Forgiven by Thomas Blackshear II
Mark will be leading an Encounter With Jesus in Slidell, Louisiana tonight at 7:00pm. Click here for details on this and upcoming events on his U.S. tour.
AT a recent event, a young married Pentecostal couple approached me and said, "Because of your writings, we are becoming Catholic." I was filled with joy as we embraced one another, delighted that this brother and sister in Christ were going to experience His power and life in new and profound ways—particularly through the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist.
And so, here are two "no-brainer" reasons why Protestants should become Catholics.
IT'S IN THE BIBLE
Another evangelical has been writing me recently stating that it is not necessary to confess one's sins to another, and that he does so directly to God. Nothing wrong with that on one level. As soon as we see our sin, we should speak to God from the heart, asking His forgiveness, and then begin again, resolved to sin no more.
But according to the Bible we are to do more:
Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
The question is, to whom are we to confess? The answer is to those whom Christ gave the authority to forgive sin. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles, breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and said:
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. (John 20:23)
This was not a command to everyone, but only the Apostles, the first bishop's of the Church. Confession to the priests was practiced from the earliest times:
Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. (Acts 19:18)
Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. —Didache "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles", (c. 70 A.D.)
[Do] not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine… —Origen of Alexandria, Church Father; (c. 244 A.D.)
He who confesses his sins with a repentant heart obtains their remission from the priest. —St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Church Father, (c. 295–373 A.D.)
"When you hear a man lay bare his conscience in confessing, he has already come forth from the sepulchre," says St. Augustine (c. 354–430 A.D.) in an obvious reference to the raising of Lazarus. "But he is not yet unbound. When is he unbound? By whom is he unbound?"
Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt 18:18)
"Rightly," Augustine goes on to say, "is the loosing of sins able to be given by the Church."
Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go. (John 11:44)
I cannot say enough about the healing graces I have experienced in my encounters with Jesus in the confessional. To hear I am forgiven by Christ's appointed representative is a wonderful gift (see Confession Passé?).
And that is the point: this Sacrament is only valid in the presence of a Catholic priest. Why? Because they are the only ones who have been given the authority to do so through apostolic succession down through the centuries.
Not only do you need to hear the Lord's forgiveness pronounced, but you need to "taste and see that the Lord is good." Is it possible? Can we touch the Lord before His final coming?
Jesus called Himself the "bread of life." This He gave to the Apostles at the Last Supper when He pronounced:
"Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt 26:26-28)
It is clear from the Lord's own words that He was not being symbolic.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. John 6:55)
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
The verb "eats" used here is the Greek verb trogon which means to "munch" or "gnaw" as if to emphasize the literal reality Christ was presenting.
It is clear that St. Paul understood the significance of this Divine Meal:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (I Cor 11:27-30).
Jesus said that whoever eats this Bread has eternal life!
The Israelites were commanded to eat an unblemished lamb and place its blood upon their doorposts. In this way, they were spared from the angel of death. So too, we are to eat the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). In this meal, we too are spared from eternal death.
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. (John 6:5)
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire His blood, which is love incorruptible. —St. Ignatius of Antioch, Church Father, Letter to the Romans 7:3 (c. 110 A.D.)
We call this food Eucharist… For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that Jesus incarnated. —St. Justin Martyr, first apology in defense of Christians, n. 66, (c. 100 - 165 A.D.)
Scripture is clear. The tradition of Christianity from the earliest centuries is unchanged. Confession and the Eucharist remain the most tangible and powerful means of healing and grace. They fulfill Christ's promise to remain with us until the end of the age.
What then, dear Protestant, is keeping you away? Is it the priest scandals? Peter was a scandal too! Is it the sinfulness of certain clergy? They need salvation also! Is it the rituals and traditions of the Mass? What family doesn't have traditions? Is it the icons and statues? What family does not keep pictures of their loved ones nearby? Is it the papacy? What family does not have a father?
Two reasons to become Catholic: Confession and the Eucharist—both of them given to us by Jesus. If you believe in the Bible, you must believe in all of it.
If anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city described in this book. (Rev 22:19)