This ecclesiastical hierarchy is a mixture of Judaism, paganism and Christianity. It did not come into vogue over night—it was a development. Today it is a system that threatens religious and civil liberties.
In the study of the New Testament church, we learn that each local congregation of Christians had officers (when material for such was available) known as elders and deacons. Be it remembered that each church had a plurality of elders. These elders, as provided through the Divine plan, were to have authority, exercise dominion, and feed the church (Acts 20:28-30, etc.). Paul predicted that a “falling away” would come (2 Thess. 2), and that “grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). There is a great responsibility resting upon the elders (bishops, pastors, overseers; all these terms mean one class—the elders). It is human to err—the history of mankind reveals that it is! To become dissatisfied with God’s arrangement has been the tendency of the human race from the beginning.
Departure in Organization
Step by step, members of the church departed from Apostolic teaching and practice, until the falling away, as predicted by Paul, became a reality. About the first step in departing from the simplicity of God’s way, was to substitute a priest (or “pastor”) for the elders over a local church. That simply meant that one man had the rule over the church, instead of the elders. Then a distinction had to be made between the members, designated as the clergy and the laity. No such distinction is made in the New Testament. Next was the Bishop, who ruled over a plurality of local churches, then the Archbishop over all churches in a state or province, and then the Cardinals were named who should rule over all the churches of a nation. Only one more step to take, and that was to create a head to rule over the whole world, and in 606 A.D. Boniface III was made Pope. Thus the development of an ecclesiasticism with reference to the administration was completed. Think of it: 600 years after the church—a perfect organization— was planted by the Father, came this humanly devised system with its administrative power. It was an apostasy—a “falling away”” from the simplicity of a congregational form of government, as outlined in the New Testament. With this “administrative organization,” the New Testament can no longer be the Rule of Faith and Practice. Any responsible person can easily recognize this human structure to be adverse to the institution revealed in the New Testament—the church of Christ.
Apostasy in Doctrine
The doctrinal system of the Catholic Church had its inception during the second century, when “holy water” was introduced. Gleaning the historical data of doctrinal defections, we compile the following items:
Holy Water, A.D. 120.
Penance, A. D. 157.
Latin Mass, A.D. 394.
Extreme Unction, A.D. 588.
Purgatory, A.D. 593.
Instrumental Music, A.D. 666.
Kissing the Pope’s Toe, A. D. 709.
Transubstantiation, A.D. 1000.
Celibacy (forbidding to marry), A.D. 1015.
Indulgences, A.D. 1190.
Auricular Confession, A.D. 1215.
Sprinkling, A.D. 1311.
It took 1,300 years for the doctrinal system of the Catholic Church to reach its climax. The “doctrinal system” of the New Testament church was reached when the New Testament itself was completed by the close of the first century. This fact alone is enough to prove that Catholicism is purely a human arrangement. The “doctrinal system” of the New Testament church was reached when the New Testament itself was completed, by the close of the first century. This fact alone is enough to prove that Catholicism is purely a human arrangement.
If any man, or even an angel from heaven, should add to the completed revelation of God to man (the New Testament), or preach another gospel, he stands condemned before God (Gal. 1:8-9). Catholic Church doctrines are another gospel—a departure from New Testament teaching and it necessarily follows that those responsible for it were of the evil one, and all who propagate it today are doing the work of the evil one. This is a strong indictment, but truth and facts allow no other conclusion.
Every distinctive doctrine of the Catholic Church it at variance with “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1); the “Apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) and the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9). Denominational bodies are in reality “branches” of this ecclesiastical hierarchy, and every peculiar doctrine advocated by them is simply copied from the Catholic Church. Some of their tenets however are colored; but certainly originated with this system of human corruption.
The Catholic Church suffered a severe blow in 1054, when it divided into the Greek and Roman Churches. The division was largely due to jealousy between the Bishop of Rome and the Bishop of Constantinople. The official title of the Greek Church is “The Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Eastern Church,” and the Roman Church is officially named, “The Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.”
As the matter stands, we have Catholicism on one hand and Protestantism (denominationalism) on the other. Neither are New Testament institutions. This magazine is definitely set for the defense of the church against every form of false doctrine, whether in the ranks of Catholicism or within the circles of denominational bodies. We plead for Apostolic authority. We have no higher power and would have all men to be Christians—just Christians—and simply belong to “the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22—23).
Error is the enemy of the church, within and without. Departure came gradually first in organization, second in doctrine. The Roman Apostasy began in an error no greater in importance than are the consequences of any other system. We cannot be loyal to truth, and fail to expose error that is propagated in the church, as well as out of the church. To entertain a leniency toward error in any form, is to betray the church. “Preach the word;…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”