THE POPE: FROM HEAVEN, OR FROM MEN?
People all over the world know about “the Pope,” who holds the highest position of authority in the Roman Catholic Church. Just as Jesus asked about the baptism of John the Baptizer, we, too, inquire about the Pope’s title and authority: are they from heaven, or from men? (Matthew 21:23-25). We want to take a brief look at two basic questions about the Pope. We approach this topic with no malice in our hearts toward any person. We just want to set forth the facts.
(1) Where is the scriptural authority for the position and title of “Pope?” The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The title pope, once used with far greater latitude . . . is at present employed solely to denote the Bishop of Rome, who, in virtue of his position as successor of St. Peter, is the chief pastor of the whole Church, the Vicar of Christ upon earth” [all human quotes in this article taken on 22 Feb. 2012 from www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm; all emphasis added in all quotes is mine, rdc].
So, the claim is that the Pope is “the chief pastor of the whole Church.” In Bible language, the word “pastor” means shepherd, and in God’s word it is Jesus, not the Pope, who is identified as “the Chief Shepherd: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4). Obviously, “the Chief Shepherd” is the Christ, Who is also identified as “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20).
It is further claimed that the Pope is “the Vicar of Christ upon earth.” “Vicar” is one who acts in the place of another; thus, the idea is that the Pope is Jesus’ representative on earth. The Bible teaches no such thing. The Bible says of Jesus, “He is the head of the body” (Colossians 1:18). Our Lord is the single Head of His church, and He shares that role with no one! He alone has all authority (Matthew 28:18).
Another quote from the same Catholic source: “In virtue of his office as supreme teacher and ruler of the faithful, the chief control of every department of the Church’s life belongs to the pope.” “Supreme teacher?” The Bible identifies someone as the Top Teacher, and it is not the Pope! Jesus said, “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matthew 23:10). Furthermore, while men say that the Pope has control over every aspect of the church, the Bible indicates that it is God’s will “that in all things He (Jesus) may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). Our Lord has first rank by Himself! No mere human outranks our Lord, and none is on equal footing with Him. Remember, per divine decree, “the church is subject to Christ” (Ephesians 5:24), not the Pope.
When one searches high and low in every verse of the New Testament, he never finds any authority for the title or position of “the Pope.” Men may endorse it, but the Bible does not support it. God wants us to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), and those oracles do not mention or authorize anything that is remotely similar to a papal position. Therefore, we must conclude that the title, position, and authority of “the Pope” are man-made.
(2) Was the apostle Peter the first “Pope?” The Catholic Encyclopedia says that “Christ constituted St. Peter head of His Church . . .” Fact: In the New Testament, we read about “Peter,” yes, but not “the Pope.” Peter is identified in the Bible as both an “apostle” and “elder” (1 Peter 5:1), but never as “Pope” or “Head” of Jesus’ church. It is true that Jesus spoke about the authority that would be granted to Peter, promising him that what he would bind and loose on earth had already been bound in heaven (Matthew 16:19), but our Lord made the same promise to all of the apostles (Matthew 18:18). Even the last-called apostle, Paul, was not one bit behind “the most eminent apostles,” including Peter (2 Corinthians 12:11).
Modern-day Popes accept the worship of humans, but Peter did not accept such (Acts 10:25,26). Open criticism of today’s Pope is considered taboo, but Paul rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). Popes do not marry, yet Peter was a married man (Mark 1:30). In Catholic circles, the Pope always has “the last say”; James, not Peter, had the last word during the circumcision discussion at Jerusalem (Acts 15). You see the point. In the Scriptures, Peter is never once identified as the Head or Pope of God’s church, and he was far different in so many ways from those who wear that title today.
“The kissing of the pope’s foot – the characteristic act of reverence by which all the faithful do honor to him as the vicar of Christ – is found as early as the eighth century.” You and I know why that quote does not say “first” century! “The Pope” is a man-made-not-in-the-Bible-and-not-from-heaven position.
— Roger D. Campbell