A monthly publication by the Klang Church of Christ, containing articles written by bro. Roger D. Campbell, to help educate, edify, encourage and equip the saints of God.


I S S U E   N U M B E R :


            April 2012



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“THE POPE”: FROM HEAVEN, OR FROM MEN?


People all over the world know about “the Pope,” who holds the highest position of authority in the Roman Catholic Church. Just as Jesus asked about the baptism of John the Baptizer, we, too, inquire about the Pope’s title and authority: are they from heaven, or from men? (Matthew 21:23-25). We want to take a brief look at two basic questions about the Pope. We approach this topic with no malice in our hearts toward any person. We just want to set forth the facts.

(1) Where is the scriptural authority for the position and title of “Pope?” The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The title pope, once used with far greater latitude . . . is at present employed solely to denote the Bishop of Rome, who, in virtue of his position as successor of St. Peter, is the chief pastor of the whole Church, the Vicar of Christ upon earth” [all human quotes in this article taken on 22 Feb. 2012 from www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm; all emphasis added in all quotes is mine, rdc].

So, the claim is that the Pope is “the chief pastor of the whole Church.” In Bible language, the word “pastor” means shepherd, and in God’s word it is Jesus, not the Pope, who is identified as “the Chief Shepherd: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4). Obviously, “the Chief Shepherd” is the Christ, Who is also identified as “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20).

It is further claimed that the Pope is “the Vicar of Christ upon earth.” “Vicar” is one who acts in the place of another; thus, the idea is that the Pope is Jesus’ representative on earth. The Bible teaches no such thing. The Bible says of Jesus, “He is the head of the body” (Colossians 1:18). Our Lord is the single Head of His church, and He shares that role with no one! He alone has all authority (Matthew 28:18).

Another quote from the same Catholic source: “In virtue of his office as supreme teacher and ruler of the faithful, the chief control of every department of the Church’s life belongs to the pope.” “Supreme teacher?” The Bible identifies someone as the Top Teacher, and it is not the Pope! Jesus said, “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matthew 23:10). Furthermore, while men say that the Pope has control over every aspect of the church, the Bible indicates that it is God’s will “that in all things He (Jesus) may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). Our Lord has first rank by Himself! No mere human outranks our Lord, and none is on equal footing with Him. Remember, per divine decree, “the church is subject to Christ” (Ephesians 5:24), not the Pope.

When one searches high and low in every verse of the New Testament, he never finds any authority for the title or position of “the Pope.” Men may endorse it, but the Bible does not support it. God wants us to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), and those oracles do not mention or authorize anything that is remotely similar to a papal position. Therefore, we must conclude that the title, position, and authority of “the Pope” are man-made.

(2) Was the apostle Peter the first “Pope?” The Catholic Encyclopedia says that “Christ constituted St. Peter head of His Church . . .” Fact: In the New Testament, we read about “Peter,” yes, but not “the Pope.” Peter is identified in the Bible as both an “apostle” and “elder” (1 Peter 5:1), but never as “Pope” or “Head” of Jesus’ church. It is true that Jesus spoke about the authority that would be granted to Peter, promising him that what he would bind and loose on earth had already been bound in heaven (Matthew 16:19), but our Lord made the same promise to all of the apostles (Matthew 18:18). Even the last-called apostle, Paul, was not one bit behind “the most eminent apostles,” including Peter (2 Corinthians 12:11).

Modern-day Popes accept the worship of humans, but Peter did not accept such (Acts 10:25,26). Open criticism of today’s Pope is considered taboo, but Paul rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Popes do not marry, yet Peter was a married man (Mark 1:30). In Catholic circles, the Pope always has “the last say”; James, not Peter, had the last word during the circumcision discussion at Jerusalem (Acts 15). You see the point. In the Scriptures, Peter is never once identified as the Head or Pope of God’s church, and he was far different in so many ways from those who wear that title today.

“The kissing of the pope’s foot – the characteristic act of reverence by which all the faithful do honor to him as the vicar of Christ – is found as early as the eighth century.” You and I know why that quote does not say “first” century! “The Pope” is a man-made-not-in-the-Bible-and-not-from-heaven position.




KING ZEDEKIAH’S RESPONSE TO JEREMIAH’S MESSAGE FROM JEHOVAH


Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, was the last king of the Southern Kingdom (Judah). It was during Zedekiah’s reign that Judah fell to the Babylonians. Before that horrendous destruction, on a number of occasions Jeremiah sent messages to the king and also had private conversations with him. We read about all of that in the Book of Jeremiah.

For our study, however, we are focusing our attention on the statements about Zedekiah that are recorded in a single Bible verse: 2 Chronicles 36:12. Zedekiah became king at the young age of 21 and ruled for 11 years before Judah’s crash (36:11). What was God’s overall assessment of Zedekiah?

       He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and
       did not humble himself before Jeremiah the
       prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD.

Let us consider the facts which are set forth in this text and see what lessons we can learn from them.

First, royalty does not equal godliness, and position does not guarantee proper conduct. In the history of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), all 19 kings were evil. In the South (Judah), some kings were a “mix” of good and wicked, while some were outstanding. Zedekiah did not fit into either of those categories; he was just bad.

Even though Zedekiah sat on a throne, that throne and the position which came with it did nothing to make him a righteous person. At the same time, though, we must point out that from a biblical standpoint, there is no justification for us having a built-in suspicion of every person that is in a position of high authority. While few mighty or rich choose to follow the ways of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26), to say that few are willing to do so is far from concluding that zero per cent of such people will make righteous choices. We respect the authority of the position that modern-day civil leaders hold (1 Peter 2:13), and in fairness to them, we should analyze their character on an individual basis rather than concluding that all royalty and others in high positions are either “super” or “not trustworthy.”

Second, God alone sets the standard for good and evil. Our text in 2 Chronicles 36:12 declares that Zedekiah did evil “in the sight of the LORD.” Zedekiah’s conduct may have pleased men, but it failed to please God. That is really all that matters, is it not? Right and wrong are not determined by personal feelings, public opinion, politicians, or pastors. God’s instructions are righteous (Psalm 119:172), and they are truth (Psalm 119:151). That is the way that it always has been. In every era of human history, when God has charged His people to abhor and stay away from what is evil and cleave to what is good (Romans 12:9), that means “evil” and “good” per God’s point of view, not man’s. Zedekiah failed to conform to the divine standard. That is what made his behavior “evil in the sight of the LORD.”

Third, Jeremiah “spoke from the mouth of the Lord.” Later in 2 Chronicles 36, we also read that God’s word was spoken “by the mouth of Jeremiah” (36:21). So, the message went from God’s mind to God’s mouth to Jeremiah’s mouth, and through his mouth to the ears of those who heard him speak. Thus, it was Jehovah’s message, spoken through Jeremiah. Put another way, God was the Source of the message (2 Timothy 3:16), while Jeremiah was the instrument through whom the message was made known. Jeremiah wrote, “Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9). Jeremiah did not present his own personal opinions to educate and motivate King Zedekiah. No, Jeremiah proclaimed God’s word. We do not have inspired prophets today, but we can still speak from the mouth of the Lord. How? By opening His Book and speaking as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).

Fourth, Zedekiah “did not humble himself.” He could have; he just chose not to do so. When a person hears God’s truth, as Zedekiah did, but refuses to humble himself, what will be the consequences? He will not submit to God’s will, and when that happens, he does “evil” in God’s sight. And? Evildoers who fail to repent will be raised from the dead to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28,29). Humility, or a lack of it, is the difference between eternal life and eternal torment. Hear what God says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5,6).

Finally, a righteous man does not always produce righteous children. Zedekiah’s father was Josiah, who walked in the way of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 34:2) and is considered generally to be the finest king in the history of Judah. Boy, was his son Zedekiah of a different mold! Faithful servants of the Lord should not assume that their offspring will follow their example automatically. Both a father and his son will be judged by God according to their personal conduct (Ezekiel 18:20).

Humbling ourselves and submitting to the will of God is always the right course of action. Zedekiah had so many plusses in his life, including a righteous father and a faithful prophet to tell him exactly what the Lord wanted. Sadly, he chose to live his own way instead of God’s. Let us not follow in his steps.




WORDS ARE POWERFUL TOOLS


Whether they be used in a poem, a song, a professor’s lecture, a presidential speech, or those of a casual conversation between two friends, words have tremendous potential to be powerful communication tools. Words have the power to comfort or depress, encourage or demoralize, enlighten or confuse, help or hinder, build up or tear down, cause joy or sadness, and stir up love or hatred. Words have started wars and ended wars. Words have led to the saving and killing of innocent lives in the emergency facilities of hospitals. Words have helped hold some marriages together while destroying others.

Just as they are for every other person in the world, words are a major part of the life of God’s children. Realizing the potential for our words both to do great damage and great good, we ought to take our speech seriously. When it comes to the words which we employ, here are four reminders.

What we say is important. When I was a youth, I attended a state-wide gathering of those that identified themselves as “Christian” athletes. During one of our discussions/“Bible studies” in a small-group setting, one of the adult men leading the discussion told us that God does not care what we say. He sought to persuade us that our choice of words does not matter, so if we use profanity, well, that simply means that our vocabulary is limited.

The Bible gives a message that is far different from the one that the above-mentioned guide gave to vulnerable young men. The Bible says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:28). This verse makes it plain that, in God’s sight, some words are appropriate, and some are not. It is also written, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10). Yes, our words really do have meaning. And, yes, what we say truly is important. Thus, let us choose our words carefully, being “slow to speak” (James 1:19). Once words come out of our mouth or we put them in writing, they cannot go back. One might apologize for the harm done, but the word(s) that came forth from us will be a permanent part of human history.

How we say what we say is important. Professional writers understand that truth. Teachers and coaches do, too. Christian parents, gospel preachers, and Bible class teachers must not forget it. It is not enough to speak the truth; our Lord wants us to do so “in love” (Ephesians 4:15). The principle of Proverbs 15:1 is a relevant principle in every generation: “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” When we teach someone the gospel, how we express the truth that all of the redeemed are in the Christ (Romans 3:24) has the potential to influence one’s response to that truth.

Our motive in saying what we say is important. On more than one occasion, the Pharaoh who ultimately released the Israelites from Egypt confessed, “I have sinned” (Exodus 9:27; 10:16). Good words, lousy motive. That man had no remorse for his transgressions and no desire to please Jehovah. He said what sounded good in order to receive relief from his misery. Parents, it is not enough to scold a child. Words spoken to the young lad or young girl need to come from a heart of love (Hebrews 12:5,6). Speaking to rebuke those who are in error is what God prescribes, but He wants us to do so that the erring ones “may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). Let us also not forget that when we sing spiritual songs, our desire is not to impress or entertain, but to use the words of the songs to praise the true and living God and pour out our sincere reverence for Him (Colossians 3:16).

Our action before and after we say what we say is important. The strong words of Romans 2:21 should catch our attention: “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?” If our action before and/or after our instruction to others is inconsistent with our words, people will not be willing to accept what we say, even if it is true. In order for our words to have a maximum positive effect, people must also see clearly that we really do care about them – that our words of concern are backed up with action.

Did you feel like you often make mistakes in your choice of words or in the way that you express yourself? Join the crowd. Jesus is the only one that never said any inappropriate words or failed in the way that He used proper words. Let us all make a commitment to do the best we can in choosing and using our words. What we say and how we say it have a big influence in life. In fact, our words can even determine our own eternal destiny. Jesus said, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).




Galatians 3:26-29 – WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO BE CALLED A CHILD OF GOD?


What a wonderful privilege it is to be a child of the living God! Thank God for His great love by which He allows us to be in His family. In the closing section of Galatians 3, we read about which people have the right to be called God’s children. Let’s call it “sonship in the Christ.” Note the text:

       (26) For you are all sons of God through faith in
       Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were
       baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There
       is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave
       nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you
       are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are
       Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs
       according to the promise.

Let us start by pointing out some matters that are not the basis of sonship. The words of our text come immediately after Paul explained the role of the Law of Moses. For the Jews, it had served as a tutor to bring them to the Christ. Paul makes it clear that now, though, that old law is no longer in force (3:24,25). Thus, the sonship about which Paul writes is not brought about by following the old law.

Sonship is not through physical birth. The Christ is mentioned in each of the four sentences that make up the last four verses of Galatians 3. One becomes a child of God through Jesus, and that involves a spiritual birth, not a physical one (John 3:3,5). When it comes to physical matters, the context of the entire epistle to the Galatians makes it plain that receiving physical circumcision is not a factor in whether or not one is a child of God (cf. “circumcised nor uncircumcised” in Colossians 3:11).

Sonship is not based on one’s ancestry. As our text shows, in the Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (3:28). That, of course, does not mean that no Jew or Greek can be a child of God; it simply means that in God’s Son, there is no distinction based on one’s biological background.

Sonship is not based on one’s social status. Both slave and free could be, and were, admitted into God’s family (3:28).

Sonship is not based on one’s gender. Again, in God’s Son “there is neither male nor female” (3:28). We obviously can detect the difference between females and males, but the point here is that sonship is neither denied nor granted due to one’s gender. Do not confuse the issue in this context. Paul is not discussing the roles that males and females play in the Christ. He is not declaring that they are equal in having the right to take leadership roles in the work and worship of God’s people. No, Paul is addressing the question of “Who has the right to be called a child of God?” In that matter, brothers and sisters are equal, having come into the Christ in the same manner and being entitled to equal spiritual blessings in Him (Ephesians 1:3).

Well, if being God’s child is not predicated on any of those matters listed above, then upon what is it based? Sonship is based on location and relationship. Those who are in God’s family “are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). Thus, all of God’s children are in the Christ (which is the same as being in His church, 1 Timothy 3:15). The in-the-Christ people are the same as those who are identified as “Christ’s” (3:29). Again, sonship and faithful service is about location and relationship. Now let us go back a bit in our text.

Sonship comes about through Jesus: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:26). There is no way to bypass Him and be a child of God. As we consider “faith” in this verse, there are two aspects to it. First, in the Greek text, “faith” is preceded by an article, making it “the faith” – that is the system of faith, or gospel (1:23). So, sonship comes about via the gospel (and not the old law; 3:24,25). Second, there is the personal element of faith – a person must respond to the message of “the faith” with his own personal faith in Jesus as the Christ (Acts 16:31).

When does one’s personal faith get him into the Christ, that is, make him a child of God? “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27). Scriptural immersion is the transition – it takes one from being in the darkness that is outside of the Christ and puts him into God’s Son. Since all spiritual blessings, including redemption, are in the Christ (Ephesians 1:3,7), then no one outside of Him is in God’s spiritual family. Again, the only way door into Him is via baptism.

Those who “are Christ’s” (3:29) were bought with a price – the blood of the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18,19). Being in the Christ, they are Abraham’s spiritual seed and heirs to the promise, the promise that all families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s seed (3:16; Genesis 12:3; 22:18).

Let us never take for granted the privilege of being God’s children. God help us to appreciate all of the efforts made by the Godhead and humans, too, to bring about our redemption. And may we conduct ourselves in God’s family in such a way that others can see just how much that family means to us.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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