We are all, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, first and foremost, are men and women who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. By and large, we share the same beliefs and observations with each other , but foundational to our beliefs is that the Bible is the inspired, error-free, and revealed word of God. It’s the interpretation of what the Word says that divides us. This summer we care for Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant believers at our camp—an all that profess that Jesus is Lord worship the risen Christ.
But today, with the Bible as the ultimate authority, combined with the reasoning minds that God has bestowed on each of us, consider first what God Himself, has said through the Son:
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58, NIV). Is this true? Did He really say this? Some of those following Jesus stopped following Him after he pronounced this condition to eternal life.
Yes, He said it and either He meant it literally——i.e. that somehow we have to become cannibals and eat His body and drink His blood——which He obviously could not have meant— or He meant something else—-i.e. it’s symbolic of His body and blood or somehow, when blessed, the elements of the bread and wine take on the substance of His body and blood. And somehow, we see that this makes us acceptable to God. This is why all Christians celebrate communion, aka the Lord’s Supper. Catholics believe that you must take communion, if you are physically able, if you want to be inherit eternal life. They believe that God will make an exception for you if you cannot receive it, but you must take it at each Mass if you are able. Evangelicals believe we have received His body and blood when we accept Him into our lives, and that the Lord’s Supper references this and reminds us of this each time we celebrate communion.
Next, there is the idea of doing “good works”. Protestant focus on faith alone for salvation, not on works, but Catholics and Orthodox Christians would say yes, faith alone, but, they would point out, faith is is shown through charity and good works. So if you have faith, you will do good works, and if you don’t, you don’t have faith. Protestants believe that faith alone, apart from works justifies the sinner, based on the blood of Christ completely.
I hope that you can see the difference, as well as why some folks come to difference conclusion, Frankly I wonder about the integrity of some that profess to be born from above but perform no acts of kindness or charity, and seemingly have no compassion on widows, the poor, orphans, human suffering, etc.
Similarly, if you are born from above, you understood when you made that decision to declare: “Jesus is Lord”, that you were also prepared to make Him Lord of your own life. Have you? It’s not a matter of getting saved to “bless God” and make heaven a more exciting place, that’s a backward means of seeing your salvation. There are requirements to being born again: first, to confess who Jesus is—the Lord God Almighty; next is to believe in Who sent Him and what He came to do; and the third is to yield to Him—-and we Protestants often leave off the last condition. Are you yielded to Him. Do you call Him Lord? If so, here are things recorded in God’s Holy Word that you should be doing:
Going to church on Sundays. Do you? It is essential for our growth and for us to complete the task He places upon us. It does not make you into a Christian, it’s confirmation that you were serious about your conversation and that His Holy Spirit is within you. You should be yearning for Christian fellowship and growth.
Submitting to church discipline. This is the greatest loss, in my opinion, that followed the Reformation. With the disillusion of one holy church came the removal of any means of effective discipline. Before the reformation, the sexually immoral, or a gossiper or liar could have himself or herself removed from fellowship until they repented and resolved to amend their ways. But now, no matter what I do, I can simply find another fellowship that’s quite happy to accept my tithe and my presence in their morning worship, should a fellowship have the courage to confront me about my errors.
Giving and tithing. There’s no doubt that Christ and the apostles expected all the redeemed to give. The tithe, 10% of my earnings, was the threshold—-the beginning—-the least expected. Do you tithe? If you are not what excuse do you offer to God? Giving does not get us to heaven—-it’s a symbol of our faith that God has blessed us and will bless us even more if we generous with others.
Communion. The Bible does not say how often, but it does say, “as often as you come together…” Neither the gospels nor the epistle to the Corinthians give us a command as to how often to celebrate communion. All we find is, “do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Jesus never gave us a command as to how often we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. However, we do find in the book of Acts the early church apparently celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.
“And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” (NASB) Acts 20:7
Baptism. All branches of the Christian faith maintain that a believer, who is physically able, should be baptized—-symbolic or putting to death the old life and being resurrected to the new life. It represents the natural man or woman being replaced with a brand new existence.
The common thinking is that good folks go to heaven and bad folks go to hell. But Jesus turned the tables on such thinking. Truly, heaven is bad people, like me, that know how bad they are and how desperate they are for a merciful Savior to do for us what we cannot do for our selves. Hell, on the other hand, may very well be filled with people that are, compared to me, quite “good”, but far removed from what is required for an eternity with God in heaven. Those people who are “good” in their own eyes probably don’t seek a Savior or think they could possibly end up in hell. Perhaps this is why pride has always been considered the most egregious of all sins.