Monday, May 29, 2006

Similarities: Jews and the Roman Catholic Church?

Will the Roman Catholic Church be kept free from error? This is what she claims. The same is claimed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Apostolic deposit of Church planting does consist of Churches in the East and West. And today, those churches teach differently on sin, grace, the eucharist, purgatory, the immaculate conception, and on the merits of the saints. The Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholic Church both claim they will be kept free from error according to Matthew 16:18. However, both teach contrary doctrines, so at least one, if not both, are wrong.

The Jews in the Old Covenant felt the same way as the Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics believe that they are members of the historic church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The children of Abraham felt the same way.

But unfortunately through the history of the Jewish faith, it looks much the same as that of Christianity. For most of it, it was plagued by sin and false doctrine. Israel began strong on the feet of King David. But most of the Kings afterwards including King Solomon were corrupted by idolatry. In 930 BC Jeroboam I set up two golden calves, and led the nation into sin. This idolatrous worship persisted throughout Israel’s northern history until 722 BC when the northern kingdom came to an end. How could God who promised to be with the Jews let idolatry reign for 192 years in the northern Kingdom! The Southern Kingdom was a little brighter. Although it began on the wrong foot with Rehoboam in 930 BC, and remained that way until Nebuchadnezzar carried it off to captivity in 586 BC, there were lights in the darkness like King Asa (910 BC), Hezekiah (715 BC), and finally Josiah (640 BC). What was it that led the Reform of Josiah who repaired the temple, destroyed idol shrines, reinstated the priests of God, and the Passover? It was the Holy Scriptures which were read by Shaphan the secretary to King Josiah. 2 Kings 22:11-13 says:

“Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

As one can see from this quote, the Jews had a responsibility to remain faithful to God’s will as preserved in the OT Scriptures, just as it is up to the Church to remain faithful to what has been preserved by the OT and NT Scriptures. We must continually commit ourselves to be faithful to God’s covenant and defend our doctrine against false teachings. It says concerning King Josiah that:

“He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant” (2 Kings 23:2-3).

Of course the Lord stayed true to His promises during this period of corruption by sending prophets and wise men to restore Israel to the convenant. In 2 Chronicles however, Ezra wrote that the Jews would not listen to the prophets and even stoned a priest named Zechariah. Ezra records:

“Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.’” So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 24:19-21).

Concerning this hardness of heart and this unwillingness to repent Jesus declared to the Jews:

“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:34-37).

Are there any similarities between the Jewish people and the Roman Catholic Church? Both were given covenants and both have not remained faithful. The Roman Catholic Church has allowed Mary to be worshiped, and has also granted that the merits of departed saints count for the justification of others. Concerning Mary, they teach that she was born without sin, call her co-redemptrix, and encourage people to pray to her by setting kneeling rails before her statues. The worship of Mary began in the 4th century. To this monstrous doctrine God raised up Epiphanius (315-403 AD) who wrote:

“Some think and speak contemptuously about Mary; others however, inclining toward the other side, glorify her beyond what is fitting. ... Under the pretext that it is right, the devil secretly enters the mind of men and deifies mortal nature; he models statues which bear the human image, in order that they may adore the dead and introduce images for adoration, committing adultery with the mind against the one and only God. Yes, certainly, the body of Mary was holy, but she was not God. Yes, indeed, the Virgin was a virgin, and honorable, but she was not given to us to worship. She worshiped him to whom she gave birth from her flesh; the one who is from heaven and from the Father’s bosom. And for this reason the Gospel reassures us of this, the Lord himself declaring that: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come” [Jn 2:4]. And so that no one would think from the words, “O woman, what have you to do with me,” that the holy Virgin is superior, he calls her ‘woman’(Panarion 3.2:4).

But unfortunately, like King Asa under the Old Covenant, Epiphanius’ teachings were not committed to by the church. Instead, at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD, the Church sanctioned the worship of images.

Concerning the gospel which teaches that a man is declared righteous by faith in Christ alone and not by works, which Paul laid down so clearly, the church allowed to be corrupted as well. Augustine was raised up as the champion of orthodoxy against Pelagius much like King Josiah in the Old Covenant and restored it again after it was obscured for 200 years. Both Augustine and King Josiah were both influenced tremendously by the Holy Scriptures. Through the writings of St. Paul, St. Augustine restored the doctrine of grace and at the Council of Orange in 529 AD after Augustine’s death, all works righteousness was condemned.

Unfortunately, through the Middle Ages (the Medieval Period) arose Scholasticism. During this period, the doctrines of purgatory and the Sacrifice of the Mass were confirmed as dogmas of the Western Church. Further in the late Middle Ages arose the influence of the corrupter of the Catholic Faith: Aristotle. His writings were used extensively by St. Thomas, which validated the foolishness of the Scholastic period. The doctrines of sin, grace, justification, and sanctification were all perverted instead of restored to an Augustinian understanding of them as well as the Sacrifice of the Mass, and purgatory. A light in the darkness was the monk who opposed Scholasticism, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The Catholic, Franz Possett shows that he taught that justification was a declaration by faith alone. For example, St. Bernard wrote:

“Shall not all our righteousness turn out to be mere unrighteousness and deficiency? What, then, shall it be concerning our sins, when not even our righteousness can answer for itself? Wherefore...let us flee, with all humility to Mercy which alone can save our souls...whoever hungers and thirsts after righteousness, let him believe in thee, who "justified the ungodly"; and thus, being justified by faith alone, he shall have peace with God.”

Unfortunately, this Apostolic Catholic doctrine of justification was buried and perverted by the Scholastic period which affirmed the doctrine of St. Thomas but rejected that of St. Bernard. God still raised up other Catholic Reformers like John Wycliffe, John Huss, and Martin Luther. But the Catholic Church burned Huss, burned the bones of Wycliffe, and excommunicated Martin Luther.

The Book of Revelation illustrates the judgment that would come upon those who killed God’s saints. It declares concerning the judged:

“For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink” (Rev. 16:6).

Concerning Babylon which is a code name for Rome, Revelation states:

“I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:6).

Following Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, Rome continued to murder Protestants. Yes, it is true – the gates of hell will not prevail against God’s Church - God raised up Martin Luther to be a witness to the truth, but the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated him. Therefore, God granted His grace and His Reformation to Martin Luther and the conservative Evangelicals who put the gospel first. They now have God’s blessings, His Gospel, and the gates of hell will not prevail against them as long as they are faithful to God’s Word.