseparable and both are based upon God–His faithfulness to His word and His power to accomplish His purposes.

Was Jesus Married?

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A recent internet article titled, “Nine Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Jesus” affirmed the notion that Jesus was married.  The article referenced an ancient papyrus scrap found in 2014 that referred to the wife of Jesus.  We will examine the evidence for this papyrus fragment
An article published in Biblical Archeology Review (BAR-May/June, 2015) by Harold Shank examined the evidence for the papyrus fragment that stated that Jesus had a wife.  Here are some of the findings and facts:
1. Karen King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School (she currently holds the oldest endowed academic chair in the United States) drafted a lengthy manuscript on the little papyrus fragment, the size of a business card with eight incomplete lines on one side and six illegible lines on the reverse.  This fragment is referred to as”The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” and was given to King anonymously.  It is the only text from antiquity in which it is stated that Jesus has a wife.
2.  King was careful to say that the fragment supplied no reliable historical evidence that Jesus was married, but that some Christians depicted him as married.  King believed the fragment was dated in the fourth century, but was of a composition earlier in the second century.  However, the fragment, dated by Carbon-14 methods, was found to be an eighth century document.
3.  Since the fragment was received by King from an anonymous donor, there is no provenance (historical background) for it.
4.  At first, King submitted her analysis of the fragment to the Harvard Theological Review for publication.  It was accepted and scheduled for publication in January, 2013.  But, it was not published then.  Information about the fragment was also posted online where other Coptic (a form of late Egyptian) scholars could evaluate it.
5.  Leo Dupuydt, Copitc scholar at Brown University, examined it and declared it to be a forgery.  He said, “It stinks.”
6.  Francis Watson at the University of Durham also declared the fragment a forgery.  Other scholars seemed to think it was authentic.
7.  The Harvard Theological Review decided not to publish King’s analysis of the fragment.
8.  After more tests and other scholars weighing in on the controversy, HTR decided to go ahead and publish King’s findings in April, 2014.
9.  The Smithsonian Institution in Washington made a television program about “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” before January, 2013, but after HTR decided not to publish the findings from King, they decided not to air the program.  When HTR published King’s analysis of the fragment, the Smithsonian aired the television program.
10.  Within days of the publication of the new evidence and analysis in HTR, a bombshell dropped on the scholarly world.
11.  The anonymous donor of the fragment had given King another slightly larger fragment from the Gnostic Gospel of John.  It was also in Coptic as the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment.
12.  Another scholar, Christian Askeland, an American Coptic scholar associated with Indiana Weslyan University, and who had recently completed a Ph. D. on the Gnostic Gospel of John knew of another Gospel of John fragment in Coptic called Codex Qau.  He compared it to the fragment of the Coptic Gospel of John that had been given to King.
13.  Askeland found that the text of the small fragment of CGJ replicated every other line from a leaf of the Codex Qau (discovered in 1923 and known to be authentic).  CGJ was a forgery of Codex Qau.
14.  The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” fragment was written in the same hand and with the same writing instrument as the Coptic Gospel of John (CGJ) which was given anonymously to King.  The conclusion:  if one is a forgery, so is the other.
15.  The overall conclusion:  the fragment, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is probably a forgery and since it is the only text from antiquity that states that Jesus’ had a wife, that notion is completely false.
16.  Karen King acknowledges that this evidence is weighty.
Many have attempted to prove that the Scriptures are unreliable.  None of the Gospels indicate that Jesus was married.  Here are a few facts about the reliability of the Scriptures.
1.  Fact:  archaeology has yielded more than 25,000 finds that either directly or indirectly relate to Scripture.
2.  Fact:  The historical existence of some 30 individuals named in the New Testament has been proven.  Jesus is one of those historical individuals.
3.  Fact:  The historical evidence of nearly 60 individuals from the Old Testament has been proven.  BAR lists 52 of these individuals.
4.  Fact:  Only a fraction of possible biblical sights have been excavated in the Holy Land.  There is much more information to be discovered.  (God-Breathed, Josh McDowell, pp. 158-159).

Last Impressions

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First impressions are the impact that we make upon others when we first meet them.  We may say or do things that they will remember for a lilfetime.  Last impressions are equally as important.  Before Jesus’ death, He met with His disciples in the upper room and told them some very important things.  The Upper Room Discourse is found in John 13-17.
Service Motivated By Humility
Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and washed His disciples’ feet.  Peter protested at first, but then conceded once he realized that if he did not permit the Lord to wash his feet he would have no part with him.  Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).  He further explains this example, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”  Jesus taught a service model of leadership.  This model, if followed, will lead to greatness in the kingdom of God. It is no surprise that those in the business world have picked up on it and utilize it.  Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store leads with respect and emotional intelligence.  He tells his employees that he loves them and can often be seen giving them  a hug.  People will work harder and be more loyal when they believe you love and respect them.  Our greatness is not determined by occupying the highest positions.  It is accomplished by doing good for others and working diligently in the Lord’s kingdom.
In John 14:1-3, Jesus emphasizes faith in God and in Him.  Comfort comes to the heart through faith in the promises of  God.  Faith and hope are inseparably linked.  If we will follow Jesus, we can live for eternity with purpose and peace.  Only in this way can we know real joy.
In John 15:1-8, Jesus taught that He was the vine and the disciples were the branches.  “I am the vine and ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Strength and productivity are the result of being spiritually connected to the vine (Jesus).  Spiritual nourishment strengthens the human soul for the struggles of the soul.  In John 15:9-14, Jesus mentions another source of strength.  Jesus desires that they abide in His love.  By keeping His commandments, they will abide in His love.  Then, He commands them, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:12-14).  His disciples must abide in love for Him and for one another.  This way they will be spiritually connected to Him and to each other.  They will never be alone!  There is strength in numbers when those we love stay close and supply help.
In John 16:5-15, Jesus promises that after He ascends into heaven, He will send the Comforter (The Holy Spirit) to be present with them and to empower them.  The Holy Spirit  would guide them into all truth.  He would reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.  His word would be the means of communicating God’s grace and goodness to men.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ contains this message of good news (Rom. 1:16).  The power to save men is still found in the gospel.
In John 17:1-26, Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples, and all those that would believe on Him through the gospel.  Jesus prays that His disciples would be one “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21).  Spiritual union with Christ is the foundation of unity among brethren.  Christ is the only foundation upon which we can build (I Cor. 3:11).  He is the central force that holds all Christians together.  Jesus prayed for unity and we must pray for it too and then endeavor to keep it.
The golden thread that runs through the entire discourse is love.  In John 13:1, John tells of Jesus’  love for His disciples. John states that Jesus loved them unto the end.   In John 13:34-35, He commands the disciples to love one another.  In John 14:15, He speaks of the disciples’ love for Him.  In John 14:31, He mentions the love that He has for the Father (this is the only passage in the New Testament where Jesus directly affirms His love for the Father).  In John 15:12-13, He speaks of the greatest love, i.e. sacrificial and selfless love manifested in His own death.  In John 15:17, He repeats the command for them to love one another.  In John 16:27, Jesus references the love of the Father for the disciples.  In John 17:23, He tells of the love of the Father for the Son and the disciples.  Finally,  in John 17:26, He prays that the love of the Father for the Son may be in the disciples. The discourse begins with love and ends with love.  Love is the bond that holds every relationship together.
The last thoughts expressed by the Lord to His disciples were designed to sustain them through difficult times and guide them to greater service in His kingdom.  Faith, hope and love are intermingled in these thoughts.  Together, they make a formidable last impression.

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