Is The Pope God's Voice On Earth?
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans )
If you are a member of the Roman Catholic Church, please be assured that our only motivation in this web site is to accurately present the truth of God as we see it presented in the Bible. Our allegiance must be to Christ and His truth, as revealed in God's Word (John ). In that spirit, we answer the subject question concerning the authority of the Pope.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of papal infallibility. This doctrine is defined by Bertrand L. Conway: "The Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians … he defines a doctrine regarding faith and morals … is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith and morals." (The Miniature Question Box, p. 99)
The above teaching affirms that the Roman Catholic Pope has been given authority by Christ to determine issues of faith and morals over the church when he speaks ex cathedra, i.e., "when he speaks officially as supreme pastor of the universal church." (Conway, p. 99)
In answer to the subject question and to respond to the Catholic assertion, we pose two important questions: (1) Where in the Bible did Christ authorize the office of the Pope - i.e., one who would be universal bishop over the church? (2) What did Christ authorize in the way of church organization? Both questions could involve lengthy answers, but our brief comments below will hopefully begin to open your eyes to the truth.
We return to the basic question of AUTHORITY time after time as we seek to find Bible answers to our questions. Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). He is the head of His spiritual body, the church (Eph. -23). Paul instructed, "And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17). To do something in Jesus’ name is to do it by His authority – i.e., we must have instruction from our Lord before we can act!
Where can we go in God's word (the Bible) to find authority for a universal bishop over the church built by Jesus (Matt. )? We have searched the pages of the New Testament from beginning to end and have failed to find authority for such a practice. Christ never authorized the office of universal bishop over His church. Jesus never authorized the office of the Pope. He never put one apostle above another. He never established a line of succession to follow Him on earth as the head of His church.
The Catholic positions are based on two assumptions. First, that the Church is infallible, and therefore must have an infallible mouthpiece. Second, that Peter was given a special place by Jesus over the church which would continue to be handed down to his successors throughout the church's history. For an answer to this second assumption see the question, "Is The Church Built On Peter?"
The fatal flaw in the first assumption is Catholicism's misunderstand of the nature and definition of the church. Catholicism has turned the church into an institution or ruling organization with several levels of hierarchy above the local congregation. Then it proclaims this organization to be an infallible guide over the membership. The New Testament nowhere defines the church in that way, nor does it give to her that kind of power.
The church organization that Jesus authorized looks very different from the organization of the present day Roman Catholic Church. There was no regional, national, or universal church organization in the first century. The only church organization that we see in the New Testament was local in nature.
In the New Testament, the church was simply people (1 Cor. ) - saved people (Acts ) - who congregated together in local churches under Christ (cf. Rom. ). Congregations in the New Testament were completely autonomous one from another, each having a plurality of elders (bishops) who gave spiritual oversight to the particular congregation where they were appointed (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2). Their rule was limited to that one congregation, and the only individual they answered to was Christ Himself (Matt. 28:18, Eph. -23).