Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MATTHEW 16 - HAVE THE GATES OF HELL PREVAILED?



Matthew 16

v. 13) When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His Disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?”

v. 14) And they said, “Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.”

v. 15) He said unto them, “But whom say you that I am?”

v. 16) And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

v. 17) And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto you, by My Father which is in Heaven.”

v. 18) And I say also unto you, “That you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”

v. 19) “And I will give unto you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

Introduction

This will be the first article in a series dealing with Matthew 16.  This wonderful passage above contains great encouragement for the church of Jesus Christ.  However, the Catholic Church claims that this passage  is “proof” that they are the church that Jesus has established from the beginning.  Here, they believe that Christ singled out Peter the apostle and made him the first of many popes.  They also see in this passage a special gift given to Peter alone, and they believe this somehow points specifically to the Catholic Church.  They derive some of their foundational doctrines by misreading these verses.  But these Catholic doctrines are founded on shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

The Tactic

When someone accuses the Catholic Church of teaching false doctrine, the Catholic will often say, “Oh, no!  If the Catholic church would fall into error, then this would mean that Jesus’ words to Peter (“the gates of hell will not prevail against it”) would be false.  You wouldn’t want to call Jesus a liar, would you?!!  Therefore, the Catholic church cannot possibly teach error.  It is indefectible.  It is infallible.”

Or so they say.

The Gift of Indefectibility?

In last month’s article, we mentioned that the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia stated:

“The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” 

Well, the Catholic Church is not indefectible by any means, and this supposed gift of indefectibility was not at all “expressly promised” to them, or to anyone else, for that matter.  This is a misinterpretation of the passage.  See this article:


The Gift of Infallibility?

And neither is the church infallible.  “Infallible” means, in part, that one cannot teach error.  Since Peter was an apostle and since he wrote two infallible books of Scripture (1 and 2 Peter), he did have access to infallibility when teaching or writing under the inspiration of God.  But there is nothing whatsoever in the above passage that would suggest that Peter’s successors would be infallible or teach infallibly.  The Catholic Church reads into this passage a special privilege for themselves that no one else can claim.  After all, according to them, they are the true church of Jesus Christ.  But every article on this blog is a testimony to the fact that the Catholic Church is NOT the church that Jesus Christ built.

The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail

Jesus promised the true church that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  There are several arguments over what exactly this means, but basically, we know that Jesus is saying that the true church will endure to the end and succeed in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross, and winning souls, keeping those souls from going to hell.  This is how the gates of hell will not prevail.  It has nothing to do with a particular group “never teaching error.”

Error in the Church

Again, the Catholic Church believes that this is a “can’t-teach-error” passage, and that it only applies to THEM.  But if “hell prevailing” means that error was taught, then hell did indeed prevail, because there were all sorts of error in the early church.  That’s the very reason why the great majority of the epistles in the New Testament were written in the first place.  They were written to correct FALSE TEACHING within the church!  Although the church did not experience a complete apostasy, error was present in different degrees and at different times, even in the early church.  See these examples:  Acts 20:17, 28-30; Galatians 3:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:3, 10-11; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:3-4;  2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 3-4; Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

Therefore, Matthew 16:18 must have a different meaning than what they think it means.  It is not about an office of a “pope” with successors who could not possibly teach error.  It is not about indefectibility or infallibility for a particular denomination.  It is about the gospel, the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ, the True Messiah, Who is the head of the church, and Whose gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  THIS is the foundation on which the church is built, and it has nothing to do with Catholicism.

Qualifiers

Yet, the Catholic Church continues to teach that this passage is about an infallible church.  But they will “qualify” (limit or restrict) the scope of this “gift of infallibility” by saying things like, “But this ONLY applies to OFFICIAL teachings of the Church.  For example, the Catholic Church’s gift of infallibility only applies when the pope is making an official pronouncement; and it’s got to be directed to the whole Church.  It’s not just when a pope offers his opinion or some unofficial comments about a teaching, nor for ‘disciplinary decisions,’ but it has to be when he is formally declaring something.  Furthermore, it is only a ‘negative protection’ for the Church.  This means that although the pope doesn’t necessarily always teach what he needs to teach, this gift simply prevents him from teaching error as truth, so it’s only used in a negative sense.”

But this is all special pleading.  The Catholic Church conveniently tailors this “gift” with ridiculous qualifiers to suit the needs (and ego) of the Church.  There is so much read into these verses that the original meaning of the passage is unrecognizable!  Their interpretation of the passage is a fantasy… and it is a perversion of the Scriptures.

And using “supporting” verses like 1 Timothy 3:15 (“the church is the pillar and foundation of truth”) doesn’t help, either.  Here, Paul’s instruction to Timothy was basically, “You need to be a pillar,” not “You are guaranteed to be an infallible pillar.”  See here:


And they also try to support their interpretation of Matthew 16 with verses like Luke 10:16 (“he that hears you hears Me”), but this was spoken by Jesus to the seventy, not to the apostles.  So, when ANY believer shares the truth of the gospel, Jesus is saying to that believer, “He that hears you hears Me.  So, these verses do not at all support the Catholic Church’s twisting of Matthew 16 and their claim of an infallible papacy.

Conclusion
Two things we know for sure:  1) “The gates of hell have not prevailed against the church” is a true statement, but NOT for the same reason that the Catholic Church says.  It is not because the church cannot teach error.  It is because of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) of spreading the gospel, which is the power of Jesus Christ for every believer.  And 2) The Catholic Church is NOT exempt from error, even in its official statements.  There are far too many contradictions between what the Bible says and what they teach.

We will continue addressing Matthew 16 and the Catholic Church’s view of it in our next article.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

THE “INDEFECTIBLE” CHURCH



Indefectible.  It’s a big word that you don’t hear very often.  In fact, it seems that the only time you hear of the word, it is almost exclusively used by Catholics in referring to their church.  Here are a few examples of Catholic sources speaking of their Church’s supposed indefectibility:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“…The most intimate cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is achieved in the liturgy.  The Spirit, who is the Spirit of communion, abides indefectibly in the Church…” (CCC #1108)

The Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church said that the Church is “indefectibly holy” (Lumen Gentium 39)

The Vatican document Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past (International Theological Commission, December 1999) speaks of the “indefectible fidelity” of the Church.

Also, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (online):

“The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Under “The Church”)

Note that the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia references Matthew 16:18 here (“the gates of hell will not prevail”).  We plan to deal with Matthew 16 in next month’s article.

But what does the term “indefectible” actually mean, and why does the Catholic Church use this particular word?  According to these popular dictionaries, this is the definition of “indefectible”:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1)   not subject to failure or decay:  lasting
2)   free of faults:  flawless

Dictionary.com 

       1) not defectible; not liable to defect or failure
       2) not liable to fault or imperfection; faultless

Oxford Dictionary

1     1) not liable to fail, end, or decay
       2) having no defects; perfect

Ok, so the word means perfect, having no defects and no end, flawless, free of faults, not subject to failure, etc.  It’s interesting that Catholics don’t seem to have a problem attaching a word with such a weighty meaning to their beloved church.  But does this really define the Catholic Church?  Is this word a fair description of it?  Seriously, does the Catholic Church really expect us to believe that any of its people, individually or corporately, are “flawless,” “not subject to failure,” or “perfect”?  History and Scripture would surely disagree with this conclusion.  Obviously, there is no church that is perfect.

But in what sense do Catholics believe their Church is indefectible?  In basically two ways.  They believe that not only will the Catholic Church remain and live on forever, but that it also can never teach error. 

But the first problem we have with this is that the Catholic Church sees ITSELF as the true church, the one Jesus said of whom the gates of hell would not prevail, and that they ALONE are the ones who have received this promise.  No, the Catholic Church is not the true church, as is painfully evident throughout this blog.  Not only is it not the true church of Jesus Christ, but it is very unbiblical in many of its teachings.  The true church is made up of individual believers worldwide, in many different places, who believe, trust in, and are committed to serving Jesus Christ and are following His Word.

Concerning the permanence of the church, we don’t have an issue with the belief that the true church will endure to the end.  That is certainly a biblical idea.  We agree that Matthew 16:18 does indeed address that concept.  But the church will not be flawless in its teachings or its behavior, as the word “indefectible” would demand.  By definition, any less-than-perfect behavior would negate (cancel) this claim to indefectibility. 
 
But Catholics will say that the Church’s indefectibility does not apply to its behavior.  But remember, the official Catholic statement above (Lumen Gentium, paragraph 39) calls the Catholic Church “indefectibly holy.”  And notice that the context of paragraph 39 deals with the Church’s sanctification, and therefore, its morals and behavior.  Therefore, this “gift” of indefectibility must necessarily also refer to the Catholic Church’s morals and behavior.  You can’t have indefectible holiness and less-than-perfect behavior at the same time.

In the other quote above about the Catholic Church’s “indefectible fidelity,” the document says that, “the [Catholic] Church is at the same time holy [indefectibly so] and always in need of purification…”  But this is a blatant contradiction!  Again, you can’t say that it is both indefectible in its holiness and at the same time, needing purification in its behavior!  This destroys the very definition of the word “indefectible.”  So, if the term doesn’t really apply to the Catholic Church (which it doesn’t), then DON’T CALL IT INDEFECTIBLE!  Use another word.  Using this term is dishonest and arrogant. 
 
Notice that the apostle Paul does not tell Timothy, “Hey, just kick back and relax,Timothy, since the leadership of the church has this special gift of indefectibility.  All your teachings will automatically be true and will come out perfectly, no matter what, so you don’t ever have to worry about teaching error!”  No, he tells Timothy to guard his teaching (1 Timothy 4:16; 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14) and fight to maintain it.  This doesn’t sound like a gift of indefectibility in which Timothy couldn’t preach error, even if he tried.  Why should it be guarded if it was never in danger?  It’s a great exaggeration to attach the word “indefectible” to any earthly person or group after the apostolic era.  God alone has that perfection, that flawlessness.

The true church is made up of godly, but imperfect, humans.  We can indeed have assurance that the true church will prevail, but only because of the power and faithfulness of Jesus Christ, Himself.  The bottom line is, the Catholic Church is wrong: an “indefectible” church simply does not exist.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

MARTIGNONI AND KORAH’S REBELLION



Today our focus is going to be on another of John Martignoni’s newsletters.  As you may remember, John Martignoni is a very popular and influential Catholic apologist who heads the “Bible Christian Society.”  In his Newsletter #278, he talks about Korah’s rebellion in the Old Testament (Numbers 16:1-40).  The newsletter can be found here:


Martignoni states:

“…Korah's Rebellion was a rebellion against authority - the authority of Moses and Aaron.  It was a rebellion against the authority of those that God had placed in charge of His people.”

First of all, we want to say that Martignoni is correct in his understanding of the events of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16.  Korah was indeed guilty of rejecting the God-ordained authority of Moses and Aaron.  Their (Old Testament) ministerial priesthood was absolutely legitimate.  But according to Martignoni, the sin of Korah suggests that we should have a New Testament ministerial priesthood, as well.  He points to the book of Jude, which looks back to the Old Testament and mentions the sin of Korah.  Concerning this, Martignoni says:

“The interesting thing is, and this is something that we, as Catholics, need to bring up more often than we do, is that the essence of Korah's Rebellion also existed in New Testament times.  We read in Jude 10-11 that there are men who ‘revile whatever they do not understand...’  and who ‘perish in Korah's rebellion’… Yet, what do we take away from Jude 10-11?  There were people, in the New Testament era, perishing in Korah's Rebellion.  What was Korah's Rebellion?  It was a rebellion against having a separate priesthood...an ordained priesthood...a priesthood that is set apart, in certain ways, from the royal priesthood of believers.   It's a rebellion against a priesthood that didn't include all of the people.”

Using Jude 10-11, Martignoni is insisting that 1) since Korah’s rebellion consisted specifically of a rejection of the Old Testament ministerial priesthood, and 2) since Jude applies Korah’s sin to some people in the New Testament, he then concludes that anyone rejecting a New Testament ministerial priesthood is also guilty of Korah’s sin of rebellion.  Martignoni continues:

“So, if that's what Korah's Rebellion was about, then how could Korah's Rebellion be occurring in the New Testament era, unless there was an ordained priesthood?  …This passage from Jude makes absolutely no sense unless there was, from the earliest moments of the Church, an ordained priesthood.  You can't have Korah's Rebellion in 1st century Christianity if there was no ordained priesthood - if there was no distinction between the royal priesthood of all believers and the ordained priesthood.”

There are a number of Catholic apologists who use this same type of argument and try to promote the idea of a ministerial priesthood in the New Testament.  But notice that Martignoni deals with no other verses in Jude except 10 and 11.  But verses 10 and 11 alone are not sufficient to determine the context of Jude’s use of Korah’s rebellion here.  We must look at the surrounding context to understand what Jude is saying.

Notice that there are other people, as well, who are mentioned in this context, and not just Korah:


  • The ungodly people (v.4), who crept into the church and rejected God’s concept of grace and turned it into a license to sin

  • The first generation of Jews (v.5), who were delivered out of Egypt but rejected God’s established covenant with them by their unbelief (Hebrews 3:16-19)

  • The fallen angels (v.6), who rejected God’s authority and special plan, and chose to follow Lucifer, instead (2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:4)

  •  The men of Sodom and Gomorrah (v.7), who rejected God’s natural order of “men with women” and chose the perversion of homosexuality, instead (Genesis 19:4-5)

  •  Cain (v.11), who rejected God’s plan of an innocent life dying for the guilty when he offered a gift of vegetables / fruit (the work of his hands), instead (Genesis 4:3-5)

  • Balaam (v.11), who rejected God’s special annointing on His people (the Jews), who were blessed by Him, but Balaam was willing to curse them for money (Numbers 22:5-21; 2 Peter 2:15)

  • And Korah (v.11), who rejected God’s plan of an Old Testament ministerial priesthood (Numbers 16:3)

The sins of all the others mentioned here had NOTHING whatsoever to do with rejecting a ministerial priesthood – it was ONLY KORAH (and his followers) that did this.  But the thing that all seven (mentioned above) were guilty of, is rejecting God’s intended plan.  This is what they all had in common.

The details of Korah are unlike all the others in this chapter.  To make Korah’s specific sin (i.e., rejecting a valid priesthood) the focus of Jude’s whole point, or to force the context of Korah onto the whole context of Jude is pure eisegesis (i.e., reading something into the context that is not there).  The purpose of Jude’s message is NOT to condemn all those who reject a ministerial priesthood, as Martignoni is suggesting.
 
Following Martignoni’s logic here would be like accusing everyone mentioned in Jude of being sodomites / homosexuals, just because Sodom and Gomorah happen to be mentioned (v.7).  Or it would be like accusing all those mentioned in Jude of rejecting God even after seeing Him face to face (as these angels had), just because the fallen angels are mentioned (v.6).  No, each person’s sin was somewhat different, but again, the common thread between them all is that each one was guilty of some type of rejection of God’s intended order.

Once again, Jude’s book is not an appeal to the church to go back to an Old Testament-type ministerial priesthood (Hebrews 10:18).  Jude was simply warning us to contend for the faith and to be careful of rejecting God’s plans, and he gives us different examples of rejection.

Catholic apologists like Martignoni try really hard to find a ministerial priesthood in the New Testament.  But there is no biblical evidence for such a thing.  Actually, the scriptural evidence points to one that has been discontinued in the New Testament church (e.g., Matthew 27:50-51; Hebrews 9:12, 28; 10:10-12, 14, 18).  See these articles:



Although John Martignoni correctly understands the facts of Numbers 16 (the story of Korah’s rebellion), he is misapplying what Jude said about it, and is promoting a false teaching.  There IS no ministerial priesthood within the pages of the New Testament, but only the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1) and the universal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5).