A Brief Evaluation of Iglesia ni Kristo’s Soteriology in John 10:9


An Excerpt to the Critical Examination to the Critical Arguments of Iglesia ni Kristo Against Justification by Faith Alone

The soteriology of INK confuses between “entering to Christ”, as a cause of salvation and “entering to the fold”, as a result of salvation (cf. John 10:9).

One of the foundational verses for the belief that membership to the Iglesia ni Kristo is necessary for salvation can be found in John 10:9. Upon exploringinc AND THE bIBLE this verse, we can read Jesus saying: “I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe.” (Revised English Bible [REB]) As we have noted in the previous chapter,[30]  for the INK, if a man wanted “to attain salvation, he must come into the fold through the Lord Jesus Christ.”[31]  Thus, we can see that they equated entering to Christ and entering to the Iglesia ni Kristo as a cause of salvation.  But the writer of this paper contends that this is a misleading equation. Let us note several things on this “good-shepherd allegory”.[32]

First, while it is true that entering to Christ and entering to Church cannot be separated ecclesiologically,[33] it can be reasonably and scripturally detached soteriologically.  That is to say, while we maintain that one who enters Christ also will eventually enter to the fold (ecclesiology)—we should carefully note the difference of “entering to Christ”, as a cause of salvation to “entering to the fold”, as a result of salvation (soteriology). Unfortunately, the thought of dissimilarity in action cannot be easily seen in a very loose translation such as REB (“I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe”).[34] On the other hand, this can be seen clearly in a more literal translation, such as NKJV,[35] NASB, ESV, NIV, KJV, HCSB, ISV, etc: “I [Jesus Christ] am the door [Jesus Christ]; if anyone enters through Me [Jesus Christ], he will be saved [cause of salvation], and will go in and out [result of salvation] and find pasture [result of salvation].”[36] On a more literal verse reading, one can easily distinguish the difference between the cause an result difference. To equate the cause to result is to blur this biblical distinction of the two.

Second, the emphatic emphasis in Greek was placed in the role of Christ in salvific terms, not to the flock or church.[37] Jesus says the one who enters through him (“through me” is emphatic in the Greek) will be saved (John 10:9a).[38] We can note then that “there is no other entrance!” However, regarding on how to enter to Christ, “let [John] 3:16 serve as commentary: faith in Christ as the Son of God is the only entrance-door. And this faith is full, personal trust in him and in his substitutionary atonement.”[39] This is worth emphasizing, “let [John] 3:16 serve as commentary”[40] before going to Pasugo of INK. The provider and the means to be saved is through entering to Jesus Christ, not to the church.

Thirdly, the verb “going in” should not be viewed as a command to enter to the fold as “going out” obviously does not refer to going out to the fold. Instead, they should be taken together (“going in and going out”) to mean for a person who has found “security”[41] in entering to Christ. In the LXX, this expression has its meaning to “move about freely”.[42] John MacArthur elaborates:

In Jesus’ metaphor He is the door through which the sheep enter the safety of God’s fold and go out to the rich pasture of His blessing. It is through Him that lost sinners can approach the Father and appropriate the salvation He provides; Jesus alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (14:6; cf. Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:11; 1 Tim. 2:5). Only Jesus is the true source of the knowledge of God and salvation, and the basis for spiritual security.[43]

So according to these words, “the Gospel is of service to us in two ways: in it our souls find nourishment, while they otherwise languish with hunger and are fed only with wind; and also Christ will be a faithful protector and defense against the attacks of wolves and robbers. Thus, benefits (results) of salvation should not be viewed as condition to salvation.

Fourthly, a closer examination to John 10:9 will reveal that it was “and” (“καὶ”) was used instead of “by” or “through” (“δι’”) nor other “causal conjunctions” (i.e., “ἐξ” or “γάρ” ) to the clauses of “going in and going out” (10:9b) and “finding pasture” (10:9c). This further proves again that they do not stand in causal relationship with the first clause, “if anyone enters through Me” (10:9a), but consequential relationship.[44]

Lastly, the interpretation of INK to John 10:9 should be in harmony with the soteriology found in Romans. In relation to the said book, James Orr rightly said: “The subject of justification must be in the first place the individual and only in the second place and by consequence the society. Besides, those justified are not the cleansed and sanctified members of churches, but the ungodly (Rom 4:5).”[45] Thus, Christ is the one who leads the sheep in. Entering to Christ is the cause of salvation. The result, they become a part of the “one flock”, which probably perhaps His church. He is still the Door of salvation (John 10:9),[46] not the church. Those who trust Him enter into the Lord’s flock or fold, and they will have the wonderful privilege of going “in and out” and finding pasture. Jesus should be maintained as the mediator of the salvation, again, not the Church.

___________

[30] See chapter 3.

[31] Gary P. Barrientos, The inherent obligation of man, Pasugo God’s Message 48, October 1996, 10.

[32] “Jesus has pointed out at least four points of comparison: “(1) the shepherd is Christ; (2) the door is Christ; (3) the sheep are those for whom Jesus lays down his life; (4) the flock represents the union of all believers under one shepherd.” (Elwell, Walter A. ; Beitzel, Barry J.: Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Book House, 1988, S. 312) For a thorough investigation of the OT background of John 10, especially 10:16, see Köstenberger 2002b. On sheep and shepherd imagery, see also Keener 2003: 799–802. Köstenberger, Andreas J.: John. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2004 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament).

[33] This is where the author agrees that Christ and the Church cannot be separated as the Head and the Body cannot.

[34] Or Revised English Bible, which is the favored translation of Iglesia ni Kristo when it comes to John 10:9. Thus, one could not wonder why the INK favors this translation than the others.

[35] Like for instance, in NKJV we read 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”; in NASB we read:  “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”; in ESV we read: I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture”; in NIV we read: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture”; in KJV we read: I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture”; in HCSB we read: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture”; in ISV we read: “I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture.”

[36] The comments in boldface placed within brackets are mine.

[37] Note the emphatic placement of διʼ ἐμοῦ (di’ emou, through me), which focuses on Jesus’ role as the one through whom sheep may enter the fold (Morris 1995: 452). See also, Whitacre, Rodney A.: John. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999 (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 4), S. 258.

[38] The door of the sheep. “Meaning the door for the sheep; not the door of the fold. ‘The thought is connected with the life, and not simply with the organization.’” [Vincent, Marvin Richardson: Word Studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002, S. 2:190]

[39]Hendriksen, William ; Kistemaker, Simon J.: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 1-2), S. 2:109 Emphasis and italics are mine. The substitutionary atonement of John 10 can be found in Jesus said in John 10:9–14, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

[40] Ibid.

[41] “Will go in and out”: Jesus’ language here (a Semitism) echoes covenant terminology, especially Deuteronomic blessings for obedience (cf. Deut. 28:6; cf. Ps. 121:8)[41] [Köstenberger, Andreas J.: John. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2004 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), S. 304]

[42]Zerwick, Max ; Grosvenor, Mary: A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Rome : Biblical Institute Press, 1974, S. 317

[43]MacArthur, John: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary : John 1-11. Chicago : Moody Press, 2006, S. 430. See also: He shall enjoy all the privileges that true salvation offers—protection, safety, security, and peace, as well as spiritual food for his soul. [Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible With Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978 (Commentary Reference Series), S. Jn 10:10]

[44] Although the conjunction “καὶ” can be interpreted to mean as: “(1) connecting single words and (MT 2.11d); (2) as a continuative, connecting clauses and sentences and (MT 21.23c); (3) as coordinating time with an event when (MK 15.25); (4) to introduce a result from preceding circumstances and then, and so (MT 4.19); (5) to introduce an abrupt question expressing a contrasting feeling then, in that case (2C 2.2); (6) as emphasizing an unexpected fact and yet, nevertheless, and in spite of that (MT 3.14); (7) to explain what preceded and so, that is, namely (MT 8.33b; JN 1.16); (8) κ. … κ. bothand, not onlybut also (AC 26.29).” [Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), 211, emphasis mine] Even though there are multiple possibilities to the meaning of “καὶ”—the writer of this paper argues that “καὶ” should mean as consequential conjunction (because phrases “go in and out” and “find pasture” should be seen as results [as privilege] of entering to Christ”. However, even without being dogmatic, it would never connote as causal conjunction. See also, Vine, W.E. ; Bruce, F.F.: Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Old TappanNJ : Revell, 1981; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 2:50

[45] Orr, James, M.A., D.D.: Orr, James (Hrsg.): The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  : 1915 Edition. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1999

[46] “Whoever goes through the door, will be saved”—Jesus is here conceived as the door to the sheepfold. Haenchen, Ernst ; Funk, Robert Walter ; Busse, Ulrich: John : A Commentary on the Gospel of John. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1984 (Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible), S. 48

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