OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


          Monday, February 11, 2013, was a historic day for the Catholic Church.  On this day, Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the high office of Pope.  It had been almost six hundred years since another pope had resigned.  The previous resignation involved Gregory XII in 1415.

          The term “Pope” is derived from the Latin “papa” which means “father.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia defines the word “pope” as follows:  “The title pope, once used with far greater latitude…is at present employed solely to denote the Bishop of Rome, who, in virtue of his position as successor of St. Peter, is the chief Pastor of the whole Church, the Vicar of Christ upon the earth” (www.newadvent.com).

          In essence, the Catholic Church has two “fathers” and two “heads.”  The Almighty God who resides in heaven is one Father.  The pope is the Church’s earthly “father.”  Jesus Christ is the heavenly head of the Church.  The pope is considered the earthly head of the church.

          When Benedict XVI resigned, the church was left without her earthly head.  This spot remained empty until March 13, 2013.  One that day, the cardinals locked in the Sistine Chapel sent white smoke up a chimney to indicate that Benedict XVI’s successor had been chosen.  The new pope’s name is Jorge Mario Bergolio.  He chose the name St. Francis as the name he will wear as pope.  His installation mass was held on Tuesday morning, March 19, 2013.

          There have been millions upon millions of people who have been watching all of these events with much intrigue.  The pomp and ceremony involved in the resignation of one pope and the selection of another is overwhelming.  In all of this fanfare, most will never question whether all of these things really have the approval of the God of heaven.  Yet, isn’t this all that really matters?

          When one turns to the New Testament and honestly considers its teaching and the history of the church that is found therein, he must admit that what the Catholic Church does today is much different than what the church did in the first century.  First, we do not read of a pope or a man called “Holy Father” within the first century church.  The Lord Jesus Christ chose twelve men as His apostles (Matt. 10:1-2).  They were all given the same powers (Matt. 10:1) and the same authority (Matt. 16:19; 18:18).  When these men sought to obtain lofty positions in the kingdom, Jesus taught against it.  “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you:  but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:  even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28).

          Second, Jesus forbad referring to a man by the spiritual title, father.  His specific words were:  “And call no man you father upon the earth:  for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9).  This passage is found within a larger context that we do not always consider.  Jesus is really speaking of religious titles in general.  Titles were something the scribes and Pharisees loved to be called.  Jesus says that they loved the “greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi” (Matt. 23:7).  Titles exalt one person over another.  They create a caste system in the church.  Jesus forbad such.  “But be ye not called Rabbi:  for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.  And call no man your father upon the earth:  for one is your Father, which is in heaven.  Neither be ye called masters:  for one is your Master, even Christ.  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:8-12).  We mention Jesus’ full teaching here because the Pope uses many titles to distinguish himself from all others:  Vicar of Christ, Vicar of Peter, Holy Father, Bishop of Rome, Servant of the Servants of God, Supreme Pastor, His Holiness, The Rock, Shepherd of the Universal Church, Supreme Pontiff, Father of Kings, Governor of the World, Successor of St. Peter, Pontifix Maximus, etc.  Jesus would never put His stamp of approval on any of these titles.  He taught that man should be satisfied with being called “brothers” and “servants.”

          Third, let’s look at another interesting point that contrasts the Catholic Church of today with the church of the first century.  Most will agree that the New Testament writings were not complete until the end of the first century.  Several of the books of John, including the Revelation, are dated by most in the 90s.  When we look at the list of the popes provided to us by the Catholic Church, we find that at least five held the office before 100 A.D.:  Peter, Linus, Anacletus, Clement I, and Evaristus.  A casual reading of the New Testament does not mention the transition that existed between these popes.  Isn’t that interesting?  In the 21st century, the world stood still while a pope was elected.  In the first century, four popes were selected after Peter with not one word recorded about this for us.  There was no gathering of the cardinals.  There were no votes taken.  There was no white smoke pouring out of a chimney.  There was no large gathering of people in the streets of Rome.  There was no installation mass.  Why?  The answer to this question is because the popery and all of the show that goes with it is man-made.  It did not exist in the first century.

          This writer’s heart breaks when he sees millions of deluded souls who accept the Catholic doctrine about the papacy.  Paul was right when he said that in the last days some shall depart from the faith (I Tim. 4:10.  Peter accurately foretold that many would follow the pernicious ways of the false teachers (II Pet. 2:1-2).  The picture that Paul paints of one sitting in the temple of God referring to himself as God must refer to the pope of Rome (II Thess. 2:3-4).  That position continues to this day.  How does any human being allow himself to be called “Holy Father”?  Jesus said that one is our Father, and He resides in heaven.