Is the Church Infallible?


Tampa Hillsborough Bay
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 NLT

Many believe that in Matthew 16, Jesus was setting Peter up as the first pope and giving the church unconditional authority. This comes from reading more into Jesus’ Words than what He intended. Instead of giving the church authority over the consciences of individuals, in making its own laws Jesus was declaring just the opposite. In Matthew 16:9Jesus is not giving the church license. To the contrary He is giving it limits in what it can and should teach. The keys of the kingdom that Jesus gave the church were not keys to authority. The keys of the kingdom are the knowledge of Jesus’ teachings.

What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” Luke 11:52 NLT 

Jesus made it clear that no man is authorized to make ecclesiastical laws that man must submit to, much less that heaven must recognize!

Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. Mark 7:7-9 NLT

Contrary to the idea that Jesus told the church that it could make laws that would be recognized in heaven, Jesus told the church to teach completely those things from heaven alone.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

While I was living in Texas, a police officer in a small town was fired, because he was pulling over young girls who were obeying the laws just so he could flirt with them. The town had given him authority to enforce the laws of the city but not to flirt with young girls! Likewise in the passage just cited, Jesus gives the church authority to teach everything He has commanded but nothing more and nothing less!  Just like a police officer cannot make up his own laws and pull people over who are obeying the laws of the land, so a church leader cannot make up his own laws and meddle in the personal affairs of others.

A police officer and even lawmakers are sworn in or inaugurated by an oath to protect the laws and constitutions of the land. In Matthew 16:19 Jesus is swearing in the disciples, simply telling them that they are to bind (lock in or require) what is bound in heaven and are to lose (or allow) only what is allowed in heaven. Matthew 16:19 is a command to His disciples and not a license to make their own laws. Jesus told His disciples, what you forbid should be that which is forbidden in heaven and what you allow should be that which is allowed in heaven. As a young boy, when I would get out of line, my teacher would tell me, “you will march right over to the the principal’s office.” That was a command, not a license! So when Jesus tells the church that what they bind is what will be bound in heaven he was Commanding them to only bind what is bound in heaven.

The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 293.

I am loyal to my parents without claiming they are infallible. I follow my parents as they follow Jesus. No more no less. I am also loyal to my church without claiming it is infallible. I follow my church as it follows Jesus. No more no less.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

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