Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Bible in the Hands of the Common Man (According to Manalo's Iglesia ni Cristo)

It has been long rumored that Iglesia ni Cristo members are discouraged, even prohibited, by their leaders from reading the Holy Scriptures. We have a primary source that seems to point to that direction. This is from page 57 of the late Eraño Manalo's book The Fundamental Beliefs of Iglesia ni Cristo.

In page 57, this question was asked: "Why is a messenger (Felix Manalo) necessary to preach the Gospel when the Bible can just be read by anyone who knows how to read?"
Their answer: "Because the Bible is hidden in mystery"-- they're implying of course that only their messenger could see through the mysteries.

The next question asked is: "If those who are not sent by God study the Bible diligently, will they be able to understand and see God's will which he has hidden in mystery?"
The answer they gave is basically saying that you will only contribute to the confusion in religion if you will study the bible by your self. Only a messenger could handle the Bible safely.

This is directly opposite to what Evangelical Christianity we teaches: the perspicuity (clarity) of Scriptures even to the common man. For this reason, we encourage everyone to feast on reading and studying the God-breathed Scriptures.

Then in the next Q&A, they teach that if you will listen to non-INC preachers, your destiny shall be destruction. These is one of the ways cults control their people. They keep the Bible away from away from their members so they will not see the light. They can only believe what their ministers tell them. They scare them of punishment  if they dare to open their minds to other viewpoints.

This is what we ought to realize: though INC members may posture themselves as if they are knowledgeable in the Bible, the truth is they are ignorant about its message because their leaders kept the source of light away from them. May we find opportunities to bring the eternal lamp of the Holy Scriptures to these folks so that some of them may see the glory of Christ as revealed on its pages.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Original CRI Position on Justification

I watched this for the first time today but its transcript I have read a long time ago. A copy of the transcript was sent to me by the Christian Research Institute (CRI) circa 1999. The Original Bible Answer Man Dr. Walter Martin defended the Protestant position of Sola Fide against Roman Catholic position represented by Jesuit scholar Mitch Pacwa. It was then my first time to learn about the Council of Trent, the difference between imputation and infusion, and the word "justification" itself. This was CRI's position in 1999, that's 10 years after the death of its founder.

But gone are those days. The CRI lead by Hank Hanegraaff now champions the view of the Eastern Church that faith and works should not be polarized and uses James 2:24 as a proof text.

Skip John Ankerberg's long introduction. Begin at 33:30.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Treasures We Ought to Gather (Matthew 6:19-21)

A screen shot on The NIV 50th Anniversary app by Tecarta.
In the Holy Scriptures, we meet men of God who are well-to-do.

Abraham was abundant in livestock, silver and gold (Gen. 13:2). Before he was given a son, his frustration was the absence of an heir except his servant Eliezer (Gen.15:2-3).

When there was a severe famine in the land, Isaac was compelled to migrate in the land of the Philistines. There the Lord blessed his endeavors in agronomy and animal husbandry. On his first year of farming alone, his cropped yielded a hundredfold. It was like investing a hundred thousand pesos and by the end of the year, he earned a million. He grew so wealthy that the Philistines envied him. Eventually, their leader begged Isaac to move somewhere else because Isaac "have become too powerful". Perhaps they feared the great number of his servants could be transformed into a private army thus a treat to them all. (Gen. 26:12-15)

Then there was Job. After surviving the great test, he was made richer than before. He accumulated 14,000 sheep + 6,000 camels + 1,000 cows + 1,000 donkeys.

If we could spend more time going through the Scriptures, I'm sure we could find more of such servants of God who were well-to-do. I therefore conclude that one could be wealthy and godly at the same time. We can condemn the "health-and-wealth gospel" as a false teaching without demonizing those who are blessed with the skill of growing wealth.

Aside from giving us accounts of godly people who were wealthy, the Holy Bible also encourages diligence (Prov. 10:4), enterprise (Prov. 31:16), investments (Luke 19:22), and saving for future needs (Prov. 6:6-8).

But there is a kind of wealth-gathering that is harmful to our souls so Jesus instructed his audience to stop1 it. I see three things from our text:


NIV: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth... "
ESV: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..."
HCSB: “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth..."

What's common in the translations above? They all point to a self-centered kind of wealth-gathering2. Selfishness is never ever God's intention to those whom he has entrusted wealth. Rather, what he wants them to learn is to do various good deeds and to be kind to those in need (1 Tim.6:17). He also wants them to know that wealth spent on doing good unto others is never wasted for it earns better rewards in the life to come (1 Tim. 6:18).


There are two kinds of treasures in the Lord's teaching. First, are the treasures on earth. The second one is treasures in heaven. What is being corrected here is the zealous collection of the first kind of wealth without giving value to the second kind. It is a view of possessions that ignores eternal and spiritual things. It is focused only on things that are visible to the physical eyes. We will identify this as materialism: "The theory or doctrine that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life."3

Materialism is foolish because:
i. Our earthly possessions won't last forever. They could be ruined or stolen (Matt. 6:19)
ii. Upon death, we cannot bring them with us (1 Tim. 6:7)
iii. It leads to the practice of various evil deeds (1 Tim. 6:9-10)
iv. It is contrary to the very essence of the Christian faith which values unseen things above all (2 Cor. 4:18)


"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Whom are we suppose to love above all? To whom are we suppose to offer our most passionate devotion? Of course you know very well that it should be unto God. We are to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds (Matt. 22:37). But if that love and devotion is dedicated to earthly treasures, it just shows that we are offering our worship to created things, not the Creator. Preoccupation on treasures that will not last is a symptom of misplaced loved and devotion.

It is vital that we understand what the word "heart" means in 6:21. Most of the time, we understand it to mean as the muscle inside our chest that pumps blood all-over the body. But for the ancient Jew, it could mean "the center or focus of man's inner personal life. The heart is the source, or spring, of motives; the seat of the passions; the center of the thought processes; the spring of conscience.4" And this is what was intended here.

The heart is the center of our personality. It encompasses the mind, emotion, and will. The heart dictates what will come out of the mouth (Matt. 12:34-35). An evil heart moves a man to do all sorts of evil acts (Mark 7:21-22). No wonder the wise father counseled his son to guard the heart, for it is the wellspring of life. It is the starting point of all our acts (Prov. 4:23).

When Jesus said "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also", what he meant was whatever you adore above all shall control your life. D.A. Carson puts it this way: "... the most cherished treasure subtly but infallibly controls the whole person's direction and values.5" (EN5)

  • Where do you go when you have the freedom and the time?
  • What do you do when there are no restraints?
  • What do you imagine when you think nobody knows what you imagining?

All these are determined by what your heart treasures.

Sometimes we think we can give half of our hearts to the Lord, and the other half to the world. But it doesn't work that way. The heart cannot be in two places at the same time-- it can only stay at the
place where its treasure is.

So how shall I start storing treasures in heaven? The good news is this: the Lord takes notice of every good deed done in His name. We can start by taking to heart what is already here in the current chapter we are tackling. The Lord rewards...
  • publicly unknown help to the needy (Matt. 6:4)
  • publicly unknown prayer (Matt. 6:6)
  • publicly unknown fasting (Matt. 6:18)
And once he sees your deeds done in his name, he will never forget them (Heb. 6:10). They will never be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). These are the treasures we ought to gather. Go and start filling your vault in heaven.

1. Daniel Wallace observes that the grammatical construction in Matt. 6:19 "either expresses a command to stop an action already in progress or establishes a general precept". (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics; Zondervan, 1996). Charles Quarles surveyed Matthew's Gospel and concludes that Jesus intended the former nuance. He remarks "Several features in Matthew suggest that Jesus observed that His disciples were too focused on earthly treasures and that His prohibition called them to change their priorities" (see Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ's Message to the Modern Church; B&H Academic, 2011)

2. D.A. Carson, "Jesus is concerned about selfishness in misplaced values." (EBC Volume 8, 1st edition; Zondervan, 1984)

3. American Heritage Talking Dictionary (The Learning Company, 1997)

4. Owen Rupert Brandon ("Heart" in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1st edition; edited by Walter Elwell; Baker Books 1984)

5. D.A. Carson, ibid

Friday, October 21, 2016

Si Propeta Elias at ang Babaeng Balo sa Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16)

Namulot ng mga piraso ng kahoy ang babae bilang panggatong. Akala niya, minsan na lang siyang magluluto at kakain sa huling pagkakataon pagkatapos ay mamamatay na sa gutom.

Nasa abroad si mister; nasa Pilipinas si misis. Habang nag-uusap sila sa pamamagitan ng Skype isa-isang binabanggit ni misis ang mga dapat gastusan ng kanilang pamilya. Ang sagot ni mister: “Alam mo darling, minsan lang sa isang buwan ang suweldo dito.” Maliban sa iilan na labis ang kinikita, ito ang suliranin ng karamihang pamilyang Pilipino. Mahirap pagkasyahin ang budget sa dami ng gastusin: pagkain, kuryente, upa sa bahay, matrikula at baon ng mga bata, gamot ng mga maysakit, at kung anu-ano pa. Ang kahirapan sa buhay ay yumayanig sa ating pananampalataya at kung hindi mababantayan, baka tayo ay tuluyang manghina.

Ang bahagi ng kasulatan na tatalakayin sa paskil na ito hango sa buhay si Elias, isang propeta ng Diyos. Siya ay naglingkod bilang propeta sa panahong ang bansa ay nasa ilalim ng isang haring ubod ng sama, si Haring Ahab. At hindi pa siya nakuntento sa kanyang kasamaan, kumuha pa siya ng first lady na masama-- isang dayuhan na nagngangalang Jezebel. Sa ilalim ng pamumuno ng mag-asawa ay hinatak nila ang buong bansa sa kasamaan tulad ng pagsamba kina Baal at Asherah. Ito ay mailalarawan bilang conjugal reign of wickedness.

Bilang propeta ng Diyos, si Elias ang humarap sa kanya at idineklara niya ang mahabang tagtuyot: walang ulan ni hamog. Nagalit ang hari; nanganib ang buhay ni Elias. Siya ay inutusang magtago at manatili sa tabi ng isang batis. Dito pa lang ay makikita na natin ang pagtutustos ng Panginoon sa kanyang mga pangangailangan. Umaga at hapon, ang mga uwak ay inutusang maghatid ng pagkain kay Elias. Kung saan sila kumuha ng supply ay nananatiling misteryo hanggang ngayon. Doon na rin sa batis umiinom ng tubig si Elias.

Pero dahil wala ngang ulan ni hamog, natuyuan rin ang batis. Panahon na upang lumipat ng kuta. Si Elias ay ipinadala ng Panginoon sa tahanan ng isang babaeng balo at isang munting bata. Wika ni Hesus, maraming babaeng balo sa Israel sa panahon na iyon, ngunit hindi ipinadala si Elias sa kanila. Sinadya ng Diyos na pumili ng isang Hentil sa lupain ng Sidon. It was by God's sovereign choice! Puwede naman siyang pakainin ang kanyang propeta sa ibang kaparaanan. Ngunit ipininadala si Elias sa tahanan ng babaeng ito dahil may gagawin ang Diyos sa buhay ng mag-ina.

Inabutan niya ang babae na namumulot ng panggatong. Humingi ng maiinom si Elias. Pupunta na ang babaeng balo upang kumuha ng maiinom, subalit may pahabol na kahilingan ang propeta: isang piraso ng tipanay. Sagot ng niya, "Saksi si Yahweh, ang inyong buhay na Diyos na wala na kaming tinapay. Mayroon pa kaming kaunting harina at ilang patak na langis. Namumulot nga ako ng panggatong upang lutuin iyon at makakain man lamang kami ng anak ko bago kami mamatay." (v.12)

Kung kayo ay gutom at ipapadala kayo ng Panginoon sa isang pamilya, aasahan ninyo siguro na sa marangyang pamilya kayo idadako. Lumalabas dito na ang gutom na si Elias ay ipinadala ng Panginoon sa isang mag-inang dukha. Ang inaasahan ng babae, magluluto na lang siya ng minsan at huling hapunan na iyon.

Subalit nagpakita pa rin ng pananampalataya ang babae:

1. Kinilala niya na ang Diyos ni Elias , ang Diyos ng Israel bilang siyang tunay na Diyos. Wika niya: "Saksi si Yahweh, ang inyong buhay na Diyos" (v.2). Siya ay hindi naman Israelita. Iba ang kinalakihan niyang kultura at relihiyon, ngunit kumbinsido siya na ang Diyos ng Israel ay ang siyang tunay.

2. Sumunod siya sa bilin ni Elias at kinilala niya ito bilang propeta ng Diyos. " Ngunit ipagluto mo muna ako ng isang maliit na tinapay, at pagkatapos magluto ka ng para sa inyo. " (v.13). Isipin mo ang kalagayan ng babae. Kakarampot na harina na lamang ang hawak mo at biglang may susulpot na dayuhan na makikihati pa sa anong meron ka. Mahirap magbigay sa ganitong kalagayan.

Ngunit dahil kinilala na niya ang Diyos ng Israel bilang tunay na Diyos, kasunod noon ay ang pagtanggap sa propeta ni Yahweh. Ang gawaing ito ay kasiya-siya sa paningin ng Diyos (Mateo 10:41). Ipinagluto niya si Elias, dahil pinanghawakan niya ang pangako ng Panginoon sa v. 14: "Hindi ninyo mauubos ang harina sa lalagyan, at hindi rin matutuyo ang langis sa tapayan hanggang hindi sumasapit ang takdang araw na papatakin na ni Yahweh ang ulan."

Tinupad ba ng Panginoon ang kanyang pangako? Heto ang pagpapatuloy ng salaysay:
vv. 15-16 "Ginawa nga ng babae ang utos ni Elias at hindi naubos ang pagkain ni Elias at ng mag-ina sa loob ng maraming araw. Hindi nga naubos ang harina sa lalagyan, at hindi rin natuyo ang langis sa sisidlan, tulad ng sinabi ni Yahweh sa pamamagitan ni Elias."

Huwag ninyong iisipin na sa araw mismo na iyon ay biglang nagkaloon ng santambak na dami ng harina sa bahay ng babae. Huwag ninyong iisipin na bigla na lang nagkaroon ng balde-baldeng dami ng langis sa kusina. Yung dating sisidlan pa rin ng harina ang gamit nila at kung titignan mo araw-araw ay kakapiranggot lang ang laman. Yung dating sisidlan pa rin ng langis ang gamit nila at kung titignan mo araw-araw ay iilang patak lang ang laman. Maaaring ito ang araw-araw na tanong ng babae, “Meron ba kaya bukas?”. Araw-araw, napapatibay rin ang pananampalataya ng babae at ng bata.

Sa ating kalagayan, huwag nating iisipin na kailangang magbigay ng milyon-milyong pera ang Diyos para masabing pinagpala tayo. Huwag natin iisipin na kailangang puno lagi ang refrigerator bago tayo maniwalang “the Lord provides!”. Ang araw-araw na pagtutustos niya sa ating mga pangangailangan at napagkakasya natin ito ng hindi inaasahan ay sapat ng dahilan upang mamangha tayo sa kagandahang-loob niya. Ito ay kanyang paraan upang turuan ang puso natin na magtiwala.

At kung babalikan natin ang sinabi ng Panginoon, maraming babaeng balo sa Israel pero ang pinili ng Diyos padalhan ng grasya ng kaligtasan ay isang babaeng Hentil (Lucas 4:25-26). Isipin rin ninyo ang ginawa ng Panginoon sa buhay ninyo: hindi ba doon sa baranggay ninyo, maraming mga tahanan? Hindi ba marami kayong mga kapitbahay? Sa dinami-dami ng mga tao doon, iilan lang ang bilang ng mga mananampalataya.

If he has sent to your home the blessing of salvation, which is the greatest blessing of all, will you not trust him to give you the lesser blessings like food, shelter and clothing?

Romans 8:32--  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”