Speaking of sound theology, we are on Sunday nights doing a doctrinal study, and we have covered a lot of things over the last many, many months and found ourselves pressed into a very important look at Roman Catholic theology. It rises out of all of our study of theology because this culture in which we live is so dominated by Romanism. We have demonstrated by raising of hands several times in this recent series that the majority of people who have come to Christ in this church, and that would be the majority of people in this church, have come out of a Roman Catholic background. And it is important for us to understand what it is that Roman Catholic theology teaches and what it is that Catholics believe and advocate.
It is important for a number of reasons; the first and foremost reason that presents itself to me in this day is that evangelicalism is in a big hurry to redefine Catholic people as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is an eagerness to accept them because they talk about God and Christ and the Holy Spirit and the cross and the resurrection, and even the Scripture. It is wishful thinking, however, to assume that people in the Roman Catholic Church are genuine Christians. In order to be genuine Christians they would have to believe something other than Roman Catholic theology.
The purpose of this series is by no means to belittle them, or to ridicule them, or to make them any kind of object of humor, no matter how bizarre the theological things that they advocate seem to us. But to maintain the age-old realization that they are still a mission field, that they need to be reached with the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it’s my conviction that they are the most fertile soil for evangelism perhaps in the world, because while they know all the terms and some of the historical facts concerning the Lord Jesus, they know that they do not know God and they do not have the assurance of eternal life.
Through the years we have seen such a tremendous response to the gospel among people coming out of Catholic Churches. And we want to make sure that we don’t allow ourselves to be lured into this very seductive kind of emphasis that’s coming along now that we’re all Christians together. I also want to say, too, that what I’m telling you is essential Catholic doctrine. And that is not to say that everybody in the Catholic Church, all people who are, quote/unquote, “Roman Catholics,” believe this or even know this. Ignorance has always been a premium in Roman Catholicism. That’s why for so many centuries everything was done in Latin. It didn’t really matter whether the people understood it or not, it was all a kind of mystical and mechanical effort where ritual brought you through some ritualistic ceremonial mechanisms into communion with God through communing mystically with the church.
And in recent years they have moved away from Latin in to the vernacular languages of the world, but still there is widespread ignorance among Roman Catholics, even as to the priesthood being unsure in many cases of what is important doctrine. And so we do understand that many people involved in Roman Catholicism have no idea what the Church’s dogma is; they’re just there going through the routine. However, to understand the truth is very important if we’re going to expose the system for what it is, and ignorance doesn’t change that at all. And, again, the purpose that we have in mind in dealing with this material is to demonstrate an evangelistic compassion toward people in Roman Catholicism, so close and yet so terribly far.
In fact, as we remember from the writer of Hebrews, the hottest hell belongs to those who having known the cross and the truth of the cross have thereby trampled it under feet in unbelief and theirs is the more severe eternal judgment. So they are not just a mission field, the are a great mission field, a needy mission field to which we have to go with great compassion and clarity of sound doctrine.
Now we are talking currently about the Mass, a pagan corruption, the Mass. It is a corruption of the Lord’s table. I haven’t taken the time to explain the biblical significance of the Lord’s table because I’ve done that for all the years I’ve been here. We have covered the ground on the meaning of the Lord’s table through the years every way possible, and I’m going to assume that you understand that. But I do want you to understand the error. I think you already know the truth. There, as I said, has been plenty of information that we’ve given from this pulpit in that regard.
I want to approach this tonight by looking at something that’s very historical. This week I had the opportunity to read a book that was given to me by Rick Holland called Bloody Mary’s Martyrs. It is a book that was produced in New York City in the year 2001. I have always been frankly extremely fascinated by the 16th century, particularly the 16th century in the UK, Scotland, Ireland and England, because of my own ancestry going back there both on my father’s side, both parents of his. And I have always loved that particular century because of the tremendous influence and impact of the Reformation as it reached into England and Scotland and, particularly, the amazing ministry of John Knox. And so it is interesting to me to understand a little bit of the history of Bloody Mary, as she is known, Queen Mary Tudor.
This book is a history of Mary and the martyrs that were slaughtered under her reign. From the very inception of her reign she began the slaughter. The writer of the book says this, “In England, in the reign of Queen Mary Tudor, for 45 terrible months between February 4, 1555 and November 10, 1558, two hundred and eighty-three Protestants were martyred; two hundred and twenty-seven men and fifty-six women. There are other records that indicate also there were four children. They were all burned alive. For certain, two hundred and eighty-three were burned alive, and that is how Queen Mary Tudor became known as Bloody Mary.” Let me read the record of the execution of just a few of the best-known names. You can find a great amount of this history in Foxe’s classic Book of Martyrs. There’s also a wonderful other source if you can find it. It’s a book written by J.C. Ryle called Light From Old Path s, which also has a history of the Marion martyrs, as they are called.
One was a wonderful preacher of the gospel named John Rogers, and John Rogers was burned in Smithfield on Monday, the 4th of February. And he was the first martyr that launched her 45month campaign. He had assisted…here is his crime. He had assisted Tyndale and Coverdale in bringing out a most important version of the English Bible, a version commonly known as Matthew’s Bible, taking Tyndale’s New Testament and combining it with his own work in the Old Testament and putting it under the title of Matthew’s Bible as a synonym to try to hide a little bit. It didn’t bear his name but he was condemned as Rogers, alias Matthews.
He was the first one who was burned at the stake. He was led forth to Smithfield, on foot, within sight of the Church of the Sepulcher where he had preached. He was led through the streets of the parish where he had done the work of a pastor. And along the way stood his wife and ten children, one a newborn baby in the arms of his wife. As he passed his children, he was unable to do anything but to look at them and smile and say a brief word of greeting, because of the diabolical cruelty of Bishop Bonner who had flatly refused him any opportunity to see his wife or his children when in prison. He only glanced at them and then walked on calmly to the stake, reciting Psalm 51. He walked, says Bishop Ryle, steadily, unflinchingly into a fiery grave.
And upon his arrival, the enthusiasm of the crowd knew no bounds; they rent the air with thunders of applause. Even Noailles, the French ambassador, wrote home a description of the scene and said that Rogers went to his death as though he were walking to “his wedding.” Ridley says in the book, Bloody Mary’s Martyrs, “On his last night in his prison cell at Newgate, he slept so soundly that his jailor had to wake him in the morning and tell him it was time for him to dress and prepare to leave for the place of execution. He was happy, for he knew that however much he might suffer in the fire, he would go directly to heaven.” Death came quickly. He held his hands in the fire and went through the motions of washing them as if the fire had been cold water. Then he withdrew them from the flames, held them aloft in the air, and recited a prayer till he died soon afterwards.
Then there was John Hooper, another preacher of the gospel. When he arrived at the spot of his execution, he was allowed to pray though strictly forbidden to speak to the people. A box was placed before John Hooper containing a full pardon if he would only recant. His answer was, “Away with it, away with it.” He was then fastened to the stake by an iron around his waist and fought his last fight with the king of terrors. Three times the faggots had to be lighted because they would not burn properly. Three quarters of an hour the noble sufferer endured the mortal agony as Foxe says, “Neither moving backward, forward, nor to any side but only praying, ‘Lord, Jesus, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’ and beating his breast with one hand till it was burned to a stump.” Seven thousand were there to watch and a blind boy said, “You, sir, have enabled me to see the light of the gospel.”
Then there was Robert Ferrar, burned at Carmarthen on Friday the 30th of March, same year. He stood in the flames holding out his hands till they were burned to stumps until a bystander, in mercy, struck him on the head and put an end to his suffering. And so that Welch preacher passed away. And then the two famous compatriots in the gospel, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. Ridley arrived on the ground first and seeing Latimer come afterwards ran to him and embraced him saying, “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flames or else He will strengthen us to abide it.” Ridley’s last words before the fire was lighted were these, “Heavenly Father, I give Thee most hardy thanks that Thou hast called me to a profession of Thee, even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm of England and deliver the same from all her enemies.”
Latimer’s last words were like the blast of a trumpet which rings even to this day, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.” And when the flames began to rise, Ridley cried out with a loud voice, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Lord, receive my spirit.” Latimer cried vehemently on the other side of the stake, “Father of heaven, receive my soul.” Latimer died soon, an old man of eighty years of age. It took very little to set his spirit free from its earthly torment. Ridley suffered long and painfully from the bad management of the fire by those who attended the execution. At length, however, the flames reached the vital part of him and he fell at Latimer’s feet and they were at rest. Ryle says, “They were lovely and beautiful in their lives and in death they were not divided.”
John Philpot was burned in Smithfield, December 18, 1555. The night before his execution he went to his bedroom and thanked God that he was counted worthy to suffer for the truth. And when he came to Smithfield he kneeled down and said, “I will pay my vows.” He then kissed the stake and said, “Shall I disdain to suffer at this stake, seeing my Redeemer did not refuse to suffer a most vile death on the cross for me?” After that he meekly repeated the 106th, 107th and 108th Psalm, and being chained to the stake died very quietly. And there was Thomas Cranmer who vacillated back and forth, back and forth and seemed to be very unfaithful, but in the end found his courage and came to his death. And as he was being burned, he said, “I will burn my hand that writes first for it is my hand that in the past has written things contrary to the truth. It shall burn first.” And it did.
There is another amazing story of a girl named Perotine Cauchés. The Channel Islands were in the realm of Queen Mary. And this is in the summer of 1556, a case arose there. There was a woman named Catherine Cauchés, and she lived in the Channel Islands with the two daughters, Perotine and Guillemine. Through a series of circumstances, a woman reported Catherine and her two daughters as heretics, and the three women were convicted of heresy and sentenced to be burned. Perotine did not tell the judges at her trial that she was pregnant. When the fire was lit, the heat of the fire caused Perotine to give birth to her baby son who fell onto the faggots while the flames burned around him. One of the spectators rushed forward to save the baby and pulled him out of the fire and laid him on the grass. A man at arms picked him up, and he was handed from one official to another till he was given to the sheriff in charge of the execution. The sheriff ordered his man to throw the baby back into the fire and he was burned with his mother, his grandmother, and his aunt.
Well there are eight of the two hundred and eighty-three, and there are many more stories like that. And the question is why. Why? And the answer is a single answer, amazingly enough. All of them, all two hundred and eighty-three of them, were burned and even more during the prior reign of Henry VIII. They were all burned because of one matter. They refused to admit and believe in the doctrine at the center of the Mass, the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. J.C. Ryle writes, “All without one exception were called to special account about the real presence and in every case their refusal to admit the doctrine formed one principle cause of their condemnation. They all died under Bloody Mary because they would not acknowledge that the wine and the bread at the Lord’s table was the real presence of the body, the blood and the nature and the divinity of Jesus Christ.”
In fact, Fox’s Book of Martyrs records the very words of the martyrs when they died. Listen to what John Rogers said. “I was asked whether I believed in the sacrament to be the very body and blood of our Savior, Christ, that was born of the Virgin Mary and hanged on the cross, really and substantially. I answered, ‘I think it could be false. I cannot understand really and substantially to signify otherwise then corporeally, but corporeally Christ is only in heaven and so Christ cannot be corporeally in your sacrament.’ And therefore he was condemned and burned.”
Here are the words of sentence against Bishop Ridley, “The said Nicholas Ridley affirms, maintains and stubbornly defends certain opinions, assertions and heresies contrary to the Word of God and the received faith of the Church as in denying the true and natural body and blood of Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar and secondarily, in affirming the substance of bread and wine to remain after the words of consecration.” And so he was condemned and burned.
Now remember what I told you last time. The idea of the Mass is that when the priest consecrates the wine and the bread, they immediately and miraculously become the real blood and the real body of Jesus Christ and are no longer wine and no longer bread. Although they maintain the appearance of them, that is not the reality of them. What Ridley said was that before and after the consecration, it was still wine and it was still bread. And he was condemned and burned. His friend, Latimer, here’s what was said against him. “That thou hast openly affirmed, defended and maintained that the true and natural body of Christ after the consecration of the priest is not really present in the sacrament of the altar and that in the sacrament of the altar remains still the substance of bread and wine.” Same thing. And the good old man, Latimer, said, “After a corporeal being which the Romish Church furnisheth, Christ’s body and blood is not in the sacraments under the forms of bread and wine. In denying it, he was condemned and burned.
Here is the address made by Bishop Bonner to Philpot, “You have offended and trespassed against the Sacrament of the Altar, denying the real presence of Christ’s body and blood to be there, affirming also material bread and material wine to be in the Sacrament and not the substance of the body and blood of Christ.” And because of that opinion, he was burned.
Here’s what Cranmer said with almost his last breath, this is in St. Mary’s Church in Oxford, “As for the Sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the Bishop of Winchester, to which my book teaches so true a doctrine that it shall stand at the last day before the judgment of God when the Papist’s doctrine contrary thereto shall be ashamed to show her face.” You want to know what he said in his book? “They (the Papists) say that Christ is corporally under or in the forms of bread and wine. We say that Christ is not there, neither corporally nor spiritually; but in them that worthily eat and drink the bread and wine He is spiritually and corporally in heaven.” And so he was burned.
Three hundred years later the Roman Catholic Church was still doing this. The last martyr to the Catholic system in Spain was in the year 1826. A schoolteacher named Cayetano Ripoll, he was burned at the stake in 1826 for not taking his students to Mass, for not making them kneel before the Host, and for saying “Praise be to God” instead of “Hail Holy Mary.” It really is a horrible thing to think that an ordinance given by our Lord for the blessing of His beloved saints would be so corrupted and so defiled that it would become a devilish, satanic reason to slaughter the most faithful Christians and preachers of the gospel. But it did in the corrupting hands of the Roman system.
As I said, from the fourth of February 1555 to the tenth of November 1558, 45 months, Protestants were put to the ultimate test about their conviction concerning the Lord’s Table. That was the issue. Mary was a staunch Catholic. When she came to the throne, England had begun to be transformed by the Protestant Reformation. Luther had nailed his thesis to the door at Wittenberg about 38 years earlier, 1517. In 38 years the Reformation had spread to England. Just a footnote, I happen to have because they’ve been given to me by friends, some Bibles that were printed and used in that very period of time. In fact I have a copy of Matthew’s Bible. I almost brought it to show you tonight but it’s huge. It’s a sacred treasure to me because I understand the price that John Rogers paid and the price that William Tyndale paid. Tyndale was executed and so was John Rogers.
Well the Reformation infuriated Queen Mary who was Catholic, and she set out to erase the gospel of grace from her kingdom. And the standard she used was the Mass and transubstantiation. For anybody who didn’t affirm it, death came swiftly. And as I pointed out last time, the Catholic position is that in the cup and the bread after the priest consecrates it, he is doing something that has supernatural power that transforms it into the real presence of Jesus Christ.
This was repulsive to the Reformers, to the true Christians. And what they said was that this Mass, every time they did it, was another sacrifice, a re-sacrifice of Christ who would be endlessly sacrificed over and over and over and over till the end of the world, they said. English Protestants would not participate in a Mass because that would be a denial of the sufficiency of the one offering of Jesus Christ. And so Mary made a law, if you deny the real presence of Christ in the bread and the cup, you’re guilty of heresy and you will be burned. The true Christian faith and the true Christian understanding of the Lord’s Table isn’t anywhere close to the Roman perversion.
Just to review it, the Roman Catholic Church says the Mass is a real and true sacrifice for sins. Every Mass ever done by a priest is a real and true sacrifice. So there is not just one sacrifice at the cross, there are millions. The Roman Catholic view says the sacrifice is propitiatory, that is it provides a real satisfaction to propitiate or satisfy the justice of God. It, therefore, genuinely effects the remission of sins and the punishment that could come and should come to the sinner. However, it is only propitiatory if, in fact, says Rome, the intention of the priest is pure. And if the intention of the priest is not pure, then it does not have its validity. Although, they concede, otherwise it would be pretty hard to get people to pay for a Mass if they thought it might not matter, since the priest might not have true intentions. It does have some minimal propitiatory benefit, even though the full efficacy depends upon the valid intention of the priest.
The Roman Catholic Catechism, a more current one, quotes Vatican II; quote, “As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which Christ has been sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.” It is a sacrifice; it is an actual sacrifice, though unbloody, of the real Christ made on a real altar by a real priest. It is a sacrifice that the priest offers to God the Father, so you have a human priest offering to God the Father, God’s own Son as a sacrifice that is propitiatory, redemptive and brings about the remission of sin to the degree that the intention of the priest is valid. It is a false sacrifice of a false Christ on a false altar by a false priest.
They say that Christ is a non-bloody sacrifice, but He is still…use the word, “immolated.” Immolation is a word we don’t hear a lot, but immolation…because we don’t live in a sacerdotal sacrificial kind of culture…but immolation is the sacrificial killing of a victim. They say in the Mass Christ is actually immolated. He is sacrificially killed. Christ becomes in their language the Most Holy Victim, actually present in flesh and spirit and divinity in the bread and the wine, though it appears still to be bread and wine. By the way, that’s kind of an Aristotelian influence that what we see is not the true reality. It is, in fact, mystical mumbo-jumbo. In fact, you remember what I told you in past studies, in the Mass the priest says in Latin, “This is My body,” but in Latin it is, “Hoc est Corpus Meum, hoc est Corpus Meum.” People didn’t know Latin and that’s where the little expression, “Hocus Pocus” came from. It’s just so much meaningless hocus-pocus.
Roman Catholic theology says the Mass is being offered for the redemption of the world, the redemption of the world. And as I said last time, the key to the whole thing is this transubstantiation, transforming the substance from bread and wine to the actual Christ. The holy Mass is the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ really present on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine and offered to God for the living and the dead, for the sins of the living and the sins of the dead that needed to get themselves out of Purgatory where they’re being purged from their sins. De Liguori, again, who wrote The Glories of Mary, says this, “We are struck with wonder when we find that in obedience to the words of his priest, Hoc est Corpus Meum, this is My body, God Himself descends on the altar.” Listen to what he says, “God comes whenever the priest calls him and as often as they call Him, and places Himself in their hands even they…even though they should be His enemies.”
Some kind of power the priests have to call down God from heaven. And says, de Liguori, “After having come, God remains entirely at their disposal and they move Him as they please from one place to another. They may, if they wish, shut Him up in the tabernacle,” that is in the little box where they keep the Host, “Or expose Him on the altar, or carry Him outside the Church. They may, if they choose, eat His flesh and give Him for the food of others. Besides the power of the priest surpasses that of the Blessed Virgin because she cannot absolve a Catholic from even the smallest sin.” That, by the way, is in a volume called, “The Dignity and Duties of the Priest.” This is their priestly power, to pull God down and infuse Him into the Mass and then move Him wherever they want.
The priest then is supposed to be endowed with power by the Bishop at his ordination. The ordination of a priest is a very important event because he is given the power at his ordination to change the bread and the wine into the literal living body and blood of Christ. He literally is given the power to call God out of heaven and bring Him into those elements. In fact, they say the body of Christ is present down to the last eyelash and toenail. And when asked how is it possible for the body of Christ, which is one body, to be everywhere in the world where Mass is being said at the same time, and the answer is, “It’s a miracle.”
After the adoration of the consecrated Host, the uplifted hands of the priest pretend to offer God the very body and blood of Christ as a sacrifice for the living and the dead. And then in observance of the Eucharist, the priest eats Christ alive in the presence of the people. And then gives Him to the people under the appearance of bread. It is a horrific and pagan event that goes on constantly. The congregation of the Blessed Sacrament is an organization devoted to carry out before the Blessed Sacrament a perpetual mission of prayer and supplication. There are people in that organization and a number of other organizations who spend all of their time praying to the box that contains the Host. Roman Catholics all over the world do this. We closed out last time by saying in Roman Catholic Churches they have people sign up to come at all hours of the day to pray to the box.
Now what is the source of this strange and bizarre system? And I’m not going to say anymore because we said enough last time. Where does this come from? Obviously from Satan, counterfeit, pagan religion. There is no special priesthood in Christianity; we’re all kings and priests. We don’t need human mediators. We have one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus. There are no more altars. The one sacrifice was made. There are no more altars; there are no more sacrifices. Jesus doesn’t die again and again and again and again. But why do they do this? Where does this come from? Paganism has to have a… paganism has to have a… some symbols of religiosity. It has to give the illusion of mystery. It has to give the illusion of deity and divinity. It has to give the illusion of transcendence. It has to give the illusion of magic. This is just one concoction to pull it off.
Now I’m going to get a little academic for a few minutes. Just grin and bear it for a while and maybe it will help you. Some of you will appreciate this, maybe not all. How can I say this in a few words? Not a skill that I have developed through the years, by the way. Who said “amen” about that? I’m…I can’t argue with it. Now, think with me, okay? The New Testament conveys the idea of a composite society. That’s new, that’s revolutionary. Just file that, a composite society. That is to say the New Testament presents a society in the world that is composed of two factions, okay? Society is made up of believers and non-believers. All right, Christians and nonChristians, those who believe the gospel and those who do not, those who proclaim with others deny, those who believe what others reject. This is a composite society. We understand that. We understand that in America, we live in a composite society. It goes way back to our Constitution which understands the separation of church and state, that we are living…that's just another way to say we live in a composite society.
New Testament society then has church and state, and they are completely different, completely separate, completely distinct loyalties. And we, who live in this composite society, as Christians, must render loyalty to both the state and the church. We know that. The state demands our loyalty. It demands loyalty from every citizen to its laws. The church demands loyalty, as the Word of God is brought to bear upon those who are part of it. So we live in a two-loyalty world. Not everybody does, but we as Christians do. We are told in the Bible to be model citizens, that the powers that be are ordained of God and we’re to submit to them, that we’re even to pray for those that are over us, the rulers and governors, and submit to them. And the state has been given by God a sword, that is authority even to the point of death to constrain and coerce us. This is the societal law of penalty. So the state has a sword, and the state demands our loyalty for the well-being of those who live in that state.
The church also has a sword to constrain and to coerce. The church also has a sword to persuade. It is Scripture; it is the Law of God. If we do not obey the law of the state, we are physically alienated. If we do not obey the Law of God, we are spiritually alienated. This is what the New Testament teaches. We’re going to have to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. We understand that. We also understand that the state is not the church; the church is not the state; they are completely distinct, and Jesus made it absolutely clear when He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Now let me tell you something. That concept which is so obvious to us is brand new in the New Testament...brand new. Nobody before the New Testament ever heard of such a thing, no one.
All previous societies in the world were one loyalty. Religion and the state were one. Religion and the state were one. All previous societies, including Israel, were sacral, sacred societies. That is they were unified and bound together by common religious loyalty. Government was inseparable from religion. Government wielded power in behalf of religion. No society in history…according to historians who have studied this, no society in history ever was composite. PreChristian society had no option. If you wonder about it, look at a Muslim country. What options do people living there have? There’s no difference between Islamic religion and Islamic state. If you’re not a Muslim, you may be killed.
There are no composite societies. Hinduism, same thing. Take any historical religion, there’s no such thing as a composite society until you come to the New Testament. And it lays it out. There were Christians throughout the history of the church who understood this. They understood that the state should not exercise power over them, but we saw tonight that the Queen of England, along with all the other monarchs, along with all the other state leaders of that time, thought that they as the rulers of the state had the right to execute the people who didn’t cooperate with their religious conviction. There was no difference. In fact they pretty much saw the king as exercising divine rite. And I told you, if you go to the Scottish Parliament, to this day you’ll see a chair at the top of the Scottish Presbyterian Parliament that’s for the King of the Queen or his representative to sit, symbolizing headship in the church.
Even Israel was not a composite society. Everybody in Israel was to conform to Israel’s moral, social, ethical, ceremonial laws. It wasn’t until the New Testament that this was really made clear, because the Jews lived in a theocratic kingdom. But the church exists as a part of a secular society. There’s no such thing as a Christian society. There’s no such thing as a Christian nation. There are only Christian people living in a nation and depending upon the number of them, they have a lessor or greater influence. There are only more or less Christians in a society; there’s no such thing as a Christian nation or a Christian society.
But along comes the early church and what happens? They get persecuted by the Jews because they’re not consistent with Jewish religion, because Jewish religion and the Jewish state were one. They get persecuted by the Romans because they won’t worship whom? The emperor, Caesar. Classic sacral culture, noncomposite. Even when you went to the butcher shop to buy your meat, you bought meat at the butcher shop that had been offered to what? To idols. Christians could eat that stuff because an idol was nothing anyway. Sacral societies punished dissenters. Rome killed Christians. Right now, we just heard it on the news, the Afghan government going to try a Christian and execute him for being a Christian because they don’t understand a composite society.
The New Testament taught that, but sad to say, even coming out of the Reformation, the Reformers never really applied it. That composite society began to disappear in history very fast. Second century, third century after Christ, the composite understanding is beginning to erode. In the year 250, Origen, early church father, suggests that the entire Roman Empire should unite in devotion to the true God and the Lord will slay all non-believers. That was Origen. This is a call to redefine the church of Jesus Christ to make it the all-embracing society, and if they did that, God would slay all of the non-conformists. It was not long after that, 325, seventy-five years later, Constantine took power in the Roman Empire and did just that. What Constantine did was say there are too many gods, too many religions. If we’re going to have a unified empire, we’re going to have to have one religion, and he picked Christianity. Everybody was to be a Christian.
Non-Christians were punished. They were identified as heretics, revolutionaries, reactionaries, nonconformists and they were to be punished. Everybody was going to be a Christian. How you going to do that? Well you have to have a rite, you have to have a ritual, you have to have a ceremony that makes them all automatically Christians and so came infant baptism. Infant baptism did the trick. Go through a ceremonial washing after birth, and this is an official entrance into the church; this is an official entrance into the Covenant people. Now the government has control over everybody. The government is the church. Religion and the state are inseparable. And so the New Testament model is gone by the time you get to the 4th century. And as I said, there were always true believers through all this history who knew this was not right. And what was born with Constantine was Christendom rather than Christianity. A Christian-kingdom is contracted to Christendom.
There were protestors, believe me as I said, called the Donatists. They protested. They said the church is for those who are true believers. You can’t make everybody a part of the church by baptizing babies. They were suppressed. Through history whenever this came up among Anabaptists and others, they were called neoDonatists because they were bringing up this old argument. But there have always been true people of God who challenged the sacral society. Since everybody came in through a rite, everybody was sustained by a rite and a ceremony and a ritual. And so came all those adaptations of pagan rituals that swept into the Roman Empire and created the mish-mash of quasi Christianity and paganism that is Roman Catholicism.
What about the Reformation, 16th century? Sad to say, the Reformers, while they did a great job on some of the doctrines that developed what was essentially a NeoConstantinianism. They opted for a sacral society. And Germany became a sacral society; all the babies were baptized. Switzerland became a sacral society and all the babies were baptized. The Netherlands and England and everybody bought in to the sacral society. No better demonstration than in England where there was no separation of the church and state. And so the church, quote/unquote, “was not regenerate people but a mish-mash of all kinds of people, some saved, some corrupt and most of the leadership severely corrupt.”
So how do you sustain these people in this false form of religion? You do it with mystery. You do it with mechanisms. You do it with rites and ceremonies. It’s really immaterial whether anything communicates to them in a language they can understand. You can look at the 15th and 16th, 17th century in England, and you would be appalled at the ignorance of the priesthood. I mean, they were so ignorant…I’ve read, for example, they couldn’t name four apostles. They didn’t know where the books of the Bible were. It was…they didn’t learn that. That was immaterial. They just needed to learn, as I pointed out last time, how many times you turn around when you do the Mass and to make sure you pound the table eleven times, facing in one direction, and so forth and so on.
All through the Middle Ages there were Christians who cried out for the true church, and very often they were slaughtered, they were slaughtered. Now, not all of them were legitimate believers, but there were among them true believers, as there were true believers in the sacral societies. But they always knew what it was to be a true believer and could easily see who was not. Typically they were killed, just as these that I read you about were martyred. Read Fox’s Book of Martyrs. By the way, in our library over here, we have an original edition of the first printing of the three volumes of Fox’s Book of Martyrs that was given to me. It’s huge; it’s historic, marvelous. They were killed because they would not comply with Christendom, because they couldn’t comply with Christendom because their Christianity prevented them from it.
Mediaeval society became totalitarian. There weren’t any options. Christian sacralism, Protestant sacralism developed alongside Roman Catholic sacralism, and you had Catholic states like Italy and France and Protestant states like Germany and Switzerland. Church and state were one religious society. Somewhere in the middle of all of this were true believers. The first break…and this is some interesting history…the first break from sacral society was America.
America, according to some scholars, never was a Christian nation, never was. No nation ever is in the true sense. America is the first nation in the history of the world that is a composite nation. This is the great experiment here. This is the great experiment. What happened was, people who came here to found America came out of the sacral society because they were true Christians, persecuted by Christendom. The Pilgrims, the Puritans, they came here and they founded a country that they took back to a New Testament model that would be a composite in which they would render to Caesar what was Caesar’s and render to God what was God’s.
So in a sacral culture, salvation becomes a matter of sacrament, it becomes a matter of ritual, it becomes a matter of manipulation. Baptism and other mechanical means borrowed from cultic rites and ceremonies are imported. It got so bad, really, even the Reformers killed nonconformists. Even the Reformers killed “non-”…quote/unquote…“Christians.” Anabaptists, some of them were drowned by Reformers for denying infant baptism. When Cromwell went from England over to kill the Irish, the chaplain for his armies to kill the Catholics was none other than the great Puritan Divine John Owen. They didn’t have a sacral…they didn’t have a hybrid society. They didn’t have a composite mindset. Verdun, who writes so lucidly on all of these themes, says this, “The church of the Middle Ages was not a company of believing folk joined in voluntary association. It was a mass of human beings brought together and held together by the symbols of coercion,” end quote.
Religion was not personal. It was not a matter of faith. It was not a matter of righteousness, not a matter of holiness, not a matter of truth. It was a matter of ritual. So, priests replaced preachers, an altar replaces the pulpit, doctrine is replaced by ritual ceremony. The Roman Catholic Church is still a sacral society. All its components are pagan and cultic. As I said, it was not even till Vatican II that priests could speak in the vernacular. Before that it had to be in Latin because Christ…listen to me…was never imparted by the preaching of the Word, He is imparted by the ritual of the Mass. It’s not about truth to the mind, not about faith comes by hearing the truth about Christ, Romans 10.
The central event in a true church, what is the central event in a true church? What is it? What is the central piece of furniture in a true church? You’re looking at it. What is the central event in a true church? It’s the preaching of the Word of God. What is the central event in a false sacral cultic society? It is an altar and a priesthood and a sacrifice. It is the stuff borrowed from cultic ritual. What is the central purpose of the central event in the church? To preach the Word of God clearly to the mind so people can know it, understand it, believe it.
What is the central function in a sacral society? It is a priestly transaction in which God somehow is infused into a cracker and eaten. It is not clarity, it is mystery. It is hocus-pocus consistent with the other mingling of demonic activities and useless ceremonies and all kinds of false religions. The priest conveys Christ in an act, not by the preaching of the gospel. The Lord’s table becomes an altar where people can eat the actual flesh and drink the actual blood of a sacrificial victim that is being offered by a false priest to God as if Jesus needed to be sacrificed all over again. And as I said last week, all you have to do to receive Christ is drop your lower jaw.
By the way, there are at least seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church, mechanical means of imparting mysterious divinity to people. Preacher replaced by the sacrificer. The Bible and its clarity replaced by the mumbo-jumbo. And they believe that the Sacrament of the Mass has the innate power to convey Christ and grace and forgiveness and redemption and provide propitiation to satisfy God. And in that system, the manipulator is essential. In that system the priest is everything and that is why the shortage of priests today is so critical. And none of this has anything to do with the Christian gospel. None of this has anything to do with the Christian life. None of this has anything to do with the Christian church. None of this has anything to do with the true God, nothing whatsoever.
The differences are not cosmetic. The differences are not superficial. They are essential to the salvation of the eternal soul and the truth of the gospel. There is no salvation or sanctification in the blessed Sacrament. There is no salvation in any Sacrament of any kind in any ritual, any routine, or any ceremony. The bread and the wine is not Christ in any sense. It is not a mystical experience in which people take in God. All of this is a lie, a fraud, a damning fabrication to be exposed for what it is, just as in the book of Hebrews the writer exposes the uselessness of the long-departed Old Testament sacrificial system which never needs to be resurrected because the cross has accomplished everything, everything. It is demonic. It is idolatrous, as the Host is worshiped. The Mass cancels the cross. It is the worship of an idol made with hands. Somebody made the wine and somebody made the bread.
A couple of passages come to mind in the midst of this and just a couple to bring to your attention here. Romans chapter 6 verse 9…well, verse 8, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Now listen to this. “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never -” to what? To what? – “to die again,” never. Never to die again. “Death no longer is master of Him for the death that He died. He died to sin once for all. The life that He lives He lives to God.” He died once. He will never, ever, ever die again. He was a sacrifice once. It is an abomination to turn Him into a perpetual sacrifice.
In 1 Peter 3, verse 18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all; the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.” He died once for all. Hebrews 7:27…26, “It was fitting for us to have such a High Priest holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens who does not need daily like those high priests who offer up sacrifices first for his own sin and then for the sins of the people because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” The Mass cancels the cross, the Mass is idolatry.
Listen to J.C. Ryle. “Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence if pursued to its legitimate consequences obscures every leading doctrine of the gospel and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice and not a Sacrament, grant that every time the words of consecration are used the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the communion table under the forms of bread and wine, grant that everyone who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really eat and drink the natural body and blood of Christ, grant for a moment these things and then see what momentous consequences result from these premises. You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect or complete thing.
“You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory. You spoil the scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man. You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honor and veneration they were never meant to receive. You produce an idolatry to be abhorred by faithful Christians. Last but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ’s human nature. If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in one…can be in more places than one at the same time, it is not a body like our own and Jesus was not the last Adam in the truth of our nature.” Not a minor thing. That is the perverse and idolatrous reality, the implications that come.
What about somebody who says, “Well I think I’m a Christian but I…I like going to the Catholic Church. I feel at home there. And should I leave?” Listen to 1 Corinthians 10:21, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Take your choice. At the end of each delivery in the Mass, the communicant who receives the Host is required to say one thing to the priest, “Amen…amen,” affirming the truth of having received Christ. That is impossible for a true Christian. And if you are still lingering with that system, you must come out and we must with love and sensitivity call people to the true gospel.
Father, we thank You for the time tonight. So much to think about, such heart-searching things and, oh Lord, how we want to be discerning and compassionate, loving, gracious in seeking to bring the true gospel to those beleaguered souls who are caught up in this meaningless and condemning mystery. Give us opportunity to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace. We pray in His name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.