(Continued from page 286)Can Rome logically deny Sola Scriptura?
Did the apostles consult Scripture or the Holy Spirit?
You write: 'Fundamentalists, and actually all Protestants, make the mistake of regarding the Bible as a catechism, which it is not. It doesn't claim to be one, and nowhere does it say that it is the sole authority. In fact, it claims what Catholics have always believed, that the Church is 'the pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Timothy. 3:15). The Bible is the product of the Catholic Church. Protestant churches are products of misinterpretation of the Bible.'
TCE: The authority of the Bible is stated clearly in Scripture. The Biblical Greek word for inspiration (theopneustos) literally means 'God-breathed.' In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read that 'all Scripture is God-breathed'. The Greek form of this word indicates that the Bible is the result of the 'breath of God' and, because Scripture originates from Him, it is true and inerrant. Biblical inspiration may be defined as God's superintending of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, and even their writing styles, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to mankind in the words of the original Biblical manuscripts. The Bible is thus authoritative. 2 Peter 1:21 provides a key insight regarding the human - divine interchange in the process of inspiration. This verse informs us that 'prophecy [Scripture] never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit'. The phrase 'carried along' literally means 'forcefully borne along.'
Even though human beings were used in the process of writing down God's Word, they were all literally 'borne along' by the Holy Spirit. The human wills of the authors were not the originators of God's message. God did not permit the will of sinful human beings to misdirect or erroneously record His message. The case for tradition which has replaced Scripture does not hold any water with the Word of God, for Jesus rebuked some of the Pharisees thus: 'Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men' (Mark 7:8).
Likewise, in Colossians 2:8, the apostle Paul warns: 'See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ'. Any tradition that conflicts with Scripture is to be rejected!
The Catholic claim that the Roman Catholic church gave us the Bible, and hence it is authoritative over the Bible, is simply untrue to the 'cold, hard facts of history.' The canon of Scripture began to form in the very days that the Bible was being written, before the Roman Catholic Church was even in existence. Luke's Gospel was recognized as Scripture within a few years of its writing (1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7 as Scripture). Paul's writings were also recognized as Scripture during his own day (2 Peter 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Besides, it is God who determines the canon; human beings merely discover the canon. As expert F.F. Bruce put it, the New Testament canon was not demarcated by the arbitrary decree of a council:
'When at last a Church Council - the Synod of Carthage in A.D. 397 - listed the 27 books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity.'
It must be realized that a doctrine does not have to be taught explicitly in Scripture in order for that doctrine to be recognized as true. The doctrine of the Trinity is an example. Scripture does not come right out and say, 'God is a Trinity,' but the Bible does implicitly teach this doctrine by telling us that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), and that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons who are God (Matthew 3:16,17; 28:19). Likewise, although the doctrine of sola scriptura may not be explicitly taught in Scripture, it is implicitly taught.
The Lord Jesus also used Scripture as His final court of appeal. Jesus affirmed that 'Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35). To the devil, Jesus consistently responded, 'It is written...' (Matthew 4:4-10). Jesus affirmed the Bible's divine inspiration (Matthew 22:43), indestructibility (Matthew 5:17-18), infallibility (John 10:35), final authority (Matthew 4:4,7,10), historicity (Matthew 12:40; 24:37), scientific accuracy (Matthew 19:2-5), and factual inerrancy (John 17:17; Matthew 22:29). It is clear that the Papal Roman Catholic Church does not believe the full teachings of Christ or of the apostles. Paul affirmed the full adequacy of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
'All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.'
The context for understanding the full significance of this passage is verse 15, where Paul tells Timothy that 'from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus'. Jewish boys began formally studying the Old Testament when they were five years of age. Timothy had been taught Scripture by his mother and grandmother beginning at this age. Verse 15 thus indicates that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to provide the necessary wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ. The Scriptures alone are the source of spiritual knowledge.
Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, told the Pharisees and teachers of the law: 'You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition' (Matthew 15:6). There is no doubt that Jesus placed Scripture above tradition, and indicated that tradition can lead people astray. Clearly, all apostolic tradition in regard to faith and practice is recorded in the New Testament. This does not mean that almost everything Jesus or the apostles said is in the New Testament (see John 20:30; 21:25), but all the apostolic teaching God wanted communicated to His people necessary for faith and practice is found in the New Testament (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
The Bible itself reveals it was God's will for His revelations to be written down and preserved for coming generations. 'Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD' (Exodus 24:4). Joshua too 'wrote these words in the book of the law of God' (Joshua 24:26). Samuel 'told the people the ordinances of the kingdom, and wrote them in the book and placed it before the Lord' (1 Samuel 10:25). The Lord instructed Isaiah, 'Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters...' (Isaiah 8:1). 'What the apostle Paul wrote was at 'the Lord's command' (1 Corinthians 14:37). The apostle John was commanded by the Lord to 'write, therefore, what you have seen' (Revelation 1:19).
Does 1 Timothy 3:15 support the Papal Roman Catholic Church view? The church is 'the pillar and the foundation of the truth.' The idea of 'pillar' is that of support, which is further strengthened by 'foundation' or mainstay (Gk. hedraioma, found only here in the New Testament). Taken together, these two terms emphasize the certainty and firmness of 'the truth' that is revealed in God's Word. The meaning of this clause expresses that the foundation of true believers is on the Rock that is Christ. The Jews, steeped in Old Testament Scripture, recognized the rock as a symbol of God: 'He is the Rock, His work is perfect...' (Deuteronomy 32:4). 'The Lord is my rock, any my fortress. (Psalm. 18:2). 'For who is God save the Lord? Or who is a rock save our God?' (Psalm. 18:31)
The Bible also makes it absolutely clear that Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and belief ('God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone' - Ephesians 2:19-20; cf. 1 Peter 2:6-7) and He is the Word of God (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13), i.e. everything that the Bible states stems directly from Him.
It is clear that the more Papal Rome is examined by the Bible the more obvious does it become that Protestant Churches - and even those that have fallen into error by colluding with Papal Rome in recent times - are far closer to Biblical truth than Papal Rome has ever been.
You write: 'Jesus did not tell the apostles to give a Bible to everyone; it didn't even exist in His time. He didn't say whatever the Scriptures bind and loose will be bound and loosed in Heaven, He said to Peter and the apostles, 'Whatever you bind and loose will be bound and loosed in Heaven.' He also said, 'He who hears you hears me,' not 'He who hears Scripture hears me.' And at the Council of Jerusalem to which you allude, the apostles did not look to Scripture as their final authority; they consulted the Holy Spirit.'
TCE: We have already shown that the Old Testament existed already and much of the New Testament was quickly made available as the apostles letters were copied and circulated. Jesus had informed the disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 14 & 16) before His physical body departed from earth and, obviously, anything they wrote would be 'God breathed' (literally by the Spirit!) as just shown above, so the Word would be added to the Old Testament already known. Obviously, guided by the Spirit and under His inspiration, anyone hearing them speak would be hearing the Word of God which was eventually written down and became Scripture. Just as the prophets of the Old Testament could chose to speak their own minds and be wrong as a result (e.g. 2 Samuel 7), so Peter chose to follow his own leadings and was subsequently wrong (Galatians 2)!
Regarding the Keys of the kingdom - we should note that a key is a badge of authority (Isaiah 22:15, 22; Luke 11:52) and 'the kingdom of heaven' is not heaven, for no man on earth carries the keys to heaven! Hence all of the 'jokes' about 'St. Peter at the gate' stem from this misunderstanding. They are both un-Biblical and in bad taste. We use keys to open doors. Peter was given the privilege of opening 'the door of faith' to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2), to the Samaritans (Acts 8:14ff), and to the Gentiles (Acts 10). But the other apostles shared this authority (Matthew 18:18), and Paul had the privilege of 'opening the door of faith' to the Gentiles outside of Palestine (Acts 14:27). Nowhere in this passage, or in the rest of the New Testament, are we told that Peter or his successors had any special position or privilege in the church. We repeat - Peter in his two epistles claimed to be nothing more than an apostle (1 Peter 1:1), an elder (5:1), and a servant of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1).
Regarding Binding and loosing - this was a very familiar phrase to the Jews, for their rabbis often spoke of 'binding and loosing,' that is, forbidding or permitting. Our Lord's statement in 16:19 referred to Peter. But His statement later in 18:18 included all of the apostles. As the representatives of their Lord, they would exercise authority according to His Word. The phrase actually changes in meaning totally when the Greek verbs in verse 19 are considered, and literally reads: '... and whatever you bind on earth [forbid to be done], shall have been already bound...in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth [permit to be done], shall have already been loosed in heaven.' Thus Jesus did not say that God would obey what they did on earth, but that they should do on earth whatever God had already willed. The church should not be seeking to get man's will done in heaven - as the papacy has clearly done in order to wallow in wealth on earth - but should obey God's will on earth.
Does 'Tradition' - 'oral teachings' of the apostles - have a place?
You claim: 'at the Council of Jerusalem to which you allude, the apostles did not look to Scripture as their final authority; they consulted the Holy Spirit.' Which Bible are you reading this from? Here is the full passage (with our notes inside the square brackets [ ] in bold blue italic):
AC 15:1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
AC 15:5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'
AC 15:6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion [they had been trained by Jesus to be founded on His Word, Scripture as they had it up to then - so did they refer to it?] Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.'
AC 15:12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: 'Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written [Yes! We find James quoting from Scripture to prove his case!]:
AC 15:16 ' `After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, AC 15:17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' AC 15:18 that have been known for ages.
AC 15:19 'It is my judgment [he makes his judgement based on Scripture!], therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath [his list of abstentions is from the Old Testament and he emphasizes that the people had heard the Word preached in 'every city from the earliest times' and every week in the synagogue!].'
AC 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers [note - the letter is not a 'Papal Bull' - it is from a council of apostles and elders and there is no superior place for Peter who is present!],
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
AC 15:24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul - 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing [they were writing Scripture - this letter!]. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us [they had discussed the problem from a Scriptural viewpoint - obviously what they knew from the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus - and the Holy Spirit had not disagreed with them as we just read!] not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
AC 15:30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message [the word was delivered to them and they read it gladly!]. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers [these prophets had a gift from the Holy Spirit, but if He gave them specific Words we are not told them and we should not presume to add to what we have read - Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19] . 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
AC 15:36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.' 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Thus we find you are mistaken in believing they looked to the Holy Spirit alone for guidance for, if He had a Word in disagreement with their conclusion from Scripture alone, we do not read it and an argument from silence is no argument at all!
Passages in Scripture point to the importance of Tradition?
You write: 'Jesus taught the apostles to preach the gospel, baptize, and teach Christians 'to observe all that I have commanded you.' Nowhere does the Bible give a list of the commandments that Jesus gave to His apostles. This is where Tradition, the oral teachings of the apostles, comes in.'
TCE: If these commandments were never written down, how could anyone ever be sure that they were really following Jesus' commandments? Since Papal Rome and its popes have repeatedly contradicted themselves (q.v. the examples given in the first letter) it is clear that:
a) either we could not be sure, or
b) everything we need to know was written down so that we can be sure!
Obviously Bible-believing Christians believe (b) is true and therefore we know when errors are made and, clearly, Papists believe (a) is correct and therefore never know when they are following error and dis-pleasing God - and the history of Papal Rome reveals a colossal number of embarrassing flip-flops in doctrine, practice - and popes. Anyone claiming to follow the Popes of Rome should be honest enough to admit these facts!
Jesus and the apostles actually reiterated every commandment in the New Testament. A survey of the New Testament shows that the Ten Commandments appear throughout it. Here is a list of each of the commandments as they appear in Exodus 20 first, followed by their New Testament counterparts:
As can be clearly seen, the Ten Commandments were kept by Christ, His apostles, His disciples, their disciples - both Jew and Gentile - and are to be kept by Christians today. We must continue to overcome our sinful ways (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21; 21:7), constantly repenting, turning to God, and keeping His commandments that He may continue the sanctification process He began when we were justified by faith alone in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when we received the gift of eternal life from Him.
Fallible - not infallible - fallible - not infallible - fallible - not infallible
You write: 'Anti-Catholics always jump on the Catholic Church because of its teachings on Tradition, saying that the Bible alone is the only source of Apostolic authority. But just what does the Bible say about Tradition? Plenty! 2 Thessalonians. 2:14 tells the Thessalonians to stand fast in the tradition they have learned, whether by word or by epistle. Other passages which clearly point to the importance of Tradition are 1 Corinthians. 11:2; 1 Thessalonians. 4:1; 2 Thessalonians. 3:6 and 2 Timothy. 2:2. More passages that speak of oral instruction by the apostles are 1 Corinthians. 11:34; 2 John 12 and 3 John 13-14.'
TCE: Unfortunately, the evidence shows that the Papal Roman Catholic Church definitions of a Bible passage, via tradition, must then be interpreted, and the Papal explanations are often more complicated than the Bible passage so, instead of needing help interpreting the Bible, we need help interpreting the tradition that is supposed to make the Bible clearer. Protestants are certain that the Bible is sufficiently clear. This is a doctrine called perspicuity. This does not mean that every single verse in the Bible is equally clear or easy to understand. But it does mean that the main teachings of the Bible are clear. We have already shown that Papal history reveals many contradictions in the traditions of Rome. Abelard (A.D. 1079 - 1142) recognized hundreds of such contradictions, citing church authorities who accepted the Immaculate Conception of Mary, while others did not. This means that tradition is not infallible, nor is it authoritative.
You also ignore some more 'cold, hard facts'. God in Scripture has set definite limits for us by which we must abide. The apostle Paul, for example, exhorted the Corinthians 'not to exceed what is written' (1 Corinthians 4:6). In Deuteronomy 4:2 we are commanded: 'You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.' Proverbs 30:5,6 instructs us: 'Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.' Revelation 22:18-19 likewise tells us: 'I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city which are written in this book.'
The Roman Catholic exaltation of tradition violates the intent and spirit of these commandments. It is not wrong to respect tradition, but it is wrong to attribute the same authority to tradition that is attributed to Scripture. One has its source in man, the other in God. The Bible verses you quote in favour of tradition are misinterpreted by Papal Roman Catholics, as are many others:
Matthew 2:23: In this passage we read that Jesus 'came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: 'He shall be called a Nazarene.' Catholics argue that this statement is not found in any Old Testament verse, but is nevertheless said to have come from the prophets. That can only mean one thing - it must have been passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition. The orthodox Christian response is that it is a tremendous leap in logic to go from an undocumented prophetic quote to the existence of a supposed oral tradition for which there is almost no historical evidence. Many scholars believe that the primary meaning of Jesus being called a 'Nazarene' has to do with His despised character. In Biblical times Nazareth was considered a place of vice. This prompted Nathaniel to say, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' (John 1:46). In view of this, being called a 'Nazarene' back in those days was considered scornful and amounted to being called a despised person.
It may be that Matthew was not intending to communicate that a particular Old Testament prophet foretold that the Messiah would live in Nazareth, but rather that the Old Testament prophets collectively foretold that He would be a despised character (Psalm 69:8,20-21; Isaiah 11:1; 49:7; 53:2-8). Matthew certainly emphasizes this theme in his Gospel (Matthew 8:20; 11:16-19; 15:7,8). Seen then in this light, Matthew is giving us the substance of a number of Old Testament prophets, not a direct quotation from a single prophet. Note that Matthew made reference to 'prophets' (plural), which would seem to indicate that he was drawing his information from more than one prophet.
John 21:25: In this verse we are told the following: 'There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.' Catholics thus argue that the New Testament is incomplete and there is clearly a need for tradition. John's only point in this verse is that Jesus' ministry was so wonderful, so miraculous, so beyond the ability of human words to fully capture, that the Gospel account he wrote reflects only a portion of the wonder of our divine Lord. The sense of John's passage is perfectly clear - the Messiah did so wonderful things that the apostles could only write details of some of them but, although there was so much more that could have been written, there is no sense that the record we have is inadequate. Someone has calculated that one can read the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels in about three hours. If we consider all that Jesus said and did during His full three-year ministry, then surely John's expression is reasonable. Since John's Gospel was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, we know for certain that what is communicated in this Gospel is exactly what God wanted to be communicated. Sola scriptura does not claim that what is in the Bible is exhaustive, but it certainly states that its content is fully sufficient in terms of His revelation to us. To cite John 21:25 in support of tradition is thus also unwarranted.
2 Thessalonians 2:15: Here Paul says, 'Brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.' At first sight, this verse might seem to support the Papal Roman Catholic Church position. But notice the critically important words, 'from us' (that is, the apostles). Paul was talking to people he had personally taught as an apostle of God. The Greek word for 'traditions' (paradosis) refers to that which has been passed down. Paul had earlier passed down some apostolic teachings about the second coming of Christ to the Thessalonian Christians (the context of 2 Thessalonians 2 makes this clear), and Paul reminds them in this verse to hold firm to those teachings.
The apostles for a time communicated their teachings orally until those teachings could be permanently recorded in written form. Once the apostles committed their teachings to written form, and then died, the written Scriptures alone became our final authority for matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The apostles were unique and had no successors as seen in the unique miraculous powers they possessed. They were handpicked by God and were given special unmistakable 'signs of an apostle' (2 Corinthians 12:12). These sign gifts included the ability to raise people from the dead on command (Matthew 10:8), heal incurable diseases (Matthew 10:8; John 9:1-7), and perform immediate exorcisms (Acts 16:16-18). On one occasion an apostle pronounced a supernatural death sentence on two people who had 'lied to the Holy Spirit,' and they immediately fell down dead (Acts 5:1-11). When the apostles and their miraculous confirmations passed away, their teachings remained in authority through the pages of Scripture so that we read in Jude 3: 'Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.' In the Greek text, the definite article 'the' preceding 'faith' points to the one and only faith; there is no other. 'The faith' refers to the apostolic body of truth that became regulative upon the church (cf. Acts 6:7; Galatians 1:23; 1 Timothy 4:1). This 'faith' or body of doctrine was once for all handed down to the saints by the unique apostles of God, and their message was confirmed by mighty miracles. The word translated 'once for all' (Greek, apax) refers to something that has been done for all time, something that never needs repeating. The revelatory process was finished after this 'faith' had 'once for all' been delivered by the apostles. Note also that the form of the verb 'handed down' (an aorist passive participle) indicates an act completed in the past with no continuing element. Scripture makes it clear that the church is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles (Ephesians 2:20) and, therefore, no further foundation is needed of apostolic successors and there is not a shred of Biblical proof that they were to have successors.
Contrary to the Papal Roman Catholic Church idea that we must submit our understanding of God's Word to an organization (the Magisterium), individual believers are exhorted and instructed by Scripture to test things for themselves (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). They are to be like the Bereans, who examined what the apostle Paul said in light of the Word of God to make sure that his teachings were in line with Scripture (Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:6-9). As we have previously emphasised, the Bereans were not priests but lay-people living in the city of Berea. Scripture alone is our spiritual guide, and the Holy Spirit alone is our teacher (John 14:18,26) so that every believer can study the Scriptures and come to a conviction, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, as to what the text means. Unless we are presented with a 'doctored' Bible, such as the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the (1590 A.D.) 'translation' of Pope Sixtus V, in which the true interpretation has been obscured in order to support a personal doctrinal position, all Christians of reasonable reading ability are capable of understanding at least the basic gospel message of salvation in Christ Jesus alone - and, like the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), that is sufficient to take them safely home to paradise heaven! It has been said that, in the Bible, the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things. An example of a 'plain thing' that is a 'main thing' is the fact that salvation comes by faith in Christ. Close to 200 references in the New Testament make this very clear point (e.g. John 3:16).
We have already dealt with your claim that every Protestant can be his own pope as well as showing that more than one pope is a complete heretic. The un-ending problem for the Papal Roman Catholic Church view is that even the teachings of the Magisterium need interpreting, since past statements on important issues like the role of Mary, tradition, and justification have clearly been interpreted differently through the years by various Roman Catholic Popes. Obviously, the allegedly definitive interpretations of the Magisterium cannot be authoritative since they are subject to varying interpretations! Any claim that the Magisterium ensures unity in the church, and that the Roman Catholic Church is indeed a united church, ignores the reality that the Roman Catholic Church has been characterized by significant disunity throughout its history and no less in recent years. One of the reasons the church published the new Catechism of the Catholic Church was to try and draw the church back to doctrinal unity. Debated issues include such critically important doctrines as the Trinity, the Eucharist, and the authority of the pope.
The freedom to interpret the Scriptures is clearly a Biblical doctrine (Acts 17:11). But it is important not to misunderstand what is being said here. Protestants who believe in this freedom also believe that God the Holy Spirit has given the church pastors and teachers, and that we should all learn from them. We can also learn from writings of the past (for example, those of the church fathers, although we recognise that they are not inspired and mistakes were made in their interpretations of what they thought Scripture meant). We certainly do not advocate a doctrinal free-for-all, for Scripture says we are to handle the Word of God rightly (2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Peter 3:16). But it is we (the Christians of the church) who do the handling - not the Roman Catholic Magisterium. And when we listen to a teacher or a pastor, or read something written by a church father, it is we who test those truth-claims against the infallible Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11), not against other uninspired writings. To try and use the errors of others, such as the 'Once Saved Always Saved' advocates, against a true Bible-believing Christian is futile since we have already discerned from the Bible alone that this teaching is in error and exposed it on our website:
See - Section 99 and surrounding material
That Papal Roman Catholics also recognise this error of some Protestant groups does not alter the fact that they remain so far astray on the important doctrines of salvation and still strive foolishly for salvation through the sacraments of Papal Rome.
Clearly, the survival of the church does not depend on apostolic succession. As has been shown, when Jesus said, 'On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it' (Matthew 16:18), He was referring to His divine keeping power and not any alleged apostolic succession. The church is owned by Jesus, since He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28) and what He owns, He protects. Christ is also called the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), and since He is its head, it is His prerogative to protect it and not the prerogative of finite humans. Matthew 16:18 applies to the impending death of Christ, and Jews of New Testament times would have understood the 'gates of Hades' to refer to physical death for these words appear in the Old Testament (Job 38:17; Psalm 9:13) and subsequent Jewish tradition referred to the realm and power of death. Thus Jesus is declaring to the disciples that His impending death on the cross would not prevent or stand in the way of His work of building the church. Contextually, just a few verses later (Matthew 16:21), Jesus spoke of His death and anticipates His death and His victory over death through the resurrection, after which He would become the head of the church and build it through the ages (Ephesians 5:23; Matthew 16:18). So-called apostolic succession is not present in this verse.
Christ's promise to be with His followers 'to the end of the age' also does not require apostolic succession. When Jesus said, 'Go.. .and make disciples of all the nations...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age' (Matthew 28:19,20), He was not alluding to apostolic succession but simply promising His followers that He would be with them always for the context is making disciples. As the disciples themselves made other disciples, the new disciples would then go forward and make more disciples, and then those disciples would go forward and make even more disciples, and so on. As this process continued until the end of the age, Christ promised that He would be with them.
Now, considering the next verse you quote:
2 Thessalonians 3:6: In this verse we read, 'We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.' 'Tradition' (again, paradosis) here refers to what the apostle Paul had orally passed down to the Thessalonian believers - that is, teaching directly from the mouth of an apostle. In context, the 'tradition' of which Paul speaks relates to the importance of living a productive and disciplined life, instead of living in an unruly way (see verses 7-15). Eventually, this oral teaching was committed to writing, and the oral teaching was then rendered obsolete.
3 John 13: In this verse John writes, 'I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink.' This is supposed to prove that John much preferred oral tradition to written Scripture, but John was merely expressing his desire to have personal contact with his readers as opposed to just writing them a letter. Indeed, that is what John says in the very next verse: 'I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face' (3 John 14).
The other verse which is often quoted is treated in the same manner and proves, in addition, that the apostle used a familiar phrase, much as many people write 'lots of love' or 'in Christ's Precious Name' at the end of letters:
2 John 12: 12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
And the other verses you quote follow the same pattern:
1 Corinthians. 11:2: 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God - 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.
Paul's Letter to the Corinthians has been preserved for us so that we know we can follow his example and teachings which we note 'follow the example of Christ.' Christ's example when confronting the devil, or scribes and Pharisees, was to quote written Scripture but, also, we recognise that Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13) and promised that the Holy Spirit would be the Teacher who would inspire the written words of the apostles (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Thus we have no errors in the original writings and know that no one else is inspired as they were inspired, since the canon of Scripture closed with their departure from the earth.
1 Thessalonians 4:1: 1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Again, these instructions were known and are recorded for us in their writings to believers.
2 Timothy 2:2: 1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
The original words were spoken in the presence of many witnesses who would have objected if the letters written had contradicted what they heard. When the Jews read the Apocrypha they recognised that they were not inspired for the same reason - they had many witnesses who had heard the speakers who wrote the Old Testament, and so knew what had been said and therefore what was to be passed on. Unfortunately the blatant errors in the Apocrypha and in the fallible words and writings of the popes are not recognised by papists because they do not endorse the Scriptural tests we have quoted and result in the Papal Roman Catholic Church being 'blown here and there by the winds of doctrine' (1 Timothy 4:1-2) which results in a pattern in Papal Rome clearly recognisable as not being inspired by the God of the Bible:
pope- anti-pope -pope - anti-pope - pope - anti-pope - pope - anti-pope
No Christian faith is more closely aligned with the Bible than Catholicism?
1 Corinthians 11:34: 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.
We have no evidence of any further 'directions' given by Paul which might change his admonishment of the God-dishonouring Corinthian practices - and no reason to believe that they are not included in the whole of his extensive inspired writings.
You write: 'You say that the Bible is opposed to the Catholic Church, but I beg to differ. No Christian faith is more closely aligned with the Bible than Catholicism, which is understandable since the Bible was written by Catholics, for Catholics. Catholics follow the Bible more closely than Fundamentalists, that's for sure.'
TCE: Again, you make claims that simply defy logic and the facts. We have disproved every one of these claims of Papal Rome and proven that the doctrines of orthodox Christianity are found in the Bible alone, whereas the doctrines and practices of Rome are gleaned from pagan religions and Greek philosophy mixed with some Bible teaching. The Word of God has clearly been treated with disdain by popes in every century since 324 B.C. onward.
(Continued on page 288)