Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be the greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him next to him, and said: “Whoever receives this little child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For the one who is the least among you all will be the greatest.” (Luke 9: 46 – 48).
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes who loved to have the preeminence among them does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (2 John 9 – 11).
If you have been following these essays you know there has been some backtracking and repetition. I don’t apologize for that. I added some new thoughts along with the iterations. The same will happen with this effort.
Christ said what is recorded at the opening and his Apostle John posted the second quote. But men soon said: “Whoever is within the sanctuary is pure; but he who is outside of the sanctuary is not pure; that is he who does anything without Bishop and Presbytery and Deacon is not pure in conscience.”
This last was recorded by Ignatius, one of the fellows known to scholars (and many Catholics) as a “church father.” He lived in the late first century and was martyred by the first quarter of the second. He, like the rest, was far enough away from the truth to be one of the first to endorse a distinction between bishops (Greek for an overseer or supervisor) and the presbytery (also Greek for the council of elders, or simply the eldership). Both words are used synonymously in the NT.
Ignatius was the first we know to call the church “the catholic church.” Another heretic, Cyprian, seized authority over the church of Alexandria and in the rest of the N. African congregations as the Metropolitan Bishop by the end of the second century. He wrote what is known as The Bishops Creed, stating in part: “The Bishop is in the church and the church in the Bishop, and if anyone is not with the Bishop, he is not in the church.”
Tertullian was the first to call the Church of Rome, “…the chief repository of pure doctrine” with “…preeminence over all the churches.” To his credit he later became an enemy of the Roman church and anti-Catholic.
Fermillian called for all to acknowledge the primacy of Rome, and was the first to call the bishop of Rome “the successor of Peter.”
If the truth does not suit you, and you have the oldest documents in your care, then all you have to do is to alter a few lines here and there, to drop one name while adding another. Soon you have come up with a list of bishops that altogether ignores the plurality of elders found in the scriptures; and you can easily make it look like the apostle Peter was the first pope. However, it is a shame that you got stupid and kept the oldest lists intact; and that Peter’s name never even appears on them. In fact, the only way you can ever get Peter to Rome is through the limited writing of some of these very same fellows: these “church fathers.” You cannot do it using the scriptures. So you made your own “history” and propagandized an unsuspecting public and countless millions.
The fathers of Catholicism were Ignatius, Irenaeus and Cyprian, with Clement and Tertullian assisting and expanding things. Then in the fourth century along came Aurelius Augustine. I have already written two posts here concerning his teaching and habits ( see: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things).
These peoples and many others just like them stole the truth of God and substituted in its place opinions, myths and falsehoods – all for power. I wonder: in which realm of the dead do you suppose God has placed them until judgment?
The East and West split and consolidated their territories and their false doctrines while both became completely corrupted inside and out. And most common men and women remained in total darkness well into the thirteenth century.
Any way you slice it, it comes up to about a thousand years without the truth out in plain sight, with the Word of God having been torn out of the hands of common people. It ought to make us mourn over the losses to sin both then and now. May God have mercy on them and reward the masters of this evil their just due.
By the late thirteenth century, time again began to turn as did the hearts of men. And some began to look to the few copies of scripture available and began to read and meditate.
One of the other forerunners of the reformation was Johannes Tauler of Strasburg, who began to teach that one must be a convert to Christ, not a convert to the Roman church. He taught that good works apart from Christ were done in vain, and that a man under his own power could not reconcile with God except through Christ. He came under a Papal edict to cease his teaching. He was also the first to publicly mention the Friends of God, a secret society that rejected the pope and sought to openly teach the scriptures. The society was formed in Switzerland and included Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, and Nicholas of Basel, who was burned at the stake for heresy against the church. Johannes Tauler died in 1361. In spite of these records, it is useful to note that names such as Tauler’s and the rest may have been associated with the later reformers as an effort by later writers to shore up a very weak historical link to the coming reformation, one that may not have actually existed.
In time Englishman John Wyclif flatly and openly rejected the Pope, and had the scriptures hand copied using his own money, also making them available to commoners for the first time in a thousand years. For his trouble he was hounded by the Roman Catholic Church for decades. He died in 1384. Thirty one years after death he was declared a heretic by Rome; and in 1424 they exhumed his body under order of Pope Martin V. They sawed the corpse into pieces and burned it on a pyre with the ashes thrown into the River Swift near Leicestershire.
That gentle reader, amounts to nothing other than pure hate, something Christ and his apostles taught against. And hate is another of those gifts that never stops giving. On the downside, Wyclif was a Trinitarian and off the rails on many other topics – yet he believed that no one should ever be allowed to remove the scriptures from the hands of the people as to do so would amount to seizing their only hope of salvation.
What followed beyond these times corporately became known as the Protestant Reformation. I will deal with some of that next.
As a postscript: We today, in most places, have both the freedom and access to make use of the Holy Word of God as we choose. The people in those days had neither. Perhaps we ought to be thankful for such blessings and make better use of these rights and privileges, for the Lord God Almighty has taken away this veil and made these things possible. Perhaps we ought to be stricter in using and following his word and in his praise. For compared to others, we have been so greatly blessed. These people managed to take a serious look at what was happening around them in the name of Christianity. And some of them did something that in time also has affected countless millions. What a blessing this has been to us since. May we always be likeminded.
Enjoy the time the Lord has given you.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(Hebrews 4: 12)