6 Beliefs Filipinos need to double check with Scripture

Roughly 90 million Filipinos claim to follow Jesus. Whether their profession of faith is true or not is beyond my power to determine. However, true followers of Jesus are bound by one thing—God’s Word.

Christ said it Himself, “If you love me, keep my commands (John14:15).” True Christians live by Jesus’ commands found in the Bible. Even more, those who truly desire to obey Him search the Scriptures to check that their teachings, actions, beliefs and lifestyle do not violate His Word.

This was demonstrated by the Berean Christians who double checked the Scriptures every day to make sure that Paul’s teachings are true (Acts 17:11).

As Filipinos, we have several beliefs that warrant closer inspection in light of the Bible. Let us quickly look at six in this article. The discussions are not exhaustive and are here to encourage readers to study them further.  

1. Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus' birth
L' Annonciation de 1644, Philippe de Champaigne.jpg
Many Filipinos assume that because Mary conceived Jesus as a virgin, she remained in this state even after His birth. That is, she never had sexual relations with Joseph, her husband.

But a simple reading of the Bible will prove otherwise. In Matthew 1:24-25 we read,

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus (New International Version)."

The term "consummate their marriage" is simplified in other Bible translations as "have sexual relations with her (New Living Translation)," "did not know her intimately (Holman Christian Standard Bible) and “sinipingan” in the Magandang Balita Biblia.

If this is not enough, we can even read in Mark 6:3-4 that Jesus had biological half-brothers and half-sisters. This is what Mark wrote,

“‘Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’”

2. The 10 commandments

Most Filipinos read the 10 Commandments not in the Bible but on giant stone tablets that adorn many places of worship. They are supposedly simplified versions of Exodus 20:1-17.

But a simple comparison of the 10 Commandments in the Bible and the commandments on the stone tablets reveals a key difference.

This is a photo of the 10 Commandments at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Iloilo taken by historicphilippines.com

Now, this is the actual text of Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The Bible specifically prohibits worship of graven images or statutes and religious icons. Thus, we have a unique second commandment based on Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them…"

This is written distinctly from the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” which is based on verse 3.

If one doubts this prohibition, we need only to supplement this with Psalm 115:2-8 that tackles the issue of idol worship graphically. In this Psalm we read:

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
 Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
 But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

The sad omission of this vital commandment has led many Filipinos to believe that praying to statues and adoration of images are Biblical. A closer look at the Bible, however, reveals that these practices go against God's Word.

How about the two commandments against covetousness in the stone tablets? These should rightfully be combined because they are written as one in Exodus 20:17. Why split what was originally written together in the Bible?

3. Salvation by doing good

When heaven and hell and the salvation of one's soul are discussed, majority of Filipinos mistakenly think of a scale. Borrowing from the idea of “karma,” they believe that people’s destiny is dependent on whether or not they can do enough good to outweigh their sins and tip heaven on their favor.

They think that as in a balance, when God weighs a person's deeds, the good acts should overcome the bad so that he can have eternal life in heaven.

However, a plain reading of Ephesians 2:8-10 reveals God's will on this matter. Paul writes,

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

A person is saved NOT by good works but by God's grace which is received through faith in Jesus. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone can one gain eternal life. If, by God’s grace, we believe in Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, we are saved!

So what are good deeds for? Notice verse 10. The good that we do have been prepared beforehand as evidences of genuine faith. That is, good works are the result NOT the prerequisite of salvation.

4. Having a religion equals faith in God
Immaculate Concepcion church at Oslob, Cebu
Many religious Filipinos equate their devotion to a certain religion as faith in the Living God. They think that because they are members of a certain church and attend to their religious obligations, they already have genuine faith.

However, faith in the Bible is richer than this simplistic view. When we read Romans 10:1-3, we find that genuine faith involves knowledge or understanding of the truth.

Paul writes,

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

One cannot just follow something blindly. To say that faith exists, a person needs to understand what he believes in. In the case of Biblical Christianity, he needs to understand the Gospel message.

The Gospel tells us that all human beings have sinned and are now separated from God (Romans 3:23), condemned to suffer eternal death (Romans 6:23). But by God’s grace, He sent Jesus to take the death penalty (Romans 5:8) and provide a way to reconcile people to God (1 Peter 3:18). He died on the cross as our substitute but rose again (1 Corinthians 15:2-4), promising eternal life to everyone who believes in Him as personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16).

But not everyone who knows the Gospel message possesses genuine faith. James 2:19 even tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” Demons believe, in the sense that they know God’s Word, but instead of faith, they shudder in fear.

This is so because the second element of genuine faith is persuasion. Knowing something is not enough, we have to be convinced that what we know is true. We have to believe that we are sinners, that we are separated from God, that we will one day suffer in hell for our rebellion.

And if we’re convinced by these, we must naturally be persuaded of the need for a Savior and that this is no other than Jesus.

Finally and most importantly, as in Apostle Paul’s experience recorded in Acts 26, genuine faith entails personal trust in Jesus. We do not just know, we’re not just convinced, ultimately, we surrender our entire lives to Jesus.

This is how genuine faith looks like in the Bible—intellectual knowledge, intellectual persuasion and whole-hearted trust in Jesus.

5. Who becomes a saint
The country rejoiced in 2012 when another Filipino was declared a “saint” after meeting the strict criteria laid down by religious institutions. This set of criteria makes people believe that being a saint is reserved only to the holiest and most pious followers of God.

However, we can read throughout the New Testament that all true believers in Jesus are called saints. Two telling examples are read in Acts 9:13 and Acts 9:32 where Luke called Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem and Lydda “saints,” “believers” or “holy people.” Notice that the terms are interchangeable.

And perhaps none is more telling than 1 Corinthians 1:2 where we read,
 “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…”

Paul makes plain that those who belong to the Church of God in Corinth are called to be “saints,” “believers” or “holy people” together “with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Does “every place” include the Philippines? Certainly! Even Filipinos who consider Jesus as Lord are saints of God.

The Bible shows from these examples that being a true follower of Jesus, believing in Him as personal Lord and Savior, makes one a saint in God’s eyes. After all, to be a saint (Gk. hagios) means to be set apart (holy) for God’s work and for the expansion of His Kingdom.

No one fits this description but God’s people, true followers of Jesus.

6. We lose nothing when we believe in swerte or luck
Many times we hear Filipinos say, “Wala namang mawawala kung maniniwala sa swerte.” Thus, every new year, we watch several TV segments about feng sui and astrology in an attempt to improve our luck.

But this seemingly innocent tradition and hobby, actually attacks the very character of God. The concept of luck is foreign in the Bible because it presupposes the absence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent and sovereign God.

Luck, after all, leaves our lives to chance. There is no assurance about anything because the universe operates randomly.

But in the Bible, we see that God is in control of the universe. In Psalm 115:3 we read, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”

No knowledge escapes His mind, be it about the vastness of the universe or our personal lives. These are demonstrated clearly in Psalm 139:2-4,

“You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.”

and in Psalm 147:4, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”

All these are true because God created everything there was, is and ever will be. God bares this in Job 38 where He challenged Job,

“6 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone….
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
These six items are but some of the beliefs Filipinos need to be more critical of. If we truly desire to obey God and His commands, the best place to start is in the Bible. Why don’t we spend more time reading and understanding it so that we can see for ourselves whether the things we practice are true?

Let us not depend on the media or other people or even this article to tell us what to believe. Instead, let us immerse ourselves in God’s Word, studying it diligently, to find out “if these things were so.”
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