Final Word

Nope, it’s not my goodbye to the blogosphere, but, rather, it’s the title of John MacArthur’s latest book!

Final Word: Why We Need the Bible
By John MacArthur
Reformation Trust, 2019, 136 pp.

5 Stars

Over the past couple of years, Reformation Trust has published three short books written by Pastor John MacArthur on some of the basics of Christian belief. This latest one focuses on God’s Word, the Bible. Whether you’re new to the Christian faith or you’re a “seasoned saint,” you’ll enjoy this book, which explains why the Bible is our totally reliable standard of faith and practice. Argh! We Christians sometimes take God’s Word for granted. May we always cherish the Bible for what it is; God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17


  • The Bible is Under Attack
  • The Bible is Truth
  • The Bible is Authoritative
  • The Bible is the Catalyst of Spiritual Growth
  • The Bible is Central to Faithful Ministry
  • The Bible is Food for the Soul

Order this book from Amazon here. See my reviews of the two other books by JMac in Reformation Trust’s basics-of-Christianity series, “None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible” here and “Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ” here.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 87, 88, 89, & 90: Relics and Sacramentals?

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

This week we will examine chapter eleven of Armstrong’s book in which the Catholic apologist presents four passages as proof-texts for the Catholic belief in the miraculous power of relics and sacramentals.

#87) 2 Kings 13:20-21: “20 So Eli′sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli′sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli′sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

#88) 2 Kings 2:11-14: “11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Eli′jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Eli′sha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and rent them in two pieces. 13 And he took up the mantle of Eli′jah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle of Eli′jah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Eli′jah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other; and Eli′sha went over.”

#89) Acts 5:15-16: “15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

#90) Acts 19: 11-12: “11 And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”

Following these passages, Armstrong writes, “Catholics believe that physical matter can be a conveyor of spiritual grace. This is the foundation for the use of relics (objects associated with saints) and sacramentals (sacred or devotional objects)…The Catholic Church does not teach that there is any magical virtue or any curative efficacy in the relic itself. The Church merely says, following the Scriptures, that they are often the occasions of God’s miracles.” – p. 147.

The Roman Catholic church has accumulated a vast collection of purported relics over the centuries, although, as we’ve discussed in previous posts, the authenticity of many of those relics is less than questionable. The RCC accords amazing powers to its relics including the power to heal physical illnesses and reduce the time a soul must spend in purgatory. Over the centuries, Catholic pilgrims have traveled far distances to churches and shrines to receive the alleged benefits of relics. I recently posted on one such relic, the alleged seamless tunic of Jesus in Trier, Germany (see here)

Armstrong cites the four passages listed above as proof texts for Catholicism’s use of relics, as if the passages teach relics are normative for the present age. God certainly enabled the Prophets and the Apostles of old to use physical objects in miraculous ways as signs of their God-ordained authority. But we now have the New Testament as God’s solely authorized Gospel message to mankind. There is no need for miracle-performing prophets like those in the Old Testament. The Apostles were comprised of men who personally witnessed the earthly ministry of Jesus. People who claim to be apostles today do so deceitfully. It’s quite revealing that people today will claim some of the gifts of the apostolic age, but not others, like raising people from the dead (Acts 9:40-41), and drinking deadly poison and being bitten by venomous snakes without harm (Mark 16:18). Hmm, how do they explain that?

By crediting miraculous powers to relics and other physical objects such as sacramentals blessed by priests, Catholicism has encouraged rampant superstition and idolatry among its members. In addition to pilgrimages to displays of relics mentioned above, Catholics often utilize blessed statues, medals, rosaries, palm fronds, crucifixes, holy water, candles, etc. in their homes in hopes of warding off misfortune.

If Elijah, Elisha, Peter, and Paul were to enter Catholic churches and homes today, they would be appalled by the rank superstition and idolatry found within.

For more information on relics, prayer cloths, and such like see the informative articles below:

How should a Christian view relics? – Got Questions

What is a prayer cloth? – Got Questions

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 81, 82, 83, 84, & 85: Veneration/Worship of Saints? – Part 3

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

This week, we will continue with our examination of chapter ten of Armstrong’s book that we began two weeks ago, in which the Catholic apologist presents passages that allegedly support veneration/worship of “saints.” Armstrong presents the five passages below as proof texts for his claim that saints in Heaven intercede for people on earth. I’ve used hyperlinks for the last two passages because I think you’ll agree they aren’t germaine to Armstrong’s assertions.

#81) Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

#82) Revelation 6:9-10: “9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’”

#83) Revelation 8:3-4: “3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; 4 and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.”

#84) Matthew 17:1-3

#85) Matthew 27:52-53

Beneath these passage Armstrong writes, “Catholics believe that saints and angels in heaven can pray for us on earth and can hear our intercessory requests, just as people on earth can do; in fact, because the saints are so near to God’s presence in Heaven, their prayers are more powerful than ours on earth.” – p. 139.

Revelation 5:8 mentions the elders in heaven with “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” This is an allusion to the practices of the priests of the Old Testament who burned incense in the tabernacle and temple to symbolize the prayers of God’s people. The OT Israelites did not pray TO the priests and neither do Christians pray TO the alleged “saints.”

Revelation 6:9-10 only describes the Christian martyrs in heaven who cry out to the Lord for justice for their murder back on Earth.

Revelation 8:3-4 describes circumstances similar to Revelation 5:8. With the two passages from Matthew, Armstrong is simply grasping at straws to prove his case. The passages do not have the slightest connection to his argument.

The five passages presented here by Armstrong do NOT demonstrate his claim for the prayerful intercession of saints, not even in the slightest. In contrast to Armstrong’s torturous, forcing-a-square-peg-through-a-round-hole eisegesis, nowhere in Scripture can we find an example of a believer praying to anyone other than God. Armstrong and his fellow Catholic apologist are well aware of this fact and so they must resort to painfully twisted misinterpretations.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 77, 78, and 79: Veneration/Worship of Saints? – Part 1

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

This week, we will examine three passages that Armstrong claims support Catholicism’s veneration of “saints.”

#77) 1 Corinthians 4:16: “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”

#78) Philippians 3:17: “Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us.”

#79) 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9: “7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, 8 we did not eat any one’s bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. 9 It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate.”

Beneath these passages, Armstrong writes, “These verses provide a primary biblical basis for the Catholic practice of venerating the saints. We honor the saints because the Bible instructs us to do so. There is nothing wrong or unbiblical in venerating or trying to emulate the saints, unless we were to put them in the place of God, which is idolatry.” – p. 133.

First of all, Catholicism’s notion of “saints” is un-Scriptural. The New Testament refers to ALL believers as saints (Greek, “hagios,” called out ones, separated ones). The Roman church hijacked the word to mean super-sanctified individuals who, according to its judgment, definitely merited Heaven.

Secondly, in the three passages the apostle Paul is encouraging believers to follow the example he has set in living the faith. Paul was not perfect, but his faith in Christ and his submission to the Lord were exemplary. Paul was certainly not urging believers to venerate HIM!

“For I am the least of the apostles and am unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not in vain. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

Paul never encouraged praise and honors to himself, but always deferred to the Lord.

“God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:28-31

The Roman church teaches that its members can pray to those it has canonized as saints as mediators. But nowhere in the Bible does a believer pray to anyone other than God. God’s Word specifically teaches that Jesus Christ alone is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and that we are not to attempt to communicate with dead souls:

“And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” – Isaiah 8:19

If all of the dead Catholic saints were able to hear all of the prayers said to them by Catholics all around the world, they would have to be omnipresent, a quality that God alone possesses. By attributing various deitifical powers to saints, the Catholic church crosses the line from “venerating” saints to “worshiping” them. Catholics are encouraged to develop strong devotions to a particular saint and many Catholics spend most of the “prayer” time attempting to communicate with their “patron” saint.

No, the three Bible passages that Armstrong cites definitely do not support venerating/worshiping “saints.”

See the post below for more information on how Catholicism adapted paganism’s plurality of gods into saint veneration/worship.

Patron gods and patron “saints”

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – Pausing to note a paradox

Since early-August, we’ve been examining the 95 Bible verses presented by Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, in his book, “The Catholic Verses,” that allegedly validate Catholicism and “confound Protestants.” This week, I thought we’d take a break from the 95 verses and examine a bit of a paradox regarding the author that came to my attention a couple of weeks ago.

In his defense of the Catholic doctrine of penitential suffering, Armstrong criticized some Protestant Pentecostals and charismatics who propagate the health and wealth, name it and claim it, prosperity gospel (see here) and who blatantly ignore Bible passages that contradict guaranteed temporal health and wealth for the believer. Our sister at Biblical Beginnings commented that Armstrong’s criticism of the prosperity gospelers was inconsistent because of the popularity of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement, which boasts over 160 million followers. I responded that while Catholic charismatics do share many of the beliefs and practices of Pentecostals and charismatics regarding glossolalia, prophecy, and healings, they generally don’t focus on accumulating wealth and still value suffering as expiatory and penitential. However, Armstrong’s criticism of the prosperity gospel brought to focus an apparent contradiction based upon some of his other articles.

Many/most conservative Catholic apologists dismiss Pentecostalism’s gifts of the spirit as a Protestant novelty. For instance, apologist, David Anders, regularly dismisses Pentecostalism as an innovation begun by Charles Parham in 1900. Pentecostalism began its infiltration into the Catholic church at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh in 1967 and blossomed into the CCR. While Anders is careful not to condemn the practices of Catholic charismatics because popes and prelates have tolerated the CCR and looked upon it as a valuable tool for ecumenism, he views the movement as a departure from Catholic tradition with roots in Protestantism and with the very real potential for heterodoxy.

Unlike most of his fellow conservative Catholic apologists, Dave Armstrong, the author of “The Catholic Verses” is quite at home with the CCR. He admits to attending charismatic and healing Masses occasionally.* I did a little research and discovered that Armstrong was a member of a Pentecostal church before he converted to Roman Catholicism.**

The interesting paradox is that Armstrong views Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Huldrych Zwingli as rebellious and dangerous heretics, yet is very comfortable with the non-Catholic innovations of Charles Parham and William J. Seymour, the pioneers of Pentecostalism! Does not compute my friends. It is contradictory for Armstrong to attack the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, and yet embrace the experiential practices that originated with Parham and Seymour in the early-20th-century outside of Catholicism.


*Catholic Charismatic Renewal: A Defense

**Is Catholicism Christian? My Debate With James White (Dave Armstrong vs. James White from 1995)

Full disclosure: I’m a cessationist regarding the apostolic gifts of the Spirit. I believe the “showy” gifts were given to verify the authority of the apostles and ended after the apostolic era.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 71 and 72: Transubstantiation? – Part 2

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

We continue in the same chapter that we examined last week in which Armstrong argued for the Catholic claim that its priests transform bread wafers and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Armstrong presents the following two passages as further proof:

#71) 1 Corinthians 10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

#72) 1 Corinthians 11:27-30: “27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

Beneath the second passage, Armstrong writes, “St. Paul hints at the sacredness of the Eucharist when he warns (using extremely strong language) of the consequences of receiving it without reverence and discernment. The implication is quite clear: something more than mere bread and wine, more than a pleasant “memorial meal,” is going on here.” – p. 124.

It certainly should be a sobering moment for born-again Christians to contemplate how the Lord Jesus Christ presented His broken body as a sacrifice for their sins when they receive communion. The Lord’s Supper is not to be taken casually. But it is quite another thing to extrapolate from those two passages that Catholic priests actually change bread wafers and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ! However, it is entirely understandable why the emerging clergy class of the early church would desire to elevate communion to a salvific exercise which they alone controlled. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance of what He had done for each person who trusts in Him as Savior by faith alone, not as a means to salvation through “transubstantiated” bread and wine.

“23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.

For more information on the Lord’s Supper and 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, see the article below:

Transubstantiation and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, and 64: Baptismal Regeneration?

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

Last week, we examined Armstrong’s defense of infant baptism (see here). This week, we’ll examine his claims for baptismal regeneration. Armstrong presents the six passages below as proof texts for baptismal regeneration. Underneath the verses, he writes, “Baptismal regeneration is understood by Catholics (and Orthodox, Lutherans, traditional Anglicans, Methodists, and some other Protestants, in a basic agreement) to mean a spiritual rebirth. Just as a human being must be physically generated to enter the world, he must be spiritually regenerated to enter the kingdom of heaven. The passages…constitute the major scriptural reasons why the great majority of Christians for two thousand years have accepted this belief, and accept baptism as a sacrament: a physical means to convey God’s grace.” – p. 103.

#59) John 3:5: “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

#60) Acts 2:38: “And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

#61) Acts 22:16: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

#62) 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

#63) Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.”

#64) 1 Peter 3:19-21: “19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

In contrast to Armstrong’s and Catholicism’s spurious interpretations, the verses above describe a believer’s spiritual immersion in Christ at the moment they trust in Him as Savior as they have all of their sins “washed” away. The water baptism that follows is a temporal symbol of what already took place spiritually. If salvation was through the waters of baptism, then the hundreds of verses/passages that point to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone would be null and void.

Bible Christianity teaches that salvation is available to everyone who repents of sin and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. After trusting in Christ and being spiritually reborn, a believer should absolutely follow the Lord in believer’s baptism as He commanded. Baptism is a public testimony of the believer’s identification with Christ in His death and burial (immersion in the water) and His resurrection (raised from the water). The baptismal waters have no powers. It is through belief/faith/trust in Christ by which we receive/appropriate the free gift of salvation. By focusing on the material/temporal (water baptism), Catholics miss the spiritual/eternal (repentance of sin and genuine acceptance of Christ as Savior). Sadly, billions of Catholics have been sprinkled with baptismal water as incognizant infants over the centuries and were later told the water somehow magically regenerated them.

As the early church devolved into institutionalism, simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ was gradually replaced by ritualism and ceremony, all controlled by an increasingly powerful clergy class.

For detailed information on the great error of baptismal regeneration and answers to some of the specific verses that Armstrong cites, see the article below:

Does Baptism Save You? (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38)

While Armstrong cites the six verses/passages above as proof texts to support baptismal regeneration that allegedly “confound” non-pedobaptist Christians, believers stand firm upon the Gospel of grace.

Postscript: As I’ve mentioned previously in this series, the Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration has become impossibly dichotomous for them. On the one hand, they claim baptism is absolutely essential for salvation (in Catholic theology, a person is born-again when they are baptized). On the other hand, in modern times the Catholic church has come to allow that people of all other religions may also merit heaven if they are “good.” Pope Francis has stated that even atheists may merit heaven if they follow their conscience and are “good.”

Catholic apologist’s favorite “gotcha” isn’t really a “gotcha”

I usually listen to Catholic talk radio for one hour each day during the work week to keep up with what’s going on in the RCC. The show I normally listen to is, “Called to Communion,” and the stated purpose of the show is to try to convince Protestants to convert to Catholicism. When a believer calls into the show with an objection regarding Catholic doctrine, host David Anders (photo above) always responds by asking, where do THEY get their authority?

I was listening to the 11/19/18 podcast of the show and Matthew from Portland, Oregon called in at the 21:22 mark and stated that Catholicism has disobeyed God’s Word by adding to the Scriptures with its man-made traditions. Anders fired back by smugly asking Matthew where he got his authority. Matthew replied that he got his authority from Scripture alone. Anders then asked Matthew how does he know that the books in his Bible are canonical to which Matthew had no reply. Anders then presented his usual claim; that we know the books of the Bible are canonical because Catholic church councils (Hippo 393, and Carthage 397, 419) declared various books as Scripture and rejected others. Matthew didn’t respond and, once again, Anders declared victory with his very familiar and well-worn “gotcha.”

But is there anything wrong with Anders’ claim? The Eastern Orthodox church certainly wouldn’t agree that those ancient church councils were Roman Catholic. And I would argue that, while the early church was already headed toward legalistic institutionalism by the time of those councils, it did not resemble either the Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy of today. But, most importantly, how does Anders explain the canon of Old Testament Scripture? The Jews had the complete Old Testament WITHOUT the benefit of ANY church council declarations. How did that happen? No, the church didn’t give us the Bible, the Holy Spirit did! The sixty-six books of the Bible are recognized as Scripture because Scripture is self-authenticating. Someone once compared the relationship between early church councils and the Biblical canon to Sir Isaac Newton and gravity. Newton didn’t invent gravity, he merely described the force that was already present.

The next time you hear a Roman Catholic boast that it was their church that gave us the New Testament, ask them who gave the Jews the Old Testament?

For more information, check the links to the ministry of Michael J. Kruger below:

What Do We Mean When We Say the Bible is ‘Self-Authenticating’?

Postscript: Anders and his fellow Catholics believe their church’s authority is based upon the combination of Scripture, the church’s “sacred” traditions, and the “magisterium” or teaching authority of the pope and his bishops. The serious dilemma conservative Catholics such as Anders now face is that the current pope, Francis, has changed multiple doctrines held to be infallible by previous popes.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – # 55: Salvation by Works? – Part 5

Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

Over the previous six weeks, we’ve examined twenty-six verses/passages that Armstrong presented as proof texts for the Catholic doctrine of salvation by works (while noting the Catholic qualification that their alleged ability to obey the Ten Commandments is through graces received from the sacraments). It was a long journey, folks, and I appreciate your staying with me through this section, although we’re not quite done. Armstrong includes one more passage in this chapter underneath the heading; St. Paul: “Doers of the Law” Will Be Justified.

#55) Romans 2: 5-13 –  5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will render to every man according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Following this passage, Armstrong writes, “The obvious central place of works in this scenario is similar to the outlook of James, and St. Paul (and that of the Catholic Church). The theme of obeying the gospel, or the obedience of faith, is common in Paul’s writings (e.g., Rom 1:5, 6:17, 10:16, 15:18-19, 16:25-26, 2 Thess. 1:8 Acts 6:7, Heb. 11:8). Is ‘faith alone’ ever mentioned here? No. Rather we see works, well-doing, being factious, not obeying, being wicked, doing evil, doing good, sinning, being doers of the law – this is all Paul talks about. Yet Protestants typically tell us, contrary to Jesus, Paul, and James, ‘We are justified by faith alone, not by faith and something we do.'” – p. 94.

There are some passages in the Bible, like the one above, that might seem on the surface to support merited salvation, but we must examine them in the wider context of the Gospel of grace that permeates both the Old and New Testaments. John MacArthur comments on the above passage, “Although Scripture everywhere teaches that salvation is not on the basis of works, it consistently teaches that God’s judgement is always on the basis of a person’s deeds (Is. 3:10, 11, Jer. 17:10, John 5:28, 29, 1 Cor. 3:8, 2 Cor. 5:10, Gal. 6:7-9, Rom. 14:12). Paul describes the deeds of two distinct groups: the redeemed (vv. 7, 10) and the unredeemed (vv. 8, 9). The deeds of the redeemed are not the basis of their salvation, but the evidence of it. They are not perfect and are prone to sin, but there is undeniable evidence of righteousness in their lives.” – MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1510.

It’s interesting that Armstrong presents Romans 2:5-13 as a proof text for merited salvation and accuses Protestants of leap-frogging over this and similar passages. But isn’t it Armstrong who leap frogs over vast sections of the Epistle to the Romans, with their very strong teachings regarding the Gospel of grace? Perhaps no other book of the Bible teaches unmerited salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone as strongly as Romans:

  • Rom. 3:22, “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.”
  • Rom. 3:24, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”
  • Rom. 3:26, “for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
  • Rom. 3:28-30, “28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
  • Rom. 4:3, “For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
  • Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,”
  • Rom. 4:11, “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,”
  • Rom. 4:16, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
  • Rom. 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
  • Rom. 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
  • Rom. 9:30, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith.”
  • Rom. 9:33, “just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
  • Rom. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
  • Rom. 10:9-10, “9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
  • Rom. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

Next week, we will examine Armstrong’s next topic of debate involving the alleged 95 Catholic verses, but after examining the 27 verses/passages the Catholic apologist presented as proof texts for merited salvation, we evangelical Protestants can calmly say that we are definitely not confounded, but rather confident in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of grace.

For more information, see the article below:

The Heart of the Epistle – Romans 3:21-26
Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Attempting to steady the Ark

My wife and I were recently studying through 2 Samuel, chapter 6, which tells of when King David desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to Jerusalem. David led a huge procession, which accompanied the Ark as it rode on a new (and probably very ornate) cart specifically built for that purpose.

“(5) And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. (6) And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. (7) And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.” – 2 Samuel 6:5-7

This is a befuddling passage at first glance. Uzzah was only trying to steady the Ark when the oxen stumbled. Why would God have struck him dead when he was only trying to protect the Ark?

Well, we know from Exodus 25:10-15 and  Numbers 4:1-20 that God had given very strict instructions that the Ark of the Covenant was only to be transported by hand using poles inserted through rings and only by the Kohathites. David deliberately disobeyed God’s instructions by transporting the Ark on a cart. He was copying the Philistines who had used a cart previously to transport the Ark after they had captured it.

We know that the Ark, with its mercy seat sitting atop the enclosed stone tablets of the Law, a sample of the manna from Heaven, and Aaron’s rod, was an object of the utmost holiness because it was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ and foreshadowed His redemptive work and offices. The Ark was not to be treated casually as David and the priests who were present had done. Uzzah had committed an act of desecration by touching the holy Ark. He died because David and the priests had not followed God’s instructions. This wasn’t the first time or the last that others perished because of David’s disobedience.

When David moved the Ark the next time, he made sure God’s instructions for moving the Ark were followed to the letter. See 1 Chronicles 15:1-28.

What applications can we glean from 2 Samuel, chapter 6?

  • The passage reminds us that we are to worship and obey our Almighty and Holy God with the focus and reverence He deserves. Our relationship with the Lord is often far too casual and/or given a low priority compared to other “interests” and demands on our time.
  • We shouldn’t look to the world for how we are to worship and obey our God.
  • The commands of God are not relative or open to debate. In this era of plurality and tolerance, no one wants to hear that there is only one way to salvation, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. It is not up to individuals to choose how they want to worship God. He revealed His way, the only way, in His Word.
  • Is it possible that one of the other lessons from this story is that no human effort can assist the Lord Jesus Christ in His offices of Savior and Mediator? Uzzah attempted to steady the Ark as it sat upon the cart when the oxen stumbled. The Ark symbolized Jesus Christ. God did not accept human assistance in steadying the Ark and He cannot accept the sinful works of sinful men in their attempts to merit their salvation.