Roman Catholic Faith Examined!
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First Corinthians 3:11 should be the end of all controversy as to the rock or foundation on which the church is built. It says, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Thus, Jesus is the one and only sure foundation that will stand through time and eternity; all others are but sinking sand.
Jesus has all authority both in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). He is head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22-23) and holds the preeminence in everything (Col. 1:18). His kingdom is a spiritual one (Luke 17:20-21) and, therefore, has a spiritual king only. Jesus did not appoint any man or group of men to preside over His church. The function of the apostles and prophets was to deliver His will concerning the church and not to personally devise laws and regulations for it. His church has no earthly president or headquarters because He Himself is its only head.
Jesus is now reigning from heaven. He was promised the throne of His father David (Luke 1:31-33) and was raised up to sit on it (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus sat down on the throne after He ascended into heaven (Heb. 8:1; Rev. 3:21). He would be priest at the same time He sat and ruled upon His throne (Zech. 6:12-13). He became the high priest when He sat down on the right hand of God (Heb. 3:1; 10:11-12). He was to receive the kingdom when He received dominion and glory (Dan. 7:13-14). He received dominion and glory when He went into heaven and was placed on the right hand of God (1 Pet. 1:21; 3:22). Christ, therefore, is now reigning over His kingdom at the right hand of the Father.
The Scriptures use numerous terms which reveal Christ's exalted relationship to the church. With reference to the structure of the church, He is its foundation (1 Cor. 3:11). Regarding its construction, He is its builder (Matt. 16:18). Concerning its glorious end, He is its savior (Eph. 5:23). With reference to its ownership, He is its purchaser (Acts 20:28). Regarding its completeness, He is its fulness (Eph. 1:22-23).
Christ alone is the foundation and head of His church; He has full and absolute dominion over it. He has all authority both in heaven and on earth. Man's responsibility is to humbly submit to His will. James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, in his book, "The Faith of Our Fathers, on page 82 says, "Jesus, our Lord, founded but one Church, which he was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as it foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God."
As we have shown, the Word of God declares plainly that Jesus Christ is the only foundation on which the church is built. It ordains no other; it allows no other. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 3:11). Thus, any church which does not recognize Christ as its only foundation cannot be the church of Christ.
Catholic officials claim that when Jesus used the expression, "the gates of hell" in Matt. 16:18, He was teaching that the church would never fall into error. Notice the following from Catholic sources:
"Jesus Christ promised to preserve the Church from error. If His prediction and promises were false, then he would not be God, since God cannot lie. Christ said: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' If therefore the Church falls into error, the gates of hell certainly would prevail against it." (My Catholic Faith, p. 144).
"Our Blessed Lord, in constituting St. Peter Prince of His Apostles, says to him: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Christ makes here a solemn prediction that no error shall ever invade His Church, and if she fell into error the gates of hell certainly prevailed against her." (The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 55).
The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W.E. Vine defined the word "hell" of Matt. 16:18 as, "HADES, the region of departed spirits of the lost (but including the blessed dead in periods preceding the Ascension of Christ)." (p. 187). Mr. Vine on page 188 added, "The word is used four times in the Gospels, and always by the Lord, Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; it is used with reference to the soul of Christ, Acts 2:27,31; Christ declares that He has the keys of it, Rev. 1:18..." The Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by Alan Richardson, says of the word, "The name for this region was SHEOL (Heb.) or HADES (Gk.)...It was in Sheol that a man was 'gathered to his fathers'; the dead may not return to earth, but the living must eventually go to them (cf. II Sam. 12:23)." (p. 106).
When Jesus said, "...Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," He did not promise to preserve the church from error. He simply meant that the gates of hell would not prevail against Him in preventing Him from building His church. Acts 2:31-32 says, "...He, foreseeing it, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ. For neither was He abandoned to hell, nor did His flesh undergo decay. This Jesus God has raised up, and we are all witnesses of it." Hence, Jesus was not stopped from building His church by being left in hell ("hades" in the Greek, meaning the place of the disembodied spirits) because His spirit was again reunited with His body. If He had been confined to hades, it would have prevailed against Him.
A parallel constructed sentence to Matt. 16:18 is, "The students are going near the swamp, and the faculty does not like it." The faculty does not like what--the students? No, the faculty does not like the students going near the swamp. Jesus said, "...I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The gates of hell shall not prevail against what? They would not prevail against Christ building His church.
Catholics sometimes quote 1 Tim. 3:15 which states, "...The church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth" to prove that the church is invested with authority to legislate in divine matters. (See Father Smith Instructs Jackson, p. 35; The Question Box, p. 96). The phrase "pillar and ground of truth" does not mean that the church is the originator of truth, or that it can make or change the laws of God. It simply means that it is the upholder, defender and proclaimer of the truth. The apostles often praised churches for proclaiming the truth, "for from you the word of the Lord has been spread abroad" (1 Thess. 1:8). They commended them for defending the truth, "partakers with me...in the defense and confirmation of the gospel" (Phil. 1:7). However, there is not a single verse in all of the holy Scriptures which indicates that the church has the authority to originate truth or to decree laws for God.
The apostles and prophets and they alone were commissioned by the Lord, not to originate truth--"For ever, O Lord, thy word is firmly fixed in the heavens" (Psalm 119:98 Catholic Edition RSV)--but to reveal the truth. Their task was once and for all completed for they gave us the written New Testament of Christ. The responsibility of the church today is simply to follow, defend and proclaim the truth which they revealed. The Catechism for Adults, page 54 says, "The Catholic Church alone has the authority to rule and to teach." However, the authority is not in the body, but in the Head (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). The ruling is not in the kingdom, but in the King (Heb. 7:1-2; Rev. 1:5-6). The authority is not in the church, but in Christ (Matt. 28:18; 1 Pet. 3:22). The church is not the Savior, but simply the body of the saved (Acts 2:46; Eph. 5:22-24).
By David J. Riggs
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