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Where I Stand - The Book of Revelation
Week 43, 2016
Scripture commands us to “Know those who labor among you” (see I Thessalonians 5:12). I occasionally feel compelled to share more specifically where I stand on a doctrine or other issue because you deserve to know.
I have been accused of being anti-Catholic, and at the same time, of being a Roman Catholic. I actually have never been part of any denomination. I do admit that for a period of time when I first studied church history, I became very anti-Roman Catholic. As I studied the histories of many Protestant denominations, I became anti-all denominations. Over time, much more study, and the resolve that my main purpose was to love God and love His people, I have tried to love, honor, and respect all Christians and denominations. I began to see them like the tribes of Israel—a real benefit as long as we keep in mind that we are one holy nation and members of the same body. Through dialoging with Catholic leaders that I came to appreciate and respect, my appreciation and respect for the Roman Catholic Church has also grown.
I still have a great problem with many Catholic doctrines, and am fundamentally committed to Jesus as the “only mediator between God and men,” and the only Head of the church. I will not accept that any man should ever presume His rightful place. I also have issues with some doctrines and practices of other denominations, but as long as they hold to the fundamentals of the faith, I seek to love and honor them. My honoring of them includes being willing to address what I consider to be unbiblical and harmful doctrines. However, I don’t let these doctrinal differences keep me from loving, respecting, and seeking to help them in any way I can.
I greatly respected the extraordinary leadership of some popes, such as John Paul II. As much as anyone in his time, he promoted the present working of the Holy Spirit. He wrote what I consider to be the clearest teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the working of the gifts of the Spirit. John Paul II had a powerful healing ministry and saw many miracles. He exhorted Catholics to seek baptism in the Holy Spirit and the operation of the gifts of the Spirit in their lives. Now there are an estimated 130 million born-again, Spirit-filled Catholics.
Because of this, we must come to the same conclusion Peter did in the house of Cornelius—can we say they are not part of the church to whom the Lord has given the Holy Spirit? The charismatic Catholic movement has been a major blessing to the whole body of Christ and continues to grow. Many of the great leaders being produced by this extraordinary movement are transcendent leaders who are a blessing to the body of Christ.
However, I do not see the ultimate unity of the body of Christ leading to the whole body being under any one organization. Again, I see the different denominations like the different tribes in Israel—all had a different vision and purpose that fit with the common vision and purpose of the whole nation. We need the uniqueness of each one, and something essential would be lost if they morphed into a single one. The coming unity must be a unity of diversity, not a unity of conformity—just as the human body can only live with the different parts remaining unique and performing their different functions.
Ultimately, all parts of the body will come under one Head, Jesus. Understandably, we may be appalled at the Pope’s claim to be the head of the church, standing in Christ’s rightful place. Yet virtually every Protestant church and evangelical movement has done the same thing—elevated a man (or woman) as the head and mediator between the people and God. This may not be the case doctrinally, but it often is in practice.
We may condemn Catholics for what we perceive as the worship of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Yet we often elevate worshipping the temple of the Lord, the church, more than the Lord of the temple. So in a sense, we are doing the same thing.
We may condemn Catholics for venerating and praying to saints, but we have not stopped exalting men of God over God at times.
We may condemn the Catholic church for the selling of indulgences (the purchasing of the grace of God with money), but for a long time it was hard to turn on Christian television without seeing the selling of charismatic indulgences—the promise that if a person gave to a ministry, God would bless that person in a special way.
The point is that those quick to condemn the Catholic church have inevitably gone on to do the same things, just in another form. Revelation, and now history, reveals how the harlot church became the seat of the man of sin, or the sin of man. It shows who we all are without the true grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus. We are totally dependent on His grace. Instead of pointing at “them,” we need to point at ourselves and use this revelation to get free of what we all tend to do—exalt men of God over the God of all men.
next week 44