A Response to the Visit of the Pope by Pastor Jon Speed, written for Christ is King Baptist Church of Syracuse, NY
How should we respond to the current visit of the pope to the United States?
It is important to remember that the pope has no leadership significance to evangelical churches. Historically and in point of fact, we are Protestant. Our theological ancestors left the Roman Catholic faith for good reasons. Those reasons were issues that had to do with salvation. The chief issue was the issue of justification by faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone as revealed by the Scriptures alone for the glory of God alone. This is what we have been studying in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
The Roman Catholic Church (i.e. The Vatican) teaches that people are justified through works such as the Roman Catholic sacraments of infant baptism, confirmation, the Roman Catholic Mass, confession to human priests, marriage in the Roman Catholic Church, anointing of the sick and holy orders. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that these are “efficacious means of grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter referred to as “CCC”) Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000. Page 898), meaning that they are effective to bring grace to the person who performs them.
The Bible does not refer to any of these religious ceremonies as ways to receive grace. In fact, grace is the free choice of God alone to reveal the truth of the gospel to the one who is brought to spiritual life by the preaching of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit and does not depend on human merit in any way (e.g. Ephesians 1-2; John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23-25). We are not justified by sacraments, but by faith in Jesus alone (Romans 3:24-26).
In a speech on Saturday September 25, 2015 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City he said, “And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and His life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross” (abcnews.go.com/read-pope-francis-yorks-st-patricks-cathedral/).
However his words will be spun by the Roman Catholic Church and its followers, his words prove the low view that the Roman Catholic Church has had historically when it comes to the ability of Jesus’ death and resurrection to actually save on its own merits. Anyone who truly loves Jesus and trusts in His death to save them from their sin would never refer to the Cross as a “failure.” No point in a speech is worth making an attack on the sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins by calling it a failure. In fact, Jesus’ death accomplished exactly what it was intended to accomplish. His death is not a moral lesson; it is the basis of our salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
As long as the pope affirms the false teaching of the sacraments he cannot be thought of as anything other than a false teacher. Worse, the titles he takes on himself and the worship that he receives make him a blasphemer.
As pope, he takes on these three titles, all of which are titles which are reserved for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
First, he is often blasphemously addressed as “Holy Father.” In the Bible, the term is only used once by Jesus Christ Himself during His high priestly prayer in John 17:11 when Jesus used the term to address God the Father.
Second, he is blasphemously called “The Head of the Church” (CCC, page 236). According to the Word of God, only Jesus Christ Himself is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Third, he is blasphemously called “The Vicar of Christ (CCC, page 234). The word “vicar” means, “In a general sense, a person…authorized to perform the functions of another; a substitute in office” (Noah Webster’s First Edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 2002). Before Jesus Christ physically left this earth, He stated that there would be another Comforter that He would send in His place, but according to John 14:16-17 that Comforter is the Holy Spirit, not any pope.
In short, the pope is referred to blasphemously as each Person of the Trinity by the Roman Catholic Church. The Bible does not teach this; it is an invention of men.
Therefore it is not surprising to see the reaction of those who meet this mere man when he visits our cities. It can be described as nothing less than worship, as if they have encountered Jesus Himself. Even our President has fallen over himself giving him praise. The pope was invited to address our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. (so much for separation of church and state that people like President Obama usually insist on).
Compare this worshipful and reverent reception with the reaction of John when he met an angel who gave him a message in the Book of Revelation. The Apostle John fell at this angel’s feet and began to worship him. In response, the angel said, “See thou do it not! I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Revelation 19:10). This mere servant of the Lord saw the serious error that it would be if John worshipped him. The pope does not correct his followers when they treat him in the same way. Instead, he receives it as they kiss his ring, reach out to touch him, and fawn over him.
As likable as this pope may be in the eyes of the Western media, he is a false teacher. He (with the Magisterium) is NOT the only one who can tell us what the Bible means (CCC, page 30). He is NOT a holy father, the head of the church or the vicar of Christ; only the Persons of the Trinity may be described this way. He is not to be worshipped. He is a mere man who deceives his followers. He is truly a false christ, an “anti Christ” who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh by claiming equality with Jesus Himself and masquerading as Jesus in his unbiblical role (1 John 4:1-3).
I take no joy in pointing any of this out mainly because how people who speak the truth on these things are often perceived. I do not do it because I am “anti-Catholic” or a hater. In fact, we love Roman Catholics and desire to see them know the true Jesus of the Bible rather than the false christ of Rome. I do it because in my role as an under shepherd of the congregation at Christ is King Baptist Church I want you to understand that no matter what politicians, the media elite, deceived pastors and other religious leaders or even friends say, the pope is a false teacher. He has no relationship at all to our church or to any of us as individuals. His teachings have no relevance to us. His visit is nothing more than the visit of any other false teacher to our nation, such as the Dalai Lama. We should pray for his salvation and share the true gospel with those who have been deceived by him.
Jon Speed is the founding pastor of Christ is King Baptist Church of Syracuse, NY. He planted the church in 2011. He is the author of Evangelism in the New...