I was really disturbed at the passing of Pope John Paul II. I was not disturbed at the passing itself, since it seemed that the man had only days to live. What I was disturbed by was the way people in the news and in our society were speaking about the deceased pope. Allow me to identify just a few of these disturbing instances.
“Before we were praying for the pope. Now we will pray to the pope.” Was Pope John Paul II crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Pope John Paul II? People in the first century had the problem of too closely identifying themselves with earthly servants of God (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Some no longer identified themselves as a follower of Christ but a follower of a man. This is exactly what we are seeing at the death of the pope. For people to declare that they are going to pray to the pope is the ultimate form of blasphemy against God, for to do so is to elevate the pope to the status of God Himself. Jesus, in the model prayer, did not teach his disciples to pray to Mary, Peter, or any of the apostles. We are to pray to the Lord and the Lord alone.
“The next big question is if Pope John Paul II will be given the status of saint.” To even think of this possibility is to be ignorant of the scriptures. In case you were not aware, the Bible does not define saints as dead people who have been revered or glorified by the Roman Catholic church. The Bible defines saints as all people who are disciples of Jesus. “But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:25-26). “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). All Christians are saints.
On television I saw people coming to view the body of the deceased pope. I have no trouble with people wanting to pay their last respects. But I saw people bowing down before the pope. Even if you believe that the pope is the vicar of Christ (as the Catholic church teaches, not the Bible) and that the pope is in the lineage of apostolic succession (as the Catholic church teaches, not the Bible), how can we believe it is acceptable to bow to another human? We only bow and only submit to God and to no human being. No where in the Bible do we read of bowing to the apostles as an acceptable form of worship. In fact, the Bible condemns people bowing to the apostles. “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter helped him up and said, “Stand up! I myself am also a man” (Acts 10:25-26). If Peter (who the Catholic church claims to be the first pope, but the Bible does not) did not accept people bowing down before him, should we believe God is pleased that people are bowing down to John Paul II? We are commanded to worship God alone (Revelation 19:10).
Finally, we have this great mystery about who will be the next pope. The cardinals apparently convene to determine who the next pope will be. It is possible for there to be a dispute between the cardinals at to who should be pope. If there is a dispute, the simple majority of the cardinals will prevail. First, where do we read about cardinals in the Bible? The Bible does not authorize cardinals. Second, let us suppose that the pope is the lineage of apostolic succession (which the Bible does not teach). The Bible shows us how an apostle was selected and the qualifications that were necessary to be an apostle.
The qualifications to be an apostle were these, according to the Bible: (1) a person who accompanied the first century apostles during the whole time of Jesus ministry, beginning from the baptism of John until the ascension (Acts 1:21-22). (2) a person who was an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus (Acts 1:22).
An apostle was not selected by a vote of cardinals or other apostles. An apostle was chosen by God Himself (Acts 1:24). Acts 1 shows us that the apostles simply selected men who fit the above qualifications to be an apostle. Then God decided by the casting of lots who was to be an apostle. There was no voting. There was no majority rule. Apostles are only selected by God. As you should be able to see by the qualifications, no one today is qualified to be an apostle because no one has seen the resurrected Jesus and no one was part of the ministry of Jesus in the first century.
It is time for people to put their hopes in Jesus Christ and not in mere men.