OUR INTENTIONS ARE GOOD AND NOBLE IN
EXPOSING THE FALSEHOOD OF OTHER RELIGIONS:
EXAMINING THE “FOUR MARKS” OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH claims that there are “four identifying marks” of the one true Church which they posses. However, these “identifying marks” they claim are they themselves who made it up. Remember what Apostle Paul said in Romans 10:2-3?
“I can assure you that they are deeply devoted to God; but their devotion is not based on true knowledge. They have not known the way in which God puts people right with himself, and instead, they have tried to set up their own way; and so they did not submit themselves to God's way of putting people right.” (Romans 10:2-3 TEV)
What are these “four marks of the true church” that the Roman Catholic Church made up? In a book entitled The Faith Of Our Fathers, Cardinal Gibbon answered this question:
“And least we should be mistaken in distinguishing between the true Church and false sects, which our Lord predicted would arise. He was pleased to stamp upon His Church certain shining marks, by which every sincere inquirer could easily recognize her as His only Spouse. The principal marks or characteristics of the true Church are, the Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity...” (Gibbons, James Cardinal, The Faith Of Our Fathers, p. 3.)
Let us examine the “four marks” (unity, catholicity, sanctity and apostolicity) that the Catholic Church claims as the identifying marks of the one true Church and that these can be found in them.
IS THERE UNITY IN THE ROMAN
The Catholic Church claims that unity is a mark of being the one true Church, and further claims that unity is a trait of the Catholic Church. However, unity is only a negative test for truth. If not united, it cannot claim to be the true Church. This is what Apostle James tells us to those having no unity, but marked by factions and divisions:
“This wisdom is not `a wisdom' that cometh down from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed.” (James 3:15-16 ASV)
Let us examine carefully if the Catholic Church truly possess unity. In a Catholic book entitled “Why Do Catholics...?” this is what they admitted:
“The Church developed along two divergent lines: East and West. The emperor and the bishop of Constantinople, who was called a patriarch, shared the leadership in the East. But the bishop of Rome acted as both civil and religious leader in the West...
“The East and the West differed on more than leadership and language. Increasing disagreements in theology and ideology were compounded by personality conflicts. Moreover, spirituality in the East and the West had distinctly different flavors. The East concentrated on the mystical and symbolic approach to faith. The West stressed properness and uniformity.
“This difference in perspective along with political and geographic preferences, split Christianity (Catholicism) in 1054 into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Roman Catholic Church.” (Altemose, Sr. Charlene, MSC. Why Do Catholics...? Makati, Philippines: Salessians Publishers, Inc., 1989, pp. 2-3.)
The Catholic Church developed a “divergent line.” Their differences “split” the Catholic Church in 1054 AD into Eastern Orthodox Church and Western Roman Catholic Church. Take note of the words “divergent,” “differences,” and “split.” These words show “no unity.”
Actually, within the Western Roman Catholic Church, they have two different “rites”:
“Most people are familiar with the largest Rites of the Catholic Church which is called the Latin, Western, or Roman Rite. But the Church also includes a number of ancient and vital Eastern Rites, whose existence and heritage cannot be ignored.” (Altemose, Sr. Charlene, MSC. Why Do Catholics...?, p. 1.)
The “Eastern Rites” mentioned here are different from the Eastern Orthodox Church. These “Eastern Rites churches” are part of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic book we quoted said, “...the (Roman Catholic) Church also includes a number of ancient and vital Eastern Rites.” Take note that within the Roman Catholic Church there are Western Rite and Eastern Rite. Two rites within the Roman Catholic Church, is that unity or being one?
Perhaps they have the same teachings, the same rules, the same discipline, the same liturgy?
“What the Latin Church calls the sacraments are mysteries in the Eastern Church. While in essence the name, they differ in externals and theological emphasis.
“Baptism which admits one to the faith, is followed by confirmation (chrismation) the sealing of baptism in the Spirit, and by Communion. These Sacraments of Initiation establish a total rebirth and so are given at the same time.
“Eastern Rite Catholics have their own clergy who are ordained by the respective patriarchs. Eastern Church regulation regarding celibacy differs from the Roman Church rules. ‘Eastern Rites candidates for Holy Orders may marry before becoming deacons, and may continue in marriage thereafter, but marriage after ordination is forbidden...
“...Such individual Churches whether of the east or of the West, although they differ somewhat among themselves n what are called rites (that is, lithurgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage) are, nevertheless, equally entrusted to the pastoral guidance of the Roman pontiff...” (Altemose, Sr. Charlene, MSC. Why Do Catholics...?, pp. 6-7.)
Thus, in reality, there is no unity in the Roman Catholic Church.
IS BEING “UNIVERSAL” A MARK
OF THE ONE TRUE CHURCH?
The Catholic Church claims that being “catholic” (“universal”) or being spread throughout the world’ is a mark of the one true Church.” However, if we are going to follow their argument, then the Church during the time when the Lord Jesus Christ was still here on earth cannot claim to be the one true Church. Regarding the Church during the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is what tHe Himself testified:
“Do not fear, LITTLE FLOCK, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 NKJV, emphasis mine)
During the time when the Lord Jesus was still here on earth, the Church then was still a “little flock.” Following the argument of the Catholic Church, then the Church during the time of the Lord Jesus cannot claim to be the true Church because it was only a “little flock.”
However, we know that although during the time of the Lord Jesus Christ the Church then was a “little flock” and consists only of Jews, but it is still the one true Church. Thus, being “universal” doesn’t make a church the one true Church.
It is true that the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples before He ascend to heaven to preach the Gospel to all nations:
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Marcos 16:15-16 NKJV)
Although the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nation, however, the Bible didn’t said that the largest and most widely spread church is the one true Church. Today, aside from the Roman Catholic Church there are many global churches or those that already established missions in different countries of the world.
Why we are truly certain that being “universal” does not follows that that Church is the one true Church? Because the Bible also teaches that the “apostate church” is also a “universal church”:
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication." So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:1-5 NKJV)
The one true Church is likened to a “chaste virgin” (cf. I Cor. 11:2). Thus, what the Book of Revelation referring to as the “great harlot who sits on many waters” is the “apostate church.” The Book of Revelation itself explained what Revelation 17:1-2 meant in saying that the apostate church (the “great harlot”) “sits on many waters.” In verse 15 it says:
“Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” (Revelation 17:15 NKJV)
We are not saying that if “universal” or spread all throughout the world automatically means that that church is an apostate church. However, the Bible clearly tells us that one of the identifying marks of the apostate church is being “universal.”
Thus, being “universal” doesn’t follow that that church is the one true Church because it is a biblical fact that one of the “marks” of the “apostate church” is being “universal.” And it is also a fact that “catholic” means universal.
THE TRUE SANCTITY OR HOLINESS
Now, talking about “sanctity” or “holiness,” it is true that the one true Church is holy. Apostle Paul said:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV)
The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for the Church to make her holy, to present the one true Church as a radiant Church, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.
What else makes us holy? What else sanctifies us? The Lord Jesus Christ answered these questions in John 17:17:
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NKJV)
The Lord Jesus didn’t said, “Sanctify them through beatification and canonization.” What He said was, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Take note that what sanctifies us, what makes us holy is the word of God. How are we sanctified through the words of God? This Apostle Peter explained:
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22 NIV)
We are sanctified by the truth or the words of God through obeying the truth. What a person is doing if he disobeys the words of God? Apostle John answered:
“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (I John 3:4 NIV)
Now, going back to our examination of the Catholic Church, they claim sanctity or holiness. However, the Bible explicitly explains that we are sanctified through God’s words, and breaking God’s law is sin against God. How obedient is the Catholic Church to the words of God taught by the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles?
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.” (Matthew 26:26-27 NKJV)
In the Catholic mass (one of their seven sacraments), only the priest drink the “wine of the cup,” while the Lord Jesus Chris said, “Drink from it, ALL OF YOU.”
Regarding baptism, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded:
“And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16 NKJV)
The Lord Jesus Christ explicitly commanded us to preach first the Gospel, and when people believe, they will be baptized. Because they are baptizing infants, these commandment of the Lord Jesus is not been followed by the Roman Catholic Church. About prayer, this is what the Lord Jesus Christ said:
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 NKJV)
What else the Catholic Church disobey? In Exodus 20:3-5, this is what we could read:
“Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.
“Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:5,4 TEV)
These are only some of the commandments of God taught by the Lord Jesus and His apostles that are disobeyed by the Roman Catholic Church.
“APOSTOLICITY” IS NOT A MARK OF BEING
THE ONE TRUE CHURCH BUT ONE OF THE
MARKS OF THE “APOSTATE CHURCH”
The Catholic Church also claims that “apostolicity” is another mark of the true Church. In claiming “apostolicity,” the Roman Catholic Church meant that they can trace their origin to the apostles because (as they further claim) the Catholic Church succeeded the apostles. However, studying the truth written in the Bible will show us that “apostolicity” proves otherwise (“apostolicity” is not a proof of being the true Church, but the proof of being the apostate church).
WHERE IS THE CHURCH ESTABLISHED BY CHRIST
IN THE FIRST CENTURY?
The Lord Jesus Christ, before He ascended to heaven warned us the following:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. AT THAT TIME MANY WILL TURN AWAY FROM THE FAITH and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:9-11 NIV, emphasis mine)
Apostle Paul also warned us in I Timothy 4:1 the following:
“But the Spirit speaks expressly, that in latter times some shall APOSTATISE from the faith, giving their mind to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons.” (Darby Bible)
Thus, where is the Church the Lord Jesus Christ established in the first century? It was apostatized as testified by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His apostles.
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THOSE WHO SUCCEED THE APOSTLES
WAS THE APOSTATE CHURCH
According to Apostle Paul, apostasy was already working during their time, but only restrained:
“For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is' one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.” (II Thessalonians 2:7 ASV)
Apostle Paul said, “the mystery of lawlessness doth already work.” It was only restrained until those who are restraining them will be “taken out of the way.” Who will lead the disciples to apostasy and when was the time that those restraining them will be “taken out of the way”? Apostle Paul also answered this question:
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30 NIV)
Apostle Paul said, “After I leave...from your number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Those that will lead the church to apostasy, according to Apostle Paul “will come among YOUR NUMBER.” Apostle Paul addressing this to the bishops of the Church:
“Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit HATH MADE YOU BISHOPS, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28 ASV)
Among the bishops of the Church will rise those that will distort the truth, and according to Apostle Paul, this will happen “After I leave.” Apostle Paul is referring to his death (cf. Acts 20:25, 37-38; I ITim. 4:6-8).
Thus, after the death of the apostles, among the bishops of the Church will rise those that will distort the truth. Apostle Paul explicitly warned us that those that will follow or succeed them (after their death) will distort the truth.
Who is claiming “apostolicity” or that their origin can be traced back to the apostles? Who is claiming to be the successors of the Apostles? We all know the answer to these questions.
FULFILLMENT OF THE APOSTASY OF THE
FIRST CENTURY CHURCH
What are some of the distorted truth that will be entered to the Church? Let us again quote I Timothy 4:1 and let us also read verse 3:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
“Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (I Timothy 4:1, 3 KJV, emphasis mine)
Apostle Paul gave us “marks” to identify the “apostate church”: (1) “Forbidding to marry”; and (2) “commanding to abstain from meats.” The Catholic Church forbids their priest to marry (they call this prohibition “clerical celibacy”):
“Although celibacy is not expressly enforced by our Savior, it is, however, commended so strongly by Himself and His apostles, both by word and example, that the Church felt it her duty to lay it down as a law.
“The discipline of the Church has been exerted from the beginning in prohibiting Priests to marry after their ordination.” (Gibbons, James Cardinal. The Faith Of Our Fathers. New York: P.J. Kennedy and Sons, 1917, p. 328)
The Catholic Church also commands her members to abstain from meat in certain days of the year:
“What does the second commandment of the Church order us to do?
“It orders us to fast and abstain from flesh meat on certain days of the year.” (A Seminary Professor. Manual of Christian Doctrine: Comprising Dogma, Moral, and Worship. New York: Lassale Bureau, 1949, p. 317)
When the Church of Christ of the first century departed from the true faith and followed the erroneous teachings (teachings not taught by the Lord Jesus and His apostles, and teachings not written in the Bible) like clerical celibacy and abstaining from meat, she became the Catholic Church. This is the reason why the Catholic Church is the one that continued up to this day.
Thus, the “apostolicity” (that they are the successors of the apostles and who continued for 2,000 years) is not a mark of the one true Church, but the mark of the apostate church. The apostles warned us that those who will follow them after their death are those that will distort the truth.
Unity is only a negative test for truth. If there is no unity, it cannot claim to be the one true Church. The one true Church is indeed marked by unity or being united. However, it is a fact that there is no unity in the Catholic Church.
The one true Church is indeed holy for it was sanctified or made holy through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, sanctity or holiness is also through observing carefully the commandments of God. But because it is also a fact that the Catholic Church disobeyed many of God’s commandments written in the Bible, thus they also failed in this standard.
In view of the fact that there are no unity and sanctity in the Catholic Church, they themselves failed in the “standard” that they themselves claim as identifying marks of the one true Church.
Catholicity and Apostolicity are not marks of the one true Church but marks of the apostate church. Because the Catholic Church herself claims “catholicity” and “apostolicity,” thus, it is like admitting that they are indeed the apostate church.
In view of these facts, we can conclude that the Catholic Church is not the one true Church established by Christ.