By the way… Do you know what John 3:16 really means?

Jn316WhatLet’s look at a very familiar verse for a moment. It’s probably the most familiar verse in the Bible, but have you really thought about what it means?

John 3:16 – God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

  • What God did (gave his only Son), he did out of love.
  • He gave his Son to die the death that we all deserve.
  • Those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Who does this include?

Well, it includes everyone! Those who believe will not perish. By necessary contrast, those who do not believe will perish. Easy enough, right?

Easy, but a bit terrifying. Let’s take a look at what is says just 2 verses later:

John 3:18 – Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

  • Anyone who believes in Jesus avoids condemnation.
  • Anyone who does not believe faces condemnation.

Is belief all it takes?

So, to avoid condemnation all you have to do is believe! That’s pretty easy for most. But what does it mean to believe in this context? Same passage, but a few verses later:

John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

  • Again, whoever believes has eternal life.
  • Whoever does not obey suffers the wrath of God.

The biblical term used here for “believe” is synonymous with “obey.” So, it’s not just an intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus exists, or even that Jesus died for sins; it’s belief with a view to obedience; it’s belief that results in obedience. Now we have a much more difficult proposition, don’t we?

This is where most people fall short, get tripped up, or simply choose to ignore what is very plain in Scripture.

How do we avoid this problem?

Jesus said that whoever would follow him (another way of saying “believe in him” or “obey him”) must leave everything else behind and follow him (i.e., seek to become like him, turning away from everything else).

Luke 9:23–26 – Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father.”

These are very strict conditions, it seems to me. Only followers of Jesus, as defined here, will have the eternal life promised in John 3:16. It’s a lot different than just believing (assenting to a fact) that Jesus died for sins. If you are trusting your eternal destiny to the type of easy-believism that says all you have to do is say a prayer or ask Jesus into your heart, you are still under the wrath of the Father. And if you are under the wrath of the Father, you have no hope of being saved from it unless you turn your life over to Christ, forsaking all other beliefs and lifestyles.

You cannot continue in your own chosen way of life and expect that God is going to approve of you. God does not weigh your good deeds with your bad. He does not wink at your decisions to crusade for those things that are a violation of his Word and of his character. He does not grade on a scale. He does not yield to the demands of the current culture.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

So, what about you? Are you a follower of Jesus? I submit that this question is the most important question you will ever answer. Answer it honestly. Are you a follower of Jesus? If you answered “yes,” are you sure? If not, I implore you to be decisive today on this issue. You have no guarantee of having until tomorrow to make this decision.

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

— Jesus of Nazareth (John 3:16-21)

Advertisements

“His Wounds Have Paid My Ransom”

Below is a talk on a section of Matthew 26-28 that my wife gave to a ladies’ group a couple months ago at our church. She did a great job!


There is so much in this passage. It encompasses the gospel – Jesus’ death on our behalf, His resurrection, and His command to go and tell everyone this gospel. Where do I even start? I did think it was interesting that a missionary kid was given the passage with the Great Commission in it.

In one sense, this could be summed up pretty quickly: Jesus is Who He said He is – these chapters continually show how He has fulfilled the OT Scriptures that prophesied about the coming Messiah and Savior. He fulfills the reason that He came to earth as a human – to die a sinner’s death on our behalf, for the forgiveness of sins. Then being raised to life again, He has all authority and gives us the great task of proclaiming this gospel to all the world, with the promise of being with us through this daunting endeavor. In a nutshell, that’s what we have.

But I’d like to take a closer look at the crucifixion. Let’s read Matthew 27, starting in verse 24 and going through verse 56.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

So, let’s stop for a second. This is a familiar story to us. We are told it from the time we are children if we grow up in the church. We learn it as new believers and are reminded of it every Easter, which is coming up shortly. But don’t let the familiarity of the story blind you to what Jesus experienced here. Crucifixion was a horrific way for someone to die. Often beaten before being hung on a wooden beam, their back would have been torn and bloodied, rubbing up against rough wood. In order to breathe, they would have had to put all their weight onto their feet, which had nails going through it into the wood. The pain would have been excruciating. Usually crucifixion would take several days for someone to finally suffocate and die, which is why the other criminals had their legs broken, so they would not have been able to keep pulling themselves up to breathe and would have suffocated quickly.

A medical doctor, C. Truman Davis, writes from a medical perspective about what crucifixion was like. Here are some of his descriptions:

The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement….

The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain – the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.

As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen…..

Jesus experienced hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins — a terrible crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

This is what Jesus went through. This is what He suffered for me and for you. And yet we so often doubt His love for us. How can I not trust Him if He was willing to go through all of that for me? How can I keep choosing to sin when my sin cost Him so much?

Jesus’ crucifixion was prophesied in the Old Testament and Matthew brings out many of the details to show how Jesus was fulfilling these prophecies.

Let’s read through Psalm 22 and see the many parallels with Jesus’ crucifixion.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

Isn’t that amazing? David, writing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes so much of what Jesus goes through. Even the mocking phrase of the chief priests, “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;” is seen from Psalm 22.

When we read the different gospel accounts we can see what each writer included and didn’t include of Jesus’ final hours. Matthew doesn’t record Jesus’ final words. He tells us that Jesus cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. He did what He said He came to do – to lay down His life. No one could take it away from Him; He laid it down – He had the authority to do this.

Matthew tells us of the curtain being torn. This was huge – the curtain that separated the Most Holy part of the temple where the ark of the covenant was from the rest of the temple, protecting unholy people from being too close to a holy God. Can you imagine the shock of those who were at the temple and this huge curtain suddenly rips from top to bottom and the Most Holy place of the temple is exposed? Devout priests were probably panicking, thinking they were about to die for seeing what they weren’t supposed to see. Would they have quickly tried to repair it or cover it up?

And then, just as Jesus said He would, He rises from the dead. An angel tells the women who have gone to His tomb that He is going before them to Galilee and the disciples will see Him there. Matthew gives the account of the 11 disciples going to Galilee as Jesus directed. He doesn’t tell us how many days have passed or the other meetings Jesus has had with the disciples. Matthew’s focus is that Jesus has instructed the disciples to go to Galilee and He meets them there, to give them their final command before He goes into Heaven. And this also is familiar to us – “Go and make disciples”. But do we pay attention to what Jesus says right before this command? “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Because of this authority, they are thus to go and make disciples. Jesus concludes with the promise to be with them always. The command is bookended by Jesus’ reminder of His authority and His promise of His presence. Just as we see so often throughout the Bible, what is true (the indicative), Who God is, is given to us so that we are able to then follow the command (the imperative).

So, it may seem like this passage isn’t very practical. Yeah, I know, it’s about Jesus’ death and resurrection. And yeah, I know we’re supposed to go and make disciples, but I need something tangible to hang on to when I’m trying to reason with my 3 year old who keeps hitting his sister. Or how to make it through another day when the pain in my body is more than I can bear. But the reality is, ladies, that this passage is EVERYTHING! God Himself came down to earth in a human body, down amidst this broken and hurting world. He lived the perfect life that we just can’t do. Then he suffered what is probably one of the most horrific ways to die – to pay the penalty for OUR sins! Not His own – OURS! What kind of love is this? How could He do that – Why would He do that? That is a love that surpasses knowledge. And it wasn’t because we are all that. No, it was because of God’s mercy and grace and love. May this reminder of how great God’s love is, love enough to die, be an encouragement to you today.

That last refrain – “Why should I gain from His reward?” Why should we? We shouldn’t. “But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom.” And yours, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ. This was why Jesus came. We were in rebellion against God with no hope of saving ourselves. He came to pay the penalty of that rebellion and to reconcile us to God. He accomplished what He came to do. So, seeing this great sacrificial love that God has for us, how can we not tell everyone about Him? So go and boast of Jesus’ resurrection!

There is Hope, but Only One!

My friend and I have been studying 2 Corinthians and we just finished chapter 3 which contrasts ministry of the Old Covenant (the Mosaic Covenant, the Mosaic Law) with ministry of the New Covenant which was ushered in by Christ.

You can see the notes from that here, but I wanted to share some of the introductory and final notes from that study. I hope you’ll find it encouraging.


Thus far in chapter 3, Paul’s thought has progressed from the idea of commendatory letters written on hearts by Christ to reflection on the New Covenant promised by God through Jeremiah under which the law would be written on responsive human hearts.

Jer 31:31-34

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

In our passage today, Paul defends the apostolic ministry by comparing it to the ministry of the Old Covenant. He says that those who continue in the Old Covenant without embracing the New Covenant as revealed by the Spirit of God through Christ remain blind. This is because only through Christ is that blindness removed.

This is true not only of Jews but of all who have not turned to Christ for healing. A veil remains over their hearts; they cannot see the truth of the glory of Christ. As we’ll see next time, the god of this world, who is Satan, has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

If Christ doesn’t return first, every person alive will die and find themselves face to face with the Judge of the universe to give an account of their lives and to receive judgment. All sin will be judged! The question before that future court will be ‘Who will be judged for your sin?’ and there are only two options: you or Jesus.

Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not live and then died, taking the judgment for the sins of all who will place their trust, hope, and faith in Him. Those who do not turn to Christ and the New Covenant that he ushered in will be judged for their own sin; that judgment is an eternity of conscious suffering apart from God. Those who do turn away from their sin and give their lives over to Christ, placing themselves under His rule, will experience a very different future. Jesus took the judgment for them onto himself on the Cross of Calvary. So for those who have turned to Christ in faith, placing their hope and trust in Christ will spend eternity face to face with the Lord in a loving relationship with him.

The Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law as outlined in the OT, was a glorious covenant because it reflected the character of God. Psalm 19 tells us this very plainly.

Ps 19:7–9

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

See also all of Psalm 119.

So, this covenant came with glory, as we learned in today’s passage. The problem is that it places us all in a very bad spot. It’s easy to see that this Old Covenant was good and righteous, but it gives no power to those under it to obey it. This covenant says that if we fail to obey it all we will suffer the condemnation in it. Everyone failed to obey it; no one experienced its ultimate blessings, so it was broken.

Jesus lived out the Old Covenant perfectly, fulfilled its mandates, and then also took its condemnation on behalf of all who would turn to him as payment on their behalf. This ushered in a New Covenant that grants power to those under it. They are given the Spirit of God to dwell with each of them to grant them the power to obey the mandates of this New Covenant as outlined in the NT. Those who will place themselves under this New Covenant will experience its blessings.

So, the primary takeaway from this passage today is actually the most important question you will ever be forced to answer: Who will be judged for your sin, for your crimes against God? Are you under the New Covenant? If not, or if you’re not sure, you can be. Here’s how: https://geojono.wordpress.com/be-decisive/

Heb 13:20-21

May the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Even 1 School Shooting is Too Many! Something is Wrong!

If you’ve been spreading the claim that there have now been 18 school shootings this year, stop it! There have NOT been 18 school shootings. This USA Today article and video explain.

But even 1 is too many!

shooting

In a perfect world there would be no murder or violence or evil, but that’s not the world we live in. I think we can all agree that something is wrong with this world. What is wrong and the answer to that wrong have been given to us.

What is wrong with this world? And What is the Solution?

Whether or not you accept it, God claims the rightful place of King of the universe. He is King by right of creation. When someone rebels against a rightful king, that person can expect no peace. Same goes on the universal scale. The entire human race has rebelled against the rightful King of the universe and we are suffering for it. But there’s much more to it than just that.

God has promised that he will ultimately deal with the rebellion. He has offered complete pardon for anyone who would surrender to him and place themselves back under his rule. All who return to the King, turning away from their rebellion, and allow the true King to rule their lives will receive a full pardon and be declared full citizens of his kingdom.

Those who refuse this one-time-only offer will be declared permanent enemies of the King and will eventually be cast out into permanent incarceration and will be subjected to never-ending suffering for their crimes, a punishment that perfectly fits the crime of such rebellion.

The terms of the pardon, for all who would decide to receive it, are simple: complete surrender to the rule of the King.

But keep in mind that you will not be surrendering yourself to the harsh rule of some tyrant of a king. This King is perfectly just (bad news for us rebels, as we all deserve to be punished for our crimes against him), but also merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, eager to forgive our crimes against him.

But he will by no means clear the guilty, and we are all guilty. Someone must be punished for our crimes. The primary choice, of course, is ourselves. After all, who is more fitted to take the punishment for crimes than the one who committed them, right? That presents a serious problem; it puts us all in a very bad position. The crimes we commit against the eternal holiness of an eternal King is eternal punishment, something we can’t possibly afford.

Only a perfect human being would be able to pay for our crimes. Jesus, being God, left heaven and became that perfect human being for the purpose of living the perfect life we could never live and to suffer the punishment that we fully deserve. He died horribly for our crimes; he had none of his own. And after he died, the King of the universe raised him back from the dead to show that he accepted Jesus’ payment on behalf of all who would surrender themselves to his rule.

So, the question is:

Who will suffer the punishment for your crimes against the rightful King?

There are only two choices:

You or Jesus.

If you decide to continue in your rebellion and take on the punishment yourself, you will suffer for all eternity, which is right and fitting.

If, however, you decide that you want to accept the offered pardon and accept Jesus’ punishment on your behalf, all you have to do is to humble yourself, confess that you are part of the human rebellion, and give your life over to the rightful King.

If you surrender your life to the rightful King of the universe, turning away from your rebellion in such humble submission, he will apply Jesus’ payment to your account; he will grant you the pardon. You will immediately become his ambassador in this life, doing his bidding and joining his cause of sharing the good news of the pardon to others. And when your time on this earth is over, you will spend all of eternity in his heavenly kingdom with him.

Will you do that today? Talk to him in prayer and tell him of your desire to surrender. Ask him for the pardon. Then start learning about him and what he wants you to do in this life for him, all of which can be found in the Bible. You should also join a Bible-teaching church where you can learn more precisely and get help with living the life that he commands you to live.

I hope you will do that. As we’re seeing all too often these days, none of us is promised a long life and it’s only during this life that the offer of the pardon is presented. Once you leave this life, the offer expires.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

I’m At Your Mercy — A Song

I’m At Your Mercy
—The Acappella Company

As I stood inside the courtroom
The judge came walking in
There was One who stood beside me
A compassionate friend to me
As he spoke my situation
I knew that he was in control
Of the destiny of my eternal soul

With a hush the crowd awaited
To receive the words he’d say
A finality was pressing
Like no other day
To reveal my destination
That was what I soon would know
To eternity, where was I to go?

Yes, your honor, I’m at your mercy
You can do with me
Just as you please
Please remember
My testimony
The blood of Jesus
Covers me

When the time came for the verdict
The anticipation rose
But the people knew too well
The path in life they chose
Those who had not cared to answer
When in life he gave the call
Or had known his grace and love
Only to fall

But as he looked in my direction
I was not afraid
‘Cause the nailed-scarred hands
Were right there, they were defending me
But then he rose to give the answer
As we bowed unto the Lord
He said “Well done my child,
Great is your reward”

Yes, your honor, I’m at your mercy
You can do with me
Just as you please (You can do with me Lord just as you please)
Please remember (Please remember Lord)
My testimony (My testimony)
The blood of Jesus (Oh the blood of Jesus)
Covers me

Reformation Day, Plus 496 Years

As you may or may not know, today is not only Halloween, but also the anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church at Wittenberg in Germany (Wittenberg, Saxony of the Holy Roman Empire at the time) back on October 31, 1517. His purpose was to confront the Roman Catholic church regarding practices that he felt were unbiblical, especially those pertaining to the selling of indulgences. Many consider this event to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Take a few minutes, when you have the time, and read through Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. It makes for an interesting read and it marks a major historical turning point in church history.

 

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
(commonly known as The 95 Theses)
by Dr. Martin Luther

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one’s heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
  4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.
  6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.
  7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.
  8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.
  9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.
  10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.
  11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.
  12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.
  13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.
  14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.
  16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.
  17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.
  18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.
  19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.
  20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean “all” in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope’s indulgences.
  22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.
  23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.
  24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.
  25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.
  26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).
  27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.
  28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).
  30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.
  31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.
  32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
  34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental “satisfactions” decreed merely by man.
  35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.
  36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.
  37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.
  38. Yet the pope’s remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.
  40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men’s consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.
  41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.
  42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.
  43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.
  44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.
  45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope’s pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.
  46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.
  48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.
  49. Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.
  50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.
  51. Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.
  52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.
  53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.
  55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
  59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
  60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.
  61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
  63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men.
  67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.
  68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.
  69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.
  70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.
  71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
  72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.
  73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.
  74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.
  75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.
  76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.
  77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].
  79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.
  82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
  83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?
  84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.
  85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?
  86. Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
  87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?
  88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.
  89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
  90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.
  91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.
  92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.
  93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.
  94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
  95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.

By the way… Where did the Emergency Medical Symbol Come From?

In medical circles, there are two very similar symbols that represent healing. One is known as the Caduceus. The other is the staff of Asclepius.

The Caduceus symbol, which has two snakes on a pole topped with wings, is most closely associated with the Greek god Hermes (known to Romans as Mercury).

Asclepius was most probably a skilled physician who practiced in Greece around 1200 BC (and was described in Homer’s Iliad). Eventually through myth and legend he came to be worshiped as Asclepius, the (Greek) god of Healing.

It’s the staff of Asclepius that’s most commonly used as the symbol of healing on medical emergency ID bracelets. Asclepius’ staff has only one snake, and no wings at the top, and today is the emblem of the American Medical Association.

The symbol of this staff is traced back to Moses, the man chosen by God to lead the Jewish people out of Egyptian bondage, and into the Promised Land.

In the Old Testament book of Numbers, God instructs Moses to create a pole with a serpent on it which the Lord would then use as an instrument for healing.

Numbers 21:4-9
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

Clearly, a snake bite of the kind described here was a medical emergency. The healing pole provided a quick cure, and it was probably used quite often during the period the Jews wandered in the desert. But, after Moses’ death, the Jews began to ascribe more power to the pole than to God, the one who actually supplied the healing power. The people of Israel burned incense to the pole and worshiped it, calling it Nehushtan. We learn in the Old Testament book of 2nd Kings (chapter 18) that Hezekiah, one of the few good kings of Judah who lived around 715 BC, broke Moses’ pole and destroyed the bronze serpent. God honored Hezekiah’s move to draw the people away from idol worship, and the scripture tells us that the Lord was with Hezekiah and he prospered in everything that he did.

Jesus mentions Moses and the serpent several hundred years later, as John records in chapter 3 of his account. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he (Jesus) must die to pay for the world’s moral crimes against God.

John 3:14-16
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man [Jesus] be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus was saying that just as the serpent was attached to a pole and lifted up, in which people could place their trust, Jesus was to be attached to a cross for everyone. The serpent on a pole was for everyone, but only those that placed their trust in God by looking up to the pole were healed. In the same way, Jesus’ crucifixion was for everyone, but only those who place their trust in him will benefit from it.

Placing trust in Jesus is like placing trust in the serpent. You can believe that an airplane can take you from point A to point B, but you only place your trust in it by getting on the plane. The people had to decide to look up at the snake in order to be healed, and people today must decide to accept Jesus’ payment on the cross on their behalf.

So, there you go. That’s the history of the emergency medical symbol.