These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said....Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. —John:17:1,11
The word "holy" is always used one way in Scripture concerning God, who is holy in and of Himself; and in another way for created mankind, creatures and things which can only be called "holy" when set apart by God for His use.
Israel was called to be "an holy people unto the Lord" (Deut 7:6; 14:2; 21, etc.), different from all others. God commanded them (and us today), "be holy; for I am holy" (Lev:11:44,45; 1 Pt 1:16, etc.). The Aaronic priesthood was a holy priesthood (even their garments were said to be holy - Ex 35:21; Lev:16:4). In contrast, all Christians are "a holy priesthood" who offer "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pt 2:5), "the sacrifice of praise to God continually...." (Heb:13:15).
The children of Israel were called "saints." That this designation was given to them while they were still alive on earth and not after their death is clear: "But to the saints that are in the earth...." "O God, the heathen...have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given...unto the fowls...the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth..." (Ps:16:3; 79:1-2, etc.).
Israel broke its covenant with God before Moses came down from the mount, and that is why he smashed the tables of stone (Ex 32:15-19). Graciously, God promised to make a "new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" whereby His law would be written not in stone but in their hearts (Jer:31:31-33). Christ will rescue Israel from her enemies at Armageddon (Zec:12:10-13:1); "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom:11:26) and never disobey or displease God again (Eze:39:7,22,29; Zec:14:9-11,20-21). These promises will be fulfilled when Christ returns to rule the world from David's throne in Jerusalem.
In the meantime, both Jews and Gentiles are called by the gospel of Jesus Christ into the church, which He has "purchased with his own blood" (Acts:20:28) "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev:5:9), Jew and Gentile having been made "one new man" (Eph:2:15). Where there once were two divisions of mankind (Jew and Gentile) there now are three: Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God (1 Cor:10:32). These "Christians" (Acts:11:26) are so called because they have been bought with Christ's blood: "...ye are bought with a price" (1 Cor:6:19-20; 7:23), even"the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pt 1:19).
That all Christians are saints is declared in the clearest terms. Ananias said, "Lord, I have heard...how much evil he [Saul of Tarsus] hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem" (Acts:9:13). Later Paul admits, "many of the saints did I shut up in prison" (26:10). We are told that Peter visited "the saints which dwelt at Lydda" (9:32). Paul declares that Christians should be hospitable and generously provide for "the necessity of the saints" (Rom:12:13). He refers to "the poor saints which are at Jerusalem" (15:25-26), and to "all the saints which are in all Achaia" (2 Cor:1:1), and writes his epistles "to the saints" at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.
Christians are saints because they are "born of the [Holy] Spirit" (Jn:3:8; Gal:4:29) and sealed with that Holy Spirit (Eph:1:13; 4:30). Each Christian's body is a "temple of God" and "temple of the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor:3:16; 6:19). Christians are called to live as saints who are empowered for holy living by the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Anyone who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not a Christian (Rom:8:1-9).
Contrarily, Roman Catholicism insists that only the dead can be saints. The Pocket Catholic Dictionary says that all Christians were once called saints, but that this was "early restricted to persons who were eminent in holiness...and whom the Church honors as saints...by a solemn definition called canonization...[and] that they may be publicly invoked [prayed to] everywhere." "Early restricted" by whom?
God's Word says that all Christians are a holy priesthood with access to the throne of God (Heb:10:19-22) through Christ who alone is the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Tim:2:5). But Rome claims that only a special class of celibates are priests who mediate between God and men. The same Dictionary describes a "priest" as "An authorized mediator who offers a true sacrifice...in expiation for...sins...men who are specially ordained as priests to consecrate and offer the body and blood of Christ in the Mass." "Authorized" by whom? Not by God! By what authority is God's Word set aside?
God's Word is "for ever...settled in heaven" (Ps:119:89). Jesus said that not "one jot or one tittle" could change in His Word (Mat:5:17-19). What shall we say, then, of a Church which casts aside Christ's holy words and revises the clear teaching of the Bible by its tradition and forces this error upon one billion souls?
Moreover, it is claimed that these unbiblical priests turn wafers into the body and blood of Christ to offer Him in a perpetual sacrifice on their altars for the sins of the world. Thereby they deny the completeness of Christ's sacrifice and His own triumphant words on the cross, "It [the sacrifice for the sins of the world] is finished" (Jn:19:30)!
This Roman priesthood has created a distance between its followers and God which it claims it alone can bridge. The salvation the Bible offers through simple faith in Christ, and a personal relationship with Him, are denied to Catholics. They are kept in bondage to the priesthood from whom they must continually receive another portion of grace to move them a step closer to heaven. This unbiblical religious system is a tragedy which ought to break the heart and consume every true Christian with a passion to tell these deceived people the good news of the gospel.
Christ rebuked the rabbis of His day for loving "the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi" (Mat:23:6-7). In contrast, He told His own, "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth [with the obvious exception of one's father by birth, who is to be honored (Ex 20:12; Eph:6:2)]; for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Mat 23: 8-11).
Only Christians may call God their Father—and He alone is to be so addressed.
The biblical truth that God is the Father only of Christians, all of whom are saints, derives directly from the fact that Christians are "born...of God" (Jn:1:13); have been "born again" (Jn:3:3-8) into the family of God, and are "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal:3:26). God's Spirit confirms this fact to every Christian: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God...heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom:8:16-17).
Again, in flagrant disobedience to Christ's clear command, Rome dares to insist that its unbiblical priests be called "father." He who said we are to call no man on earth our father declared that to disobey His Word was to reject Him: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words...the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (Jn:12:48).
Those deceived by this false priesthood are robbed of salvation as the free gift of God's grace, which can only be received in faith and can neither be earned nor dispensed through men or a Church. They are robbed of the relationship they could have with God through Jesus Christ, and of the priesthood of all believers which Peter and Paul and Christ himself taught.
Furthermore, the popes have usurped the title that belongs to God alone, "Holy Father." We tremble for their souls! That phrase is found only once in the entire Bible, in the verse beginning this article. It is the way Christ addressed His Father: "Holy Father." What motive could drive mere man to take this title to himself? Tragically, through honoring the Pope with this title and looking to Catholicism's false gospel Roman Catholics are kept from knowing the only true "Holy Father" in heaven.
Christ's prayer in John 17 to His "Holy Father" was that Christians might all be one. That prayer was answered. All who are the children of God by being born again into God's family through faith in Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells are united on that basis. Jesus prayed to the Holy Father that His own would be "one in us...I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one..." (vv 21-23). That family relationship is the only basis for Christian unity. We are exhorted by Paul to "keep the unity of the [Holy] Spirit in the bond of peace" (i.e., to express in our lives the unity which God has established). Never are we told to make or to work towards unity, for those who are Christ's are already united in Him and with His Holy Father.
Again, in rejection of the clear teaching of Scripture, we find appeals such as the following in Roman Catholic periodicals: "Our Holy Father asks that we pray for Christian Unity. 'It is essential...to be more committed to prayer for Christian unity....' John Paul II."
The hope of establishing this unbiblical unity under the Pope has captured the minds of the entire religious world. The ecumenical movement daily gathers momentum. Even evangelicals have been caught up in this delusion, as we have documented. An elite priesthood of mediators between God and man, and a pope who claims to be the Vicar of Christ and is called "Holy Father," are allegedly justified by the claim that Christ founded the church upon Peter and that the popes are his successors through "apostolic succession." But, sadly, calling the popes "Holy Father" or "His Holiness" hardly fits the unholy lives lived by most of them.
Consider a few examples. Pope John XII (955-64) had numerous mistresses, ran a harem in the papal palace, raped women visiting St. Peter's, blinded and murdered friend and foe alike, toasted Satan at St. Peter's altar and was killed by a husband who found him in bed with his wife—a fate suffered by more than one pope. Pope Gregory XII's (1406-15) first pontifical act was to pawn his tiara for 6,000 florins to pay his gambling debts. Upon purchasing the papacy, Alexander VI (1492-1503), who had committed his first murder at age 12, shouted, "I am Pope, Pontiff, Vicar of Christ!" Though he scarcely pretended to be a Christian, he was, like all the popes, deeply devoted to Mary. The crimes of this Borgia pope are beyond calculation. Sixtus IV (1471-84) licensed Rome's brothels for an annual fee and taxed the clergy for their mistresses. He invented the idea of applying indulgences to the dead. Catholic historian Von Dollinger said of Popes Paul II, Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII and Alexander VI that each tried "to exceed the vices of his predecessor."
In contrast to Christ, who was homeless, whose kingdom was not of this world, and whose followers didn't fight (Mat:8:20; Jn:18:36), the popes have long lived in palaces of more than 1,000 rooms each and fought with their own armies and navies to build a worldwide empire of unparalleled wealth and power. Michelangelo wrote, "Of chalices they [the popes] make helmet and sword and sell by the bucket the blood of the Lord." Pope Innocent III killed more Christians in one afternoon than all Roman emperors combined. Millions were tortured and killed by the popes.
How did such power arise? In the winter of 755 Pope Stephen III, desperate for protection from the besieging Lombards, crossed the Alps to seek help from Pepin, king of the Franks. The Pope showed Pepin the Donation of Constantine, a newly created fraudulent document (as Catholic historians admit). It claimed that Constantine, the Roman Emperor, had given his "palaces, the City of Rome, and all the provinces, places, and cities of Italy and the regions of the West" to the popes.
Deceived by this lie, Pepin routed the Lombards and gave the papacy about 20 cities and much land along the Adriatic coast. It was the beginning of the papal states over which the popes would rule for centuries as tyrants.
With prosperous cities in its possession from which huge revenues came by heavy taxation, the papacy was a prize over which rival factions fought. Powerful families (Colonna, Orsini, Annibaldi, Conti, Caetini, et al.) fought to place one of their own on the alleged "throne of Peter." (See A Woman Rides the Beast.) Popes fought and killed one another for "Peter's Chair," excommunicated and even exhumed one another to do so. Yet each one is called the "Holy Father, His Holiness, Vicar of Christ" and is considered to be a link in the long chain of apostolic succession supposedly going back to Peter.
Six popes were put in office by a mother-daughter pair of prostitutes: Theodora (wife of a powerful Roman Senator) and her daughter, Marozia. In Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon writes, "The bastard son, the grandson, and the great grandson of Marozia—a rare genealogy—were seated in the Chair of St. Peter." This is "apostolic succession"?
For decades the papacy was under the control of a powerful family of warlords, the Alberics of Tusculum, who would eventually boast of 40 cardinals and 13 popes issuing from that one family. It would be a mockery to say that the wealth and power that produced this remarkable familial network of popes had anything to do with apostolic succession; yet there they are on that official Vatican list of Vicars of Christ today.
The foregoing is only part of the appalling heritage by which John Paul II today claims God's title, "Holy Father." For his own salvation, he needs to renounce such pretense and "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" who died for his sins. May we lovingly bring the true gospel to those whom Rome has deceived. And may we, who are His rejoicing children through faith in Christ, love, serve and obey the only "Holy Father." TBC