Monday, May 28, 2018
Catholics believe that their church is the “one true church” and that it always has been. Protestants challenge that concept for many good reasons (which we will not go into here). Catholics may respond, “But if we weren’t always the one true church, then who was the true church since the time of the apostles? What group was there that could always claim to be following the truth? Where were these true Christians (who were not Catholic) before the Reformation in the sixteenth century?”
Someone answered that question this way: “Where was your face before you washed it?” In other words, your face was there all the time, but it’s just that it got to the point of being unrecognizably dirty. Or, it is like a ship that was once smooth, sleek, and fast-moving, but where is that ship now? It is still there - it always remained - but is now weighed down and hopelessly encrusted with barnacles; it is now hidden, and unable to do what it was meant to do.
In the same way, true believers in the early church have always been there, but through no fault of their own, their pure gospel message became gradually distorted until unrecognizable when the false teachings of Catholicism encrusted around it. The Catholic Church, who was dominating the “church scene” before the Reformation, had, for the most part, lost the ability to recognize the simple truth of the gospel.
Ok, so who exactly were the true believers in the early church? Catholics claim that there is no record of any group in the early church that had the fullness of truth (other than the Catholic Church, of course). But Catholics are forgetting the “remnant principle.” What is the remnant principle? The following is an example of it:
The time was the ninth century B.C., during the reign of King Ahab in Israel. The idolatry and other sins of the Jewish people abounded. The prophet Elijah was disgusted with the Jews and their Baal worship, and he complained to God that he was the only person left who was serving God. He truly felt all alone. But the Lord God surprised Elijah when He told him:
“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:18)
This is a biblical principle. Throughout history God has always reserved for Himself a remnant, a group that is dedicated to serving God in the midst of an ungodly majority. For example, Noah and his family were the remnant in the days of the great flood (Genesis 6). And Lot and his family were the remnant during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). These remnant groups not only represent the true believers in the Old Testament, but they are also a symbol of the true church in the New Testament (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-30).
Someone may object, “But why is there only a remnant saved? Aren’t most people going to Heaven?” Unfortunately, that is not the case. Being part of the biggest church around is not a guarantee that it holds the truth. It is not always safe being in the majority. In fact, it can be downright dangerous! Jesus, Himself, said:
Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
A big church does not necessarily produce the truth. That goes for Protestants and Orthodox, as well. But Catholicism was never the true expression of the church because of its many false teachings. Rather, it is something that gradually “morphed” into the monstrosity that it is today (Matthew 13:31-32). But while this giant grew in influence (both spiritually and politically), the true church was in the background. God knew those true believers even if the Catholic Church didn’t.
This was similar to Elijah’s situation. God had a remnant, but they just weren’t well known. You would think that Elijah would have known about the 7,000 believers. After all, wasn’t he one of the greatest prophets of God in the Old Testament? So, if the great prophet, Elijah (who was supernaturally in direct communion with God) was unaware of the existence of the “true church” in his day, it is certainly possible that the Catholic Church was unaware of the existence of true believers back in the early church.
Of course, some will say that Catholics were the true believers. No, sorry, but the Catholic Church is disqualified from the title of “true church” because of its false teachings. Nor does it automatically get to have the title because of its size or influence. And just because there aren’t any records of similar “big” or “influential” churches back then, that does not make the Catholic Church the true church by default.
We have to remember, the term “true church” means those who are truly saved and serving God, and are biblically faithful. It is made up of individuals whose hearts are right with God. It is not just referring to a particular denomination, organization, or group.
Again, God always has a remnant of true believers, whether we know them or not. The records we have of the early church are certainly not complete. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a record of every single believing group that ever existed over the centuries. We have a God who promised that the true church would endure (Matthew 16:18). A lack of records does not override or negate the biblical concept of the remnant principle. So, to say that a true remnant didn’t exist because we have no record of it is foolish, arrogant, and unbiblical.
“We have always been the ONLY group to have the fullness of truth.”
“Therefore, we HAVE to have been the one true church all along. If we weren’t, then there was NO church, and the gates of Hell have prevailed (Matthew 16:18), but Jesus would not let that happen.”
But if there was always a remnant of true believers, then this Catholic premise is wrong in the first place. So, since there was a remnant, Jesus was right – we don’t have to worry that the gates of Hell have prevailed – because the true church has always existed, even if only in the form of a remnant, at times.
But Catholics will still insist that they must be the one true church, since their church has been refuting heresies for centuries. That may be, but what good is refuting all those heresies, while still embracing today the Judaizer heresy of adding to Jesus’ work on the cross (Acts 15:1, 5), directly contradicting the nature of the atonement and the very gospel, itself?
For anyone who still thinks that the Catholic Church should be considered the “one true church,” please feel free to read the articles on this blog, which we believe refute this idea and demonstrate the unbiblical nature of many of the Catholic Church’s teachings.