Amidst the heroics we witness in the Acts of the Apostles, we know that weeds grew alongside the good seed: in Paul’s letters, in those of John, Peter and Jude, we see constant warnings about ‘false teachers’ and false interpretations of the Good News. The teachings warned against are with us still. There were, and are, those who take the view Jesus was a man; the Church reads the Scriptures it gives us through the Spirit and tells us he was God and Man, of one substance with the Father. There were, and are, those who hold that once someone is ‘saved’ they can do what they want and not lose their salvation; St Paul himself told the Corinthians otherwise, but man is what he is and some continue to believe contrary to his teaching, which is that of the Church. There were, and are, those who reject the teaching that the bread and wine mystically become the real body and blood of Jesus, though that was what he taught, and many who followed him walked away when they could not accept this hard saying. There were, and are, those who believe that Jesus did not literally rise from the dead or literally ascend into heaven, though again, the Church which verifies what is and is not Scripture has taught as the Apostles did – which is that these things happened as recorded. There were, and are, those who, unable to accept a curb upon their own sins, emphasise forgiveness and forget repentance, and who emphasise love and forget judgment; yet Our Lord said much on both sides of the matter, and it is clear that repentance and amendment of life, hard as they are, are required from us.
If we are to go and make disciples, then we cannot do that if we do not know what it is to which we are bringing them. The Church has defined Creeds which come from its wrestling with many of the issues just raised. In our ignorance and pride, many moderns do not even know that the heresy they espouse is not only not new, it has been refuted a thousand times. Our friend Bosco constantly asks for a Biblical verse to verify everything, ignoring that this is not how the early Christians acted; you will search in vain for a verse which shows the Apostles using this technique. The Holy Spirit inspires all Scripture, but He did not dictate it, and He guided the Church to the knowledge of the true Apostolic deposit, He did not write it down in any book. It takes man’s fallen nature to believe that having so inspired the Church, the Spirit neglected to guide it in the wisdom to know how to read it.
We are not saved by a very good man; we are not sustained by the memory of his body and blood; if he did not rise, our faith is in vain. If we make disciples believing these things, at best we bring them only a part of the way to Christ – though, of course, the Spirit can and does perform wonders which bring people the rest of the way.
If we believe in the Nicene Creed then more unites us than divides us; but if we cannot confess that, then more divides us than unites us. The cloud from sight received him, when the forty days were over, but our hearts cannot forget his promise “I am with you, evermore.” May the Lord guide us to where He needs us, and may He endow us with the spirit of discernment and love.