"We appreciated the Bible in our room last night," I told our B&B (bed-and-breakfast) host in Northern England as he served us the traditional "full English breakfast." "It's the first time we've found one in a B&B. Does that mean you're a believer?"
"I'm a Christian," he replied firmly.
"Yes, of course." There was no mistaking the conviction in his voice.
A brief but lively discussion followed. Our host earnestly supported Prince Charles's intention to change the oath he would take upon becoming king from "Defender of the faith" to "Defender of faith." He insisted the change was justified because of England's multicultural society and assured us that Muslims and Buddhists and anyone else all worshiped the same God as Christians. His "Christianity" was really Anglican churchianity—and any "faith" would do.
Our B&B landlady of the previous night had also affirmed that she was Anglican, and in a tone that implied there was nothing else to say. We probed to find whether she had a personal relationship to Christ, but learned only that her family had been Anglicans for generations, that her husband was "church warden" (a fact which seemed to her more than sufficient to establish her "Christian" credentials) and that everyone was excited to meet the new bishop, making his first visit to their country parish. Again it was churchianity to the max, a "Christianity" seemingly without Christ.
An ecumenical blindness to the truth that Jesus Christ and what He accomplished is the essential heart of the faith was typical among those with whom we spoke. We visited the only (and pitifully small) Christian bookstore in a medium-sized town. I asked the dear lady in charge whether the store was evangelical. "Oh, yes!" she replied. "And is it ecumenical?" She assured me that it was and added, "All the churches are happy with what we sell."
So many of the earnest people who attended the conference where I spoke in Nottingham told us, "We can't find a church that teaches sound doctrine! Each month The Berean Call is like an oasis in a desert!" Yes, there are some good fellowships of believers here and there, but this is not the England of C. T. Studd, Hudson Taylor and George Mueller from whose shores so many heroes of the faith went forth with the gospel to the four corners of the earth. Today there are more Muslims worshiping Allah in mosques than even pseudo-Christians attending churches—and that disparity is growing.
The modern world is but the sad continuance of Adam's rebellion in the Garden of Eden. There Lucifer, speaking through a serpent, destroyed man as God had made him by destroying man's relationship with God—an intimate bond which man (having been made in the image of God) must have with his Creator or die. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned..." (Rom:5:12). What eternal repercussions from just one sin! And today, "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan,...deceiveth the whole world" (Rev:12:9) into carrying on as though any god will do. Indeed, Satan has become "the god of this world [who blinds] the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ,...should shine unto them" (2 Cor:4:4).
As with sin, so the gospel, too, began in the Garden with God's immediate promise to send the Messiah, born of a virgin. This seed of the woman would deal a deadly blow to the Serpent (Gen:3:15), restoring man to full fellowship with God to live eternally in new heavens and a new earth (2Pt 3:10-13; Rev:21:1). It was crystal clear that "the seed of the woman" alone could accomplish this redemption and reconciliation. Nor could any of the seed of Adam assist Him in the least!
Roman Catholicism's Cult of the Virgin and goddess worship in pagan religions has been a common lie of the Serpent worldwide in order to prevent faith in the Messiah alone and to subvert the gospel of God's grace. Roman Catholic Bibles for centuries proclaimed that the woman herself (not Christ) would destroy the serpent. Genesis:3:15 was rendered: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel." (The Douay-Challoner Text, The Catholic Press, Inc., Chicago, 1950.) The same text identifying Mary as the conqueror of Satan is found in a huge Catholic Family Bible published in the late 1700s. It contains the notice that "to guard against error, it was judged necessary to forbid the reading of the Scriptures in the vulgar languages, without the advice and permission of the Pastors and spiritual guides whom God has appointed to govern his church, Acts xx.28, Christ himself declaring: He that will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican, Matt. xviii.16. Nor is this due submission to the Catholic Church (the pillar and ground of the truth, I Tim. iii.15) to be understood of the ignorant and unlearned only, but also of men accomplished in all kinds of learning...." [Emphasis in original.]
Although most modern Catholic Bibles render Genesis:3:15 properly, their glorification of Mary obscures the truth. For example, The Family Rosary Commemorative Edition of the Catholic Bible issued in remembrance of The Marian Year  has "to jesus through mary" engraved in gold on the front cover. Just inside is a full-page picture of "Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted;" then comes a prayer to Mary from "His Holiness Pope Pius XII [see Index of TBC reprints]...recited for the first time...[at] the Basilica of Saint Mary Major." The prayer includes the following: "Enraptured by the splendor of your heavenly beauty ...we cast ourselves into your arms, O immaculate mother of Jesus...confident of finding...a safe harbor from the tempests which beset us....O conqueror of evil and death...bend tenderly over our aching wounds...protect the holy Church....Receive, O sweet mother, our humble supplications [that] we may repeat before your [heavenly] throne the hymn that today is sung in earth around your altars: 'You are all beautiful, O Mary! You are the glory, you are the joy, you are the honor of our people.' Amen." Glory, joy and honor belong to Mary before her throne and altars?!
Why did God allow the Serpent to bring this disaster upon mankind? And having brought it, why has he been allowed to continue to seduce the descendants of Adam and Eve? Why wasn't the Serpent destroyed immediately? To destroy the Serpent/Satan wouldn't restore mankind to fellowship with God. Man had sinned and the penalty pronounced by God had to be paid. Christ pleaded with His Father in the Garden to allow Him to escape the horror of bearing the sins of the world if salvation could come any other way. The Father's answer was firm: the full penalty had to be paid—and Christ alone, God and man in one person, could satisfy the claims of Infinite Justice.
If Christ paid the full penalty for the sins of mankind, why isn't all mankind reconciled to God? Eternal death came through man's willful choice: reconciliation must be by choice as well. God created man with freedom to obey or to rebel—and rebellion having occurred, that freedom must be exercised in repenting and turning to God. Christ has paid the penalty in full. The pardon is effective, however, only for those who are willing to admit their guilt and receive forgiveness on the righteous basis provided.
All that fallen sinful man can ever have from God must therefore come only in and through Jesus Christ, the virgin-born "seed of the woman." No assistance from any of the seed of Adam (including Mary) is either possible or needed. The New Testament phrase "in Christ Jesus" occurs repeatedly (numerous other declarations without that exact phrase consistently reiterate the same truth), reminding us that everything we have or could have is only in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. That truth is often reiterated: "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom:3:24); "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom:8:39); "blessed...with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph:1:3); "his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Eph:2:7); "now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph:2:13); "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph:3:11); "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians:3:14); "his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians:4:19); "the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim:3:13); "the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim:1:1); "the grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim:1:9); "in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim:1:13); "the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim:2:1); "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim:2:10); "through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim:3:15), etc.
Christians themselves are said to be "in Christ Jesus": "There is...no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom:8:1); "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor:1:2); "of him are ye in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor:1:30); "we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus" (Eph:2:10); "to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi" (Philippians:1:1); "that we may present every man perfect in Christ" (Col:1:28); "the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thes:1:1); "the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus" (1Thes 2:14); "peace be with you and all that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Pt 5:14), etc.
"Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts:20:21) are essential to salvation: "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish...He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (Jn:3:16, 36)...He that heareth [heeds] my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life (Jn:5:24)...by him all that believe are justified" (Acts:13:39)....Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts:16:31); "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal:3:26), etc.
The Bible could not state more clearly or more emphatically (and does so repeatedly) that the only reconciliation to God and the only means of blessing from God is through Jesus Christ alone. Therefore all religious efforts, prayers and good deeds are in vain for gaining salvation and God's blessing. Yet the blessings we receive through Christ Jesus do not flow to us automatically without faith and even effort on our part. The Christian life of victory is not simply imposed by God's sovereign power apart from the believers' faith and obedience as "labourers together with God" (1 Cor:3:9). Paul writes, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians:2:12-13); "Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily" (Col:1:29).
We can do nothing but by the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, however, we must give ourselves willingly and wholeheartedly to the grace God is working in and through us: "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification..." (1 Thes:4:3); "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thes:5:18). Sadly, not every Christian fulfills God's will by living a perfectly sanctified life at all times and always giving thanks to God "in everything."
God's will is being violated continually by unbelievers disobeying the Law and by believers failing to live as they should. Surely, "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not" (1 Jn:2:1) expresses the will of God for every Christian. Yet no Christian fully lives up to God's will: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves....If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his truth is not in us" (1 Jn:1:8,10).
Numerous scriptures make it clear that while grace is unmerited we must accept and respond to it. Even Christians could fail to accept and properly cooperate with God's grace: "But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor:15:10); "We...beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor:6:1); "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim:2:1).
There is no question that God sincerely desired to bless Israel. Nevertheless, she refused His grace and placed herself instead under His judgment by her rebellion and idolatry. God's desire for Israel, as for all men, was good: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil..." (Jer:29:11). However, because the blessings of His grace were contingent upon Israel's response, she reaped instead the judgment of God. We are even told that by their rebellion they "limited the Holy One of Israel" (Ps:78:41). Think of that—limiting the omnipotent, sovereign God! Indeed, we are told that the rabbis "rejected the counsel of God against themselves" (Lk 7:30). Christians, too, can limit the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives by rejecting His will, living for self, and thus forfeiting empowerment for ministry.
Surely shallow and unfruitful lives of so many among genuine believers could not be the best that God desires for them! May our hearts be filled with gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ for who He is, and what He has done. May we rejoice that all we are and have and could ever be, to God's glory, is in and through Him alone. And let us honor Him with our lips and lives so that others will turn in repentance and faith from idols to the true and living God. TBC