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Jay

Can someone exegete this passage for me in a nutshell? Thx

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Ezekiel 33King James Version (KJV)

 

33 Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

 

2 Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:

 

3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;

 

4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.

 

5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

 

6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.

 

7 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.

 

8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

 

9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

 

12 Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.

 

13 When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.

 

14 Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;

 

15 If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.

 

16 None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

 

17 Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.

 

18 When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.

 

19 But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.

 

20 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.

 

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an easier to read traslation for a start ...

 

Ezekiel 33:1-20 NLT

 

Ezekiel as Israel’s Watchman

 

1 Once again a message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman. 3 When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. 4 Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. 5 They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives. 6 But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’

 

7 “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. 8 If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 9 But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.

 

 

The Watchman’s Message

 

10 “Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: You are saying, ‘Our sins are heavy upon us; we are wasting away! How can we survive?’ 11 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?

 

12 “Son of man, give your people this message: The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins. 13 When I tell righteous people that they will live, but then they sin, expecting their past righteousness to save them, then none of their righteous acts will be remembered. I will destroy them for their sins. 14 And suppose I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right. 15 For instance, they might give back a debtor’s security, return what they have stolen, and obey my life-giving laws, no longer doing what is evil. If they do this, then they will surely live and not die. 16 None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live.

 

17 “Your people are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right,’ but it is they who are not doing what’s right. 18 For again I say, when righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and turn to evil, they will die. 19 But if wicked people turn from their wickedness and do what is just and right, they will live. 20 O people of Israel, you are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right.’ But I judge each of you according to your deeds.”

 

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Commentary from David Guzik

 

A. Ezekiel the watchman.

 

1. (Eze 33:1-6) The principle of the watchman.

 

Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’

 

a. When I bring a sword upon a land: This establishes the context for all what Ezekiel wrote regarding the watchman. As spoken before in Ezekiel chapter 3:16-27, the image of the watchman has the context of warning of God’s soon approaching judgment. Ezekiel’s role as a watchman was connected to when he sees the sword coming upon the land.

 

i. There are many who consider themselves watchmen to the people of God today. They watch carefully and look for signs of error or apostasy. There is always a place for those to do what Ezekiel was called to do as a watchman – to discern that God’s judgment was coming soon and to warn the people. Yet many who consider themselves modern “watchmen” focus on the examination of supposed error more than the proclamation of God’s truth. This is a distortion of Ezekiel’s calling as a watchman.

 

ii. Another way this modern office of watchman may distort the Biblical idea is by untruthful or unfair examination of others in search of error or apostasy. If a watchman alerts people to dangers but does not give an honest and fair report, then he will not be believed when they warn of a genuine danger.

 

iii. The watchman section of Ezekiel 3:16-21 had to do with Ezekiel’s private call to prophetic ministry. This section has to do with his public ministry. “This message is public. It has the nature of an apologia, whose aim is to clarify once and for all Ezekiel’s prophetic self-consciousness before his people.” (Block)

 

b. If he blows the trumpet and warns the people: When the judgment of God came upon the land and especially to correct God’s people, the watchman had a sacred responsibility to warn the people. If he did, then if any did not heed the warning, his blood was upon himself. This was great assurance to Ezekiel and Jeremiah, because they warned many and few listened.

 

i. “The watchman concept explains in a sense why Ezekiel had to predict so much concerning judgment, and why his earlier messages were warnings.” (Feinberg)

 

ii. Blows the trumpet: One might have many complaints about the one who sounds the trumpet. He blows it too hard or too soft, too long or too short, with too much feeling or not enough. We may complain that the trumpet is out of tune or that we have many times heard better trumpets. But when an army approaches, the trumpet sound itself is enough. Those who know the judgment of God is on the way are grateful for the warning, even if it doesn’t come in the most pleasing way.

 

iii. Blows the trumpet: “Because the number of notes that could be produced on the shopar was limited, it was used primarily as a signaling instrument for cultic observances, and especially in military contexts to call troops to arms (Judges 3:27; 6:34; Nehemiah 4:18–20), signal retreat (2 Samuel 8:16), proclaim victory (1 Samuel 13:3), announce the disbanding of the army (2 Samuel 20:1, 22), even terrify the enemy (Judges 7:8, 16–22). Indeed, the shopar became a symbol of war itself, being used, as in our text, to signal impending attack or doom.” (Block)

 

c. He who takes warning will save his life: When the judgment of God comes upon the land, the only preservation is in hearing the warning of the watchman and responding properly.

 

d. If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet: If the watchman did not warn the people about God’s judgment, then the blood of those who perish would be held against the watchman.

 

i. “Once the warning was sounded, the watchman would have delivered his soul and be free of the guilt of bringing about the death of his countryman. In the spiritual realm this was the confidence of Paul in Acts 20:26.” (Feinberg)

 

2. (Eze 33:7-9) Ezekiel the watchman.

 

“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

 

a. I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me: The watchman did not gain his knowledge by studying the armies of the Babylonian empire, or by looking at the false prophets among God’s people at that time. Ezekiel heard form God that judgment was coming soon, and had to announce it.

 

i. “The danger which the prophet has to warn his people about is the threat of judgment by the word of the Lord.” (Taylor)

 

b. O wicked man, you shall surely die! This was the general message of Ezekiel (and Jeremiah), though in general they brought the message to Jerusalem and to the kingdom of Israel more than to specific individuals.

 

c. If you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way: If the watchman faithfully delivered his message, then the response of the one he warned was the responsibility of the one who heard it. It could be said to the watchman, you have delivered your soul.

 

B. The fairness of God’s judgments.

 

1. (Eze 33:10-11) God’s judgment is fair because He takes no special pleasure in it.

 

“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?”’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

 

a. If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live? This was an accusing question raised against the fairness of God’s judgment. The idea was that God was happy to make His judgment so severe that it left no room for His people to repent.

 

i. If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us: “The better rendering, Truly our transgressions and our sins are upon us (RV mg.), suggests both a deep conviction of sin and an overwhelming feeling of despair.” (Taylor)

 

ii. “For the first time they admit their own guilt as the cause of their suffering. But is this confession repentance? In view of the prophet’s response, it seems to be little more than a cry of pain.” (Block)

 

iii. Pine away: “Some of the Jews were now feeling the pain of their sins like a heavy weight on their shoulders, and day after day were “wearing away.” However, this feeling of remorse fell far short of real repentance.” (Wiersbe)

 

b. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: God responded to the accusing question of His people by declaring a basic principle about His nature and dealings with humanity. God takes no special pleasure in the death of the wicked. God’s heart is for people to repent, to turn from their way and live. God is not sadistic and cruel, making repentance impossible because He loves to see humanity suffer.

 

i. “Since a way of survival has been announced, why then should the people die? Quoting Eze 18:31 verbatim, he highlights how needless their death is. Yahweh’s plea for repentance is a call to life! Death is not inevitable.” (Block)

 

ii. The fact that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked does not mean that it will not happen. God’s general desire for all humanity is that they would repent, turn to Him and be saved; yet He will not spare the requirements of justice and holiness for those who refuse to turn to Him.

 

iii. It is especially important to understand these statements in their context; that Ezekiel spoke this regarding the judgment to come upon Judah and Jerusalem in this life, and not in first reference to eternal judgment. Nevertheless, since this principle is so rooted in God’s character, it applies to God’s eternal judgments. God is not “happy” when people choose hell; His general desire for all humanity is that they would repent, turn to Him and be saved.

 

c. Turn, turn from your evil ways! This communicates the desire, even the pleasure of God. The Lord’s longing is that men and women would choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) and not death. God wanted Israel to live and not die. The question, why should you die, O house of Israel, means that they didn’t have to perish in the coming judgment.

 

i. “‘Turn ye, turn ye,’ says the text, twice over. It is earnest, emphatic, importunate. ‘Turn ye, turn ye.’ It looks as if it had been wetted with tears, or as if a sigh and a groan were in the very sound of it.” (Spurgeon)

 

ii. “In verse 11 appears a beautiful blending of compassion with the demands of God’s holiness, exhibiting both a yearning and a tenderness on God’s part toward Israel. Should death issue as a consequence, it would be the result of their own will and not God’s. Repentance and forgiveness were available to all.” (Feinberg)

 

iii. Why should you die: “I remember a powerful preacher once finishing a sermon which God had helped him to deliver with extraordinary force, by turning to his congregation and asking, ‘Why will ye die?’ Then he paused and continued, ‘What reason have you; what motive, what argument, what apologies, what excuses? Why will ye die?’ Then he stopped a moment, and said, ‘Why will ye die? Why will ye? Why this desperate resolve? Why this firmness? You vacillate elsewhere; why be so obstinate here? Why will you? Why is your heart set fast like iron?’” (Spurgeon)

 

2. (Eze 33:12-16) The principle of the changed life.

 

“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’ When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. Again, when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

 

a. The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: God told Ezekiel to speak to another accusing objection from the people of God. This was an accusation based in fatalism, which basically said: the good are good and the bad are bad and nothing can be done about it. To answer that objection, God reminded all that every righteous man could end up with a life dominated by his transgression. His prior righteousness would not rescue him on the day of God’s judgment.

 

i. “The Jews debated with Ezekiel and affirmed that God wasn’t being fair and that His ways were unequal. This response in itself proved that they had not really repented, because repentant sinners don’t argue with God’s Word.” (Wiersbe)

 

b. As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness: On the same principle, someone who lived a prior life of wickedness was not pre-ordained to continue that way. They could turn and be spared in the season of God’s judgment.

 

c. When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness: No one is so righteous that they cannot fall into great error and danger if they were to trust in their own righteousness instead of God and His mercy. To do so may mean to have all of one’s righteous works account for nothing before God, and he shall die. The same principle worked in reverse for the wicked. In both cases, if God pronounced “he shall surely live” to the righteous or “you shall surely die” to the wicked, neither was an irrevocable or irreversible pronouncement.

 

i. “Wicked men sometimes do repent, and consequently reap the reward. Righteous men do sometimes backslide and then pay the price.” (Smith)

 

ii. “Verse 13 does not mean to say that the godly man forfeits his salvation by committing sin: it has nothing to do with the early church’s fear of post-baptismal sin or with more recent issues of ‘once saved, always saved’. It simply states in reverse the principle of individual responsibility.” (Taylor)

 

d. If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen: Again, the point is clear. God does not want us to regard human destiny as fatalistically determined by a person’s past, either for good or evil.

 

i. Trapp on none of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him: “This is point blank against the doctrine of purgatory.”

 

3. (Eze 33:17-20) Unfairness found with Israel, not God.

 

“Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you according to his own ways.”

 

a. The way of the Lord is not fair: This was another accusation against God and His prophets. When Ezekiel and others announced God’s coming judgment, some responded by questioning the fairness of it.

 

i. “The complaint of the people that the way of the Lord is not equal (AV, RV) or just (RSV) uses an unusual metaphor taken from weighing in scales. The verb means literally ‘is not adjusted to the right standard’, which is the action of a dishonest salesman.” (Taylor)

 

b. But it is their way which is not fair! God boldly replied to their accusation. God was entirely fair; it was the children of your people who unfairly looked to fate or the past to determine a person’s destiny.

 

c. When the righteous turns from his righteousness…when the wicked turns from his wickedness: Yet as in the previous verses, God declared that man is not fatalistically bound to his past, either the righteous or the wicked.

 

d. I will judge every one of you according to his own ways: This was God’s standard of judgment, and it was (and is) entirely fair. It was fair under the old covenant, which was greatly based on works. It is also (in another sense) fair under the new covenant, where a person’s faith is proved to be real by their works (James 2:14-17).

 

 

**********

 

Because I always like at least 2 opinions, here is a link to the Commentary of Matthew Henry

[h=4]and a link to the Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET (which has some interesting stuff not found elsewhere)[/h]

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So if you want it in a nutshell ...

 

 

Ezekiel is the watchman.

 

(Eze 33:1-6)

As spoken before in Ezekiel chapter 3:16-27, the image of the watchman has the context of warning of God’s soon approaching judgment. Ezekiel’s role as a watchman was connected to when he sees the sword coming upon the land.

When the judgment of God came upon the land and especially to correct God’s people, the watchman had a sacred responsibility to warn the people. If he did, then if any did not heed the warning, his blood was upon himself. This was great assurance to Ezekiel and Jeremiah, because they warned many and few listened.

When the judgment of God comes upon the land, the only preservation is in hearing the warning of the watchman and responding properly.

If the watchman did not warn the people about God’s judgment, then the blood of those who perish would be held against the watchman.

 

(Eze 33:7-9)

The watchman did not gain his knowledge by studying the armies of the Babylonian empire, or by looking at the false prophets among God’s people at that time. Ezekiel heard form God that judgment was coming soon, and had to announce it.

This was the general message of Ezekiel (and Jeremiah), though in general they brought the message to Jerusalem and to the kingdom of Israel more than to specific individuals.

If the watchman faithfully delivered his message, then the response of the one he warned was the responsibility of the one who heard it. It could be said to the watchman, you have delivered your soul.

 

 

The fairness of God’s judgments.

 

(Eze 33:10-11) God’s judgment is fair because He takes no special pleasure in it.

This was an accusing question raised against the fairness of God’s judgment. The idea was that God was happy to make His judgment so severe that it left no room for His people to repent.

God responded to the accusing question of His people by declaring a basic principle about His nature and dealings with humanity. God takes no special pleasure in the death of the wicked. God’s heart is for people to repent, to turn from their way and live. God is not sadistic and cruel, making repentance impossible because He loves to see humanity suffer.

This communicates the desire, even the pleasure of God. The Lord’s longing is that men and women would choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) and not death. God wanted Israel to live and not die. The question, why should you die, O house of Israel, means that they didn’t have to perish in the coming judgment.

 

(Eze 33:12-16) The principle of the changed life.

God told Ezekiel to speak to another accusing objection from the people of God. This was an accusation based in fatalism, which basically said: the good are good and the bad are bad and nothing can be done about it. To answer that objection, God reminded all that every righteous man could end up with a life dominated by his transgression. His prior righteousness would not rescue him on the day of God’s judgment.

On the same principle, someone who lived a prior life of wickedness was not pre-ordained to continue that way. They could turn and be spared in the season of God’s judgment.

No one is so righteous that they cannot fall into great error and danger if they were to trust in their own righteousness instead of God and His mercy. To do so may mean to have all of one’s righteous works account for nothing before God, and he shall die. The same principle worked in reverse for the wicked. In both cases, if God pronounced “he shall surely live” to the righteous or “you shall surely die” to the wicked, neither was an irrevocable or irreversible pronouncement.

Again, the point is clear. God does not want us to regard human destiny as fatalistically determined by a person’s past, either for good or evil.

 

(Eze 33:17-20) Unfairness found with Israel, not God.

This was another accusation against God and His prophets. When Ezekiel and others announced God’s coming judgment, some responded by questioning the fairness of it.

God boldly replied to their accusation. God was entirely fair; it was the children of your people who unfairly looked to fate or the past to determine a person’s destiny.

Yet as in the previous verses, God declared that man is not fatalistically bound to his past, either the righteous or the wicked.

This was God’s standard of judgment, and it was (and is) entirely fair. It was fair under the old covenant, which was greatly based on works. It is also (in another sense) fair under the new covenant, where a person’s faith is proved to be real by their works (James 2:14-17).

 

[i hope that helps you.]

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The church is not exclusive to Gentiles, Jews, Greeks, Romans, those in the East, or those in the West. The church that Christ built is universal, or “catholic.”   However, there was an institutional arm of the catholic church that eventually became known as the Roman Catholic church, complete with its own hierarchy, doctrines, and liturgical distinctives. The type of institutionalization that eventually characterized the Roman Catholic church is one of the major issues the Protestants battled against, believing that it had corrupted the catholic church to the core, even obscuring the Gospel itself. We now call it the Roman Catholic church due to its identification with the “seat of Rome.” This seat, according to the Roman Catholics, is the perpetual seat of ultimate authority that Peter passed on. It is known today as the papacy, which is the office of the Pope. The Pope sits in the seat of Rome, having the infallible authority to guide and direct the church in matters of faith and practice. He, along with the magisterium, form the institution and can, through “ordinary” or “extraordinary” means, intervene in church life and doctrine in a binding way. If a heresy arises in the church, the institution can condemn it, thus securing the faith of the church. Intervention rarely takes place (though this is debated), but this infallible safeguard can theoretically step in at any time and protect the church from corruption.   How did this come into being? Protestants are right to point out that this institution is not biblical. If this is the truth, and this system is not biblical, how did such an institution come into being?   The answer is very complex, but let me attempt to give you a bird’s eye view by means of some charts!   Apostolic Succession [ATTACH=CONFIG]n2842[/ATTACH]   First, let’s get introduced to a concept called “apostolic succession.” This is not simply a Roman Catholic concept. As we will see, in its uncorrupted and ideal state, apostolic succession is very important for the church, Roman Catholic or not. Notice the chart. It starts with Jesus. Jesus handed his teaching over to twelve Apostles. The Apostles were authorities in the early church. When they spoke, people listened. Why? Because they were trained by Christ. They were witnesses of his death, burial, and resurrection. They carried unique authority in the establishment of the church.   So far, so good? Protestants and Catholics agree to this point. The next step is that the Apostles passed on their faith to others. Easy enough. The Apostles commissioned others to be leaders and authorities in the church. They handed over the faith to followers, like Timothy, who were approved in both their life and teaching. This created a succession of faith and teaching. They would often call this “laying on of hands.” With this “system” in place, the church maintained a safeguard against rogue expressions of the Christian faith. This is why Paul warned about commissioning people too hastily (1 Tim. 5:22).   Again, to this point both Protestants and Catholics agree. We need to pass on the faith. We need to commission others that have been approved. There needs to be accountability. However, the departure comes when we begin to define not only what this succession of authority is, but what it does. Again, we agree that it is the duty of the church to pass on the faith once for all handed to the saints (Jude 3). We agree that the church is the “pillar of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). We also agree that all in this succession are saints and a part of the church. However, Catholics believe that in order for this succession to be valid, it has to be seen as primarily a succession in person. Protestants, on the other hand, believe that the primary issue involved it is a succession in teaching, doctrine, and practice. Therefore, Roman Catholics focus on the one to whom the succession is given, while Protestants focus on the teaching and doctrine itself, believing that the person who receives the succession is instrumental, not integral.   Therefore, in essence, for the Roman Catholic, the persons in succession define the Gospel and make up the institutional church which presides over the Gospel. Hence, Catholics have the Pope and the magisterium of bishops (as represented by the fellows in the graph that follow the apostles). For the Protestant, on the other hand, it is the other way around. Only to the degree that the person is in succession with right teaching are they in apostolic succession. A hasty “laying on of hands” is possible, and can damage both the doctrine and reputation of the church.   This is why Protestants are continually going back to the source – the Bible – for final authority (sola Scriptura) and why Roman Catholics are continually going to the institution for final authority.   But there is one more way in which the chasm is further widened between Roman Catholics and Protestants with regard to the issue of apostolic succession. For the Roman Catholic, in order for this institution to have ultimate authority, it must possess the gift of infallibility. For the Protestant, the person upon whom the hands are laid (along with the institution, which is made up of a bunch of fellas upon whom hands have been laid) is fallible. Only the Apostles’ teaching is not. For the Protestant, apostolic succession is a safeguard to the Gospel, but it must be continually tested by the Scriptures.   So both believe in “Apostolic succession” and have some similarities in their understanding and rationale for Apostolic succession.   Regula Fide [ATTACH=CONFIG]n2843[/ATTACH]   The next component which characterizes both Roman Catholics and Protestants is the idea of the regula fide (though it is much more central for Roman Catholicism). This literally means “rule of faith.” In essence, the rule of faith was the unwritten tradition which summarized the orthodox understanding which is found both in the Scriptures and the apostolic succession of the church. This is expressed through the creeds, confessions, and traditions that are passed from generation to generation. Because Scripture is the final authority, individual interpretation is not the final authority. We interpret the Bible in and with the church. When doctrine is established, it is not established with an individual, his Bible, and the Holy Spirit, but with an individual, his Bible, and the Holy Spirit who is at work both through the individual and the historic body of Christ represented through apostolic succession.   The idea of the regula fide is organic, but was articulated through events and controversy in history. When someone in the church would propose an interpretation of the Bible, his or her interpretation was tested against the Scripture itself and against how Christians have always interpreted Scripture. So, for instance, if someone came to the church and began to teach that Christ was created, not eternal, this doctrine would be tested first according to the Scripture. Then it would be tested according to the regula fide by asking the question, “What has the church always taught about Christ?” So, not only does the Bible deny that Christ is a created being, but the church, having its teachings handed down since the time of the Apostles, has always interpreted the Bible as teaching that Christ is eternal as the Father is eternal. We find evidence of this through the early church fathers and the great Creeds of the church.   Again, so far so good. Roman Catholics and Protestants agree. Where we part ways is when we begin to define the authority of this unwritten tradition called the regula fide. The Roman Catholic church believes that this tradition is infallible. Protestants believe that it is only infallible to the degree that it rightly represents the Scriptures. Therefore, the regula fide, while serving as a safeguard for doctrine, needs a safeguard itself.   Both of these ideas, apostolic succession and the regula fide, have the same goal for both Protestants and Roman Catholics: to protect the faith once for all handed to the saints. However, the Roman Catholic church, having all the right intentions, believes that these safeguards must be infallible in order to be effective.   The Rise of Rome   This is where history takes an interesting and definitive turn. It is not unlike our desire to protect our children. There are two extremes. One extreme locks the children up in the house and thows away the key in order to protect them from all harm (like I am tempted to do!). Nothing wrong with the intentions here. The other extreme lets their children run wild, believing they have to learn the ways of the world in order to learn to protect themselves. Again, intentions good. As the church began to face more and more dangers, as doctrine was continually manipulated, as teachings that did not fall in line with Scripture or the church’s historic interpretation of Scripture were put forth, the church began to institutionalize itself. In other words, we brought all the children in the house and locked the door. This is what it looked like: [ATTACH=CONFIG]n2844[/ATTACH]   Now we have a shut door. Behind that shut door is both the Bible and the regula fide (unwritten tradition). Guarding the door is a representative of the now-institutionalized church. This representative is a successor of the Apostles. In the Roman Catholic system, the ultimate guard is the Pope (the successor of Peter). He holds the keys to the door. The Scripture is infallible. The regula fide is infallible. And, now, the representative guard is infallible. The people on the outside must go through him (the institution) in order to access the doctrines of the church.   But notice (and this is important), while the institution of the church was protecting both the Bible and the regula fide (unwritten tradition), the regula fide was also protecting the Bible. So there were two layers of authority standing between the people and the Bible.   While we Protestants would begin to protest here, we still understand why this situation arose. Who of us does not understand and sympathize with the mentality to bring all the kids in the house and lock the door? Yes, it may be wrong. Yes, it may be extreme. Yes, it may lack faith in God. But it makes sense.   Where things really go wrong is when infallibility is invoked upon the guardian. To say that he is right is one thing. To say that he is infallibly right, in order to curtail any rebellion, is another.   Once the church is institutionalized in such a way, understandable or not, corruption of its most fundamental beliefs becomes a serious danger. And this is the turn the church took in the later middle ages. Here is another chart (!): [ATTACH=CONFIG]n2845[/ATTACH]   The regula fide, because it is unwritten, is easy to abuse. The Scripture is not. And this is what happened in church history. The institution of the church (now quickly on its way to becoming the Roman Catholic church) began to expand on the regula fide, moving it from a summary of the essentials to requirements of non-essentials (notice the chart). Everything from liturgy to doctrine were added. What started as a small confession of Christian doctrine, as represented by the likes of the Nicene Creed (325) and the Statement of Chalcedon (451), became full catechisms, with infallible requirements of doctrines and practices that fell well outside of the regula fide and far outside the bounds of Scripture itself. Now included in this unwritten tradition were non-essential doctrines concerning the mother of Jesus, celibacy in the priesthood, how one is to break the bread in the Lord’s supper, and a thousand other things. The unwritten traditions that were meant to preserve the essence of the Christian faith had developed to such a degree that one could not even see the Christian faith. The essence, which was important before, took on a secondary status to the authority of the institution. In the midst of this, the Gospel began to be obscured to such a degree that a major reformation was needed.   Conclusion   I think that we can all understand and empathize with the rise of Rome. While I seriously disagree with the “lock the doors, don’t let the kids out, and mom and dad are infallible” approach, I know why it happened. In fact, being a chapter in the history of the catholic church, it is a part of my history. However, in the Reformation, the door was unlocked, the regula fide was minimized (not abandoned), and apostolic succession became no longer a guarantee of infallibility, but a responsibility that must continually be submitted to the Scripture.   That is it. The rise of Roman Catholic Church in a nutshell.    

      in General Faith

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