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Representing Christ on Earth

Pope Benedict XVI made a visit to the United States this past week. There was "pope-amania" as the media and millions of people followed his every step and hung on his every word. About mid-week he celebrated his 81' birthday at a White House party hosted by the President and Mrs. Bush. On Thursday, April 17 (`08) he held a "Mass" at Nationals Stadium in Washington D. C. According to an online MSNBC New Services article, at 5:45 A. M. Thursday, four hours before the Mass, there was standingroom-only on subways as people made their way to the stadium. A crowd of 46,000 cheered the pope when he arrived in a popemobile, and organizers said the demand for tickets to the event doubled the supply. One Catholic lady said she had dreamed all her life of seeing the pope. Another drove overnight to bring two priests to the Mass but didn't have a ticket to get in herself. She said she was happy at least to be in the vicinity of the pope. In an interview a man gushed about how awesome it was to be there and see the pope since he was "Christ's representative on earth." Roman Catholics adore the pope because they believe he is Christ's representative — the pontiff, high priest and head of the church on earth.

Scripture prevents those who respect the authority and all-sufficiency of the New Testament from accepting and adoring the pope as the head of Christ's church on earth. According to Catholic doctrine, the apostle Peter was the first pope. But when Cornelius the Gentile fell at Peter's feet in Acts 10:25-26 to worship him, Peter, unlike modern popes, forbade him to do so and instead lifted him up saying, "Stand up; I myself am also a man." Hebrews 3:1 identifies Jesus as our High Priest. The unchanging truth is, "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). The New Testament compels us to see Jesus is the only go-between needed or available between God and men. He is the only one qualified and able to take our sins away, thus giving mankind unimpeded access to God (see Hebrews 10:19-22). Jesus remains the preeminent head of His church on earth (Colossians 1:18), and through His hand-picked apostles He gave and continues to give guidance and instruction that is authoritative, sufficient, and complete (John 16:13; Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3). In Pt Peter 2:5, 9 Peter himself affirms the priesthood of every Christian as part of a holy and royal priesthood, and insists each Christian is a living stone in the spiritual house of God. That house is the church (1 Timothy 3:15), and according to Peter it is the privilege and responsibility of every member/priest of Christ's church to "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God though Jesus Christ." I'm convinced the Catholic Church goes far beyond the teaching of Scripture by singling out the pope and a special priesthood as the means of man's access to God and/or as the only ones authorized to offer to God. But I'm also convinced many members of the church of Christ fall far short of understanding and fleshing out the teaching of Scripture that Christians are royal and holy priests who are to represent and serve Christ on earth. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ