Roman Catholic Faith Examined!
We Speak truth in LOVE
tell us if we have misrepresented Catholic Faith
The aim of this study is to carefully examine the Scriptures regarding the Roman Catholic claim of successors. As in all our writings, our purpose is not to stir up hatred or to create strife. We wish only to make an honest inquiry regarding the validity of the successor doctrine as taught by the Catholic Church. Our intent is to secure an accurate knowledge of God's truth that we might abide therein. We ask our readers to investigate with open minds and honest hearts the things presented. God requires this of everyone. "Test all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:21).
All scriptural quotations in this work are from authorized Catholic translations (from the Confraternity Version unless otherwise indicated), and all quotes are from authorized Catholic books. Ones which bear the "Nihil obstat" (nothing hinders) and the "Imprimatur" (let it be printed). A complete bibliography is furnished at the close of this document.
In this age, God speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). Christ spoke the words and commandments given to Him from the Father (John 12:49-50). We are to hear Jesus, not Moses or Elijah (Mark 9:2-8). Christ is the mediator of the New Testament (Heb. 9:15-17). Christ is that great prophet who was to come (Deut. 18:15,19; Acts 3:22-23). The name of Jesus is the only name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). We cannot reject His word and be guiltless (John 12:48). God, therefore, makes known His will to us today through His Son.
Jesus makes known God's will through His apostles and prophets. Christ gave the same words and commandments that He received from the Father to His twelve apostles (John 17:6-8, 17-20). He promised them the Holy Spirit who would remind them of all He had said and would guide them into all truth. He said, "These things I have spoken to you while yet dwelling with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you." (John 14:25-26; see also 14:16-17). Furthermore, Jesus said, "But when the advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me. And you also bear witness, because from the beginning you are with me." (John 15:26-27; see also 16:13-14). From the foregoing passages, we learn two important facts: (1) The promise of the Holy Spirit was to the apostles only. They were the ones to whom Jesus was speaking; they were the ones who had been with Him from the beginning. (2) The Holy Spirit would be in them and would enable them to teach all the truth concerning the will of God.
The apostles were to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit as was promised. "And I send forth upon you the promise of my Father. But wait here in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49). "And while eating with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, 'of which you have heard,' said he, 'by my mouth; for John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.' " (Acts 1:4-5). "...You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you..." (Acts 1:8). All of this was in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies which said, "...The law shall come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Isa. 2:3; Micah 4:2).
The apostles received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:1-4 and "began to speak in foreign tongues, even as the Holy Spirit prompted them to speak." (Verse 4). Thus, they began to proclaim by inspiration the will or law of God as Jesus had declared in the words, "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven." (Matt. 18:18). What Jesus said to Peter concerning binding and loosing (Matt. 16:19), He also said to all the apostles (Matt. 18:18). The meaning is not that the binding and loosing would come from their own devising--God alone is the lawgiver (James 4:12) and His word is forever firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89)--but with the Holy Spirit guiding them they would proclaim the things God wanted bound and loosed. For example, they declared what God bound for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and what God loosed--"...Delivered me from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2). This principle is expressed in Matt. 10:20 which says, "...For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you."
Jesus also said to His apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." (John 20:22-23). Again, the meaning is not that they would forgive and retain sins in and of themselves. They would not from their own devising arbitrarily say to one "your sins are forgiven" and to another "your sins are retained." The action they were to take was conditioned upon the expression, "Receive the Holy Spirit." By the possession of the Holy Spirit, therefore, they would be enabled to forgive and retain sins.
When the apostles received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), they began to do as the Lord had said. For example, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38). This and other similar passages are inspired examples of how their authority to forgive sins was exercised. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they laid down the conditions by which sins are forgiven. If we do as they commanded, our sins are forgiven, if we do not, our sins are retained. Since this is the only thing revealed in the New Testament concerning their power to forgive and retain sins, this constitutes the full extent of their authority in this matter.
Up to the point as recorded in Acts 2, only the twelve had obtained the ability to speak by the inspiration of God. Verse 14 of Acts 2 shows that Peter, standing with the eleven, declared that the gift which they had received was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Verse 43 says, "And fear came upon every soul; many wonders also and signs were done by means of the apostles in Jerusalem, and great fear came upon all." Consequently, the apostles up to this point were the only ones who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God worked with them by giving them the power to work miracles. Mark 16:20 says, "But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the preaching by the signs that followed." (See also Heb. 2:3-4).
As we read a little farther in the book of Acts we see how New Testament prophets were made. The first account of someone besides an apostle working a miracle is that of Stephen. "Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8). Stephen, as well as Philip, was of the seven on whom the apostles had laid their hands. "These they set before the apostles, and after they had prayed they laid their hands upon them." (Acts 6:6). As we read still farther, we see that Philip is the next person who was able to work miracles. "And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached the Christ to them. And the crowds with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, listening to him and seeing the miracles that he worked." (Acts 8:5-6).
Although Philip was a New Testament prophet and could work miracles, he was unable to give the Holy Spirit to others. Only the apostles were empowered with that ability. Acts 8:14-19 says, "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John. On their arrival they prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he had not come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. But when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, 'Give me also this power, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' "
Please notice that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands. This is the only way New Testament prophets were made and the prophets themselves were unable to give the Spirit to others. Philip could not give the Holy Spirit to the people of Samaria. Some apostles, Peter and John, had to be sent from Jerusalem before that could be done. When an apostle laid his hands on someone, he received miraculous powers. Acts 19:6 says, "And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy." Cornelius and his household received the "like gift" as the apostles for the specific purpose of God's acceptance of the Gentiles into the New Covenant (Acts 11:14-18).
Thus, we have shown that the apostles were the only ones who were to receive the power from on high and were to wait in Jerusalem for it (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8). This power enabled them to speak in tongues, prophesy and work miracles (Acts 2:4,43). Also, it gave them the ability to transmit the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on others. New Testament prophets were made in this manner and they also could speak in tongues, prophesy and work miracles but could not pass on the power to others (Acts 8:4-6; 14-19).
We will now notice several quotations from Catholic sources which assert that the present day officials in the Catholic Church are successors to the apostles. Please notice the following:
"There is no just ground for denying to the Apostolic teachers of the nineteenth century in which we live a prerogative clearly possessed by those of the first, especially as the Divine Word nowhere intimates that this unerring guidance was to die with the Apostles. On the contrary, as the Apostles transmitted to their successors their power to preach, to baptize, to ordain, to confirm, etc., they must also have handed down to them the no less essential gift of infallibility." (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 54).
Please notice, first of all, that the Catholic writer says, "There is no just ground for denying to the Apostolic teachers of the nineteenth century in which we live a prerogative clearly possessed by those of the first..." In other words, he is saying there is no just ground for denying that the present day teachers in the Catholic Church are successors to the apostles. We claim that there is just ground for denying it. No one is a successor to the apostles and has their authority today because no one is inspired by the Holy Spirit today. The possession of the Spirit is the factor that determined the apostles' authority. They had the power to bind and loose, forgive and retain, because God was speaking through them. On that basis only were they enabled to unerringly deliver God's message to mankind. How can anyone claim to have authority such as theirs, being their successors, when not inspired by the Holy Spirit?
Furthermore, the apostles and those on whom they laid their hands could speak with tongues, prophesy and work miracles. They worked miracles to demonstrate their authority, to show that they were indeed inspired of God. In defense of his own authority, Paul said, "Indeed, the signs of the apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in miracles and wonders and deeds of power." (2 Cor. 12:12). No one can work miracles today as they did; thus, no one is inspired today and no one has the same authority today.
Secondly, the Catholic writer said, "...The Divine Word nowhere intimates that this unerring guidance was to die with the apostles." We agree that the unerring guidance was not to die with the apostles. However, we must inquire, "In what way is the unerring guidance transmitted or handed down to us today?" The Scriptures affirm that we receive it through the inspired writings of the apostles and prophets. The Catholic official, however, tries to show that it is handed down through men as successors of the apostles and prophets. He affirmed that the Divine Word nowhere indicates that it was not to be transmitted to their successors. In reality, the opposite is true. The Divine Word nowhere indicates that it was to be transmitted to successors.
A look at the qualifications of the apostles reveal they would not have successors. An apostle had to be an eye-witness of Christ. (See Acts 1:15-26). Paul defended his apostleship by saying, "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1). The apostles were indeed witnesses in the fullest sense. They were the eye-witnesses, carefully chosen by the Lord, who would witness to mankind what they saw and heard concerning Jesus. Acts 1:8 says, "...But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the very ends of the earth." The Lord said to Paul, "...I have appeared to thee for this purpose, to appoint thee to be a minister and a witness to what thou hast seen, and to the visions thou shalt have of me." (Acts 26:16). Peter declared, "For we were not following fictitious tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eye-witnesses of his grandeur." (2 Pet. 1:16).
Realizing this important fact helps us to understand how the apostles witness to us today. They certainly do not do it through other ordained witnesses. It is impossible for one in our time to be a witness in the sense they were. Instead, it is through their writings--the holy Scriptures. The apostle John, in his introduction to his first epistle, declared that he was bearing witness to those things which they had heard, had seen with their eyes, and had touched with their hands, concerning the Word of life. John bore witness to those things by writing them for us. (See 1 John 1:1-4). The apostles' testimony given in their writings was to "all who call upon the name of our Lord in every place" (1 Cor. 1:2), and to "the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1). The apostles witness to us today through their writings and this is the only way their unerring guidance is transmitted to the present.
Jesus prayed for unity of all those who would believe on Him through the word of the apostles. "Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me." (John 17:20). In this prayer Jesus revealed how believers are to be made--through the apostles' word. Since we do not have the apostles present with us, we must inquire, "How are believers made through their word today?" It is not through their present day successors, but as John said, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31). Very simply, therefore, individuals were made believers at first as result of the inspired apostles witnessing to them while in their presence. Individuals are made believers today as result of the apostles witnessing through their inspired writings.
We are taught of God not to go beyond the things which are written (1 Cor. 4:6). We must abide in the doctrine of Christ or we don't have God (2 John 9). We must not take from, add to, or pervert the gospel of Christ because doing so causes the curse of God to come upon us (Rev. 22:18-19; Gal. 1:6-9). Thus, if Catholics are to sustain their doctrine that the authority of the apostles was transmitted to authorized successors, they must produce the passages which openly and plainly reveal it. This they have not done. Please notice the following from a Catholic source:
"...The Christian faith has been taught, and was intended by its Divine founder to be taught, in all ages on the same plan that was adopted in the beginning; that is to say, by authorized human teachers, whose adherence to it has been secured by a special Divine assistance, as that of the apostles was in the beginning." (Plain Facts For Fair Minds, pp. 29-30).
The above Catholic writer affirms that the gospel was once in the inspired teachers and therefore must be learned from authorized human teachers today. No Bible was cited to prove his contention. The argument is unreasonable as well as unscriptural. We might as well argue that Adam and Eve were created and therefore "in all ages on the same plan that was adopted in the beginning" men are brought forth into the world today. However, we know that the miracle of creation was temporary and provisional; it was for that first pair alone. All others have come into the world by means of natural birth. In like manner the gospel was revealed by miracle to the apostles and prophets. The inspired word was for many years in the inspired men, but once the New Testament was completed and duly confirmed, the spiritual gifts that had brought the word and confirmed it ceased.
Notice the following quote from a Catholic source:
"The guidance of Christ was, therefore, to continue with their successors. This is clearly disclosed by the words of Christ: 'Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.' Since the Apostles were not to live until the end of the world, Christ promised to be with them in the person of their successors unto the end of time." (The Faith of Millions, p. 137).
The above Catholic writer quotes a passage of Scripture, Matt. 28:20, and declares that it discloses that the apostles were to have successors. Another Catholic writer quotes the same passage and asserts that Jesus was teaching that the church would never teach error. Please note the following:
"Why can't the Catholic Church ever teach error? Because Jesus promised to be always with His church to protect it from error. 'Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you: and behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world' (Matthew 28:19-20)." (A Catechism For Adults, p. 56).
Does it not seem strange that these Catholic officials can make the same passage teach two different doctrines when the passage says nothing about either? The promise of Christ was to the apostles and to them alone. In what way would He be with them to the end of the world? Notice the context. Just before He declared, "I am with you all days," he said, "...Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Thus, Christ would be with them in the teaching of His commandments. The apostles themselves would not remain forever, but their teachings, the commandments of Christ which they delivered, would. The same is taught in parallel passages. "For you have been reborn, not from corruptible seed but from incorruptible, through the word of God who lives and abides forever. For, 'All flesh is as grass, and all its glory as the flower of grass; the grass withered, and the flower has fallen--but the word of the Lord endures forever.' Now this is the word of the gospel that was preached to you." (1 Pet. 1:23-25). Also, Christ would be with them always in the same sense He is with all faithful Christians. He dwells in them while they live here on earth (John 14:23), and after death they depart to be with Him (Phil. 1:21-23).
The following chart illustrates that Catholics are without Scriptural authority for their doctrine of successors.
THAT WHICH THEY NEED BUT DON'T HAVE
Eph. 2:20, "...You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ himself as the chief corner stone."
"...You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets AND THEIR SUCCESSORS with Christ himself as the chief corner stone."
Eph. 3:5, "...Now it has been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit."
"...Now it has been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets AND SUCCESSORS by the Spirit."
2 Cor. 5:20, "On behalf of Christ, therefore, we are acting as ambassadors, God, as it were, appealing through us."
"One behalf of Christ, therefore, we AND OUR SUCCESSORS are acting as ambassadors, God, as it were, appealing through us."
1 John 4:6, "We are of God: he that knoweth God listens to us; he who is not of God does not listen to us."
"We are of God: he that knoweth God listens to us AND OUR SUCCESSORS; he who is not of God does not listen to us."
John 20:21-23, "As the Father has sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."
"As the Father has sent me, I also send you AND YOUR SUCCESSORS. When he had said this, he breathed upon the, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you AND YOUR SUCCESSORS shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you AND YOUR SUCCESSORS shall retain, they are retained."
John 17:20, "Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me."
"Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their AND THEIR SUCCESSORS' word are to believe in me."
If the Catholics are to sustain their idea of successors, they must produce the passages which plainly and openly reveal it. Anyone who teaches a doctrine not written in the Word of God incurs the displeasure and condemnation of God. Notice the following Scriptures:
"Now, brethren, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos by way of illustration for your sakes, that in our case you may learn not to be puffed up one against the other over a third party, transgressing what is written." (1 Cor. 4:6).
"Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in they name, and cast out devils in thy name, and work many miracles in thy name?' And then I will profess to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity!' " (Matt. 7:22-23).
"If anyone thinks that he is a prophet of spiritual, let him recognize that the things I am writing to you are the Lord's commandments." (1 Cor. 14:37).
"Anyone who advances and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, has not God; he who abides in the doctrine, he has both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9).
The Catholics cannot produce the passages for their doctrine of successors because none exist. We have already shown that the apostles were the only ones who were to receive the power from on high and were to wait in Jerusalem for it (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8). This power enabled them to speak in tongues, prophesy, and work miracles (Acts 2:4,43). Also, it gave them the ability to transmit the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on others. New Testament prophets were made in this manner and they also could speak in tongues, prophesy, and work miracles, but could not pass the power to others (Acts 8:4-6, 14-19). The apostles and prophets, and they alone, were the chosen ambassadors of Christ through which we are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). They were chosen to reveal God's will to mankind (Eph. 3:5). We are to receive their word as the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 4:6). They are the foundation on which we are built (Eph. 2:20). They were selected to deliver "the faith" to mankind and it has once and for all been delivered (Jude 3). Their message has the promise of God to remain forever (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
When the apostles and prophets approached their deaths they did not give successors to take their places. Instead, they left their inspired writings. Peter said, "Moreover I will endeavor that even after my death you may often have occasion to call these things to mind." (2 Pet. 1:15). This would have been an excellent opportunity for Peter to tell us that he was leaving a successor through which we could recall the things of Christ, if indeed that was the truth regarding it. However, he said "This, beloved, is now the second epistle that I am writing to you wherein I stir up your pure mind to remembrance, that you may be mindful of what I formerly preached of the words of the holy prophets and of your apostles, which are the precepts of the Lord and Savior." (2 Pet. 3:1-2). Thus, Peter plainly declared that the things of Christ would be recalled through his writings. The inspired writings, therefore, are the only infallible succession that we have from the apostles and prophets.
The apostle Paul also demonstrated this fact. He said, "For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come." (2 Tim. 4:6; Catholic Edition RSV). Again, this would have been a wonderful opportunity for an apostle to teach that unerring guidance was to be handed down through their successors. He was writing to the young man Timothy who had received his spiritual guidance from him. Surely, if successors were to be ordained, he would have mentioned it to him so that he would know where to obtain unerring guidance. Or, if perhaps he had made Timothy his successor, surely he would have instructed him regarding it in order that he and others would know about it. However, there is no hint whatsoever of successors as this apostle approaches death. On the contrary, he points Timothy, as well as all men, to the sacred writings which the inspired men left us:
"For from thy infancy thou hast known the Sacred Writings, which are able to instruct thee unto salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice; that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
Please notice the following quotations from Catholic sources:
"Jesus sends forth the Apostles with plenipotentiary powers to preach the Gospel. 'As the Father,' He says, 'hath sent me, I also send you.' (John 20:21). 'Going therefore, teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' (Matt. 28:19-20). 'Preach the Gospel to every creature.' (Mark 16:15). 'Ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.' (Acts 1:8).
"This commission evidently applies not to the Apostles only, but also to their successors, to the end of time, since it was utterly impossible for the Apostles personally to preach to the whole world." (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 56).
"Since it was physically impossible for the Apostles to preach to the whole world, the mission must have been intended also for their successors to the end of time, our Catholic Bishops and priests." (My Catholic Faith, p. 145).
As before, the above Catholic writers assume that our Lord's words to the apostles demand successors. Their whole doctrine of successors is based on this assumption. The words of Jesus were spoken to the apostles only. There is no mention of successors in the verses. As Jesus had commanded them, the apostles went into all the world and preached the gospel to every creature. The apostle Paul said concerning the gospel, "It has been preached to every creature under heaven..." (Col. 1:23). The task of unerringly revealing the gospel was completed by the apostles and their many helpers, those on whom they laid their hands, the New Testament prophets. The apostles and prophets still witness and preach to the world today through their writings. John said, "But these are written that you may believe..." (John 20:31), and "What we have seen and heard we announce to you...And these things we write to you..." (1 John 1:3-4). Furthermore, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." (Matt. 24:35). Thus, the apostles and prophets by means of inspiration delivered our Lord's words to mankind and they will remain forever.
It seems very strange and odd that the successor of a king is a king, the successor of a president is a president, and the successor of a governor is a governor, but the successor of an apostles is a Catholic bishop or priest!
Please notice the following quotation from a Catholic source:
"Christ conferred upon the Apostles the power to forgive sins: 'Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven, they are forgiven.' (John 20:23). St. Paul mirrors the faith of the Apostolic Church when he writes: 'God hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.' (II Cor. 5:18).
"As the inheritors of the power and authority of the apostles, the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church exercise the ministry of reconciliation, forgiving penitent sinners in the name of Jesus Christ." (The Faith of Millions, pp. 71-72)
"Did Christ intend that THIS POWER should BE EXERCISED BY THE APOSTLES ALONE?
"No, Christ intended that this power should be exercised also by their successors, the bishops of church." (My Catholic Faith, p. 107)
"Christ had given the Apostles full powers to choose successors, when He gave them the powers His Father had given Him (John 20:21).
"It was the command of Christ that the Apostles should have successors to continue the Church, which He said would last till the end of the world. (Matt. 28:20). Without successors to the Apostles, the Church would have no rulers, and being unorganized would never have lasted." (Ibid., p. 107).
As one can see from he above, Catholics claim that the present day bishops and priests in the Catholic Church are successors to the apostles, being inheritors of their power and authority. This cannot be true. The Catholic bishops and priests were not promised the power from on high nor commanded to wait in Jerusalem to receive it (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8). They have no authority because they are not inspired of the Holy Spirit nor are they eyewitnesses of Jesus (John 20:22-23; Acts 1:8, 21-26). They cannot prove their authority by speaking in tongues, prophesying and working miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). They are not the chosen ambassadors who were selected to deliver God's message or "the faith" to mankind (Eph. 3:3-4; Jude 3). Moreover, they cannot be successors to the apostles and prophets because the only infallible succession to them are the inspired writings (2 Pet. 1:15; 3:1; 2 Tim. 3:14-17).
The words of Christ quoted by the above Catholic writers were addressed the apostles only. They were not addressed to Catholic bishops and priests and it is sinful and wrong to apply the passage to them. This is done repeatedly in the Catholic Church as they try to prove their man made doctrine of successors. It was done by the above Catholic writers as he made reference to John 20:21-23; Matt. 28:20 and 2 Cor. 5:18. None of the passages made mention of successors nor referred to successors. They referred to the apostles and prophets only, and to apply them to anyone else is to twist and pervert the word of God. The wrath of God rests on all those who do such (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9; Rev. 22:18-19).
Catholic officials confuse the present Catholic bishops with the New Testament bishops. Notice the following:
"The Apostles chose men to assist them, imparting to them greater or less powers. Before leaving a place, they chose a successor with full powers (Acts 14:22).
"Those who received only a small part of the powers of the apostles were called deacons. Those given greater power were called priests. Those appointed successors to rule in the place of the Apostles were the bishops." (My Catholic Faith, p. 107).
The New Testament bishops were not successors to the apostles nor did they in any way resemble present day Catholic bishops. Their qualifications are clearly disclosed in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. We quote Paul's words to Timothy here for you careful consideration:
"This saying is true: If anyone is eager for the office of bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then, must be blameless, married but once, reserved, prudent, of good conduct, hospitable, a teacher, not a drinker or a brawler, but moderate, not quarrelsome, not avaricious. He should rule well his own household, keeping his children under control and perfectly respectful. For if a man cannot rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God? He must not be a new convert, lest he be puffed up with pride and incur the condemnation passed on the devil. Besides this he must have a good reputation with those who are outside, that he may not fall into disgrace and into a snare of the devil." (1 Tim. 3:1-7).
A study of New Testament bishops, first of all, reveals they had to be married men. 1 Tim. 3:2 says, "It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behavior, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher..." (Catholic Rheims Translation). "Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife..." (1 Tim. 3:2; Catholic Revised Standard Version). Also, a bishop had to rule his own house well having his children in subjection (1 Tim. 3:4-5). The Catholic Church rejects the will of Christ in this matter. The inspired writers plainly revealed that among other things the great apostasy would "forbid marriage" (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
Secondly, the New Testament reveals that bishops are overseers of the local congregations. They were to be selected by each local church. They were to be "proved" or "tried" in view of the qualifications as were the deacons (1 Tim. 3:10). Deacons had no authority but were to "serve" in the local churches (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Once the bishops were selected, they were to oversee the local congregations wherein they had been chosen and ordained. Peter said to the bishops, "Tend the flock of God which is among you..." (1 Pet. 5:2). This was the extent of their oversight--overseeing only one church. The Catholic Church has changed the law of Christ in this matter also. Their bishops oversee not just one church but a whole diocese of churches. Paul showed that the great apostasy which was already underway in his time (2 Thess. 2:7) would begin among the bishops (Acts 20:28-31).
Thirdly, the New Testament disclosed that there was always a plurality of bishops in each local church. Acts 14:23 says, "In each church they installed presbyters and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith." (New Catholic Translation). Without exception there were always more than one bishop (or elder) in each church. Again, the Catholic Church has corrupted this form of governing as ordained by God. Instead of having several bishops (or elders) overseeing one church, they have one bishop overseeing several churches. The Council of Nicia in Cannon 8 forbad having more than one bishop in a city (Disciplinary a Decrees of the General Councils, p. 34).
In the New Testament the words "elder," "bishop," or "pastor" are used interchangeably. The three terms refer to the same office which God placed in the local churches. Here is a list of the three words:
(1) Presbyter, or Elder - Acts 14:23; 20:17; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1. It is translated from the Greek word presbuteros.
(2) Bishop, or Overseer - Acts 20:28; Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:1; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:2. From the Greek word episkopos.
(3) Pastor, Shepherd, Tend, or Feed - Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2; Eph. 4:11. From the Greek word poimen.
We mention again that all of the above terms refer to the same office because they are used interchangeably. Some passages use all three terms interchangeably in the same context, e.g., Acts 20:17,28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3. We call your attention to the fact that the term "priest" (Gr. hiereus) is not among those synonymous terms, nor is it ever applied to the office of bishop or elder. The Catholic Church confuses this matter by saying that a "presbyter" is one official and a "bishop" is another. For example, "The word 'priest' is derived from the Greek presbyter..." (My Catholic Faith, p. 129). This is another example of their twisting of the Scriptures to prove their own doctrine. The Greek word "presbyter" does not mean "priest" and no reputable Greek scholar has ever rendered it as such. The word simply means "an old man, an elder." He had to have "believing children" (Titus 1:6), and, thus, only older men were qualified.
Catholic officials in their translations of Scripture insert the word "priest" into verses where it does not belong. In the Catholic Rheims Version, Acts 14:23 is translated, "And when they had ordained to them priests in every church..." All reputable Versions of the Scriptures, the King James, New King James, American Standard, New American Standard, etc., render this verse, "And when they had ordained elders in every church..." The word used in the verse is "presbuteros," which mean "elders" and not the word "hiereus" which is "priests." When one checks all the Greek texts, he finds that no variations exist; each contain the word "presbuteros." We can only conclude, therefore, that the Catholic Hierarchy inserted the word "priest" when the word "hiereus" wasn't there!
1 Tim. 5:17,19 - "Let the priests that rule well, be esteemed worthy of double honor...Against a priest receive not an accusation, but under two or three witnesses." (Catholic Rheims Version). This is another devious attempt to give Scriptural support to the Catholic priesthood. In both of the foregoing verses, the word "priest," singular or plural, is a mis-translation. The Greek text used the word "presbuteros" in one of its forms which is correctly rendered, "elder" or "elders."
James 5:14 - "Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priest of the church..." (Catholic Rheims Version). Again, the word "presbuteros" is the term used and "elders" is the correct translation. It is abundantly clear that the Catholic Church will stoop to any level, even to the changing of the Word of God, in order to sustain its priesthood.
To summarize regarding New Testament bishops or elders, God commanded that a plurality of them be chosen and appointed in each local church (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17,28). They had to be married men (1 Tim. 3:2) with believing children (Titus 1:6) and were to oversee only one church (1 Pet. 5:2). These are the only bishops ordained by God in the New Testament and, thus, are the only type which exist with His authority and sanction.
Qualifications for New Testament bishops are clearly disclosed in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. New Testament bishops, first of all, had to be married men. 1 Tim. 3:2 says, "It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behavior, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher..." (Catholic Rheims Translation). "Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife..." (1 Tim. 3:2; Catholic Revised Standard Version). Also, a bishop had to rule his own house well, having his children in subjection (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
Secondly, the New Testament reveals that bishops are overseers of the local congregations. They were to be selected by each local church. They were to be "proved" or "tried" in view of the qualifications as were the deacons (1 Tim. 3:10). Deacons had no authority but were to "serve" in the local churches (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Once the bishops were selected, they were to oversee the local congregations wherein they had been chosen and ordained. Peter said to the bishops, "Tend the flock of God which is among you..." (1 Pet. 5:2). This was the extent of their oversight--overseeing only one church.
Thirdly, the New Testament disclosed that there was always a plurality of bishops in each local church. Acts 14:23 says, "In each church they installed presbyters and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith." (New Catholic Translation). There are three passages in the New Testament which use the terms "presbyter" (elder) and "bishop" (overseer) interchangeably--Titus 1:5-9; Acts 20:17,28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2. Consequently, the terms refer to the same office which God placed in the local churches, and without exception there were always more than one in each church.
In summary, God commanded that a plurality of bishops be chosen and appointed in each local church (Acts 14:23). They had to be married men (1 Tim. 3:2) with believing children (Titus 1:6) and were to oversee only one church (1 Pet. 5:2). These are the only bishops ordained by God in the New Testament and, thus, are the only type which exist with His authority and sanction.
The New Testament plainly reveals that a great corruption from the simple form of government which God ordained would slowly develop (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 2:1-11; Acts 20:28-31). The book entitled, My Catholic Faith lists the many offices in the present day hierarchy of the Catholic church.
"1. In organization the Church is like a vast army; the Pope, its visible head, is commander-in-chief of this army.
"2. Cardinals, appointed by the Pope, are his principal advisers and assistants in the government of the Church.
"3. Patriarch is a bishop who holds the highest rank after the Pope, in jurisdiction.
"4. An archbishop is the head of an archdiocese; a bishop of a diocese...
"5. Legates, nuncious, internucious, and apostolic delegates are representatives of the Holy Father.
"6. Titular archbishops and bishops are those who hold the title of a see that formerly existed.
"7. Honorary prelates are those with a title, but without jurisdiction." (My Catholic Faith, p. 129).
None of the above offices in the Catholic Church are mentioned in the New Testament of Christ. As we have shown, the New Testament does specify "bishops," but they in no way resembled present day Catholic bishops. There was always a plurality of men chosen and appointed in each local church (Acts 14:23). They had to be married men (1 Tim. 3:2) with believing children (Titus 1:6) and were to oversee only one church (1 Pet. 5:2). All of the above mentioned Catholic offices were slowly developed over a period of several hundred years. The following Catholic sources freely admit this.
"The divine institution of the threefold hierarchy cannot of course be derived from our text; in fact it cannot in anyway be proved directly from the New Testament; it is a Catholic dogma by virtue of the dogmatic tradition, i.e., in a later period of ecclesiastical history the general belief in the divine institutions of the episcopate, presbyteriate, and diaconate can be verified and thence followed on through the centuries. But the dogmatic truth cannot be traced back to Christ Himself by analysis of strict historical testimony." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, p. 334).
"The word (hierarchy, DJR) first occurs in the work of pseudo-Dionysis on Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchies. The signification was gradually modified until it came to be what it is at the present. A hierarchy now signifies a body of officials disposed organically in ranks and orders, each subordinate to the one above it." (Catholic Dictionary, p. 402).
"In his (Paul's, DJR) opinion the words (presbuteros and episkopos, DJR) were at one time used one for the other, but there has been a gradual adaptation of names corresponding with the progressive evolution of the hierarchy..." (A Catholic Commentary, p. 1144).
"Some parts of the governmental system of the Catholic Church are of divine origin; and many of them are human institutions." (Externals of the Catholic Church, p. 19).
Consequently, the present hierarchy of the Catholic Church was not ordained by Christ. All the modern offices in Catholicism were developed over a period of many centuries by men who had no regard or respect for God's arrangement. With this thought in mind, consider the absurdity of the following "official" claims.
"History proves conclusively that the same doctrines were in the Church from the beginning." (Catholic Facts, p. 209).
"Has the Catholic Church ever changed its teaching? No, for 2,000 years the Church has taught the same thing which Jesus taught." (A Catechism For Adults, p. 57).
"It is a historical fact that the Catholic Church, from the twentieth century back to the first, has not once ceased to teach a doctrine on faith or morals previously held, and with the same interpretation; the Church has proved itself infallible." (My Catholic Faith, p. 145).
The Catholic Church has a multitude of religious titles and addresses that are given to their officials. We list some of them here from page 129 of the book, My Catholic Faith.
"A priest is addressed 'Father.'
"He (the Pope, D.R.) is formally addressed as 'Your Holiness.'
"A cardinal is addressed 'Your Eminence.'
"Arch bishops and bishops are entitled 'Most Reverend,' and 'Your Excellency'; the other prelates not bishops are entitled 'Right' or 'Very Reverend Monsignor' or 'Father.' "
When Catholics address their priests and bishops as "Reverend" and "Father," they are using titles which belong only to God. Protestants who likewise label their clergymen as "Reverend" are doing the same. The term "Reverend" means basically "worthy of reverence; revered" and is used in the Bible to venerate the name of God. Psalm 111:9 says, "He has sent deliverance to his people; he has ratified his covenant forever; holy and awesome (also translated "reverend" D.R.) is his name." God alone is to be reverenced, revered and worshiped. "The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:10). Men should not seek the glory which belongs only to Deity. They should not accept it, nor endeavor to give it. Men commit a grave error when they take the titles and designations which belong to Almighty God and place them on mere men.
Jesus said, "And call no one on earth your father; for one is your Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters; for one only is your Master, the Christ" (Matt. 23:9-10). Thus, we are forbidden by our Lord to call men "father" in a religious sense. We plead with our Catholic friends not to openly defy this command given by our Lord.
Catholic priests try to dodge the force of Jesus' command by telling us that if we interpreted our Lord's words literally, we could not call our parent "father." (See Questions Box, p. 310). However, in the context of Matt. 23, Jesus is condemning the religious leaders of His time who did all their works to be seen of men (vs. 5), loved marks of distinction (vs. 6), and craved the flattering titles given by men (vs. 7). The writer of Hebrews by inspiration used the term "father" for our earthly parent. He said, "Furthermore, we had fathers of our flesh to correct us..." (Heb. 12:9). In view of these things, when Jesus said "call no one on earth you father," what could he have meant but that we are not to call men "father" in a religious sense?
A young Christian girl had opportunity to introduce the local preacher to her non-Christian friends. She said, "This is my brother Mr. _______." She demonstrated both the knowledge and obedience which the Lord requires. She gave no religious title and used the term "brother" in its proper sense. The term refers to the common bond of all Christians and is not a title that is to be given only to preachers.
All preachers and teachers of God's word should boldly refuse to be called by titles belonging to God. They should not be desirous of vain glory (Gal. 5:26), but should walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). Also, believers in Christ should be careful not to address preachers as "Father" or "Reverend" or with any other flattering title. Job 32:21-22 says, "I would not be partial to anyone, nor give flattering titles to any. For I know nought of flattery; if I did, my Maker would soon take me away."
The Catholic Church claims that its bishops and priests have inherited from the apostles the power to forgive penitent sinners. Please notice the following:
"Who has the power to forgive sin today?
"All bishops and priests of the Catholic Church can forgive sin." (A Catechism for Adults, p. 85).
"Christ conferred upon the Apostles the power to forgive sins: 'Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.' (John 20:23). St. Paul mirrors the faith of the Apostolic Church when he writes: 'God hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation' (II Cor. 5:18).
"As the inheritors of the power and authority of the Apostles, the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church exercises the ministry of reconciliation, forgiving penitent sinners in the name of Jesus Christ." (The Faith of Millions, pp. 71-72).
Catholic bishops and priests are claiming a power which the apostles did not possess or exercise. Jesus said to the apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." (John 20:22-23). Thus, only by the possession of the Holy Spirit would the apostles have the authority to forgive and retain sins. As the Holy Spirit guided them in their preaching and writing, they delivered God's plan for forgiving and retaining sins (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 2:38). This alone was their "power to forgive sins" and how it was exercised.
On one occasion the Scribes and Pharisees reasoned in their hearts concerning Jesus, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God only?" (Luke 5:21). Their error was in their failure to recognize that Jesus was God in the flesh. If Jesus was not God, they would have been correct in their accusation. God said through the prophet Isaiah, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." (Isa. 43:25).
On another occasion the Jews said, "Not for a good work do we stone thee, but for blasphemy, and because thou, being a man, makest thyself God." (John 10:33). Jesus did not deny that it was blasphemous for a man to presume to forgive sins. If the Jews had been right in their premise (that Christ was only a man), they would have been correct in their conclusion. The Catholic priests literally assume the prerogatives of God when they presume to forgive sins.
If Catholic priests have the power to grant absolution from sin, why don't they also possess the power to perform miracles? Jesus said it was just as easy for Him to say, "Arise, and walk," as to say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee" (Luke 5:23). He added, "But that you man know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins--he said to the paralytic--I say to thee, arise, take up thy pallet and go to thy house." (Luke 5:24). Why can't the Catholic priests do the same? Since they cannot, we must conclude they do not have authority to forgive sins.
Some Catholics in effort to evade the blasphemous claim of priests being able to forgive sin, say that the priests only ask God to forgive sin. The following quotes show beyond doubt that the Catholic Church most certainly does claim that its priests can forgive sin.
"In the institution of the sacrament our Lord did not say to His Apostles, 'Whose sins you shall ask to be absolved, shall be absolved,' but he instituted as the form of the sacrament, 'Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.' These words show that the minister of the Sacrament of Penance does not pray for the absolution of the penitent, but pronounces the absolution as a judicial sentience, as one having judicial authority." (Catholic Dictionary, p. 5).
"Its minister purifies souls from sin by an act of absolution, and as the Council of Trent defined, this absolution is not a mere declaration of what has taken place as effect of other causes, but a real efficacious judicial sentence actually freeing the sinner from guilt." (Legislation on the Sacraments, p. 190).
"Unlike the authority given to the Priests of the Old Law, to declare the leper cleansed from his leprosy, the power with which the priests of the New Law are invested, is not simply to declare the sins forgiven, but, as the ministers of God, really to absolve from sins." (The Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. 175).
Again, Catholic bishops and priests are claiming a power which the apostles neither possessed nor employed. Actually, they are assuming an authority above that of the apostles. When Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23), He was speaking to the apostles only. His words were not addressed to Catholic bishops and priests and there is no mention of successors. Furthermore, the power to forgive and retain sins was based upon the expression, "Receive the Holy Spirit." The Catholic writers always fail to quote this important part of our Lord's words, e.g., as in the above quote from the Catholic Dictionary. Only by possession of the Holy Spirit were the apostles able to forgive and retain sins. As the Holy Spirit guided them in their preaching and writing, they delivered the design of God for forgiving and retaining sins (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 2:38). This is how their authority to forgive sins was exercised. For instance, when Simon the sorcerer sinned (Acts 8:18-19), Peter did not say, "I absolve you," or "I forgive you;" instead, he merely revealed to him what he needed to do in order to be forgiven (Acts 8:22).
Language similar to that spoken to the apostles was addressed to Jeremiah the prophet. Jer. 1:9-10 says, "And the Lord said to me: Behold I have given my words in thy mouth: Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant." Jeremiah never literally rooted up, pulled down, destroyed, or planted nations and kingdoms. His mission was to declare to the nations the terms on which God would build up or destroy, reward or punish nations. Similarly, the apostles were given authority to declare the terms on which God would forgive and retain sins.
We are taught in the New Testament to confess our sins to God and He will forgive and cleanse us from all iniquity. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 Catholic RSV). Also, we are instructed that when we sin, Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father and the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). In Heb. 4:14-16, the writer teaches that Christians have full and complete access to God through Jesus Christ and may come boldly to the throne of grace and obtain mercy.
The New Testament teaches that one's confession should be as public as the sin, e.g., "And many of those who believed kept coming, and openly confessed their practices." (Acts 19:18). If the sin was against God only, it needs to be confessed only to God (1 John 1:9). If the sin was committed against one or a number of individuals, it should be confessed to God and to those who have been wronged. James 5:16 says, "Confess, therefore, your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be saved." This means that Christians are to confess to each other and applies to sins committed against each other. It cannot mean that the Christian is to confess to the priest because it would require that the priest confess back to the Christian--"confess your sins to one another."
There is no command or example in the New Testament for Christians to confess sins to a priest to obtain absolution. The Testament gives instructions on every good work imposed upon children of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3), but it doesn't mention a single word regarding "auricular confession" or that which is done in the modern Catholic confessional. There is no allusion or indication, no command, example, or inference in the Scriptures regarding the confessional. In short, there is not the slightest hint concerning that which is done by Catholics today. When one believes or practices something in religion which is not in the written New Testament, all of the following divine principles immediately apply.
The following quotes from Catholic sources show that the practice of auricular confession slowly and gradually developed.
"When and why did Holy Mother Church dispense with public penance?
"The mitigation of public penance is first indicated in a letter of Pope St. Innocent in the year 405. A similar trend of leniency is found in the East (Greek Catholic, DJR) at the turn of the fifth century. One reason is due to the scandals which were sometimes consequent to public penance. For about a thousand years, there were modifications of the ancient usage. By the middle of the sixteenth century, public penance had practically disappeared. The churches found the patient more willing to accept exercises of prayer, piety and alms-giving which, in her clemency, she commuted from the enjoined penances once so severe." (Brooklyn Tablet, Jan. 20, 1962).
"In the primitive Church there was no concept of the reconciliation of the Christian sinner by the authority of the Church, but the Church by very slow degrees only grew accustomed to this concept. Moreover even after penance came to be recognized as an institution of the Church, it was not called by the name of a sacrament." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XI, p. 620).
"By the middle of the next century (ninth, DJR), when secret had generally replaced public confession..." (Legislation on the Sacraments, p. 293; see also Canon Law, Corpus Juris, p. 260).
The above quotations reveal that the present day Catholic system of confessing to a priest gradually developed. As the Apostate Church began to gain power and control over people's lives, the practice of seeking spiritual counsel and advice from the priest was turned into the confessional. Confessing only in secret was first introduced into the Catholic Church in the fifth century. However, it was not until the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, under Pope Innocent III, that private auricular confession was made compulsory on all Roman Catholics. This decree was ratified by the Council of Trent, in 1546, and remains in force today.
Since there are no passages in the New Testament authorizing the Catholic confessional, it is a sinful practice. We emphasize again that we cannot go beyond the things that are written and be pleasing to God (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 John 9). When we add the traditions and doctrines of men, our worship becomes vain (Matt. 15:9; Col. 2:8). If we change, add to, delete from, or pervert the gospel of Christ, the curse of God rests upon us (Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19).
The Catholic priests today are distinguished by their clerical dress and have a number of so-called sacred vestments which they use in their religious ceremonies. Like many other things in Catholicism, these slowly and gradually worked their way into the Catholic system. Please notice the following from Catholic sources.
"During the first four or five centuries the dress of clerics did not differ from that of the laity either in form or color..." (General Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, p. 209); see also Short History of the Catholic Church, p. 66 which states that clerical dress began to come into use in the sixth century.)
"As a more effective separation from the rest of the world, and as a safe guard to the honor of the ministry, they are enjoined to wear a long black garment, different from the Common Mantle. Such is the origin of the present ecclesiastical costume." (General History of the Catholic Church, pp. 328-329).
"Gradually the custom was introduced of making them of rich and costly materials, to add greater beauty to the rites of religion." (Externals of the Catholic Church, p. 163).
"We need not shrink from admitting that candles, like incense and lustral water, were commonly employed in pagan worship and the rites paid to the dead. But the Church from a very early period took them into her service, just as she adopted many other things indifferent in themselves, which seemed proper to enhance the splendor of religious ceremonial. We must not forget that most of these adjuncts to worship, like music, lights, perfumes, ablutions, floral decoration, canopies, fans, screens, bells, vestments etc. were not identified with any idolatrous cult in particular; but they were common to almost all cults." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. III, p. 246).
The distinguishing dress and various vestments used by the modern Catholic priesthood are nothing more than a gradual evolution of pagan customs and human traditions. Jesus strongly condemned the Jews for doing as Catholic priests do today. He said, "...All their works they do to be seen by men; for they widen their phylacteries, and enlargen their tassels, and love the first places at suppers and the front seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the market place, and to be called by men 'Rabbi.' But do not you be called 'Rabbi'; for one is your Master, and all you are brothers." (Matt. 23:5-8). Jesus continued, "And call no one on earth your father, for one is your Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters; for one only is your Master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." (Matt. 23:9-11).
Jesus repeatedly taught against doing things in religion to receive the attention and praise of men (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18; John 5:44). Men have always had the problem of wanting to be exalted and revered by other men. It is called, "the pride of life." Jesus Himself was so much like ordinary men in dress and appearance that Judas had to arrange a sign with those evil rulers so they could identify and capture Him. This meek and lowly spirit of Christ was foretold by the prophets (Isa. 42:1-3; 53:2). Instead of seeking the praise of men and doing things to be seen of men, all men today would do well to exemplify the humble and lowly spirit of Jesus. He left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 1:21).
The following is a classic example of how the Catholic Church lets human traditions creep in and then binds them as law.
"The word surplice is derived from the Latin word, super-pelicium, which means over-furs. In medieval times the Cathedrals and Churches were not heated, yet the clerics entered, Winter and Summer, day and night, to chant the divine hours. In cold weather they kept themselves warm by wearing furlined cassocks." (New Interpretation of the Mass, p. 135).
"Theologians pronounce it a grave sin to give Communion without the stole and surplice and a light one to omit either." (Legislation on the Sacraments in the New Code of Canon Law, pp. 157-158).
If men are to please God they must reject all human traditions. Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees, "You make void the commandment of God by your tradition, which you have handed down; and many suchlike things you do." (Mark 7:13). Paul said, "Hence rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith, and may not listen to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth." (Titus 1:13-14). Again Paul said, "See to it that no one deceives you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ." (Col. 2:8; see also Eph. 4:14; 1 John 4:1). Hence, the Bible repeatedly warns against adhering to traditions of men. As a matter of fact, the most often condemned sin in the New Testament is the following of the doctrines of men. In spite of this, the Catholic Church has an abundance of human traditions and continually seek to justify them.
The Catholic priesthood has no foundation in the Bible and is contrary to the spirit and commands of Christ. It was derived from pagan and Jewish traditions. The apostles ordained in the New Testament a plurality of elders or bishops over each congregation (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:17,28) and they had to be married men (1 Tim. 3:2) with believing children (Titus 1:6). They proclaimed that all Christians are priests (Rev. 1:6) and constitute the holy priesthood of God (1 Pet. 2:5,9). In the Catholic Church today there is one bishop, a single man, over many churches. Also, there is a priestly caste who distinguish themselves by clerical dress, claim divine prerogatives, and exercise great authority and control over the souls of men. With these thoughts in mind, ponder carefully the following:
"If it is not identical in belief, government, etc., with the primitive Church, then it is not the church of Christ." (Catholic Facts, p. 27).
"If only one instance could be given in which the Church ceased to teach a doctrine of faith which had been previously held, that single instance would be the death blow of her claim of infallibility." (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 61).
The following quotes from Catholic sources reveal that the priesthood of the Catholic Church slowly and gradually developed:
"In the Roman Church the change had taken place apparently when, in the course of the third or fourth century, priests became the ordinary ministers of baptism." (Legislation on the Sacrament, p. 16).
The priesthood evolved." (Catholic Encyclopedia, pp. 406, 415).
"Priests were not so called in the very earliest Christian times; rather they were the presbyters or elders." (Mass of the Future, p. 66).
"The following seems to be on the whole the way the term "clergy" gradually assumed a technical and restricted sense." (Catholic Dictionary, p. 189).
"The Apostolic Fathers abstain from any mention of a Christian priesthood." (Ibid., p. 693).
"Clergy, the term clerus (Latin, part or portion falling to one by lot) was first applied to the whole church or people of God as being the Lord's special possession or property (I Pet. v. 3), but soon it became appropriated to the ministers of religion as belonging to God in a special manner." (General Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, pp. 233-234)
A study of the New Testament reveals that all Christians are priests. Peter said, "Be you yourselves as living stones, built thereon into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 2:5). Thus, all Christians are of that holy priesthood and can offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. There is not a man or group of men on earth who can offer unto God spiritual sacrifices for others. All Christians have the right to go to God through Jesus Christ, our High priest (Heb. 4:14-16). There is no priesthood on earth that has the right to forbid each Christian to go directly to God through Christ, or to assume the authority to administer graces and obtain mercy for others.
Peter continued, "You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that you man proclaim the perfections of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9). Rev. 1:5-6 says, "To him who has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us to be a kingdom, and priest to God his Father--to him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." Thus, the New Testament repeatedly teaches that all Christians are priests. When they obey the gospel of Christ, they are added to the body of Christ and are thereby recognized as God's holy priesthood. As priests, they all can offer up spiritual sacrifices and can draw nigh to God through the mediatorship of Jesus.
A sacrificing priesthood of men was indeed appointed under the law of Moses, but the animal sacrifices offered by the priests of the Old Testament were mere types and shadows of the one sacrifice made by Christ. By the one sacrifice made by Jesus, He put an end both to the Levitical priesthood and to the Old Testament law. Heb. 7:23-25 says, "And the other priests indeed were numerous, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he, because he continues forever, has an everlasting priesthood. Therefore he is able at all times to save those who come to God through him, since he lives always to make intercession for them."
Jesus is now at the right hand of God and ever lives to make intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25; 9:24). Through the one sacrifice of Himself, He became the sole mediator through which men can come to God (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:26-27; 9:24-28; Eph. 2:18). Heb. 7:27 says, "He does not need to offer sacrifices daily (as the other priests did), first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people; for this latter he did once for all in offering up himself." Heb. 9:24 says, "For Jesus has not entered into a Holies made by hands, a mere copy of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now before the face of God on our behalf..." There is no need of an interceding or mediating priestly caste today. Jesus Christ is the one and only great High Priest and all those in Christ are a royal priesthood who can offer up spiritual sacrifices and draw nigh to God through Him.
Please notice the following unscriptural claims the Catholic Church makes for its priesthood.
"It is really God who calls to the priesthood, to help him in work of the salvation of souls. He wants you to be a mediator between heaven and earth, to speak to men of God, to speak to God of men and their needs." (Our Priesthood, p. 22).
"The priest is a storm; hurricane, cyclone, tornado rolled into one. Like Christ in the temple. Like Christ before the Pharisees. Like Christ hanging on the cross...No. He is more than that. The Priest is not just the cross, he is Christ himself." (Lone Star Catholic, March 1, 1959).
"...Glorious priests...oracles of the Eternal Word...chiefs in the celestial militia...custodians of the Keys of Heaven. (The Priest, His Dignity and Obligations, XXV).
"St. Gregory Nazzianzen asserts that the priest is a 'God who makes gods.' " (Ibid., p. 13).
"Clement of Alexandria attributes to the priests the role of redeemers...You are visible gods in the world, children of God, fathers of God. In the work the Celestial Hierarchy, St. Dionysius invests you with these three attributes; you are gods because you take the place of God in this world and are clothed with His qualities, His prerogatives and powers." (Ibid., p. 21).
Catholic writers, to say the least, use many superlatives in advancing their priesthood. Practically every scriptural title that is applied to Christ is appropriated to themselves by Catholic priest, e.g., mediator, redeemer, spouse of the church. 1 Tim. 2:5 says, "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus." It is the height of blasphemy for the Catholic Church to take the blessed offices and functions which belong only to Christ and place them upon mere men.
Today, the whole Catholic system is built around its priesthood. Every blessing and sacrament leads to the priests. For example, couples must be married by the priest. The mass must be conducted by the priest. Forgiveness of sins is dependent on the priest for without confession to him there is no absolution. Indeed, the priests have a stronghold over their parishioners from birth until death.
The whole Catholic arrangement is a corruption and apostasy from the order described in the New Testament. The Catholic priesthood slowly and gradually developed into what it is today by means of unscrupulous men who had no regard or respect for what God originally ordained. The gradual departure and evolution has resulted in what presently exists--a priestly caste with no divine authority whatsoever claiming divine prerogatives and exercising great authority and control over the souls of men.
The following quotes from Catholic sources show that Catholics are taught to blindly obey their priests.
"There is only one remedy for this evil (a troubled conscience, DJR), and that remedy is absolute and blind obedience to a prudent director. Choose one, consult him as often as you desire, but do not leave him for another. Then submit punctiliously to his direction. His conscience must be yours for the time being. And if you should err in following him, God will hold him, and not you responsible." (Explanations of Catholic Morals, p. 24).
"God designs to make prelates, His own equals...If then you receive a command of one who holds the place of God, you should observe it with the same diligence as if it came from God Himself." (True spouse of Christ, p. 93).
"Obey blindly, that is, without asking reasons. Be careful then, never to examine the directions of your confessor...In a word, keep before your eyes this great rule, that in obeying your confessor you obey God. Force yourself, then, to obey him in spite of all fears. And be persuaded that if you are not obedient to him it will be impossible for you to go on well; but if you obey him you are secure. But you say, I am damned in consequence of obeying my confessor, who will rescue me from hell? What you say is impossible." (Ibid., p. 352).
Hence, the Catholic Church requires implicit obedience to its priests maintaining that if a priest should err in his guidance, he only is held responsible and not those mislead. Speaking of false teachers, Jesus said, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides of blind men. But if a blind man guide a blind man, both fall into a pit." (Matt. 15:13-14). Peter said, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29). We are taught in the Scriptures that each person is responsible for himself. He is to use all care to present himself approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15), and must personally seek to understand the will of the Lord (Eph. 5:17). He should strive to make his calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10), test all things (1 Thess. 5:21), and examine every teacher (1 John 4:1). No one else can do these things for us; each will be held responsible for himself. "Therefore every one of us will render an account for himself to God." (Rom. 14:12). As shown in the following, the Bible repeatedly warns against following men:
"I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not his: neither is it in a man to walk, and to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23).
"Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death." (Prov. 16:25).
"See to it that no one deceives you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to human traditions, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ." (Col. 2:8).
"And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." (Matt. 15:9).
"For God is true, and every man is a liar..." (Rom. 3:4).
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Matt. 7:15).
Consequently, the following of man will condemn the soul. Only by following God as revealed in the Scriptures are we safe. The apostle John said, "These things I am writing to you that you may know that you have eternal life--you who believe in the name of the son of God." (1 John 5:13). Thus, when one follows the sacred writings he can know (be assured beyond any shadow of doubt) that he has eternal life. To follow the Word of God is a safe course that is right and cannot be wrong. We wonder how or what Catholics will answer in the day of judgment when accused of having followed the commandments of men rather than the Word of God. What will they answer for having obeyed a human priesthood instead of our High Priest and Savior Jesus Christ? Our Catholic friends should seriously meditate upon these things and determine now to obey God rather than men. We hope and pray that they will.
A study of the New Testament reveals that all Christians are priests. Peter said, "You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 2:5; The New Catholic Translation). Thus, all Christians are of that holy priesthood and can offer unto God spiritual sacrifices. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ, our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16).
Peter continued, "You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9). Rev. 1:6 says, "...Who has made us a royal nation of priests in the service of his God and Father." Consequently, the New Testament repeatedly teaches that all Christians are priests. When one obeys the gospel of Christ, he is added to the body of Christ and is thereby part of God's holy priesthood. As priests, all can offer up spiritual sacrifices and draw nigh to God through the mediatorship of Jesus.
A sacrificing priesthood of men was indeed appointed under the law of Moses, but the animal sacrifices offered by the priests of the Old Testament were mere types and shadows of the one sacrifice made by Christ. By the one sacrifice made by Jesus, He put an end both to the Levitical priesthood and the Old Testament law. (See Heb. 7:23-25; Col. 2:14-17).
Jesus is now at the right hand of God and ever lives to make intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25; 9:24). Through the one sacrifice of Himself, He became the sole mediator through which men have access to God (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:26-27; 9:24-28; Eph. 2:18). He is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9).
There is no priesthood on earth that has the right to forbid each Christian to go directly to God through Christ, or to assume the authority to administer graces and obtain mercy for others. All Christians are of that royal priesthood of God, and have but one great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
All men will be judged in the last day by the things which the apostles and prophets bound upon us (John 12:48; Rom. 2:16; James 2:12; Rev. 20:12). All things which they bound are recorded in the New Testament. The New Testament constitutes "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). What the apostles and prophets bound on earth was bound in heaven. Who will affirm that it has been loosed again? What the apostles loosed on earth was loosed in heaven. By whom has it been bound again? The only excuse men could have for pretending to be successors to the apostles is that they want to bind upon earth what the apostles have loosed, or loose what the apostles have bound. There are no successors to the apostles and prophets. The alleged Catholic doctrine of "apostolic succession" is not taught in the Bible.
There is no need whatsoever for successors to the apostles and prophets. The apostles and prophets were God's chosen ambassadors to deliver "the faith" to mankind and their work has been completed. No one today possesses their qualifications. No one has their spiritual gifts and miraculous powers. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit they were guided into all truth as Jesus had promised. When we read the things they wrote, we can understand their knowledge in the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:3-4). All things of the will of Christ are recorded in the written New Testament of Christ (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). It contains all that God has bound upon us and all by which we will be judged in the last day.
No man on earth today has authority to forgive sins. The apostles did not have the authority to arbitrarily say to penitent sinners, "I absolve you," but by the Holy Spirit they revealed to sinners how their sins were to be forgiven or retained. The apostles did not instruct us to confess our sins to a priest. In the New Testament all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:5,9).
We close by calling your attention to the following Scriptures which solemnly warn against false apostles and prophets.
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone forth into the world." (1 John 4:1).
"I know thy works and thy labor and thy patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men; but hast tried those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them false." (Rev. 2:2).
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them." (Matt. 7:15-16).
"For they are false prophets, deceitful workers, distinguishing themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light. It is not great thing, then, if his ministers disguise themselves as ministers of justice." (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
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By David J. Riggs
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