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. 

Who is The “Man of Sin?” Could it be you?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Monday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “In what subtle ways are each of us susceptible to having the same kind of attitude as we see revealed here in this “man of sin”?

As Adventists, we often think of the anti-Christ as the leader of a system reveled in the book of Revelation. While Revelation does identify a specific leader within a specific system, setting himself up as God, and thus an anti-Christ, John the revelator also tells us in 1 John 2:18, “even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” So the Scriptures warn of many anti-Christs.  So who are all these anti-Christs?

To answer this question, let’s back up a little bit. In studying the three angels message, we see that a so called religious system, Babylon falls. Again we know from studying Revelation that this is a specific system. However, we also see that this system has an attitude. That attitude is legalism. Man- made laws, man- made day of worship, leading to a man -made way of salvation, outside of trusting in the merits of Jesus and His blood.  While Revelation pinpoints this system, that fact is clear, that this attitude can be found in other systems as well, and history has proven it has been. Were not the Sadducees and Pharisees making their own laws and trusting their own works for salvation? Yet they were not Babylon. So could it be that if I am not careful to crucify self and die daily, that this same attitude of Babylon could be found in my heart too?

So, if it is possible for me to have the attitude of Babylon, would it also be possible for me to have the same attitude as the anti-Christ, thus making me one of many anti-Christs? An anti-Christ is someone who sets himself up as Christ, just as the man of sin mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”  Here we see that the man of sin, or anti-Christ sits in the place of God. So how could I possibly be an anti-Christ, sitting in the place of God? Isaiah 33:22 tells us; “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver.” Our Lord God is our lawgiver and judge. So, when I set myself up as judge of other peoples motives, or think that I can interpret the law for everybody, I am usurping the seat of God and setting myself up as God, and thus becoming an anti-Christ!

Like Babylon, Anti-Christ is more than a system. It is an attitude. In the book, Great Controversy, Pages 292-3, Ellen White explains, that while the pilgrims came to the new world, to escape the anti-Christ, that they carried the attitude of anti-Christ with them to the New World. “It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation. Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. “Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.”–Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. 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.”

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine and correction. I can only define God’s law by what is in the Scriptures , but not by my personal opinions or traditions, like the Pharisees in Christ’s time, and religious leaders in the dark ages did.  I am not the interpreter of the law for the whole world, nor, can I think to change times and laws to meet with my own opinions or inclinations. Simply put, I am not the lawgiver, and cannot judge people by my own standards. Also, while open sin must be dealt with, according to 1 Corinthians 6, as a church we may have to address outward actions, but I as an individual cannot judge inward motives. In judging outward actions we must still be careful. Joseph almost put poor Mary away thinking he had all the evidence of an affair. Even with his overwhelming evidence he was wrong! Even with all his evidence he tried to put her away privately without any public embarrassment. What a great example for us to imitate. Even with his overwhelming evidence, Joseph was not going to judge Mary’s heart.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul teaches churches, not individuals to judge open and outward actions very carefully. Paul teaches no one to judge the heart and inward motives. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us God and the Scriptures alone tell us what is right and wrong. I am not the lawgiver or the interpreter of the law for the rest of the world.  The Lord our God is our lawgiver and judge. When we judge people according to our own standards, opinions and understanding, we usurp the throne of God and become an anti-Christ.

Acts 15; Jew And Gentile

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 19.

This chapter is based on Acts Acts 15:1-35.

 I really love Peter’s humility in this story. Some try to claim that Peter was the first pope but Peter did present himself as infallible and if he was a pope then wouldn’t the church have just let his word settle this debate in Acts 15. Peter himself knows there is only one who is infallible and that is God Himself and that there is no man here on earth who can take His place.

Secondly I like how Peter accepted Paul’s rebuke when Paul tells his own version of the story of Acts 15 in Galatians 2. Peter does not respond to Paul saying, “Hey I have been in this church for years. You can’t talk to me like that! You are a new comer I have been here since the beginning.” No, Peter realizes that the Holy Spirit was speaking through Paul. Would that we all would realize that God can use anyone to correct us! Just because we may have been in the church longer does not mean cannot learn from new members. Even Peter learned from the new members. Peter did not resent being corrected by Paul, but later referred to him as his beloved brother in his own letter.

Acts 9-12; Pride and Humility

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapters 14 and 15.

These chapters are based on Acts 9-12

As I read these two chapters here is what jumped out at me. First we see a man who has come to Peter to learn more about Jesus. Here is what happens, “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him]. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”  Acts 10:25-26 While the pope and many other religious leaders for that matter will accept worship and homage from others, not Peter! He realizes he is just a man and refuses to let anyone worship him. According to Catholic church tradition Peter was the first pope but Peter would never assume the title Vicar of Christ and would never allow himself to be worshiped. Peter realized worshiping humans in the place of God is blasphemy.

Later in Acts 12 let’s look at what happened, “And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, [saying, It is] the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.  Acts 12:21-24.

 

Unlike Peter, Herod accepts being worshiped as a god and we see what happened. Here is the thing that is so ironic to me. Peter was a lot closer to being like God than Herod was and yet, Peter refused to be put on that pedestal while Herod who was nothing like God at all accepts the praises of the people. My point is, the closer we are to being like Christ the less boastful we will be. Pride is a sure sign that we are nowhere close to Jesus.

I have seen this contrast between Peter and Herod many times, on a much smaller scale of course. One such incident really amuses me to this day. My father had been the church treasure for many years and people loved the job that he did. One year though a long long time ago, my dad decides to take a break and made them pick someone else. When they asked this someone else of course they had no idea they were only being asked because my dad refused the position for that year. This someone then goes to my parents and tells them the reason they were picked instead of my dad (which they weren’t my dad was asked first and turned it down) was because they had formal training and a degree. Before the year was up this someone had made such a mess of the books that my dad had to take back over to straighten everything out. My dad is not one to brag but I will. My dad was the humble one in this story but doing the better job, while this someone had all the pride but could not do the job. That is just human nature though, and so much like all of us. On an magnificantly larger scale, we have Herod who was proud for no reason, while Peter who was very close to Jesus practiced humility. Reminds you of Lucifer who wanted to exalt himself above God, and then God who became a man and a servant to die for us all.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.