…tonight I want to talk to you about the pope and what is going on in the display of Roman Catholicism in front of us, from the perspective of the Word of God, the Scripture.
This is a big subject and there is much to be said and much more than I can say to you tonight. But I want to give a kind of foundation for my talk with you tonight, and it is this, that our entire discussion tonight has one purpose and that is to make sure that we understand that people caught up in the Roman system are not saved Christians. They are lost people on their way to eternal hell.
The history of forced celibacy for priests
From time to time we hear about cardinals having to resign because of activity with regard to homosexual prostitution and pedophilia. While this happens in the world, it happens more under the horrors of this forced kind of celibacy that came in the 1100s when the Bishop of Rome wanted to stop the accumulating wealth of priestly families, so he came up with the celibacy of the priesthood, confiscated all their properties, all their possessions, and if you have no children, you can pass on no wealth. So he broke the back of those wealthy families. It certainly had no biblical purpose.
The reign of Antichrist is the papacy
The Reformers brought this to its focal point under Martin Luther’s launch, and that’s where Protestantism came from. Even at the cost of their own lives, they understood this and they preached this and the Catholic Church went about executing them whenever and wherever it could. It was Martin Luther, who was born in 1483 and died in 1546, who said that the reign of Antichrist is the papacy, and all the people did say “Amen.” A holy terror seized their souls; it was Antichrist whom they beheld seated on the pontifical throne. Luther made that clear. Luther declared the papacy of the true and real Antichrist. He said, “I owe the Pope no other obedience than that I owe to Antichrist.” Those were bold statements that, of course, threatened his life.
It wasn’t that one of them was the Antichrist; it was that the papacy itself was so antichrist as to be the supreme model of what antichrist can become and ascend to. There will be in the future a final antichrist, described as the Beast in Revelation 13, and introduced originally in Daniel chapters 2, 7, 8 and 11.
You read about this final world ruler and then more about him in Revelation 13. He will be that final Antichrist. Paul writes about him in 2 Thessalonians 2, he is called the man of sin, the son of perdition. He is the final and ultimate Antichrist. But just to make it clear, there are many antichrists, there are many forms of antichrists. Anybody who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is an antichrist. Anyone who preaches another gospel is an antichrist. Every priest in the Roman system is an antichrist.
John Wesley said the same thing. Charles Spurgeon, who was always very bold, says the pope is the Antichrist, whoever he be. “Popery is contrary to Christ’s gospel and is the Antichrist,” says Spurgeon. “It robs Christ of His glory, puts sacramental efficacy in the place of his atonement and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior, puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ.”
It was seven years after Luther died that Bloody Mary ascended to the throne in England and took over the authority as monarch. She was a Roman Catholic. All Bibles were removed from churches. All Bible printing ceased. All Bible reading was forbidden. Eight hundred English ministers fled to Geneva. She massacred 283 Protestants. The first one she slaughtered was John Rogers, who took the Tyndale work on the New Testament and added the work on the Old Testament to what Tyndale had done in the Old Testament, produced the first Bible–complete Bible–in the English language called the Matthew Bible. And then she just went on massacring the rest of the Protestants till she reached 283 of them. William Tyndale was martyred for translating Scripture into English. And the killer of all of these was the Roman Catholic Church.
Justification by faith alone
Well, the only way you can get to heaven is by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and salvation comes by faith alone, right? Listen to what the Bible says about justification. Biblical justification refers to God’s holy, objective–holy, forensic–judgment concerning a sinner standing before the law by which he declares the sinner righteous simply on the basis that the sinner trusts in Christ.
I mean, this is all over the New Testament. Acts 13, “Through Him everyone who believes is justified.” Romans 3, “No one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the Law.” Again, Romans 3, “This is a righteousness from God apart from Law, through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Again in Romans 3, “God justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Again, Romans 3, “We maintain that a man is justified by faith, apart from observing the Law.” Romans 4, “Abraham believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Again, Romans 4, “God justifies the wicked. Faith is credited as righteousness. God credits righteousness apart from works.” I mean, this is all over the New Testament.
Romans 10, “Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 11, “It’s by grace, it’s no longer by works. If it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Galatians 2, “A man is not justified by observing the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3, “The righteous will live by faith.” Ephesians 2, “It’s by grace you have been saved, through faith not by works.” Philippians 3, “Righteousness that comes from God is by faith.” Titus 3, “You have been justified by His grace and if by grace, no longer by works.”
So what do we conclude from all of those and many more? Justification is by faith alone. I covered that in John 3, sola fide: faith alone, faith alone.
The Council of Trent
Listen to what the Council of Trent says, this is official Catholic dogma…
Let me just take…out of the Council of Trent, that’s 1545, Canon 9, 11, 12, 17, 23, 24, 32. They’re not long, but just listen. This is a direct quote. “If anyone says the sinner is justified by faith alone, let him be damned. If anyone says that men are justified by the sole imputation of the righteousness of Christ, let him be damned. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake, let him be damned. If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, let him be damned. If anyone says that a man once justified can sin no more nor lose grace and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified, let him be damned.”
In other words, if you say that you can’t lose your salvation, and if someone falls away, they never were justified, you’re damned.
“If anyone says that the righteousness received is not preserved and increased before God through good works, let him be damned. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such a manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified, let him be damned.”
Damnation after damnation after damnation on the very thing that the New Testament teaches, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone apart from works. Do any of these popes believe the truth? They can’t be; they’re the guardians of this dogma.
What do we have here? We have in this whole Roman system a kind of macrocosm of the Pharisees at the time of our Lord–whited sepulchers, full of dead men’s bones, producing sons of hell. What describes them in Matthew 23 describes the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church exactly in the same words.
All Christians are priests
What do we do about this? We understand it for what it is. The papacy is patently unbiblical–just make a couple of comments–it is unbiblical. There is not one shred of evidence in Scripture for the papacy, for the role of pope, for any kind of priesthood other than the priesthood of believers. We are a kingdom of priests, isn’t that what Peter said? They say Peter was the first pope. Peter says we’re all priests. Peter doesn’t buy it.
And yet it says in their theology, “If anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not constituted by Christ our Lord, prince of all the Apostles, and visible head of all the church militant, or that Peter directly and immediately received from our Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of honor only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction, let him be damned.”
If you deny the papacy of Peter, the primal papacy of Peter, you’re damned. That’s Catholic theology.
Paul wrote Romans in the year 56 and sent a letter to the Romans, made no reference to Peter and had a whole bunch of greetings in chapter 16 and didn’t greet Peter. Peter was supposed to be the pope of Rome by then. When Paul was later in prison in Rome, where he wrote four letters in about 60 to 62 in that first century, he included everyone who came to him. Peter never came. If he’s the Bishop of Rome, where is he? Peter was not holy, by the way, in case you wondered. Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter wasn’t even the head of the Jerusalem church; James was.
There’s no link between Peter and every pope
How did Peter refer to himself, as Pope Peter? In 1 Peter he calls himself, “Your fellow elder.” That’s what I was saying this morning, he sees himself as no different than any other believer who has been given a responsibility of spiritual leadership. He’s a fellow elder. And when he writes about how you are to conduct yourself in chapter 5, as we saw this morning, he talks about humbling yourself, humbling yourself. Peter declared the priesthood of all believers, 1 Peter 2:5 and 9.
And by the way, Peter disappears from everything by the fifteenth chapter of Acts; he’s gone. If he played some kind of papal role, where is he? “Oh, they say, well Jesus said to him, you know, ‘On this rock I will build My church.’” Yes, on the confession of Peter, the truth of the confession; Christ, not Peter. Because it was right after that that He said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan.” There’s no link between Peter and every pope. They call it papal succession.
Papal succession is a myth
There were big chunks of time when there wasn’t even a pope–fourth century, seventh century, eleventh century, thirteenth century, fourteenth century, fifteenth century. There was no pope [for] periods of time. There’s no succession.
If you want to study the history of the papacy, it’s really a sordid mess–blood baths, mob violence, corruption, sexual perversion, buying and selling of papacy power; it’s an unbelievable horror, The claim of some unbroken papacy is absurd.
And by the way, when Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) just walked out and said, “I’m done,” everybody knew at that moment it was a job, and he didn’t like it. It’s not some kind of divine succession. It’s an unholy position. It’s a usurpation of the authority of Christ that comes only through His Word, through His faithful ministries.
Even Ratzinger wrote this, “For nearly half a century, the Church was split into two or three obediences that excommunicated one another,” so that every Catholic lived under excommunication by one pope or another pope. And in the last analysis, no one could say with certainty which of the contenders had a right on his side. So here are popes excommunicating everybody else so that everybody’s excommunicated. That’s the kind of chaos and conflict even admitted by them.
Murderous and brief history of the papacy
Deprived of the support of the Empire, the papacy became a possession of the great Roman families, a ticket to local dominance for which men were prepared to rape, murder and steal. A third of the popes elected between 872 and 1012 died in suspicious circumstances.
John VIII was bludgeoned to death by his entourage. Stephen VI was strangled. Leo V was murdered by his successor Sergious III. John X was suffocated. Stephen VIII was horribly mutilated, a fate shared by the Greek antipope John XVI, who unfortunately for him didn’t die from the removal of his eyes, nose, lips, tongue and hands. Most of these men were maneuvered into power by a succession of powerful families. The Theophilax, the Crescentie, the Tuscalani. John X, one of the few popes of this period to make a stand against aristocratic domination, was deposed and murdered in the Castle San Angelo by one group, the very group that had appointed him in the first place. I mean, that’s how the history goes. There’s a lot more than that.
You know, in the end, let me just say this, it’s an arrogant idolatry, it’s an arrogant, arrogant idolatry, a horrible thing. As J.C. Ryles said, “A gigantic system of church worship, sacrament worship, Mary worship, saint worship, image worship, relic worship, priest worship, and Pope worship…a huge organized idolatry.” That’s what it is and that’s what you have to see it as. A man wearing a gold crown, triple decked with jewels worth millions. The cardinal’s garb is worth tens of thousands of dollars. What a contrast to Acts 3:6 where Peter says, “Silver and gold have I none.” Or Paul in Acts 20, “I coveted no man’s gold.” The pope is surrounded by this dazzling display of arrogant over-indulgence; is a theater and nothing more to give the illusion of transcendence, the illusion of holiness, the illusion of spirituality. All of this pompous display of wealth and lavish indulgence and ridiculous buildings and robes and crowns and thrones covers a sinful system. It seduces; it’s satanic. The true church has nothing to do with it. It is Christless.
The true head of the church
The head of the church, as I said to you a couple of weeks ago when we were going through this to start with, is none other than Christ. Colossians 1:18, He’s the Head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead so that He himself will come to have first place in everything. That’s what I was saying this morning. Diminish Christ and you lift up the ministers. Exalt Christ and the ministers disappear.