The Roman Catholic Church
by Earl Kimbrough
The Roman Catholic church is the most powerful religious organization in the Western World. It claims a world membership of more than 566 million out of a total “Christian” world population of some 985 million.
The church is a force to be reckoned with in national and world politics. Her aim is to rule through political means; and she possesses the machinery for exerting political influence even in those nations wherein she is in the minority, as in the United States. Because of her great power she is able not only to wield tremendous pressure in advancing her religious views in the political arena but also in holding sway over the millions who are under her domination. Where did this great organization come from? By what authority does it function? How does it carry out its will upon its adherents and in the nations of the world?
1. The Origin of the Roman Catholic Church
While the Catholic Church claims to be the one true apostolic church of the New Testament, a careful study of the inspired writings of the first century reveal nothing about such an organization in that period. We must look this side of the New Testament to find the beginnings of Catholicism. The first century church in Rome was nothing more than a local congregation of Christians (or perhaps several local congregations existed there) with no claim for oversight of Christians beyond the congregation itself. During the apostasy that followed in the early centuries of the present era, the church at Rome became one of the great patriarchal churches that dominated large segments of the “Christian” world. Due to various circumstances of history (the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the dominance of the Eastern Emperors over the patriarchs of Constantinople, etc.) the patriarchs of Rome came to exert greater power and to claim universal oversight of the whole church. This led to the claim that the Roman patriarch was the head of the church and the vicar of Christ on earth.
Not all people accepted the pope’s assumptions of headship. A great struggle for power arose between the pope and the patriarch of Constantinople. This eventually resulted in a permanent rupture between the Eastern and Western churches. But the pope held his power in the West and the Roman Catholic Church emerged into the world organization it is today.
According to Roman Catholic teaching there can be no Roman Catholic Church without a pope. “The (Roman Catholic) Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the Holy Father, the Pope” (A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, p. 12). But the first man in history to actually exert power in anything like universal dominion was Gregory the Great (590-604 A.D.). Even this powerful churchman “with shrewd humility” refused to be called Ecumenical Bishop. For nearly 500 years there was no pope. The idea that the Bishop of Rome should have authority over the whole church was a slow growth in the apostasy. It was bitterly fought at every step and as never universally accepted. Since there could be no Roman Catholic Church without a pope and there was no pope prior to 590 A.D., it is obvious that the Roman Catholic Church is the product of apostasy and is not the New Testament church.
2. The Organization of the Roman Catholic Church
The government of the Roman Catholic Church is hierarchal and absolute. A hierarchy is “a ruling body of clergy organized into orders or ranks each subordinate to the one above it.” In the structure of the Roman church the pope stands at the top of the hierarchy. He is believed by Catholics to be “Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, and ‘the visible’ Head of the Roman Catholic Church.” His authority is supreme in all matters of faith and morals as head of the church. The “College of Cardinals” elects the pope, serve as his advisers, and hold authority over the church between popes. Most of the cardinals reside in Rome. The Roman Curia is the administrative arm of the church, and it is through this bureaucracy the pope governs world-wide Catholicism.
Next in the hierarchy, in descending rank, are archbishops, bishops and priests. The archbishop is spiritual ruler of an archdiocese made up of several dioceses. Bishops rule over dioceses as their territorial jurisdiction. And under the bishops are the parish priests. A parish is the ecclesiastical unit of area committed to one pastor. All members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are ordained priests. In addition to the regular ranks of the hierarchy, the Roman Catholic clergy includes other priests, monks, deacons, subdeacons, and the whole army of “Orders of Congregations.” The latter are of two kinds: monastic orders and the religious congregations of priests and various brotherhoods and sisterhoods, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, etc.
3. The Role Authority of Catholicism.
The Roman Catholic Church’s faith and doctrine is founded upon “that deposit of faith given to it by Christ and through his apostles, sustained by the Bible and by tradition.” While Catholics make use of certain passages in the Bible in an effort to justify their peculiar doctrines, they make no claim to follow the teaching of the Word of God. In addition to the Bible they have added what they call “Divine Tradition.” They say: “Not all truths revealed for us by God are found in the Bible; some are found only in Divine Tradition. By Divine Tradition is meant the revealed truths taught by Christ and His apostles, which were given to the Church only by word of mouth and not through the Bible, though they were put in writing, principally by the Fathers of the Church. Divine Tradition must be believed as firmly as the Bible because it also contains the word of God” (Ibid., p. 44).
The Bible teaches that the New Testament is the complete and final revelation of God’s will for all time to come. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). We are forbidden to go beyond the revealed will of Christ and are without God if we do (2 John 9,10). That which Catholics call “Divine Tradition” is nothing more than the doctrines and commandments of men which Jesus said makes our religion vain (Matt. 15:8,9).
The Roman Catholic Church did not begin in the first century; it began in the apostasy that followed the first century. Its organizational structure is completely foreign to what we read about the church of Christ in the first century. It does not even claim to follow the New Testament as its sole authority in religion. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church can in no sense be the church Christ established on Pentecost in A.D. 33.
Escape Without Freedom
by Joe R. Price
Two convicted murderers escaped from a maximum security prison in New York state last weekend. It was an elaborate escape that took a much planning and evidently help on the inside. At this writing they have been on the lam for about six days. Although they escaped from prison, one would be hard pressed to say they are free. It appears at the moment they may be in a thickly wooded area trying to evade capture while being hunted by over 500 law enforcement agents (“Search for escaped killers focuses on wooded area near New York prison,” J. Freedom du Lac and Sarah Larimer, The Washington Post).
This serves as a reminder that sin promises freedom and liberty, but in truth it enslaves everyone who chooses to indulge its lustful passions and futile promises. Peter observed this principle and applied it to false prophets whose sinful teaching seduces people to follow error: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19).
Jesus said, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jno. 8:34). Yet, the world views sinful activities as an “escape” from life’s monotonous routine. Yet, sin never delivers what it promises. Drugs and alcohol, pornography, fornication, lewd, irreverent behavior, and gambling are just some of the so-called escapes offered by the world and indulged in by the worldly-minded (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Jno. 2:15-17; Col. 3:5-10). The momentary escape sin offers invariably makes life harder; not to mention the spiritual ruin it causes (Rom. 6:23). But, that is never mentioned during the sinful escape; afterwards it becomes evident.
Jesus gives real freedom from the prison of sin: “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jno. 8:36). The release from sin that Christ gives is obtained by obeying His gospel: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The gospel is the only successful escape from sin.
— via The Spirit’s Sword, June 14, 2015, Volume 17, Number 49
“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again”‘” (Jn. 3:5-7).
News & News
Let those of us who are Christians be remembering the following in prayer for their health: Mary Vandevander, Danielle Howard, Deborah and Penny Medlock, Jim Lively, Shirley Davis, Ronnie Crews, Jewell Wilson, Sunny Nichols, Judy Daugherty, Jean Beach, Dexter Roberts, Betty Miles, Steve Vista, Buddy Gornto, Dolly Moody, Rex and Frankie Hadley, Jesse Bailey, Sue Wooten, Colleen Henson, Tom Holland, Donell Wells (cancer), and Kelsey Williams
The ladies’ Bible class meets every Tuesday at 7 PM in the building. All ladies are welcomed!
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)