Posted in Blog, In the Word

Upon This Rock

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the apostle Peter was the first Pope, and was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven by Jesus Himself. When he speaks ex cathedra, he is infallible, as is each Pope in the apostolic succession. And how does the Catholic Church substantiate this extraordinary claim? With Matthew 16:18:

And I tell you that you are Peter (petros),and on this rock (petra) I will build my church (ecclesia), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

In this moment, Peter’s name was changed from Simon to Petros. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Peter himself is the rock, or petros, on which their church was  established.

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You are Petros

But can Peter be the rock to which Jesus is referring? The name Jesus gives to Peter is Petros, which in the Greek refers to a stone, of a size that could be picked up and thrown. Peter is a pebble.

What then is this petra, this boulder, this huge mass of rock, on which Christ established his ecclesia (his assembly of called-out ones)?

To find out, let’s pan out from this Bible text, to look at it not in isolation, but taking into account what comes directly before it:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:13-15

This is the most important question one can ever be asked, and it is asked of each of us: Who do you say that Jesus is? Jesus Himself gives us the answer to this question. He declares that He is the ONLY way to the Father:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Jesus also declares that it is through our faith in Him and His resurrection that we are saved to eternal life:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

So, if our salvation rests on Him, it is imperative that we answer correctly the question of who He is. To pick up where we left off in Matthew 16, Jesus asks Peter that all important question:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:15-17

That’s it! Go Peter! He has put his faith in Jesus as God and Messiah (Saviour) It is this profession of faith in Christ which earns Peter his name:

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church (ecclesia), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

Lest we be tempted to elevate Peter too high in our congratulations to him at his answering this question correctly, Jesus reminds us that it was not Peter’s own flesh and blood self that came to this answer, but the Father in heaven who revealed this to him, just as it is only God who can reveal the Truth to us.

Peter’s declaration of faith can be our declaration of faith, too. Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus is the petra, the large boulder, on which his ecclesia will be built.

petra
On this petra, I build my ecclesia

Remember the man who builds his house upon a rock? That can be you, if you place your faith in Christ:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (petra). And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27 (emphasis mine).

ecclesia
apostolic succession: a house built upon a tower of pebbles

So not just Peter, special, infallible Pope Peter, but everyone who hears Jesus’ Word and obeys it is building his house upon that Rock of Salvation. I want to build my house upon the Rock of Ages, the Lord Himself, and certainly not upon Peter, who is merely a little pebble in the ecclesia, as am I myself.

If Peter (petros) is a pebble, then apostolic succession must be a tower of pebbles. I would rather build my house upon the petra (great Rock) than upon the pile of petros (pebbles).

My interpretation is certainly not a new one. Augustine, considered by Christians and Catholics alike to be one of the most important fathers of the church, clarified his belief in Christ as the Rock:

In a passage in this book, I said about  the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built’…But  … I so explained what  the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will  build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him  whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son  of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock,  represented the person of the Church which is built upon this  rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’   For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’   was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing  whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter.  But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the  more probable (The  Fathers of the Church (Washington D.C., Catholic University,  1968), Saint Augustine, The Retractations Chapter 20.1).

Augustine, by the way, is not only considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, but also a Doctor of the Church. This is a special title conferred by the Catholic Church upon those who are considered particularly orthodox in their understanding of doctrine, and whose writings are declared useful as instruction for all Catholics throughout the ages.  St. Augustine himself teaches that the Rock refers not to Peter, nor to the papacy, nor to the Catholic Church, but only to Christ Himself, as the One on whom our faith rests.

Now, back to our text:

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19a)

The Catholic Church declares itself to be the keeper of these keys to heaven. I believe the keys to belong to the believer, through his faith in Jesus to bestow them. Peter was granted access to the same keys that each believer has received through his or her faith. Matthew 7:7-8:

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 

Notice that everyone who asks, receives. Not just Peter, or the Apostolic succession. You can have the keys to heaven, too, if only you place your faith in the Rock, Jesus Christ.

“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19b)

The Catholic Church believes that this refers to the power of the Church, through the papacy, to forgive and absolve sins, and to declare infallible doctrine. But we can see that Peter did not have this power, for Paul, an apostle who was outside this Apostolic Succession (see Galatians 1:1) rebuked Peter for his belief that Gentiles had to follow Jewish law in order to be saved, (see Galatians 2:11) and Peter was convinced enough to later speak on Paul’s side of the debate. (Acts 15:7-11)

If you need further proof that Jesus was not referring to Peter as the Rock but to Christ, let’s go back to that passage in Matthew 16, and see what came directly after, for it goes on to show Jesus referring to Peter as Satan!

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21-23

Clearly, we cannot derive a doctrine of Peter’s papal infallibility from Matthew 16:18, when he was so obviously fallible in Matthew 16:21, just three verses later.

But don’t take my interpretation of Scripture. Don’t even take Augustine’s. Instead, let Scripture itself show you exactly who is the Rock:

For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? Psalm 18:31

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deuteronomy 32:4

…then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. Deuteronomy 32:15

There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Sam 2:2

My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 2 Samuel 22:3

The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior! 2 Samuel 22:47

The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God 2 Samuel 23:3

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalm 18:2

To you, LORD, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 28:1

For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Psalm 62:7

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3

They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. Psalm 78:35

But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. Psalm 94:22

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Psalm 95:1

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge. Isaiah 17:10

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

That Rock was Christ.

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Posted in Blog, In the Word, Testimony

My Testimony Part II


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I went back to work when my baby son was a year old. It was difficult to leave him, but just a few months later, I was pregnant again, and it was easier to go to work knowing that I would soon be off on another year-long maternity leave.

I was happy. Happy in my marriage, happy as a mother, happy in my job.  I worked in advocacy. I felt good about what I was doing, I thought I was making a difference. Our second baby was born, another beautiful baby boy, and I looked forward to another year at home.

As for God, He probably existed, but I didn’t really know. I did know that I wanted to raise my children in church. I had the opinion that people who grew up unchurched may be at eternal disadvantage, not being given the opportunity or inclination to examine these issues. I wasn’t in agreement with what the church taught, particularly on social issues like homosexuality, or on the infallibility of the Pope, but I figured that one church was good as another, and it certainly wasn’t worth upsetting my died-in-the-wool Catholic mother to find a more liberal church.

So I attended Mass on Sundays, followed the rules, (or at least went to Confession when I broke the rules), and received Communion. Never getting any closer to God than a comfortable, hands-off distance.

At the Crossroads

One memorable night in 2009, I lay in bed listening to a Satanist giving an interview on talk radio. espousing his beliefs. He had an interesting belief system: the God who created us was some kind of malicious entity, and Satan was the good guy, trying to save us from the “harvest” of our malevolent Creator. I was intrigued. What if this were true? What if I had it all wrong? I listened, considering the idea.

And then! Whoomp! With a rushing sensation, my worldview shifted momentarily inside out. I was suddenly viewing the world from this inside-out perspective. I felt sick to my stomach. I realized I was standing at a crossroads of sorts.

At the time, I didn’t know the words from Joshua 24:15, but this was the spirit of that moment:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

I needed to make a real decision about God. I had been playing church for long enough. Looking back, I wonder if I had kept playing, perhaps God would have “given me over” to my sin. Following my own worldly wisdom, perhaps I would have ended up a Satanist. It sounds far-fetched, but who knows where my own “open-mindedness” would have led me?

Everything Stripped Away

I was terrified by the thought that these questions had eternal significance, and I had no idea of the answer, or even of the right god to turn to. I could not rely on my own wisdom. For the first time in my life, I realized how utterly inadequate I was, in my own strength. My pride in my own mind was stripped away, and I was utterly humbled by my own ignorance and inability to even know right from wrong. In abject humility, fearful of choosing the wrong god to pray to, afraid even to pray to Jesus. Sure, he may have been part of the godhead, but then again, he may just as easily have been an idol or false god. I didn’t know anything.

In my newfound humility, I knew that if there were a Creator, I could turn only to Him. I was a created being, a creature, and therefore owed my loyalty to the Creator, for better or for worse. Again, I didn’t know Isaiah 45:9-10, but this was the spirit of what was impressed on my heart.

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?

And right there, in my dark bedroom next to my sleeping husband, I turned off theradio and prayed to my Creator that if He were real, He would show me. I cried out that I was too foolish, too stupid, too ignorant to ever understand these things for myself, but that I trusted Him to reveal Himself to me. I begged Him to show me the truth.

The Truth of An Empty Life

I fell asleep in this uncertainty. The next morning, I woke in a sudden, but very real depression. My happy, busy, life was suddenly devoid of any meaning. My loving husband and two beautiful little boys, who I loved so much, were now the source of great sorrow. It was all meaningless. Why have children, if only to raise them for this short life and then die? Why live at all? What was the purpose?0729-1602b

My husband didn’t understand this despair, and indeed, neither did I. Where had it come from? I was not feeling suicidal, not self-destructive. I was just incredibly sad at the meaninglessness of raising my children, and dying, only so that they could grow up to raise their own children and die.  What a carousel of utter, meaningless vanity.

I spent three days in this despair.  I realize now that God was showing me something. Without Him, life w100605-1441eas meaningless. It was only through Him that life has meaning, beauty, purpose. He was showing me who I was, dead in my sins, and inviting me to come to life in Him.

On the last night of my old life, I was up in the wee hours of the morning, unable to sleep. I went online and watched a YouTube video about — of all things — Obama and his “Yes We Can” campaign. The creator of the video contrasted this prideful attitude with Christian humility. She stated that without Christ, we can do nothing, but that with him, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

A New Creature in Him

I suddenly understood what Christ had done for me, and I was so, so sorry. I got down on my knees in my living room and prayed for forgiveness. I thanked Him for His sacrifice, and repented of my sins that had put Him on that cross.  I had been raised Catholic, and had no knowledge of being saved through faith. I had never heard of the “sinner’s prayer.” I knew only that God was magnificently, gloriously real, that He had died for me, and that my life henceforth must be lived for Him.

And I ran upstairs to wake my husband, to let him know that Jesus was real, God was real. (Yes, I really did.) My poor husband, aroused from a sound sleep by his barely coherent wife excitedly whispering that God really existed, was nonplussed. “That’s good, honey. Can we talk about this tomorrow?”

Hadn’t we been attending church since we got married? So what was the big deal all of a sudden, at 3am? What on earth was I on about?

Over the next several days and weeks, my husband saw a change in me. Perhaps most notable was that I, never before a morning person, was now waking up at dawn to get to Daily Mass and back home again before he left for work in the morning.

If that was all, he may not have minded, but I had also changed my opinions on many things.  Previously such an ardent supporter of homosexual rights, I now realized that homosexuality is not the way God has created us to be. Just as the clay can’t argue with the potter, I couldn’t argue my own ideas of right and wrong against God’s. Whether I understood why or not, I had to just accept that if He said it was an abomination, it was not for me to stand against that.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

I didn’t understand why it was wrong, but I had to accept it on faith, and over time, God has given me wisdom to better understand. I found this held true in many areas.

But it was disturbing to my husband.

It seemed that the Bible, this book that I had grown up with, suddenly spoke miraculously. I truly enjoyed reading it, and feeling God’s word jump off the page as if it were spoken to me particularly in that moment.

My poor husband found it bizarre that his wife, who had previously enjoyed reading feminist philosophy, was suddenly always reading the Bible. He began to worry that I was developing a brain tumour! What else could account for this sudden change in who I was?

When he began to suggest that I go to the doctor for an MRI, I realized that I had to stop haranguing him with my newfound faith. I couldn’t talk him into a belief in God. I needed to back off and let him find out for himself. Wasn’t there a verse somewhere about a man being led to God by his wife without her saying a word?

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives. (1 Peter 3:1)

And while I can’t testify to ever really being “without a word,” I did my best to keep my beliefs to myself for a while.

After all, I still had enough to work out on my own. I was beginning to have trouble with some of the doctrines of the Church, that just didn’t seem to mesh with what I was finding in my bible. I needed time to work this out.

My Testimony Part 1

My Testimony Part 3

My Testimony Part 4

Posted in Blog, In the Word

Modest Dress: That Which Pertaineth to a Man

Since we moved last spring, we have been attending a new church. It took me a few months to notice that I have never seen any of the women of the congregation wearing pants. They wear skirts exclusively. (Very observant of me, I agree!)

When I asked the reason for their dress, I was told that they wished to uphold the standard in Deuteronomy 22:5:

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

Let me first state the obvious: a particular form of dress is not a necessary requirement for salvation. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, who died to cleanse me of my sins. But, as the new creature that I am in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), it is only fitting that my desire is to please God through seeking His Will in all I do (Proverbs 3:6 NLT).

So for the sake of seeking His Will for my dress, there are two questions I must ask while examining Deuteronomy 22:5:
First, applicability: Does this command, given to the Israelites during Old Testament Times, even apply to me today? Second, application: If it does apply,  what particular kind of clothing am I to wear in order to obey it?

  1. First, to address the issue of applicability: while I am not bound by Old Testament Law, it is equally true that my God is unchanging (Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8). If it pleased Him 4000 years ago, surely it would please Him today as well. Furthermore, this particular commandment was worded very strongly. Women in men’s clothes did not just displease Him; they are called an abomination to Him. Surely what was once an abomination to Him must still be so. My freedom in Christ was not given to me so that I could dress in a way abominable to that God who gave me life! Yes, I consider that this verse most definitely applies to me today.
  2. It remains then to ascertain what kind of clothing I am meant to wear. I can’t simply interpret this verse to say that “women must not wear pants.” In Old Testament times, both women and men wore robes. There must have been some sort of variation between women’s and men’s apparel, but not in terms of pants or skirts. In my particular culture, while pants are considered appropriate apparel for both women and men, it must be admitted that skirts, as appropriate only for women, are more definitively “women’s clothing.” While it is possible, through colour and fit, to ensure that my apparel is obviously that of a woman, the easiest and most recognizable way to dress as a woman is to wear a skirt.

So I decided to wear skirts for a while — just to see. I wanted to get an idea of whether God would really be pleased with this little gift to Him. I recognize that any gift I can give to Him has only the value of the paper-and-crayons cards that my children give me for my birthday — no value at all, except the love and effort put into it for the sheer desire to please. It does not elevate my status in His eyes, so my only purpose is to please Him.

Worthy of note is that while I have changed my wardrobe considerably, I have not made many changes to the wardrobe of my daughters. (Well, Ann is a baby and still in sleepers!) But my toddler, Eleanor, alreaDSCN1156dy wears dresses most of the time — it has been my preference. After two boys, it has been a lot of fun to have a daughter — and explore the world of frilly, feminine little dresses. Now that Eleanor’s previously bald little head is beginning to sprout some hair, I have  delighted in pulling it into two teeny-weeny, curly little piggy-tails. Sure, she is cute in jeans, too, but what a pleasure it is to dress my sweet little girl to look the very picture of a sweet little girl!

 

I wonder if this is how God feels about us. Of course he loves us, whatever we wear. But just as I delight in dressing my little girl to really emphasize and celebrate that she is a little girl, rather than camouflage her into a more androgynous version of herself, do you think he takes especial delight in us when we dress in a way that emphasizes who we are as the women that he has created us to be? What better way to glorify my God through our dress than to use it to celebrate my femininity!