The question needs to be asked: where does the authority of the true church lie? The choice is very simple. In Catholicism it is the Pope. In Christianity it is the Word of God. The Pope is only a mortal man. Christianity’s authority is eternal. The Word of God is depicted by two representations in Scripture. The first is the Son of God Himself:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
– John 1:1 (NKJV)The Eternal Word
The second representation is the written Word of God, the Bible:
Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness
– 2Ti 3:17
So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
– 2Ti 3:16
The Bible is the Inerrant Word of God
There can be no higher authority than the Bible. The Lord has given many warnings against tampering with His Word by either adding or subtracting from it.
Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
– Pr 30:5
Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
– Pr 30:6
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
– Dt 4:2
The Roman Catholic Church (opposes the view of the inerrancy of the Bible):
The RCC, however, does not seem to heed these warnings of adding to or subtracting from the Word of God. As just one example, the Catholic Church does not profess the simple Ten Commandments, eliminating the second commandment to have no idols before God and to create no graven images. The RCC takes the Biblical tenth Commandment and makes it into two instead of one. Hence, the RCC Ten Commandments are not the Biblical Ten Commandments. (See previous report: Who is Mary?)
The Catholic Church also adds tradition and papal infallibility* to the teachings of the Bible, thereby placing both above the inerrancy of the Bible. (Mt 15:6 states: “So for the sake of your tradition, you have set aside the Word of God and made it null and void.”)
*Papal Infallibility according to the RCC: The belief that the pope and bishops are said to be incapable of error when proclaiming definite doctrines involving faith and morals. This concept thus places the decisions of mere men above that of the Omniscient God and His Word.
Biblical Inerrancy Examples in Scripture
Paul, the writer of so many epistles, warned against anyone’s infallibility in their own flesh. He stressed that only Scripture was infallible:
But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Gal 1:8) I will say it again; if anyone preaches any other Gospel than the one you welcomed, let God’s curse fall upon him.”
Interestingly enough, in this same book – Galatians – ch.2:11-21 Paul has to reprove Peter because he erroneously was leading the church back into observing the Jewish rites even though they were Christian converts. In Acts 10 the Lord had shown Peter through a vision that the dividing wall between Gentiles and Jews was to cease. But here in Galatians Peter allows himself to be influenced by the legalistic Jews and falsely re-introduces a “works” concept into salvation.
14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?… 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
– Galatians – ch.2:14-21
The fact that Peter kept silent reveals that he accepted the reproof with humility. One of the most significant points in this passage is how it clearly shows the equality of authority between Peter and Paul. Additionally, there is repeated evidence in the Word of God that it was not Peter but James who held authority over the apostles ( Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19; 2:9). Paul preached to the Gentiles, Peter to the Jews and James was listed as the third “pillar of the church”; Gal 2:12).
The RCC concedes the validity of Col 1: 18:
18And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
However, they add that the Pope is the “visible head of the whole church” [669,882,936] calling him the “true vicar of Christ” and stating:
To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ to tend, rule and govern the universal church. (First Vatican Council)
Yet it is not only Col 1:18 that proclaims the headship and singular authority of Jesus:
1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2For you granted Him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
– John 17:1-2
Jesus’ glory nor His power will He share with another.
The Bottom line
While Catholics may read the Bible, only bishops of the church have the right to interpret its meaning and teach with authority:
The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God…has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the church alone. So says the RCC. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (Second Vatican Council).]
The bottom line then becomes that the RCC has itself sadly established a hierarchy based on its own rules and traditions. There are 1,752 laws in the Code of Canon Laws that all Catholics must observe fully to get to Heaven according to the RCC. You, as a Catholic, cannot arbitrarily decide that you disagree with any of the Pontifical College’s decrees because then you are not considered to be a Catholic in good standing. According to the decrees you must be in a state of sanctifying grace at death plus be cleansed of all temporal sins in purgatory – however long that will take – before you can enter Heaven. Yet there is a vastly different way that Jesus provided when He reached out to us by His atoning death on the cross:
8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;
9 Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]
– Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
Our greatest responsibility is to pray and to do so with deep compassion and love. When we share these truths with Catholics, we must do so with a tenderness of spirit for unless the truth is told with love they will not be able to receive it. We do not need to come to them with “lofty words of eloquence or persuasiveness of human wisdom.” We need only share “Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Him crucified “ (1Cor 2: 1-4).
If we, or any organization, continue to call Catholics Christians, the true gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ alone will never be presented to those deceived Catholics. They will perish. Nor will born-again Catholics ever know the truth of Catholicism. They will continue to worship in a church that promotes doctrines totally contrary to the Bible. Perhaps saddest of all, these born-again Catholics will continue to participate in a communion service that violates the holiness of Jesus and denigrates His “once for all” atonement on the cross. In Christian love must we not draw the line between what is true Christianity and what is not? To continue to accept Catholics as Christians is not the love of God Who wishes all to be saved and come unto a knowledge of the truth (1 Ti 2:4).
Annotated bracketed references to Catholic doctrine were obtained from the current official Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Austin Flannery edition of Vatican Council II: The Concilar and Post Concilar Documents.
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.