By Richard Bennett and Stuart Quint
The Lord Jesus Christ condemned the Pharisees as they attempted to suppress the truth of the Gospel by equating their traditions with the Bible. “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” [i]
Today, the senior leadership of the Roman Catholic Church also undermines truth by equating man-made traditions with God’s Word. Pope Francis and the Roman hierarchy exalt their own authority above Holy Scripture. Consequently, the Catholic person believes not in the Almighty God and His immutable Word, but rather in the Catholic Church and her evolving tradition.
Ever since the Reformation began 500 years ago, the Roman Church continues to use its influence to camouflage the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rome’s Latest Scheme to Camouflage the Truth of the Reformation
By convincing misinformed people that the Reformation was a mistake, Rome seeks to advance a more sinister objective. Indeed, Rome’s intent is to suppress the truth rediscovered by the Reformation – the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Why does Rome concern itself with an historical event that occurred 500 years ago and is barely remembered by many today?
Author George Orwell once said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of history.”[ii]
The Vatican legacy abounds with examples of “doctoring” history to deceive and manipulate ignorant people. Two prominent examples include Rome’s distortion of Biblical figures such as the Apostle Peter into the first Roman Pope [iii] and Mary into “the All-Holy One.” [iv]
Up until recently, Rome has raged against the need for the Reformation. As shown in the Council of Trent and Vatican Council I, the Roman Catholic Church has taken the tact of debating and condemning the tenets of the Reformation.
However, the Papacy now employs a new tactic begun around Vatican II. Under the guise of false unity, Rome seeks to exploit the many professing Evangelicals ignorant of the truth of the Gospel of the Reformation. The Vatican will promote this deception aggressively during the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
A leading UK Catholic journal quotes Pope Francis after a meeting with Lutherans in January 2017:
“’After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on. For this we are grateful…’
‘At the same time, we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults,’ the Pope said. ‘In this spirit, we recalled in Lund that the intention of Martin Luther 500 years ago was to renew the Church, not divide Her…’
The materials for the week, published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, say that, after 50 years of dialogue, ‘Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today, recognizing him as a ‘witness to the Gospel.’”[v]
Pope Francis is wrong to claim Martin Luther as a fellow “witness of the Gospel”. Francis and Luther hold to entirely different gospels! The same conflict 500 years ago still exists today!
In 2017, Rome continues to persuade the world that Protestants no longer have reason to stay separated from her and that the Reformation is no longer necessary.
The Vatican announced in January a new postage stamp to commemorate Martin Luther.[vi] Different Catholic sources debate the significance of this change in Vatican efforts from defaming to honoring the Reformation. Regardless, this event has profound implications.
Mauro Olivieri, the head of Rome’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office, views the stamp issuance not only as significant but under the direct orders of the Papacy:
“We have to try to understand the present time and be interpreters of the messages that the Holy Father wishes to convey… no doubt the issue dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation marks the rapprochement and overcoming of mutual misunderstandings between Christians, and the philately there is.” [vii]
This perceived “rapprochement”, or reconciliation, and “overcoming of mutual understandings between Christians” are mere propaganda for the Vatican agenda.
The Gospel of the Reformation: The Authority and Truth of the Bible Alone[viii]
The Reformers in the sixteenth century rediscovered God’s written Word as the absolute authority for faith and practice. The Scriptures do not substitute for God, but rather express the very mind of God. Christ forbids men to invent subjective interpretations of God’s Word.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”[ix]
To elevate manmade ideology higher than the Bible is tantamount to calling God a liar. Rome demotes God’s glory in promoting tradition as equal to His Word:
“Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”[x]
The Gospel of the Reformation: Salvation Worked by God’s Grace Alone
The Reformers showed that the Scripture wonderfully declares that sinners, “dead in trespasses and sins”[xi] are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”[xii] They echoed the Word of God itself, “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”[xiii]
In opposition to this truth, Rome alleges grace to be a mere aid transmitted through its sacraments. “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament.” [xiv]
The Gospel of the Reformation: Salvation Comes Through Faith Alone
The Reformers taught that God grants faith that brings a sinner to salvation. The object of such faith is the Person of Christ Jesus Himself. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”[xv] God grants such faith through the means of hearing the Word of God: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”[xvi]
Regardless, the Catholic Church completely distorts the concept of faith. Indeed, Rome boasts, “It is the Church that believes first, and so bears, nourishes and sustains my faith.” [xvii]
Then she has the audacity to declare that faith comes through the Church because the Church is our Mother. “Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother.”[xviii]
Rome compels a person to believe in Mother Church and not in the Lord Jesus Christ. “‘Believing’ is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. ‘No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.’”[xix]
The Gospel of the Reformation: Salvation Driven by Christ Alone
Christ alone saves believers. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ…to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”[xx]
The Apostle Paul explicitly defines Christ as the origin of granting the believer external justification before God: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”[xxi]
The Catholic Church explicitly denies the Bible on this point. “Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.”[xxii]
Rome teaches: “Justification is not a declaration of righteousness based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ but a declaration of the believer’s righteousness before the judgment seat of God based on an infusion of grace in a believer’s life. This means that justification is not grounded exclusively on the work of Christ but also in the works and merits of the individual.”[xxiii]
The Gospel of the Reformation: Glory Belongs to God Alone
The Reformers understood the principle of giving glory to God alone follows logically from the other principles. Because justification is by grace alone through God’s gift of faith alone and in Christ alone on the written authority of his Word, to God alone be the glory! He has no room for Mary, the Pope, nor dead saints.
In fact, the Catholic Church addresses Mary as if she were God. “By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the ‘Mother of Mercy,’ the All Holy One.”[xxiv] The Pope competes with the God’s glory in assuming the titles of “Holy Father” and “Vicar of Christ.”
The Roman Church dilutes God’s glory with its veneration of saints:
“Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead… Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”[xxv]
What Will We Do with The Gospel of the Reformation?
It is not enough to celebrate the Reformation. We need to obey and treasure the same Christ and the very Gospel that inspired revivals throughout history.
Will we awaken from the slumber of our postmodern age that consents with Rome to suppress the Gospel of Christ? Will we run the same race as believers of the past and look unto Christ as our source of power and example? Will we love Christ at our own expense and be willing to endure scorn for Him?
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”[xxvi]
[i] Matthew 23:13. Unless otherwise specified, all verses are from the King James Version.
[ii] https://www.military-history.org/articles/thinkers-at-war-george-orwell.htm accessed on July 24, 2017.
[iii] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (1994: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City), Paragraphs 880-2.
[iv] Catechism, Paragraph 2677.
[vi] http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/servizi/ufficio-filatelico-e-numismatico/programma-emissioni1.html accessed on June 23, 2017. Authors’ emphasis.
[vii] English translation and screenshots of original interview in Italian by Danilo Bogoni, “Novita Vaticane Targate 2017”, Arte del Francobollo, January 2017, p.8 on https://www.unificato.it/adf65-pdf-gennaio-2017/ cited on http://callmejorgebergoglio.blogspot.com/2017/01/vatican-to-issue-stamp-commemorating.html accessed on June 25, 2017. Author’s emphasis.
[viii] For more detail, please see the article by Richard Bennett titled “Five Biblical Principles of Reformation”, October 17, 2015, Berean Beacon on https://bereanbeacon.org/new-blog/2015/10/17/five-biblical-principles-of-reformation .
[ix] Matthew 5:17-20.
[x] Catechism, Paragraph 82.
[xi] Ephesians 2:1.
[xii] Romans 3:24.
[xiii] Ephesians 2:8-9.
[xiv] Catechism, Para. 1129.
[xv] Acts 16:31.
[xvi] Romans 10:17.
[xvii] Catechism, Para. 168.
[xviii] Ibid., Para. 169.
[xix] Ibid., Para. 181.
[xx] Ephesians 1:3-4.
[xxi] Romans 5:8-9.
[xxii] Catechism, Para. 1992.
[xxiii] William Webster, Saving Faith: How Does Rome Define It? (1997: Christian Resources, Battle Ground, WA), 42.
[xxiv] Catechism, Para. 2677.
[xxv] Ibid., Para. 958.
[xxvi] Hebrews 12:2-3