Some of the most devout people I have ever known are Catholic. Few are more convicted on the matter of abortion and the sanctity of life. Catholics are conservative on many moral issues. It seems that some of the more devout New Testament Christians I have known, including some here at this congregation, are converted Catholics.
Seventeen percent of the whole population of the world are Catholic. Thus, the passing last Saturday of Pope John Paul II has dominated the media. May I mention a few things that are relevant as this story has the collective attention of the world?
Christ Has All Authority. He claimed it shortly before ascending to heaven (Matt. 28:18). Paul added, in writing Colosse, "That in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). "All things" is a key phrase in the opening section of Colossians. He created all things (1:15-16), is before all things (1:17), and reconciles all things through the cross (1:20). No one and no thing can share that claim, and as such cannot share one ounce of religious authority with Jesus.
Peter Could Not Have Been A Pope. Did you know that, technically, any unmarried Catholic male is eligible to be pope (though a non-Cardinal election has been unheard of for more than a millenium). Peter would not make the papal cut. For one thing, he was married (Matt. 8:14). He served the church as an elder, a task that requires a man to be married (1 Pet. 5:1; cf. 1 Tim. 3:2). For another, Peter had no unique power or authority. He was not God's sole spokesman on earth. Jesus, in Matthew 16:13-19, did not promise to build the church on the foundation of Peter but rather the foundation of the truth Peter confessed (that He was the Christ, the Son of God). The power to bind and loose what was already bound and loosed in heaven (see NAS on Matt. 16:19) was given to other of the disciples and not just Cephas (Matt. 18:18). Why not hear Peter, who says of Christ, "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..." (2 Pet. 1:3a). He shares that power with none, not even Peter!
Popes Die. Jesus Lives. Those who are set up as rivals to Jesus' authority share something in common, whether we speak of Mohammad, Buddha, Zoroaster, denominational founders and heads, or popes. They all ultimately lie entombed, awaiting the resurrection that Jesus will instigate (John 5:28-29). Yet, Jesus arose (Ps. 16:10; Ac. 2:24; 1 Cor. 15). The sarcophagus could not sequester the Savior. The cave could not contain the Christ. He lives, serving as our High Priest in heaven right now (Heb. 4:16). He defeated death and is the way for us to do the same.
What a great opportunity to expose our friends who either adhere to this faith or who know little of New Testament Christianity to truth lovingly presented. This larger than life moment may be a door we can open to searching souls. Let us let the Bible speak on this and all matters.