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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | Comments (13)

by John MacArthur

One of the major, early catalysts in the Protestant Reformation was a book by Jan Hus, a Bohemian Christian who preceded Martin Luther by a full century. The book was De Ecclesia (The Church), and one of Hus’s most profound points was proclaimed in the title of his fourth chapter: “Christ the Only Head of the Church.”

Hus wrote, “Neither is the pope the head nor are the cardinals the whole body of the holy, universal, catholic [i.e., true] church. For Christ alone is the head of that church.” Pointing out that most church leaders in his era actually despised the lordship of Christ, Hus said, “To such a low pitch is the clergy come that they hate those who preach often and call Jesus Christ Lord.”

Hus’s candor cost him his life. He was declared a heretic and burned at the stake in 1415.

More than a hundred years later, and already at odds with the papal establishment, Martin Luther read De Ecclesia. After finishing the book, he wrote to a friend, “I have hitherto taught and held all the opinions of Jan Hus unawares; so did John Staupitz. In short, we are all Hussites without knowing it.”

As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope is often called the “Holy Father” and the “Vicar of Christ”—names and roles that only apply to God. He claims the ability to speak ex cathedra, exercising Godlike infallibility to add to and augment Scripture (Revelation 22:18). He wields unbiblical, unholy authority over his followers, usurping the headship of Christ and perverting the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Reformers understood that and declared it with unashamed boldness. As Martin Luther wrote to a friend, “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist. . . . Personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist.”

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin said:

Some persons think us too severe and censorious, when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak, and whose language we adopt. And lest anyone should object, that we improperly pervert to the Roman pontiff those words of Paul, which belong to a different subject, I shall briefly show that they are not capable of any other interpretation than that which implies them to the papacy (John Allen’s translation, book four, chapter seven).

The words of Paul that Calvin referred to were from 2 Thessalonians, where the apostle described the coming Antichrist “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

That same understanding was later reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says, “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalts himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God” (25.6).

That doesn’t mean that the pope is the final Antichrist. There have been and will continue to be, as 1 John 2:18 says, many false teachers who embody the spirit of Antichrist. As the American Puritan Cotton Mather wrote in The Fall of Babylon, “The oracles of God foretold the rising of an Antichrist [i.e., one or more antichrists who embody the spirit of the final Antichrist] in the Christian church. And in the Pope of Rome, all the characteristics of that Antichrist are so marvelously answered that if any who read the Scriptures do not see it, there is a marvelous blindness on them.”

In a sermon titled “Pray for Jesus,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon exhorted his congregation that “it is the duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is. No sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the church of Rome and in the church of England, there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name.”

He went on to say:

Popery anywhere, whether it be Anglican or Romish, is contrary to Christ’s gospel! And it is the Antichrist, and we ought to pray against it! It should be the daily prayer of every believer that Antichrist might be hurled like a millstone into the flood and sink to rise no more. If we can pray against error for Christ because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of His glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior, and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Spirit, and puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on earth—if we pray against it because it is against Him—we shall love the persons though we hate their errors! We shall love their souls though we loathe and detest their dogmas, and so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened because we turn our faces toward Christ when we pray.

In another sermon, titled “Christ Glorified,” Spurgeon said:

Christ did not redeem His church with His blood so the pope could come in and steal away the glory. He never came from heaven to earth and poured out His very heart that He might purchase His people so that a poor sinner, a mere man, should be set upon high to be admired by all the nations and to call himself God’s representative on earth! Christ has always been the head of His church.

In 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul said, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The pope has assumed for himself a position of authority that does not need to be filled.


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#1  Posted by David Barrow  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 5:54 AM

Dear Catholic friends

In John 17:11, Jesus addresses God as Holy Father. This is the reason the Pharisees wanted to kill him (John 5:18). If those religious leaders, who Jesus called children of the devil (John 8:44), knew that it was blasphemy to give oneself a title that only belongs to God, why are you addressing a mere man by this name? And why does this man accept this name? Please consider this. There are only 2 spiritual fathers - God and Satan. There are only 2 kinds of people in this world - children of God and children of Satan. If you address a man as the Holy Father, you are worshiping Satan, not the true Holy Father who is in heaven. We cannot serve 2 masters (Matthew 6:24). Catholic friends, we love you. We want to see you come out of the Roman system. It's not going to be easy. You may even loose family relationships. But Jesus said this will happen (Matthew10:35-36). Jesus never promised peace on earth between his children and children of Satan (Matthew 10:34).

#2  Posted by Daniel Wilson  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 7:43 AM

I was witnessing to a lady who I almost dated... and I share the Gospel to her and told her that Jesus is only one to look up to.. and she did'nt believe me and said she looks up to the Pope.. She prefered Pope than Jesus... I believe the Pope is decieving the minds of the people and He look as he is the 'father' sitting on his throne... Sad...

#3  Posted by Chris McCarthy  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Thank you for the clear teaching of scripture on this matter. The prayer against antichrist is a mindset I have not had until now. The system reminds me of the Pharisees and how their traditions rejected the Word of God. The traditions of the church have become more important than the commandment of God Mark 7:8.

#4  Posted by John Sumpter  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Dear Friends:

Help me with my journey through this difficult topic.

I have been referred to the teachings of the Catholic Church on justification/salvation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). The argument goes like this: a faith in Jesus that endures to the end is what is needed for salvation. CCC 161. So protestants and catholics can agree faith is essential. Where they differ is on the requirement that the faith endure, such that catholicism teaches that while salvation is a free gift from God, we play some part in accepting or rejecting that gift (even if the grace to accept Jesus also comes from God/Holy Spirit). When we choose to reject that gift after accepting it, we "have made shipwrecked our faith" 1 Tim. 1:18-19 and we lose the gift. CCC 162.

In a nutshell, catholics believe justification is an ongoing process. That is, you are justified at your conversion (you are saved), but are also being justified (you are being saved as you are enduring in your faith), and hope to be justified in the future (at some point you will realize your eternal salvation). Because protestants view justification as a moment in time, they project that thought on catholics, and thus, assume catholics are working for their justification/salvation at some moment in the future, when in fact, upon a catholic's conversion (initial justification) catholicism teaches they are saved and become part of the Body of Christ spiritually and the outpouring of love and charity (good works) are not their own, but should be credited to Christ as Christ provides the grace to perform such works. For the individual (the instrument of Christ's work), God grants sanctifying grace to more firmly establish a communion of himself to that person. The communion can be severed through a loss of faith/rejection of Jesus or through some sin so greivous that one could not have committed the sin while dwelling with/in Christ.

Thus, for catholics, charity and works of faith, in and of themselves, are not meritorious of salvation/justification - initial justification (i.e. conversion) comes through faith, but through working out ones faith they might enduring as a part of the Body of Christ to the end.

The second argument goes like this: 99.999% of people do not know all biblical theology and understand without exception biblical doctrines and how those doctrines play out in practice and worship. That being the case, whatever your pastor (or a noted teacher) says regard a difficult doctrinal issue will be the view you espouse, as you likely trust his aptitude and likely very good a constructing the rational for his view. How is that any different than a pope? You are trusting another individual to shape your views and give you direction on how to live your life. I'm not sure how to respond.

Pray for me.

#6  Posted by David Barrow  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Hi John

The best thing you could do right now to understand all this is to listen to MacArthur's Sermon Series entitled Explaining the Heresy of Catholicism and his Sermon Series entitled Delivered By God.


#7  Posted by David Barrow  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 2:36 PM


The following article will help understand biblical justification vs Catholic justification -

So whose interpretation is right? First of all, 2 Peter 1:20 and 2 Timothy 3:16 tell us Scripture was not written by man's interpretation. Therefore when we read Scripture it must also not be interpreted by the will of man. Scripture must be interpreted using Scripture. Most Scripture is not hard to understand. For example, read Matthew 7:13-14. This tells us that most religious people are not going to heaven. It is very clear. Yet you would not believe how people will justify these verses to say otherwise. Read Acts 4:12 and John 14:6. Is it not clear which name is the only name by which we are saved? Yet Catholicism trusts also in the name of the Catholic church, the name of the virgin Mary, and their own name through piousness and purgatory to make it to heaven. The Bible does not say any of this and the Bible itself is sufficient to make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).


#9  Posted by Lori Lewis  |  Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 11:26 PM

John - glad you are seeking to understand the issue. I prayed for you.

#10  Posted by Denise Grimes  |  Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Excerpts from Spurgeon's "War! War! War!" :

I am astonished, and yet more astonished when I come to turn it over, at the want of earnestness that there is in the Protestantism of the present age. How do you imagine that Cardinal Wiseman pays for all his splendours, and that the Romish church is supported? Fools and slow of heart, ye find them much of their wealth. If he is to preach in any place, who is it that crowds the chapel full, and pays for admission? The Protestants; and the Protestantism of England is the pay-master of the Pope. I am ashamed that sons of the Reformers who have Smithfield still in their midst unbuilt upon, should bow themselves before the beast, and give so much as a single farthing to the shrine of the devil's firstborn son. Take heed to yourselves, ye Protestants, lest ye be partakers of her plagues; touch her not, lest ye be defiled. Give a drachm to her, or a grain of incense to her censors, ye shall be partakers of her adulteries and partakers of her plagues. Every time you pass the house of Popery let a curse light upon her head: Thus saith the Lord:—"Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

End quote.

How many today even among those who call themselves "Reformed" are accepting Rome on some level, whether it be her history, her church fathers, her "baptism", her ecclesiology, her mysticism (Lectio Divina, prayer labyrinths, Desert Fathers), schools and universities, social gospel, and the like? I dare say its worse today than in Spurgeon's time, the conspiracy to hold hands with the anti-Christ religion.

#11  Posted by Daniel Wilson  |  Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Pope resigns... Kings steps down.... presidents finishes his terms... etc...

The Lord stands forever.... Amen...

#12  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 1:16 PM

The pope is just a man. Your pastor or priest is only a man. John MacArthur is only a man. All of us are human and subject to error. Men have no authority to forgive sin, or no supernatural power. No one can tell you if you are truly saved - they do not know your heart. Only God can forgive sin, and only God can hear and respond to our prayers. We don't need anyone as a go between. We go directly to God in faith and repentance. The Bible is clear that Jesus is the only way we are saved. No amount of repetitious prayers, religious activities, baptism, church attendance, good works, ministry involvement, service to others, charity, etc. will make you right with God. If that was the case, Christ died for nothing and you could have saved yourself. Obviously, those things are all good things and would be expected to be displayed as reasonable service in the life of a true believer who willingly does those things out of a grateful heart - not to be seen by men. Those activities do not earn favor with God. If the heart is right, the behavior will follow, otherwise it is hypocrisy. Of course people are at different stages in their lives with different responsibilities, and some have more time than others to devote. God does not expect you to be superhuman and take on every good thing that comes your way. There is a sacrifice of time and resources, and some people are able to do more than others, but that does not make them more holy. Many people with illnesses, little children, or that work a lot of hours, or care for family are at times not able to do as much as others. Serving and being available to your own family, neighbors, friends, working honestly, and fulfilling your responsibilities to those put in your care are the only ministry you can take on. The best witness is to be people who really know us. I believe God cares more about the motive and attitude and does not measure the quantity. Don't judge or compare yourself to others.

I give John MacArthur a lot of credit to approach this subject. It is very controversial. I respect that he holds scripture dear and I truly believe he will challenge anything he believes takes away from the glory of God, or is unbiblical. He is obviously not doing this to please men. Don't take his word for it or pick and choose verses that you can take out of context - compare it to the WHOLE of scripture and make up your mind. And by all means, pray to God about it.

#13  Posted by Jennifer Phillips  |  Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 1:50 PM

I encourage those of you who are in the Catholic church and following this blog, and have been challenged by this series, or continue to have questions to read scripture and pray about this subject. You need to follow your conscience and seeks God's guidance. It can be difficult to abandon something that you have been familiar and comfortable with for many years that has been such a huge part of your life and the memories associated with it. The same goes for people in Protestant churches who are not sitting under sound doctrine. The way your church - or any church - handles the Bible is what matters most where you worship. Continue to pray, read your Bible and see where it leads you. You came to the Grace to You website for a reason. Continue to explore the many resources and download sermons from the archive. For those of you who are not Catholic, but have Catholic friends and family (many of us do), it is important and loving to speak to them about areas that are not biblical and expose it to them, but do not push them. Pray for them, and by all means, love them. Our timetable is different than God's. We want responses now. Sometimes it takes months or years until our eyes are opened and only God can awaken our hearts at the appropriate time. Nothing is impossible with God. Matthew 19:25-27

#15  Posted by Warren Hewko  |  Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:56 PM

here's a great quote " Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established,that unless we love the truth , we cannot know it .-Blaise Pascal ( 1623-1662). in Matthew 231::12 look at Jesus showing to all the religious leaders of that day and saying to the disciples to do not do what they say and do not do according to there works.and all there works are seen by men (people)it breaks my heart that for centuries the popes are carried around in Rome or whereever other city he would go and what do we see mobs of people fixated on the pope like hes a god, RCC please see then in Jesus times is what have been for centuries in catholic system its a mirror look at the reflection,and Jesus say about not calling any one on earth Father as One is your Father in Heaven. 12 and whoever exalts himself( the religious leaders did this in Jesus times and you cant lie as we see the pope doing the same ),how clear must our Lord and Savior is saying, and there garbs and robes and all colors and etc and do you not see the cardinals and priest and popes wearing the same in Jesus times ,cant you see the similarities, works system then and a works system with the RCC and extra burdens then on the people and extra burdens for the people of the RC people. and know the woes starting in verse 13 to 29 then follows the in v37 Jesus weeping over the works system of Jerusalem and not see the Grace of God thru Faith in the person who they were supposed to study in scripture as we see in Matthew 2:3-4-5-6, as Herod asked and gathered all chief priests and scribes and when they said to Herod for thus it is (it is written by the prophets , then at least the religious leaders then seen where the messiah must be born ,but the point is popes are are really no different and even the OT that really where you see same in the sacrificial .of animals as we see the Mass not able to forgive sin, but as Jennifer#13 said we all have family as i do many in the RC and we have had heated conversations as probably some have as we seen our Savior to and to try to speak in love sensitivity and truth and praying in the spirit would awaken not there intellect but there seared conscience as i had and the soul and spirit will bring the Word of God alive to our lost loved once. will see and we hope to here from them and they will say i see the truth and there will be a miracle of divine awakening and tears of joy and we all need to keep power praying all the time , may the Holy Spirit push out the lie and bring in the truth, so help them see are Great God and Father of our Lord Jesus with your Spirit Amen.

#18  Posted by Franklin Eckenroad  |  Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 7:14 AM

Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor has been very helpful to me . In it he talks about pride in the pulpit. He says Protestants are against the Pope claiming infallibilty but what they had in his time was not just one Pope but many popes. Because of pride in the pulpit Protestants multiplied popery. I'd have to agree with him. I think that's what we are seeing today in protestantism. Baxter also says that it was rare for a believer in his day to be concerned about the catholic church. Most were only concerned with their group. Success for their group was success for Christianity, so they thought. He says, "where are the men with truly catholic spirit." One of the posts above (#15) talks about Jesus pronouncing woes and then weeping. Isn't this the key? We must denounce popery but we must take the beam out of our own eye first. Pro 15.1