Dear Catholic Friend
Evangelist John R. Rice (1895 - 1980)
DEAR Catholic Friend:
Your letter is before me, and prayerfully I take time to answer it. The truth
of God is so holy that I must deal very reverently with it. And the truth has
been so perverted by Roman dogma and tradition, that the truth will not be
palatable to you, I fear. Whether you will listen to it, whether your heart is
open at all to the facts, I do not know. But in the blessed Word of God, I
John 4:6 says: "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that
is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the
spirit of error." If in the heart you know Christ as Saviour, and if
God's Spirit dwells in you, then God's Spirit will bear witness to you of the
truth. And if there is no such witness, then I will conclude, of course, that
you are in spiritual darkness. For we are told: "But the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto
him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned"
(I Cor. 2:14).
Note I do not say that if you do not agree with me in every detail, you are
not saved, you are not a child of God. But I speak of the truth as it is in
the Word of God, simple and plain, on major matters. If your heart is not open
to principal truth from the Word of God, then the Spirit of God is not abiding
in you and you will go on in your blindness. I will grieve about that if you
do. But I hope that there is in you a love for Christ and the presence of the
Holy Spirit of God so that your heart will answer honestly to the Scriptures.
If it does not, then at least I have done my duty.
I. The Roman Church Has Brought Upon Itself the
Curse of Revelation 22:18,19, by
Adding to the Scripture
Unbelieving men sometimes take from the Word of God, minimize parts of it, say
it is not true and is not binding. The Roman Church and some others have the
same kind of sin, in that they take the traditions of men, the decrees and
doctrines of men, and add them to what the Bible says, thus often nullifying
parts of the Bible. And to those who do so, God plainly says: "For I
testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If
any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that
are written in this book" (Rev. 22:18). The statement in the Bible is
simple. Honest people can understand it. To try to evade the meaning of the
Scripture will prove insincerity. To add obligations or authority or rules or
doctrines to those in the Bible, and to bow to authority beside the authority
of the Bible and the authorities plainly given in the Bible means to bring the
curse, the plagues written in the book of Revelation, to those who add thus to
the canon of Scripture their opinions and organizations and traditions and
rules and doctrines.
Some bring God's curse on them by marking off part of the
Bible, calling it erroneous, uninspired, less than the very Word of God. Others
achieve the same effect by setting up another authority beside the Bible which
steals from the Bible part of its own God-given authority. So Mormons have the
Book of Mormon and add it to God's Word. So Christian Scientists have the
writings of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy and add them to the authority of the Bible. So
Seventh-Day Adventists have often, in the past, added the writings of Mrs. White
and called them authoritative and inspired like the Bible. And so the Roman
Catholic organization puts up the authority of a church, the traditions of
church, the rulings of popes arid councils, and thus would drain away the real
authority that God has put in the Word of God. And so Roman Catholicism takes
its place as a false cult and must be so recognized by those who accept the
authority of the Bible itself, the authority which it claims beyond any possible
doubt, the authority which Christ Himself recognized in the Bible.
Jesus quoted to the Pharisees the words of Isaiah about
people who honor God with their lips but whose heart is far from Him. In Mark
7:6-9 we read:
"He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias
prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with
their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship
me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the
commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and
cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well
ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."
Pharisees were hypocrites because they gave only nominal and
verbal assent to the Scriptures and really they worshiped God in vain, "teaching
for doctrines the commandments of men." And Jesus accused them, "Full
well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own
tradition." Honest people could not say that the Pharisees did not add
to the commands of God with their tradition and commandments of men. And every
student in the matter must know, and you are intelligent enough to know, that
the Roman Church has added to the commandments of God even more than did the
Pharisees in Bible times. They make traditions of men take the place of the
commandments of God. You pretend to be for the Bible, to accept its authority.
You even claim that you accept the authority of the church on the authority of
the Bible. Then you must accept what Jesus said on the matter or accept His
brand as a hypocrite on certain matters.
1. The Bible plainly forbids making any image for worship
and bowing down to any image.
In Exodus 20:4 and 5 the Scripture says:
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or
any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth
beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down
thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and
fourth generation of them that hate me."
And any honest reader knows that that Scripture forbids using
an image in worship, bowing down to it, praying before it, and serving it. And
yet the Catholic Church not only has images, but encourages people to pray to
images, to the crucifix, to images of Mary, to images of saints. Here Roman
tradition violates the Bible, and the commandments of men take the place of the
commandments of God. That is sin.
2. The Scriptures command that "a bishop then must be
blameless, the husband of one wife..." (I Tim. 3:2).
The Roman Church says that a bishop must have no wife at all.
It even makes foolish pretensions that Peter put away his wife, though there is
not a scratch of history in the Bible or out to indicate anything of the kind.
It is a clear case of putting human tradition ahead of the Bible.
3. Jesus Christ plainly taught that Mary was on the same
plane with all other Christians who would do the will of God.
In Mark 3:31-35 we read:
"There came then his brethren and his mother, and,
standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him,
and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for
thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he
looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and
my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother,
and my sister, and mother."
Do not avoid the truth here on the authority of Jesus Christ,
"Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my
sister, and mother." And when one heard Jesus and cried out, "Blessed
is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked," Jesus
answered, "Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and
keep it" (Luke 11:27,28). There is no hint in the Bible that New
Testament Christians ever regarded Mary as more than another good woman. She had
no authority among the apostles. No one was taught to pray to her, to do her
homage, to adore her, or to partake of the unscriptural worship which Catholics
do, but call it by other names. Thus the Roman Church has brought a plague upon
itself by adding the commandments of men and traditions of men to the commands
4. The Roman Catholic mass disregards the Word of God to add
sacrifices for sin contrary to the explicit Word of God.
In Hebrews 10:8-14 is a very clear pronouncement from God
that when Christ died on the cross, that did away with all other sacrifices. It
"Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and
burnt-offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure
therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy
will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By
the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all. And every priest .standeth daily ministering and offering
oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man,
after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right
hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
This Scripture explicitly says certain things. It says (a) "Sacrifice
and offering and burnt-offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither
hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law." (b) He expressly
says that He did away with the old sacrifices to establish a second. (c) And
then He expressly says that the offering of Jesus Christ "once for
all" settles the whole matter of sin. Again, He says, "But this
man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right
hand of God." When Jesus had paid for all sins and offered the last
sacrifice which settled things forever, then He sat down because His sacrificial
work was done. (d) There is no need for further sacrifice, "for by one
offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," that is,
them that are set apart for God by the blood of Christ.
Then in the following verses the Lord reminds us of the
promise in the Old Testament that He would make a. new covenant with men, that
He would put the law in their hearts and minds, and He says: "And their
sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is,
there is no more offering for sin" (Heb. 10:17,18).
Now notice the one grand summing-up statement: "Now
where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." When
one has trusted Christ and had his sins forgiven, then "there is no more
offering for sin," no more animal sacrifices, no more of any other kind
So to make the mass a sacrifice, to claim that in the mass
Jesus is sacrificed again and again, that the bread becomes His body, that the
wine becomes His blood, and that there is saving virtue in this sacrifice --
that is a blasphemous rejection of the Bible in favor of traditions of men. That
is a false religion, not the Christian religion. Thus Roman Catholic friends,
however good their intentions, have made in vain the commandments of God by
There is not a single hint anywhere in the entire New
Testament that New Testament Christians had any kind of sacrifices. The Lord's
Supper was a memorial supper, a simple object lesson, a spiritual reminder that
Christ had died for us and we are saved by His blood, and a simple and sweet
reminder to all Christians that we belong to God and ought to love Him and serve
Him and enter into His death. There is not a single hint in the entire Bible
that there was any saving virtue in the communion. There is no hint that anybody
ever was invited to take the communion or the Lord's Supper in Bible times
except as he had already found peace with God and was already forgiven and
5. The Roman Catholic Church has perverted the Bible and
substituted tradition in making priests out of preachers or elders.
Since the Bible clearly teaches that now there is to be no
more sacrifice for sins, and since the Old Testament priesthood has been
succeeded by one priest, Jesus Christ, who has offered one sacrifice forever,
then there is no teaching of a priesthood to offer sacrifices in the New
Testament. There are elders, preachers. Some of these elders had official
positions as pastors or supervisors of local congregations. It is true that in
the spiritual sense, all Christians are to be "kings and priests unto
God" (I Pet. 2:9; Rev..5:10). But there was no official priestly work
done by anyone as an officer of a church, as an elder or bishop in Bible times.
It was not even specified that an elder or bishop should even be present when
people took the Lord's Supper. It had no official significance. It was a simple
little object lesson, a ceremony of remembrance. And there is not a single hint
anywhere that the Lord's Supper had any saving power. It was not a sacrifice. It
was never called that in the Bible. That is a false doctrine, manufactured by
the Church of Rome, which contradicts the Bible, adds to the Bible, and so
brings the plagues of the Bible upon the Roman Church.
I have not room here to discuss all the innovations, all the
strange and unscriptural doctrines and practices which have been invented by
Roman Catholic hierarchy. In the Bible there was no pope and no papal authority,
no papal infallibility. There were no prayers to Mary, no doctrine of Mary's
Immaculate Conception nor of her body's ascension to Heaven. There were no
penances, no indulgences, no confessions to priests, no orders of monks or nuns.
All of this is manufactured, not only without the Bible but contrary to the
plain teachings of the Word of God.
II. The Roman Catholic Idea of a Church Is Wholly
unknown in the Bible and Contrary to the Bible
You tell me, dear friend, that the Catholic Church is
"the true church." But you found no such term in the Bible and no such
idea in the Bible. The Bible says nothing about any nationwide or world-wide
organization. The idea of a church as a denomination is utterly foreign to the
Bible. No such organization can be "the true church" because nothing
like that is pictured or promised in the Bible. They had nothing like that in
1. Churches in the New Testament were local congregations of
The Bible speaks often in such language as "the
church of God which is at Corinth" (I Cor. 1:2). "The church
which was at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1). But do not think that this was
simply a segment of the general church. No, for the Scripture much more often
uses the plural form for churches like "then had the churches rest
throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria..." (Acts 9:31). Every
congregation was a separate church, not part of a general church. "The
churches of Galatia" (I Cor 16:1). "The churches of Asia"
(I Cor. 16:19). "The churches of Macedonia" (II Cor. 8: 1). "The
churches of Galatia" (Gal. 1:2). "The seven churches which are
in Asia" (Rev. 1:4).
We see then that in Bible practice and Bible terminology
every local congregation was a separate church. If there were more than one,
they were still "churches," plural; not "a church" or
And thus all the officers of New Testament times, the elders
or pastors or bishops and the deacons, were officers of local congregations.
There were no bishops over a certain territory or province, nor over a number of
churches. That whole idea invented by Roman Catholicism is patterned after this
world and is not only not found in the Bible but is contrary to the explicit
teachings of the Bible. And many denominations have followed Rome in this false
practice of area-wide denominations or "churches" which are not
churches in the Bible sense.
2. The general term "church" is occasionally used
referring to the whole body of Christ, all the saved, without any reference to
The word church in the New Testament is translated from the
Greek word ecclesia and it always means a called-out assembly. That Greek word
is translated everywhere in the New Testament as "church," except in
three cases in Acts 19 where in verses 32, 39, and 41 it is translated
"assembly," referring to the mob called out at Ephesus. More than
ninety times the word church or churches is used about local congregations. A
few times, eight or ten times, it is used in the larger sense of the whole body
of Christ. In every such case it refers to that "general assembly and
church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven" (Heb. 12:22,23),
those who will be called out at the rapture when Jesus comes, and then it will
be literally a called-out assembly. It is in that sense that "Christ
also loved the church, and gave himself for it" in Ephesians 5:25. It
refers to every person born again and saved by the blood of Christ. The Lord
Jesus never hinted that He was giving Himself for any organization, any
so-called "true church" or denomination. For the Church of Rome to
claim that it is this one body for whom Christ died is blasphemous, a perversion
of the Scripture with an idea wholly unknown in the Bible.
3. The foolish idea that the church is rounded on Peter is
contrary to Scripture and historically false.
The Scripture says as plainly as it can be said that Jesus
Christ is the foundation on which Christians are built, and that there is no
other foundation. In I Corinthians 3:10, 11, Paul was inspired to write:
"According to the grace of God which is given unto
me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth
thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Paul as a wise masterbuilder laid the foundation. That is, he
got people saved. He got them to trust in Christ. They are built on Christ. And
then he plainly said, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is
laid, which is Jesus Christ." And it is wise to go back and see the
context in the same chapter. There was a division in Corinth over this very
matter. He says in verse 4, "For while one saith, I am of Paul; and
another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" And then he closes the
chapter by saying: "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things
are your's; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or
death, or things present, or things to come; all are your's; And ye are
Christ's; and Christ is God's" (vss. 21-23).
"Cephas" here is Peter. So here divine inspiration
in the Bible plainly says that the church and salvation are not built on Paul or
Apollos or on Cephas, and that men are not to glory in men, that is, none of
these three men nor any others.
So Peter is not the foundation on which Christians are built.
He is not the foundation of the church. Christ is the foundation of the church.
But you say, as Catholic dogma teaches you to say and not
from any independent study of the Scriptures, which you are not allowed to do --
you say that Christ said He would build a church on Peter. You refer to Matthew
16:18, which the Catholic dogma currently teaches (but did not always so teach),
that Christ founded the church on Peter. But read it: "And I say also
unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and
the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Now does Jesus here
contradict the other Scriptures and say that the church is founded on Peter
instead of on Himself? No indeed. Here there is a Greek play upon the words,
"Thou art Peter [the Greek word Petros, literally a "little
rock"], and upon this rock [Petra, a foundation rock, Christ the Rock, not
Peter] I will build my church." Literally what Jesus told Peter is this:
"You are a little rock, but on Myself, the great foundation Rock, I will
build My church."
You should read the Catholic Fathers and you would see that
this is the teaching that was once current among the best Catholic theologians.
But when the church decided to pronounce the pope infallible, then the church
decided to insist upon this dogma, that the church is founded on Peter, that
that authority is now in the pope. But at that Council in 1870, you ought to
know if you are an informed Catholic, that Bishop Strossmeyer then publicly said
in a brilliant speech before the Cardinals what I am saying to you now, that the
Bible clearly teaches that Christ Himself is the foundation of the church, not
Peter. You are not allowed of course to read the Bible and to study and find
what it means if that differs from the Catholic dogma. Once it was proper for
the Bible to mean this. Now the Catholic hierarchy has determined it is to mean
something else and so you of course as a good Catholic will go by tradition and
dogma instead of by the Bible.
Peter himself was inspired to teach that Christ was the Rock
on which the church and Christians are built. In I Peter 2:3-5, we read:
": . . The Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as
unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and
precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house ....
Converts come to Christ and thus as living stones are built
on the Living Stone into a spiritual house. The same Scripture goes on to say
that Jesus is not only the foundation stone, but the Head of the Corner, the
Rock of Offense, the Stone of Stumbling. Throughout the Bible, again and again,
Christ is called the Stone, the Rock. He is illustrated by the rock in the
wilderness which Moses struck and from which came water for the thirsty
multitude. In Daniel, chapter 2, He is pictured as the stone that will come at
His Second Coming and smite the kings of the earth and destroy them.
No, the church is not founded on Peter.
Incidentally, there is
no evidence whatever that Peter was ever in Rome. Paul wrote the book of Romans
by divine inspiration and gave greeting to many, and Peter is not even
mentioned. Twenty-nine people are called by name to whom Paul sends greetings,
one whole church and a number of households. And Peter is not even mentioned.
Why? He was not in Rome, of course.
In the book of Acts we are told how Paul came to Rome; we
learn about those who came to greet him. We learn that he dwelt two whole years
in his own hired house and that leading Jews came to meet him there. Peter did
not come. Peter is not mentioned. Why? Peter was not in Rome. There is not a
single reputable history in the world that even mentions Peter's being at Rome.
The Bible does not mention it. In fact, when his epistles were written, Peter
was in the other direction, at Babylon, and sends greetings from Babylon (I
Peter 5:13). The idea of Peter's being at Rome is one of the fictions like all
the "nails from the true cross," like literally thousands of fake
"relics" honored by the fictions, the tradition, the superstitions of
the church at Rome.
III. There Was No Pope, Neither Peter Nor Anybody
Else, Among New Testament Christians
You refer to Matthew 16:19 when Christ said to Peter, "And
I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou
shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on
earth shall be loosed in heaven."
1. The "Keys" Jesus gave Peter did not mean he had
power to forgive sins.
That does not mean what you think it means. A great
theologian says on this verse:
"Not the keys of the church, but of the kingdom of
heaven in the sense of Mr. 13., i.e. the sphere of Christian profession. A key
is a badge of power or authority (cf. Isa. 22. 22; Rev. 3.7). The apostolic
history explains and limits this trust, for it was Peter who opened the door
of Christian opportunity to Israel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2.38-42), and
to Gentiles in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10.34-46). There was no assumption
by Peter of any other authority (Acts 15.7-11). In the council James, not
Peter, seems to have presided (Acts 15.19; cf. Gal. 2.11-15). Peter claimed no
more for himself than to be an apostle by gift (I Pet. 1.1), and an elder by
office (I Pet. 5.1)."
"The power of binding and loosing was shared (Mt. 18.18;
John 20.23) by the other disciples. That it did not involve the determination of
the eternal destiny of souls is clear from Rev. 1.18. The keys of death and the
place of departed spirits are held by Christ alone" (notes in the Scofield
Now note Matthew 18:18 and 19:
"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."
So not only to Peter, but to the other apostles and even to
all Christians is the same promise given. Whatsoever they shall bind on earth
shall be bound in Heaven; whatsoever they shall loose on earth shall be loosed
in Heaven. And He says plainly, "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." It is clear that Jesus is here talking
about the power of prayer. The Christian who moves God can move everything that
God moves. And if the Spirit of God leads Christians to unite in believing
prayer, then they can have whatever they ask. This is exactly what was promised
Peter; he could bind on earth things that would be bound in Heaven and loose on
earth things that would be loosed in Heaven the same way that other Christians
have exactly the same promise. Peter was simply a New Testament Christian. He
had all the promises that God gave to the other apostles and all the promises
God gave to other Christians. Even you surely would not say that the instruction
in Matthew, chapter 18, was for the apostles only. And certainly you would not
say it was for Peter only. So the promise about binding and loosing was to all
the apostles, and more than that, it was for all Christians who, led by the
Spirit of God, could agree to ask of God.
Now see John 20:21-23:
"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you:
as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he
breathed on them and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever
sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain,
they are retained."
Jesus is risen from the dead. He gives His disciples. again
the Great Commission and says, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send
I you." And then He breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the
Holy Ghost." And in connection with the Spirit of God on these
Christians, He says, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto
them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."
2. All apostles were equal with Peter.
Again, it is important to notice that this promise was not
given to Peter alone, but to all the disciples present. Certainly the other
apostles were there besides Thomas, and almost equally certain others were there
besides the apostles. In the same chapter Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of
Jesus, and others are mentioned in connection with that group who saw Jesus
after His resurrection, and the women talked with the men about it. In Acts 1:13
and 14 we are told that the apostles "with the women, and Mary the
mother of Jesus, and with his brethren," that is the brothers of Jesus,
who would include Jude, Simon, James, etc., were together.
So to this group of Christians in John 20 Jesus gave the
promise: first, they were to have the Holy Spirit abiding in them. Then they
were to go to fulfill the Great Commission.
Now note that Great Commission as it is stated again, in
Matthew 28:19 and 20. That Great Commission was given to the apostles and other
Christians there. But they were taught that when they got other disciples, they
were to have them baptized and then to teach them, the new converts, "to
observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Whatever command
Jesus gave in the Great Commission is for every Christian, not only for the
apostles and certainly not only for Peter. And that command is to be fulfilled
in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in human wisdom.
Now notice verse 23, "Whose soever sins ye remit,
they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are
retained." Actually this verse is written in the Greek so it could be
either present or pluperfect in time, that is, "Whose soever sins ye remit,
they shall have been remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they
shall have been retained." So Dr. J. R. Mantey, professor of Greek, told
me. In other words, led by the Holy Spirit a Christian who knows that one has
trusted Christ for salvation can say, "Your sins have been remitted,"
knowing that they have already been remitted as soon as he trusted Christ. And
to one who does not trust Christ, a Christian shall say, "Your sins are not
remitted, they are retained, they are on you now,' knowing that they have not
been remitted, because the one did not trust Christ."
In the first place, it is certain that whatever the Lord said
to Peter about any authority here, He said to the other apostles also. There was
no primacy given Peter in this matter. And it is also equally clear that
whatever authority any people had here, it was by the Spirit of God and in
accordance with the Word of God, not that they could forgive sins, but they
could know that the sins were forgiven one who trusted Christ or they could know
that one's sins were not forgiven if he did not trust Christ.
To make it so any man could forgive sins on his own
initiative would be utterly foreign to the clear teaching of the Bible
elsewhere. That is human tradition which contradicts the plain Word of God and
brings upon all who thus add to the Word the plagues and curses that Jesus
warned of in Revelation 22:18 and 19.
Obviously, even the most casual reader of the Bible knows
that New Testament Christians did not regard Peter as having any special
authority. Paul found him wrong in the matter of a certain compromise, and so in
Galatians, chapter 2, we find that Paul rebuked Peter openly to his face. Peter
had no authority which Paul respected more than the authority of anyone else.
In the general council which met at Jerusalem in Acts,
chapter 15, it seems that James presided and had the final word. Peter gave his
word, as was proper, but he did not speak with any authority recognized by
anybody present except the authority of good advice and the Holy Spirit's
leading, such as James had also and as others had also on the same occasion.
No, there was no such thing as the Roman Catholic Church in
Bible times. There was no popery. There was no mass and no sacrifices. There was
no confessional, no pretense on the part of anyone that he could forgive sins.
There was no priesthood except the priesthood of all believers in that we can
pray for others. But there was no official priesthood in the churches. Roman
Catholicism has changed elders and preachers into priests, has changed the
pulpit into an altar, has changed Mary into "Mother of God, Queen of
Heaven," etc., in idolatry.
3. The apostles had no successors; they handed down no
Twelve original disciples of Jesus were called in the Bible
"apostles." They were men specially sent and authorized to teach and
preach until the Scriptures should be fulfilled. When Judas, by his sin, fell
from the apostleship and killed himself, the disciples elected Matthias to be a
witness with them of the resurrection of Christ, and the requirement was that he
must be one who had been with them all the way from the baptism of Jesus by John
the Baptist until His resurrection and could give witness of these things (Acts
1:22). Later Paul, Barnabas, and James, the brother of Jesus, are called
But in I Corinthians 12:28 we are told: "And God hath
set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,
after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of
tongues." The apostles were set first in the church. They had no
successors. Peter did not give his apostolic authority to Mark who worked with
him. Paul did not give his apostolic authority to Timothy, his beloved son in
the ministry. John did not give his apostolic authority to anybody else. There
is a wicked, foolish, unscriptural idea abroad that the "true church"
is a matter of "apostolic succession." That idea was invented by the
modern Roman Catholic Church. It was unknown in Bible times. And now when the
Anglicans claim "apostolic succession in the priesthood," we know that
they got it from Rome. They did not get it from the Bible. When our "Church
of Christ" friends claim that they have the only true church, we know that
that idea of a church was derived from Roman Catholic tradition. It is true that
Christ said, "Upon this rock [and He meant Jesus] I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). But He
did not mean any organization on earth. The churches and congregations of Bible
times have all disappeared. That "general assembly and church of the
firstborn, which are written in heaven," the body of Christ, has not
disappeared and will not disappear and the gates of Hell shall not prevail
against it. But to claim that of any organization of men with human officers, is
an idea foreign to the Bible and unsubstantiated by history.
The present so-called Roman Catholic Church is not the church
at Rome to which Paul wrote his letter. It has none of the works. It does not
believe the same doctrines. It does not have the simple local organization,
local pastors (or bishops) and deacons. It does not preach the same plan of
salvation. It does not have the same spiritual power.
Summing up, Peter had no authority that other apostles did
not have, and that authority was never transmitted to anybody. Peter was not a
pope, and even if he had been, he could not have handed that authority down to
anybody else. All that is a web of human tradition and as of later origin
manufactured by men and not after the Bible pattern. There is not a trace of the
papacy in the Bible or in the New Testament church, either in organization or
IV. The Authority Claimed by the Catholic Church
Is Blasphemous and Unchristian
The pope claims (in this modern dogma of the Catholic Church,
which has developed particularly since the fourth Lateran Council in A. D. 1870,
when papal infallibility was adopted as a dogma of the church) to be the
vicegerent of God on earth, claims to speak with the authority of God, claims
that when he and priests under him speak officially, it is God speaking. And you
say, "His church represents Him (and you mean the Roman Catholic Church or
hierarchy) just as He so stated 'as the Father hath sent me, even so send I
you.' "But you certainly read the Scripture very carelessly. Individual
Christians represent Christ. It was not to "the church," some
super-duper world-wide organization, that Jesus said, "As my Father hath
sent me, even so send I you"; it was to a group of individuals and He
breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." And
that day the Holy Spirit moved into the body of Christians to live and to
represent Christ on earth.
The Holy Spirit Himself is Christ's own personal
representative, His vicegerent on earth. And so the Bible carefully teaches. The
Lord Jesus said nothing about breathing on the Roman Catholic Church the day He
rose from the dead. There was no such church then. Such an idea among New
Testament Christians was not even thought of.
And though there was a local group of Christians, He was not
speaking to the group as an entity, but He was speaking to individuals. The Holy
Spirit moves into the body of a Christian when he is saved. "What? know
ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye
have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore
glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Cor.
You say, "My Protestant friends do not seem to be able
to see the necessity for having an organization, with a ruling authority in the
greatest institution on earth." But you use the term
"institution" in an unscriptural sense. The Bible does not even
mention such an "institution." And you are trying to settle by human
argument a matter which was brought on by human tradition, when if God had
intended any such authority in an organization, that is, an organization which
could save or damn, could forgive or not forgive, which could tell people
whether they could read the Bible or not, whether they could follow the Bible or
not -- if God had wanted to put any such authority in an organization, He could
have done so. He did not. The Bible never mentions anything of the kind.
You see, the trouble is you want a human authority, a man, to
boss this matter when God wants the Holy Spirit to boss. You want that authority
to reach down so a priest can tell people what they can do and what they cannot
do, and God wants the Holy Spirit to dwell in the body of every believer and
tell him what to do. And then you speak about "chaos" and say,
"That is the situation in Protestantism today -- 'a house divided against
itself.' "And you speak about "the Presbyterian branch." Again,
you are using the term church in a wholly unscriptural sense not even thought of
in the Bible. And Protestantism is not a church in the Bible sense any more than
the Catholic organization is a church in the Bible sense.
V. Christians Who Set Out to Live by the Bible
a Warm Bible Christianity and Spiritual Unity
Utterly Unknown by Catholics
You talk with no knowledge of the facts when you speak about
"chaos" among Bible believers. No, there is a chaos if you mean that
there are many cults who, like Roman Catholics, set up some other standard to
follow besides the Bible. Some groups who call themselves Protestant do not
believe in the virgin birth, and others, like Catholics, say they believe in the
virgin birth, but they do not believe in salvation by personal faith in Christ.
Of course, that is confusion whether among Catholics or Protestants, but it is
not brought on by following the Bible, but rather by rejecting the Bible. Those
who follow the Book of Mormon or Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy's writings, or who follow
the "scientific" unbelief of religious liberals, or the traditions and
rulings of the church among Catholics -- these all, whether Protestants or
Catholics, are in confusion, and of course do not represent Bible Christianity.
However, there is a remarkable unity, very easily
demonstrated and known by millions of Christians, among Bible believers. It is a
foolish saying of infidels that there "are some three hundred denominations
and everybody understands the Bible differently." The simple truth is that
all the principal groups of Christians in the world who bow to no authority but
the Bible authority do agree on all the principal doctrines in the Bible.
Christians from a hundred different denominations, I suppose, from year to year
attend Moody Bible Institute, or the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, or other
fundamental Bible institutes where the authority of the Word of God is held up
always above any other source of doctrine, above any authority of denomination
or pope or bishop or council or cardinals or priests.
I am editor of an interdenominational Christian magazine. We
have, among those who read THE SWORD OF THE Lord regularly, almost every kind of
divergent denomination from priests in the Filipino Catholic Church to those
from all principal Protestant bodies. I received the other day a most fervent,
brotherly letter from a Lutheran minister. He sprinkles babies; he has a liturgy
and there are other minor matters on which we would differ. But on the great
issues of the verbally inspired Bible, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth,
His blood atonement, His bodily resurrection, on the need for a new birth, on
Heaven and Hell, we feel as brothers.
I have held great city-wide campaigns in Chicago, Buffalo,
Cleveland, Seattle, Miami, and elsewhere, with representatives of the principal
Protestant groups taking part in those meetings, with the simple stipulation
that they must be men who believed the Bible and the essentials of the Christian
faith. And so Baptists, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, Pentecostalists, Mennonites,
Episcopalians, and many others have participated in those meetings. The one
simple essential we agreed on was that the Bible was the Word of God and was the
supreme authority and the Christ of the Bible is all He claimed to be. So such
people naturally agreed on the great doctrines of the Bible, the verbal
inspiration, the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His blood atonement, His
bodily resurrection, His miracles, and the need for regeneration, salvation by
faith in Christ, Heaven and Hell, etc. It is a foolish and insincere fiction to
suppose that there is a chaos among Bible-believing Christians. That simply is
You understand, of course, there were many, many who could
not properly take part in such a campaign with me as a preacher and they would
not have been welcome. That would include all those false cults who have some
other authority besides the Bible. Mormons would not fit in, nor Christian
Scientists, nor Catholics, nor Jehovah's Witnesses, because all of these have
sources other than the fundamental center of a Christian unity, the Bible. They
would not agree in doctrine because they get their doctrines out of human
tradition or the writings of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, or the Book of Mormon, or the
books of Judge Rutherford, instead of from the Bible. I am saying simply that
the Holy Spirit living in the bodies of Christians who believe the Bible and go
to the Bible for authority have more unity than would be possible in a great
organization such as the Catholic Church where the authority is supposed to
reside in the church (meaning literally in the priesthood and not in the
I preached the Gospel in the First Presbyterian Church in
Inchon, Korea, where General McArthur made his famous landing in the Korean War.
In that foreign country, speaking through an interpreter, standing barefooted
upon a pillow, preaching to people who sat crosslegged on a polished floor, I
found exactly the same sweet unity of spirit, the same brotherly love that I
found with Christians in Bombay and Madras, India, in Karuizawa, Japan, and as I
found in great united meetings all over America.
The other day a Catholic man who had lost his wife and was
disconsolate and now for three years had been trying to raise his children
alone, found that he, too, had this same unity with other Bible-believing
Christians. He went regularly to the Catholic Church and to no other, but he
said, "It was like a trip to the corner store, with no spiritual
help." His hungry heart reached out for something and he began to read the
Bible at home to his children. He began to listen to my broadcast. His heart
began to seek for a personal acquaintance with Jesus Ghrist. He wrote to me
pleading for prayers and help. Some godly people went to see him; they read
together from the Bible and he was taught to look to Jesus who died to save
sinners. On his knees he trusted Christ and took Him as Saviour and, oh, how
happy he has been since! Mark you, this happiness, this union of heart with
other Christians, did not come through the Catholic organization. It came as he
read the Bible, and then found other Christians who believed the Bible and then
found the Christ of the Bible.
The "chaos" that you pretend to see among Bible
believers is simply not true. There is a chaos among those who have other
sources of doctrine and so serve other gods. There is a chaos when men go to
Catholic tradition or the Book of Mormon or the writings of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy
or the presumptuous imaginings of modernists or unbelievers. But there is a
great unity which millions know as they read the Bible and find there the same
Saviour, the same doctrine that all have sinned, the same promise that the blood
of Christ has paid for our sins and that Christ died for us and is willing to
forgive sinners, and then the sweet sense of fellowship of born-again believers
who know they have a home in Heaven and who know they are born of God.
VI. Roman Catholics Themselves Do Not Have This
There is a kind of unity among the loyal adherents of the
Catholic Church, but it is not Christian unity. It is not even the kind of unity
that men have in a labor union where they join voluntarily, where they have a
vote in the proceedings, where they can argue for their rights, and where they
can join others of like convictions to seek a common end.
Catholics do not have the unity which comes when people know
the same Saviour, have the same peace in heart, find in the Bible the same
doctrines and look together, as the Bible teaches us to do, for Christ's Second
Coming. Catholics are alike in praying to Mary, but Mary does not answer, does
not give them any spiritual response. The unity of Catholics is like the unity
in a penitentiary. The prisoners have someone to tell them what to do. They are
told when to get up, when to march to the playground, when to go to meals, and
when to rise. They are fed not what they want, but what prison officials decide
is proper on the budget that is provided. Prisoners have something in common:
they have the same kind of bars on their cells, the same concrete floor, the
same smell of disinfectant.
I am saying the Catholics do not know the kind of unity which
is very common among Bible-believing Christians. Have a bunch of Catholics
together; now try to have a testimony meeting and try to get them to rise with
joy in their faces and tell how God has answered their prayers. A few Catholics,
thank God, have had such experiences. They seem queer to other Catholics and
that is not the ordinary thing.
Other Christians find a common bond in the Bible. But sadly I
have found that the average Catholic family does not even have a Catholic Bible.
If they have one, they are not free to study it and find what God Himself means
to tell them. They are to believe the Bible teaches only what the church tells
them it teaches. The simple truth is that the Catholic Church through the
centuries has usually forbidden Catholics to study the Bible and now in our
American civilization public enlightenment has made it so they must give
permission for Catholics to read the Bible. Catholics generally are not
encouraged to read it and generally do not read it.
I remember I talked to a beautiful and cultured Catholic lady
in Washington, D.C. A question came up about the Bible and I said I would ask
her a question. She threw up her hands and laughed deprecatingly and said,
"Oh no! I don't know a thing about the Bible. Now on the Prayer Book,"
she said, "I am pretty good. But I don't know anything about the
Bible." I say that that attitude is rather characteristic of good
Catholics. Those who are not good Catholics are not usually good on the Prayer
Book, even. Catholics are not usually tied together by one common experience of
conversion. They are not commonly tied together with a sweet enjoyment of the
same Scripture truths. Catholics generally believe in the virgin birth, and I
thank God that they do, but that is emphasized primarily in order to emphasize
Mary, and not necessarily to emphasize the deity of Christ.
And in most of the Catholic countries in the world, as in
South American countries, priests systematically collect and burn Bibles and
people are taught that it is heresy to read the Bible. And that attitude is the
general Catholic attitude around the world except in a very few enlightened
spots where culture makes for more human freedom than will permit that degree of
You talk of Catholic unity. The simple truth is that most of
the Catholic population of the world lives in most abject superstition and
ignorance, with almost no comprehension of spiritual truths. In countries like
Columbia and Peru in South America, Protestant missionaries have recently been
murdered, and nationals who have been converted to Christ and come to know Him
as Saviour and do not depend on the priest for forgiveness have their homes
burned, and many a believer has been beaten and others tortured and killed.
There is no more unity among Catholics than the kind of unity of communist
inspired mobs in Castro's Cuba.
Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean that Catholics are
communists, or that the Catholic Church generally favors communism. I mean that
the priest-led mobs who killed Christians who read the Bible in South America
are the victims of mass superstitions and mob rages such as similar mobs in Cuba
are, who storm the homes of Americans.
You speak of unity among Catholics. But President Kennedy
does not agree with the Catholic dogma that every head of state, if a Catholic,
must be subject to the pope in his official duties. On this matter Catholics in
America do not very well agree with Catholics in Italy.
The true and loyal Catholic knows nothing of the great
freedom in Christ. He does not know that he can come personally to Christ and
get forgiveness without any reference to the priest or the church or the mass or
the confessional. He does not know the great freedom taught in that Scripture, I
Timothy 2:5 and 6: "For there is one God, and one meditator between God
and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be
testified in due time." He does not know that he can go to Christ
directly and that Christ has made peace between him and God. No, the Catholic
Church has put Mary in there as an intermediary and the saints and the priests
and the church.
I can read the Bible and ask God's blessed Spirit to help me
understand it. That is exactly what Jesus taught His disciples, that "when
he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth"
(John 16: 13). But that blessed and intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit
leading him to understand God's Word, the Catholic is not free to have. He
cannot go to the Bible and find whether it is proper to eat meat on Friday or
during Lent -- no, he must go to the church who has established the man-made
So the Catholic has little acquaintance with Christ, little
dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is a big church, a big priesthood, a little
Jesus. It is a big Mary but a little Saviour. It is big law but little grace.
VII. No True Roman Catholic Is Sure of Heaven
A noble young Catholic man wrote me. He was greatly impressed
with THE SWORD OF THE LORD. He appealed to me that I would enter "the true
church." How much good I would do, he said, if I would join the Roman
Catholic Church and use whatever gifts and training I have in advancing the
cause of "the true church."
I wrote him that I could not do that, first of all, because
as it is now I have perfect assurance that my sins are forgiven; I have the
assurance from the Word of God and from the Holy Spirit who lives within me that
when I took Christ as my Saviour and relied upon Him, my sins were all forgiven
and there, once for all, as they were paid for on the cross, my sins were
forgiven, I was born of God and I am certain of Heaven. I told him I do not
deserve this salvation, that it is all of God's grace, but it is certain because
the blood of Jesus paid for it; I do not have to go through the church to get
this salvation; I have already gone to Christ and when I trusted Him I received
everlasting life. I told him that I could not give up this sweet peace and
I told him that I am relying on the one sacrifice forever
which perfected the one who trusted in Christ according to Hebrews 10:10-14, and
that now I could not put any confidence in the mass, since, after my sins were
remitted through the blood of Christ, "there is no more offering for
sin" (Heb. 10:18). And I urged him to find out if his priest, or if any
other Catholic he knew, had sweet peace and assurance that his sins are already
all forgiven, that he is now already a child of God and certain for Heaven, with
all his sins forever hidden under the blood of Christ.
He was indignant. He was sure Catholics had just as much
peace and assurance as anyone else did. So he went to his local priest in
Tennessee. That priest assured him that no, of course, he did not know for sure
that his sins were all forgiven. He hoped to go to Heaven but he would probably
have to go to purgatory for a time first.
The young man was distressed so he went to a bishop and there
he received the same kind of an answer. Now, getting desperate, he wrote to a
number of archbishops. And again he got the same kind of answer, that none of
them could know for sure that their sins were forgiven.
Distressed he went back to the local priest and asked the
priest why now there would be the sacrifice of the mass when the Bible so
plainly said that Jesus had paid the whole debt by one offering forever, and
that "now...there is no more offering for sin."
The priest scoffed at him. "Who gave you the right to
interpret the Bible?" he stormed at the young man.
The young man, cut to the quick, said to the priest,
"Who gave you the right to say that there is need for more offerings when
the Bible says that Jesus' offering settled the matter once for all?" The
priest, instead of answering him, angrily slapped his face and turned and left
That young man went to bed that night but tossed in torment
for hours. Could no one then have any assurance of forgiveness? Was there no
certainty of salvation through the blood of Christ, to one who trusted in Him?
And in his groping mind there came again the Scripture of Hebrews 10:10: "By
the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all," and there he put his trust in the Lord Jesus
alone and had the peace that he could not have by Catholic dogma.
I have from time to time, contact with Catholics whom I
greatly love and respect. Many of them are noble, good people and some of them,
I believe, are devout Christians, by which I mean that in spite of all the false
teachings of the traditions of the church, they have seen through the darkness
and have come to personally trust in Jesus Christ and His atoning blood, and
have rested in that and have peace as born-again children of God. But I would
have to say in honesty that that is not the position of the average Catholic.
And that peace, that assurance of salvation, that personal devotion to Jesus
Christ, is not known by the average Catholics. They know Mary and penances and
Ave Marias and confessionals, but the sweet joy of settled peace, knowing sins
are forgiven, knowing they are children of God, knowing they are born again,
knowing they are saved and going to Heaven (and mark you, all these are Bible
principles) -- I say that is unusual among Catholics and that kind of settled
peace of certain salvation is not usually the property of Catholics.
No, dear brother, when you talk to me about the unity of the
Catholic Church, you are not talking about any Christian unity such as real
born-again Christians generally have when they depend on the Word of God alone
as authority and when they come to Christ personally for salvation and when they
have the Holy Spirit dwelling within to guide them into the truth and comfort
VIII. The Autocratic Domineering of the Catholic
Church Over Its Members Dishonors
Christ and the Bible
I have indicated above that the Catholic does not have the
peace and happiness and freedom and spiritual enlightenment that one has who is
free to go to the Bible and take the authority of the Bible and the leadership
of God's own Spirit dwelling within his body. But not only the Catholic who is
domineered and ruled and bossed suffers. The Catholic must eat fish on Fridays
and during Lent (or macaroni and cheese). If he reads the Bible at all he cannot
find out what it means except from a Catholic theologian or some of the official
literature of the church. He dare not depend on the Spirit of God to make plain
the Word of God.
And not only does the poor Catholic suffer, but Christ
Himself suffers, too. His crown rights are violated! The Lord Jesus who seeks to
be Lord of all is put second to Mary, second to the saints and second to the
rigmarole. And the blood of Christ is not the one great element that settles
salvation for the believing sinner; the great element is the church itself which
may choose to dole out bit by bit any blessings that may be obtained through the
blood. The Catholic's sins are forgiven only if the priest says so (and he never
knows for sure then). The Catholic need not pray as to where he should help
support the Gospel to get it out to all the world. The church decides that for
him. And so Christ has to step into the background. Everytime you have a high
church you have a low Jesus. Everytime you have a high human priesthood you have
a low divine Saviourhood. There are too many lords in the Catholic Church for
Christ Jesus to be Lord of all as He claims to be and wants to be.
Do not misunderstand me, Catholics are not alone in this
matter. Many Protestants and other false cults take away the liberty that is in
Christ. Christ as so-called "Way Shower," must share honors with Mrs.
Mary Baker Eddy, "The Leader." Or some others teach that one cannot be
saved without baptism and so Jesus has to step back a bit into the background so
that baptism and the church and the preacher may take a more important place.
And when Southern Baptists insist that one does not truly serve God except as he
supports the Co-operative Program or the denomination, that is the same kind of
popery that dishonors Christ and puts the church, the organization, the
leadership, the secretariat ahead of Christ and the Holy Spirit. And the pastor
who insists that the tithes will not be recognized by God unless the tithes come
into the church where this pastor receives his salary and where he can dominate
the spending of the money -- that pastor takes the part of the same popery that
puts Christ in second place and puts human instruments or traditions or
commandments ahead of the authority of the Holy Spirit and the authority of
But that great state church pictured in Revelation 17 with
headquarters in the city of the seven hills (Rev. 17:9), that harlot woman that
is called "the mother of harlots and abominations in the earth," that
state church "drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of
the martyrs of Jesus" -- she is the mother of abominations and particularly
the mother of this abomination of putting the church ahead of Christ, putting
the ordinances ahead of Christ, putting human leaders ahead of Christ and
putting the tradition and commandments of men ahead of the Word of God.
I am saying that the overlordship of the Catholic Church is
not only unscriptural, utterly unknown in the Bible and in New Testament
churches, but it dishonors Christ, it perverts Christianity, it takes from the
Lordship of Christ, it denies the freedom of the human soul before God, and in
that organization men take the leadership which God plainly gave to the Holy
Spirit in the individual believer.
Dear Catholic Friend; I have written in love. After repeated
correspondence and many, many questions and many arguments, I have felt led to
go into detail. I have no hate for Catholics. I know many Catholics personally
and love them. But I must protest that there is, nothing like the Roman Catholic
Church in the Bible. There is no papacy. There is no mass. There is no
confessional. There are no prayers to Mary or to the saints. And nothing could
please me better than that you, dear Catholic friend, could come out into the
joy and peace and personal relationship with Christ which I enjoy, knowing that
my sins are forgiven, knowing that by God's mercy I am ready for Heaven where He
will take me when He comes or when I die.
In Jesus' name, yours,
John R. Rice