2020-08-24 Who Likes Chains, Anyway?

“Now in putting everything in subjection to him,
he left nothing outside his control.”
Hebrews 2:8

For as much trouble and distracting this study on Catholicism has been for me, there has been great fruit! It is to be seen whether it will produce in terms of changed hearts, but it has provided me great joy in that it has driven me deep into the bible. There, in God’s direct communication with man, he reveals himself. There are times when everything simply clicks into place and scripture comes alive! It is in these times that joy is not only abundant, it is overwhelming!

I’ve read Hebrews many times, but this time it was way, way different. First, I was led to it by the Spirit. I just knew that I would find answers there. Second, I did some study on the background of the author. I thought it was uncertain who wrote it but that it was likely Paul who did. It’s more likely that he didn’t. Also, the letter is confusing as to who it was written to. The best explanation that I have read is by MacArthur in his commentary:

“A proper interpretation of this epistle requires the recognition that it addresses three distinct groups of Jews: (1) believers; (2) unbelievers who were intellectually convinced of the gospel; and (3) unbelievers who were attracted by the gospel and the person of Christ, but who had reached no final conviction about Him. Failure to acknowledge these groups leads to interpretations inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.”

Why was I there in the first place? Because there is this whole idea out there that salvation is conditional. In particular, I was there to see what the bible had to say about the Catholic teaching that repentance, absolution, penance, and purgatory are all requirements to step into heaven, especially since their rules were laborious yet incredibly vague. I’ll be perfectly blunt. I would prefer a lottery system than take my chances on the Catholic way.

But none of that matters anyway. Why? Because the saved cannot lose their salvation. Period. So, really, it is an exercise in futility to try make sense out of it. But we need to demonstrate just that before some will see it. So that’s what we’ll do while we compare it to scripture.

It may be helpful to compare a bit between the Old Testament priesthood to the Catholic priesthood. I’m going to use the present tense in both just to make it easier to write/read. Both are a system intended to deal with the sins of the people. Both are in a class segregated from the rest of the population with specific rights and privileges. Both conduct very specific rituals in very specific manners at very specific times. If a person sins, it will cost you something to get in good grace with God. You must do this through the priest; you can’t do it yourself. In fact, if you do, it could cost you everything. Both make sacrifices at an altar.

All this is a process repeated over and over because the people continue to sin anew every single day. In fact, there will never come a time when either won’t be necessary, as is, without the need for the ritual because mankind will never stop sinning on their own.

While it is true that all continue to sin, that doesn’t mean that the office of priest continues. Why? Because there came a priest who, unlike the other priests, didn’t need to perform the rituals for himself as well as the people. Furthermore, this new priest became the perfect sacrifice that fully satisfied the demands of God. Jesus fulfilled the Levitical priesthood. There no longer is a need for it. Therefore, there is no need for the Catholic one, either.

You see, Jesus changed all that with fulfillment through what we call the New Covenant. This one was different than the one God had with the Hebrews in the desert. That was a 2-way, conditional covenant. They needed to obey his commands to receive blessing; and if they didn’t, God would punish them. The New Covenant was much different in that it was one-way and NOT conditional. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel both wrote of it. The Book of Hebrews quotes a significant portion of it. Here’s part of it:

Hebrews 8:10-12 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

That’s what happens when someone is born again as Jesus described to Nicodemus in John 3. The whole relationship changed. Yes, the entire world is still in rebellion, but God plucks his chosen out in a one-way, UN-conditional covenant. The old system has been replaced.

Hebrews 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Look, there is no “mortal” sin that kills what God has done through the New Covenant. Jesus changed everything (exactly as planned). Catholics teach that you are condemned if you commit a “mortal” sin. Not so for those who are offspring of Abraham according to the covenant.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Do you see the difference? God changed us, to be certain, when he plucked us, and we became born again. Yet, in his wisdom, he did not make us entirely free from committing sin. Our whole outlook on sin changed, and we even sin a great deal less; but God has consigned us to struggle and suffer with what sin still tarnishes us. In that, he HELPS us. He changes us, and one day we shall be perfect like his Son. He doesn’t damn us to eternal hellfire unless we straighten ourselves out and march right.

Now, the Levitical priests were part of God’s plan but were replaced by Jesus in the New Covenant. That whole system is done. As in over. Why then, would we want to go back to it?

Hebrews 2:14-15 that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Without a doubt, the Catholic system leverages guilt, shame, and fear to force people into compliance. Doesn’t that fly in the face with Hebrews 2:15? Yes, it does. In fact, the whole thing reeks of that which Jesus intentionally replaced. It replaces truth with a lie and puts chains on people with a burden they cannot bear. I tell you; I shudder when I think of the seven woes Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees when I think of the Catholic system.

Let’s not end today’s note on that. Rather, let’s celebrate in joy over the burden Jesus has taken from us!

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The big question is whether or not you are truly in Christ, a child of God’s. If you examine your bible carefully, you will see it chocked full of warnings against false prophets, teachers, and gospels. Satan is behind them all to lure you away from the truth with his lies. Joy comes from the Lord. Burden belongs to Satan.

Father, open our eyes. Amen.

Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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