So as promised, this week’s post is about verses that had been “glossed over” when I was a Protestant. Now to before I started listing these, I should preface my intent a little bit.
In putting forth these verses, I am not doing these things:
- Proof texting-saying this one verse proves something wrong and the Catholic Church right in its teaching.
- Saying that Protestants reject these verses outright as non-authoritative.
- Saying that the Bible contradicts itself.
My intent here is to put forth verses that I have stumbled across in the past year or so, that I had never heard answers to at school, bible study, or church growing up. And it is not that they were never read or hidden (through high school we read all of the New Testament and most of the Old), but that these were never expounded on or explained, regardless of the glaring necessity that they be addressed to justify a Protestant understanding of scripture. So…here we go.
James 2:24 (teased last week)
James always presents a sticky situation for those who want to say that we are saved by faith alone. Its argument is typically summed up in verse 26 “faith without works is dead” In a general sense this passage is typically explained to me that James is saying we are still saved by faith alone, but that works are natural consequence of a living faith. Thus works show faith, but have no inherent, saving merit to them.
Ok…I get that justification of faith alone to verse 26, but the part that I never saw before this year was verse 24 which goes as follows, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” ……..What?! It should be also noted that this is the only passage in the entirety of scripture where the phrase “faith alone” (Sola Fide) appears. Now note that this passage does not say that we are justified by works alone and not faith at all (as my Foundations of Christian Thought professor rebuked me this week), but rather simply states that our justification is not attributed to only faith, but to works as well. This verse and the ones surrounding (21 and 25 in particular) demand answers to justify the idea that our work has nothing to do with our justification/righteousness.
1 Peter 3:21 and John 3:5
Now ok, I know this isn’t a strictly Protestant/Catholic divide, but the way I was raised and was baptized was with the understanding that baptism is a symbol of being saved or a public proclamation of faith in Christ. Even within Protestantism this is disputed and even Luther would have disagreed with my old church’s stance, but I’m refuting the teachings of my past here so I will proceed.
The verse in 1 Peter goes, “This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.” In John, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
Ok if somehow baptism is just a symbol that has no eternal significance, then I am confused how these verses could be reconciled realistically. These verses demand answers since they are clearly talking about a physical baptism in real water and not some abstract.
Communion is also a pretty big distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism, disagreeing on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist or simply a symbol from the Passion Week. Growing, I always had this feeling that this couldn’t just be a symbol and had to have something more to it. But that was just a hunch.
John 6:53 says, “So Jesus said to them, ‘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.'” Now this seems pretty drastic, and if you read the context, Jesus says to portray the severity of what he is saying. If he was trying to be symbolic or metaphorical, he has three chances in this passage to retract his controversial statements.
How a merely symbolic or nonessential view of Communion (Eucharist) can be held in light of this passage truly perplexes me.
On this topic of Communion, we can also look to the persecution of the Early Christians. One of the main accusations in the Roman courts was that Christians were cannibals, because of their abominations in the Eucharist. Now it would be bad reasoning to say that because we don’t have any documents where they pleaded, “No, it’s just a symbol!!” means that they never did. But nevertheless, we don’t have much to say that the first Christians believed that they were partaking in the real body and blood of Christ through Communion.
…but the point here is to focus on Scripture, whoops.
1 Corinthians 3:15
Now this is a verse that that doesn’t really prove a specific point, but it certainly raises questions and was never addressed in my learning of Corinthians.
It goes, “But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”
A lot of Catholic apologists point here to “prove” the concept of Purgatory. I think that’s not really a solid argument from what this verse says alone. But nevertheless, I think this verse does raise a good point, both in the discussion of the role of works and of what salvation looks like. This verse is in a passage talking about us as believers building on Christ, our one and only foundation. This “being saved, but only as through fire” language certainly rings familiar to Purgatory. I would love to here a satisfactory Protestant interpretation of this verse.
There are more verses that I have stumbled across and wondered why they are never addressed, but these few I think are the most important ones to bring to conversation.
Again if any reader has a topic they’d like to hear me write about, don’t hesitate to submit a question in the comments.
Peace be with you!