Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ


Was Mary sinless?

No, for the following reasons:

The Bible says that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Such a categorical statement requires exceptions to be mentioned explicitly and the Bible mentions only Jesus as the exception (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22).

Mary herself implies her own sinfulness when she cites God as being her savior (Luke 1:47). The Catholic explanation for this verse is that Mary was thankful because God prevented her from becoming a sinner. But this explanation is a case of special pleading. All other occurrences of "savior" in the Bible refer to God saving people who are sinners.

Some Catholics say that Mary had to be sinless so that Jesus could be sinless. But if this was so, Mary's mother would also have to be sinless (to ensure Mary's sinlessness). This leads to a regress that takes us all the way to the first mother, Eve. According to the above Catholic argument (applied repetitively), Eve would have to be sinless. This obvious contradiction proves that the Catholic argument is false. Jesus' sinlessness was ensured by his virgin birth

Was Mary perpetual virgin?

When Mary learned that she was to birth the Messiah, she pointed out that she was a virgin at that time (see Luke 1:34-35). The angel replied that God would work a miracle. Thus, Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived but after she conceived him, she got married (see Matthew 1:24). So she and her husband Joseph obviously had sex and thus Mary was not "perpetually virgin".

Here are some Catholic arguments for Mary's perpetual virginity and my responses:-

The "brothers" of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 13:55 are not literal brothers (though no Catholic denies that the "son" in the same verse is a literal son!). Again, this is special pleading. "Brothers" means "brothers"; if you say it doesn't, the burden of proof lies on you. In fact there were words in Greek for cousins (Luke 1:36), uncles (thios or barbas) and relatives (Mark 6:4). Therefore, the use of "brothers" to mean other relatives amounts to figurative usage. It is unsound exegesis to insist on the figurative meaning of a word when the literal meaning makes sense. John tells us (John 2:17) that Jesus is fulfilling Psalm 69:8-9. But in the Psalm, notice the words "my mother's children". The brethren were "real" brothers!

The word "firstborn" (Matthew 1:25) does not imply other children; it only implies the opening of the womb. "Firstborn" does not imply the absence of other children either (Genesis 19:31). Again, special pleading. The only reason we are asked to read "firstborn" as "only born" is because the Catholic doctrine of perpetual virginity requires it!

Real Jewish brothers would never reprove an older brother as Jesus' brothers did (John 7:3-4, Mark 3:21). How did you get perfect knowledge of Jewish society? How do you know that Jesus' brothers would not violate Jewish cultural norms?

Jesus would not have told John to take care of his mother (John 19:26) if he had actual brothers. No. There are many reasons why Jesus might have preferred John to his brothers, not the least being their unbelief (John 7:5)!

The "son of Mary" (Mark 6:3) in Greek actually means "only son of Mary". No it doesn't. The same Greek article that appears in Mark 6:3 appears in Matthew 4:21 to introduce "James the son of Zebedee". We know that he was not the only son (Mark 10:35). The Greek word for only, monon, occurs 66 times in the New Testament, but not in Mark 6:3.

Thus, all these arguments either leave the question open, are factually incorrect, or rely on wrong exegesis. Further, these arguments address the wrong question: "did Mary have other children?" [It is eminently possible for a person to not have children although she's been having sex]

The Bible never says explicitly that Mary had sex. By the same logic, Priscilla and Aquila never had sex with each other (so we have two more perpetual virgins), Joab never ate food, Leah never nursed her children, Solomon never changed his clothes, Baruch is still living today and is about 2600 years old and Saul never used the bathroom. This is an absurd "argument from absence" (See Rule 7 at Bible Interpretation). Eating, nursing one's children and having sex with one's spouse are normal human acts - we take it for granted that people do them. To conclude otherwise we need two things:-

  1. A record explicitly says so.
  2. The record explains why this human chose to go against the normal course; a record that does not do this conveys no sense.

The Bible does not say that Mary abstained from sex with her husband all her life, nor does the Bible (which we know to be a sensible record) give us a reason why she had to remain a virgin for life. Therefore, Mary's perpetual virginity is untenable. You don't prove a doctrine based on absence and hypothesis. The Roman Catholic teaching on Mary is a case of accepting a pagan idea and then looking to scripture to support it after you have failed to prevent people from reading the Bible.

Doesn't the Roman Catholic Church do a lot of good?

Hindus do a lot of charity and service to society. That does not make Hinduism true. In the same way, Roman Catholic charity does not make Roman Catholic theology true. Besides, the true character of an organization is not found in what it does when it is in a minority or has lost its power, but what it does when it is the powerful majority. No doubt Catholics do wonderful work in Western democracies, Hindu/Muslim lands, etc but the true colors of Catholicism are revealed in what she did when she was powerful. Of course, the same applies to the Orthodox Church. To see what real Orthodoxy is, you don't look at the clever Public Relations being currently done in the US. You look at medieval Russia or medieval South India.

Haven't Protestants also done evil things?

Yes, but there is a fundamental difference between the implications of Protestant and Catholic/Orthodox misdeeds.

John Calvin, a "Protestant", had Michael Servetus killed because his religious views did not match with Calvin's. This, however, does not discredit my faith (or the faith of other Biblical Christians). Why? Because our faith is based on the Bible, not on Calvin, or anyone else. Nowhere does the Bible ask Christians to torture or kill "heretics". This incident does discredit Calvin, though. It proves that his claims of "Sola Scriptura" were lies.

However, when the Pope has sanctioned evil, or the Orthodox clergy and "church fathers" have indulged in evil, it discredits your faith, because, by definition, your faith is based on the Papacy and the "patristic tradition". Both the Papacy and the Orthodox clergy/fathers claim to be custodians and teachers of divine revelation. Because they are evil, the entire system under them (which includes all Catholics and Orthodox) falls. 

Have the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church apologized for/explained their misdeeds?

The Catholic Church has apologized for some of its misdeeds, but such apologies have been extremely vague and superficial - not commensurate with the evil that has been done. The Orthodox Church has not apologized for Its misdeeds. Both churches try to downplay or justify their misdeeds with the following excuses:
  • The misdeeds were perpetrated by deviants. But in ancient times, no orthodox authority ever took such a stance. They never condemned such deeds as misrepresenting the orthodox faith. Thus the modern apologists' claim is merely a pathetic innovation to deal with modern culture, which (being influenced by the Bible) expects you to respectfully treat those you disagree with.
  • The Church was very concerned about heresy. What Catholic apologists call heresy is often simple Biblical teaching. In their attempts to portray torture, rape, genocide, etc. as a heroic "fight against heresy", Catholic apologists ignore that in the New Testament, the only punishment for heresy was to break fellowship (Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10, etc).
  • "We should not project modern sensibilities on ancient people"
  • "The church didn't kill; it was the civil authorities who killed". This was true on some occasions, but it was the "Church" that directed the civil authorities to kill!
Well, everyone makes mistakes. David's adultery does not change the fact that he was God's anointed king. But the hallmark of true Christians is that, like David, they repent. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have not repented of these evils because these evils are not "mistakes" but official policy. If the RCC and the Orthodox Church do not pursue the same policy today, it is only because they do not have the capacity to do so. Because of this:-
  1. The above facts prove that the RCC and Orthodoxy are not God's churches
  2. Thus, you are not a Biblical Christian if you insist on being Catholic/Orthodox
  3. You are morally accountable for the blood that the Vatican/Orthodoxy has shed if you insist on being Catholic/Orthodox

If we forget the gospel, will we lose our salvation?

The concern comes from reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-2:-
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain."
Verse 2 suggests that there are those who "believe in vain". That is, they may have a mental assent to the gospel that is not accompanied by repentance (like the demons, James 2:19). Such people may forget what they've learned, and are not saved. On the other hand, those who truly repent and believe with their heart get the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13,14, Romans 8:9), who witnesses to them (Romans 8:16). Such people will not "forget". Nothing, including human frailty, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Is something true because a martyr believed it?

The Indian Maratha King Sambhaji was tortured to death by his Muslim captors because he refused to give in to their demand: forsake Hinduism and become a Muslim. This does not prove that Hinduism is true. It only proves that Sambhaji was sincere in his Hindu beliefs. Similarly, a lot of Christians (both true and false) have died as martyrs. We must appreciate their sincerity, but to assume that what they believed is true is wrong.

The multiplicity of Protestant denominations proves that they are wrong and that the RCC and Eastern Orthodoxy are right.

This argument is wrong because it is based on the faulty premise that "If we all believe the same thing, it must be true". Truth is not determined by the number of people mutually agreeing or disagreeing. Truth is determined by agreement with the Bible. Although a lot is wrong in Protestant denominations, the creeds of most of them agree with at least The Main Message of the Bible, whereas Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy don't. When you stand in judgment before God, He will not look you up in this way: "Catholic or Protestant? Okay, how many denominations within your tradition? There are too many. So I'm going to put you in hell". Where you go depends on whether you have received Jesus Christ for who he claimed to be. By definition, an observant Catholic or Orthodox has not, and neither has a liberal Protestant.

This website rejects "the multiplicity of Protestant denominations" for the same reason that it rejects Catholic/Orthodox dogma: "denominations" do not exist in the Bible and differ from the Biblical pattern of church, which is Local autonomous churches

One final point: while counting "Protestant denominations" please make sure that you are not passing off Catholic/Orthodox nicknames for Biblical Christians as "denominations". For example, "Paulicians" and "Bogomils" are not "denominations". They were just groups of Biblical Christians so nicknamed by their Orthodox persecutors.

Is there reason to believe that most of historic/current Christendom was/is false?

Yes, for the following reasons:-

1. Jesus predicted in Matthew 7:21-22 that there will be many who think of themselves as Christians, but will not really be his disciples.

2. The leaven parable of Matthew 13:33 shows that corruption will spread in Christendom until virtually the whole is corrupted. See Example 13 at Bible Interpretation for details.

3. Paul predicted that false teaching would mushroom (Acts 20:29-30). Note that he does not limit the false doctrine to Judaism or Gnosticism. He found to his dismay that even the churches that he founded were quick to turn away from the truth (Galatians 1:6, 3:1). 

4. Even in the first century itself, the Lord Jesus found much to criticize in the churches (Revelation 2 and 3). One was so bad that the Lord Jesus wanted to spew it out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16). If this was the state of affairs in the first century, one can only imagine how bad things would be subsequently.

5. In the "mustard tree" parable (Matthew 13:31-32), Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a mustard seed which becomes a large tree in which the birds lodge. Does this not imply that the true church is a large, conspicuous structure such as the Roman Catholic or the Orthodox Church? There is a simple problem with this reasoning. There is no such thing as a mustard tree!! The Israeli mustard is a shrub. In Arabia, there is a similar shrub that grows to a height of about 10 feet - hardly a big tree. Did Jesus have a problem with botany? No, that cannot be. What is he trying to tell us then? Think: in other places in scripture, what do large trees and the birds of the air symbolize? Large trees represent worldly, vainglorious kingdoms and monarchs (Ezekiel 31, Daniel 4:20-23). A large tree is rooted in the earth - something earthly. What do the birds of the air represent? The birds tried to disrupt the covenant between God and Abram (Genesis 15) - a symbol of evil. The birds of the air represent the forces of evil in the parable of the sower. Thus, Jesus is hinting that the kingdom of heaven will be obscured by a monstrous caricature. The "church" will become something that it was never meant to be.

To summarize: The Bible predicts widespread apostasy in so called "Christendom". So when we compare what the Bible says with Liberal Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, we are not surprised.

What authority did the Lord Jesus give Peter?

Peter was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven - thus he could bind and lose things on earth (Matthew 16:19). Note that the kingdom of heaven consists of both tares and wheat (Matthew 13:24-25) unlike the true universal church which only consists of genuine disciples (Ephesians 5:27). The key to the true church is found individually by each person when he puts his faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:11), but Peter unlocked the key to the kingdom of heaven; for the Jews in Acts 2, for the Samaritans in Acts 8, and for the rest of the world in Acts 10. To each category of people, Peter was the first to preach the gospel. It is also worth noting that Peter was never a "Pope" and so no Pope is Peter's successor. Thus, Matthew 16:19 provides no support to the Pope's alleged right to "excommunicate" people out of the universal church. 

Is something true if an apostolic father says so?

No. Various contemporaries of Paul weren't exactly very spiritual: Hymenaeus, Alexander, Philetus, etc. Paul even told the Ephesian elders that out of their own circles, false teachers would arise (Acts 20:30). Thus, the antiquity of a person and his connections with apostles are no guarantee that everything he says is of equal importance as scripture, or even right. You may argue that you intend to consult second century church fathers, not second century apostates. But this is just begging the question, because: what separate criterion do you have to identify who are the "true" church fathers and who are the apostates? Further, even if a second century figure is not a heretic, he could still be mistaken about certain things. This is not to slander individuals like Polycarp, Clement and so on. We should respect what they say -if- it tallies with scripture.

Is something true if a church founded by an apostle practiced it?

No. Proof: the churches of Galatia was founded by none other than Paul himself. Within a few years, they departed from what he taught them (Galatians 1:6, 3:1).

What binding and loosing authority do churches have?

In Matthew 18:15-20, the Lord is explaining how to deal with a member of a local church who has wronged another member. If he refuses to listen to the local church oversight, he should be put out of fellowship (Matthew 18:17). Here the Lord Jesus says that the local church has authority to bind and lose (Matthew 18:18 - another similar verse is John 20:23). Thus, individuals cannot rebel against the decision of the local church without facing God's wrath.

My wife and I are quarreling and can't get along. As disciples of Christ, it is our duty to take the matter to our local church leadership. They try to sort it out and give us some instructions, but I don't think their instructions are fair, so I reject them. They respond by telling me I cannot have communion with them. So what do I do? Here are some options:-

  1. I change my church. I tell my new church that I'm good (the other church favored my wife), and I try to be active in my new church.
  2. I start my own ministry, which eventually becomes another church.

According to Matthew 18:18, both the above options are evil, and other Christians are duty bound to not cooperate with me. Notice that the context here is a local church or congregation - not a church hierarchy. Both these verses (Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23) are sometimes used to justify the claims to authority of the Roman Catholic Church. But this is a faulty application. The RCC and the Orthodox Church do not have any God-given authority because they are not Biblical churches. They are hierarchies while Biblical churches are autonomous units.

Are clergy the successors of the apostles?

First we need to recognize two modes of succession:-
  1. There were computer programmers in my company who are no longer there. I am a computer programmer in my company today. So am I a successor? Perhaps, but only in an indirect sense. I did not join office because or exactly when someone left. I was recruited as part of the company's general efforts to maintain a sufficiently large workforce.
  2. When the king died, his son became the next king: direct succession.
The Apostles held more than one office. So let us see the case for each office. 
The Missionary Office: Perhaps all of the apostles, at some time or the other, were evangelists (Acts 9:15, Acts 13:2-3). Since this office is permanent, the apostles were followed by other missionaries. Thus, every missionary today is a successor of the apostles (albeit in an indirect way - since missionaries are called individually by God and are not appointed to "succeed" a dying missionary).
The Pastoral Office: At least at the start of their ministry, some of the apostles were leaders within a local church (Galatians 2:9). Again, this is a permanent office. Thus, every elder/pastor/bishop within a local church today is a successor of the apostles (albeit in an indirect way - see Church Offices).
The apostolic office: Being a temporary office, there were no successors to the apostolic office. There simply are no apostles today. Nor is there any group of 12 people making claims to being the successors of the apostles. If Peter had a successor, he wouldn't be a pope because Peter never claimed to be a pope or "first among equals".
What about the Roman Catholic/Orthodox clergy? The following are some differences between clergy and the above three offices:-
  1. Clergy constitute a hierarchy but the above offices have no hierarchy
  2. Clergy claim to be priests as opposed to the "laity" but the above three offices are consistent with the Biblical teaching of all disciples being priests (1 Peter 2:9).
  3. Clerical positions are filled using elections - the above offices by the Holy Spirit working to produce a consensus in God's people.
  4. Clergy take for themselves titles like "Father", "Reverend", etc. This is a practice totally foreign to all those who bore these offices in the New Testament.
To summarize: clergy occupy a position today that is completely different from the three offices mentioned above. Therefore, they are not the successors of the apostles.

Are you saying that there were no true Christians between the apostles and Martin Luther?

Doesn't the Bible say that those who endure to the end will be saved?

This statement appears in Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13.

In Matthew 10, Jesus begins by telling his disciples to preach to Israelis only (Matthew 10:5-6) and ends by saying, "You will not have finished the cities of Israel until the Son of man be come" (Matthew 10:23). Thus, Jesus was not referring to the preaching of the gospel today, which is not just to Israelis but to the whole world. What was he referring to? To their immediate preaching assignment (see the parallel passage in Luke 10:17); but the reference to his return implies that he was also talking about the time just before his Second Advent, namely, the Seventieth Week. Similarly, if you look at Matthew 24:15-31 and Mark 13:14-26, you find that the other two occurrences of this statement also refer to the seventieth week (Tribulation). 

So, in the context of the Tribulation, what is there to endure and be saved? During the Tribulation, the beast will persecute the Jews/Israelis, forcing them to worship his image, take his mark and acknowledge him as god. In order to not be doomed, it will be necessary to refuse this, even if that means death. Thus, the Jews will have to endure persecution until the end in order to be saved. Jesus was not talking about us Christians today. Paying attention to context is one of the principle rules of Bible Interpretation. No doubt there is an application for us also. Thousands of Biblical Christians down through the centuries have proved the genuineness of their faith by enduring to the end as they were being tortured to death by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Besides, these verses do not lend any support to Catholicism/Orthodoxy because the Catholic/Orthodox teaching is not that people who endure to the end will be saved but rather, people who endure to the end will have no clue whether they are saved. Not even the Pope, who has done a very good job of enduring in his faith, knows where he is going when he dies.

"Don't project modern sensibilities on ancient people"

Roman Catholic/Orthodox heroes include antisemites (like John Chrysostom), mass murderers (like Pope Innocent III and Empress Theodora), advocates of torture of those who have different beliefs (Augustine), elitists who thought it scandalous that the Bible may be translated to vernacular languages, etc. Modern observers look at them in horror and point out that if this is how the representatives of Roman Catholicism/Orthodoxy were, then these religions are not true - because the true God must be good.

Apologists of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy respond that we shouldn't expect ancient people to be up to date on "modern sensibilities" like dignified treatment of those we disagree with, freedom of conscience, separation of church and state, etc. The following are the reasons why this defense is not valid:-

Firstly: The same "ancient" atrocities are being continued today. The Roman Catholic slaughter of the Serbs happened in the 20th century. Roman Catholic antisemitism (evinced in the refusal to recognize Israel, attempts to sabotage the establishment of the state of Israel, ratlines for Nazi war criminal to escape justice) continues today. Similarly, a Seattle Times report (May 13, 2012) entitled "Critics of Russian Orthodox Church say it's sold its soul to Putin" describes how intimidation of those who disagree with them is a non-ancient hallmark of the Russian Orthodox Church. Both the RCC and the Orthodox Church continue to promote fraudulent books such as "Judith". These observations show that the evil unleashed in the name of religion by Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy is not an "ancient" aberration, but current, official policy.

Secondly: Values such as fair treatment for all, freedom of conscience, etc. are called "modern" because they have received widespread acceptance in modern times. But from where did these values come? From the Bible! They are "modern" only because Biblical Christianity spread in modern times (after 1500 AD)! The defining feature of these values is not that they are modern but that they are Biblical. This means that people who claimed to be Christian leaders ought to have known and practiced these values (just like the apostles did in the first century).

Contrary to atheistic, evolutionary speculation (which easily fools pseudo-Christians), there is no inherent tendency in humanity to improve. If "modern" is better than "ancient", it is only because the modern is more influenced by the Bible than the ancient.

To summarize: The "ancient" misdemeanors of the RCC and Eastern Orthodoxy cannot be glossed over by saying that ancient people cannot be expected to live up to modern sensibilities. These "skeletons from the cupboard" prove that these religions are not Biblical and not godly.

Why do evangelical Protestants support Israel?

Let God judge the "evangelical Protestants". Your real concern should be: what does the Bible say about Israel and our attitude towards her?

From a religious point of view, Israel is characterized by atheism and rabbinical Judaism. Atheism is foolish (Psalm 14:1) and like Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, rabbinical Judaism consists of "vain traditions" and "commandments of men" (Matthew 15:7) rather than God's word. So we should not support Israel in these things.

Christians should provide moral support and goodwill for Israel's possession of her ancient homeland (this includes defending herself from attacks) because:-

The Bible asks us to love Jews (Romans 9:1-5, Psalm 122:6, etc). Real love shows concern. History has shown that the State of Israel has played a major role in reducing the persecution of Jews that has been raging over the last two millennia culminating in the Nazi holocaust. Jews have a safe haven in Israel, and Israel's diplomatic strength helps the welfare of Jews outside Israel.

The Bible predicts that the Jews would return to Israel and prosper. Therefore, if you oppose it, you are opposing God.

Christians ought to love fairness. If the French have France, and in India, the Marathas have Maharashtra, it is only fair that the Jews have Israel. God allotted the land to the Israelis permanently. The "Palestinians" are Arabs to whom God allotted the "East Bank" (Deuteronomy 2:19, 2:9, 2:5). They have no connection to the Philistines, who died out centuries before Christ. The name "Palestine" was given to the land of Israel in AD 135 by the Romans. 

The following are some Catholic/Orthodox objections to Israel and my responses.

The only reason Israel was formed and is sustained is because of the West. It is God who fulfills the prophecies He has written in the Bible. The fact that God may use human instruments does not negate this (Esther 4:14, Luke 19:40).

We're not against Jews as such, only against the Modern State of Israel. Then why did the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches harass Jews for centuries? Jews felt a need for a homeland of their own in the 1800s only because they were viciously treated by Catholicism and Orthodoxy in Russia and Europe! And today, apart from a few pockets in the West, Israel is virtually the only place were Jews can adjust themselves, and live in safety and self-respect. So anti-Israel equals anti-Jewish.

Israel is immoral, godless and Christ-rejecting. Isn't the whole world just that? If Christ was not Israeli but Italian, Russian or Greek, etc. would your nation have done better than Israel? Pagans all over the world are immoral, godless and Christ-rejecting. And if you're Catholic or Orthodox, you're rejecting the doctrine of Christ as given in the Bible. Why single out Israel?

Israel is the obstacle to world peace. No. The reason for the lack of peace is that the nations of the world have rejected God and His purposes in the world (Psalm 2, Psalm 83, etc.)

The land belongs to the Palestinians. No. God allotted the land to the Israelis permanently. And this is also borne out by secular history and geography

Israel forcibly expelled the Arabs who were living in the land in 1948. No she didn't. The Arabs fled in response to warnings by the surrounding Arab nations to move out of the way so they could annihilate Israel. Those Arabs who chose to remain in Israel now make up 20% of Israeli population, enjoying rights far greater than Jews ever had in Catholic and Orthodox countries. 

God is done for with Israel. All prophecies concerning Israel were fulfilled in the first century. No He isn't and they weren't.

Why would God restore a nation of "Christ killers"? This is like the Muslims who ask: Why would God allow His own Son to be crucified? Well, if I invented a god, he wouldn't do either. We know that God will restore Israel for the same reason that God's people of old knew that He would send His Son to die: He has said that He will! Reality is not determined by your preconceived notions of what it should be like, but by logic and evidence (in this case, Biblical evidence).

The promises for Israel apply to the church. No they don't.

Israel treats the Palestinians unfairly. How would you treat people who claim that you are cannibals, fit to become pigs and apes, and try their best to fulfill their religious duty to murder you? The number of "Palestinians" killed by Israeli Police and Army (because of security reasons) is much less than the number of Jews murdered by the Catholic/Orthodox Church over the centuries because of antisemitic theology. After forcing Jews to live in shtetls and ghettos and wear special badges, forcibly converting them, kidnapping their babies and secretly baptizing them and so on, who are you to pontificate at Israel over its security fences and blockades?

Peter lists baptism before forgiveness of sins. This proves that baptism is necessary for salvation.

No. The different sequence here (baptism leading to forgiveness of sins rather than the other way round) is because of the different situation/purpose.
Peter's command in Acts 2:38 was in response to the question asked by his Jewish audience in Acts 2:37: "What must we do now, since God has made Jesus whom we crucified Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36, John 19:15)?"
This is not the question asked by sinners today. Unlike Peter's audience, they haven't crucified the Savior. What is the answer for ordinary sinners (Acts 16:30)? Simply to believe on Christ (Acts 16:31 - no baptism here). Notice that Peter does not make any reference to baptism in his message to another Jewish audience (Acts 3:19).
Did you notice that Peter's baptism in Acts 2:38 is different from the baptism that Jesus prescribes for those who would become his disciples in Matthew 28:19? The former was in the name of Jesus only, but the latter, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why this difference? For the same reason! While Christ was talking of disciples all over the world, Peter was only addressing the group of Jews who had killed Jesus. If you interpret the sequence of Acts 2:38 as applying to all Christians in general, you get a Bible contradiction: should we baptize only in Jesus' name or in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
God wanted the Jews to publicly testify that they had now received that same Christ whom they had rejected. This was a necessary test of their faith and repentance before God would grant them forgiveness. Thus, baptism as a prerequisite for forgiveness of sins was a scheme unique to the Jews.

Another example of this: all references to washing of sins in the church age are in the passive (John 13:12, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:22, Revelation 1:5) - we HAVE BEEN washed by Jesus. But in Revelation 7:14, which is during the seventieth week, the saints have washed their own robes!! So, is there anything that they have to do to be saved? Yes! They will refuse the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17, Revelation 14:9-11) even if it results in death (Revelation 20:4).

Salvation is always by grace through faith. But there are some times and places in which God insists on a particular proof of faith - baptism in the case of the Jews at Pentecost, and refusal of the mark for the "Tribulation saints". More on baptism

You're just taking the Bible literally!

No I'm not. As with any piece of literature, the Bible has self-evident rules about how it is to be interpreted. This includes the question of which passages of the Bible are to be interpreted literally and which figuratively. Suppose you read the following line in a book:

"Carol stood admiring the blue sky...she was on cloud 9 at the prospect of meeting her fiance after so long"

Is there any confusion about which parts are to be taken literally and which figuratively? No, not at all! It was literally a blue sky, not a pink sky or a blue ceiling. But Carol was no cloud climber who had numbered the clouds according to altitude! In the same way, when it comes to the basic teachings of the Bible, there is no confusion about what is literal and what is figurative. The accusation that Biblical Christians are blindly taking the Bible literally is a pathetic smokescreen to hide the fact that Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology is at odds with the Bible. Roman Catholic and Orthodox apologists like to say that they are interpreting the Bible figuratively or "in the light of tradition", but they are bluntly contradicting it.

What is the meaning of grace?

There are two meanings of grace as used in the Bible:-
  1. The unmerited favor that God bestowed upon us - 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 2:9, 1 Peter 1:10, Colossians 1:6, Ephesians 2:8, 1:7, 2:5, Galatians 5:4, 1:6, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Romans 6:14, 6:15, 11:5, 11:6, 4:16, 5;2, 5:15, 5:16, 5:17, 3:24, etc. Here grace is contrasted to works, and mentioned as instrumental in our salvation. We didn't deserve a savior, but God has been gracious in providing us one.
  2. God's strengthening power - Romans 1:7, 2 Co 9:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Galatians 2:9, etc. to help us live lives that are glorifying to God
The Catholic/Orthodox concept of grace is: favor or strength received from God channelized through the Church and its rituals so that the Christian can live a good enough life to attain salvation. This is completely foreign to the Bible.