What is Catholic interpretation of I John 5:13?


#1

Could someone provide the Catholic interpretation of the following Bible verses and whether they indicate whether a Catholic can know they are going to heaven when they die, assuming they have faith and put their trust in Christ and live for Him according to Catholic teachings and are in good standing with God, man, and the Catholic Church when they pass away.

I John 5:13
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
**
John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
**
Context for the question:**
I may be wrong, but I sense a tone where Catholics tend to believe it is presumptuous or arrogant for any Christian to think they can know in advance they are going to heaven.

I interpret the above verses to support the idea that we can have the blessed hope that we will be with the Lord when we die – not out of arrogance or presumption – but by having faith and trust in Christ’s redemptive passion and death on the cross for us and by following Christ’s teachings and living a life pleasing to God.

I’m not referring to the OSAS philosophy that bases salvation on faith alone and not works (do what you want, etc). I’m referring to the Catholic (or non-Catholic) Christian who has both faith and works and who dies in a state of grace (no unconfessed mortal sins).

Please help me better understand the Catholic teaching and position on this.

For example, it is fairly common at protestant funerals I’ve attended for the pastor to say that the person is “now with the Lord” or something to that effect if they know the person is a faithful Christian.

Does a Catholic priest say something similar or do they just pray for the soul of the deceased and ask others to do likewise? Thanks for helping me to better understand the Catholic position.


#2

Similar question posted in this thread…forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=943453

Look for post 13 and 14…:slight_smile:


#3

Thanks, Pablope. I’ll take a look at the other thread. I apologize that I didn’t realize there was another one on the same subject. I appreciate it. :slight_smile:


#4

Just to be clear - there is often NOT a “Catholic interpretation” of a given Bible verse. In Catholicism, Scripture is seen in a larger context and teaching based on that.
However - - - I will give you this Catholic’s take on them.:smiley:

I John 5:13
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may *know *that you have eternal life.
Excellent Verse…
I think the Catholic view of this is - hey we better know what John wrote in Chapters 1: through 5:12 so that we can know what it is he wrote…
See what I mean? Don’t take the verse in isolation.

**
John 3:16**
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Catholic understanding of this is that it means what it says…
BUT
The next question one must ask is this…What does it mean to “believe in” the Son of God. What does that really mean and what does it entail?

**
Context for the question:**
I may be wrong, but I sense a tone where Catholics tend to believe it is presumptuous or arrogant for any Christian to think they can know in advance they are going to heaven.

Yes there can be that flavor I suppose. Perhaps it’s something of a reaction to the OSAS view. Perhaps it is an expression of humility.
Mostly I think it is mostly a matter of our recognition of our unworthiness to receive such a gift and our desire NOT to be presumptuous on God’s Mercy. Mercy that we all count heavily on.

I interpret the above verses to support the idea that we can have the blessed hope that we will be with the Lord when we die – not out of arrogance or presumption – but by having faith and trust in Christ’s redemptive passion and death on the cross for us and by following Christ’s teachings and living a life pleasing to God.

Amen - A very Catholic outlook. We can indeed have a blessed HOPE and confidence…

I’m not referring to the OSAS philosophy that bases salvation on faith alone and not works (do what you want, etc). I’m referring to the Catholic (or non-Catholic) Christian who has both faith and works and who dies in a state of grace (no unconfessed mortal sins).

Please help me better understand the Catholic teaching and position on this.

Actually I think you already have a pretty good understanding. You just have to remember that there are a huge number of Catholics and - well - we can run the gamut from presumptuous to teetering on despair. But the Church teaches hope and confidence. Just as St John and St Paul did.

For example, it is fairly common at protestant funerals I’ve attended for the pastor to say that the person is “now with the Lord” or something to that effect if they know the person is a faithful Christian.

Does a Catholic priest say something similar or do they just pray for the soul of the deceased and ask others to do likewise? Thanks for helping me to better understand the Catholic position.

Can’t say I ever heard a priest say that at a funeral mass…but then…if the person is known to be a faithful Christian, does it have to be said?

Just some thoughts

Peace
James


#5

Yes, the Catholic position is that it is rashly arrogant and presumptuous to be over-confident regarding ones eternal destiny. We can have a guarded assurance about it, knowing of Gods trustworthiness and boundless love while yet aware of our own weaknesses and capacity for faithlessness and sin. The human wil is always involved in some manner or another, to one degree or another, in our justification and salvation. He, alone, knows with 100% certainty whose name is written in the Book of Life.


#6

Thanks, James. You make some great points. If the person is known to be a faithful Christian, it goes unsaid that they are heaven-bound. For me, it is nice to hear the pastor sometimes say it as comfort to the family but it shouldn’t be necessary.


#7

Hi fhansen,
I can understand why someone could think it is rashly arrogant and presumptuous to be over-confident regarding ones eternal destiny. I agree with you if they are over-confident. I respect that position and admire the humility involved.

However, there are some who might interpret the uncertainty of being confident in one’s eternal destiny as a lack of faith in God’s promises stated in His Word regarding those who love God and are Christ-followers who strive to live a godly life, with the Lord’s help, of course.

When I die, I want to do so having the blessed hope that I will be spending eternity in the presence of Jesus and that my funeral will be a celebration of hope rather than a “I hope he makes it” kind of thing.


#8

Yes I agree that it is nice to hear it said.

:thumbsup:
So then we must ask - what constitutes “over-confident”?

However, there are some who might interpret the uncertainty of being confident in one’s eternal destiny as a lack of faith in God’s promises stated in His Word regarding those who love God and are Christ-followers who strive to live a godly life, with the Lord’s help, of course.

I’m struck by your phrase, “uncertainty of being confident”. I don’t really think that this is a problem in most Catholics. I think most are most certainly confident. Yet “confidence” is not surety; assurance is not insurance.
And honestly, the issue is not about a lack of faith in God’s promises, which we know are good and true. The issue is with us, not God. Do we show ourselves worthy of the great gift. Have we done our part in response to the grace given to us.
It’s not that we fear God will cast us into hell - rather we fear that we will fall ourselves.
Such fear is healthy for it prevents presumption and promotes humility.

When I die, I want to do so having the blessed hope that I will be spending eternity in the presence of Jesus and that my funeral will be a celebration of hope rather than a “I hope he makes it” kind of thing.

Me too…

Peace
James


#9

If you “canonize” somebody at a funeral, and that person is not somebody who can actually be confidently proclaimed a saint who went straight to Heaven with no Purgatory, you are actually telling the people at the funeral not to pray for that person’s eternal rest.

You are depriving that person of loving prayers, at the time they most easily could get them.

Furthermore, although you don’t want any Christian funeral to be a case of weeping and wailing “as the pagans do who have no hope,” funerals are supposed to be a wakeup call for all the people attending them. They are supposed to make the attendees pray for the deceased, and then think about the state of their own souls.

So getting too happy-snappy with assumptions deprives everyone else of the chance to repent and do better, and to pray to God for themselves.

So yeah, Catholic funerals are supposed to take an attitude of acknowledging the mystery of Judgment, and balancing “the reason for our hope” with concern about the state of everybody’s immortal soul, including the deceased’s. The members of the Body help each other supernaturally, and we trust the Head and follow His commands to pray for each other.

This is why the great and beautiful sequence “Dies Irae” is such a fundamentally comforting piece at a funeral Mass or requiem. (And that’s why it’s a shame that so few funerals now get to use it.) Even though its content is somewhat scary, it is basically acknowledging our dependence on Divine Mercy, and asking straight out that we all be judged kindly. It’s truthful about death and the last things, in a world that usually lies about death, and that is amazingly lovely in itself.


#10

Of course, if you know for a fact that the deceased received Anointing of the Sick and all the rites for the dying, including the Apostolic Pardon, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the person is going straight to Heaven.

But the mystery of free will is such that a human can always choose to reject God, even at the last second, and God will respect that; and then can choose to repent and choose God, even at the last second. So we can’t know for sure without other stuff getting involved (like papal infallibility in declarations of canonization).

So basically, it’s always a good idea to pray for the deceased. If the person doesn’t need it, God won’t let your prayers go to waste, and if they do need it, you’ll be glad you did. And either way, anybody deceased (who didn’t go straight to Hell) will be happy to pray for you in return, so it’s a good thing all around.


#11

I have listened to a lot of material by Steve Ray and here is how he approaches it:

1 John 5:13 - the word “IF” is used many times prior to verse 5:13. Each one of those If’s is a recommendation/condition for christian living.

As far as John 3:16, it comes down to what the word “believe” really means. He gives an example of a tightrope walker walking across a canyon. Who believes I can do it? We believe!! shouts the crowd. So he walks across. Then he says I will now walk across with a person on my back, who believes I can do it. WE BELIEVE the crowd shouts again. He says Great, so who will volunteer to get on my back?..

So true belief takes on a different meaning - reconcile John 3:16 with James who says even the demons believe.


#12

John’s Gospel and letters focus on the **present **reality of our salvation. The Evangelist who wrote the Gospel emphasizes we can be confident in our salvation. That salvation is based or conditioned on our obedience to Jesus’s commands to love one another. That love has practical implications (good works). At times it seems 1 John is respoding to Johns Gospel in regards to some who were not putting their faith into action as well as those rejecting Church authority. There seems to have been some early divisions within the Johannine community. At any rate compared to other NT texts regarding salvation John’s Gospel focuses on the present reality and assurance of eternal life for believers. Father Raymond Brown and Maloney have written excellent commentaries on John’s Gospel.
amazon.com/Gospel-According-XIII-XXI-Anchor-Bible/dp/0385037619/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422913879&sr=1-2&keywords=anchor+johns+gospel+brown
amazon.com/Introduction-Gospel-Anchor-Reference-Library/dp/0300140150/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422913879&sr=1-1&keywords=anchor+johns+gospel+brown


#13

Back to Steve Ray, he distinguishes between moral assurance and absolute assurance. I don’t think what you describe in that sentence is absolute assurance. To me, absolute assurance means that I am saved today so I KNOW I will be saved when I die. Moral assurance is believing that if I persevere, I will be saved and I don’t think any Catholic would argue with the latter.


#14

Jesus never said only pay attention to John 3:16 and ignore everything else I command. You do know that you can’t just snip out a couple of verses and ignore everything else that Jesus commanded us to do, don’t you?

Jesus said that we must do All that He has commanded us.


#15

Hi ajcstr,
I also believe in moral assurance as you describe it, more so than absolute assurance. The Once-Saved-Always-Saved philosophy is dangerous in my opinion because it appears to allow for anyone to go do whatever they want and it can result in libertine behavior, which is against our Lord’s teachings and the heart of God.


#16

Ignatius said…
"Jesus said that we must do All that He has commanded us"

Agreed. That goes without saying.

The context of my question was to try to better understand the Catholic view on assurance of salvation and to get a better feel as to whether it is presumptuous of a Christian to have the blessed hope of heaven when he dies and whether it is a reasonable expectation or not of a believer have confidence in that hope when he passes on.


#17

In Chapter 3 of John, Jesus says many things. He says if you do evil works, you hate the light (20). You must be born of water and spirt(5). People must see the good you do (21).

We tend to look at not just what Jesus does for us, but what we are asked to do for Him. And most of us are probably sure that we don’t quite yet have it right, even though we keep trying. Perhaps that is why we don’t assume we won’t (or haven’t) ‘backslide’ during our life.


#18

Ignatius said…
"Jesus said that we must do All that He has commanded us"

Agreed. That goes without saying.

The context of my question was to try to better understand the Catholic view on assurance of salvation and to get a better feel as to whether it is presumptuous of a Christian to have the blessed hope of heaven when he dies and whether it is a reasonable expectation or not of a believer have confidence in that hope when he passes on.
[/quote]

Actually, you left out the post pertinent part, you can’t just snip a couple of verses out of context and get a proper understanding. The Bible isn’t intended to be reinterpreted by everyone who reads it, it is a fallacious idea that everyone is supposed to figure everything out themselves. God plans better than that. The Church that Jesus founded carries His authority and came first, before The New Testament. Is is through His Church that the real Light of Scripture shines.


#19

Hi Ignatius,
I wasn’t trying to take anything out of context. In fact, I am an inquirer into Catholicism who is wanting to know more about how Catholics believe and think about certain subjects.

In this case, it was about whether it is reasonable or presumptuous to expect that the Lord is going to be waiting for us on the other side if we die as a faithful Christian. Thanks to all who responded.


#20

Hi Ignatius,
I wasn’t trying to take anything out of context. In fact, I am an inquirer into Catholicism who is wanting to know more about how Catholics believe and think about certain subjects.

In this case, it was about whether it is reasonable or presumptuous to expect that the Lord is going to be waiting for us on the other side if we die as a faithful Christian. Thanks to all who responded.
[/quote]

Sorry for the misunderstanding. If that is your question, though, the answer is pretty much the same. Every verse of Scripture is true taken in the context of the immediate surrounding text, the chapter, the book, the entirety of Scripture and the constant teaching that has been handed on from Jesus to the Apostles and their successors through His Church right down to our own day. That teaching is, yes, it is His promise that He is going to be waiting for us on the other side if we die faithfully following Christ.

Again, my apologies for my misunderstanding. God bless and guide you you and may He be with you every step on your faith journey.


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