In this generation Evangelical Protestants must come to a unified consensus–once and for all–as to how to approach this subject of the Church of Rome if we are to have any hopes of reaching those who are trapped within this false system of religion. Perhaps the best way to begin is to remember that to be Protestant means that we are “protesting” the dogmas of the Church at Rome. Specifically we protest their claim that the Roman Pontiff–better known as the Pope–is the head of the entire universal Church. And contrary to the opinions of most people you will run into, that is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church herself still claims today.

Well-respected Evangelical scholar, author, and pastor, Dr. John MacArthur is right when he says:

The Catholic Church claims to be true Christianity. And…we [can’t] reverse 450 years of history and just throw our arms around the Roman system, which…we have to say…in all honesty is not a group of wayward brothers, but is an apostate form of Christianity. It is a false religion; it is another religion (MacArthur on The John Ankerberg Show, Irreconcilable Differences, Cassette Tape, Parts 1-3, side 1).

If you are really going to understand this issue it is imperative for you come to see that absolutely nothing has really changed with the Church of Rome regarding their official dogma as pronounced from the Council of Trent. James Akin writing for Catholic Answers, which is actually a pro-Roman Catholic apologetic organization says:

The anathemas do not apply today, since the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) abolished the canonical penalty of anathema, which was a form of excommunication. This does not mean that the Church no longer rejects the beliefs that had been anathematized. The formula “let him be anathema” is a traditional expression that ecumenical councils used when making infallible definitions. Therefore, the dropping of the canonical penalty of anathema does not “undo” the infallible definitions expressed in Trent’s canons. An infallible definition, by its very nature, can never be “undone.” The Church still believes and teaches all the definitions Trent issued (http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1997/9712qq.asp, emphasis added).

The Roman Catholic Church Speaks

We will now begin by looking at what the Church of Rome herself has to say concerning some of these “infallible definitions” of her essential doctrines. The first document we’ll examine is Unam Sanctum – “a Bull of Pope Boniface VIII promulgated November 18, 1302.” And this has never been changed, nor has the Roman Catholic Church ever denied it–even to this day. Pope Boniface the VIII said:

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins,… she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Eph 4:5].

We venerate this Church [of Rome] as one,… Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, [the Pope]… For since the Apostle said: “There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God” [Rom 13:1-2],…

Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal…This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven’ etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2],…Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Bon08/B8unam.htm, copy on file, emphasis added).

The late Dr. Walter Martin who founded the Christian Research Institute was a recognized authority in the field of Comparative Religion. He informs us that this papal decree Unam Sanctam was declared by Cardinal Henry Edward Manning – himself “an authority on papal bulls and decrees” – to beinfallible and beyond all doubt an act ex cathedra” (Roman Catholicism – Part 2 of 3, Walter Martin’s Religious InfoNet, audio tape #4011, side 1).

Ex cathedra means that when the Roman Pontiff–the Pope–speaks “from the Chair of Peter,” with his alleged supreme apostolic authority as the Vicar of Christ, Head of the universal Church, and makes a decree on faith and morals, this statement would therefore be considered an infallible decree.

And as such, Unam Sanctum has to be considered as “irreformable.” The fact is, that this Bull from Pope Boniface the VIII is indeed considered official dogma by the Church of Rome even to this day. Which, of course, would be understandable from the point of view of Roman Catholic theology. After-all; how could one ever change an infallible doctrine by the supreme representative of Jesus Christ on earth!

Now this would seem clear enough, but most people you are going to run into, whether they are active Roman Catholics or just “cultural” ones, will simply tell you that they personally don’t believe all of this. And we would have no reason to doubt that this indeed may be so. However, what they don’t know is that what you’ve just read is the official position of the Church of Rome, and the individual Roman Catholic does not have the freedom to deny this. Not if they wish to actually be Roman Catholics.

We need to make sure that they are reminded about what the apologist for the Roman Catholic Church, James Akin, has just told us very clearly:

the dropping of the canonical penalty of anathema does not “undo” the infallible definitions expressed in Trent’s canons. An infallible definition, by its very nature, can never be “undone.” The Church still believes and teaches all the definitions Trent issued (Akin, This Rock, op. cit., emphasis added).

And; therefore, the late Dr. Carl F.H. Henry a leading evangelical theologian and Christian statesman is proved right when he says, “evangelical–Catholic dialogue must now begin with [the Council of] Trent” (www.equip.org/free/DC-7172.htm, emphasis added). The aforementioned Council of Trent was held by the Roman Catholic Church in response to Luther and the Reformers and ran from 1545–1563, a span of some 18 years. This would appear to be more than enough time to make sure that you have fully formulated the doctrine of your Church, and then to be quite certain that you have articulated it in such a way as to let people know exactly where your organization stands. Wouldn’t you agree?

That said, let’s return to what Dr. Henry is telling us as Evangelical Protestants:

The Reformers affirmed the full authority of the Bible. They were prepared to accept in Catholic tradition only what Scripture authorizes. The [Roman] Catholic church rejected the Reformation emphasis on both the Bible alone (“sola scriptura”) and on faith alone (“sola fide”). It excommunicated Luther, who sought to remain in its ranks in the interest of reform, while it accommodated critics who deplored the Roman church’s very existence. The church defended its institutional vices, many of which it later rectified or moderated. Yet the basic issue was not moral and institutional corruption alone, but the legitimacy of established and inherited church doctrine as well. In the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent (1545–1563) the Roman church officially approved and canonized the doctrine of justification by faith-and-works, and thus condemned what had earlier been one strand in its own message, justification by faith.

The opportunity that the Reformers offered of a reformed church that would remain unified and universal was therefore rejected. A historic moment for theological dialogue and a major opportunity for doctrinal understanding were squandered. In consequence, evangelical-Catholic dialogue must now begin with Trent. Trent cannot be bypassed as merely the time-bound echo of one spectrum of influential Catholic dogmatics, since it expresses church doctrine that Rome identified as authoritative and irreformable (ibid., p.3, emphasis added).

The official Catechism Of The Catholic Church – which the late Pope John Paul II called – “a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium” (p.5) – itself quotes Trent as authoritative. For example in section 1257, while discussing the “necessity of Baptism,” we read:

The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. 59 He also commands His disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. 60 (p.352, emphasis added).

Further on in section 1989 and 1991 the Catechism informs us:

“Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” 39 … 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. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life: 40 … (p.536, emphasis added) .

You should know that the above footnotes – 60 in section 125739 and 40 in sections 1989 and 1991 then refer the reader to the Council of Trent as the authority for these teachings.

At this point it’s important that we return briefly to the subject of an individual American Roman Catholic, who would tell you that they do not “agree” with these so-called infallible teachings. Let us take a moment to consider the following from the Second Vatican Council of the Church of Rome, which many are under the mistaken impression, somehow changed their views on the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his supposed authority over all churches that would be considered Christian:

just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. (14*) Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, (15*) as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ. (149)(16*) (Lumen Gentium, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html, copy on file, emphasis added).

Further, in the current edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia we are informed:

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… The primacy of St. Peter and the perpetuity of that primacy in the Roman See are dogmatically defined in the canons attached to the first two chapters of the Constitution “Pastor Aeternus”:…

[the Pope] is “the supreme teacher of the [universal] Church, whose it is to prescribe what is to be believed by all the faithful,… [and he] can legislate for the whole Church, with or without the assistance of a general council;… (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm, emphasis added).

And then finally in The Code Of Canon Law from the official Vatican Website itself we read:

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PU.HTM, emphasis added).

Can. 333 §1. By virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff not only possesses power offer (sic) the universal Church but also obtains the primacy of ordinary power offer (sic) all particular churches and groups of them.

§3. No appeal or recourse is permitted against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.

The True Roman Catholic Must Obey The Church

Now these are beyond any reasonable doubt the official declarations of the Church of Rome. And; as you can very plainly see, according to the above authoritative Church resources, no individual Roman Catholic can disagree with these dogmas and remain in good standing with this communion–at least on paper. So; let’s stop playing the word games shall we?

The time has now arrived for Evangelical Protestant leaders to make a firm public stand and to bring this issue to a head. Either the Church of Rome formally repents of these teachings, or she should stand firmly by them. Don’t you agree? And the question we should ask someone who tells us that they don’t believe these teachings of the Church of Rome is this: If you don’t agree with these things, then why would you even want to be a Roman Catholic, and waste your time and money on this organization?

What we are about to see now should shed much light on, as well as clear up any remaining confusion, as to how the Church of Rome truly operates here in the United States. Please pay close attention to these words from Dr. Martin, who wrote the classic textbook The Kingdom Of The Cults, as he brings out something that is extremely critical for us to understand in trying to reach those who would consider themselves Roman Catholic.

The American Catholic is a different breed of cats from the Irish Catholic–the Spanish Catholic–the Italian Catholic. Different– because there you find the theology I’m talking about now–today” (Walter Martin, “Roman Catholicism – Part 2 of 3”, side 1, cassette #4011, Walter Martin’s Religious InfoNet).

Incidentally Dr. Martin was speaking in the 1980’s–some twenty years after the Second Vatican Council – which many people are still under the extremely misguided impression changed these teachings. He then goes on to say:

there you find the theology I’m talking about now–today. Just as much as alive as when Boniface the VIII and…the popes of yesteryear wrote it, and said it had to be believed. You must understand what you are seeing in this country is not pure Roman Catholic theology. What you are seeing in this country is a watered down version adapted to the American mind so that the Americans will live with it.

Rome is a great chameleon [and] she changes color on what ever surface you place her. Here in this country she cannot do the things she does in Spain and Italy and survive and so she is different. The face is different but underneath the theology remains unchanged. The statement [in 1964 by Pope Paul VI – “nothing really changes in the traditional doctrine.”] is true. They never change on the basics. They will change on the peripherals, [but] never on the centrality, the authority of the papacy (ibid.)

Dr. Martin was indeed quite correct in his assessment of the Roman Catholic Church as you should now be able to see for yourself. And while I don’t agree with eevrything that Dr. Robert Morey, who was also a student of Martin’s, teaches he is very insightful here as he clues us in as to why the Church of Rome will never be reformed under any circumstances:

the Roman Catholic Church cannot change its doctrines because it claims to be infallible in doctrine. Thus if it ever admitted that it was in any way wrong on any doctrine, it could no longer claim to be infallible!

Since Romanists base their faith on the infallibility of the Pope and the Church, no one can doubt or question Catholic dogma. While the Bible is mentioned as being one of the sources for its authority, the Roman Church is actually the only and final authority because it will allow only its interpretation of Scripture. Thus when a doctrine is in conflict with Scripture, the Scripture is conformed to the doctrine! (Roman Catholicism Today, www.faithdefenders.com/files/sermons/rc4.html, copy on file, emphasis added).

To Believe The Bible Does Not Make One Christian

As I have stated previously, if we wish to lead people to Christ who are currently trapped within the Church of Rome, then we will need to be sure that we fully understand just what caused the Protestant Reformation in the first place. In other words; we are going to have to know what doctrines of the Christian faith are truly essential, and what issues are not as critical. In the interest of making sure that we have come to a proper understanding of why the Protestant needs to share the true Gospel with the Roman Catholic, it is very important to first remember that there are people within the Roman Catholic Church who have made personal commitments to accept Jesus as Savior. And as such, they would be Christians.

However there are also hundreds of other religious systems, like Roman Catholicism, who all use the Bible. Two very prominent groups who would also claim that their theology is actually biblically based, are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. Each of them, let the reader understand, will tell you that they alone are the restoration of the true “Holy and Apostolic Church” – though these are not the exact words they would use in expressing that position. But the truth is that we must come to fully realize that if by some fluke someone within these counterfeit religions, which claim to be Christian, do happen to discover the real Jesus, it is because these dear people come to Christ in spite of the false gospel that their faith tradition teaches. And this cannot be stressed enough.

The main thing we should keep in mind at this point is the sobering fact that those who might become Christians within these cultic systems are, in fact, very rare. Dr. R.C. Sproul is right when he says about those who might find Christ in the cult-like Church of Rome:

they’re mavericks to their community. And I personally believe that those people who truly accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior in the biblical sense and live in the Roman Catholic Church have a moral and spiritual duty to leave that communion immediately. They are living in sin to continue to be a visible member of an institution that anathematizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ (“Irreconcilable Differences: Catholics, Evangelicals, and the New Quest for Unity,” cassette tape GTY55, side 1, 1995).

About 12 years ago now there was a document that came out called Evangelicals & Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (ECT). In the introduction we read:

We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian faith and mission. This statement cannot speak officially for our communities. It does intend to speak responsibly from our communities and to our communities. In this statement we address what we have discovered both about our unity and about our differences (http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9405/articles/mission.html).

What is sad, and perhaps even a little pathetic, is that among the “Participants” – the men who helped to draft this document–produced in the newly resurrected lukewarm spirit of the church of Laodicea we find Dr. Richard Land of Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Maybe even more disturbing we also find Dr. Larry Lewis, President of the Home Mission Board, also of the SBC. Apparently this is a mission field that he was willing to turn his back on. I am not aware of his current position, but in any event, it was certainly not a wise choice that his name will forever appear on that document. A document, I might add, which is clearly a betrayal of what so many of the Reformers – our very dear brothers in Christ – paid for with their very lives. And God forbid that this should ever be forgotten!

When this document came out Dr. John Ankerberg hosted three very prominent Christian leaders on his syndicated TV program The John Ankerberg Show. The Evangelical Protestant scholars and statesmen who were invited to discuss the matter of ECT were Dr. John MacArthur–Dr. D. James Kennedy–and Reformed theologian Dr. R.C Sproul. Dr. MacArthur makes a salient point that relates to the many false gospels taught by organizations who all claim their message is in line with what the Bible teaches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and their counterfeit gospel that has been perpetrated for centuries upon the all too unsuspecting masses. He said:

Here’s a parallel–the Apostle Paul in Romans 10. Obviously we know his heart and his passion for Israel. He actually said he could almost wish himself accursed for their salvation. Nobody would question that Israel was devoted to God; that they had a zeal for God; that they tried to follow the Law and all the prescriptions.

It’s a very close parallel to the same kind of situation. And he says in Romans 10 (v.1) – Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation (NASB). I mean it was clear that [Israel] missed the whole point of a gracious salvation. A salvation that came from God–and God alone–apart from any works. [Paul] said – For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own.

MacArthur then goes to explain how Paul’s reaching out to those in the Jewish religion of his own time, is an exact parallel to what we are talking about concerning the false self-righteous religious system of the Church of Rome in this generation that God has chosen to place us among (see-Acts 17:26).

That is exactly what you have going on in the Roman Catholic Church. And so they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God (vv.2-3). In other words, they didn’t understand the righteousness of God. They went to seek their own righteousness. Therefore, they missed the righteousness of God. And [then Paul] says in the next verse – (v.4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Christ is the righteousness. And Israel missed it. And Paul confronted it. Jesus confronted it. I mean He blistered the Jewish leaders for their defection. The Roman Catholic Church has a zeal for God but it is apart from understanding the righteousness of God. Which is the only means by which salvation can occur. Yes it is absolutely the definitive issue (Irreconcilable Differences, op. cit., side 2).

There Can Never Be Peace With Rome

What Dr. MacArthur means here by “the definitive issue” is that the false gospel promulgated by the Church of Rome is what will forever separate Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics. And this is because we cannot ever – ever – overlook something so important as to how a person is saved from a Godless eternity in that awful place Jesus Christ of Nazareth called Hell. It is important for us to understand that the only reason God leaves us here in this cursed creation after He has “called us out,” is to witness for our Risen Lord and to preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. And; we must never forget that the Master tells us – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last (John 15:16).

Jesus further prays for us:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:14-18).


In this era of church history there are a couple of basics that we‘re really going to have to understand as we approach those who have been so influenced by the Church of Rome. One being the origin of the ancient Christian Church, which we will get to in just a bit, and the other would be whether or not taking the Gospel to Roman Catholics is a “divisive” thing to do. In other words; does it break up the “unity” in the Body of Christ to approach those who follow Roman Catholicism with the idea that they do not know the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Evangelical Protestants we need to come to the understanding that the vast majority of those who are trapped within the apostate religious system of the Church of Rome are not Christians. And they do need us to share the true Gospel with them. As you progress in your knowledge this apostate religious system you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Roman Catholicism–a most dominant religion in the United States–is clearly in great conflict with the Bible. Therefore, this once Christian religion is now working against the very God in whom they profess to believe.

For those who have eyes to see the time has arrived for the true Church–all of us who are actually born again–to clearly and publicly tell people in each of our communities that the Roman Catholic Church does not speak for our Lord Jesus Christ. And because the system of salvation found in the Church of Rome is not what the Bible teaches, then we as the Body of Christ have no choice but to oppose it. Yet as we do, we must always be prepared to deal with Roman Catholics as individuals, because a few do actually manage to become Christians even in spite what they are taught within the labyrinth of Roman Catholicism theology.

The Issue Of Christian Unity

By way of quick review; as we begin to reach out to Roman Catholics with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ–especially during this time of tolerance in our nation–we are going to have to come face to face with this issue of “unity” within the Body of Christ or what we call the universal Church. This is why we must always be sure to carefully define our terms as we tell those who follow the Roman Catholic Church about the real Gospel. And so we will quickly consider John 17. Let’s examine the kind of unity for which Jesus is praying His body of believers will have. If you look at verse 23 of John 17 carefully you will see that first Jesus says – I in them and you [Father] in me. And then He says – May they be brought to complete unity.

Remember now; this could only be those people who will place their complete “confidence in,” and then “totally trust” in, Christ alone as their Lord and Savior. And if you know anything about Church history then you know that this is actually the issue at the very heart of what caused the Reformation in the first place–the correct understanding of just how a guilty person is declared innocent of their sins before a Holy Judge. We must understand that to even have unity with other believers in Christ, one would first have to be in Christ as the Father was in Christ. Most of us know that the Greek word pisteuo which is most often translated “believe” means–by definition–to fully trust in what you believe as you then totally commit yourself to it.

In the case of biblical doctrine we would state it this way. To even be saved the person must first “believe” in Jesus by faith alone, trusting in Him alone, or he will not even be born again. For the Bible very clearly says – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV, emphasis added). Yes it really is that simple. And this is where the Evangelical Protestant teaching that we are saved by grace alone–through faith alone–in Christ alone originated. We must understand that if a person is not born again, then God the Holy Spirit does not indwell him. And; if he is not indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, then he cannot possibly have the “unity” with God and other believers that Jesus is praying for in this passage of Scripture.

What we have here in John 17 is the Master praying for someone who will believe in Him according to what His Apostles would then go on to teach. And this Apostolic doctrine is what we Evangelical Protestants refer to as “biblical doctrine.” In fact Luke tells us in the Book of Acts–which is the history of the ancient Church–that they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42, KJV). And that’s why, only someone who truly believes in Christ can then brought into that “unity” Jesus is talking about here in verse 23.

Before we get into what the universal Church is let’s look at this verse of God’s inerrant Word one last time. John 17:23 – I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me. It is an incontrovertible fact that if you read this carefully it becomes obvious this prayer was completely fulfilled in Acts chapter 2. As you remember, this is when God the Holy Spirit comes upon the true believers on that Day of Pentecost when the universal Church was actually born.

So the unity that Jesus is talking about here is the future indwelling of God the Holy Spirit within true believers, but Who had yet to come at this point. And this indwelling of God‘s Spirit happens instantaneously when one “believes” – which would be that word pisteuo. Without a doubt the Bible reveals when this happens the Holy Spirit immediately baptizes that person who believes in Christ alone into the Body of Christ. Which means that what we have here in this passage of God’s Word is Jesus praying for the Holy Spirit to come and indwell all people who will pisteuo in Him as their Lord and Savior. And this by the way is also what it means to be regenerated or “born-again.” I know I have spent a great deal of time on this, but it is vital for the Christian to understand, and it is so critical that we are able to then communicate this to those Roman Catholics we are in the process of witnessing to.

This brings us around to the doctrine of ecclesiology, the study of the Church. In his textbook Systematic Theology Dr. Wayne Grudem gives us a very good definition of the Church. “The church is the community of all true believers for all time” (p.853, emphasis added) – the Body of Christ – also referred to as the “universal” Church. You may also be aware that historic orthodox Christianity speaks of this body of true believers as katholikos, the Greek word from which we get our English word “catholic.” Now this is where the confusion begins, and we all know how much Satan loves to cause confusion. Unfortunately the problem we will run into constantly is that so many people today are simply ignorant about the history of the ancient Christian Church, and as a result they end up being misled by some who really ought to know better regarding the use of the word catholic in the ancient creeds.

The Holy Catholic Church

I personally know a man who left the Baptist church in just such a way, and you must understand this is really not all that uncommon. As a matter of fact, one of the leading apologists for the Roman Catholic Church, Dr. Scott Hahn, was once a Protestant. These people who are not grounded in their faith are shown one of the early Creeds of the ancient Christian Church like the Nicene Creed, which speaks of the “holy catholic and apostolic church,” and someone who is trying to talk them into the Church of Rome then “helps” them to wrongly assume that this was the Roman Catholic Church.

However as Dr. Everett Harrison, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary teaches us, the word “Catholic” is a:

transliteration of the Greek katholikos, “throughout the whole” [of something]… In the earlier Patristic period it had the denotation of universal. This is its meaning in the first occurrence in a Christian setting – “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church” (Ignatius, Smyrneans 8:2). Here the contrast with the local congregation makes the meaning “universal” mandatory

When the term begins to appear in the Apostles’ Creed – “the holy catholic church” (ca. 450) – as it had earlier appeared in the Nicene – “one holy catholic and apostolic church” – it retains the sense of universality and thus accents the unity of the church in spite of its wide diffusion. The catholic epistles of the NT were so designated…to indicate that they were intended for the whole church rather than a local congregation. (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p.215, emphasis added).

In other words; as anyone who is familiar with the rich history of the ancient Christian Church knows these early Creeds refer to all those who are called out of the world to assemble to worship God. Which would be that universal – katholikos – “catholic” Church scattered all over the world. These creeds are not talking about Roman Catholic dogma at all–for the simple fact that the Church of Rome did not yet exist as such. Now let’s move on to look at Matthew 16 picking it up in verse 13 for context. As we do, let me emphasize again that this universal or “catholic” Church is made up of all of the “born again” members of the Body of Christ no matter what denomination they might happen to be in. The Bible clearly says that once someone receives Christ as Lord and Savior he is immediately baptized by God the Holy Spirit into God’s invisible katholikos Body of Christ.

And this universal or catholic Church is what you will see Christ Jesus call “My Church” here in Matthew 16:13-18.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” [Jesus] asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by men, but by my Father in heaven.”

Here is a key point which is often missed–notice that Jesus says My Father–and not our Father here. That’s because we are not all children of God. Jesus then continues in verse 18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. There has no doubt been myriad discussion about this verse of Scripture through the ages. It would take literally pages and pages to go through all that I’ve read on Matthew 16:18 alone! In fact Protestant Christian author William Webster has even written The Matthew 16 Controversy – an entire 382 page book on this one verse of Scripture.

Much has been said about the name Peter, “which is petros, meaning ‘stone,’ [and] is here linked with rock (petra in the Greek”) (The New Bible Commentary, p.837). Many biblical scholars interpret this statement from Jesus in Matthew 16 like this–Christ says – And I tell you that you are [petros] Peter, [a small stone] and on this [petra] rock [of the confession that you just made–that I Am the Christ–the large Rock] I will build my church. And the primary reason for all this attention is Matthew 16:18 just happens to be the key verse that the Church of Rome uses to attempt to establish its man-made dogma concerning the office of the Pope. Based on my research into this subject I would say Dr. Louis Barberi, Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute, puts it well when he says that because:

of this change in Greek words, many conservative scholars believe that Jesus is now building His church on Himself… It seems best to understand that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him, and was introducing His work of building the church on Himself (1 Cor. 3:11)” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT, p.57, emphasis added).

And then there are those who feel that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic. What this would mean is: if he did then there is only one word–kepha–for both Peter and rock in this verse. So the little play on words our Lord uses here–the contrast–between the “rock” of Peter’s confession and that of the mere “stone” He himself is when compared to Christ would be lost. I just didn’t want you to get surprised by this one when you run in to that line of reasoning.

It is my view that Norm Geisler and Ron Rhodes answer this very well in their book When Cultists Ask. They point out:

Even if Jesus did speak these words in Aramaic (which does not distinguish genders), the inspired Greek original does make such distinctions (p.111, emphasis added).

This is proper view of Matthew 16:18 based on the correct doctrine concerning the inspiration of the Bible. Which is confirmed by Dr. Bernard Ramm in his classic textbook Protestant Biblical Interpretation, when he correctly informs us – “The divine inspiration of the Bible is the foundation of historic Protestant hermeneutics and exegesis” (p.93). Protestant theology holds to the verbal inspiration of the Bible–which refers to the words in the Scriptures themselves. We also hold to the plenary inspiration of God’s Word as well–which refers to every part of the Bible in full. And this what is at issue when we discuss the “traditions” of Roman Catholicism versus Holy Scripture. As Evangelical Protestants we teach that God the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible in every verse of Scripture right down to the very grammar that the human authors would choose to use. And this is also vitally important to understand as you begin to step out and share your faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth in this culture, which is so steeped in relativism.

The Church Of Rome Insists Peter Is The “Rock”

Now let me give you the official and authoritative Roman Catholic position concerning Peter being the “rock” in Matthew 16:18. In the “Apostolic Letter” from Pope John Paul II, which comprises the foreword to the Catechism Of The Catholic Church I quoted from earlier, he says:

It is a cause for great joy that the Latin typical edition of the Catechism Of The Catholic Church is being published. It is approved and promulgated by me in this Apostolic Letter (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/aposletr.htm, emphasis added).

And this is what that Catechism says about the papacy in section:

881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church… 882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” 402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” 403 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P2A.HTM, ephasis added).

Only Christ Could Be The Rock

However; as we closely look at the entire context of Matthew 16:18, it is best to understand that when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ then the Lord says – “I will build My Church on the rock solid truth of this revelation of Who I Am.” So, let’s quickly go back through this passage one more time. You see, what needs to be remembered in this passage of Matthew’s Gospel is that Jesus is initially talking to all of His disciples. Verse 13 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Then in verse 14 – They – [the Twelve] – replied, “Some – [people that we talk to] – say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Now verse 15 – “But what about you?” he asked. [Again, Jesus is talking to all of these men]. “Who do you say I am?” The great Greek scholar Dr. A.T. Robertson points out that in the original Greek this verse actually reads – “But you, who say you that I am?” So the Master is clearly talking to all of them, and He wants to know what they personally feel about Him. And then, in typical fashion good ol’ Peter is the one to actually respond. As Dr. Barberi says – “Speaking for the disciples, Peter spoke his now famous words” (Bible Knowledge, op. cit., p.57). Verse 16 – Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And then in verse 17 – Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. [Which brings us once again to our focal verse 18] – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. When the Master uses this metaphor the disciples would have thought back to His teaching them the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders earlier (see-Matthew 7:24-29). They no doubt would have understood His illustration immediately. The Bible says – a wise man who built his house on the rock…it had its foundation on the rock.

To refresh our own memories here is the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law (Matthew 7:24-29).

Now let’s stop and think this through. Jesus taught this parable to show us that the wise man builds his life on God–on Christ. Correct? As the God-Man, wouldn’t our Lord then have demonstrated this to them by example, and build His Own House–the Church–upon God as well? Of course He would. For this is exactly what He was in fact teaching them to do in the first place.

The man who builds his life on temporal and worldly things is called the “foolish” builder, is he not? Whereas the “wise” man in this parable is the one who builds his house upon the absolute truth of the unchanging one true and living God of Holy Scripture Who is symbolized by the Rock. So doesn’t it make sense then that Jesus Himself, as the Master Teacher, would also live according to this truth He had just taught them? And so He says, on this rock I will build my church. Christ Jesus is therefore saying – “I am going to build it upon this very truth which was just revealed from the Father Himself.”

Man Is No Rock

The God of the Bible, Who purchased the Church with His Own blood, would never lay the very foundation of His beloved Bride – His precious assembly of people–upon a mere human being. God Almighty would never use something so fickle and fragile as a man for something so vital as the foundation for His spiritual building, the Church, which would cost our Lord His very life. As obviously, the Bible demonstrates time and time again in excruciating detail that, we human beings are most undependable creatures. And our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, also knew at the very time He spoke what would later become Matthew 16:18, that Peter could never be a spiritual foundation, as this so-called first “Pope” would later deny that he even knew the Master.

No–a mere man could never be the cornerstone for our Lord’s precious Church. To the contrary, it would have to stand upon Almighty God Himself, as human beings change as the shifting desert sands. Those of us who study Comparative Religion can testify to myriad contradictions within religious structures that are headed by unregenerate men who inevitably follow deceiving spirits and end up teaching things taught by demons conceived by Satan himself.

For that matter, one need only look at the pathetic division within the Body of Christ itself! And here we supposedly have men who are born again. Yet they succumb to petty doctrinal differences and found so many denominations, most of which in all honesty are simply too proud to work with the others. This seems a good place to remind ourselves what Jesus teaches us about division – Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and a house divided against itself falls (Luke 11:17).

In the end, there is just no real possibility that a mere man could ever have been the foundation of Christ’s Church, it would instead have to stand upon the unchanging one true and living God Almighty Himself, because human beings do inevitably change. And remember; when the foundation shifts, then the whole building itself comes crashing down.

The Church was not built upon something so fragile as the Apostle Peter, a mere “stone” that can be easily turned. And I might add, he was moved, even blatantly denying his own Master. Rather, Christ Jesus the Lord, as the “wise Man Who built His house on the Rock” would build His Own spiritual “house,” the Church, upon the Rock of Ages–Yahweh El Shaddai of biblical revelation – the Rock of all rocks. For those with eyes to see, it becomes clear that the Church of Christ is in fact built upon Almighty God Himself–the Rock Who does not change and Who can never be moved. And that is the security of the true believer by grace alone–through faith alone– in Christ alone.

In Our Daily Bread from Radio Bible Class Julie Link wrote:

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the castle in Wittenberg. Luther became known as a reformer, and we remember his bold stand as a turning point in church history. The fiery priest demonstrated great courage in expressing outrage at the church’s [false teachings]… Luther’s passion to stop these practices did not make him popular with the religious authorities of his day… Long before Luther, the prophet Jeremiah felt the power of God’s Word in his heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (Jeremiah 20:9). Jeremiah and Luther refused to allow God’s truth to be compromised (Dec. 7, 04).

Link then goes on to the very heart of the whole matter as to why the Christian church in our nation today has such little effect for our Lord:

Living for God is about grace and forgiveness, but it’s also about boldly standing for the truth. Having God’s Word in our heart doesn’t always result in warm, pleasant feelings. Sometimes His truth becomes a blazing fire that causes us to challenge corruption even though we may be attacked for it… It’s better to declare the truth and be rejected than to withhold it just to be accepted (ibid.).

As one takes a close look at the timid and tepid contemporary Evangelical scene, you can’t help but wonder: Are these but empty words we Protestants have simply been trained to say?