PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XXVI

Baptism had become a problem for the people, who became ill and could not be immersed. A prominent person named Novatian became very ill and could not be immersed. His case was referred to Bishop Cyprian in Carthage, Africa. So, Bishop Cyprian argued that sprinkling was as efficient as washing and immersing; and therefore, the amount of water did not diminish the “Baptism’s Power” to regenerate and to save. The eadersor Bishops accepted Cyprian’s opinion and upheld it when Novatian recovered and refused to be immersed.

The second problem with baptism concerned the children. It already had begun with Paul in Corinth. The Gentile families, who were immersed had concerns about the salvation of their children, who were not mature enough to understand the meaning of baptism. Jesus’ decision that children, without being baptized, were more eligible for the kingdom than adults, who were baptized, was not yet available to the Corinthians (Luke 18:16). Paul, with circumcision on his mind, based his conclusion that marriage was holy and instituted by God (Genesis 2:24; Exodus 2:24). What God puts together is for life, even when one partner becomes disloyal. Thus, children, even if only one partner was a Christian, the children are also sanctified and saved. The divine act of marriage sanctions the unbelieving partner and the children by the sanctified believer. This ruling of Paul became a valid ordinance for many marriages. It was a bold step for an orthodox Jew to take.

To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was any one at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God (I Corinthians 7:12-19).

HOW COMPLEX WAS JESUS’ LAST MEAL WITH HIS DISCIPLES?

We have four Gospels and the Apostle Paul. All five agree that Jesus had planed and was predestined to depart from Israel and the world during Passover, very similar to Israel’s departure from Egypt. For Jesus and “His Kingdom” to exist, He had to exit Israel, for it had become like Hagar and Egypt (Galatians 4:24-25). The Evangelist Luke, in his account of Jesus’ transfiguration, uncovered what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed. It was about Jesus’ departure (exodon) from Jerusalem. God’s Son was leaving Jerusalem for good, as Jesus had promised to the Samaritan woman (John 4:21).

Now about eight days after these sayings (he revealed himself to his disciples) he (Jesus) took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which was to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:28-31).

Luke also caught a glimpse of how Jesus felt about leaving his disciples, and how He wanted to be remembered, and what His departure (exodon) did for them;

And when the hour had come, he sat at the table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall never eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, ad when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to the saying, “This is my body. But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:14-22).

John, the Evangelist, remembered that they ate the passover in a somber mood. The disciples behaved as if they were lords. And then, they were humiliated when their Lord washed their feet, and showed them how any hearts can be won by serving and not by lording over others. Jesus told his disciple that no one could change His destiny! And that, what the betrayer was about to do, would only end in “His Glorification.” The disciples were at a loss what Jesus had tried to tell them (John 13). Compare this concept with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The Evangelists, Mark and Matthew, added their understanding of the “Last Supper” as a preparation for the “New Covenant” Jesus was setting up for the disciples in His future Kingdom. The disciples were to eat the passover until He would join them in “His Kingdom.” Jesus stressed His return. Matthew added that the blood of Christ secured forgiveness (Matthew 26:26-29).

And as they were eating, he (Jesus) took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and hey all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:22-25).

After Pentecost, the disciples and their converts continued breaking bread and praying. There is no mention of the cup or the anticipated return of Christ. The meals were held in homes and in meeting places. The meals were no memorialising Jesus, but bonding the converts together as a body and as the Church. It was Peter’s speech that brought in the members:

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles; teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breading bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:41-47).

In Corinth, Paul’s converts had turned “Communion” into a feast and as a regular party for some people. Paul used his apostolic hammer to drive home what the “Communion” represented:

For I received from the Lord what I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

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 boy eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and son have died. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another — if any one is hungry, let him eat at home — lest you come together to be condemned. About the other things I will give directions when I come (I Corinthians 11:23-34).

WHAT DID THE ROMAN CATHOLICS DO WITH COMMUNION?

Communion became literally the body and the blood of Christ. The priests only could drink the wine. The communicants were given a morsel of bread touched in wine as a sacrificial act of constant and endless repetition of temporary redemption for sinners, who did not stop transgressing. It became a big profitable business. Qualben described it as follows:

The Lord’s Supper came to be regarded, not only as a sacrament (divine assurance to man), but also as a sacrifice (act of worship toward God), and this led to the Graeco-Roman doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass. The Lord’s Supper came finally to be regarded as “an unbloody repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by the priesthood for the salvation of the living and the dead.” The consecrated elements of bread and wine were literally changed, it was believed, into the body and blood of Christ, and this body of Christ was literally offered every day and every hour upon the many altars of Christendom. Several altars were erected in the same church at which specially designated priests would say mass, or offer intercessory prayers for the living and for the dead. Toordera mass came to be regarded as a meritorious deed. Finally, the idea of the sacrifice in the Lord’s Supper completely overshadowed that of the sacrament (Qualben pp. 133-134).

AUGUSTINE TURNED CYPRIAN’S OPINIONS INTO LAW

Simple deduction called for the conclusion that what was good for Novatian was also good for infants. Hence, Saint Augustine sanctioned “Infant Baptism,” and he held up the newly formed traditions by the councils over the Scriptures. And so was that a priest’s character did not nullify his religious duties. A priest did not have to lead an exemplary life to administer the sacraments.  

Augustine experienced repentance, but forgiveness came from the hands of the clergy, and not directly through faith in Christ. Yes, Augustine had read Romans; and it made him feel guilty. However, Augustine felt that he needed a priest to release him by purchasing forgiveness, called “indulgence.” Augustine was one of the leaders who moved the “Power of God” to the Bishops of Rome with the right to save and the right to condemn man without his consent. The decisions of the Bishop of Rome became infallible. And therefore more authoritative than the Scriptures. The public was not allowed to read the Bible, and those who did and who did not recant paid with their lives.  

After Augustine had been elected Bishop of Hippo in 395, he addressed all his energy to reconciling the opposing factions. He entered the controversy on the Catholic side and declared that the character of a minister does not affect his official acts. All the acts of the Church are valid acts, though the officials may be unworthy men. The true Church is recognized by her possession of the Creed, the Sacraments, and the apostolic succession of bishops.  

He also  defined the Sacraments. Augustine’s answers and definitions gave Donatism it deathblow. The schism was outlawed in 411, and when the Vandals invaded Africa, the Donatists disappeared in the ensuing chaos.

(d) Pelagianism centered in the question: how is man saved? Three general answers were given. Pelagius ascribed the chief merit of conversion to man. Augustine gave God all the glory and made freedom the result of divine grace. He Simi-Pelagians co-ordinated the human will and the divine grace as factors in the work of salvation.

Pelagius (370?-440?), a British monk, appeared in Rome and in Africa and set forth the following views: (1) Man has no original

Sin inherited from Adam. Sin is not a fault of nature but is purely a matter of will. (2) Each person is created like Adam, with perfect freedom to do good or evil. Hence an entirely sinless life is possible, and man can save himself by his own good works. (3) Infant baptism is useless because man has no hereditary or original sin. New-born children are sinless. (4) While salvation is possible without the Law and the Gospel, or by divine grace, these grealy facilitate the attainment of salvation. Christ helps these greatly facilitate the attainment of salvation. Christ helps us by his good example, as Adam hurt us by his bad example.

Augustine appeared as the great opponent of Pelagius. He asserted: (1) Man was created in the image of God, with freedom of will. All of this Adam lost in the fall, and the character of the fallen Adam passed over to his posterity, not by way of imitation but by generation. Hence all have original sin, even new-born children. Through the fall of Adam man lost his freedom of choice in matters pertaining to salvation, which must be attributed solely to divine grace. (3) Infant baptism is necessary because new-born children have original sin which involves divine penalty. Infants dying without baptism are damned. Original sin is taken away in baptism; yet the sinful nature remains after baptism. (4) The salvation of man is attributed to grace and faith. Even faith is a work of grace. It depends solely upon the omnipotent will of God whether any ne shall will, or not will; that is, God has mercy upon some and effectually calls them while He leaves other to their merited fate.

The views of Augustine were generally accepted by the Catholic Church, while Pelagianism was condemned by the third General Council at Ephesus in 431. A few years later an attempt was made by a group called Semi-Pelagians to find a middle ground between Augustine and Pelagius, but this movement soon spent its force.

It is significant that the General Councils became the open battlefields upon which the victory of orthodoxy was decided. The growing importance attached to these General Councils and to the decisions of the Church Fathers gave additional confirmation to the old Catholic principle of tradition. The Catholic Tradition was soon co-ordinated with Scripture, and at times even placed above it as a norm for faith and conduct (Lars P. Qualben A History of the Christian Church, pages 123-125).

HOW DID THE ST. AUGUSTINE CHURCH DO?

It became the Holy Roman Empire and it ruled by absolute papal decrees, and it led to splintering of Christendom.