By Ron Halbrook
Pope John Paul II was chosen as 1994’s “Man of the Year” for his moral leadership by Time Magazine (26 Dec. 1994/2 Jan. 1995 issue). He told Time, “The Pope must be a moral force.” Time said, “John Paul has presented himself, the defender of Roman Catholic doctrine, as a moral compass for believers and nonbelievers alike.” Even Billy Graham, a Baptist preacher, chimed in, “He’s been the strong conscience of the whole Christian world” (p. 54).
The Man of the Year needs to read the eternal Word of God! “The word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:25). Any man who lives in open rebellion against God’s Word nullifies any claim to moral leadership. It is a tragic commentary on our times that such a man could be considered “a moral compass.”
1. Christ, not the Pope, is the rock of our salvation. Catholics claim Christ crowned Peter the first Pope and every Pope is a direct successor to Peter. When Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Christ responded, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:16, 18). The rock is not Peter but is the grand confession of the deity of Jesus Christ. Peter confessed the primacy of Christ, not vice versa! The rock and foundation of our salvation is not a mere mortal but is the divine Son of God. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).
2. The Pope is not qualified to oversee a local church, much less the universal church. Christ rules and reigns at God’s right hand as “the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). The Pope’s claim to be head of the universal church on earth is a colossal usurpation of the power that belongs to Christ alone. The Pope’s throne was ordained not by Christ but by the apostate “man of sin … who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
Christ as “the chief Shepherd” ordained local bishops, pastors, or elders to oversee each local church (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). A plurality of such men is to serve each congregation. He authorized no higher level of organization, whether it be a bishop of two or all congregations.
The qualifications for “the office of a bishop” require that “a bishop must be . . . the husband of one wife…. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:1-5). Catholic priests, monks, nuns, bishops, archbishops, and popes are forbidden to marry, disqualifying them to oversee even one local church. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, .. . Forbidding to marry” (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
3. Christ expressly forbids such religious titles as Father, Reverend, and Pope. Christ warned of men in special “garments,” seeking “chief seats,” with titles of reverence. “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:5-9). The title “Pope” comes from the Latin word for father.
Sad to say, this “Man of the Year” is just another incarnation of the man of sin, desperately needing to submit to the Son of man, like all sinners. The Pope is not “a moral compass” but needs to make God’s Word his “moral compass.” He needs to read the eternal Word of God with an open heart. When he does, he will find that Christ and not himself is the rock of salvation, that Christ authorized local elders (married men) but not universal popes (unmarried), and that Christ forbids the office and title of “Pope.” When the Pope lays aside the trappings of false religion, he will be ready to be immersed in water for the remission of his sins by the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4). The Lord will then add him to the true church of Christ found in the Bible (Acts 2:47; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 12:13).
As it stands, the Pope appears to be a moral leader for two reasons. First, our world is lost in the utter darkness of sin and frantically seeks some semblance of moral guidance. Satan raises up his ministers to fill that need. Second, error is more deceptive when mixed with truth. Catholicism offers an appealing mixture of revealed truth and human traditions, all made more palatable by the claim that the Pope is the personal emissary of Christ as a successor to the apostles of Christ.
Satan has made such false claims since Christ and the apostles first revealed the way of truth. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Deception is stronger when some truth is taught. Satan correctly quoted Scripture to Christ, but used it in an effort to lead Christ to compromise with error. Christ answered by quoting some truth Satan left out (Matt. 4:5-7).
The Pope teaches a mixture of truth and error on moral issues. When he speaks out against abortion on demand, he speaks the truth. Abortion on demand is a murderous violation of the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ” (Rom. 13:9-10). It is right to oppose sex outside marriage with or without contraceptives (1 Cor. 6:18; Heb. 13:4). His opposition to contraceptives not involving abortion within marriage is human tradition. He is right to oppose divorce and remarriage at will, but wrong to allow annulment as a substitute, and wrong to oppose remarriage after a divorce for fornication (Matt. 19:9). In short, Catholicism is a mixture of truth and error even on moral issues.
The Pope cannot serve as a true “moral compass” because his very office is a flagrant violation of the gospel of Christ and because Catholicism is an apostasy from the church of Christ revealed in the Bible. The “Man of the Year,” like all of us, needs to embrace the eternal Word of God as his “moral compass.”
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 8 p. 18-19
April 20, 1995