one is enough

With this old post groaning under the weight of its comments, here is a continuation of the latest sub-topic (the Mass and the Priest). Since the original context was the Reformation, it won’t harm to mention that the key sola is Christ alone.

The problem, as we know, is sin. The solution must involve atonement, if sin is going to be dealt with in a way that is consistent with both justice and mercy. For atonement, you need a priest.

The epistle to the Hebrews explains what the real priest was, his qualifications and his work (which were only pre-figured in the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament), and it hardly needs to be said that Christ Jesus is the real priest, the anti-type who fulfilled the Old Testament type.

Waiving his qualifications for now (since as I started to write, I remembered this old post with its own unfinished discussion), consider more specifically his work. The foundation work is the making atonement: he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. But the other part of the priest’s work is making intercession. He makes intercession to the Father, on behalf of the people he is representing, on the basis of his success in making atonement.

According to the New Testament and especially the epistle to the Hebrews, both atonement and intercession are most emphatically the work of Christ himself. He is the one who made the once-for-all sacrifice which put away sin. He is the one who is now interceding for his people, an intercession which is ongoing and all-prevailing.

Or as Hebrews says, when he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high. We have a great high priest who is passed into the heavens, and is there now for us. He has an unchangeable priesthood, and he himself is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him, seeing he lives for ever to make intercession for them. This is his ongoing work behind the veil, making intercession for his people, on the basis of his own sacrifice of himself. Whereas the blood of shadowy animal sacrifices sufficed to purge ceremonial sins under the ceremonial law, the blood of the real sacrifice avails and prevails to purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God, when the priest whose sacrifice it is presents it for that purpose.

Explanations like these are what make the epistle to the Hebrews such a beautiful part of the Bible. Who could fail to be amazed at the power and the perfection of the great high priest as displayed there. Sins are remitted and the worshippers are purified by Christ who entered heaven, now to appear in the presence of God for us, on our behalf. Not, indeed, that he offers himself often, for then he would need to suffer often – but afer he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God, and is now active on behalf of his people.

For his sake they are reconciled, for his sake they are forgiven, for his sake their spiritual life is maintained, for his sake they are given growth in grace. He does all the work. They get all the benefit. It is all for his sake, and he does it all.

Which makes the office of a priest redundant in the New Testament church. Even in the Old Testament the Levitical priesthood was a constant testimony to its own inadequacy, an elaborate demonstration in 3D pictures of what they were waiting for the true priest to come and do in reality. The OT priests dealt with ceremonial sins in a ceremonial way. The NT priest, the one and only, the anti-type, deals with real sins, really and truly putting them away – completely at that – and taking care of all the implications which follow for his people.

All that’s left for the NT Church to do is, not to carry on acting out the picture, but to publish and declare that the high priest has come, and has made atonement, and is now in heaven making continual intercession. Central to the NT Church is, not the sacrament, but the preaching of the gospel. Sinners who need their sins dealt with can have every confidence in the great high priest, so powerful and so prevailing in his atonement and his intercession. Good news: Christ has come, and he is able to save to the uttermost those that come to God by him, seeing he lives for ever to make intercession for them. Because of the high priest, who he is, what he has done, and what he is doing, sinners can come boldly to the throne of grace and obtain mercy.

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129 thoughts on “one is enough

  1. The first part of this post I could not agree more with.
    I differ on the “redundancy” of Priests in the “NT Church” Only indeed made redundant in the last 500 years of that Church, and then only by some sections of it.
    Far from being made redundant Priesthood comes to its fullfillment, to its highest point, in the last 2000 years. The Priests of the old rites giving way to to, indeed, the anti- type, in the person of Jesus, then down through the ages from the Aposles onwards to the present time, and indeed to the end of time.
    Melchizedek offered bread and wine, as one of the many foreshadowings in the old testament of what was to come. A preparation. It came in the person of Jesus. It remains completely in his body and blood.
    First Corinthians 11, 23-24.
    ” For I received from The Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the ight when he was betrayed, took bread and when he had given thanks, he boke it and said. This is my body which has been given for you. Do this in remebrance of me.”

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  2. Well, but the fulfillment of the priesthood is in Christ. It seems a bit inconsistent to say both that Christ is the anti-type, and also that the Church needs to revert to types again after Christ has come.

    Melchizedek wouldn’t fit in the original post in terms of word length, but the crucial point about the order of Melchizedek is that it is a one-off, only one priest in the order. If Christ has come ‘after the order of Melchizedek,’ that means that he has no successors (otherwise the type wouldn’t have been fulfilled).

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  3. Melchizedek did not need sucessors. His role was one of forshadowing what was to come.
    Christ was the anti-type onyt to the OLD order of Priesthood. If you like he was the prototype of the new order. Put in very secular terms.

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    • “Christ…was the prototype of the new order [of priests].”
      In a sense, Christ did institute an order of priests – all his people, who are made ‘kings and priests unto God’. But they are priests, not in a mediatorial sense, only in an adoring and worshipping sense.
      If there is an order of mediating priests which is a subset of the whole body of believers, we introduce an extra ‘layer’ between the believer and God. Christ is *the* intermediary, the mediator. If you agree, as any reader of scripture would surely have to, that the believer can come to God directly through Christ, what need is there for a new order of priests? And why is the doctrine of this new priestly order so markedly absent from New Testament scripture? It seems to me that the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly falls back on its traditions and teachings of the Fathers when scripture is quiet on an issue – the question they have to answer is why scripture is so quiet?

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      • The problem with this Finlay is that it is the role of a priest to offer sacrifice, else he would not be a priest. Even ourselves, as the priesthood of believers.

        Adoring and worshipping does not make you a priest. Offering does.

        The reason that there is a need for a new order of priests are that Jesus ordained them to continue his work of salvation on earth.

        Infact, if the Church is the body of Christ, then that analogy by itself points to sacrifice and offering.

        Scripture is not quiet on altars, priests, and sacrifice in the new testament. You only have to read, Matthew, Hebrews, Revelation to see that. (Leave your gift by the altar?)

        In the old Malachi is a good example.

        Malachi 1:11 From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offerted to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts”

        Infact, your own arguement that scripture is quite on the abolishing of those things, rather speaking about the the fulfilling of them, both in the person of Christ himself and in the new covenant order and sacraments/signs of his new people, sticks very well.

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        • Allowing your hypothesis about what defines a priest for the sake of argument, what sacrifice are individual believers offering? I’m slightly confused as to why you think there needs to be two seperate classes of priest under the New Testament order – that of all believers, and that of ordained ‘priests’ as in the Church of Rome. Are they offering speerate sacrifices, and if so, what sacrifices are each offering? And more importantly, where does scripture distinguish between the two classes?
          I cannot for a moment accept that Christ’s work of salvation needs to be continued by anyone here on earth. He requires us to promulgate and make it known to sinners. The Holy Spirit is tasked with applying it to the hearts of the elect. But the work of salvation is complete in the sense that salvation is accomplished – nothing more needs to be done.
          As far as offering under the New Testament dispensation goes, yes we do have something to offer – praise and adoration. The other type of sacrifice besides an atoning one.

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  4. “The solution must involve atonement, if sin is going to be dealt with in a way that is consistent with both justice and mercy. For atonement, you need a priest.” I can completely relate to that in every imaginable way.

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  5. I quote Horatius Bonar’s hymn

    No blood, no altar now,
    The sacrifice is o’er.
    No flame, no smoke ascends on high,
    The lamb is slain no more.
    But richer blood has flowed from nobler veins,
    To purge the soul from guilt.
    And purge the reddest stains.

    I quote the highest authority

    ‘But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin FOREVER, sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 10.12

    ‘There remaineth NO MORE SACRIFICE for sins.’ Hebrews 10.26

    Altar, sacrifice and priest, in type and shadow, have terminated in the blessed person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the substance to which the Law and the Prophets pointed.

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    • But this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, forever sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 10.12

      (exact same apart from the placing of a comma)

      “There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins”?

      Thats not what Hebrews 10:26 says actually,

      Heb 10:26 For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins,

      A bit different to your out of context quote again. Infact you have to assume, that if we do sin, but not wilfully, after having knowledge of the truth, there IS sacrifice for sins.

      Unless you are claiming we do not sin at all?

      So Christs atoning sacrifice is still being applied to us. This means that you are misinterpreting 10:12 by interpreting “forever” as past historic tense rather than present eternal.

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      • You are equating “Christs atoning sacrifice is still being applied to us” with that sacrifice being continually offered. With respect to Seceder, whose general point I fully agree with, his/her point would probably have been better served had s/he quoted verse 18 of the same chapter – “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” Note, the offering ceases. It’s effect and merit endures, making the sinner acceptable before God, but there is no more offering of the sacrifice.
        By the way, it is a nonsense to suggest that a single sacrifice can be continually offered over a period of around 2000 years. Christ’s death was an atoning sacrifice, which concluded when he said ‘It is finished’ and died. His resurrection served to vindicate the efficacy of the sacrifice, demonstrating conclusively that he had not only offered the one sacrifice for sin, but had been fully accepted in doing so. He then ascended to the right hand of God, there to appear in the presence of God for us – on the grounds that his sacrifice was complete and the merits of it were sufficient to gain acceptance with God.
        Looking at verse 12, what is the import, in your mind, of the word ‘after’, if the word forever isn’t to be taken as “past historic”? To me, the word ‘after’ implies that the subject is ‘past’, no?

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  6. Oh dear. I’m going to be away for a good long while so this is a one off comment. Of course most of what you say here Cath is very true. Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of people think Catholics deny some of the bits we actually agree with you over. Anyway…. Think of it this way. The priesthood of the Old Law existed (as you say) to express the inadequacy of the mediation of men to accomplish our salvation. (As you say) Jesus alone as God and man was able to mediate for us successfully in the one sacrifice of the cross. All our prayers must now be made through Him and through that sacrifice. Unfortunately our prayers vary in efficacy because they vary in their confidence vis-a-vis the Lord. (This is why the power of prayer corresponds to the greatness of faith – Mtt 17:20; 1Cor 13:2) The Lord Himself in His prayers (or rather His prayer) is infallibly efficacious because for Him no such limitation obtains. A New Testament priest is someone authorized by the successors of the Apostles to perform that prayer which Christ instituted as the public enaction of His one prayer: the offering of bread and wine transformed into His body and blood. This is just the same as each of us offering our personal prayers on account of the eternal sacrifice of Calvary except that the one who offers the prayer in this case is Christ Himself and so the subjective element, which would normally render the prayer fallible, is eliminated.

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  7. Where do the Scriptures authorise a New Testament priest other than Christ? is the core question.

    Are you away for a long time in blogtime or in real life? If the former, we can wait :-)

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  8. Aelianus,
    Can I take issue with your suggestion that “the power of prayer corresponds to the greatness of faith”. In fact, one of the verses you reference directly contradicts your view. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells the disciples that they needed only faith as big as “a grain of mustard seed” to accomplish so great a task as removing mountains. He is certainly not saying that their prayers would carry more weight with God (the vulgar meaning of ‘efficacy’, right?) if they had greater faith. The whole point, brought out rather well by Cath, is that all the efficacy is in Christ – our prayers and everything else we do, however imperfect at our end, are perfected and made fully and entirely efficacious through his intercession.
    You also seem to be saying that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is a ‘public enactment’ of the one prayer offered by Christ himself. In other words, every time the mass is celebrated, Christ is offering that one prayer and this somehow carries more weight, or is more efficacious, than when we offer our prayers, even though we offer prayer through him alone. If that is the case, you cannot claim to hold the view that Christ’s intercession is perfect and infallible. You cannot have it both ways – either our prayers are completely worthless and pointless, or else Christ takes them up and makes them perfect in his own intercession. Everything he does is perfect, including when he presents our prayers to God.
    One more issue, if I may. Where do you find scriptural justification for your assertion that the Lord’s Supper is a public enactment of Christ’s one prayer? My reading of the gospel accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper suggests that it was only ever intended to be a representation and memorial of what Christ was about to accomplish. In other words, Christ was telling his disciples, “This is what I am about to do, the meaning of it is represented clearly in this symbol of eating and drinking, and when I am gone, you are to perpetuate the memory of that great accomplishment by repeatedly making use of the symbolic representation.” The benefit of it to us as New Testament believers is not in the sense of offering anything to God, but of bringing to our minds and before our hearts in a very graphic way what Christ has already done. In the contemplation and consideration of that, we may receive blessing and grace.

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    • When God remembers he acts. God remembers his people. He acts, intervenes. A memorial, such as the passover, is not just a reminder, it is the “re-enacting” , a making present again, if you will. That is exactly what the Jews thought of the passover.

      So when Christ asks us to do things as a memorial of him, a rememberance , he doesn’t mean we are to remember, recall, bring to mind, but to re-enact. That is the language of scripture, of salvation history.

      e.g.

      Psalm 110

      1. I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the righteous, and in the congregation.
      2 The works of the Lord are great, meet to serve for the doing of his will.
      3 His work is worthy to be praised and had in honour, and his righteousness endureth for ever.
      4 He hath made a memorial of his marvellous works; the Lord is merciful and gracious : he hath given meat unto them that fear him.
      5 He shall ever be mindful of his covenant : he will shew his people the power of his works.

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      • This is very poor logic, I’m afraid, with no scripture at all to back it up. Certainly, Psalm 110 adds nothing whatever to your argument, and I’m really puzzled as to why you have quoted it, as if you think it proves your point.
        No-one is suggesting that there is no activity at all in the sacrament/memorial. In fact, it has been quite explicitly asserted that there is active partaking of Christ’s body and blood, spiritually. The acting is spiritual, not temporal. But to conclude from this that the action must be a ‘re-enactment’ of the sacrifice Christ has already offered is going way beyond what even Aelianus has asserted previously. He at least accepts that there is but one sacrifice, that it is not re-offered. But what is a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice if it is not a re-offering of that sacrifice?
        I’m also quite intrigued by your leap of logic from “when God remembers, he acts” to “when we remember we must re-enact”. The logic just doesn’t grab me I’m afraid.

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        • At no point did I mean to suggest that our temporal re-enacting here on earth was anything but a re-offering of one and the same sacrifice of Calvary.

          I’m sorry if that was not clear.

          If you are puzzled as to why I quote Psalm 110, then what chance do I have. :-)

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          • It was very clear, and this is what I am taking issue with. How can it be a re-offering of one and the same sacrifice without being, in fact, another sacrifice. When Christ said ‘It is finished’, he meant that his offering up of himself was complete, the salvation of his people was accomplished, the debt paid. All that remained was for that confidence to be vindicated in his resurrection and the salvation to be applied by the Holy Spirit.
            I’m puzzled at your quoting of Psalm 110 because I don’t see how it supports your position any more than it does mine. That it is a messianic psalm, talking about the mediatorial work of Christ (prophetically, mind you), is obvious to us both. If you’re going to quote a passage in support of your position, at least explain how you think it backs up your point. Certainly the passage you quoted says nothing about re-enactment or re-offering, which I believe is the point at issue. There is no disagreement over whether there is ‘memorial’ involved.

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            • In effect you are taking issue with Christ’s sacrifice being something more than a temporal historic event. You have dumbed it down to a past event (for us), a historic transaction between God and his people. That is so little of the story it doesn’t do it anything near justice.

              The Sacrifice of Calvary is as efficacious to the Prophets as it is to the Saints. It was abundantly efficient before it happened here on earth, as it has been and will be since Jesus said “it is finished.”

              Christ is a priest of the order of Melchisedeck because he was sent by God and because he offered bread and wine.

              So it is that the the strongest arguments for the ongoing priesthood and sacrifice in the New Testament come from the words and actions of Jesus. Jesus describes the Lords Supper as his body, even THIS CUP IS, the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you! That is a clear parallel between the sacrifice on the cross and the Lords Supper, where his body and blood are separated, as he showed them to be in the bread and wine of the Lords Supper. This cup is the blood of the new covenant, “which is poured out for you” “Do this in memorial of me, “ “whoever hears you hears me”,

              I have quoted elsewhere from Malachi, which points to a “clean oblation” being offered from East to West, from the rising of the sun to its setting, among the nations (some translations among the gentiles).

              The Psalm I quote prophesies not only a memorial of His works, but a memorial of his works within the Church.

              Christs work may have been finished when he said just that on the cross, or the debt might have beenpaid in full, but that does not negate the need for a Church, sent out by Him.

              As Hebrews says, “Neither does any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. “Hebrews 5:4 (Aaron was sent by Moses, by the laying of hands, hierarchy and authority in action).

              The arguement that there are no priests in the New Testament is a straw man based on the translating difference, priests, presbyters, elders, no matter their name, what we are debating is what they do.

              Psalm 132
              15 I will bless Zion with meat; its poor I will fill with bread.
              16 I will clothe its priests with blessing (some translations – salvation!) ; its faithful shall shout for joy.

              Here is a common translation but I guess one you are not familiar with.
              “Romans 15:15-17 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God [16] to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. [17] In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.”

              As St Paul said again tying in the Eucharist with the sacrifice of Calvary, “Christ our paschal lamb has indeed been sacrificed, let us celebrate the feast. “

              Which brings me to Revelations…………Priests, altars, vestments, incense bells and smells!!!!!

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              • Nearly there, CT, but not quite. (If you were trying to outline our position, that is, rather than just misrepresenting it.)

                Christ’s sacrifice was indeed a one-off historical event. It was a transaction between God and Christ, not between God and his people.

                Nobody denies that the Old Testament saints were saved in virtue of it. Nobody denies that it was sufficient for all. Nobody denies that Christ is efficaciously making continual intercession for his people. Nobody denies that we need the Church!

                Also, quite incredibly, you seem to think we think there is no connection between the sacrifice on Calvary and the Lord’s Supper. We do. Each time the Lord’s Supper is administered, the Lord’s people by faith feed on the body and blood of Christ: not in a corporal or carnal manner, but spiritually.

                This discussion is complicated enough already without this kind of misrepresentation (worst case) or sloppiness (charitably).

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                • Your first paragraph I find rather surprising.

                  Your second, theologically dodgy but who am I to say it is inaccurate.

                  Your third beside the point. Because if Christ sacrifice was efficient for the prophets before it even happened, then how supernatural and outside of time is that.

                  Your fourth: I never said that you didn’t see any connection between Calvary and the Lord Supper. I never said or even insinuated anything of the kind. I pointed that you didnt see it as sacrifice where as Jesus plainly did.

                  I think you are the one doing the misrepresenting.

                  :-)

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              • It’s very difficult to follow an argument which throws in a sentence like “Christ is a priest of the order of Melchisedeck because he was sent by God and because he offered bread and wine.” What purpose does that sentence serve in your argument? It’s such a generic, obvious and utterly inadequate summary of biblical teaching on Melchisedek, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the points at issue. Please try to keep to the point!

                The paragraph immediately following this is a muddled attempt to ‘demonstrate’ that there is a clear link between Christ’s death as a sacrifice and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper – which is blindingly obvious to everyone involved in this discussion. It contains no argument at all for the ‘ongoing priesthood and sacrifice in the New Testament’.

                You proceed to mention Malachi, without any hint of an explanation as to how a prophecy of a ‘clean oblation’ hasn’t been completely fulfilled in what Christ has already done, or why the predicted oblation would need to be continually ‘re-enacted’.

                I genuinely don’t know what point you’re trying to make when you say that the psalms prophesy a memorial of his work in the church. You’re just stating the obvious again, and your accompanying argument is conspicuous by its absence.

                You accuse me of setting up a straw man, but you have set up several straw men in your post:
                “The Sacrifice of Calvary is as efficacious to the Prophets as it is to the Saints. It was abundantly efficient before it happened here on earth…”
                “but that does not negate the need for a Church, sent out by Him.”
                “Aaron was sent by Moses, by the laying of hands, hierarchy and authority in action”

                None of these statements contributes anything to the discussion, because they are points of agreement, around which you have constructed no argument at all, let alone a convincing one.

                “That is a clear parallel between the sacrifice on the cross and the Lords Supper, where his body and blood are separated, as he showed them to be in the bread and wine of the Lords Supper”
                If by this you didn’t mean to “say or even insinuate” that I “didn’t see any connection between Calvary and the Lord Supper”, what did you mean? Was it just another pointless statement of a fact that we’re all in agreement over?

                Perhaps I’m doing you an injustice and you’re actually just trying to show us how much we agree on, deliberately leaving out the arguments on points of difference, no?

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                • The point is that the Lords Supper is a sacrifice! I have tried to show that the Lords Supper is a sacrifice, and that the language of our Lord, and the scriptures themselves about the Lords Supper is sacrificial. That a memorial in Scripture is much more than a “calling to mind”.

                  I cited the Jewish Passover in this instance and you ignored it.

                  http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/center/news/nh_J-C_seder04.htm

                  “The Jewish conviction that at the Seder past events become present today is something that can resonate strongly with Catholics. The Catholic concept of anamnesis corresponds to the Hebrew term zecher. Both refer to the use of ritual to make the past a lived present reality.”

                  Further that the language of our Lord and the Scriptures supports an ongoing new covenant priesthood, and a that claims of the abolition of hierarchical priesthood and sacrifice under the new covenant are far from the scriptural truth.

                  It is clear that the prophecy of Malachi can not apply to Calvary itself in isolation at a point in time, but to a sacrifice of the gentiles, from East to West or each and every day.

                  If you agree that Christ offered Bread and Wine as per Melchisedek then that is a step forward. It makes what Jesus did at the Last Supper an OFFERING. Do your ministers OFFER bread and wine? Yet you failed to see this point and a host of others.

                  I am not sure what to make of your failure to my intent with these and other quotations in the context of the debate about ongoing priesthood and sacrifice and to address them in that context rather than to just rubbish my ability to debate and hold the subject.

                  On the other hand, maybe I was being to vague by crediting you with more scriptural knowledge than I should have.

                  :-)

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                • Stating your point again, without proving it, isn’t really helping your case. Sacrificial language is used in scripture because the sacrament is commemorating a sacrificial act, not because it is a sacrifice. The onus is on you to show why, when Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me” he actually meant “Re-enact the sacrifice I offer”.
                  Where in scripture is this Jewish ‘conviction’ supported? Using Jewish traditional beliefs to support your own traditional beliefs doesn’t help much either.

                  “Further that the language of our Lord and the Scriptures supports an ongoing new covenant priesthood, and a that claims of the abolition of hierarchical priesthood and sacrifice under the new covenant are far from the scriptural truth.”
                  But you haven’t demonstrated this from scripture. I can’t see how the texts you’ve quoted prove this point – it’s your task, surely, if you are going to quote texts, to show how they support your view.

                  “It is clear that the prophecy of Malachi can not apply to Calvary itself in isolation at a point in time, but to a sacrifice of the gentiles, from East to West or each and every day.”
                  It isn’t clear. In fact, it’s not even clear what you mean by ‘a sacrifice of the gentiles…each and every day’. I just cannot see that in the verse you quoted, at all!
                  Melchisedek offered bread and wine – a picture of what Christ would do when he came. So Christ, when he came, offered his body and blood – fulfilling the type of the bread and wine we read of in the story of Melchisedek. That is the point of similarity we were ‘agreeing’ on. Not that Christ offered bread and wine at the Last Supper. He didn’t – he used the symbols of bread and wine to draw a picture for his disciples of what he was about to do, and instructed them to continue using those symbols in the sacrament.

                  Unfortunately, you have repeated your trick of just making statements without arguments attached. You cannot just make quotations and then say “they are in the context of the debate” and expect me to join up the dots and construct an argument around your selective quotations. You need to construct an argument around your quotes if you expect anyone to take your ability to argue seriously.

                  “On the other hand, maybe I was being to vague by crediting you with more scriptural knowledge than I should have.”
                  I don’t think so. You’re crediting me with the ability to read your mind, perhaps. I still don’t know how you think your quoted texts support your position.

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  9. Thanks for this Finlay. I’m hoping that Aelianus will come back to this yet, but in the mean time & post real-life discussion, I think that what I wasn’t quick enough to pick up on to start with is the oddity of suddenly talking about our prayers in the same breath as Christ’s intercession. As you say, if Christ’s intercession is perfect and infallible, then our prayers don’t enter the equation.

    If we’re going to talk about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, btw, could we just clarify one point right away – namely that when you’re talking about the Lord’s Supper being a representation and a memorial, it’s not *merely* a memorial, and the actual participation in the sacrament (not just the contemplation of it) is a means of grace. More on the real (really real) presence here – https://ninetysixandten.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/really-spiritually/ & links therein. Which I’m not doubting you believe, but just to ward off any red herrings along these lines.

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  10. Since we agree that Christ is not in the bread and wine themselves (don’t we?), where is he present? I certainly agree with the premise that he is really present in the sacrament, but I don’t think he is present to just anyone who partakes. Only those who approach it in faith can possibly apprehend him therein, and that faith, if we’re going to talk about it in a way that anyone can actually relate to, is surely an exercise of the soul’s contemplative and meditative powers upon the subject of Christ’s death.
    I’m not sure how I would express that other than by saying that it is in the consideration and contmplation of the meaning behind the sacrament that we can expect blessing and grace. Is it meaningful to say that Christ is present in the sacrament in any other sense. Perhaps you can elaborate?

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    • Ok, I think it’s just a matter of phraseology then. You just sounded slightly Zwinglian on first reading, but I think we’re on the same page really. He is present to faith no less really than the elements are present to the outward senses (“only those who approach in faith” was taken for granted).

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      • I think phraseology is always going to be an issue for me in any discussion with you lot – as a maths teacher, I’m definitely not an expert in language!
        I don’t know enough about Zwingli’s views on the Supper to know what being Zwinglian involves, sorry.

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        • I’m surprised! Just the idea that the sacrament is a mere memorial, such that the Lord is not present at all, whereas in fact although he is not corporally/carnallly present, he is really present, spiritually. Z was reacting against both transubstantiation and Lutheran consubstantiation but took it a bit too far.

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          • Don’t be, I’m not nearly as well read as you appear to be.
            Having done a little research, I particularly like the way the Belgic Confession expresses the Reformed position on the Lord’s Supper, and I’m not sure how it could be much improved upon.

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  11. Christ the High Priest bestows a share in His priesthood on the faithful “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Hebrews 13:15

    It is clear from the following passages that subjective elements affect the efficacy of the prayers of believers.

    “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20

    “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6

    “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

    “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” James 5:16

    The ‘mustard seed’ passages quite clearly imply that the degree of faith determines efficacy, but that faith in Jesus is so powerful that even a very small degree will still have great efficacy. This squares with the teaching of St Paul and St James.

    Only the prayer of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, consummated on the Cross, is inherently efficacious. The Lamb is “standing, as though it had been slain” because in His risen body He displays His glorious wounds continually interceding for us before the Father. The limitation on the efficacy of the prayers of the faithful is entirely on the side of the believer not of the Saviour. All that the Father wills to give us He wills to give us through the prayer of Christ. Christ intercedes for us continually but if we do not believe in Him at all or enough our prayer is correspondingly impeded as St Paul and St James explain. The Eucharist is a prayer of the royal and priestly people of God, a communion with the blood of Christ, made through the successors of the Seventy and the Twelve according to the manner appointed by the Saviour. Because the presbyter offering does so in the manner ordered by Christ Himself the presbyter is not the principal sacrificing priest but is the instrument of Christ’s prayer. Thus the subjective element is eliminated and the faithful have guaranteed access to the Sacrifice of Christ unlimited by their subjective limitations and the power of the Cross is shown forth.

    “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.” John 11: 41-42

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  12. On the contrary, I would suggest that the ‘mustard seed’ passages contradict the view that it is the degree of faith that determines efficacy. Surely the whole point is that the believer does not need any great faith to accomplish great things through his prayers, but that he simply needs faith itself, even if it is as small as a grain of mustard seed. I just cannot see, in any of these passages, the idea that greater faith equals greater efficacy.
    I would also take issue with your description of Christ’s death as a prayer. It was a sacrifice. A prayer is not a sacrifice and a sacrifice is not a prayer, regardless of the fact that one may include the other, and the purpose of the two may coincide on certain points. It doesn’t do anyone any favours to conflate the two.
    Scripture presents Christ as going to the Father with the merit of his death, which merit is made over to us and gives us a right to be heard by God. The amount of faith we have doesn’t actually matter in this regard, as God isn’t rewarding our faith when he grants our requests.
    I can’t see any scriptural justification for your claim that the Eucharist is “a prayer…made through the successors of the Seventy and the Twelve…”. In fact, I’m not sure what that really means in terms of this discussion. I could say the same thing without conceding anything on the matter of priests. I of course wouldn’t describe it as a prayer (again, how do you justify that idea?).
    In the case of the sacrament, the strength or degree of faith does make a difference to what benefit we get from participating. That’s because we feed on Christ by faith, and little faith will feed but little upon him. Christ is just as really there. In that sense, it doesn’t really matter what view we take of the person officiating over the sacrament – the benefit of it to us is not based upon him in any way.

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  13. I feel that your reading of these verses might profit from reading the passages as a whole which make your interpretation quite untenable:

    “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain: Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’”

    Your reading of this and the passage from Luke would entail that the Lord is denying the disciples had faith at all. But He Himself says they do have faith but insufficient.

    The importance of the fact that it is the successors of the twelve (to whom was addressed the command ‘do this in memory of me’) or their delagates who offer the Eucharist is that in this way both the form and the minister of the prayer is designated by Christ and thus the subjective element which would otherwise limit its efficacy is eliminated and the one offering does so as the instrument of the High Priest.

    A prayer may not be a sacrifice but a sacrifice is most certainly a prayer. I don’t suppose you really deny that a sacrifice is a prayer you are just tying yourself in knots.

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    • (Re prayer & sacrifice, I don’t get it either btw. Sacrifice: something offered, primarily with a view to propitiation or expiation, or secondarily by way of gratitude once atonement has been made, either way inextricably connected to dealing with sin. Prayer: presenting petitions, asking for things. Am confused.)

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      • Prayer = asking for something. Sacrifice = asking God for something in virtue of a gift to Him (the gift is destroyed in token of the fact that it is His anyway). Thus prayer is a genus of which sacrifice is a species.

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        • Like I said earlier, the sacrifice is joined with prayer, and so may be said to ‘include’ prayer with it, but they are nevertheless seperate. The sacrifice is the act of offering the gift, while the prayer is the request made on the strength of the sacrifice’s acceptability.

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          • If petition enters into the definition of sacrifice (as it must else all deliberate destruction would be sacrificial) then the concepts are not separate.

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            • Really?? So the primary idea in a sacrifice is destruction?? I would say the principle idea in sacrifice is the offering of the gift, not its destruction. Some OT sacrifices were not destroyed. You’re also ignoring the idea of praise – some sacrifices are not to secure something, but to praise God for something he has done.

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                • I don’t follow what you say about the ‘specific difference’ so you’ll need to elaborate I’m afraid.
                  Having re-read the first few chapters of Leviticus, where the principal sacrifices are instituted, I see no mention of any petitions associated specifically with the offering of them. I don’t doubt that prayer *was* offered with the sacrifices, but surely if that prayer was inherent to the sacrifices themselves, some guidance as to the petitions would appear as part of the institution of the sacrifice itself?
                  By the way, you now seem to be conceding the difference I am arguing for between the sacrifice itself and the petition associated with it that asks God to accept the sacrifice.

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                • (I’m amazed at how wide the gulf in our views has turned out to be.) The OT sacrifices that were intended to take away sin always required the blood and hence the life of the victim, but the point there was substitution (the sacrificial victim was accepted as a substitute for the one who had sinned), not the death of the victim for its own sake.

                  And (i’m not sure i can express this very well but) the acceptance or the petition for acceptance was grounded on the sacrifice itself. Not, please accept this sacrifice, but, please accept me/us on the basis of this sacrifice.

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    • Don’t worry, I had read the passage and was aware of the context before I wrote my response.
      What do you suppose the significance of Jesus’ using the image of a mustard seed. I’m sure you’re away that a mustard seed is extremely small, but produces a very large ‘tree’. What Christ was saying was that the disciples were unable to effect any change on the condition of the child because of their lack of faith – yes, very really, they lacked faith in this instance. There is a difference, even a large difference, between ‘having faith’ in the sense of being united to Christ and taking him as your Saviour and exercising faith in the sense of believing that he both can and will do what you ask him to do for you. Very likely, the disciples attempted to cast the devil out without reference to the fact that only through Christ’s power could they do so. The KJV uses the word ‘unbelief’ where you have put ‘little faith’ – quite a fundamental difference.
      As for the sacrament, and the importance of who administers it (since it isn’t a sacrifice, it isn’t offered), I agree that it is important for the sacrament to be administered by a divinely appointed individual. That is a given, since all our worship must be divinely instituted and in accordance with God’s command. You have not given any justification for your assertion that this has to be a priest, or that the status of the person administering affects in any way the efficacy of the sacrament to individual participants.
      Imagine a situation where a participant in the sacrament is strong in faith, but the sacrament is administered by a properly ordained priest (since that fits your way of looking at it) who is in fact devoid of true faith in Christ. In other words, the priest is a hypocrite and charlatan. Is the sacrament efficacious, either as a means of grace to the participant, or as a prayer?
      Your final paragraph doesn’t carry any argument at all, just a repetition of an assertion. Why do you say that a sacrifice is a prayer? Does scripture say it is? I can’t find the idea in my Bible. I think Cath’s definitions below are pretty much exactly what my Bible seems to suggest about sacrifice and prayer.
      Finally, by the way, I really do deny that a sacrifice is a prayer – I’m quite clear about what I believe, seriously. You’re obviously well-informed, but if the discussion is going to be at the level of the final sentence, it’s probably not worth having.

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      • The word ‘prayer’ just means ‘asking’. According to Cath’s definition sacrifice inherently entails asking for forgiveness. The word oligopistia does not denote absence but smallness of faith. Like ‘oligarchy’ the rule of a few. You might also note that in 1 Corinthians 13 the faith that can move mountains is quite clearly a particular degree of faith. The efficacy of the Eucharist is quite independent of the worthiness of the minister precisely because he is not the principal sacrificing priest but His instrument. You do not deny, I assume, that the Lord addressed the twelve when he said ‘do this in memory of me’? If you suppose there were others present at the last supper then the burden is on you.

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        • Cath’s definition doesn’t imply asking for forgiveness. It clearly suggests that prayer may be joined with sacrifice, but equally praise may be the point of it – your quote from Hebrews 13 brings that side of the concept out. So, the prayer is a seperate thing from the sacrifice itself, and shouldn’t be confused.
          According to your reading of the Matthew passage, Christ is saying to his disciples, “you couldn’t cast the devil out because your faith is small; if you had even a tiny amount of faith you could accomplish great things such as removing mountains.” That doesn’t make any sense at all – it shows why we shouldn’t take a purely literal approach to translating scripture, something i know you agree with, except apparently when it suits your hypothesis. While the Greek word, in a very literal sense, is expressive of the smallness of faith, it cannot mean that in the context. It is within the scope of the word’s meaning to suppose that it means ‘so small as to be absent’ – the idea Christ is conveying is very obviously that the disciples were not exercising faith when trying to perform the miracle.
          In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is using hyperbole – no Christian can have “all faith” literally, and you cannot meld together the image of removing mountains here with that used by Jesus – the apostle is making a completely seperate point, and if you try to force the two together they end up contradicting each other: Christ is saying that the amount of faith required to remove mountains is extremely small and Paul is apparently saying that the amount of faith required is extremely large, infintely large in fact.
          I’m still at a loss to see how the person administering the sacrament adds anything to the efficacy, which was your original point. That the officiating minister/priest ensures the scripturalness of the sacrament because he is appointed by Christ is fairly obvious – that the efficacy of the sacrament to the participant is in any way affected by said official does not at all follow.
          I don’t see the relevance of a discussion about who was present at the original institution of the sacrament either. I’m inclined to agree with you that it was just the twelve, because scripture doesn’t justify any other conclusion as far as I can see. I also accept that the twelve passed on the authority to administer it to their successors. We differ on who their successors are I suppose, but I don’t see where your argument is leading on that.

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          • No, the meaning is your faith is too small and yet even a very small degree would be enough to achieve great things (so yours must be very small indeed). There is in fact a perfectly good word for no faith and Matthew doesn’t use it. As to 1 Corinthians, given that you presumably accept no authority outside scripture its a bit rich no even to allow the scriptures to interpret themselves!

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            • Cath’s definition was “Sacrifice: something offered, primarily with a view to propitiation or expiation, or secondarily by way of gratitude once atonement has been made, either way inextricably connected to dealing with sin.” So then “primary with a view to propitiation or expiation … inextricably connected with dealing with sin”. You are right, it doesn’t imply asking for forgiveness it explicitly asserts it.

              Quite obviously the faith necessary to move mountains seems large to us because we fall very short but from God’s perspective it is not great. The same phenomenon occurs in regard to the gravity of sin. If little faith moves mountains then a fortiori ‘all faith’ does. you seem to now be admitting that Paul at least ties the efficacy of prayer to degrees of faith (albeit at the cost of attributing error to either Paul or his Master).

              The importance of the authorized person administering the sacrament is not that he adds to the efficacy of the sacrament (impossible) but that he takes nothing away.

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              • If I may interject, just briefly (because I have no wish to join this debate), a propitiation is the thing by which a person (in this context the Father) is rendered propitious. I would conclude from that that a propitiation does not merely ask for conciliation, but actually obtains it.

                In terms of the link between sacrifice and propitiation, I would suggest that although they are not the same thing by necessity, yet in the case of the death of Christ they are the same thing – compare, for example, 1 John 2:2 “and he is the propitiation for our sins” with Hebrews 9:26 “but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”. The person referred to in both texts is Christ, and I think that comparing the two shows that Christ’s sacrifice of himself was not a thing done with a view to propitiation, but was actually effectual in obtaining propitiation.

                I am not taking issue with Cath’s definition of sacrifice, I’m sure it is quite correct, and no doubt you are all better qualified than me to debate that point. However, in the case of the death of Christ, sacrifice and propitiation are the same thing. What we are to make of the sacrifice of Christ, then, is that it is the thing by which God is reconciled to us, and we to him (see also Romans 5:10 – “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”). The sacrifice of Christ was therefore not a prayer that his people might be forgiven, but it did in fact obtain their forgiveness.

                I hope this isn’t a digression from what you are discussing – I am under the impression that you are discussing whether or not Christ’s sacrifice is a prayer. If you are actually discussing whether or not sacrifices in general are prayers then please ignore me.

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                • Thanks Neil. I would be very pedantic and say sacrifice and propitiation are not quite the same thing: propitiation is the effect of the sacrifice, assuming the sacrifice is accepted. This is true even in the sacrifice of Christ, although you’re obviously quite right to say that his sacrifice was so entirely accepted that it is unquestionable and necessary that propitiation was achieved by it.
                  (Mind you, propitiation was achieved in the OT sacrifices too, but it was ceremonial sins that were ceremonially propitiated, by way of symbolising or typifying what Christ’s sacrfice was going to do, not ceremonially but really, for sins against the moral law not just sins against the ceremonial law.)

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              • Well, not technically asking for forgiveness, so much as providing the basis on which forgiveness can be granted.

                [Edited to add: this is supposed to be in reply to Aelianus at 13 Aug 10:24, but it hasn’t appeared where I thought it would!)

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            • We’re now just arguing over alternative readings of the text, neither of which the other is going to accept as proved, and neither of which actually proves your point. We will only go round in circles if we keep hammering at this point, and I’ve answered everything you’ve come up with, so let’s leave that point in complete disagreement. By the way, it’s one thing to use scriptural context and analogies to interpret scripture – its different altogether to take similar phrases from different places in scripture and smash them together, force them to mean the same thing and assume that they’re teaching the same doctrine. but I’m not going down that road again, especially not on Cath’s blog.
              Your reading of Cath’s primary definition is very different from mine – how do you get the phrase ‘explicitly asserts’ to fit in to your analysis?? Inextricably connected I can follow, but that fits my line of reasoning just as easily as yours, and you haven’t given any scriptural basis for the assertion that sacrifice is prayer. You’re also still ignoring the secondary clause – that of praise.
              As to your second paragraph, you’ve misread my post – I was stating the case according to your reading, which as you point out results in error on either Paul’s side or Jesus’.
              Granted that it is impossible to add to the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice (I’m glad to hear you say so, by the way, because the ‘good works’ and masses associated with Roman Catholic practice suggest an associated belief that it is possible), but it is equally impossible to subtract from that efficacy. If it were possible, any human association with it all would automatically detract from the efficacy, because all humans, being sinful, taint what they touch. But the efficacy is not linked in any way to the participants or the person administering – that idea is not in the Bible anywhere – but exclusively to the merit of Christ. That merit is infinite and can never be anything less than infinite, however sinful and unworthy the participant, and however unholy the person administering.
              If you’re going to contest that, I’d really like biblical arguments, not assertions based partially on what your church teaches and partly on what you decide individual verses could mean. I’ve been taking on board a lot of points made by you which haven’t really had any biblical argument behind them, but the result of doing that repeatedly is a discussion which goes over the same ground ad infinitum without any agreement being reached – pointless.

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  14. If I can leave you two to thrash out what happens with prayer, can I ask about this instead: “Christ the High Priest bestows a share in His priesthood on the faithful.”

    This is precisely what is antithetical to the entire message of Hebrews, namely that the faithful (who Christ is interceding for) have any share or contribution to make in Christ’s intercession: his intercession is for them precisely because they can’t come in their own name or for their own sake, not even partially.

    Hebrews 13:15 shows that they are made priests, but it cannot support the view that they share in his priesthood (for that, it would need to be ‘with him’ or ‘alongside him’, but that idea is completely foreign to the whole argument of Hebrews, which is to display Christ in his uniqueness as the mediator between God and men).

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    • So, if the royal priesthood of the faithful is not a participation in the kingship and priesthood of Christ, where does it come from?

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  15. It comes from the kingship and priesthood of Christ, but it’s not a participation in either. He is a complete king, he is a complete priest – he doesn’t share the work with anyone.

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  16. This discussion is getting lost in a fog of dodgy definitions and also tailing off into so many replies to replies that the unity of the thing is being dissipated. So I’m putting this comment at the end instead.

    1. Prayer and its efficacy. Finlay argues that prayer is either faithful (and so efficacious) or not, no degrees. He says that when the Lord says in Matthew that the disciples’ exorcism failed because of their ‘little faith’ He really meant absence of faith (on this specific occasion). The problem here is that there is another word in Greek ‘apistia’ that Matthew could have used (and does elsewhere Mtt 13:58) if he had wanted to say absence of faith. Finlay says he cannot be bound by literalism. He presumably applies the same logic to Luke 17 where the disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith (again implying degrees). The Lord replies with a similar saying to Matthew 17. Finlay takes this to be a rejection of the whole concept of degree. I take it to be an assertion that the disciples faith is very small indeed because what would still be a very small degree (the size of a mustard seed) would suffice for dramatic effects. Indeed the entire logic of the statement is that such faith (while still very small from Jesus’s perspective) is extraordinarily rare, as rare as the effects alluded to. If we were to apply Finlay’s reading this would mean that virtually no one in scripture or out has ever had faith at all (Moses perhaps?). Then we have Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Here we have a repeated invocation of degree and quantity. Finlay ignores this. His argument is that Paul says ‘all faith’ would suffice to move mountains whereas Jesus says in Matthew that faith the size of a mustard seed would suffice. This point is deeply obscure. Obviously if faith the size of a mustard seed suffices then ‘all faith’ does. But this does not address the point anyway. Both Jesus and Paul are talking about faith. Paul quite clearly classes faith as admitting of degrees which then affect efficacy in prayer. Finlay’s case rest on claiming that when Matthew said ‘oligopistia’ he meant to say ‘apistia’ because (according to Findlay) ‘oligopistia’ is an impossibility as faith does not admit of degrees. Paul is not helping him here. He is lining faith up in a list of things that admit of degrees and asserting that a superlative degree of faith entails the power to move mountains. Then we have James who tells us “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Findlay has not told us how he disposes of the meaning of this passage (if he accepts James as canonical?).

    2. Sacrifice. There have been repeated assertions that ‘a prayer is not a sacrifice’. That the two terms are not equivalent does not suffice to justify this claim else ‘a poodle is not a dog’ would be just as true. I said they differed as to genus and species. That is all sacrifices are prayers but not all prayers are sacrifices. I said that the specific difference (that which distinguishes the species in its genus) is the offering of a victim through its destruction (poured out, eaten or burnt up). Finlay says ‘aha you think sacrifice is just destruction’. Not at all, just as I do not think what whatever it is that distinguishes poodles from other dogs is all that makes up a poodle. The destruction of an offering (pouring, consumption, burning) is just what distinguishes this sort of prayer from others.

    As already mentioned prayer means asking. I half suspect Findlay is trying to confine its meaning to petitionary speech. But this is not correct, one can ask in many ways that do not entail speech the raising of an eyebrow or hand, a bow, falling to one’s knees or offering someone something. Every offering involves asking of its nature. It involves asking if the offeree accepts. A sacrificial offering entails that the thing offered is destroyed (poured out, eaten or burnt up). If you take away the offer what is left is not a sacrifice but just pouring, eating or burning etc.

    So sacrifice is form of prayer and prayer (in our case) relies on faith (Mtt, Lk, 1 Cor) or righteousness (James) for its efficacy. This efficacy admits of degrees. As it happens human beings as such are not acceptable offerers of prayer to God because of sin. They need to offer prayer through Christ who is acceptable to God and who has atoned for man’s sin in an all sufficient sacrifice. They need to offer prayer through Him and His sacrifice. It is through faith that they come to share in His atoning sacrifice and their prayer is more efficacious the stronger their faith. Presumably this is partly because it is more acceptable and partly because they pray more for things God wishes to give them. These degrees of efficacy are not derived from any imperfection in the sacrifice of Christ but in our conformity to it. This is how they participate in the priesthood of Christ not by adding to its infinitude but by interceding through it. In Christ’s sacrifice itself the one offering, the thing offered, and the manner of offering are perfect. In the Eucharist Christ instructs this presbyter to offer this sacrifice in this way. The presbyter acts as Christ’s instrument independently of his personally fidelity and worthiness eliminating the elements which in the case of his and our other prayers otherwise limit conformity to Christ and His sacrifice. This is a true sacrifice but it is not a different sacrifice to Calvary rather the same principle sacrificing priest offers through the instrument of his presbyter the same victim in the same way (the separation of body and blood). This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the church.

    Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God,and they shall reign on earth.”

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    • “Finlay argues that prayer is either faithful (and so efficacious) or not, no degrees.”
      No degrees of efficacy, but there are degrees of faith. The efficacy does not depend on the degree of faith, but on the existence/exercise of it.
      “Finlay takes this to be a rejection of the whole concept of degree.”
      Not true at all; this is a complete misreading/misrepresentation of what I’ve said.
      “If we were to apply Finlay’s reading this would mean that virtually no one in scripture or out has ever had faith at all (Moses perhaps?).”
      Not at all. The Lord’s people accomplish great things through prayer all the time – far greater than casting a devil out of a possessed child. The Christian’s ongoing victory over the devil, by the power of Christ, through prayer, is far greater than moving physical mountains.
      “Finlay ignores this.”
      No, I just disagree with your interpretation. Of course it implies degree and quantity of faith. But it isn’t a mirror passage for the one in Matthew, because the quantity of faith you claim is ‘required’ to move mountains is completely different in each.
      “Finlay’s case rest on claiming that when Matthew said ‘oligopistia’ he meant to say ‘apistia’…”
      No, he meant what he said. We differ on the interpretation, not on whether the inspired writer meant what he said. Do you really want to have the same discussion over again, or are you just going to misrepresent what I’ve said?
      “(according to Findlay) … faith does not admit of degrees.”
      Finlay never said this. Faith does admit of degrees. You’re misrepresenting my position repeatedly. Faith and efficacy are not the same thing. One admits of degrees, the other doesn’t.
      “Findlay has not told us how he disposes of the meaning of this passage (if he accepts James as canonical?).”
      There is nothing to explain here. James (yes, of course I accept him as canonical) is saying that the prayers of the righteous (or faithful) accomplish great things. Where did I suggest anything different??
      “…else ‘a poodle is not a dog’ would be just as true.”
      The analogy doesn’t hold until you demonstrate that a sacrifice is a type of prayer. Saying it is doesn’t make it so, just as saying ‘a poodle is a dog’ doesn’t make it a dog. ‘A poodle is a dog’ is true because a poodle conforms to the general definition of a dog. You haven’t shown that a sacrifice conforms to an agreed general definition of prayer.
      “Finlay says ‘aha you think sacrifice is just destruction’.”
      Not what I said at all. I suggested you were implying that destruction was the primary idea in sacrifice, which it isn’t. The primary idea is the giving or offering of a gift.
      “Findlay is trying to confine its meaning to petitionary speech.”
      Not necessarily speech, but definitely petitionary. Prayer is an expression of our desires, needs and feelings to God by way of request. As Cath points out, it depends on the sacrifice for acceptance. That dependence, when it is exercised by the child of God, is called faith. The faintest of looks to the brasen serpent was enough to heal the Israelite who had been bitten. Just so, the weakest faith, exercised upon the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, is enough to gain acceptance with God.

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    • “Finlay argues that prayer is either faithful (and so efficacious) or not, no degrees.”
      No degrees of efficacy, but there are degrees of faith. The efficacy does not depend on the degree of faith, but on the existence/exercise of it.
      “Finlay takes this to be a rejection of the whole concept of degree.”
      Not true at all; this is a complete misreading/misrepresentation of what I’ve said.
      “If we were to apply Finlay’s reading this would mean that virtually no one in scripture or out has ever had faith at all (Moses perhaps?).”
      Not at all. The Lord’s people accomplish great things through prayer all the time – far greater than casting a devil out of a possessed child. The Christian’s ongoing victory over the devil, by the power of Christ, through prayer, is far greater than moving physical mountains.
      “Finlay ignores this.”
      No, I just disagree with your interpretation. Of course it implies degree and quantity of faith. But it isn’t a mirror passage for the one in Matthew, because the quantity of faith you claim is ‘required’ to move mountains is completely different in each.
      “Finlay’s case rest on claiming that when Matthew said ‘oligopistia’ he meant to say ‘apistia’…”
      No, he meant what he said. We differ on the interpretation, not on whether the inspired writer meant what he said. Do you really want to have the same discussion over again, or are you just going to misrepresent what I’ve said?
      “(according to Findlay) … faith does not admit of degrees.”
      Finlay never said this. Faith does admit of degrees. You’re misrepresenting my position repeatedly. Faith and efficacy are not the same thing. One admits of degrees, the other doesn’t.
      “Findlay has not told us how he disposes of the meaning of this passage (if he accepts James as canonical?).”
      There is nothing to explain here. James (yes, of course I accept him as canonical) is saying that the prayers of the righteous (or faithful) accomplish great things. Where did I suggest anything different??
      “…else ‘a poodle is not a dog’ would be just as true.”
      The analogy doesn’t hold until you demonstrate that a sacrifice is a type of prayer. Saying it is doesn’t make it so, just as saying ‘a poodle is a dog’ doesn’t make it a dog. ‘A poodle is a dog’ is true because a poodle conforms to the general definition of a dog. You haven’t shown that a sacrifice conforms to an agreed general definition of prayer.
      “Finlay says ‘aha you think sacrifice is just destruction’.”
      Not what I said at all. I suggested you were implying that destruction was the primary idea in sacrifice, which it isn’t. The primary idea is the giving or offering of a gift.
      “Findlay is trying to confine its meaning to petitionary speech.”
      Not necessarily speech, but definitely petitionary. Prayer is an expression of our desires, needs and feelings to God by way of request. As Cath points out, it depends on the sacrifice for acceptance. That dependence, when it is exercised by the child of God, is called faith. The faintest of looks to the brasen serpent was enough to heal the Israelite who had been bitten. Just so, the weakest faith, exercised upon the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, is enough to gain acceptance with God.
      “It involves asking if the offeree accepts.”
      It doesn’t. Offering something is giving the person the opportunity to accept. You can’t just assert that asking whether they accept is included in that.
      “So sacrifice is form of prayer.”
      It isn’t.
      “…their prayer is more efficacious the stronger their faith. ”
      You were doing fine up to this point, but this isn’t correct.
      “…they pray more for things God wishes to give them.”
      Sure they do, but that’s different from the concept of efficacy.”
      “In the Eucharist Christ instructs this presbyter to offer this sacrifice…”
      Except that the eucharist isn’t a sacrifice, it’s a sacrament. A commemorative ritual observed to seal the benefits of an already-completed sacrifice to the partaker.
      “…limit conformity to Christ and His sacrifice.”
      How come our ordinary/other prayers can achieve such great things, then? When we go directly to God through Christ, we can accomplish great things, because there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. No need for any other instrument or intermediary to increase the efficacy of our interactions with God, because all the efficacy is in Christ and his blood. None of the efficacy comes from us or any other human, instrument or not.
      “This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the church.”
      This is an unfounded assertion. I could assert the opposite – neither of us are going to prove our position, so let’s not go down that route.
      “Then one of the elders said to me, …”
      A pointless quote, since you haven’t linked it to the discussion.

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      • I don’t believe your position is remotely tenable in the light of scripture but I don’t think it is necessary to add anything more to what I have already said to demonstrate that. As to degrees of faith, your acceptance that there are degrees of faith is strange especially if you accept that these passages suffice to demonstrate this, because you deny any connection between those degrees and the efficacy of prayer. Thus our Lord’s words would have to be rhetorical and hyperbolic and might just as well in your reading serve as a denial that degrees exist. If they do not entail this then they are at least an assertion that some degree is necessary albeit a very small one. You must then be taking ‘mustard seed’ to mean the degree of ‘anything less than zero’. This seems tremendously contrived and relies on your non-literal-free-interpretation principle. Even conceding this huge coach and horses point the position is still totally incompatible with the other texts examined. Your position requires that any prayer made in faith automatically efficacious (so long as it is God’s antecedent will to grant it). St Paul says that the maximum possible degree of faith moves mountains. The inescapable consequence of this is that at some lesser degree lesser effects will be achieved. Otherwise Paul’s statement is quite meaningless. Likewise your reading of James would mean he is saying ‘only the prayer of the righteous man has any effect at all before God’ true or not this is not what he says. He says ‘the prayer of the righteous man has great power before God’. You are (unsuccessfully) squeezing the natural meaning of all these passages into a pre-conceived human tradition.

        Your other point entails the remarkable doctrine that per se the one who makes sacrifice is indifferent as to whether it is accepted or not and it is only by a super-added wish, not intrinsic to the sacrificial action itself, that he cares whether God accepts the offering. This is self evidently not the case.

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        • I’m not being funny, but I actually cannot follow what you’re trying to say in parts of this message.
          I don’t get what you’re trying to say about ‘these passages sufficing to demonstrate’ degrees of faith. Is this a response to some statement I made?? Or is it just you trying to find obscure grounds on which to try and make me out to have contradicted myself? I just don’t know what point you’re making I’m afraid.
          You jump to the conclusion that ‘our Lord’s words would have to be rhetorical and hyperbolic’ – I for one am more interested in what the passage is actually telling us, and I don’t see the logic or the point of the leap you took. I have no idea what you mean by ‘the degree of “anything less than zero”‘ I’m afraid.
          By the way, I do hold that any prayer made in faith is ‘automatically’ (?) efficacious provided it is God’s antecedent will to grant the request. Pretty well summed up by the following text: “all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt 21:22). I don’t know what problem you have with this idea? Incidentally, in the context of that verse, Jesus says that, with faith, the disciples would be able to move mountains, but doesn’t comment on how large a degree of faith they needed. Implying that the degree of faith wasn’t the issue, but the existence of it, and the absence of unbelief.
          Where you assert that Paul says the “maximum possible degree of faith moves mountains. The inescapable consequence of this is that at some lesser degree lesser effects will be achieved”, do you recognise that Jesus says a tiny degree of faith (a grain of mustard seed being a very small thing, not a very large thing) will achieve exactly the same thing? So if your reading of Paul is correct, he is contradicting Jesus’ point. Or are you really trying to suggest that Jesus means ‘the maximum possible degree of faith’ when he spoke of a mustard seed?? What you say about James is not actually relevant to the point of disagreement between us. Of course James is saying that the prayer of a man of faith has great power before God. We’re disagreeing on how much faith that man needs to have. James doesn’t comment on whether it needs to be large or not – implying that it is the existence of faith that he was getting at, not the largeness of it.
          Finally, the person offering a sacrifice is not per se asking for acceptance. Wicked men in the Aaronic priesthood offered sacrifices according to the form prescribed, but cared nothing for whether God accepted them. They were still sacrifices, but they were not accompanied by the prayer of faith in the heart of the one offering. An acceptable sacrifice is one in which the person offering is asking for acceptance on the basis of the sacrifice – this doesn’t mean that the asking for acceptance is inherent to the actual performance of the sacrifice.

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          • What I meant was there was no necessity on my part to repeat the arguments already given as to the meaning of the four passages which suffice on their own to demonstrate their meaning. By ‘God’s antecedent will’ I meant His will prescinding altogether from the condition of the one praying. For example, it is God’s antecedent will to answer human prayers but infidelity renders such prayers unacceptable hence by his consequent will he does not answer the prayers of the unfaithful (this is an over simplification for the sake of clarity of exposition). In Matthew 21:22 Jesus also qualifies the nature of the faith that is efficacious in prayer as ‘unhesitating’ so it’s still not helping you. If 5% of X suffices to achieve Y then 100% of X does too, but that does not mean that 1% of X does. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 clearly asserts the efficacy in prayer of a maximal degree of faith. You deny any such connection maximal or otherwise, any faith will do. According to you so does the Lord. This means that you would have to assert a contradiction between Paul and Jesus. Fortunately there is no need to worry about this because Jesus doesn’t say what you are saying. The Lord says in so many words that the disciples’ faith was ‘too little’ for their prayer of exorcism to work but if it were ‘the size of a mustard seed’ (so still very small) it would have worked. You say that they just needed any degree. That means that you interpret the Lord as saying “if your faith was of any degree at all you could ask for this mountain to be moved and it would be”. This makes no sense of Jesus’ ‘little faith’ comment so you just change that to ‘no faith’ because otherwise you would be wrong. James’s qualification ‘great’ power implies other people’s prayer could have power but not ‘great’ power. On your other point, an insincere offering is still an offering and objectively implies a request for acceptance even if the offeror is secretly lying. Of course God knows when an offer is insincere. If it wasn’t an offer in the first place it wouldn’t be insincere or sinful. On your logic it would be ok to burn incense before the statue of Caesar so long as you didn’t really mean it.

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            • We are making absolutely no progress, so I don’t want any more discussion of the topic of prayer. You have repeatedly over-simplified what I’m saying and then wrested scripture to make it suit your interpretation. The big problem for you is that your interpretation doesn’t match up to the over-arching fact that it is Christ’s intercession alone which gives efficacy to any of our prayers and therefore the strength of our faith cannot have any effect on it. God hears us for Christ’s sake alone, not because of our strong faith. I’m not interested in continuing to unravel your convoluted and at times less than logical reasoning time after time, so I’m ending our discussion right here.

              PS. For a one-line summary of why this discussion isn’t worth having any more, I need only quote you – “James’s qualification ‘great’ power implies other people’s prayer could have power but not ‘great’ power.” Wow!

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  17. Re 2 – I think we dispute the genus/species relationship between prayer and sacrifice. The sacrifice is what lays the foundation for the kind of relationship where someone can pray. Sacrifice is not, “asking God for something in virtue of a gift to Him”, as you said, but is itself giving him the gift (offering the offering). It’s only if the sacrifice is accepted that there is any basis for asking God for anything.
    As I said in what’s got lost above, it’s not a case of, please accept this sacrifice, but rather, please accept me/us on the basis of this sacrifice.

    The “sharing” terminology remains jarring, to a Hebrews-informed mindset. You said, “It is through faith that they come to share in His atoning sacrifice” — that’s not what faith does. Through faith, they come to get the benefits of his atoning sacrifice, which is to say, reconciliation with God, forgiveness, acceptance, and so on. They add nothing, they contribute nothing, they share nothing, of his sacrifice. The key sola, the principle at stake, is Christ alone. You can’t have Christ as a perfect, all-availing, all-sufficient Saviour *and* have those who he saves sharing in his atoning sacrifice.

    Plus, the eucharist is not a sacrifice. (I just feel I should mention that.)

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  18. But ‘praying’ just means ‘asking’ and offering is just a kind of asking. As to participation: I also ‘ask’, but my asking is not adequate because of my sin, Christ’s ‘asking’ is super-adequate, if I didn’t ask-with Him my ‘asking’ would fail. Faith in Him is what causes me to ask-with Him. If this was not necessary everyone would be saved whether they had faith or not, because (even though you may deny it is offered for all) His death is certainly adequate to save all.

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  19. “The Eucharist is not a sacrifice”
    Saint Ignatius of Antioch,( disciple of John the Apostle)
    “the Eucharist is the flesh of our saviour Jesus Christ”
    There were are, straight from the mouth of one of the Apostolic Fathers of The Church.
    I doubt Calvin or Knox were better qualified than him.
    Can I ask a slightly off topic question. Do Calvinists still believe in predestination?

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    • Maybe I would, Tiggy, if I knew what it was, but like predestination (which Calvinists do still believe in), it’s off topic, so if you don’t mind, it would be better not to say any more about either in this thread.

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  20. Offering is not just a kind of asking, though. It’s a prerequisite to asking – it’s what puts the would-be asker in a relationship with God that makes his/her asking possible. Sacrifice is the method of achieving propitiation, expiation,
    and hence acceptance and reconciliation. Prayer is the approach of God’s children to him as a father, able and willing to help them – without prior reconciliation, without them being brought into that relationship of children to him, prayer isn’t possible.

    Participation: so it’s you plus Christ then. It’s, ‘here I am, and here’s Christ to make up what’s lacking or faulty in me.’ In stark contrast to, Hear me wholly for Christ’s sake.

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  21. Participation in the sense of ‘I have no admittance to this court, I have no right to speak here and I have no convincing arguments anyway. He speaks for me and He does have admittance, right of audience and a convincing argument. I participate in His advocacy, because it is my case He has taken upon Himself and I have accepted Him as my representative through faith.’ Likewise ‘I have no admittance to this temple, I have no right to approach this altar, and I have nothing to offer there. He enters on my behalf, He approaches the altar, He offers Himself. I participate in His offering, because it is my sins for which He atones, and I have accepted Him as my representative through faith’. [obviously my acceptance of His advocacy is also something He merited through His sacrifice, not some independent initiative on my part].

    Just on a generic level an offer of anything necessarily implies an inquiry as to whether the offeree accepts otherwise it just isn’t an offer. I don’t understand how you can deny this and provide a meaningful definition of offering. I don’t see the sense in which you can attribute the power to sacrifice to the faithful (as Hebrews does) or the sense in which you attribute priesthood to them as Peter and John do.

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  22. I say Tiggy, Ignatius might well have been better qualified than Calvin or Knox in many respects, but I don’t think his being an early disciple is much safeguard against his possibly being wrong on certain matters – Ignatius must have been but knee high to a grasshopper when other even earlier disciples were falling into all sorts of crazy error.

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  23. Aelianus, on the inquiry as to whether the offering is acceptable – we already know that Christ’s offering is acceptable/ has been accepted, and also it was known beforehand that it would be accepted because it was what was required. The Israelite high priest on the day of atonement, if he was following the ceremonial procedure spelled out by Moses, also knew that the sacrifice would be accepted – he was only there because it was specifically required of him to be there doing this or that in relation to offering the sacrifice. (I’m not too fussed about wicked priests btw.)

    The believer does not offer this sacrifice: Christ was the priest and Christ was the sacrifice. This is the whole burden of the epistle to the Hebrews.

    (Why does the terrible feeling persist that we’re all talking at cross purposes.)

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  24. OK….(in case we are)… recapitulation

    1) Christ’s atoning sacrifice is infinitely meritorious and all-sufficient.
    2) We do not have access to it except through faith.
    3) The efficacy of our prayer is tied to that faith
    4) Faith admits of degrees
    5) The efficacy of prayer admits of corresponding degrees
    6) The Eucharist is not principally our prayer but Christ’s
    7) The efficacy of the Eucharist (as a prayer) is infinite
    8) Every prayer of the faithful is a re-presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ subjectively limited in its (the prayer’s) efficacy by the strength of the believer’s faith (and so access).
    9) The Eucharist is the re-presentation of the infinitely meritorious and all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ by Christ Himself through the Presbyter without subjective limitation.
    10) Thus the Lamb (Christ) standing (risen) as if slain (in immolated form through the separate consecration of the bread and wine) with seven eyes and seven horns (omniscient and omnipotent i.e. divine) opens the scroll (accomplishes the salvation of the predestined) and transforms the faithful into a royal priesthood (through uniting them to His sacrifice).

    All of this is the effect of His will and His sacrifice (including the living faith which gives us access to it). There is nothing in the predestined which causes their predestination it is all in the will of God accomplished through the action of Christ.

    The denials of 4 & 5 attempted above involve Anglican levels of exegetical gymnastics.

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  25. Completely different understandings of what prayer is, and how it differs from a sacrament. And of the difference between Christ pleading his merits and the believer pleading Christ’s merits. Not to mention, of what is happening in the sacrament. No wonder chaos has reigned for the past 50+ comments.

    No more from me tonight but I will try and recover and reconsider.

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  26. Cammie, it may well be fascinating, but it of zero relevance to the post or the discussion, neatly selected quote notwithstanding. I’ve liberated this comment from the spam box, where it had oddly enough landed, but am unlikely to do so again.

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  27. Something is bothering me about the very first post that started this long discussion, and that is the idea that redundancy is somehow bad and not in keeping with God’s usual actions.

    To me, the priesthood indeed seems redundant, but so does the Church itself. Christ having risen from the dead, why should he need his “Body” to be the Church, other than to spread the Gospel? Yet he also tells his disciples to baptize. Christ having won our salvation, why should he also grace us with the Holy Spirit? And yet he does. But God always seems to be going over the top in generosity, bestowing grace upon grace. In the miracle of loaves and fishes, he gives so much food that there are baskets of leftovers. In the miracle at Cana, he turns water into the best wine, and gives it out to people too drunk to really appreciate it.

    Looking at the priesthood in the Old Testament, there was one High Priest but also many other priests. Now we have the true High Priest, Christ, who has made his true and perfect sacrifice. Because he still has given us priests, we are by his grace permitted to enter more fully into the mystery of his sacrifice on the Cross. Several other people in this thread have described the purpose and function of priests and the Mass better than I can, so I needn’t go into that. I will simply restate: yes, all this seems to me redundant and perhaps even excessive. I was raised to value efficiency, and my Lord does not seem to be focused on getting the job done with minimum time, effort, and resources, but on lavishing completely unworthy people with uncountable favors and a love we cannot even comprehend. From creation to the cross to the church to heaven itself, he appears to me wilder in his excess than Bacchus. I think he could have understandably chosen to be more of a minimalist. Yet he has filled our cup to overflowing, and I can only stand amazed and grateful.

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  28. It could perhaps have something to do with what kind of “redundancy” you’re talking about. In a system like natural language, redundancy is a good thing – you always get more than you need (multiple cues to segment identity, etc) but that’s slightly different from redundancy in the sense of being surplus to requirement, having no real contribution to make at all.

    Ie, nobody is denying that grace is given in abundance, and superabundance, but that doesn’t necessarily consist in a multiplicity of things. Eg, the Holy Spirit is not somehow additional to Christ’s salvation but instead his work is an essential part of the salvation of those who are saved. Again the Church is not some sort of bonus but something that Christ instituted with a specific purpose which is not achieved through any other means. Etc.

    But what Christ did and is doing as the Priest of the Church, he did/does in such a way that no other priest is necessary, all other priests are redundant – they have nothing to contribute, their presence and their activity is entirely unnecessary. It’s obviously good to recognise and appreciate the multiplicity of blessings that God does bestow on the Church in the NT, but the office of a priest is not among them.

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  29. But the New Testament clearly teaches that the faithful are all priests and offer sacrifice. Can you give a definition of the words ‘priest’ and ‘sacrifice’ that can be applied to the priests of the Old Law to Christ Himself and to the faithful of the New Covenant? If you cannot then your doctrine cannot be that of scripture.

    How do you explain the comparison St Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 11:21 between the Eucharist and the sacrifices of the pagans?

    How doe you explain St Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:24 “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church”?

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  30. Yes the faithful are priests and offer sacrifice: no they do not offer a sacrifice for sin and they do not re-enact or otherwise participate in the offering that Christ made for sin.

    A rigorous, watertight, terminologically precise definition I can’t give, but I can offer a loose description to state what I believe, if that will do – a priest is someone who acts towards God on behalf of men; men being fallen and sinful, the priest must act towards God in a way of removing sin first and foremost; God’s ordained means for removing sin is by way of expiatory and propitiatory sacrifice; Christ as God’s ordained Priest offered himself a sacrifice which expiated sin and propitiated God; he acted alone and he successfully achieved what his sacrifice of himself was intended to achieve (namely expiation and propitiation); he now continues to act (alone and successfully) in his priestly office by presenting the merits of his sacrifice of himself in the court of heaven, procuring salvation and all the benefits of the covenant of grace on behalf of his sinful people.

    The OT priests only foreshadowed this, doing one thing to typify one aspect of Christ’s work and one thing to typfiy another, because their priesthood and their priestly activities had an in-built self-evident limitation/weakness/deficiency (none of them continued for ever; their sacrifices could not and were not intended to purge the sinner’s conscience from moral as opposed to ceremonial guilt, etc).

    NT priests: Christ is *the* priest of the NT, because he and he alone has satisfied for sin and he and he alone intercedes on the basis of his sacrifice of himself for sin. His people are priests, all of them in the same way, not in the sense of offering sacrifices for sin but in the sense of devoting or consecrating or offering themselves body and soul to the Lord and his service, not as an offering for sin, but as a thank-offering, something that is done out of gratitude now that sin has been taken out of the way and the sinner is reconciled to God. They take nothing to do with Christ’s sacrifice for sin except to, by faith, appropriate the benefits of it to themselves (forgiveness, reconciliation, and so on).

    Roughly speaking, and in a rush.

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  31. 1 Cor 10 v 21 – again roughly speaking, the communion which the believers had in the cup of blessing and the bread they broke, was inconsistent with involving thesmelves in the idolatrous practices of the non-Christians they were living among. Do you mean that because he talks about pagans offering sacrifices in v19, 20, he must mean that the communion around the bread and wine is a sacrifice too? I don’t think that captures the point of the passage – it’s more like: flee from idolatry, because you have identified yourselves as belonging to the communion of saints in the sacrament of the bread and wine – you cannot simultaneously belong to the pagan community and the Christian church – your participation in the bread and wine marks you out as completely different from them and especially their idolatry is highly offensive to the Lord you have professed in the sacrament, as if you were provoking him to jealousy. Or something.

    I don’t know where you’re going with the verse in Colossians – don’t see how it relates to this discussion at all.

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    • But Paul directly equates the pagan sacrifice and its altar with the rite and table of the Eucharist. If his point is merely that the worship of God is incompatible with the worship of demons then it is very odd that he takes the Eucharist as his example and draws the parallel so closely.

      The Colossians passage is crucial because Paul explains that his sufferings are joined to those of Christ. This is the authentic doctrine of the priesthood of the faithful.

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  32. But according to your definition “a priest is someone who acts towards God on behalf of men” but the sense in which you hold the faithful to be priests does fulfill this definition because they do not mediate between God and man, because they do not offer their thank-offerings on behalf of others.

    Even if you did claim the faithful make thank offerings on behalf of others you are left with an even more serious problem. Your account undermines what you claim to be its main virtue because it set up the faithful as mediators apart from the one mediator. According to the Catholic doctrine the priesthood of the faithful is just the instrumental exercise of the priesthood of Christ uniting their own sufferings and prayers to His. Your doctrine makes them priests on their own so that Christ is no longer the one mediator.

    Still very interested to hear your explanation of 1 Corinthians 11:21 and Colossians 1:24.

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  33. Exactly. The senses in which Christ is a priest, the OT priests, and NT believers, are different. Christ is the true priest – his office and work were typified and foreshadowed in various ways with varying degrees of clarity by the Levitical priests, and calling the NT believers priests only makes reference to a limited number of characteristics of priesthood too. Specifically, NT believers are priests in the sense that they offer sacrifices-of-praise (not that they offer them on anyone’s behalf), they have access to God, they are consecrated and set apart from the world, they are devoted body and soul to God’s service. They are called temples too for roughly the same reasons – the place where God dwells with men, the holy place where God is worshipped, etc. And all believers are priests, kings, temples, stones, sheep, children, etc, in the same sense – there is no separate class of priests in the NT Church.

    This is emphatically not apart from the mediation of Christ. Christ alone. There is one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus. No Marys, no saints, no nothing, but Christ alone. For Christ’s sake their persons are accepted, and for Christ’s sake their works/praises are accepted.

    I don’t think it’s odd at all that arguments against idolatry should be drawn from a believer’s participation in the Lord’s Supper. Paul is not using pagan sacrifice/altar to illuminate his teaching on the Lord’s Supper, but more like using their knowledge of the communion they’ve had around the bread and wine to show what a total betrayal it would be for them to attempt to have the same fellowship around pagan idolatrous sacrifices. Out of all the means of grace, the Lord’s Supper is the one where you make the clearest and most public declaration of your dependence on Christ and your dissociation from the unbelieving world, or your association/identification with Christ and the church who believe on him too. Having had this fellowship, it should be most glaringly obvious that you cannot sit at Christ’s table and the table of devils: you cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve God and mammon, etc.

    I have honestly never before so much as considered that Col 1:24 is related to the priesthood of believers. For one thing, it’s specifically about Paul and what was involved in his apostleship. For another, even in the sense that believers do suffer affliction for Christ’s sake, their suffering is not connected to priesthood but more to do with being disciplined as adopted sons, Heb 12 (or I suppose in the case of actual martyrdom being witnesses that he is worthy for whose name they are suffering). Really, if we’re talking about sacrifices and suffering, the suffering is not on the part of the priest, but on the part of the sacrificial victim, being offered in place of the guilty for the remission of their (the guilty party’s) sins, and believers do not in any way suffer for [ie in order to bring about or contribute to] the remission of sins.

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  34. Aelianus,
    You are ignoring a large part of what Cath has said. The quotation you took issue with, that a priest is someone who acts towards God on behalf of men, was quite obviously relating to Christ’s work. She explicitly states that it is not meant to be a watertight definition of priest, so for you to claim that it means she is setting up all believers as mediators is extremely disingenuous. You have only to read the entirety of her post to see that she has later explained what she believes about the priesthood of believers.
    In summary (correct me if I’m wrong here Cath), the point of similarity between the OT priesthood and the priesthood of believers is in the offering of sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. In the case of believers, the sacrifice they offer is themselves, body and soul. Sufferings are bound up with this. No-one suggested that the offering was ‘for others’.
    The OT priests additionally had the function of offering sacrifices for sin. This function is not shared by any in the New Testament, because Christ has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. There is no more offering required, so no priesthood is required to offer it.
    In 1 Corinthians 10, (rather than 11, which you referenced a couple of times) the apostle is drawing a parallel between the table of the Lord (the Christian ritual sealing the benefits of the sacrifice to believers) and the table of the pagan gods (devils) where the flesh of the animals offered in sacrifice to devils was eaten (the pagan ritual demonstrating participation in devil worship). In both cases, the partaking of the table is subsequent to the sacrifice itself. The table of devils could not be furnished without the sacrifice being offered, but the table itself was not the sacrifice. This is why Paul then goes on to explain that those who partake of the Lord’s Supper were not to knowingly and deliberately partake of meat which had been offered in sacrifice to idols (v.28). He isn’t warning them against attending the actual heathen sacrifice – there was no need to do so – but against condoning and being party to devil-worship by partaking of the meat.
    It would be helpful if you could explain how you think Colossians 1:24 supports whatever point it is you are making by it. I see nothing in it to suggest that Paul was a priest in any sense other than in the sense that all believers are. When it talks of filling up what is behind of Christ’s sufferings, are you suggesting that Paul is identifying a deficiency in the sufferings of Christ? If not, where is the verse taking you. It’s hard to see what you want us to ‘explain’ in the verse.

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  35. “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? ”

    The cup of the Lord is offered to God at ‘an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat’. Without this truth Paul’s words make no sense. Your attempt to interpret them differently has to contend with the fact that it contradicts the unanimous verdict of every surviving commentary on those words for a more than thousand years after they were written. No secular historian could countenance such an ahistorical approach to a text. I know we have discussed this before but if scripture always has a meaning different from its obvious sense and hidden from all recorded readers of it for a millennium such that it requires what is effectively a private revelation to read it correctly it seems what you are left with is not the all-sufficiency of scripture but its superfluity.

    I presume you take faith to be certain. Is your certainty attached to scripture or the Westminster Confession? Do you in theory accept that you could be wrong in supposing the Westminster Confession to be true? It seems to me that if you do not then you put your faith in the traditions of men. If the meaning of scripture is really plain why do you need the Westminster Confession? When you ask someone what they hold on some point of doctrine or other they should need only say ‘oh I agree with scripture’ for you to know the answer, but you know that is not the case. This is why such documents as the WC are required. But while the Catholic Church claims a mandate from Christ to issue infallible and binding definitions of the true teaching of Christ the various protestant communities claim no such mandate. Thus the establishment of such documents as the Westminster Confession is in reality a much greater presumption against the adequacy of Christ’s revelation than even the actions of the Catholic Church were she (as you suppose) lacking the mandate she claims. At least she claims it and so does not implicitly accuse the Lord of failing to provide for the propagation and purity of His doctrine.

    What you claim about the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice is analogously self defeating. In the sacrifice of Christ priest and victim are one. Paul says he makes up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. But as you and I know there is nothing lacking in Him so it can only be a lack in Paul and yet he says the lack is in the sufferings of Christ. This is because the faithful are made by God to conform themselves to Christ by joining their sufferings to His. If you deny this then you must make Paul to be saying that our Lord’s own sufferings are inadequate.

    You cannot provide a definition of priesthood that covers Christ, the OT priesthood and the faithful of the NT and so your doctrine cannot be that of scripture which uses the same word of all three. Thus according to your account the NT errs in doing so. Furthermore you deny the one mediation of Christ because you ascribe a priesthood (albeit only exercised on their own behalf) to the faithful of the NT that is not made in and through Christ’s offering and His priesthood. It is your sixteenth century doctrine and not the teaching of the Catholic Church that denies that the one sacrifice of Christ is enough.

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  36. The idea that the doctrine held by the Roman Catholic Church was universally held by everyone, and the logic that it must therefore be the truth is so self-evidently inaccurate and unscriptural that it hardly deserves a response. Scripture refutes your doctrinal positions – what does it matter that commentaries and other works of godly men failed to survive the Dark Ages? It is enough that scripture survived intact, and is clear enough that the Westminster Divines were enabled through their study of it to put together a concise and organised body of divinity which is thoroughly agreeable to scripture.
    No-one takes the WCoF to be inerrant and infallible. Of course there is the theoretical possibility that it is wrong in some points. It is a statement of the beliefs of those who subscribe to it as to how scripture is to be interpreted on the great points of doctrine on which it touches. Without it, we have an entirely sufficient revelation of God’s mind in Holy Scripture. But because heretics and infidels are wont to wrest the scriptures to their own and their neighbours destruction, God has appointed in his church those who are to assert, maintain and defend the doctrines of the faith. They do so primarily by preaching, but also by drawing up and publishing summaries of their beliefs. The idea that these individuals have any power to speak infallibly or ascribe to themselves inerrancy is blasphemous.

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    • I assume you are aware that your position is utterly fideistic and entirely circular? Perhaps you see this as a virtue.

      “because heretics and infidels are wont to wrest the scriptures to their own and their neighbours destruction, God has appointed in his church those who are to assert, maintain and defend the doctrines of the faith. They do so primarily by preaching, but also by drawing up and publishing summaries of their beliefs.”

      How true how true.

      Of course you would have no idea which books make up the NT if the Catholic Church had not told you. It is strange given the centrality you ascribe to the written word of scripture that Our Lord did not write the NT Himself, that He never mentioned that it ought to written or would be written, that He never told His disciples to write it, that most of them wrote no inspired or even surviving writings of any kind, that the NT has no systematic character, that it is largely composed of occasional writings. Instead the Lord appointed the twelve and the seventy and told them “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” and promised Peter ”your faith may not fail”.

      Hear the words of the Lord to the Pharisees:

      “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. “

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  37. This is utterly exasperating. Stop introducing red herrings (Aelianus) and stop rising to the bait (Finlay). Yes, herrings can be bait. Keep it ON TOPIC, please and thank you.

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  38. So we all say Christ’s sacrifice is one and all sufficient sacrifice. We each claim the other’s account of this sufficiency actually undermines it. You say that this is so because the assertion that the Eucharist is a sacrifice adds something to Christ’s sacrifice. We say no it does not because the Eucharist is the re-presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ. Indeed we say that all Christian prayer is this, but limited by the fidelity of the believer, while in the Eucharist Christ Himself re-presents the one sacrifice so there is no limitation. You say this in fact constitutes a new sacrifice. But the priest and the victim are the same, Christ’s death is not repeated, the one immolation is simply shown forth. Just as Christ preserves His wounds on His risen body to plead for us before the Father ‘standing as if slain’. You concede that there are indeed priests and sacrifice in the New Covenant (for scripture tells us that there are). We hold that this sacrifice of the faithful is the offering of their sufferings and prayers in union with those of Christ joined to His one sacrifice (which renders their sufferings and prayers acceptable) that this is what St Paul means when he says “in my body I make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body the Church”. We say that were one to interpret this differently, and deny that the sufferings of the faithful are made one with and offered up through Christ’s sufferings, one would be ascribing to Paul the doctrine that there is an actual insufficiency in Our Lord’s passion on Calvary itself. You say that the sacrifice of the priests of the New Covenant is a thank offering of the faithful of themselves to God but independently and not as part of the offering of Christ. We agree that it is a thank offering of the faithful of themselves to God but we absolutely deny that this is independently and not as part of the offering of Christ. For this would be to deny the all sufficient and definitive character of Christ’s death which is the meritorious, exemplary and efficient cause of our offering which is made in and through His. But if you were to avoid thus creating an independent order of NT priests and denying the all sufficiency of Christ’s death then you would have to concede that the sacrifice of the priests of the New Law is a re-presentation of the one sacrifice made in and through the unique sacrifice of Christ the High Priest on Calvary but then you have no further basis on which to object to the re-presentation of that sacrifice by Christ Himself in the Eucharist through the twelve, the seventy and their successors.

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  39. I think to be specific, the problem we have with calling the Eucharist a sacrifice is that it adds something to Christ’s intercession, whether or not it adds something to his sacrifice. (We remain bristling with suspicion on this point, but let’s grant it for the sake of the argument.) If I’m not mistaken, this comes out when you say that the sufferings and prayers of the faithful are offered “in union with those of Christ” and “joined to his one sacrifice”. The addition of any thing to Christ’s sacrifice or to Christ’s intercession is a more or less implicit denial of the perfection and efficacy of Christ’s own work in his sacrifice and his intercession. This is untenable in the light of scripture generally and the epistle to the Hebrews especially, where the perfection and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice and intercession is the grand theme of the entire argument.

    Note though that when we say that the believer’s prayer is “not part of” Christ’s prayer, we do not mean by this that the believer’s prayers are offered independently of Christ’s mediation. You seem to be taking our denial that the believer’s prayers (etc) are “part of” or “joined to” or “united with” Christ’s mediation as a denial that there is any connection between them at all. Rather we deny that believers’ prayers contribute anything to Christ’s mediation, but we affirm that both the persons of believers and the works (including prayers) of believers are accepted only because of Christ’s mediation and entirely on the basis of Christ’s mediation.

    Just to add too that your conjunction of prayers and sufferings is also at odds with what we think, or what the scriptures teach. We do not think that the sufferings of the faithful are offered to God by way of sacrifice, but rather that they are part of the Lord’s discipline and training of his children. There is nothing penal in the sufferings which come on the faithful, and there is nothing meritorious in their suffering of whatever afflictions it is that they might suffer. Suffering is not something that we bring to God, in other words – it is rather something he gives his people or leads his people through, to achieve specific purposes of his own.

    Also wanted to pick up on the thing about the three types of priest, a few comments ago. Needless to say, we don’t think the NT errs in using the same word to refer to different kinds of priesthood. It is simply a matter of fact that types and their antitype differ from each other in various important respects – it’s not wrong to say that the Levitical priests were real priests, even though not one of them could continue in their office by reason of death, eg, or even though they didn’t even attempt to purge the conscience from moral defilement. Although their priesthood was defective (sometimes necessarily – they were mortal men – and sometimes deliberately – they were restricted to dealing with ceremonial defilment), they are still called priests. So with those who the NT calls “kings and priests” – their priestly activities, such as they are, do not match all the priestly activities of the Levitical order and nor do they match all the priestly activities of the one true priest. Each needs to be recognised to be a priest in a different sense.

    Btw: Is anybody else finding that this post is slow to load? It also seems that some formatting is getting scrambled in a couple of comments. I’ve been pondering whether to write a new post where the discussion can be continued, but can’t quite settle on any respectable summary of where we’ve got so far. Do people feel argued out yet? Will I write a new post? Will I just make a dummy post just to make space for this post’s overflow comments? Any end in sight?

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  40. There is no need to add anything to Christ’s intercession He intercedes continually. The Eucharist makes this present and visible in a way that is not limited by the worthiness of the minister. But every Christian prayer is a fallible attempt to do the same. Its fine for you to say that the levitical priests and the faithful and the Lord are all priests in different ways, but for the use of the same word for all three to mean anything there has to be a basic content to the notion that does apply to all three and this is what you cannot provide. Unable to provide this you are unable to explain how the faithful make sacrifice and are priests in any way that does not compromise the one priesthood and the one sacrifice of Christ or lead to St Paul denying the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice in Colossians 1:24. For us there is no difficulty in Paul speaking of what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, because on the Catholic account of the priesthood of the faithful, their sufferings are made His sufferings through their participation in His mystical body the Church. You do not think that the prayers of the faithful for each other diminish or supply for any defect in the prayer of Christ because you understand that they are efficacious only on account of and through Christ’s prayer. Just so with the Eucharist which is infallibly Christ’s prayer. The sacrifice of the faithful is also founded on this principle. He makes intercession for us continually in heaven bearing His wounds and on account of those wounds men are conformed to Him and their prayers and sacrifices are made acceptable because they are made His. Indeed they are at once both made and made His. They do not add to the power of His sacrifice because they are wholly and entirely effects of His sacrifice. To depart from this renders such comments as St Paul’s in Colossians or Hebrews 13:15-16 incomprehensible. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” What could this possibly mean if the faithful do not make sacrifice in and through Christ’s sacrifice? Certainly we do not hold that men can make sacrifice for sin in this way in the sense that those alienated from Divine Grace cannot be reconciled through doing good and sharing what they have because it is only on the basis of the life of grace already established in the soul through living faith that such sacrifices as those spoken of in Hebrews 13:15-16 can be made. Nothing can make man pleasing or acceptable to God that is not the effect of grace won on Cross. Christ’s Sacrifice does not act through those who are not part of His body except to make them part of His body through living faith. But when they are united to Him they become priests in Him and their sufferings conform them ever more closely to His sacrifice and in so doing join in His intercession for the Church. Emphatically not by bringing something of their own to it but because they are set at enmity with the world by the grace of Christ and hated by the world as He was hated and so their sacrifices are just the effect of His. Thus all the sacrifices of the faithful from Abel the just to the last of the elect are the outpouring of the unique sacrifice of the ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’.

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  41. Aelianus,
    What is your specific understanding of the term “sufferings of Christ” in Colossians 1:24? It seems to me that this part of the verse is crucial to the discussion. I may be wrong, but you seem to be taking it for granted that the sufferings spoken of are those which Christ himself suffered, or should have suffered, or would have suffered, or could have suffered. You also seem to be assuming that we share that view and that our understanding of the whole verse has to be bound by that interpretation. I don’t subscribe to that view, so perhaps you could explain whether this really is what you think?

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  42. Quite the contrary, I hold that the sufferings referred to as ‘lacking’ are the sufferings of the body of Christ i.e. the Church. But Paul calls them the sufferings of Christ without qualification because it is by virtue of the merits of Christ won on the Cross sinful men are made part of His body and a deadly enmity set up between them and the world and they are persecuted as He was. Witness the words of Christ to St Paul on the road to Damascus. This extends even to a struggle within the justified person himself as described in Romans 7 and 8. This is the sacrifice of the faithful: the extension of the sacrifice of Calvary to the members of the Body of Christ.

    “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

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  43. OK, we are agreed then on the point that the sufferings themselves are properly the sufferings of believers. When Paul talks of them as the ‘sufferings of Christ’ he means that they are the sufferings on Christ’s behalf, or for Christ’s sake. They are sufferings he endured for the sake of the Church because his work was to preach and work for the good of the cause of Christ. This verse is inconclusive on the point at issue; whether we say that they are ‘joined’ to the sufferings of Christ and offered as part of his offering (your view, apparently), or whether we say that they are seperate from the sufferings of Christ and only an offering in the sense that God is pleased with the personal sacrifice (not a sin-offering, but a thank-offering) of believers when they endure hardship for the cause of Christ, because he is pleased to accept all that they do for Christ’s sake.
    The sufferings of the people of God more generally, while they may not be endured in the line of preaching the gospel, are endured for Christ’s sake in that the believer is associating himself with Christ’s name and cause and will suffer for it. God is pleased to permit and order this so that his people will learn gratitude to Christ for enduring all that he did endure. You certainly haven’t demonstrated that there is any benefit accruing to the wider church from this suffering, or that it is united with the offering of Christ.
    Thirdly, believers have a share in the sufferings of Christ on the cross by imputation. His suffering unto death is taken as their suffering. They died in him because they are and always were his people. The fact that his sufferings were complete and infinitely meritorious completely excludes the possibility that their sufferings can ever be added to his and carry any weight or merit or efficacy in the eyes of divine justice. And his righteousness and obedience is made over to them so that God sees them as having obeyed perfectly his divine law.
    I think you are confusing the two senses in which suffering is spoken of.

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  44. You say “You certainly haven’t demonstrated that there is any benefit accruing to the wider church from this suffering, or that it is united with the offering of Christ.” But St Paul himself calls them ‘the sufferings of Christ’ without qualification and he says he endures them for the sake of the Church. I can’t see how it could be plainer than that.

    As I have already said ”we do not hold that men can make sacrifice for sin in this way in the sense that those alienated from Divine Grace cannot be reconciled through doing good and sharing what they have because it is only on the basis of the life of grace already established in the soul through living faith that such sacrifices as those spoken of in Hebrews 13:15-16 can be made.”

    You say “they are separate from the sufferings of Christ and only an offering in the sense that God is pleased with the personal sacrifice (not a sin-offering, but a thank-offering) of believers when they endure hardship for the cause of Christ, because he is pleased to accept all that they do for Christ’s sake.” Thus you deny the all sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ because you say there now exists a sacrifice acceptable to God that is separate from Christ’s sacrifice. It is the Catholic Church and not you that holds that ‘one is enough’.

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  45. Again, that isn’t demonstrating that there is benefit accruing to the wider church, or that Paul’s suffering is united to the offering of Christ. You’re just saying that it’s true. The verse doesn’t actually say either of these things. You just *think* that you can see these doctrines because you are viewing the verse from a Roman Catholic perspective. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do before you’ve convinced anyone that this verse means what you say it does.
    You again suggest that the sacrifices spoken of in Hebrews 13:15&16 somehow benefit all believers. They don’t – they are sacrifices of praise. They aren’t anything to do with winning, earning or meriting anything. They gain the offerer nothing from God, nor do they benefit the wider church in any sense. All of that benefit comes directly and freely from the all-sufficient work of Christ. (Else it isn’t all-sufficient at all.) They are pleasing to God because he sees the work of Christ taking effect in the heart and life of the believer and is well pleased with Christ, and therefore with them.
    You accuse us of denying the all-sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice because we distinguish between the atoning sacrifice of Christ (which is the only and all-sufficient means whereby sin is taken away, God’s justice is appeased and all benefits and gifts come to believers), and the thanks-offering sacrifices of believers (which are purely praises to God for what he has done in the finished, complete and all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ). But to conflate them and make the latter a part of the former is what really detracts from the all-sufficientcy of Christ’s sacrifice. all-sufficiency by its very nature implies the impossibility of anything being added or subjoined in any way whatever.

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  46. Paul calls them ‘the sufferings of Christ’ you deny that that is what they are. Christ says to Paul ‘why do you persecute me?’ you deny Paul was doing any such thing. Paul says they are for the sake of Christ’s body the Church. You say this is impossible. The sacrifices of the faithful do not add to the sacrifice of Calvary because they are entirely and wholly its effects. You say that they are separate and additional to the sacrifice of Calvary. The Catholic Church holds that all acceptable worship of God is now the worship of Christ. You deny this. You believe that there now exists a sacrifice acceptable to God that is separate from Christ’s sacrifice. Thus you deny the all sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. There is no escaping this.

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    • When discussing the Canon of Scripture I have often come across the argument that the Hebrew Jewish Old Testament “Canon” is the reason for Protestants using that “Canon”, so I find it strange that on this occasion you can dismiss Jewish understanding of their rituals as given to them so definitively by God so lightly.

      “Its not in Scripture!” LOL! This is the People of God you are talking about! This is ISRAEL. But your new theology knows the Old Covenant best doesnt it Finlay?

      Surely if the New Covenant is fulfillment of the Old, you should be adding to the fullness of our rituals not taking things away.

      I am going to have to do this in simple terms.

      What do you understand when the Prophet Malachi says that the gentiles will offer a sacrifice (clean oblation) from the rising of the sun to its setting (either every day, or in every place) a “pure offering”. What is this your understanding of this pure offering in every place or each and every day, among the gentiles.

      “…my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering…” – this is a future event
      “and a pure offering” – this is a sacrifice, and it is pure
      “among the Gentiles” – it will take place apart from the Old Covenant

      Also, if a man needs to be sent , as Aaron was, (by the laying on of hands by Moses), indicating succession and authority, where does this leave your claim of there not being a hierarchical ministry. Are your ministers called or sent?

      How can Jesus describe a chalice as the New Covenant ?
      I said Christ was of the order of Melchisadec because he offered bread and wine and you complained I was just stating the obvious and couldn’t see my point. When I put OFFERING in capitals you denied the whole thing. You said Christ never offered bread and wine. He just used them as a symbol.

      All those quotations you cite from Hebrew which point to a single sacrifice do not prove your point in the slightest. Your new theology is only half the story. You are missing the big picture because you have overlooked 1500 years of consistent teaching on this, thrown it all in the bin, and started again yourselves. With this passage in Hebrews for example you are looking at in a purely temporal sense, with small minds, I would even say with the express objective of disproving the Catholic Mass. So it has been in your new theology. This blinds you. The fact is that when we attend Mass we go beyond the temporal secular, as Catholic teaching and Hebrews 22 clearly teaches;

      “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

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  47. No, I deny that they are the sufferings of Christ in the sense in which you understand them to be. They are Paul’s sufferings in Christ’s cause.
    I haven’t denied that Paul was persecuting Christ. But that is beside the point. The question is whether the sufferings of Christ’s people for his sake, sometimes portrayed in scripture as Christ suffering through them, are joined to the sacrifice of Christ. They’re not. They are only portrayed as Christ suffering with them because they are a) imitating the example of Christ, b) suffering in recognition of their infinite debt to him and c) succoured in their suffering by him. No joining of their sufferings with his offering is possible.
    I dispute your understanding of ‘for the sake of Christ’s body’. The general sufferings of believers are not ‘for the sake of Christ’s body’. It is true that Paul was suffering in the line of preaching the gospel, and in that sense he was suffering for the sake of the cause of Christ – he was willing to suffer whatever hardship was necessary to further the cause of Christ and to help the believers in the places where he went. He certainly doesn’t say that the sufferings he underwent, in and of themselves, were meritorious or beneficial to believers as a part of Christ’s offering. And he emphatically isn’t saying that the general sufferings of the generality of believers has this merit or benefit to the church.
    You appear to think that something’s effect is identical with the thing itself. If the sacrifices of believers are the effects of Christ’s sacrifice, they are seperate from it and not united with it. No-one disputes that they are offered through Christ or that they are entirely dependent for their acceptance on the one sacrifice of Christ. You are trying to tie them together and make them one with Christ’s sacrifice, yet you explain this in your post above by saying they are the effects of Christ’s sacrifice. You are saying two seperate things here.
    The catholic church holds that all acceptable worship of God has always been worship through Christ and that we can access Christ in our worship directly. The Roman Catholic Church holds that we need an extra layer of mediation – priests, saints, bells, smells etc – to access God through Christ. And that Christ’s sacrifice, however you want to dress it up, is supplemented and accompanied by the sufferings of his people, which are necessary to salvation.
    The sacrifices of God’s people have an entirely different and seperate function to the sacrifice of Christ. Christ’s sacrifice is to put away sin. There is no other such sacrifice acceptable to God, and it is all-sufficient for this purpose. No sacrifice offered by his people has any merit or purpose in the context of dealing with sin. The sacrifices they offer are purely of thanksgiving. They are accepted by God as evidence of the success of Christ’s work and its effects in the hearts of his people. God is pleased with them – they do not earn any benefit from their suffering. They gain nothing at all except in so far as they learn from their sufferings to rely more on Christ, be grateful to him for what he suffered in their stead, live loose to the world and whatever else God wants to teach them by it.
    I think your problem is still that you want to introduce a layer of mysticism to the New Testament which is contrary to the simplicity of the gospel message preached by Paul.

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  48. This comment “The Roman Catholic Church holds that we need an extra layer of mediation – priests, saints, bells, smells etc – to access God through Christ” is just abuse not argument. It is not derived from anything I have said or any teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has never held that incense or campanology were necessary for salvation or even significant. If you really believe that you are startlingly misinformed. If you do not then your rhetoric betrays an unpleasant spirit of sectarian animus. As for saints, the Church holds that the souls of the righteous dead are aware of the needs of mankind and pray for them just as the faithful do on earth (Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 6:9-11 and passim). You may dispute the meaning of these passages (you rival Origen in your exegetical audacity) but the question of whether the righteous dead are aware of and intercede for the needs of the Church on earth is one of fact. It no more entails ‘an extra layer of mediation’ than the faithful on earth making or seeking prayers on behalf of each other. As for priests (the successors of the seventy and the twelve) their function is to offer Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist as His instruments and not on their own account precisely to eliminate the limitations of human mediation. As we have all established you reject this doctrine but in itself it does not entail any extra layer of mediation quite the contrary.

    You now concede that you do not believe Christ’s sacrifice is all sufficient but only sufficient for certain purposes. Your separate order of of New Testament priests make their own independent sacrifices by other means.

    According to your doctrine the Lord should have said to Saul not ‘why do you persecute me?’ but why do you persecute my cause?’ or ‘why do you persecute my followers for my sake?’ You do not seem to grasp the nature of instrumental causation. Perhaps you agree with Luther ‘that reason is the whore of the devil’?

    If I accomplish something through an instrument then I more truly accomplish it than the instrument and insofar as the instrument accomplishes anything it is I who have accomplished it. Christ sacrifice is perpetually offered to the Father meriting the grace which accomplishes the sacrifices of the faithful across the whole of history. The words of a preacher correctly conveying the truth of the Gospel to some neophyte at a time and place distant from Mount of the Beatitudes do not render that teaching any less the revelation of God. The sufferings of the faithful accomplished by the grace merited by Christ’s death on Calvary in seventeenth century Japan are no less the sufferings of Christ for their temporal and geographical distance from the Passion itself.

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  49. “Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so.” – Pope John Paul II
    Why would Christ require anyone, least of all a dead person, to ‘point out’ the needs of mankind???

    “I am the Mediatrix between you and God”. – attributed to Mary by the children of Medjugorje, 1986
    Speaks for itself.

    “… the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix” – Pope Paul VI in Lumen Gentium, 1964
    But scripture teaches that Christ is The Advocate, My Helper, The Only Mediator, and our Benefactor (who came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister). The titles belong to him, not to Mary.

    I seriously doubt that all Roman Catholics would agree with you on the matter of saints – are you really saying that cultus are ‘insignificant’? But since it is beside the point, I will pass over it for now. I can assure you that, working as I do with athiests, Muslims and Romanists on a daily basis, and disputing with them all regularly, I cannot afford to harbour any sectarian animosity, so I’m sorry that my treatment of your church’s teaching touched that particular nerve.

    I haven’t conceded an inch on the all-sufficiency of Christ’s offering by the way. I dispute whether it’s purpose was ever to unite with the sufferings of believers in order to accrue merit for the wider church. I deny that Christ offered himself, only for the church to require additionally the sufferings of believers for its enjoyment of all graces. I maintain that Christ’s sacrifice accomplished everything it was ever intended to accomplish – the putting away of sin and the complete salvation and acceptance of every one of his elect people. (It is absurd to speak of it being ‘all-sufficient’ in an unqualified sense, as if that sacrifice accomplished every possible end. God had specific purposes in view which Christ’s sacrifice was intended to accomplish.) I assert that the sacrifices of believers have no propitiatory value whatsoever, and so are only called sacrifices in so far as they are offerings made to God. And that believers are priests only insomuch as they offer these sacrifices of praise to God, through Christ. For you to suggest that there is any propitiatory value in the sacrifices of believers is to add to the sacrifice of Christ, which is by definition to deny the all-sufficiency of that sacrifice.
    I have no problem with the idea of instrumental causation. But scripture doesn’t teach that when believers suffer, it is really Christ suffering. I have already told you what I believe Paul’s meaning is in Colossians, and I can’t find your doctrine in scripture anywhere. I suspect you got it from the Church Fathers. (Is Origen among them, by the way? How can we tell?)
    I also deny that any such thing as instrumental causation, having the effect of Christ being sacrificed, is taking place when a priest performs the mass. The eucharist is not a sacrifice. My problem isn’t per se with the concept of Christ performing something through an instrument, it is with the idea that his sacrifice is continually re-enacted/re-performed/re-presented. There is no need for any such re-presentation because the sacrifice has already been completed and accepted.

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    • “I can assure you that, working as I do with athiests, Muslims and Romanists on a daily basis, and disputing with them all regularly, I cannot afford to harbour any sectarian animosity, so I’m sorry that my treatment of your church’s teaching touched that particular nerve.”

      This statement made me laugh. Your lack of sectarian animosity would be more evident if you used fewer slurs.

      ““I am the Mediatrix between you and God”. – attributed to Mary by the children of Medjugorje, 1986
      Speaks for itself.”

      It would “speak for itself” if the Church actually said that Medjugorje was a valid apparition, rather than having tried repeatedly and in several ways to stop the promotion of these dubious “visionaries.” Quotes from Medjugorje should not be taken as examples of Church teaching.

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  50. I did not say that the prayer of the saints is insignificant I said that campanology and incense are of no significance. (I have nothing against them). I cannot believe that you think the Church holds that campanology and incense are necessary for salvation in any sense so I assume you must be venting your spleen or trying to invent Catholic doctrines you can refute to make up for your singular failure with the real ones.

    I pointed out that if the prayer of the saints is ‘an extra layer of mediation’ then so are all prayers. You have not dealt with this point because you can’t. The Catholic Church does not hold that Christ is re-sacrificed in the Mass or anywhere else. She holds that in the Mass Christ presents the sacrifice of Calvary to the Father through the presbyter. This is only what He is doing constantly and infallibly in heaven anyway and what we do inconstantly and fallibly when we pray outside the Eucharist. Once again, this is no more an extra layer of mediation than any other prayer.

    As it happens you deny that the faithful pray through the sacrifice of Calvary. As I understand it you hold that some sort of natural prayer was interrupted by sin and then after the Lord’s death it was back to business as usual (for the faithful anyway). This seems distinctly Pelagian to me. Nevertheless, that is tangential to the point that there is nothing in the Catholic Doctrine that involves adding to the one Sacrifice of Calvary which is an all sufficient act of praise, thanksgiving, propitiation and petition and all our acts of praise, thanksgiving, propitiation and petition are made through it. You limit its sufficiency to propitiation and institute a separate priesthood and sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to supply for the insufficiency you falsely ascribe to the Lord’s sacrifice. You haven’t mentioned petition I expect that is because you yourself pray for people and you realise that by your own logic that makes you ‘an extra layer of mediation’ between them and Christ and you are not sure what to do about it. If you pray for their conversion then I expect that would mean you are offering (according to your logic) a separate sacrifice for sin to that offered by the Lord. Or when you pray for someone’s conversion do you make a special exception and do so through the one sacrifice of Calvary?

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  51. I don’t really know or care what you personally think of incense and bells and smells. They are made out to be pretty important if you observe the way priests carry on with them, but whatever. Like I said, we’re not going down that route for now.
    As far as the mediation of saints is concerned, they are emphatically an extra layer of mediation. You seem now to be asserting that they are necessary for salvation, right?
    So,
    Sinner/believer – Christ – Father (the scriptural model)

    Sinner/believer – Saints – Christ – Father OR
    Sinner/believer – Saint – Father OR
    Sinner/believer – Saint&Christ – Father
    Whichever view you take, putting saints in there represents an extra layer, whether or not you hold it to be a necessary layer. But you do hold it to be necessary, because you see their prayers as part of and joined to Christ’s sacrifice.

    I have no idea what this means: “As I understand it you hold that some sort of natural prayer was interrupted by sin and then after the Lord’s death it was back to business as usual”. Where on earth are you getting this stuff??? Old Testament believers were always accepted for Christ’s sake, because his death and sacrifice were a certainty. The event had not taken place yet, but that only meant that their faith and divine justice looked forwards, whereas our faith and divine justice now looks back to a historical event. I’m lost with the idea of ‘natural prayer’ being ‘interrupted by sin’.

    You are again confusing the idea of our praise being through Christ’s offering with it being included in and part of Christ’s offering. Our praise is offered by us, to God, while our faith looks to the work of Christ for our acceptance with God.

    We have spent enough time disputing the whole idea that a sacrifice is a prayer, and like I said before, I am emphatically not going down that route again. Accusing me of ‘singular failure’ to refute any real Romanist doctrines is avoiding the real problem, which is that you have singularly failed to demonstrate from scripture that the sufferings and other acts of believers are included in the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.

    If you only believe that the prayers of saints are the same in nature to the prayers that one might ask his fellow-believer to offer on his behalf, I have no problem with the principle, except that it is impossible for those who have left this sphere of existence to be called upon and communicated with by us here – that is a form of necromancy explicitly condemned in scripture. But it seems to me that Roman Catholicism attributes far greater weight and power to the mediation of saints than it does to the prayers of fellow-believers on earth, and sees it as a necessary part of Christ’s mediation. Either way, our prayers are not a sacrifice, so praying for a sinner’s salvation is not offering a sacrifice for sin.

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  52. PS, Christ isn’t continually presenting his sacrifice to his Father. He has presented that offering, and it has been accepted. What he is now doing is interceding on the strength of that accepted offering. What he presents is the memorials of his death – his flesh and blood, with wounds in his hands and feet.

    Hebrews 10:
    12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
    13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
    14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
    (note the use of the singular – ‘one’ sacrifice/offering, and the past tense)

    Hebrews 9:
    12 …by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
    (singular, and past tense)

    Hebrews 7:
    27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
    (singular, past tense)

    If you can make these passages mean that Christ is continually re-presenting his sacrifice, good luck to you. But I cannot see anything other than a completed, accepted and perfect sacrifice to which nothing can be joined, added or tied by anyone. All that remains for me to do is to put my trust in it.

    By the way, no offence, but your constant repetition of unproved statements and accusations is becoming really boring. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and you certainly come across as well-read and intelligent, if rather blinkered. But I’m nearly finished my holidays, so I don’t have the time or inclination to continue this conversation. All I can say is that you have completely failed to demonstrate from scripture any of the points you have made, and the effect of our discussion has been to leave me increasingly convinced of the superstitious, mystical and invented nature of Roman Catholic teaching. I was a convinced Protestant before, but your convoluted reasoning and fall-backs to Romanist tradition has really put the nail in the coffin as far as countenancing Romanist doctrine is concerned. It undermines the sacrifice of Christ and sets up human works as meritorious, necessary and efficacious in the plan of salvation – in short, it is dangerous to the souls of sinners, diverting their attention from Christ and his work to the efforts of themselves and others who are said to share in that work with him.

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  53. Oh dear you have ignored all the points you can’t deal with again. Do you spend a lot of time sitting at the back of Catholic churches wringing your hands in outrage at incense and bells and inventing the doctrines you suppose must be attached to them? There is quite a lot of incense in Revelation too you know? It must be very upsetting for you or perhaps you share Luther’s opinion that it should be omitted from the canon?

    I suppose there is nothing that can be done to convince you that your attempts to fasten poor old scripture to your sixteenth century Procrustean bed are utterly implausible. Not even the fact that no one for sixteen hundred years ever dreamed that scripture might mean any of the things you have been told to think it says. Your earlier suggestion that innumerable Calvinist commentaries have been lost in the dark ages and by sheer fluke only the wicked Catholic ones survived shows that you have a sharply diminished sense of the ridiculous.

    Of course the intercession of the saints is not more necessary for salvation than any prayer by a Christian is necessary for salvation. If God chooses to save someone in answer to another’s prayer then so be it. That prayer is just as much an effect of Christ’s sacrifice as every other prayer acceptable to God. The prayers of the saints are more powerful than ours because they are holier than we are. Throughout revelation the inhabitants of heaven observe, comment upon and intercede concerning events on earth. Abraham discusses them with the rich man and Lazerus and as usual this is how everyone read it until the sixteenth century.

    Let me describe to you a popular Catholic prayer which is in a way a model of the Church’s theology of prayer and sacrifice. It is called the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It is prayed using rosary beads.

    1. First you pray the Lord’s Prayer.

    2. Then you pray the Hail Mary. You may be unfamiliar with this so here goes:

    Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee
    blessed art thou amongst women
    and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
    Holy Mary, mother of God,
    pray for us sinners
    now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

    This is a request to the most blessed of all women who all generations will call blessed to pray for us. It contains lots of scriptural statements of rather glorious facts about her. It no more entails a derogation from the mediation of Christ than a request for my sister to pray for me. In fact that is what it is.

    3. Then you recite the Apostle’s Creed. I assume you believe the Apostles’ Creed is true (but who knows).

    4. Then you say “Eternal Father, I offer to Thee the body, blood, soul and divinity of Thy dearly beloved Son Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

    5. Then you repeat the words “For the sake of His sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world” ten times.

    Then you repeat stages 4 & 5 another four times making five in all (in honour of the Five glorious Wounds of the Saviour).

    6. Then you repeat three times the words “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world!”

    7. If it is three o’clock in the afternoon you say,

    “You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.
    O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.”

    8. Then say, “O Blood and Water,
    which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus
    as a fount of mercy for us,
    I trust in You.”

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  54. “He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

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  55. “And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their cereal offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the LORD. For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, says the LORD;
    so shall your descendants and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.”

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  56. Bells, incense etc – not relevant to the discussion, Cath has already asked us to stop getting side-tracked. Simple reason why it’s not going to get a response.
    Authenticity of Romanists’ interpretation versus Reformed thought – not relevant to the discussion, so I’m ignoring the caricature you’ve made of what I said.
    Your theory of the intercession of saints isn’t supported by scripture. Abraham’s discussion with the rich man isn’t a conversation between the living and the dead. In fact, we are told in scripture that we must not contact or speak to those who have died. I’m not aware of any examples of prayer to saints in scripture.
    Your ‘prayer routine’ isn’t really of any interest to me I’m afraid. I have no need of any routine or model for prayer other than what Christ himself gave us. Just as I have no need to go to any dead person to ask them to pray for me – I can go directly to Christ himself.
    By the way, disagreeing with your views and arguing with you about them is not a slur. I’m not sure what I’ve said that upsets you so much, but I can assure you that no offence was intended.

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    • Slurs generally refer to specific words, not to discussion, which I have otherwise enjoyed. I’ve never met any Presbyterians before, so it’s been very interesting. The term “Romanist” is pejorative. May as well call us papists or mackerel-snappers and have done with it. It’s all right if you didn’t know. Now you do. It’s funny the terms people think are acceptable, in perfect innocence. I had a friend who thought the proper term for people from Poland was “Polack,” and kept calling a Pole that to his face until he explained it wasn’t really appropriate.

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        • Hm, that is very interesting. It must have transitioned from the normal word to a slur thanks to all the nasty ethnic jokes people loved telling.

          I don’t want to digress too far on this already long comment thread (Sorry Cath! I just couldn’t stand it anymore). I think “Romanist” etc. were meant as disparaging terms from the beginning because they emphasized the apparently disloyal character of Catholics to their home countries.

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          • Ach, there’s off-topic, and then there’s random.

            I missed about a score of posts that appeared after yesterday teatime, and I don’t know what to make of anything anymore. Except that Aelianus and Finlay are driving me nuts with the way they keep winding each other up.

            (I’d be surprised if F meant it in a disparaging way. There is a cultural pressure in some quarters to avoid calling Catholics Catholics in case it undermines the Reformers’ claim to be catholic, if you see what I mean, meaning that alternatives are sought to suit a theological perspective and not to be insulting. That’s an explanation, not an excuse, and you’re not expected to agree with the premise! Hopefully now that the problem has been pointed out, it won’t happen again.)

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            • Well, it’s even tougher for me because I am 6 hrs behind you in timezones. I reply to 1 thing, then sit bored waiting for a response while you all sleep. Then by the time someone has answered my question, I find 15 more posts each 2 pg. long. I have read them all, though, and all the Biblical verses cited! I spent the day reviewing most of Paul’s epistles just to keep up with this stuff. It seems now I must either post a Biblical defense of the entire Catholic catechism or else rush to the library to learn as much as I can about Reformed doctrines so I can rebut the whole thing in one go. I started commenting because I like priests, love the Mass, & care very much about the theology of personal sacrifice in unity with Christ. Each of those 3 topics could be a long thread unto itself, and now they have together transmogrified into something too monumental for this poor wee scientist.

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  57. It is not upset but disappointment that you have neither the manners nor the honesty to address the points made to you and instead of conceding that you cannot answer them you invent absurdities you can argue with. It is no good attempting to avoid rebuttal on these points which only you raised by claiming it is side-track when that was the reason you raised it in the first place.

    Abraham is aware of and discussing events among the living the rich man asks him to send Lazarus to visit his brothers. Abraham doesn’t think it would help. He seems rather well informed about their character he doesn’t reject the rich man’s request on the basis that he couldn’t make the arrangements. The martyrs, apostles and patriarchs in Revelation seem very well informed about events on earth too and keen to intercede with God about them. If you think that is necromancy you need to take it up with St John and St Luke. Presumably, by your logic, you are happy to ask the intercession of Enoch and Elijah (or the others raised in Mtt 27:52-53)? You still have not explained why Christians praying for one another does not constitute ‘a layer of mediation’ between the believer and Christ.

    I note you have not answered the point that Malachi prophesies that at all times and places the gentiles will make a pure offering and burn incense to the Lord or that Isaiah says He will take priests and Levites from among the gentiles.

    A lot of your argument hangs on a semantic point about ‘offering’. You reject the definition of sacrifice as immolation + prayer of offering. You identify the offering with the immolation. This allows you to deny that multiple or continuous offerings may be made of the one all-sufficient immolation. But (while it involves the logical problem that all immolation would be automatically sacrificial) this is essentially semantics. You do not deny that Christ continually intercedes in virtue of the one immolation or that he remains a priest forever. You do not deny that the faithful pray in virtue of Christ’s sacrifice and on the basis of His continual intercession. Your refusal to accept that this is what renders the faithful priests and offerors of sacrifice in a way is just meaningless except that it compromises your belief in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice because it makes their priesthood independent of and separate from His. Your loyalty to erroneous sixteenth century categories forces you to abandon the doctrine of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice to which you are rightly attached (emotionally if not logically).

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  58. Aelianus,
    For the last time, I’m not going to respond to anything which is off topic, so you might as well stop painting that refusal as ‘failure’ to address the points. I introduced a couple fo points which were too far from the original point of the post, Cath pulled me up and I apologised. You on the other hand have continued driving at them. I’m not going to bite.
    By the way, I’m sorry to Sciencegirl that she doesn’t like the term Romanist. I can just about follow the reasoning behind it, though I can absolutely assure you that the issue of nationality and patriotism plays no part at all in any proper discussion of doctrine as far as I am concerned. As per Cath’s conjecture, I object to the idea that Roman Catholicism is referred to as The Catholic Church, so would never refer to it using that term. It seems to me that Romanist is quite an appropriate mirror term to Protestant, but I’m not here to offend anyone so I’ll write things long-hand in future.
    Not sure where the term Procrustean comes in the list of pejorative terms/slurs but never mind…
    Finally, Aelianus, I’m biting my tongue on your last post. This comment thread is too long, most of the responses I have to what you say are things that either Cath or myself (often both) have already said and you’ve failed to engage, shifting the focus of your argument instead. So, until further notice, I’m out. For the simple reason that I’m bored of the way you argue. Without meaning to be offensive, I think you’re arguing style is a little childish.

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    • Thank you. I appreciate it! :)
      I totally understand your urge to abbreviate without calling us just plain “Catholic.” RC is fine in my book, as the only connotations are the Church and the Cola.

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  59. It’s taking precisely 2 minutes and 18 seconds to scroll to the bottom of this comment thread using the down button on my computer.

    What a huge thread!

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