Benedict is making the first official visit of a Pope to Scotland on the 450th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation there under the leadership of John Knox and others – an event that subsequently had such a profound effect in the northern parts of Ireland. He is also to visit England where men like Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were burnt at the stake in the 16th century by the Roman Catholic authorities because of their adherence to the Biblical Gospel. But surely, you say, these things of the past have no relevance now? Nobody in this day and age could be against the Pope coming to the United Kingdom. We have 'moved on', have we not, from the days when people argued over religion? There is no place for bigotry and division in modern society, and, in any case, what possible harm could such a visit do?
The Reformation: Light after darkness
The Reformation was not 'much ado about nothing'. It was not a mere regrettable misunderstanding. It was a battle between darkness and light. Roman Catholicism had obscured the knowledge of the true Gospel for centuries. People were living and dying in spiritual darkness. The populace was sinking into immorality. God brought about the dawn of a new day of Gospel light that affected vast areas of Britain.
What does Pope Benedict claim?
Those who have come to know Jesus Christ as the Saviour of sinners cannot be indifferent to the outrageous claims of Pope Benedict. The titles accorded to the Pope are quite staggering. He is declared to be "the Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World". This means he claims to have God-given political authority over the government of the United Kingdom. But this is not all. He is also entitled, "the Vicar of Jesus Christ…Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church". A 'vicar' is one who acts in the place of another.
Are his claims true or false?
These claims are either true (in which case we should all become Roman Catholics immediately) or else they are false. They cannot be just a little bit wide of the mark – involving a mere difference of perspective. No, if the Pope is wrong, then he is wickedly and blasphemously wrong!
What is the true test?
Everything must be tested by the Word of God, which is the final authority. Whereas the Catholic Catechism (1994, para. 891) attributes infallible authority to the Pope and the Council of Bishops, the Bible is the only infallible rule and we must 'search the scriptures' (Acts 17:11) and 'prove all things' by this means. When we turn to the Bible, we find some things are very clear.
1. Jesus Christ has fully atoned for sins once
'But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many… (Hebrews 9:26-28). There is no room here for the teaching of presenting his sacrifice repeatedly as taught in the doctrine of the Mass.
2. Jesus Christ is accessible by faith
The Lord Jesus said, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). Without the need for any Pope or priesthood, we are to come to God by coming to Jesus Christ. There is no 'vicar' or intermediary between sinners and the Saviour, for he is the 'one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus' (1 Timothy 2:5).
3. Jesus Christ alone is to be followed
Christ, the true Head of the Church, has not appointed any universal pontiff or local priesthood, or mass, confessional or penances. If you have been trusting in these things, you have been deceived. If you continue to follow the Pope and his fraudulent claims, you will follow him to hell, which is where we all deserve to go because of our sin and guilt. Only by coming to God and trusting in Jesus Christ alone can our sins be forgiven.
A matter of vital importance
The issue is not a mere antiquated squabble. We must make no mistake on this – the issues involved are eternal ones. Never mind the fuss and euphoria of the Pope's visit. That will soon be over. Will it leave you in the same spiritual condition that you were in? Christ must be all our salvation or none. He will not share the glory of saving sinners with anybody else. 'There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'. (Acts 4.12)
- The Bible, not the Pope, gives you the truth
- Christ, not the Pope, is the only Saviour of sinners
- Christ, not the Pope, is the Head of the Church
- You need Christ, not the Pope