By Ron Halbook
The following quotation appears in the well known Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Vol. VI, p. 895) at the conclusion of his discussion of 2 Peter.
We have now passed over all the canonical writings of Peter that are extant; and it is worthy of remark that in no place of the two epistles already examined, nor in any of this apostle’s sayings in any other parts of the sacred writings, do we find any of the peculiar tenets of the Romish Church: not one word of his or the pope’s supremacy; not one word of those who affect to be his successors; nothing of the infallibility claimed by those pretended successors; nothing of purgatory, penances, pilgrimages, auricular confession, power of the keys, indulgences, extreme unction, masses, and prayers for the dead; and not one word on the most essential doctrine of the Romish Church, transubstantiation. Now, as all these things have been considered by themselves most essential to the being of that Church; is it not strange that he, from whom they profess to derive all their power, authority, and influence, in spiritual and secular matters, should have said nothing of these most necessary things? Is it not a proof that they are all false and forged; that the holy apostle knew nothing of them; that they are no part of the doctrine of God; and, although they distinguish the Church of Rome, do not belong to the Church of Christ? It is no wonder that the rules of this Church endeavor to keep the Scriptures from the common people; for, were they permitted to consult these, the imposture would be detected, and the solemn, destructive cheat at one exposed.
Mr. Clarke is certainly correct when he shows that the distinguishing marks of the church which Jesus built – the church of Christ about which we read in the New Testament – are not “the peculiar tenets of the Romish Church.” It is abundantly clear that the Roman Catholic Church is not the body which Jesus promised to build and for which He died (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28). There is an urgent need for us to ring out the clarion call for a restoration of New Testament Christianity. We must guard constantly against every possible departure from the inspired standard and examine ourselves in the light of God’s perfect truth.
Any religion – under whatever name – which is distinguished by practices about which the Bible says nothing is idolatry. No more than Jesus Himself could be a priest under Moses’ Law coming out of the tribe of Judah, “of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood,” can we preach and practice things about which the New Testament is silent (Heb. 7:14; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Let us beware lest we become indifferent to the call to produce Bible authority for all that we do in service to God. Let us be sure that we have biblical authority in the form of direct statement, apostolic precedent, or necessary implication. Whether the authority be generic or specific, let us produce book, chapter, and verse for every item of faith and practice.
Either God has given in His Word “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” or He has not! If He has not, let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. If God has not revealed Himself and His will in fulness, it is certain that the puny efforts of man to pierce through the heavens and to bring Him down must miserably fail. If He has revealed Himself, the whole meaning of man’s existence is comprehended in a faith which works by love by the closest adherence to that revelation. The Bible abundantly affirms that God has revealed Himself and repeatedly urges our closest adherence to that revelation in passages such as John 1:1-18; 6:63-69; 12:48; 14:1-6; 16:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:24-25; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3; and 2 John 9-11. Let us praise God in the highest for the great gift of redemption in His Son – a redemption conceived, enacted, and revealed by God’s own unmerited favor toward wayward man (Eph. 2:1-9). Let us remember that it was the precious Son of His grace who said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments …. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 14:15; 15:14).
The church that Jesus built does not run rampant over the boundary line of revealed truth into the dark and uncharted wilderness of the silence of Scripture. The true body or church of Christ is made up of people who find meaning, spirituality, and maturity not in human experimentation and excitement of the flesh but rather in humble obedience to God’s revealed Word. Let us determine with all the heart, all the mind, and all the soul that we shall indeed speak as the Bible speaks and be silent as the Bible is silent. Let us turn away from every religious idol “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:10-11).
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 11, p. 346
June 2, 1983