Sunday, December 10, 2023

Who is the Greatest? (Part 8)

By Clifton Angel
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:18–20).
    Context. Context. Context. In our study of Scripture, we must keep passages in context of the whole of Scripture, the context of the writing of the passage, and the context of the immediate subject of the passage. There are principles in Scripture that often apply outside of its immediate context; however, we must be careful not to make false applications. Our three verses at hand are exemplary.
    The Catholic Church claims sole authority in the decisions and directions that “Christians” are to follow: theology, morality, social standards, leadership, worship practices, et. al. Their papacy and councils meet to make these decisions, which are ever changing. Many years ago, a mentor of mine—who spent much time in overseas missions—inquired of an archbishop in the Catholic Church as to their stance on homosexuality. The archbishop’s response was: “We have not decided that, yet.”
    What does this have to do with our passage at hand?
    Everything. This is a “proof text” (also, Matthew 16:18–19) of the Catholic Church’s claim to having authority to change beliefs and practices of the church based on changes in social climates. These passages do not give such authority to the church. Jesus is the sole authority over the church (Eph. 1:22–23; 5:23; Col. 1:18), and He has not established a vicar, nor has He authorized any man to change what He has taught (2 John 9–11).
    Consider two logical deductions based on these Catholic precepts which lead to absurd conclusions:
1. If the church can change its standards of morality and practice based on the world’s thoughts and feelings, who really has the authority? The world and worldliness. Does that coincide with the teachings of Christ (cf. 1 John 2:15–17; Col. 3:17)?
2. If Catholicism has been given the authority by Jesus to determine acceptable beliefs and practices for Christians, why did God take on flesh, use His human breath to teach what is acceptable, and sacrifice Himself on the cross to purchase the church (cf. Matt. 26:28; Acts 20:28), if the church can just change it all, anyway? According to Catholicism, all of the precepts of Matthew 5 – 7 are relative and subjective to their decisions, and even the four steps Jesus authorizes in our current context are moot if the Pope decides to change them.
    What, then, does Matthew 18:18–20 mean?

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

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