Answering John Martignoni: Assurance of Salvation

vine and branches

This will be the first installment of a series of articles where I will give my answer to questions asked by John Martignoni in his newsletters. But before we get to the question on assurance of salvation, I would like to briefly share my encounter with John Martignoni.

In January 2009, John Martignoni responded to an article I wrote where he asked me a barrage of questions in response to my criticism of his assertion that oral tradition is responsible for the canon of Scripture. I was happy to answer all his questions sincerely and honestly. Since in his newslettesrs John tends to ask a lot of questions to his Protestant opponents and then berates them for not answering them, I wondered how he was going to respond to someone that addressed each and every one. But much to my surprise, I never heard back from him. I suspect the reason was that he was too nervous about being called out on the false information he presented to his some 30,000 newsletter subscribers.


I wrote the article in response to a debate John had with Joe Mizzi, an evangelical who runs a Catholic outreach website called, Just for Catholics. In that debate John asserted that the fourth century council of Rome “received by word of mouth that the canon they were passing on was indeed apostolic in origin.” My article referred to his claim as ignorant and refuted it with explicit historical facts, all clearly referenced for readers to examine for themselves. In response, John ignored the evidence and stood by his claim saying this:

“My quote is quite factual. Your response to that quote, however, does indeed represent your inability to accurately read, interpret, and respond to my argument.”

From there he just bombarded me with questions; never once addressing the facts I presented in my article. Notice that he accused me of not being able to accurately read, interpret, and respond to his argument, yet he didn’t respond to one single point I made in my article, not one!

If John Martignoni knew the history of how the canon of Scripture was formed when he made his statement then he was deliberately deceiving his 30,000 readers. But if he didn’t know the history, he had no basis for insisting that his remarks were factual. His remarks were not factual and that can be easily proven and in fact was proven in my article.

John Martignoni cannot explain why he believes that oral tradition, which was passed down over a 300 year period, proves that all the works contained in the canon of Scripture are “indeed apostolic in origin.” He cannot explain it because it is not true. Take 2Peter for instance; The oldest extant work we have that mentions 2Peter is from the theologian, Origen, who in the late second century referred to it as “doubtful.” If we go back a little further in time to the later mid second century, we find a list of conical books from the church in Rome, called the “Muratorian list,” which makes no mention of 2Peter. And as we go through the third century, we find the authenticity of 2Peter constantly in question. Yet somehow in the minds of some apologists, Like John Martignoni, 2Peter was known to be of apostolic origin by the assurance of “oral tradition”?

History tells us that other books of the New Testament went through similar scrutiny, doubtfulness, and even rejection. In fact, the western church never accepted the book of Hebrews as apostolic until the middle of the fourth century; so much for sound oral tradition.

John’s claim that oral tradition confirms the apostolic origins of the canon of Scripture is outrageous, but the fact that he assumes that “Bible-believing” Christians’ only source of truth comes from within the pages of the canon, and that we reject all oral tradition is even more ridiculous. Oral tradition is part of the history of the canon, no doubt, but it certainly is not the catalyst for apostolic authorship or inspiration as John Martignoni claims it is.

Since the time John responded to my article I have made a couple attempts to ask him questions, but I have not succeeded in getting his attention. When you have 30,000 subscribers to your newsletter I can imagine that it is difficult to handle the large number of emails that must accompany that following. So I thought; rather than bugging a busy man like John I should gather some of the questions he asks Protestants in his debates and answer them here and hopefully by doing so it will benefit my readers in the process.

My posts may be an answer to one question or several depending on how in depth the answer is. Today’s post will answer just one question and it comes from newsletter 194. The question addressed in this post is regarding assurance of salvation.

If assurance of salvation is true, then how can one be severed from Christ by being circumcised? (Gal 5:4)

The short answer is they can’t. And that is not what Paul said or implied in his letter to the Galatians.

By asking this question, John Martignoni is insinuating that any Galatian who became circumcised was severed from Christ. If that were true, Paul would have been wasting his time exhorting them to the truth. The reason is because one cannot be severed from Christ and then later return to the fold. As a Catholic, John Martignoni would understand being severed from the Lord as a possible temporary state. In the Catholic system, if one commits what’s called a mortal sin they are considered to be no longer in a state of grace. This means that they are severed from the Lord. The Catholic sacrament of penance, AKA sacrament of reconciliation, however, allows one who is in a state of mortal sin to be reconciled to the Lord through confession to a priest and by doing whatever “penances” the priest bestows on him.

The fact of the matter is we don’t know the spiritual state of those Galatians that were deceived into believing the Judaizers. But for the sake of argument let’s suppose they were mature fruit-bearing believers. Could we not argue in that case that they are Christ’s sheep, and that God used Paul to rescue them? Let’s recall the promise Jesus made to all those who are in Christ: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (Jhn. 10:27-28) If Christ’s sheep in Galatia did become circumcised, then because of the promise, we can say with certainty that they were not severed, but rather they were corrected and brought back to the fold like stray sheep rescued from a ditch.

Although Christ’s sheep in Galatia might have been deceived for a time, they would have responded to Christ’s voice in Paul’s letter. Any Galatians that refused to heed Paul’s warning and refused to obey the truth could not have been in Christ’s fold to begin with. If we say that those who continued to be justified by the Law were severed from the fold, then we would have to conclude that they were taken out of Christ’s hands. That conclusion would run contrary to the promise of our Lord. What we can conclude is that any Galatian that continued to seek justification by the Law after Paul’s warning, was not recognizing the Shepherds voice and was, therefore, not of His fold.

Furthermore, Paul did not say that any of them were fallen from grace for being circumcised; he said whosoever thinks he is justified by the Law is fallen from grace. That distinction must be understood. It’s not the fact that they had been deceived that might have severed them from the fold; it would have been because they refused to respond to the Shepherds voice, which would have proven they were not in the fold to begin with.

So what does it mean to be severed from the Lord? Let’s use Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches as our example. When a branch is severed from the vine it is because the branch bears no fruit, and if the branch bears no fruit, it is cut off and burned. Since a dead branch cannot bear fruit, it makes no sense to graft it back into the vine. As we read in Hebrews 6:4-6, Christ is not sacrificed a second time meaning that once someone believes and accepts the Gospel, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, then later rejects it, there is no returning.

So what does it mean to reject the Gospel? What does it mean to walk away from Christ? It means putting Christ to open shame after having known Him (Heb. 6:6). It means to trodden under foot the Son of God (Heb. 10:29), and literally ripping Him from your heart where He made His abode. This in no way describes the Galatians that were deceived into being circumcised. It would make no sense for Paul to tell them to walk in the spirit if they had been severed from the Lord.

Who fits the description of knowing and then rejecting Christ; Judas perhaps? Didn’t Jesus tell the Jews in John 6 that those who come to Him are given to Him by His father? Did He not tell His disciples the reason they knew who He was is because the Father revealed it to them? So why do Catholics believe that Jesus didn’t really promise that our salvation as a believers in Christ is assured. Are they suggesting that God makes mistakes?

Several Catholics with whom I have had discussions have told me that I cannot know that I will never walk away from Christ; therefore, they say I cannot be assured of my salvation. Doesn’t that sound like the enemy saying that Jesus didn’t really promise that He would keep us in His hand? They tell me to look closely at Jesus’ words in John 10. They point out that Jesus said, “Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” They say that this implies that someone else cannot take us out of Jesus’ hand, but because of free will, we can take ourselves out of His hand. In other words, they are telling me that I might one day choose to rip Christ from my heart. I don’t think that anyone who knows what it means to be spiritually alive would ever contemplate wanting to be spiritually dead. These Catholics clearly do not understand how we are kept in Christ’s hand in the first place and as a result they attempt to make void His promise.

How we are kept in Christ all boils down to one four-letter word, love. We are kept in Christ by love, and I am not talking about Christ’s love for us because He clearly demonstrated His love for all mankind by His sacrifice; I am talking about our love for Him. Our relationship with Christ is a matter of the heart. Christians who are in Christ intuitively know they are kept there through love. If our lives were changed by our belief in the Gospel it is because we love the Lord and we inevitably bear spiritual fruit. And if we bear spiritual fruit we will be pruned so we can bear more fruit.

All branches of fruit trees grow offshoots that compete with fruit production. By pruning the offshoots, a branch will not only bear more fruit, but better fruit. And what are life’s offshoots? Offshoots are all those things in life that distract us from our relationship with Christ. If we believe in Him, love Him, and care about obeying Him, we will bear fruit, but at the same time struggle with sin and distractions, maybe even for extended periods of time. But know that all God’s children will be corrected, strengthened, and returned; and nobody can successfully take them away from their Lord.

So why did John Martignoni, having absolutely no knowledge of the spiritual state of the Galatians, so easily conclude that those who were circumcised were severed from Christ? The answer can be understood through a Catholic doctrine that runs counter to Christ’s parable of the vine and branches.

The Catholic doctrine of penance insists that believers can be cut off by sin, and then grafted back into the vine through the sacrament of penance over and over again. The doctrine implies that a fruit-bearing branch can be cut off rather than pruned if the offshoot is of a certain character. It further implies that a fruit-bearing branch can be cut off, thrown into a pile to be burned, but then removed from the pile and graphed back into the vine upon certain men’s approval. When compared to the parable of the vine and branches, the Catholic doctrine of penance is proven to be insanely corrupt.

The sacrament of penance serves no purpose in God’s kingdom and only serves to intimidate believers into obeying the laws of a church. The doctrine is unbiblical and pointing to Scripture to support the doctrine only demonstrates a lack of understanding towards that Scripture. If the doctrine had been taught by the apostles, we should be able to read about it in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. After all, Paul didn’t personally visit them and he fully intended for his letter to be the correction they needed. Instead of reading about confession to the elders and penance, we read that Paul simply exhorted them to walk according to the spirit.

457 Responses to Answering John Martignoni: Assurance of Salvation

  1. Brian, I would like to suggest a great article by a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary called ” Why I am a biblicist” He deals with the objections of Newman, McKnight, Smith about biblicism, and the misconceptions. Malcolm Yarnell III

  2. Bill, if you acknowledge the RC position on Mary, you indeed give ” the mediatrix of all graces” latria.

  3. Bill, actually Jerome made 2 major errors in the Vulgate amongst many others, one was the mistranslation of the word repentance to mean penance, and the other the word to declare just to make just. Jerome was haunted by many dreams of eternal punishment from God because of what he wrote. Jerome and Augustine knew hardly any hebrew or greek, Erasmus admitted that to Lither.

  4. Brian said ” Protestantism is a failed attempt to reform the church” Man, what world do you live in. The reformation rescued the Apostles and early church from the hair splitting academics of the medieval church. It dismantled the ecclessial machinery that was mostly human in origin and content. It replaced the altar with the pulpit and clarified the gospel. After 500 years of history that chafed the modern world and established the foundation for free governments, you make that statement? You may have studied the aryl fathers, but when you get your head out of the the first 3 centuries, maybe you will see how the reformation rescued the true church from Antichrist Rome. What you don’t know is allot. God bless. K

  5. mepatri says:

    Bill you say:

    First, I would like to clarify one thing you mentioned. You may know this but to those who read this post, the Catholic Church does not teach that Mary was the mother of Jesus’ Divinity, either (you mentioned “some in the fourth century” seem to think so. I just wanted to throw that out for clarification).

    Interesting. That’s like saying “Mary was not the mother of Jesus’ hair color, or “My mother is not the mother of my baldness.”

    Mary was the mother of Jesus – period. Jesus was a man. He was also God, but He voluntarily veiled His Godlike attributes. I agree Mary was not the mother of Jesus’ divinity, so if they Roman Catholic Church doesn’t teach that Mary was the mother of Jesus’ divinity, then why is she called in your church “Mary the mother of God?” Why is she called “Queen of heaven.” What meaning does that title have if not attaching Mary to Jesus’ divinity?

    I think it’s clear the Roman Church does teach that she was the mother of Jesus’ divinity and it uses the statement Mary was the mother of God to elevate Mary’s position to goddess, even if this teaching is subtle in nature, and contrary to its official written doctrine. Millions of Roman Catholics believe Mary is in nature a goddess, so either it is teaching she is divinity, or the Roman Catholic Church is doing more harm than good on this planet as lost as its laity is on this subject.

  6. Kevin says:

    Mike, the early council used the term theoticus to refer to Mary being the mother of God in his humanity, not his divinty. Mike. You said ” voluntarily vieled in His God like attributes” What does that mean? God the Son took on human flesh. The early council said He had 2 natures, fully God and fully man. Both natures work together without mixture or confusion. One divine person with 2 natures. Rome perverts this. K

  7. mepatri says:

    Kevin – what I mean by stating Jesus voluntarily veiled some of His Godlike attributes should be obvious.

    You yourself admit Jesus was God. I believe He was 100% and 100% man at the same time. Agreed? Good. We know from Scripture that man cannot look upon God and live – but man was able to look upon Jesus. We are told that Jesus is God, but also that God is omniscient. Yet when speaking of the day and the hour of the end Jesus said ““But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Jesus was not omniscient, or He would have known the hour. Also, Jesus died – God cannot die, so Jesus is 100% God as well as man, but He died. Clearly Jesus set aside some of His Godlike attributes to dwell among us, and to fulfill His mission here on earth. It’s not to say He was not God – He was. But it’s clear some of His Godlike characteristics were veiled for a time.

  8. Bill says:

    When I say that Mary is not the source of His divinity, that has nothing to do with hair color, baldness, etc. When we are created, we are given a unique soul by God. We don’t then, when addressing our mother say, “Hello, mother of my physical body” We simple address her as mother, knowing full well that the soul we possess actually came from God and not our parents. Same for Jesus. HIs divinity came from God, none the less, Mary was his mother, so we can say Mary, mother of God.

  9. Kevin,

    I think you have developed such a beef with me that you now interfere in my discussions with totally ignorant statements. Why do you think it is called the reformation, Kevin? The reformers did not set out to separate from the church; they set out to reform it. Rome would not be reformed, therefore, from the perspective of the church it failed. I’m not saying the reformation was a failure as you seem to understand me saying.

    This is what you say I said:

    “Brian said ‘Protestantism is a failed attempt to reform the church’”

    And this is what I actually said:

    “Protestantism is the result of a failed attempt to reform the church, that is, the church refused to be reformed so the reformers broke away.”

    I believed that reasonable people would understand that “the church” refers to the visible church at the time. I am sure Bill understood that and I assumed it would be generally understood. I guess I wasn’t thinking of you when I wrote it.

  10. mepatri says:

    Nice try Bill – but all just double talk, and not really to the point.

    Mary is elevated in the Roman Church for a reason, and it’s not just because she was the mother of the human side of Jesus. You’re not being honest with us, or with yourself is that is your case. You can’t say “Mother of God” – because God was Mary’s creator, and your creator. The idea of mother carries with it more than just the bearing of the physical being of Jesus in the Roman Church, and you know it if you’ve been Roman Catholic for more than five minutes.

    In the Roman Church Mary is nothing less than a goddess – a god level being. She is known as:

    God-bearer
    Mother of God
    Cause of our salvation
    Most holy
    Most pure
    Immaculate (sinless)
    Queen of heaven
    Seat of wisdom
    Cause of our joy
    Star of the sea

    And more.

    In your church Mary is co-redemptrix with Christ. This is blasphemy. The idea of Mary being the mother of God was declared dogma in 431. It’s likely the very early Roman Catholics would agree with me, that you are being blasphemous in calling her that, and in elevating her to goddess like stature.

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