by Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.
On July 10, the Associated Press released the news item with the title “Pope: Other Christians not true churches.” Meaning, the Bible believing Greek Orthodox, Lutherans, other so-called Protestant groups are considered Christians but they are not in the true church.
Pope Benedict XVI further makes the claim that the Second Vatican Council has been misinterpreted by liberal Catholic theologians as well as by many non-Roman Catholics to mean “ecumenism.” Whereas, the papal stand is that the Second Vatican Council only opens ecumenical dialogs. Only dialog but not full fellowship in worship and true brotherhood. So the much trumpeted “ecumenism and joint worship” in past decades has been a sham.
Now let’s make several observations on the pronouncement of the pope.
First, the pope says that not all Christians are in the church. Whereas, the Bible says that true Christians compose the true church. The term “Christian” means a follower of Christ and the term “church” means the people that are called out by Christ into his spiritual rule and domain. Christ promised to establish His church in Matt. 16:16-18; it was fulfilled in Acts 2 and the church is spoken of as existing in Acts 2:47 because there were apostles and the thousands converted to Jesus Christ. These converts were called Christians in Acts 11:26. Biblically speaking, the people in the church were the Christians.
Second, papal arguments of identifying the true church is “apostolic successions — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.” This means that a true church must be under a bishop who has been ordained by another bishop, who in turn was ordained by another bishop, and another bishop . . . tracing a biologically living chain of bishops back to the 12 apostles, and the pope of Rome is the primate or highest of the bishops. On the other hand the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the living, highest bishop according to Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:25). And Jesus Christ is the apostle and high priest of our Christianity. The 12 apostles are still our apostles via their teachings in the New Testament. Therefore, a continuous chain of living, ordained leadership is not the mark of the true church. Neither is it the conduit of grace and truth. The true and effective conduit of grace and truth is personal faith and obedience to Jesus Christ as governed by His teachings. See John 12:47-50; 14:15; 15:14.
Biological continuity is denied by the great prophet John the Baptist when he said in Matt. 3:9-10, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Romans 11 also teaches the grafting of the wild olive branch because the natural, biological branches did not bear good fruits.
New birth inspired by faith in the Son of God, spiritual life governed by the Sermon of Jesus Christ on the Mount and the teachings of the inspired New Testament writers and the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our growth make us bear good fruit.
Third, Pope Benedict XVI claims that the Roman Catholic Church “has the fullness of the means of salvation.” This means that the process defined by the Roman Church is the way to salvation. Does the Roman Church define the true process of reconciliation with the holy God of Heaven? The Roman Church virtually says, “an unbelieving infant must be baptized to wash away his original sin, and will be confirmed in his faith when he develops understanding.” But the great commission of Christ says, ” Go preach the gospel, He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Faith in the works and merits of Christ should come first in the heart of a person to qualify him for baptism. But the Roman Church presumptuously changes the command of Christ. The Roman Church does not teach nor have the full means of salvation. It teaches a false means of salvation.
Analyze the reprinted and rephrased “Ten Commandments” publicly promoted by the Roman Church and compare it with the text of Exodus 20. The Roman Church has changed the text eliminating the prohibition of images and vowing down before these icons.
We’ve shown the weakness of Pope Benedict XVI’s pronouncement. It is not biblical. It is not scriptural.
Based on the inspired word of God, we suggest the following basic guides for one to identify the true church and true Christians:
1. Recognition of the Lordship and Kingship of Christ Jesus.
2. Observance of the Prescribed Law of God to Govern Christian Life.
3. Follow the Steps of Induction into the Church.
4. Wear the Names that Show Relationship with God and Christ.
5. Worship God Based on the Law of God.
6. Follow the Organizational Set Up of the Apostles and Early Disciples.
7. Wear Names that Show Relationship with God and Christ.
8. Do Works in Evangelism, Building up Disciples’ Faith, Charity or Benevolence