In Defense of the Sacraments - 02/22/2004
I have something to say on your timeline of heresy regarding the Roman Catholic Church. The dates of institution of both the Eucharist and the inclusion of the Apocryphal books of the bible are both off by more than 400 years.
Lets start with the one that hits home to me:
Every church of the 1st century was basically of the standard “basilica” or “longitudinal” floor plan with a Narthex at one end and an Apse at the other, located within the Apse is an ALTAR. Now the question arises, why would a 1st century church need an altar to God, if the Holy Eucharist was not celebrated upon it? The early Christians did not do ritual sacrifices prescribed by Moses before an Altar, so why would there be one, more importantly why would the whole church be designed around it if this altar did not hold any importance? The early Christians used common terms regarding the sacraments, such as “eating of the body” and “drinking of the blood” to appeal and to make sense to a very illiterate and superstitious audience. However, the practice of Holy Communion was still instituted by the Apostles as prescribed by Christ at the last supper. Citing some biblical evidence, Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament specifically points out the Eucharist in his first letter to the church in Corinth, Chapter 10 verses 14 – 22 : "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?"
Thus the Mass and the sacrament of the Eucharist are Biblical, as well as apostolic.
The next set of evidence is harder to prove because you cannot use scripture to justify adding to scripture. However, I can say simply that the Daily Office readings, as well as the Sunday Liturgical readings for sacramental Churches (That is the Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Charismatic Episcopal, and Charismatic Catholics among others) were set down and coordinated early in the 1000’s, and these readings include the Apocryphal Books. While this is not definitive proof, it does highly suggest that (since at the time there was only ONE church, this is 50 years before the Great Schism between east and west as well as 500 years before the Protestant Reformation) these books were in the use by the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ long before the western dictatorship known as the Papacy added them formally.
While I personally do not agree with the Non-biblical Roman Catholic Doctrine, the sacraments are of personal significance to me. Thus, I find your diminishing of them to be wrong as well as a deprivation of the life of a saint (lowercase ‘s’, means everyone). While the sacraments are not required for salvation, they are required for a rounded and Spirit-Filled life. I realize that you are going to disagree with me, citing many Protestant teachers who do not practice sacramental liturgical worship. I respond with, while there are many noted and anointed evangelists among my Protestant brothers, I find the lack of a Mass as part of worship within a church service to be unfulfilling, lacking a culmination. Reading the Word, teaching, and worship are great, but without directly partaking in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the saints go out armed, energized, and hungry…personally I would like to be fed as well. Napoleon was right when he said an army marches on its stomach, and we are the Army of God.
Your Brother in Christ Jesus,
CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:
Hi Matthew. Thanks for writing to Contender Ministries. Let me address the issue of the Apocrypha first, then return to the issue of the sacraments.
I agree that the wording in "Timeline of Heresy" might be somewhat confusing. While the Apocryphal books had been in use for quite some time, the Council at Trent formally accepted the canonicity of the Apocrypha in 1546. So the 1546 date in the "Timeline of Heresy" is correct insofar as that was the formal induction. Let's look a little bit of the history of these books. The first person to call them "Apocrypha" was Jerome. Unger's Bible Dictionary outlined some of the reasons that these books were initially excluded, and then later excluded by the Protestants"
- "They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms"
- "They teach doctrines which are false and foster practices which are at variance with inspired Scripture."
- "They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture."
Historically, there are some rather noteworthy objections to these books, and I'm not referring to any contemporary "Protestant teachers," as you mentioned in your email.
- Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 40) was an Alexandrian Jewish Philosopher who quoted the Old Testament extensively, but never quoted from the Apocrypha as inspired.
- Josephus (A.D. 30 - 100) was a Jewish historian who explicitly excluded the Apocrypha when he cited the number of the Old Testament books.
- Old Testament Scripture is quoted often in the New Testament by Jesus and the New Testament writers, yet nowhere in the hundreds of quotations of OT Scripture are any from the Apocryphal books.
- The Jewish scholars at Jamnia in A.D. 90 did not recognize the Apocrypha.
- For the first four centuries, no council of the Christian church recognized the Apocrypha as inspired.
- Many of the early church giants spoke out against the Apocrypha, including Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Athanasius.
- The translator of the Vulgate Bible (Jerome, A.D. 340-420) rejected the Apocrypha as part of the canon. He argued with Augustine on this point. After initially refusing to even translate these books into Latin, he eventually bowed to pressure and made hurried translations of a few of the Apocryphal books. After his death (literally over his dead body), the Apocryphal books were brought into his Latin Vulgate.
- Luther wasn't the only person during the reformation to object to the Apocrypha. Many Roman Catholic scholars at that time rejected the Apocrypha. That's why the Council at Trent went to the trouble of making their inclusion a matter of official canon.
So don't be deceived into thinking the rejection of the Apocrypha began with the Protestant reformation. The history of apocryphal exclusion precedes its inclusion.
Now, let's move on to the issue of sacraments. First, as a matter of housekeeping, your contention that "every church of the 1st century" was of the standard basilica type is erroneous. That was a dangerous time for Christians, and the Bible (and extra-biblical writings) shows that the first century Christians met in private homes. You're aware of this practice in modern-day China, and it was the same back then. The house-church was necessary to avoid imprisonment and death. The Book of Acts and many of the epistles refer to the Christians meeting in houses. You can also refer to page 339 of the 1994 RCC Catechism where Justin Martyr describes a mid 2nd century Sunday service - not a Mass. John Schroeder, former Catholic and author of Heresies of Catholicisim...The Apostate Church writes for us occasionally, and adds to this, "Those basilicas, by the way, were for pagan worship rituals which included animal sacrifice. After Constantine's edict of toleration in 313 AD, Christians took over many of the pagan worship facilities, including statuary (madonnas) and converted them to Christian use." Also, in reference to the mass, Mr. Schroeder points out, "There was NO SACRIFICE OF THE MASS until AFTER TRANSUBSTANTIATION was proclaimed. It was the consuming of the alleged PHYSICAL JESUS in the elements of bread and wine that turned the Mass into an alleged renewal of Christ's Calvary sacrifice."
Bear in mind, we're not opposed to communion and baptism as sacraments, for their origin is outlined clearly in Scripture. Yet the other sacraments, and the importance the RCC places on all of them, goes beyond the scope of Scripture, and actually diminishes the clear, biblical doctrine that we are all saved, sanctified, and justified by faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ. You are correct when you say that the sacraments are not necessary for salvation, but the Roman Catholic Church believes that they are. The sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Eucharist are absolutely required by the "Holy Mother Church" for one's salvation. Without Baptism, says Rome, original sin is not removed from the soul and the individual cannot enter heaven. Unless Confession (Penance) is made to a priest at least once a year throughout the individual's entire life, salvation is denied. Also, Eucharist must be received at least once every year during the "Easter Season" or the soul cannot be saved. You can freely research this on your own.
I also reject your contention that the seven sacraments "are required for a rounded and Spirit-Filled life." I have been baptized, and practice communion, as these "sacraments" are biblically grounded. The only priest to whom I confess is Jesus Christ, who is our one and only High Priest (see practically the entire book of Hebrews). Yet my spiritual life is complete. These sacraments do not impart to me a Spirit-filled life. My faith and submission to Jesus Christ enables me to lead a Spirit-filled life. While you say you find it unfulfilling to worship God apart from performance of rituals, I submit to you that my relationship with Jesus Christ is more fulfilling than I could ever imagine, simply based on my personal communion and relationship with our Great God and Savior. Paul wrote to the Romans concerning righteousness apart from the Law, and I encourage you to read the Book of Romans to reacquaint yourself with the good news of the Gospel - that we cannot earn righteousness or justification; that's His gift to us. Unlike the RCC plan of salvation, the biblical plan of salvation is much simpler and more clear. Acts 16:31 says,
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house." (KJV)
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household." (NIV)
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (NASB)
Use whatever inspired translation you wish you use, and the message is the same. We are justified by faith, not by works. I don't care if you prefer a more liturgical service to a contemporary one. What matters is that you realize that the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church are, by their own doctrines, essential in the work of salvation, and that doctrine is unbiblical. May God bless you and may the Holy Spirit show you a fulfillment that comes from relationship...not "religion."
Ben and Jennifer Rast