Friday, October 2, 2015

Why The Pope Can't Be 'Our Pope,' Despite What Rick Warren Says

 By Pastor Tedd Mathis
October 2015
We live in an age that urges us to set aside doctrinal convictions for the sake of religious or social unity. Sometimes the source of that urging catches us off guard. Like when well-known Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren enthusiastically endorses Pope Francis as “our Pope” saying he is “the perfect example of humility and is doing everything right.” Last month when Pope Francis was in the U.S., Warren made certain he was at the White House to welcome him. *
But some of the doctrines we are urged to set aside determine people’s eternal destiny. To set aside what the Bible teaches as to who Jesus Christ is, and what He alone can do for sinners, is to be indifferent to whether or not people go to hell. I can’t do that and I assume you can’t either.
That’s what this essay is about. This is a plea for us to examine the Scriptures and confirm that Jesus Christ alone is head of His Church, that Christ alone has fully satisfied God in the place of sinners, and that Scripture alone is our source of authority for all matters of faith and practice.
That’s not what the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) teaches. When one studies the RCC’s official statements – canons, councils, catechism -- you will see they go far beyond what the Bible clearly states. In this essay I am going to focus on what the RCC states about the pope and compare it to the Bible.
According to the Vatican website, the pope is to be considered Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.
First, let’s focus on the title ‘Vicar;’ it means to ‘to act in the place of with authority’ The RCC catechism says the following: The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." -  The Catechism, Article 9, para. 4, #882
Second, let’s consider what ‘Supreme Pontiff’ means. According to the RCC, the man serving as pope serves as a high priest for the universal church. He is everyone’s mediator before God. Cardinal James Gibbons, in his book The Faith of Our Fathers, explains: “We must therefore find in the Church of Christ a spiritual judge, exercising the same supreme authority as the High Priest wielded in the Old Law [i.e. Old Testament]. For if a supreme Pontiff was necessary, in the Mosaic dispensation, to maintain purity and uniformity of worship, the same dignitary is equally necessary now to preserve unity of faith.”**
Compare that to what the writer of Hebrews says: The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (7:23-27. See also 9:23-28; 10:10-18).
I write this tenderly but firmly to those who may think the differences between what we at PW Baptist believe and what Roman Catholicism teaches has to do more with style than substance. By claiming the pope to be Christ’s vicar, Roman Catholicism diminishes, even denies, what the Bible says Christ alone accomplishes. Roman Catholicism teaches their priestly system (the pope as supreme or high priest) as being an absolute necessity for a person’s salvation. The pope and priests and their sacramental activities (e.g., the mass) are necessary mediators between others and God and thus contribute to a sinner’s salvation. Further, for anyone to say different is anathema – cursed. Here’s the RCC’s canon statement:
"If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 3, from the Council of Trent, 1545-1563).
That is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus alone (in and of Himself) “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). He needs no man or ceremony to act in His place. Rather, all men need Him to act in their place. “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). We draw near to God through faith in Christ, not ours or anyone else’s religious acts (Eph. 2:8,9; Rom. 3:21-30). We’re told that Christ alone is to have first place in all things because He alone reconciled all things to Himself having made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:15-23).
So even if a world-famous Southern Baptist calls Pope Francis ‘our pope,’ we cannot. We must honor Christ alone, in our own hearts and minds and in our witness to others, including Roman Catholic friends and family.
Here are four specific reasons the Bible gives why the pope can’t be our pope:
Because Christ alone is Head of the Church. The Bible says Christ alone is in authority over all things. The reason He is in authority over all things and His name is above all names and is head of the Church is because He was given that position by the Father after He suffered and died in the place of sinners. His being in authority now over all things was His reward --  because He remained obedient to the point of death on a cross, therefore, God highly exalted Him (Phil. 2:8,9). See Col. 1:15-20; Phil. 2:5-11; Eph. 1:18-23; 4:4-6; I Tim 2:5; Heb. 7:23-27; 9:15; 10:10-14; Jude 24,25.
As you examine the above texts; you will see there is no need for a pope. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Bergoglio, who is the present pope, nor individual Roman Catholics by saying that. But the Bible tells us that God was fully satisfied (appeased/propitiated) by what Jesus did on the cross; the proof is He raised Jesus from the dead and then exalted Him (Romans 3:21-30; 4:25-5:1).
To teach the existence and necessity of an earthly ‘supreme pontiff (pontiff literally means bridge-builder – a go between, a mediator) is to deny God is satisfied with His only begotten Son. Further, it is to deny the explicit words of Christ Himself: “No man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). The role of high priest from the Old Covenant was fulfilled in heaven by Jesus Christ. Right now we have “a great high priest who has (already) passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25). Popes resign. They die, they have to be replaced. Jesus can’t. Jesus won’t. God is fully satisfied with what Jesus did on behalf of sinners. God doesn’t need a vicar.
Because all believers are priests. All true believers are a royal priesthood, all have the Holy Spirit, all are led by the Spirit, all share in the Spirit’s anointing. Christ’s spirit indwells all His own, glorifying Him alone (Rom 8; I John 2:18-22; I Pet 2:9; John 16:14). All in Christ are considered saints (holy ones) with a high and holy calling (I Cor. 1:2-3; Phil 1:1; I Pet. 1:14-19).
Under the Old Covenant, there was a unique tribe, the Levites, who were to serve as priests. But under the New Covenant, all believers are priests. If we are all priests, that means there is no special class of priest. Every believer in Christ has the means and privilege to speak the truths of the Bible. Every believer can tell other sinners, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Every believer has the capacity to pray on behalf of others. Those privileges are not reserved for a special category of Christ’s church.
Yes, there are pastors or elders who shepherd local congregations, and they are given as gifts to Christ’s church (Eph. 4:7-16; I Peter 5:1-5; Acts 14:23; 20:17-32). But they are not priests; there is no special priestly/pontiff class in the New Testament. The role of pastor is primarily one of instruction and administration and in that role they teach their flock to depend on the Great Shepherd (Heb. 13:20). As the Apostle Paul states, pastors help ‘equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ’ (Eph. 4:11-16).
Nowhere does the Bible teach that pastors carry out some sacerdotal activity in a priest/laity relationship. Yet that is exactly what Roman Catholicism teaches about the pope and the bishops and priests under him. The pope is “pastor of the entire Church having full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” The Catechism, Article 9, para. 4, #882.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that believers care for one another, love another, instruct one another according to the Scriptures, etc. But we rest our salvation, our standing before God and our eternal state, wholly on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul says it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Those who have Christ need no vicar. Why? Because we have Christ!
Because Christ’s Apostles Served Temporally, Not Permanently. Today we are instructed by the Apostles through the inspired words they wrote or had written, which Jesus said they would (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:17-21; John 14:26; 16:13). Their words along with the Old Testament are fully sufficient to give us the ‘wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus’ and instruct us such that we can be godly people equipped to serve Him (II Tim. 3:16,17).
As you saw above Roman Catholicism teaches that the pope is successor to the apostles, in particular Peter (I’ll say more about that in a minute). I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament stating the office of apostle would be an ongoing role to be filled. Rather, there is very good evidence to conclude it was temporal. According to Ephesians 2:19-22, the church is being built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets (See also Eph. 3:5; Rev. 21:14). Paul indicates he was the last apostle (I Cor. 15:5-8).  One of the qualifications for apostleship was having seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21,22; I Cor. 15:5-8).
At the end of his life Paul commissioned Timothy and Titus to train up future elders (I, II Tim; Titus) for the very reason he knew his time was coming to an end (II Tim. 4:6). He did so fully confident in the Scriptures. Nowhere do we see the Apostles expressing concern about who would fill their office. Rather they showed great confidence their words would be fully adequate to accomplish what Christ intended to do through them. Their words, spoken and written under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, and according to the promise from Jesus, would be fully adequate to bring people to faith in Christ and equip them to serve Him (John 14:25,26; 16:13-15; 17:17-20; I Thes. 2:13; II Thes. 2:13-15; II Tim 3:14-18; Heb. 4:12,13; I Peter 1:22-25; II Pet. 1:12-21; 3:16; I John 1:4; 4:6; 5:13; Jude 1-25).
Because Christ alone is the apostle and high priest of our confession (Heb. 3:1). The RCC claims the pope is ‘Successor of the Prince of the Apostles,’ that prince being Peter. But that is man’s tradition, not what Christ taught to or through His apostles.
While Peter would be used by Christ to build His church so would other men whom Christ appointed and who confessed Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:15-16; Eph. 2:20). In the end, there is no biblical basis to see a unique promise or office given to Peter. The power of the keys Jesus promised in Matthew 16, where Peter is representing the rest of the disciples, was extended to all the apostles (Matt18:18; John 20:23).
As one reads through the Acts of the Apostles and reads Peter’s own letters, nowhere are we encouraged to think Peter himself or the other apostles believed he had a unique role that would be perpetually filled. Consider Gal. 2 where he had to be rebuked by the Apostle Paul. He is sent by other apostles (Acts 8:14). He is never once called ‘prince of the apostles’ by the others, or himself – and he could have been (see I Cor. 12:28; 15:1-11; Eph. 4:11; I Peter 5:1-3; Rev. 21:14).
Peter was graced with the role of being with Jesus in his three years of earthly ministry and afterward, equipped to herald forth the precious and magnificent promises of Christ (II Pet. 1:1-4). Shortly before he died, Peter made certain that the words he had written, along with the Apostle Paul’s be regarded as Scripture, having been written by men ‘moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God’ (II Pet. 1:12-21).
To conclude, I trust you will rejoice and rest in all that we have in Christ Jesus and depend on Him and Him alone, according to the Scriptures! I trust we will not take the easy way out, being deluded by the spirit of the age that is so indifferent to truth. May we be found, eagerly awaiting Christ’s return, loving the truth, neither adding to nor taking away from the fully sufficient word of God (II Thess. 2:8-12; Heb. 9:28; Rev. 22:18,19).
Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation… How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God! – Psalm 146:3,5


Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Man is born under the curse of being adamant there is nothing the God of the universe has said we can or should be adamant about. - Genesis 3:1; Eph. 2:1-3

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guard Yourselves From Idols

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. – I John 5:18-21 (ESV)

Beware of making an idol out of a quick, easy declaration of what are idols. Today one can read or hear all kinds of declarations of how things like sex, job, family have become idols. Those are gifts of God to be enjoyed. They didn’t make you turn from God. You did. At its root, idolatry is a false or diminished view of what God has revealed to be true about Himself, about His Son, about His Word, about us. Idols are not first material things; they are ideas.

That’s what the Apostle John is trying to tell his readers in his first epistle. A false/altered/diminished view of what has been revealed about God in Jesus Christ is what makes us idolators. He sums up his letter with the tender but forthright exhortation, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (5:21). Here are three false or idolatrous views from I John 5:18-20. Note, they contradict each other – multiple gods tend to do that when they compete with the One, True God!

#1 (v.18) – The idol of an insufficient Christ. This idol would have us believing Christ may be capable of forgiving our sins but cannot keep us from practicing sin or protect us from the evil one. For the true Christ and Spirit of Truth meditate on Jude 24,25; Romans 8:9-17.

#2 (v. 19) – The idol of sentimentality. This idol wants us to think people are basically good, and refuses to acknowledge the presence of the evil one – albeit limited and temporal presence (v. 19; 2 Thess. 2:7). It ignores the doctrine of man’s sinful nature. It dulls our minds to the humbling logic there would be no need of God sending His Son as a second Adam to fulfill His perfect law if the first Adam’s offspring were capable of doing so (Romans 1-5). Yet in love for sinners, that is exactly what God did; He has given us a victorious second Adam to represent us before Him!

#3 (v. 20) – The idol of uncertainty. This idol would have us believing truth is relative; life is best explained as a chaotic jumble of events and powers; therefore no one has the capacity let alone the right to say there is a standard of truth for all people. This idol will have you being adamant there is nothing to be adamant about! The reality is that Christ has come and given us understanding that while we may not have perfect or exhaustive knowledge, we can know Him who is true. There is a true God and there is eternal life.

I’m so grateful for a church family who help each other guard themselves from idols which cannot save!

Abortion doc cites less 'crunchy' techniques

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Of Marriage Vows and Mystery

Here are a few thoughts ruminating in my mind as I prepare to officiate at my son and his fiance’s wedding and Dawn and I soon mark 35 years of marriage.

Simple vows are being stated; their beauty yet to be seen.

A vow is a solemn oath. A pledge, a promise, a covenant. Marriage vows are not fancy words, flowery words. They do not draw immediate attention to themselves. Neither are they riddles, words of sly nuance or sophisticated definition. They are simple words. They are a simple pledge, a simple covenant. I, take you… For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer… till death do us part.
And herein is their weight, their significance: They speak to the future. Their beauty is yet to bloom. When Dawn and I were married in 1980 we wrote our own vows (fortunately our pastor fathers who together conducted the service, had the sense to have us also state traditional vows). At 20 and 19, under the spell of hormones and self-determined uniqueness, we made promises that would make a politician blush. Thirty-five years later, we not only can’t remember what we said, we’re grateful to have lost them. The beauty of wedding vows doesn’t show up in adjectives and adverbs spoken in a moment. Nor do they flower in the finery of the ceremony. A husband and wife carrying out their yes as yes and their no as no in a million little, grace-dependent ways--  till death do them part -- is where their beauty will be seen.
Our vows reflect God’s decrees; for there is great mystery

Marriage exists because God has decreed it to be. We are not following cleverly devised tales or practicing baseless traditions when a ceremony is held to unite a man with a woman. A father ‘brings’ his daughter to her husband just like God brought the woman to the man. When asked, the father of the bride says it is ‘her mother and I’ – the ones who created her -- who are ‘giving her to this man,’ just as God fashioned the woman for the man and gave her to him. With intentional, unmistakable clarity God blessed and created humans male and female so they would be fruitful and multiply. Therefore, the man says to the woman, ‘I, take you,’ because she is suitable to him to be fruitful. Likewise, she ‘takes him’ so they together may multiply. By God’s decree and design, the man knows she is for him; the woman knows he is for her: She is bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh. So it is according to the decree of God and the blessing of God they are pronounced “Mr. and Mrs.’ They shall become one flesh.

Our rebellion, our disenchantment, our tainted and warped desires are no indication God has changed His mind about marriage. Our messy, our miserable, our failed, our redefined – ours will not negate what God established for His purposes. What Christ said about marriage only heightens the clarity of what God declared from the beginning (Matthew 19; Mark 10). Adam Clarke said it well decades ago: “Christ will never accommodate his morality to the times, nor to the inclinations of men. What was done at the beginning is what God judged most worthy of his glory, most profitable for man, and most suitable to nature.”

The reason is for a mystery and it is great. The mystery is this: From the beginning God designed marriage between a man and a woman to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church (Eph 5:22-32).

Let that sink in.

God didn’t design the relationship between Christ and His bride around marriage; rather, before the foundation of the world He designed marriage to be a picture of Christ and His bride. That’s why God cannot alter marriage. It was designed to point to Christ and His blood-shedding, wrath receiving God-glorifying, covenant keeping love for His bride.

In less than a month, Dawn and I will observe 35 years of marriage. Youthful attraction and idealism have had their day. Romance is burnished by reality of aging bodies and one too many pieces of cheese cake. Delight is more learned -- flowing from a thousand gazes, a thousand touches, from a million words of kindness, and a million more silent decisions to forgive. Ecstatic memories are intermingled with groans of regret as our days together fly away. Grace, God’s grace, secured for us in Christ’s work on the cross, is far more sweet and significant. Far more known, really known, as necessary. Always.

So this brings us back to those simple vows. Ultimately, marriage isn’t about sexual pleasure, companionship or even bearing children. Those are all good, God-ordained gifts that come with the sacred union of marriage. But they aren’t ultimate. Ultimately, it’s about keeping covenant. It’s about us being a picture, albeit imperfectly, feebly, that tells of the unwavering allegiance Christ has for His bride.

I, take you… For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer… till death do us part.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Casting myself on the Only God who Is

“Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'… Truly I have spoken, truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. -- Isaiah 46:8-11

We do not give God authority over our lives. He has it whether we like it or not. What utter folly it is to act as though we had any rights at all to call God into question! We need to hear now and then blunt words like those of Virginia Stem Owens who said in [the] Reformed Journal,

        Let us get this one thing straight. God can do anything he damn well pleases, including damn well. And if it pleases him to damn, then it is done, ipso facto, well. God's activity is what it is. There isn't anything else. Without it there would be no being, including human beings presuming to judge the Creator of everything that is.

    Few things are more humbling, few things give us that sense of raw majesty, as the truth that God is utterly authoritative. He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. After him, no appeal. -- John Piper

Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever pleases Him. Psalm 115:3

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Poached Eggs, Seeing the Sun, Scribbling and What Lies Ahead

I delight in the reality that as our Lord builds His church He raises up men and gives them insight that others might have hope and be encouraged. One such man who has encouraged me is CS Lewis. Like every other man the Lord gives to His church, Lewis was limited and imperfect. Nevertheless it’s difficult not to find some nuggets in his writings that give off a holy echo of the abiding Word. I trust you will be encouraged by the following.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus – Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24).


“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

In Him was the life and the life was the light of men… There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (John 1:5,9).

“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.”
And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:5).

 “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him (I Corinthians 2:9).