I wanted to clarify something I stated in my last post suggesting that the Catholic Church is the true church of Christ which might cause some Protestants to infer that they are not true Christians.
Please understand, Protestants are true Christians. The Catholic Church recognizes that those who are baptized according to Protestant faith are, indeed, brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is true that the Catholic Church traces its roots to the apostolic age while the Protestant Church had its origins in the Reformation. Churches that follow Protestant doctrine were only established in the last 500 years. To suggest that the Catholic Church is not of God is to claim that the disciples of Christ believed a lie for 1500 years. That is an inconceivable proposition to which I do not subscribe. If the Pope is the Man of Sin then the Church was deceived for fifteen centuries until Martin Luther received enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.
Young’s Literal Translation reads:
And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock (Πέτρος, Petros), and upon this rock (πέτρᾳ, petra) I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
Notice that the Greek uses two different words for rock. Very simply, it recognizes one as a proper name while the other as a common noun. In addition, Jesus spoke in Aramaic so that Young’s translation is, well, quite literal.
In the language spoken by Christ, rock is the same word whether used as a name, or noun. Peter is told that he is a rock upon which Christ will build his church. That is the literal meaning of the verse. Notice that Jesus calls himself the builder while Peter is a foundation stone.
Together, we are God’s house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself (Ephesians 2:20).
In Revelation 21:14 we read:
The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
There is no need to force any other interpretation as do Protestants who teach that the rock is a reference to Christ himself, or a metaphor for Peter’s confession of faith. Understanding that the apostles are foundation stones, and that Jesus is the chief cornerstone, it therefore is unnecessary to impose an awkward interpretation of what is a simple declaration.
Protestant interpretation is intended to challenge the Romish claim that the Pope is Peter’s successor. To disprove that claim might cast doubt on the assertion of Papal authority, and the legitimacy of the Catholic Church.
Did Peter fulfill the charge of Christ? Did the Apostle serve as a foundation stone in the apostolic age?
Most definitely, yes.
It was Peter who spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost — the birthday of the church when the Holy Spirit was poured out, and 3000 people were baptized (Acts 2:14-41).
It was Peter who opened the church to Gentiles (Acts 10).
It was Peter (and James, the brother of Christ) who oversaw the church at Jerusalem.
When Jesus said to Peter, You are a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church, the Apostle clearly fulfilled this mission.
Is the Bishop of Rome in the line of Peter? Did the Apostle confer his role to succeeding Popes? Did Peter establish the church in Rome? Was Peter ever in Rome?
We know Paul was in Rome, but there is no scriptural evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. Author Loraine Boettner wrote:
The remarkable thing about Peter’s alleged bishopric in Rome is that the New Testament has not one word to say about it … and never is Peter mentioned in connection with it. There is no allusion to Rome in either of his epistles. Paul’s journey to the city is recorded in great detail (Acts 27 and 28). There is in fact no New Testament evidence, nor any historical proof of any kind, that Peter ever was in Rome. All rests on legend. (Roman Catholicism, p. 117)
Catholics cite 1 Peter 5:13 as scriptural evidence that Peter was in Rome, but is this a correct interpretation?
Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.
Babylon is said to be code for Rome, but in the context of Peter’s letter (written to the churches in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey) the Apostle had no reason to be cryptic. John Calvin, who favored a literal interpretation, believed that Peter actually meant Babylon.
The Jewish Encyclopedia estimates that 800,000 Jews lived in first century Babylon. Josephus, the Jewish historian, noted that tens of thousands of Babylonian Jews visited Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days. Many of them heard Peter’s sermon and witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Regardless of the meaning of Babylon there is sufficient extra-Biblical evidence that Peter not only visited Rome, but established the Holy See — ordaining Clement of Rome who later was consecrated as Pope. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) wrote that Peter and Paul set the foundation of the church in Rome. Clement of Alexandria wrote that (in Rome) Peter preached the word and declared the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit (from which we received the Gospel of Mark). Dionysius of Corinth, in a letter to Pope Sorter, noted that Peter and Paul planted the church in Rome. Tertullian (Against the Heretics) affirmed that Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome. There are many other ancient sources who documented Peter’s connection to Rome so that by the time of Augustine it was widely accepted to be factual.
It is not even necessary to establish a succession between Peter and the Popery. Indeed, if the Romish Church sought validation it could rightfully claim apostolic succession through the Apostle Paul. Irenaeus (Against Heresies) wrote:
After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:21).
How does this all relate to the Catholic-Protestant rift?
To Martin Luther, the doctrine of faith alone (Sola Fide) was the essential underpinning of Christian theology. Luther opposed what he called merit-based salvation. Protestant doctrine correctly proclaims that a person is saved by simple faith.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Roman Catholic Church also teaches that people are saved by grace through faith — that no one can earn their salvation. The disagreement hinges on this passage from the Book of James:
You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone (James 2:24).
There is a fine distinction between justification and sanctification that, quite frankly, Luther failed to grasp. James, the brother of Jesus, was writing to Jewish Christians. They believed that simple faith absolved them of any Christian duties. Freed from the law of Moses they could go on sinning. Good works were deemed non-essential and irrelevant to the doctrine of saving faith.
James rightly taught that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Make no mistake, a dead faith will save no one. Where Luther saw conflict between Paul and James there was none. Their teaching is consistent with our Lord’s.
Luther insisted that the church stands or falls on the doctrine of faith alone. He rejected the apostolic authorship of James, and relegated the book to the index of the Lutheran Bible.
Is Luther’s theology heresy? At the very least it borders on false teaching. If the church stands or falls on the doctrine of Sola Fide then Protestantism might lead people astray. I see it in the witness of so-called Christians who lead a fruitless, sinful life. They invariably say, “Oh, but I’m covered by the blood of Jesus.”
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1)
To be saved by faith does not mean a life void of good works. Catholics point to James to affirm that we are not saved by works, but saved for good works — mischaracterized by Protestants as merit-based salvation.
This is Catholic doctrine:
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2:18)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
The Catholic Church, whatever its faults, has withstood 2000 years of spiritual warfare both internal and external. Pray for Christian unity as division is not a good witness. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical UT UNUM SINT (That They May Be One), wrote:
… I think of the grave obstacle which the lack of unity represents for the proclamation of the Gospel. A Christian Community which believes in Christ and desires, with Gospel fervor, the salvation of mankind can hardly be closed to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who leads all Christians towards full and visible unity. As Pope Paul VI wrote … “May the Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation, so that the unity of our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolation for all mankind”.
It is worth noting that the Pope signed the 2500 word encyclical … servus servorum Dei … which is Latin for servant of the servants of God — a humble title for one who supposedly represents the seat of Antichrist.
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