Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 24
This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.All right, welcome back, everybody. We’re here with another episode and another question.And the question for this episode is, should Christians revere the Pope? And that’s a really good question. So let’s just go ahead at the very start and let’s get some distinctions out of the way. Okay? So first off, let’s clarify what this question is not asking.This question is not asking what I personally think of the Pope. That’s another issue entirely.That’s another question entirely. If you’re interested in that question, you should submit it to the podcast and I’d be happy to answer it. This question is specifically asking if we as Christians should revere the Pope, if we should consider him holy. And there’s a lot of confusion around this issue, isn’t there? Especially in the eyes of the world.If you were to ask most people in the world, who is the holiest person in all of Christianity?The majority of people are going to say the Pope. Somehow the Pope has become to Christianity What Buddha is to Buddhism or what Muhammad is to Islam or what the Dalai Lama is to the Tibetan people. So the question is, is that true? Is the Pope the holiest person in Christianity?Should we as Christians revere him and consider him holy and follow him? And put very plainly,the answer is no, we shouldn’t. Now let me defend and explain that position. Okay? There are two basic reasons why we as Christians should not revere the Pope or follow the Pope.First and foremost is because the office of the Pope is entirely unbiblical. There isnothing in scripture that calls for the office of the Pope. Throughout the New Testament,we find words like bishops, overseers, shepherds, elders, pastors, and pastor-shepherds. And those words essentially all refer to the exact same office, as the office of the pastor.It refers to men who lead local, key word there, local congregations and proclaim to them the Word of God and edify them and shepherd them and care for them. We also find the office of deacon in the New Testament. And that office specifically refers to servants within the church. Men who are qualified, according to the biblical qualifications, to meet and carefor the physical needs of church members. So think about it like this. Pastors, elders are to attend to the spiritual needs of the church, as well as some physical needs. Butso that they can focus primarily on the spiritual needs of the church, God has blessed the church with deacons to care for the physical needs of the church body. And these are the two primary offices within the church, as laid out by scripture itself. There are, of course,many spiritual gifts that are utilized within the church, but in terms of offices, those are the two primary offices. So think about it like this. The New Testament never once recognizes or calls for there to be an office of the pope. Now, many Catholics in our world today would push back on that and they would say that the Bible does call for a pope. And actually they would say that there’s a place in scripture where you see the first pope being ordained or given his office. And it occurs in Matthew chapter 16 verses 17 through 19. This is what the Bible says. Jesus replied, blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell or the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, it will be bound in heaven. And whatever you loose on earth, it will be loosed in heaven. Now, a couple of things here. What is the rock that Jesus refers to here? He says, upon this rock, I will build my church. What is that rock? Well, many Catholics today say it’s Peter because his name means rock. And I mean, kind of. Actually, there are two different words for rock being used here. Peter’s name in Greek, it literally means a little stone. And the word rock that Jesus uses here, it means large rock or bedrock.It refers to a solid foundation. And so Jesus isn’t saying that he is building his church upon Peter, but that he is building his church. His church is built upon the answer that Peter gives to Jesus’s question, who do you say that I am? Remember, Jesus asked Peter that question. He had said, who do the crowd say that I am? Who do the people say that I am?His disciples gave all sorts of answers. Jesus turns to them and he says, but who do you say that I am? And Peter replies, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. So understand this, folks. The confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is the bedrock of our faith. It is the confession upon which Jesus builds his church.And so it’s no surprise that he calls Simon Peter at this point, because upon that confession,Peter becomes a little rock joined to the bedrock, to the foundation. But please know this, that’s true of every single believer in Christ. And Peter himself seems to have understood Jesus’s words in this way, because later in his very own letter in 1st Peter,chapter 2, verses 5 through 7, he says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you yourselves like living stones, notice that stones, he’s calling believers stones, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture, behold,I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. In other words, what Peter’s saying there is that Jesus is the foundation. He is the cornerstone and all believers who profess faith in him and actually repent of their sins and trustin him alone, they become living stones and they are joined to that foundation, to the bedrock and they become a spiritual house for the Lord. But Catholics will go further and they say that Jesus specifically gave Peter the keys of the kingdom and that the Pope today can trace his office all the way back to Peter. So what happened is Jesus names Peter as the first Pope in their opinion, and then Peter named his successor and then that person named his successor and then so on and so forth all the way to today so that the keys of the kingdom have never left the possession of the Pope. And they go on and they say that Jesus specifically gave Peter the first Pope the right to bind and loose on earth in such a way that it will be done in heaven. Now a couple things on that. First,nobody in the early church viewed Peter in that way. Peter was the first bishop or pastor of Rome, but his authority was limited to that one church. He was specifically over the church in Rome. He could not exercise authority over any other church. And to think that he had some special authority over all churches and that he was set apart and immune and special in some way, well that’s easily contradicted by the fact that Paul, who was persecuting the church and then converted to faith in Christ, went to Peter and confronted Peter and called Peter to repent of his hypocrisy. You can read about that in the book of Galatians. And so it’s very dangerous to view Peter in this way when no one else in the early church viewed Peter in this way. But something else just in regard to that scripture that we just read. Just two chapters later, Jesus says to his disciples, so not just to Peter this time, but to all of his disciples who are with him, he says in Matthew 18, 18, truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. So notice this, Jesus did not just give this right specifically and only to Peter, but to all of his followers who were acting in accordance with his willand his authority. So know this, please, there is no biblical basis at all for a pope. But I did say at the beginning that there are two reasons we shouldn’t revere the pope and follow him. And so I want to get into that second reason now. And this one is a really big one for me. You see, what the Bible specifically says of the Holy Trinity, the Catholic Church says of the pope. And that is a huge problem. I want to show you what I mean. So the pope,his main title is pope. Of course, he has a lot of different titles, but he’s known as the pope. And in Latin, pope is papa. It means father. Well, in Matthew 23, Jesus addresses the religious leaders of Israel, the scribes and the Pharisees, and he’s condemning them for their hypocrisy. He says constantly, woe to you. And at one point he turns to the crowd and he says in Matthew 23, nine and call no man your father on earth, for you have one father who is in heaven. Now, Jesus was not saying that we cannot call our parent our father. That’s not the point here. You always have to keep in mind the context. So remember the context here. He’s specifically talking to the religious leaders of Israel. So the context is within the spiritual community, within the leadership of God’s people. Andhe says within the leadership of God’s people, what we would call today the church, call no man father, for you have one father who is in heaven. Well, that gets completely ignored today in millions upon millions of people call the pope papa, meaning father. So what is said of our Holy Father who is in heaven, they say of the pope. But not only that, it gets worse. One of the pope’s other official titles is supreme pontiff of the universal church. Now that word pontiff, it means bridge. The Catholic Church claims that the pope is the bridge of the church, the bridge between man and God. Well, hold on now. When I lookin the Bible, I see that Jesus is the one and only bridge between God and man. Jesus says in John 14 six, I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father,but by me. In other words, if you want to bridge the gap between you and God, the only way to do that is through Jesus, not through the pope, but through Jesus alone. The Bible also says in first Timothy two five, that there is one mediator between God and men,the man Jesus Christ. Again, notice that the bridge between us and God is Christ and Christ alone. So once again, what the Bible affirms of the son, the Catholic Church claims of the pope, and it even gets worse. One of the other official titles of the pope is vicar of Jesus Christ. Now that word vicar, it means in the place of, and we use a version of this word when we speak of Jesus’s vicarious atonement. It means that Jesus died in the place of us.He died in our place. It is a vicarious atonement. So the Catholic Church says that the pope stands in the place of Christ. In other words, since Christ has ascended back to the father, we now have the pope in his place. But again, hold on a second, because when I look to scripture,I see that Jesus specifically says that the Holy Spirit is his vicar, the one he sends in his place. Jesus says in John 16, seven, nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the helper, the Holy Spirit will not come. But if I go, I will send him to you. In other words, listen to what Jesus is saying here. He is saying it is to our advantage that he goes back to the father so that we would have in his place, not the pope, but the Holy Spirit himself. So please understand what is going on here. What the Bible specifically claims about the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church claims about the pope, and that is heresy. So no, we as Christians today should not revere or follow the pope. First, because there is absolutely no biblical basis at all for the office of the pope. And secondly, because the pope claims for himself what is meant only for the Holy Trinity. I really do appreciate the question. I hope that this answer has been helpful and I really look forward to answering more in the future.