By Ron Kempen, Gospel Light Ministries
This month I continue addressing John Martignon’s viewpoints from last month’s article by providing questions he has asked that he claims Protestants don’t have answers for. By way of reminder, in last month’s article, John claimed, via reference to an article had had previously written, that Protestant Christians cannot answer the question of whether salvation comes with or without works, but that Catholics can. Here are more of his questions and my answers.
John’s question - If assurance of salvation is true, then how can one be severed from Christ by being circumcised?
Ron’s answer - John is implying here that having or not having circumcision makes a difference in our relationship with Christ. But the truth is that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation nor the assurance of salvation. If it did, then that would mean that we could do something to gain or lose our salvation and that our trust is in our work for salvation and not in the work that Jesus did for us on the cross. Galatians talks much about works, but not as a way to true salvation in or in having a relationship with Jesus Christ, nor does it say that we are severed from Christ or lose our salvation because of certain works we may do.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We are to do good works, but they don’t save us, and not doing them won’t keep us from salva either.
Right before this Paul tells us in verses 8 and 9 that our salvation is not a result of our works lest we should boast about what we have done. Rather, salvation is always by grace alone. We were made to do good works, but we aren’t saved by good works.
In Titus 3:5, we are told that we should be “zealous for good works,” but notice again that it doesn’t say that we are saved by good works. Going back to Galatians, Paul was saying that if the people (and this applies to us today) were going to try to get saved by works, then that would show they weren’t really saved or weren’t true believers in Christ because they were trying to follow the law to get saved, and the law simply does not save people.
John’s question - When Jesus was asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” how did He answer? How would you answer that question?
Ron’s answer - I think John is asking what some in the crowd asked Jesus in John 6:28: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus responded to them by saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). This is all that we need to do - trust in what Christ did for us already by dying on the cross at Calvary to pay the price for our sins, and acknowledging our sin and repenting of our sin. And when He said, “It is finished,” He meant it. The work was already done for salvation, and Christ Himself did it when He died on the cross. He died for our sins so that we would not have to die for them if we put our trust in Him. God sent Christ to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Salvation is never by what we do but by what Christ has already done for us.
John’s question - Can you get into heaven if you do not forgive the sins of others? Yes or no?
Ron’s answer - I believe John is referring to the passage around Matthew 6:15 which says, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” You cannot get into heaven if your sins are not forgiven and your sins will not be forgiven if you do not forgive the sins of others. Jesus forgave our sins on the cross and we are to forgive others as well. A true believer in Jesus Christ knows that since he has acknowledged that Jesus Christ forgave his sins on the cross, he also needs to forgive the sins of others against him. Since we have been forgiven, we in turn can and should forgive others. If we fail to do this, then we negate the work of Christ on the cross and forfeit heaven when we die. The attitude of the follower of Christ is one of complete gratitude in what Christ did for him and he extends that same grace toward others who have sinned against him.
John’s question - Can you give me one example in the Bible of a Christian who was saved by reading the Bible?
Ron’s answer - Merely reading the Bible does not save anyone. Salvation comes when we recognize our sin has separated us from God, when we repent of our sins, when we believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins that we could never pay to a perfect and all-holy God, and when we give control of our lives over to God. But the understanding of all of this comes when we do read the Bible. The Bible itself, from cover to cover, gives us the story of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:16 tells us, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” First Peter 2:2 says, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” First Corinthians 1:17 says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” The “gospel of Christ,” the “pure milk of the word,” and the “cross of Christ” all have to do with salvation, and reading the Bible points us to the only One who can save us. In Acts 8, God used Philip to help the Ethiopian eunuch understand the Scripture in Isaiah that prophesied about Christ’s crucifixion. The eunuch had been reading the Word of God, he came to understand the message of the gospel when Philip explained it to him, and then he was saved and baptized.
John’s question - Who wrote the Gospel of Mark and how do you know? And how do you know the Gospel of Mark is the inspired Word of God?
Ron’s answer - The early church fathers unanimously affirm that Mark wrote the second gospel. And it was also accepted as part of the canon of Scripture long ago. While Mark never accompanied the Lord Jesus on earth, he did accompany Peter and accurately wrote down what he heard from him. Irenaeus called Mark the “disciple and interpreter of Peter” in that he wrote what he heard from Peter, but still ultimately it was all inspired by God. The Gospel of Mark is as inspired as the other gospels, even though it isn’t all in chronological order, because “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 about the people there, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
The Bible never says that the church gave us the Word of God. The Word of God came from the mouth of God through the writers He chose to write it down, thus the definition of “inspiration.”
John’s question - For a Christian, what is the pillar and ground of the truth? Is it the Bible?
Ron’s answer - You seem to be referring to 1 Timothy 3:15 which says, “in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” While this verse isn’t referring specifically to the Bible but rather to the true church - which is made up of all people who have confessed Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and obey His Word (i.e., the Bible) - the Bible is obviously part of the true church because it is the absolute truth of God; therefore, the Bible is part of the “pillar and ground of the truth.” The church consists of followers of Jesus Christ, regardless of what they call the building in which they meet to worship Him. The “pillar and ground of the truth” does not consist of rituals and traditions that are of men. Many of these things that the Catholic Church adheres to cannot even be found in the Bible. Rather, the people who follow the Bible and all it says are the true church. John 17:17 sums it up well: “Thy Word is truth.”
John’s question - Are you infallible in your interpretation of the Bible? Yes or no?
Ron’s answer - No one (including the Pope) is infallible when it comes to interpreting the Word of God. That is why the Bible says that we are to “test all things.” We are to test all of our conclusions and interpretations against the very Word of God itself to make sure they agree with it. If they don’t, then we are the ones who are wrong because the absolute truth of the Word of God is never wrong. We are all human, which means we are imperfect in all things. Because we are all human and imperfect - even the Pope - we also should know that not even the Catholic Church is infallible, nor is it the one and only true church, because the Catholic Church is made up of people who are imperfect. We are all called to use discernment and to strive to do God’s will. Knowing that His will is written in His word, and that God is perfect in every way, we can say that we have an infallible source to follow, the Bible. Then by sticking to the Bible, we'll be guided by Christ and by His indwelling Holy Spirit who helps us interpret and discern, and that's good enough for me.
Use your own discernment to decide where the truth lies in these questions and answers. Do Catholics have a monopoly on the truth or can Protestants really answer clearly and accurately the questions posed to them by Catholics?