When Judges Pervert Justice

When one reads through the Old Testament prophets one picks up on the theme that judges ought to be righteous in their judgments. Isaiah pleads with them: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Jeremiah scolds them: “They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge” (Jeremiah 5:28). Micah preaches to them:

“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.” (Micah 3:9-12)

When we think of the standard for Moses recalls setting the standard for righteous judgment in Deuteronomy 1:16, “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.” Moses also tells us that the point of having judges to begin with is to uphold that which is right and condemn that which is wrong. He writes, “If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked” (Deuteronomy 25:1). Seemingly more and more, however, judges in our country are condemning the righteous and justifying the wicked. Indeed, if a judge does not judge righteously then state corruption and anarchy are the ultimate results.

Lest we think that judges in our country are blameless in this regard, consider the case of Robert Harlan, a man convicted of rape and murder in Colorado 10 years ago. During the sentencing phase, the judge in the case instructed the jury to make an “individual moral assessment.” Taking this to heart, several jurors researched Bible passages and discussed them with other jurors during deliberation. Based upon these deliberations, the man was sentenced to death. Recently, however, the Colorado Supreme Court reviewed the case and found (by a vote of 3 to 2) that the jurors had acted improperly in so consulting the Bible. The man’s sentence was changed to life without parole simply because the jurors consulted the Bible in making their own “individual moral assessment.” Is this justifying the righteous and condemning the wicked? It is just the opposite.

In contrast, consider the case over which America has been gripped this past week, Terri Schiavo. Here is a woman who could have lived and been cared for by parents who loved her, but because of the actions of one man and many judges, was starved to death over a period of twelve days. What kind of judge would allow someone to take food and water away from the weak, needy, and defenseless? In contrast to a man guilty of murder who will now live the rest of his natural life and be cared for at the expense of the taxpayer, this woman was, more or less, sentenced to death simply because she was disabled and could not express her desire to live. Even noted liberal Jesse Jackson said, “I feel so passionate about this injustice being done, how unnecessary it is to deny her a feeding tube, water, not even ice to be used for her parched lips.” He then said, “This is a moral issue and it transcends politics and family disputes.” I couldn’t agree with him more, yet the judges that reviewed this case and intervened in this situation failed to see what Jackson clearly saw, namely, that we have a moral obligation to help, not destroy, the weak. Again we ask, is this justifying the righteous and condemning the wicked? It obviously is not!

David understood the potential havoc that a corrupt judiciary could wreak upon a nation. He wrote about it in Psalm 82. David pleas for justice, but ultimately concludes that in the face of wicked judges, God will ultimately judge a nation. (Please note that “the gods” in this passage refers to Israel’s judiciary.)

“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.”

What will happen if our judges continue to condemn the righteous and justify the wicked? God says through Jeremiah, “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (Jeremiah 5:29). I’m afraid for our country and what God will do to her should we continue on the course that our judiciary is currently taking us and God would be right in so destroying us if that’s where we’re headed.

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Why the Catholic Church Ought not to Select a New Pope

If you have watched the news in the past week, you’ve likely seen the media attention that has been given to the death of the “pope”; it’s virtually inescapable. (I offer my personal condolences to our Catholic friends on their loss.) During this time, many in the media have been speculating on who the next “pope” will be. However, the Catholic church has, by and large, been only concerned with the funeral and burial arrangements. But now that those matters have been completed, the time has come for them to select a new “pope.” Here is why I hope that they don’t do that.

First, Jesus is the only head of the church and God only acknowledges Him as mediator between God and man. In Ephesians 5:23 Paul writes, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” Colossians 1:18 states, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” 1 Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” It is nothing more than crass arrogance to appoint a man to a position that only Jesus himself can occupy. It is my prayer that no one would so exalt himself before God as God will no doubt deal with them severely for so acting.

Second, there is no authority in the Bible to have earthly church organization or structure of leadership personnel beyond what is done at the congregational level. There were elders over the congregation at Jerusalem (Acts 11:30, 15:4). Paul and Barnabas carried out God’s pattern for earthly organization of leadership personnel in Acts 14:23 when they appointed elders in the congregations that they planted. We learn in the letters to Timothy and Titus that they also were directed to appoint elders in the congregations with whom they were working (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These congregations also had deacons who were special servants appointed over particular matters (Acts 6:1-7, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13). Peter (who the Catholic Church claims to be the first “pope”) makes it clear that there are no intervening organizations between the local eldership and the Chief Shepherd, Jesus (1 Peter 5:1-4). Never do we find in the New Testament any ongoing organization of leadership personal in the church beyond the local level. Hence, there is no New Testament authority for such an organized structure of personnel leadership beyond the local church.

Third, even at the local level, there is no one man who has a right to be the sole leader of the church. What we read in the New Testament regarding God’s desire for local leadership is that there should be a plural number of leaders, not a single. Paul told Titus to appoint “elders” in every city in which there was a church. Paul and Barnabas appointed “elders” in all the churches that they planted (Acts 14:23). There were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30, 15:4). No where in the New Testament do we ever see a single man in leadership position over a church or group of churches. Some argue that the “bishop” of 1 Timothy 3 is in fact a single man, but Paul makes it clear that the “bishop” is no different than an elder by using the two terms interchangeably in Titus 1:5, 7. Hence, there is no authority for anything less than a plural number of local church leaders, much less for a single leader over all churches worldwide.

If the Catholic Church desires to do what the Bible teaches regarding personnel leadership in the church, then they will make this crucial first step back toward the Bible pattern and not select a new pope. However, I don’t believe for a moment that they will do this and we’ll discuss why in next week’s bulletin article, “Why the Catholic Church Will Select a New Pope.”

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Why The Catholic Church Will Select a New Pope

Last week I had an article in the bulletin entitled, “Why the Catholic Church Ought Not Select A New Pope.” Biblical reasons were given as to why the papacy is an unscriptural arrangement in the New Testament model of organized church leadership. But as I mentioned, I’m not so na�ve as to think that the Catholic Church will all of a sudden do a 180 and reject the papacy (it would be good if they would, but I’m not holding my breath). There are reasons why they behave the way they do and so this week we will look at why the Catholic Church WILL select a new pope.

First, the Catholic Church will select a new pope because they love the traditions of men more than God’s word. The Bible holds no authority for the elevation of one man, except Jesus himself, into an authoritative leadership role over the church as a whole. One might then wonder from where the Catholic Church gets its justification for such. The answer can only come from centuries of tradition. The concept of a single “bishop” over a local congregation began in the 2nd century A.D. From this concept then sprang the concept that such a one would be the authority over the church for an entire city, then region, then country, and finally the world; that’s how things evolved. Catholicism, however, is proud of their tradition. They believe that tradition is equally authoritative as scripture. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “Catholics, on the other hand, hold that there may be, that there is in fact, and that there must of necessity be certain revealed truths apart from those contained in the Bible�” (Tradition and Living Magisterium). The Bible, however, teaches otherwise. In rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9). Jesus then said that they made “the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye” (Mark 7:13). The point of such passages is this: tradition is not on an equal footing with scripture; those who so proclaim reject Jesus’ words. Nonetheless, because Catholics value tradition higher than scripture, they will select a new pope.

Second, the Catholic Church will select a new pope because they desire an earthly, not a spiritual kingdom. When one surveys the physical wealth and property that the Catholic Church possesses, takes note that the Vatican is it’s own country in and of itself with it’s own diplomatic corps, and watches as world leaders prostrate themselves before a vessel of flesh and blood, it doesn’t take one long to conclude what kind of power the Catholic church desires to have over the affairs of men. And it hasn’t been too many centuries since the Catholic Church actually dictated policy to nation-states. Do any doubt that the Catholic Church would so do if given the opportunity today? All of this evidence points to the fact that the Catholic Church really is more concerned about an earthly kingdom than a heavenly one. Jesus, however, taught that the church would not be such an organization to possess physical wealth, property, and power and to wield such strong political influence in the world. Jesus himself was a pauper, yet the man who would be pope would have billions of dollars in assets at his disposal. What kind of kingdom did Jesus desire? Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). On one occasion, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus to tell them when His kingdom would come, Jesus reply was, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20,21). God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom composed of people who have a spiritual purpose.

Third, the Catholic church will select a new pope because they believe God speaks to the church through the pope. The Catholic Church states regarding the pope’s “ex cathedra” pronouncements:

“We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals….” (Vatican IV, Constitution of Christ’s Church, c. iv.)

Without a pope, Catholics proclaim that they cannot know what God’s will would continue to be for them in the world today. The Bible, however, teaches that we have everything that we need in order to be pleasing to God through the teaching of the scriptures. Paul wrote to Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” There is not one good work that man may do what is not set forth for us in the scriptures themselves first. Hence, there is no need for a pope to tell the church how to do as Jesus has, through the Holy Spirit, inspired the scriptures to accomplish that very purpose.

We could enumerate many more “reasons” why the Catholic Church will select a new pope, all of which reasons would be unscriptural, unbiblical, unsound, and anti-Christological. There can be no biblical basis for such an earthly position, which Catholicism states is the “Supreme Head” of the church, and the “Vicar of Christ,” which, says the Catholic Encyclopedia, is “a title of the pope implying his supreme and universal primacy, both of honour and of jurisdiction, over the Church of Christ” (Vicar of Christ). Can such be anything but blasphemy? These three reasons that we have here explored, however, are enough for us to conclude that the Catholic Church really isn’t interested in what the scriptures teach, but in doing their own apostate will. Yes, the Catholics will appoint a new pope and he will occupy the seat in Rome and continue to further Catholic dogma in the world today. It is clear, however, from reading the scriptures, that their dogma is not a product of God, but of man and man’s desire to glorify himself instead of Christ.

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