Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 12, 1956
NUMBER 10, PAGE 10-11

Roman Catholicism: Is It Apostolic?

Harry W. Pickup, Jr., Grapevine, Texas

The purpose of this article is to show that the Roman Catholicism concept of authority is wrong both as to place and kind.

Argument Number 1. Quotations from authentically documented Catholic sources show that her position as to the place of authority is the Church. Such a concept is erroneous because: It is contrary to the nature of government in general and monarchial government in particular. The church is the body of Christ. And Christ is the head. "And he is the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18.) The body is made up of members. (Rom. 12:4, 5.) The body does not rule itself; but is ruled by the head. But the seat of authority according to the Catholic position is in the body, and not the head. It is contrary to the very nature of government for authority to reside in the "members" and not in the "head."

In Ephesians 4:15, 16 Paul tells how the body "maketh increase" and in so doing discusses the relation of the members to the head. The body grows by each member doing his work under direct direction from the head. No member stands between another member and his relation to the head. In this way the body is "fitly framed and knit together." It would be well for all Christians to carefully reconsider this passage and all other similar ones that teach the direct relationship of the "member" to the "head."

It is freely admitted in the Catholic position that the Church is ruled by monarchial government. The monarch being a member of said church, namely the "pope." But the supreme monarch is Christ; not one of his subjects. ". . . . which in his own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords." (1 Tim. 6:16.) John speaks of him as the "ruler of the kings." (Rev. 1:5.) It is contrary to the nature of monarchial rule for the subjects of the monarch to "legislate laws, render judgments, impose sanctions," which are then ratified in heaven. It is the nature of the monarch to establish laws and then for the subjects to submit.

The position of Catholicism as to place is wrong. Christ did not vest authority in his church. He is its only authority and all members are subject to him.

Argument Number 2. Such authority is contrary to the fact of Christ's rule. Christ is not merely an inactive titular head. He is the living king of his kingdom; the active head of his church. Isaiah prophesied that the "government would be upon his shoulders"; not upon the shoulders of one who would act in his stead, or as his vicar. The prophecy continues to say that Christ will sit upon the throne of David "to establish it and to uphold it." (Isaiah 9:6, 7.) Christ did not establish his government and then leave it to others to actually run. This text emphatically teaches that he established his government and still is its active head.

When Paul was writing in discussion of Christ's authority he said, "and gave him to be head over all things to the church." (Eph. 1:23.) It is well to note here the broad scope of that statement. He is not merely "head of the church," but he is "head over all things to it."

Jesus Christ reigns upon the throne of David. (Luke 1:32, 33.) He has the key of David upon his shoulder. He alone opens and shuts; he alone legislates. "These thingssaith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth." (Rev. 3:7.) Catholic authority has the church opening and shutting. But the fact and truth of the matter is that Christ alone does this.

Everything that was done by the inspired men was done in the name of Christ. Nothing was done in their name or the name of the church. Christ said the Father would send the Comforter in his name. (John 14:26.) Sins were remitted in his name. (Acts 2:38.) Miracles were performed in his name (Acts 3:6.) It is in the name of Christ that men are saved. (Acts 4:12.) In fact, all that Christians do must be done by the authority of Christ. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Col. 3:17.)

Argument Number 3. The Catholic rule is contrary to the manner of Christ's rule. Such a concept of authority demands a vicar of Christ on earth. They insist that Christ cannot reign actively over the church. The New Testament teaches that he does rule over the church, as we have shown conclusively in the above argument. Christ rules through his word. At one time the word was in men. (2 Cor. 5:18-20.) Now the word is in the book. (John 20:30, 31.) But their contention is that since the church is made up of people — things visible — there must be a visible head. But this does not necessarily follow. For Christ rules over nature by his word. In Colossians 1:15-18 Paul is arguing for the pre-eminence of 'Christ. He says that "things visible and invisible" were created "in him," "through him and unto him." That is, that everything made was created by him. How? (John 1:1-3.) Not only was he the agency of creation but "in him all things consist." That is, in him all things "hold together." In Hebrews 1:3 Paul tells how he controls such things: "he upholds all things by the word of his power." (Op. 2 Peter 3:5f.) But if Christ can rule over the natural realm — things visible — simply by the word of his power, why cannot he reign over things spiritual in the same manner? He not only can but this is the way he rules over his church, by means of the living, active word. (Heb. 4:12.)

Argument Number 4. The Catholic definition and understanding of the word "rule" is taught against emphatically in the New Testament. In Christ's church no man rules in this official manner. Christians serve one another. Some watch over the souls of other men, for example. But this is a matter of authorization, because of recognized qualification, and not because of authority. Every work performed in Christ's body is done by virtue of qualification and not by "right." Christ opposed this and taught against it. Luke 22:25, 26. "The kings of the Gentiles have lordship over them; and they that have authority over them are called Benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve."

Argument Number 5. The work and qualifications of apostles forever precludes the possibility of their having successors. Broadly speaking we may divide their work into three categories:

(1) To reconcile man to God as Christ's ambassadors. "We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20.) But you will notice that these ambassadors did not themselves decide the terms of reconciliation and then these terms be ratified in heaven. In fact, they merely expressed the word — Spirit given words — that was put in them. "To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:19.) The marginal reading for "committed unto us" is "placed in us." The word of their king, whom they served as ambassadors, was in them and they delivered and proclaimed it. The means of reconciliation was not heeding the apostles, but rather obeying the word of the King, which word at that time was in the apostles.

(2.) "To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." (2 Cor. 4:4-7.) "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake. Seeing it is God that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (Verses 5, 6.)

(3.) To make known mysteries. ". . . How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery . . . . whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding .... which in other generations was not made known .... as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit." (Eph. 3:3-5.)

These men were more than preachers — they were deliverers of the King's Word. (Cp. Acts 26:18, 19.) These men were to speak what the Spirit taught them. (Cp. John 14:26; 15:26, 27; 16:13.) It is interesting to note in this last passage that these things did not even originate with the Spirit but he spoke only what he "heard" from Christ.

But this line of reasoning is objected to on the grounds that Christ plainly told the apostles "what things so ever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things so ever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 18:18.) In understanding this passage what is taught here must be made to harmonize with Christ's other teaching on the same subject. Even the Holy Spirit did not originate laws but spoke what he "heard." (John 16:13.) And the interpretation must be made to harmonize with what actually happened. And this we have already discussed in the preceding paragraphs.

The sense of the passage is — in the light of other points dealing with the same issue — that what you bind and loose on earth — by delivering the Word of the King-- already "shall have been bound and loosed in heaven." This is in accordance with :

(1.) The nature of unlimited monarchical rule;

(2.) What the inspired men claimed to have happened;

(3.) The most precise translation of the passage.

I have proved the Catholic position on authority — which is the crux of the matter — is not apostolic. Therefore, she cannot be that church sanctified by Christ's blood and over which Christ rules as Head.