Pope Benedict's recent remark "Only Catholic church is supreme" (Times of India 12th July 2007) made an astounding reading. The controversial Pope's remark from the portals of the Vatican stirred yet another controversy. The latest got a swift criticism from the protestant community and unleashed a fresh debate. Philip Varghese 'Ariel' responds to Pope.
Though the church history is well written by the historians at different intervals, those writings do not give an undisputed picture, many had some assumptions which they spoke about, others created different kinds of legends out of them. Many gullible believers blindly followed and believed it as facts. It is also obvious that the Catholic oriented writings are totally different from that of the protestant writers. So it is necessary to compare these writings with the original. The book of Acts and the epistles written by the apostles of the New Testament gives a clear history of the early church. The apostles were men who received the instructions directly from the Lord and by His commission gave unto the world what they had received from Him. Through them, the New Testament church has received the pure, infallible Word of God, which alone carries His seal.
Paul was called out in a supernatural way, chosen to be a special tool and was placed with the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since he received the instructions directly from the Lord he could boldly make the statement, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…" (I Corinthians 11:23). He is the one who wrote the majority of all the epistles, exactly 100 chapters with 2,325 verses, whereas Peter has written only 8 chapters with 166 verses. Paul had received the gospel in the same way as the prophets have received the Word by divine revelation, He says, "But I make you known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1: 11-12). Therefore, Paul very emphatically gives a caution which goes right through the bones, read verse 8 of the same chapter "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). It is very clear that whatever does not agree with the original gospel preached by the apostles is under a curse. If we look at it like this we are facing the fact that there exists a Christianity falsified and under a curse.
The Catholic Church began about 1600 years ago and not approximately 2000 years ago as some believe. And the current teachings of Catholic Church is less than 1000 years old!!! The original or early church was supernaturally founded by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Acts chapter 2 gives a clear picture on this. The original church consisted of men and women who truly had an experience with God. Those who believed and were baptized in water were also in a supernatural way baptized with the Holy Spirit as members into the Body of Christ. "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one spirit. (I Corinthians 12: 12-13). In the early church there were no dignitaries but were only men of God who were called by the highest calling. In dignity they served the Lord and His people under the leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The first century church did not know about the priests, pontiff or any clergy taking an office, but the whole body of the redeemed, those who were born again, together formed the holy priesthood and the holy people of God. In first Peter 2: 9 we read, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Also in Revelation 1:6 we read, …and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever." This royal priesthood of the sovereign local churches had their responsibilities. Those among them who took leadership were called bishops or overseers; there are qualifications for these positions. This is very clearly given in the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy. "This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous.
One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? ….Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy: 3 1-13). Also read; Titus 1: 5-8. It is very clear from these passages that they had to be married.
To take care of practical things connected to a local church there were also deacons, and they had to be married as well (I Timothy 3: 8-12) It was necessary for the bishops and the deacons to be married to understand and to counsel in a practical way from their own experience belonging to the local church and having family problems and so forth. In the early church, this divine order was in existence. The New Testament church did not know the office of a bishop as it is being practiced
in some of the Churches today. The body of believers make up the House of God which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (I Timothy 3:15). Individual interpretation or false teachings are not permitted in the early church. The true church is God's habituation on earth and through it His will is being done as in heaven and so on earth. There was also a local assembly (church) with more than one elder, with at least two leading elders in a local assembly (Philippians 1:1). This harmonizes with James 5:14 it says, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him." Paul and Barnabas were received in Jerusalem by the assembly, the apostles and the elders (Acts. 15:4).
Nowhere is a pope spoken of in the Holy Scriptures nor is therein mentioned of a successor of Peter, neither a vicar of Christ nor of any apostolic succession. Of course some terminologies are being used by catholic church, like "baptism", "Lord's Supper", "repentance" etc., but they mean something else and they are being administered and practiced in a totally different way to what they were in the early church.
In short, this Church has never exhibited the nature of Christ nor has it ever represented the life of the early church. Even the reading of the Bible was forbidden and those who did were punished. It is shocking that especially Jews and Bible believing Christians were persecuted and burned by this church with their Bible. How such a church and its leader (pope) can claim 'Only Catholic church is supreme' it is time that Pope should ones again read the Church history as well as the Bible very carefully before making such unfounded statement or claim.
Philip Verghese Ariel is a freelance writer and the editor of 'Confident Living' magazine. He resides in Secunderabad.