The Rise of Catholicism

by Julius C. Nwankwo
Unmasking Sophistry, vol. 1, no. 2, July-September 2021

The history of God’s people in the Old Testament is a history of faithfulness, apostasy, and restoration. This is also true of the church. Next to a study of the Bible, church history is the most valuable study for a Christian. In this study, we are going to consider the origin of the oldest of the denominations in the world – the Roman Catholic Church.

Before we go into the study proper let us tell a brief history of the church of the Bible – the one true church. The church was promised and built by Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18). He is the foundation and chief cornerstone of the church (I Corintians 3:11; Ephesians 2:19-22) and He shed His blood to purchase it (Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28). It was established on the first Pentecost day following Christ’s resurrection, AD 33 (Acts 2).

The church of Christ has a specific organization with Jesus Christ as the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18; Matthew 28:18). The New Testament is the authority and the constitution of the church (Mark 16:15; Galatians 1:6-9; II Timothy 3:16-17; Revelation 22:18-19). Each congregation is autonomous with elders to oversee her work (Acts 14:23; Philippians 1:1; I Peter 5:1-2). These elders are called bishops, overseers, pastors, and shepherds (Acts 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5,7; Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 5:1-4). These elders have to meet some specific scriptural qualifications before they are appointed (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Deacons are to serve under the elders (Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 8-13).

There are also evangelists, ministers of the gospel of Christ, who are the preachers of the word in the churches (Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11; II Timothy 4:1-5). The New Testament church has a specific pattern of worship which is in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24). They met on the first day of the week to observe the following as items of spiritual and scriptural worship; they observed the Lord’s Supper to remember Christ as He commanded (Matthew 26:26-28; Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 11:23-34; Acts 2:42); they worshiped in prayer (Acts 2:42; I Timothy 2:1-8); They sang praises to God in worship (Ephesians 5:18, 19; Colossians 3:16, 17); They also edified themselves by the preaching of the word of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:7; II Timothy 4:2-4); and they gave as God had prospered them (I Corinthians 16:1, 2; II Corinthians 8-9).

The church has a three-fold work to do – the preaching and teaching of the word of God; (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46, 47; II Timothy 2:2; Colossians 1:23). They are to edify themselves (Matthew 28:20; Acts 20:7; Ephesians 4:12; Romans 1:15; Hebrews 5:12-14; II Peter 3:18). They are also to help the needy among them (Acts 11:27-30; II Corinthians 8-9). The New Testament church was one and united (Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 1:18). The division was strongly condemned in the church (I Corinthians 1:10-13; Romans 16:17, 18).

However, the scripture foretold a departure from the faith. Jesus warned of false prophets (Matthew 7:15). Apostle Paul warned that the falling away will be from the leadership of the church (Acts 20:28-32; 2Thessalonians 2:1-10; 1Timothy 4:1-3). All these happened as it was said by the apostle Paul.

By the second century, the “presiding” elder became the “bishop” from there the “bishop” of a large, influential church began to rule over other churches in the area. By the 4th century “patriarchs” ruled in Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. In 606 AD, Boniface III of Rome took the title “Universal Bishop of the church” and became the first Pope.

With the emergence of the pope, a separate priesthood patterned after the Jewish and pagan system was developed, where only the priests could preach, give Lord’s Supper, baptize, marry, and bury. Celibacy was enforced by Pope Gregory VIII in 1075 AD. Councils were held as early as the second century to settle disputes and the first creed was produced by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

The doctrine of original sin began in the second century but was made popular by Augustine. From original sin to infant baptism; in 251 AD, Novatian, a sick man was “soaked” in bed for baptism. In 1311 the council Ravenna made sprinkling and poring equally valid as immersion.

Pope Vitalian in 660AD is reputed to be the first to introduce instrumental music in the Christian worship and it was rejected by the church and as late as 1250 AD, it was still not accepted in the Catholic Church. In the 4th century, a special class of singers became common in the church.

“Closed” communion began to be practiced in the second century and Communion “in one kind” began in the 12th century. Transubstantiation was adopted by the 4th Lateran Council in 1215 AD.

Veneration of Mary (Mary mother of God) came to be used after the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. The doctrine of the “Immaculate conception” became official in 1854 AD. It is believed by Catholics that the merits of the dead saints could be applied to the living, and this gave rise to the sale of indulgences.

Many Jewish and pagan festivals were “Christianized.” The council of Nicea determined the date of Easter in AD 325. Another false teaching they believe is that the Catholic Church is the one and only true apostolic church. Pope Boniface VIII, in the bull “Unam Sanctum” issued in 1302, stated that outside the Catholic Church, “there is neither salvation nor remission of sins.” He further said, “…it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Eternal Kingdom, P. 196). They teach that there are seven sacraments (i.e. rites by which grace is conferred), although the word “sacrament” is not found in the Bible; Baptism, Penance, Confirmation,

Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, Matrimony.

They teach that tradition and the decrees of popes and church councils are equal in authority with the Bible; “Like two sacred rivers flowing from paradise, the Bible and divine tradition contain the word of God….of the two, tradition is to us more clear and safe” (Catholic Belief, by J. Faa Di Bruno, P. 33).

They believe and teach that Peter was the first Pope and had the power to forgive or retain sins as have all succeeding popes and that the church was founded upon Peter, based on their misunderstanding of the statement of Jesus in Matthew 16:13-19. They practice “Mariolatry,” the worship of Mary. They believe and teach that Mary is the “mother of God and the spouse of the Holy Spirit” (See Matthew 1:19, 24). They also teach that Mary is a mediatrix between God and man (See I Timothy 2:5). They teach that Mary was born without original sin (the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception); the Bible knows nothing of either doctrine (Romans 3:23; I John 3:4; Ezekiel 18:20). They teach that Mary ascended bodily into heaven without dying (the doctrine of the bodily assumption (See Hebrews 9:27; 1Corinthians 15:50); they also teach that Mary was perpetually a virgin, but the Bible teaches she had other children (Matthew 1:25; 13:55-56; John 7:3-5; Galatians 1:19; Jude 1).

They practice hagiolatry (the worship of departed saints), they believe that “saints” have left extra merit in heaven, that “saints” can hear their prayers and aid them. Nowhere is such taught in the Bible, and it is contrary to the teaching that Christ is our high priest, advocate, and mediator and His blood alone can cleanse our sins (Hebrews 4:14-16; I Timothy 2:5; I John 1:5-2:2). They divide members into laymen and clergy; the Bible makes no such distinction, all Christians are priests (I Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6).

They teach the doctrine of Purgatory; that Catholics who are not good enough to go to heaven at death go to a temporary place to be purged of their sins. This doctrine is nowhere taught in the word of God. Catholics say that indulgences can be bought to bring an early release of souls from purgatory. The Bible teaches that there is no second chance; one’s destiny is sealed at death (Hebrews 9:27; Luke 16:19-31). They teach that the bread and fruit of the vine become the actual body and blood of Jesus in the Mass; transubstantiation. When Jesus said, “This is my body…This is my blood,” He was using a metaphor, He was in his body with His blood flowing in His veins when He instituted the supper, therefore, the Lord’s supper is a memorial, not a sacrifice (I Corinthians 11:24).

They do not teach the plan of salvation as taught in the Bible, instead, they believe in original sin (See Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:20; I John 3:4; James 4:17). And they “baptize” infants (See Rom.10:17; John 8:24; Matthew 10:32; Luke 13:3,5; Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12). They commonly sprinkle for baptism against clear passages like Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; Acts 8:36-39; etc.

Conclusion

There are other false teachings by this religious organization that space will not allow us to include in this write-up, but with the above facts about the Catholics we can see that they started too late to be the true church as they claim and their doctrine is far removed from the Bible to give anybody salvation (II John 9-11; Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19).

Reference:

  • Mattox, F.W, The Eternal Kingdom, Arkansas: Gospel Light Publishing Company, 1961.
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