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The Catholic Faith (Part 5) - Private Interpretation

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

Peter affirmed that the scriptures were not written by men who used their own ideas and words, but by men of God who were “moved by the Holy Ghost.” Peter was refuting the doctrines of the apostates who taught with “feigned words” (2 Pet. 2:3) and twisted the scriptures to make them mean something else (2 Pet. 3:16). Since the Holy Spirit gave the word of God (e.g. the prophecies written down in scripture did not originate from the prophets themselves), only the Spirit can teach the word of God and interpret it accurately (1 Cor. 2:14-15). Of course, every false teacher claims the he is “led of the Spirit,” but his handling of the word of God exposes him. The word “private” simply means “one’s own” and suggests that since all scripture is inspired by the Spirit it must all “hang together” and no one scripture should be divorced from the others. You can use the Bible to prove almost anything if you isolate verses from their proper context, which is exactly the approach the false teachers use.

Historically, the Church of Rome has used this verse to abuse those who refuse to bow to its dogmas. Rome claimed for centuries that before anyone can arrive at the meaning of a passage he must first obtain “the unanimous consent of the Fathers” (First Vatican Council, 1869-70) That is to say, he must ascertain what the church “fathers” had written about the subject. Then he must ensure that they are in agreement as to the interpretation. They claim only then can he know what the passage means. This ruling has effectively kept Roman Catholics from studying the Bible, a Book that the Vatican has traditionally tried to keep out of the hands of its people. However the “unanimous consent of the Fathers” is a myth since they continually contradict what each other have written. Peter’s expression here about “private interpretation” has nothing to do with independent Bible study as opposed to accepting the ex cathedra dogmas of a church. We are commanded to be diligent Bible students (2 Tim. 2:15).

The word of God was written to common people, not to theological professors. The writers assumed that common people could read it, understand it, and apply it, led by the same Holy Spirit who inspired it. This is in contrast to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 100) which states “the task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.”

Teachers and creeds have their place but they must not usurp the authority of the word of God over the conscience of the individual believer. The Roman Catholic Church wrests and perverts the word of God in an effort to force the Bible to approve of her own heresies and traditions. In this post we will consider eight passages of scripture that the Church in Rome has twisted for its own use…

The First – The True Church

“[Jesus] asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed are thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:13,16-18

Roman Catholicism

“The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 881)

The Bible

Peter acknowledged Jesus to be both human and divine; he recognized that the Son of man is the Son of God. Peter’s great confession is the cardinal creed of the church. Jesus is the Christ, God’s own Son. He is truly man and He is God in essence and substance. The Lord instantly acknowledged Peter’s confession. Then came the memorable words, “Thou art Peter [petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church.” We must remember that the Lord was talking to His disciples who as Hebrews were rooted and grounded in the Old Testament scriptures. They would have known that in the scriptures the word “rock” is used figuratively of God and Christ. Moses wrote in reference to God, “their rock is not as our Rock” (Deut. 32:31). The psalmist wrote, “Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (Psa. 89:26). Isaiah wrote that Christ is the foundation stone (Isa. 28:16). The Lord Jesus took up the well-understood Hebrew symbol of deity, the rock, and declared, “upon this rock [upon Himself as God] I will build my church.” I’m not one to run to the original languages but it is of interest that the two Greek words “petros” [Peter] and “petra” [rock] are distinct. Petros is in the masculine gender and denotes a loose stone or pebble. Petra is in the feminine gender and denotes a rock or a cliff, firm and immovable. The church is not built on Peter, but on Christ.

Peter understood the Lord’s utterance correctly (see 1 Peter 2:6-8). Paul also used the symbol of a rock to describe Christ when he wrote “that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4) as well as “for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11)

Simon Peter has a pre-crucifixion revelation about the nature and person of Christ not on the nature of the church in Matthew 16; Paul has a post-resurrection revelation of a gospel that defines the nature of the body of Christ (Ephesians chapters 2 and 3).

The Second – The Keys

“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shat loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” Matthew 16:19

Roman Catholicism

“In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1444, 45, 46)

The Bible

In scripture keys and doors are used as symbols of unlocking the truth of God, specifically to preach the gospel. Christ said, “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge” (Lk. 11:52) and Paul asked that God “would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ…” (Col. 4:3). Other examples can be found in Isaiah 22:22, Revelation 3:7-8, 1 Corinthians 16:9, and 2 Corinthians 2:12.

Because Peter was the first to utter the great confession of the church age, he was to be the first to open the church’s previously locked doors to both the Jews and the Gentiles. He was the first to preach the gospel to the Jews on the day of Pentecost and to the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius. As soon as Peter had thus “unlocked” the doors of the church, his primacy was finished.

The “binding and loosing” was given to all twelve apostles and furthermore the power “to remit and retain sins” (Jn. 20:23; Lk. 24:24) and the power of Matthew 16:19 is shared by other believers of Christ’s day and time. Examples of “binding and loosing” in the same sense the words are used in Matthew chapter 16 occur in Galatians 2:1-8, Acts 1:15-26, 2 Corinthians 2:10 and Ephesians 4:30-32. The humblest believer has been given the authority to tell a man his sins are forgiven on the basis of Acts 13:38,39 or tell him that they are unforgiven on the basis of John 8:24. The Christian does not judge the sinner when he exercises this power for the unsaved man is already judged and condemned (Jn. 3:18,36) and the saved man has already been tried and acquitted (Jn. 5:24).

The Third – Remission of Sin

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” John 20:22-23

Roman Catholicism

“Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1456)
Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1461)

The Bible

Every Christian has the power of John 20:23 every time he makes the offer of salvation to anyone. As the early believers went forth into the world, they announced the good news of salvation. If sinners would repent and believe on Jesus Christ, their sins would be forgiven them. “Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mk. 2:7) Remission or forgiveness of sins lies in the atonement of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:1-12). All that the Christian can do is announce the message of forgiveness; God performs the miracle of forgiveness. If sinners will believe on Jesus Christ, we can authoritatively declare to them that their sins have been forgiven; but we are not the ones who provide the forgiveness. This power is illustrated in Acts 13:38-39, where every Christian has the right to tell any man that he is forgiven or not forgiven on the basis of what he does with Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:16).

Paul had the authority of John 20:22-23 without being present in the room. Notice his statement to this effect in 2 Corinthians 2:10 as he writes, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ.”

The Fourth – The Scripture or Tradition

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” John 21:24

Roman Catholicism

“It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 95)

The Bible

There are three warnings in the Bible about adding things to scripture at the end of the Pentateuch (Deut. 4:2), directly in the middle (Prov. 30:6), and at the end of the last book of the Bible (Rev. 22:18-19). The Holy Spirit was given to, among other things, “guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13). Where Christians differ in doctrine or refuse to abide by the truth, there is always something personal and subjective in the life of the believer – either lack of Bible study, lack of prayer, or lack of surrender to revealed light. Not once is the believer told to look to Rome for any spiritual help.

The Vatican uses John 21:24 to justify their traditions which contradict, pervert, ignore, or misrepresent scripture because they falsely claim the apostles did indeed teach Catholic doctrine that was passed down through oral tradition. The verse is clearly hypothetical and does not relate in any way to “early Christians” baptizing babies, “early Christians” sprinkling converts, “early Christians” calling a pastor “priest”, “early Christians” propagated the gospel through building monasteries or any number of the other unscriptural Catholic fantasies.

The Fifth – The Mass

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” Matthew 26:26-28

Roman Catholicism

“If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Canon I, Thirteenth Session)

The Bible

For starters, the drinking of blood is forbidden before the law (Gen. 9:4), during the law (Lev. 17:14) and during the church age (Acts 15:29). If the “pure blood of the grape” was literally transformed by the “priest” into the literal blood of Jesus Christ then drinking it would be in violation of the word of God.

When a Christian participates in the Lord’s Table (also known as communion or the Lord’s Supper), he is commemorating the death of Jesus Christ as a memorial and the communion he has is a communion between the members of the Body of Christ (believers). Paul wrote, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:23-29).

When Christ died as a sacrifice on the cross it was said to be “once for all,” “one time forever” (Heb. 10:1-6). The elements of the Lord’s table are not transformed into His literal body and blood to be taken as a perpetual sacrifice.

The Sixth – Baptismal Regeneration

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” John 3:5

Roman Catholicism

“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit.’ God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1257)

The Bible

What did Christ mean when he said “except a man be born of water” (Jn. 3:5). The writers of the Old Testament recognized a water birth as the first birth (Gen. 1:20; Prov. 5:15-16,18; Isa. 48:1): the first thing that brings forth life in the book of Genesis is water; a man’s water is the fountain from which the water brings his progeny, and a man’s heritage in the past is a river of water from which he comes.

In the context where Jesus is speaking (contrasting a natural birth with a spiritual birth), the man He is talking to has just asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (Jn. 3:4) Notice immediately following the “water and the Spirit” statement Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (Jn. 3:6-7). Man is born once of water, in the flesh. He needs to be born again, of the Spirit from above.

The Vatican reads “baptism” into the text where no “baptism” is found. In the Bible, baptism is not a sacrament but an ordinance. It is by immersion not by sprinkling. It is never performed on infants. It is not salvation but only a figure of salvation. It puts no one into Christ but represents the believer’s identification with Christ.

The Seventh – Purgatory

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:14-15

Roman Catholicism

“If anyone saith, that, after the grace of justification has been received… and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise that there remains not any debt… to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened to him: Let him be anathema.” (The Council of Trent, Canon XXX, Sixth Session, January 13, 1547)

The Bible

The context of 1 Corinthians 3 is the judgment seat of Christ (see also Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10): ”Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13) What is being tested in the fire is “things” not people – “of what sort” a man’s work is AFTER salvation. The notion that fire can cleanse people or people’s sins is not found anywhere in the New Testament. We are told three times that purging (like the word “purgatory”) is by blood – not fire (Heb. 1:3; 9:14,22).

The Eighth – A Mediator with God

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Roman Catholicism

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 969)

The Bible

The one and only mediator listed in 2 Timothy is a man, not a woman; the one man (Christ Jesus) who is this mediator told His disciples to pray in His name (Jn. 16:24) Nowhere in the Bible does any believer pray in the name of Mary, Jude, Christopher, Joseph, etc.

In short, to enforce their false doctrine as New Testament Christianity the hierarchy of Rome has taken words out of verses, verses out of chapters, chapters out of books, ministries out of dispensations, added books that were not inspired (apocrypha), ignored the primary teaching of scripture, usurped the priesthood of the Old Testament, ignored salvation by grace through faith as revealed by Paul in his epistles to the churches, and pronounced curses on anyone who questioned the authority of the Vatican. “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant” (1 Cor. 14:38). Why not take God at His word, as He said it, where He said it, and for whom He intended it?

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