Recently we’ve all been seeing via various Philippine media outlets and even on social media news about the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. And I’m quite sure that many, if not most of my Roman Catholic friends, are excited about it. If I were still an RC, I’d probably be looking forward to the visit, too.
Yes, I used to be part of the RC church. But God obviously had other plans for me, so His amazing and irresistible grace (grace which I, a wretched sinner, do not deserve) found me and gave me true saving faith in Christ, the only name for anyone to be saved – not through saints, Mary, nor even angels. To make the story short, I am now living under His grace and have professed to be a defender of the Christian faith as Christians are commanded to do in 1 Peter 3:15.
What I’ll write here may upset some of you. And that’s expected. It would come as an effect of a theory in psychology known as ‘cognitive dissonance,’ which is defined as ‘a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.’ Of course, I used to be in the same boat. But, and in the words of the great reformer Martin Luther, ‘I can do no other’ (it’s true that it cannot be established with certainty that he had actually said those words at the Diet of Worms, but I’ll use them anyway). And, incidentally, what I’ll be expressing here is exactly what Luther was vehemently opposed to, among others, and that is the ‘papacy.’ This is a burden that God has put upon me, as well as upon other believers, so people can know the truth of His Word. Pastor John MacArthur echoes my sentiments: “Some will read it as unkind and unloving, but nothing is more loving than the truth. To let somebody perish in a false system isn’t loving at all. To rescue people out of a damning and false religion is the only loving thing to do.” I’m doing this out of my love for you and not for any selfish gain. Besides, I’m actually going out on a limb here and putting myself at risk of condemnation, persecution, and the prospect of losing friends. But we have to keep in mind what Jesus, when He predicted His death, said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26) I pray that God will give you an open mind and heart for the truth.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)
I’ll say it now as plainly and as straightforwardly as I can: there’s no such office as the ‘papacy’ or ‘pope’ mentioned in the Bible. God NEVER established that invented office. In the New Testament, there were only two offices that are mentioned by Paul for church leadership: overseers (also called bishops, elders, or pastors) and deacons (Philippians 1:1). Paul never even mentioned the office of ‘Pope’ when he referred to the offices of the Church in his epistles in 1 Cor. 12 and Ephesians 4.
Since I believe in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and Tota Scriptura (all of Scripture), what I’ll present here are not my opinions but are based on what the Bible, God’s holy Word, says. This doctrine arises from 1 Tim. 3:15: “All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Scripture is the sole and infallible rule of the faith of the church – not traditions, and certainly not the magisterium.
I pray that you’ll be patient with me as I present here what the RC church dogmatically claims about the papacy along with truths as presented in the Word of God. I’m presenting these truths in the most, well, truthful and loving way I can, for I believe that it is by telling the truth that we honor God.
What the RC claims: Through centuries, Roman Catholics have had for their leader what they claim to be the ‘Holy Father,’ also known by other names like ‘Pope,’ ‘Holy See,’ ‘Pontiff,’ and even the blasphemous title ‘His Holiness.’
Truth: There’s no ‘Holy Father’ except God Himself. In Matt. 23:9, Jesus Himself said, ‘And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven’ (emphasis mine). Therefore, the title ‘Holy Father’ is reserved only for God. Charles Spurgeon, who was one of the world’s best-known preachers, once said: “Christ did not redeem his church with his blood so the Pope would come in and steal away the glory. He never came from heaven to earth. He never poured out his very heart that he might purchase his people. That a poor sinner, a mere man, should be set upon high to be admired by all the nations and to call himself God’s representative on earth, Christ has always been the head of his church.”
What the RC claims: Whoever is installed as pope is also called the ‘Vicar of Christ.’
Truth: This is actually blasphemy. In theological terms, the term ‘vicar’ means ‘substitute’; hence, when the term ‘Vicar of Christ’ is used or applied, it would mean a ‘substitute for Christ.’ But, there is no such substitute. If ever there was, it would be the Holy Spirit, which Jesus mentions in John 14:16: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” That ‘Helper’ is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God. Even when Catholic priests are ordained, they are declared as ‘Alter Christus,’ which means ‘another Christ,’ which is one of the biggest heresies of the RC church. This is a usurpation of Christ’s headship and authority. There’s only one leader of the Christian church, and that is Christ Himself.
What the RC claims: Peter is the first pope.
Truth: Peter is not the first pope. As already pointed out earlier, there’s no such office. Of course, there are certain verses in Scripture, as well as certain traditions, that the Catholic Church, through its clergy and lay apologists, has appealed to for its claim that there’s a pope, that Peter was the first pope, and that there has been a succession of popes after him.
First, let’s look at the biggest proof verses that the RC church uses to justify its papal dogma:
• Matthew 16:18-19 – “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
At first glance, anyone reading these verses for the first time can be convinced that it was indeed Peter who was given the authority by Christ to establish His church here on earth. However, upon exegeting (critically interpreting) the passage, it tells a different story (which is why it’s important that anyone serious about his faith not only has to read the Bible religiously, but must also know how to interpret it).
Let’s look at the context in which Jesus said this. The context is about Christ asking His disciples who people think the Son of Man is. “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’”(verse 13). The disciples then replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (verse 14). But when Jesus asked them who they thought he was, it was Simon Peter who replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse16), to which Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (17-19). Without getting into a very long explanation, even though Jesus was addressing Peter when He said these words, notice the change of the pronoun from ‘you are Peter’ (2nd person) to ‘on this rock’ (3rd person). Also, in that verse, the term ‘Peter’ in Greek is ‘petros,’ which means ‘rock’ or ‘boulder,’ but then changes to ‘petra’ (feminine). According to scholars, this is a Greek wordplay of the word since the original word that was used in Aramaic for both ‘Peter’ and ‘rock’ is ‘kepha.’ It is on this ‘rock’ (scholars interpret this to be referring either to Peter’s confession, or Christ Himself) that the church of Christ would be built, not on Peter. As for the ‘keys of the kingdom’ in this context, they’re not referring to things that open doors or gates. The ‘keys’ are the authority to transfer people from the gates of death into the domain of life, which is God’s kingdom. We have to remember, however, that those keys and the function of binding and loosing (declaring what’s forbidden and what’s not, among others) are given not exclusively to Peter but also to the other disciples. It is also important to note that the verb in the clause “I will give you the keys…” is in the future tense. Two chapters later, in Matt.18:18, Jesus repeats the same charge to the apostles:“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus was talking to the apostles, not just Peter, when he said this.
Second, Peter never exercised leadership or supremacy among the apostles throughout their ministry. In fact, he was even publicly rebuked by Paul for his hypocrisy. This event is recorded in Galatians 2:11-14: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” This passage proves that Peter did not exercise supremacy on this specific matter of faith and morals. There’s also the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 which RC apologists use as a defense for Peter’s leadership among the apostles. The first verse in the chapter states: “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” This was the issue they came for to settle. If Peter exercised leadership and infallibility (which we’ll discuss later), why was a council still organized? Peter could have just given his decision on the matter in hand if he indeed was acting as pope then. Additionally, it wasn’t even clear if it was Peter who led the council. Also, at the end of the gathering, it was James who rendered a decision, saying, “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God…” (verse19).
Third, if Peter was the first pope, he would have been recognized as such by the early fathers, disciples, and theologians of that time. He wasn’t.
Fourth, although Paul mentioned Peter, he never mentioned his name with any special title of honor, such as ‘Vicar’ or ‘Pope,’ or as being above any of the other apostles. In fact, it was Paul, as an apostle, who claimed authority over the Roman Church itself in Romans 1:5-6 and 16:17. Paul never acknowledged the papacy when he wrote his epistle to the Romans.
Fifth, in 1 Peter 2:6-8, Peter doesn’t talk of himself as the chief corner stone. This means that even Peter himself didn’t claim leadership or supremacy.
Sixth, in terms of succession (assuming that the papal office had been established), if we look at the early history of the church, we’ll never get a hint of the idea that there were successors to Peter’s office. There was even a time during the Western Schism (also known as the Papal Schism) from 1378 to 1418 when several men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. There were periods of time when there was no bishop in Rome at all. This refutes any claim of papal succession.
What the RC claims: The Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra (with the full authority of the office). Catholic dogma says, “God in heaven will confirm the Pope’s judgment in his capacity as supreme doctor of the faith, he is preserved from error.”
Truth: This is an invented doctrine of the RC church in 1870 at the conclusion of the First Vatican Council. This doctrine of papal infallibility wasn’t even part of the canons and decrees promulgated at the Council of Trent in the middle of the 16th century, more than 300 years before Vatican I. I think I no longer have to explain here why believing that the Pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra is a heretical doctrine. No one man is perfect, and therefore he is subject to errors. Jesus is the only man who lived a perfect life, being God incarnate Himself.
What the RC claims: To be saved, everyone must submit to the Pope. The Bull of Boniface VIII, called Unam Sanctam, states: “We declare, affirm, define and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.”
Truth: Salvation is by God’s grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 is quite explicit on the doctrine of soteriology, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
What the RC claims: Pope Pius IX, in the customary way of usurping Christ’s authority, once stated: “I alone, despite my unworthiness, am the successor of the apostles, the Vicar of Jesus Christ. I alone have the mission to guide and direct the barc of Peter. I am the way, the truth and the life. They who are with me are with the church. They who are not with me are out of the Church.” (emphasis mine)
Truth: Does the line ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ sound familiar? Of course, because it was Christ who said that in John 14:6, not the pope, hundreds of years later. I shudder at the thought of a man claiming Christ’s authority.
There’s still a lot more that can be said to disprove this made-up office known as the papacy, but I believe I’ve made the case against this unbiblical doctrine.
In summary, the RC claims that:
• There’s an office in the church, the body of Christ, known as the ‘papacy.’
• The pope is the ‘Vicar of Christ.’
• Peter was the first pope.
• The pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra.
• Being subject to the pope is necessary for salvation.
However, I think I was able to prove by citing the inerrant Word of God that all these claims are NOT true and are utterly heretical. Therefore:
• The office of the Pope is not an office prescribed or even mentioned in Scripture.
• The ‘Vicar of Christ’ is the Holy Spirit.
• Peter was not the first pope (and therefore no one succeeded him).
• Every man is infallible.
• It is only by God’s grace, through faith, and in Christ that we are saved.
So, what do we do with these truths? If you truly believe in what Scripture, the inerrant Word of God, says, the next step now would be to start reading the Bible (if you haven’t or aren’t already) and pray and ask for His grace and mercy and start seriously reflecting on these truths and how they impact the way you think and act in terms of your faith.
Get right with God. If you ask for God’s forgiveness, He will forgive you. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9). After you’ve confessed and repented of your sins, trust and believe in Jesus Christ alone, who, out of God’s love for us, was sent to the world, became man, died on the cross, and was raised from the dead on the third day, so we can be saved. No person, living or dead, not the Pope, not even angels, can come between us and the Father, but only through the Son.
‘And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32)
May God’s grace be with you in your journey of faith. Amen.
In His service and for His glory,