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Article 0108 - Distorted Terms
Distorted and Contrived Religious Terms
Jon Gary Williams
The world of "Christendom" is filled with churches which entertain many false beliefs. These beliefs can be identified by specific terms, some of which are found in the scriptures and some which are from outside the scriptures.
Over the centuries a number of Biblical terms have been given distorted meanings which conform to man-made teachings. Likewise, many contrived words, unknown to the scriptures, have been used which also convey false religious ideas.
Following are lists of these two categories: 1) terms found in the scriptures which are given distorted meanings; 2) contrived terms nowhere found in the scriptures and given erroneous connotations.
Part One - Terms Found In The Bible Which Have Been Given Distorted Meanings
Throughout the denominational world this word is widely misapplied to preachers. It is common to see church signs which have the preacher billed as "pastor." However, this is not a Biblical use of the word. The word pastor actually refers to an elder of a local church. It is from the Greek term poimen and is found only one time (Eph. 4:11). Elsewhere in the New Testament it is translated "shepherd," sometimes referring to Christ as the "good" or "chief" shepherd (Heb. 3:20; I Pet. 5:4). It definitely does not refer to a preacher. Rather, in the New Testament preachers are called: preachers (Rom. 10:14), ministers (Eph. 3:7) and evangelists (Acts 21:8).
This is another title commonly given to priests and preachers of various denominations. It is used to identify those who are perceived to have special religious attribute, worthy of adoration and reverence. At times a more extended form of this title can be seen - for example, Right Reverend or Most Reverend. However, such titles are obvious, corrupted uses of the word.
The word reverend is to be used only with reference to God Himself. The Psalmist made this point clear. "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name" (Psalms 111:9). No man is to be addressed in this way, for such is blasphemy. And anyone who accepts such a title should be ashamed.
Since the early days of Catholicism, leaders of local parishes have been referred to as "priests." However, this title was never a part of the teaching of the New Testament church. Rather, its use is merely a carryover from the priests of the Old Testament covenant. In the New Testament church no special people are so designated.
Actually, the scriptures teach that God considers all Christians as priests, being called a holy and royal priesthood. "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ . . . But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . . " (I Pet. 2:5,9).
All Christians are spoken of as "kings and priests." "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever" (Rev. 1:6). The distorted use of this term is just another of the many false teachings found in Catholicism.
This is a title given to an elevated head of the Catholic Church who serves under the "Pope" exercising control over a diocese, or a large area of land. Such a misuse of the word "bishop is beyond comprehension! This demonstrates how far removed Catholicism is from the original church of Jesus Christ.
The Greek term for bishop is episckopos and means one who "oversees" and is so translated in Acts 20. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episckopas), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). This is simply one of the words which describes the elders who oversee a local congregation. It never refers to a high-ranking office such as seen in the Catholic church.
That the word bishop is not to be used in this way is made clear by the apostle Paul. In his letter to the Philippians he spoke of the "bishops" - plural, not singular. "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons" (Phil. 1:1).
People often use the word "church" when referring to a physical, religious structure, similar to the word "sanctuary." People are heard speaking of a church building as their "church." Yet, this view is completely erroneous. The word church is from the Greek ekklesia and simply means "the called out," referring to the people who make up the church, the body of believers (Matt. 16:18). It is never used of an edifice.
In New Testament terms, the church is made up of the saved, those who become a part of it when added to it by Jesus. The scriptures are clear on this point. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
For many years people have heard preachers speak of a coming spiritual "kingdom" on earth over which Jesus will reign for 1000 years. Such a future kingdom is pure fantasy nowhere taught in the scriptures. The only kingdom found in the New Testament is the church of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:18,19 Jesus spoke of establishing His church and immediately referred to it as "the kingdom." The kingdom existed in apostolic days (Col. 1:13) and the apostle John said that he and others were in that kingdom (Rev. 1:9).
There is no such future kingdom. This teaching is part of the premillennial doctrine which separates the church for the kingdom. It says that when the kingdom Jesus came to establish was rejected, in its place He temporarily substituted the church. However, the church is not temporary, for it was purchased with Jesus blood (Acts 20:28).
People are sometimes heard to speak of being a "witness" for Christ. What they mean is that they want to tell someone about Jesus. Though well-meaning, they are misusing the word "witness." Many preachers are guilty of encouraging people to "witness" for Jesus. However, no one today can be a witness for Christ. Why? Because to be a witness one must be able to give first-hand evidence.
The apostles were witnesses for Jesus and his resurrection, hence, they were actual eye witnesses. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me . . . Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:8, 22). No one today can "witness" for Jesus. This is a false belief.
In the Catholic Church priests are commonly called "Father." This is another of the corrupted titles found in Catholicism. Sometimes priests have been known to become offended is someone failed to call them "father."
In Matthew 23 Jesus addressed the Jewish scribes and Pharisees, exposing their corruption. They were those who elevated themselves, desiring special recognition of the people. They wore special religious garments and prayer charms. They wanted to be called by exclusive titles, such a Rabbi. It is here that Jesus plainly taught the people that the word "father" was never to be used as a religious title. "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9).
The idea of salvation by "faith only" is a doctrine widely held throughout the denominational world. This teaching began with the works of such men as John Calvin and Martin Luther and was their response to the extreme works found in Catholicism. With them the pendulum swung from extreme works to extreme faith, whereas the Bible teaches a mutual harmony of both faith and works. Yes, the lost are saved by faith, but not by faith alone.
James plainly said that the lost are not justified by faith only. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (Jam. 2:24). Actually, the scriptures include other steps in God's plan of salvation: Repentance (Acts 17:30), Confession (Rom. 10:10), Baptism (Acts 22:16).
Holiness and pentecostal churches are known for emphasizing the word "sanctify." They believe that in addition to being saved there is another level to reach in which one is truly "sanctified," and is usually associated with being baptized with the Holy Spirit. However, such a belief is nowhere found in the scriptures. The word "sanctify" (sanctification) simply means to be separated, that is, to be set apart from sin.
The Bible clearly shows that being "washed" or "sanctified" or "justified" all refer to the same thing. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Cor. 6:11). Hence, of itself the word "sanctify" has no special meaning.
Many pentecostal churches claim that people today can possess a power to speak in so-called mysterious "heavenly tongues." When witnessing such "tongue speaking" it becomes obvious that this is nothing more than lip stammering. By contrast, in the first century those with the gift of speaking in tongues did not speak in mysterious tongues. Rather, they spoke in human languages in which they had not been educated. That was the miracle of it.
On the day of Pentecost the apostles demonstrated this to be the case. ". . .every man heard them speak in his own language . . . how hear we every man in our own tongue . . . we do hear them speak in our own tongue" (Acts 2:6,8,11).
The scriptures clearly teach that the age of miracles, including speaking in tongues, would cease long ago. "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (I Cor. 13:8-10).
Holy Spirit Baptism
Some pentecostal type churches claim that people today can have a "baptism of the Holy Spirit" like the apostles received. However, such a claim is foolishness. The baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit received by the apostles was exclusively for them. Jesus told the apostles that only they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. "And there appeared unto them [apostles] cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:3,4).
The baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to perform exceptional miracles, for example, raising the dead (Acts 9:49; 20:9,10). And notice that the apostle Paul spoke of the special "signs" of an apostle. "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds" (II Cor. 12:12). All miraculous manifestations, including the baptism of the Holy Spirit, came to an end before the close of the first century (I Cor. 13:8-10). It is false to claim that people today can receive such a miraculous measure of the Spirit.
The claim is made by many preachers that they have been "called" by God. By this they mean that God called them through some unusual experience. Some have said that God spoke to them through a bright light, telling them they were to preach. Some have claimed they were called to preach when they were seriously ill. Others have said God, in a dream, called them to preach.
A farmer once told his friends that while he was plowing, in the clouds he saw the letters G P C and interpreted this to mean Go Preach Christ. But one of his friends told him, "From the looks of your crops, I believe God was telling you to Go Plow Corn."
Indeed, the scriptures speak of a "calling," but not of a mysterious, extraordinary calling. Actually, the Bible teaches that all who have obeyed the gospel have been called - called in the same way - through the "gospel" of Christ. "Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 2:14). There is no other way to be called.
Jehovah's Witnesses and a few other religions are known for teaching that "hell" is not a real place and that no one will go there. They believe when the lost die they merely cease to exist, which means that hell is nothing more than death. However, Jesus exposed this idea when he taught that the souls of the lost continue to exist. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28).
Jesus spoke of hell as a place of "outer darkness" (Matt. 25:30). The apostle Paul, speaking of the lost, said, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence o the Lord . . . " (II Thess. 1:9). Likewise, the apostle Peter spoke of hell as the "chains of darkness" (II Pet. 2:4), and Jude as "the blackness of darkness" (Jude 13).
Most of the protestant world teaches that God individually predestinates (selects) those who are to be saved, even before they are born. Though the Bible speaks of predestination (Rom. 8:29,30), this is not individual predestination. Rather, God has predetermined a group to be saved - that group being made up of all who choose to obey Him (Heb. 5:9).
This belief is false for two reasons. First, because the scriptures teach that God wants all to be saved (II Tim. 3:9). The water of life is for "whosoever" (Rev. 22:17). Second, because God does not favor any person over another - He is not a respecter of persons. "And Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him" (Acts 10:34,35).
In the Catholic Church some deceased people are elevated to what is called "Sainthood" and hold a special place in Catholic veneration. Such people are said to be "Saints."
There are four steps before someone can become "Sainted." First, such a person must be submitted by a Catholic Bishop. Second, a Postulator (church official) who coordinates the process and serves as an advocate, must prove that the candidate lived heroic virtues. Third, one miracle acquired through the candidate's intercession is required. Fourth, before Canonization a second miracle is required. Then the Pope declares the person a "Saint." Obviously, such teaching is nowhere found in the scriptures.
Actually, the word "saint" is simply a contraction of the word "sanctify" which means "to be set apart." The fact is, all Christians are "saints," because they have been set apart to God (I Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1). Also, it is quite evident that having died is not a qualification for being a "saint."
This word is often falsely applied to a yet future wicked person. It is claimed that at some point this peculiar person will arise to wage a so-called "Armageddon" war against Christ. Such a doctrine is completely false, being entirely fabricated. There will be no such future person.
The scriptures clearly teach there was not one, but many anti-christs, and that they existed in the first century. "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that anti-christ shall come, even now there are man anti-christs . . . " (I Jn. 2:18). "For Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an anti-christ" (II Jn. 7).
The fundamental belief of the anti-christs was that all flesh is inherently sinful. And since all flesh is sinful, Jesus could not have possessed a fleshly body. To them, Jesus only seemed to have a body of flesh, appearing rather in some spiritual, illusory form.
One aspect of premillennial doctrine is the belief that before a so-called millennial reign of Christ on earth there will be a "tribulation" period of seven years on earth, corresponding with a seven-year "rapture" of the saved above the earth. Such teaching is nowhere found in the scriptures and is completely false.
The "tribulation" mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:21 (to which premillennialists refer) was a tribulation that took place at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and was a part of several events that took place before that generation would die. "Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, til all these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24 34). Also the apostle John said that he and others were experiencing "tribulation" (Rev. 1:9). A yet future seven year tribulation on earth is perverted teaching.
Some, including Jehovah's Witnesses, teach that man has no immortal soul, but that the soul is only man's breath, and when man dies there is nothing which lives on. Such a teaching repugnant and defies Biblical scriptures.
That man possesses a spiritual nature should be obvious to anyone who reads God's word. In the very beginning it is abundantly clear that man was made in God's own image. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. (Gen. 1:27). Hence, man is in God's spiritual image.
The scriptures reveal that there is something about man (the soul) which exists after death. Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). And the apostle Paul said, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8). Also, the scriptures teach that at death the soul departs from the body. "And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) . . . " (Gen. 35:18).
The Catholic Church teaches that sins are to be confessed to a priest. This practice is commonly referred to as the "confessional," when a person confesses sins to a priest in a "confession booth." This doctrine is blasphemy, for no man can absolve another man of his sins. This is solely the prerogative of Deity.
In the scriptures the word confession is used in two ways. First, it is confessing one's faith in Christ. "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32). Second, it is the confession of one's sins to God. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I Jn. 1:9).
When referring to Sunday it is very common for people to use the word "Sabbath," as in "Sabbath Sunday." However, this is a misuse of the word. Sabbath (sabbaton) means "rest" and was the day on which the Jews, under the law of Moses, were to rest. The scriptures never use the word "Sabbath" with reference to the first day of the week (Sunday), for the two are completely separate.
The first day of the week is the day on which Christians assemble to worship and partake of the Lord's supper. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight" (Acts 20:7).
Baptism - Modes of
It is commonly believed that there are three different "modes" of baptism, that is, "sprinkling," "pouring" and "immersion." And it is assumed that any of these "modes" is acceptable. However, there are no different "modes" of baptism - for baptism itself, is the mode. The word baptism is from the Greek word baptisma which literally means to dip, to immerse, to bury.
The apostle Paul illustrated this meaning. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3,4). And Luke recorded a perfect example of baptism by immersion. "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip . . . " (Acts 8:38,39).
The word "Armageddon" is another part of the premillennial doctrine that when Christ returns He will reign over an earthly kingdom for 1000 years. It is claimed that prior to this there will be a great battle between Jesus and a so-called "anti-christ." It is further assumed that this battle will occur at a literal place, called Armageddon.
This is just fanciful imagination. There is no such place as Armageddon. This is merely a symbolic name appearing only one time - in the highly figurative book of Revelation (Rev. 16:16). But this is not referring to a great, physical battle. Rather, the apostle John was symbolically addressing the spiritual conflict between Christ and Satan. It is always good to keep in mind that whenever a doctrine appeals to the symbolic book of Revelation for support, it is essential to be watchful.
It is discouraging to know that many words found in the scriptures are used to promote distorted meanings. However, when these words are examined with a proper exegesis, one can easily see the true intent of the inspired writers.
Part Two - Contrived Terms Unknown To The Bible
This is a word widely used to describe the various divided groups found in the world of "Christendom." During the expansion of the Reformation a number of churches were formed, all adhering to their particular creeds. Though the relationship between these churches was contentious, as time passed this changed to a cautious acceptance, and eventually became an "agree to disagree" alliance. So the word "denominations" became a charitable way of saying they were divided.
However, the concept of divisiveness is contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. The apostle Paul was clear on this matter. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Cor. 1:10).
Beginning during the reformation movement, this word was used to describe non-Catholic churches, for they were "protesting" the flaws of Roman Catholicism. Over the years this term became a fixed expression to describe the anti-Catholic view of these churches. To this day it is common to hear people being asked, "Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
Though the Lord's church should protest all that is wrong, the term"Protestant" cannot be used to describe the church. The church of the New Testament is neither Catholic nor Protestant.
Join (the church)
"Joining the church" is an expression describing someone becoming a part of a particular church. In most circumstances the acceptance of a person into a church's fellowship is determined by a vote of the members. Such a concept reveals a lack of understanding of how one becomes a member of the church.
This practice is akin to joining a social group or civic organization and is foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. No one can "join" the Lord's church. Rather, lost people are "added" to it when they obey the gospel. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
Most denominations teach that an alien sinner is saved from sins by believing in Christ and then praying what is called the "sinner's prayer." People are told they must express their faith by praying for salvation. However, the scriptures teach nothing of the kind. Rather, praying for the forgiveness of sins is meant for Christians when they commit sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
The New Testament contains no examples of alien sinners being told to pray to have their sins forgiven. To be forgiven of sins a non-Christian must believe in Christ. ". . . for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). They must also repent of sins. "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30). They must then confess faith in Christ. ". . . and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). They are then to be baptized. "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins . . . " (Acts 22:16).
The millennial reign refers to a future, so-called, one thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Most denominations believe that when Christ returns He will set up a literal, earthly kingdom over which He will rule for one thousand years. To the contrary, when Jesus comes again, the earth will be destroyed. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Pet. 3:10).
The scriptures plainly teach that closest Jesus will come to earth is in the clouds. "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the resurrected dead] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:17).
This word refers to a so-called rapturing up of the saved (both dead and living) to be with Christ when He comes again, and is based on a misuse of I Thessalonians 4:17. It is taught that this "rapture" is to last for seven years. At the end of the seven years Jesus and those raptured will then live on earth for a one thousand-year millennial period.
No such teaching is found in the word of God. To the contrary, when Jesus returns, it will be immediate, with no seven-year delay. And at that time all those who ascend to be with Christ will at that moment go to be with God. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (I Cor. 15:24).
Saved - Cannot Be Lost
It is taught by most denominations that once people are saved they can never be lost. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as "perseverance of the saints," suggesting that the saved will persevere to the end. However, the Bible clearly teaches that the saved can be lost.
Paul told the Galatians, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4). Timothy was told, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith . . ." (I Tim. 4:1). The writer of Hebrews said, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Heb. 3:12). In fact, the apostle Paul said that even he could be lost (Cor. 9:27).
This is the practice of the majority of churches wherein water is either sprinkled or poured on small infants - - it is sometimes referred to as "christening." Such a practice is a spinoff of the belief that all children inherit the sin of Adam, often referred to as "Adamic sin." However, that children are born guilty of sin is contrary to Biblical teaching. Jesus Himself said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mk. 10:14).
To be a subject for baptism there are several prerequisites. First, one must be able to believe in Christ (John 8:24). Second, one must be able to repent of sins (Acts 17:30). Third, one must be able to confess faith in Christ (Matt. 10:21). Since they are not capable of doing any of these things, infants are not subject to baptism.
In the Catholic Church it is taught that the communion emblems become the actual body and blood of Jesus. This practice is called the "Eucharist." It is believed that when the priest prays over the bread and fruit of the vine, those items become the actual body and blood of Jesus. This is based on an erroneous view of what Jesus said in Matthew 26:26-28.
When instituting the Lord's supper, Jesus said of the bread, "this is my body." Then, of the fruit of the vine He said, "this is my blood." From this it is claimed that the emblems change into the actual body and blood of Jesus. Such an interpretation is obviously false. When the Lord said "this is my body" and "this is my blood," He was not speaking literally for as He spoke these words His blood was still flowing through His veins. Since it was impossible for the "bread" and "fruit of the vine" to be Jesus' actual body and blood, this must be understood figuratively. The bread and fruit of the vine were only emblematic of His body and blood.
Christmas / Easter
These are terms commonly used of the celebration of the birth and resurrection of Jesus. However, they are both founded on the traditions of men and have no Biblical basis. In fact, the actual dates of Jesus' birth and resurrection are unknown. As to Christmas, many do not realize that this is a special mass devoted to Christ ("Christ-mas") and that such an observance was not known for hundreds of years after the establishment of the Lord's church.
As to Easter, the earliest record of such observance was not until the second century. Though the King James Version has the word "Easter" in Acts 12:4, this is a term arbitrarily inserted. The word here is Pascha, and simply refers to the Jewish Passover.
It should be kept in mind that the scriptures place no emphasis on setting aside a time to observe either the birth or resurrection of Jesus. By way of contrast, it is important to know that the only observance regarding Jesus is the remembrance of His death in the Lord's supper (Matt. 26:26; Acts 20:7).
Church - Headquarters
Denominational churches are known for having centralized headquarters located in specific cities, for example: Catholicism (Rome), Mormonism (Salt Lake City), Southern Baptist (Nashville, TN), and so on. These headquarters are governed by either one individual or a board of directors. Decisions about belief and practice are generally determined at these headquarters.
However, this is not true of the Lord's church, for in the New Testament there was no earthly headquarters. Rather, local congregations were autonomous (self-governing) and did not look to a centralized, worldly body for direction.
The Bible teaches that Christ is the head of His church. "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 (Col. 1:18). Since Christ is the head of the church and since Christ is in Heaven, therefore the headquarters of the church must be in Heaven. Every congregation is to look to Jesus for guidance and this is done by looking to Him through His word (John 12:48).
Clergy - Laity
In both the protestant and Catholic worlds the word clergy is generally used for those who are preachers or priests and others who hold high religious status. This word originates from the Latin, clericus, meaning "learned men." The function of the clergy principally involves overseeing their religion's doctrines and practices.
The word laity is the exact opposite of the position of clergy, for it pertains to those who are considered beneath the clergy. Laity is from the Greek laikos, meaning "the common people" and such people are generally referred to as layman or layperson. Such concepts as clergy and laity are foreign to the New Testament, for in Christianity no one is considered to be above another. The Bible clearly teaches that regarding some above others is contrary to the nature of God. "For there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:11).
The word Pope derives from the Latin "papa" and refers to the physical head, or Father, of the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of a Pope is fundamental to the ecclesiastical (pyramid) structure of Catholicism and stands in stark contrast to the Lord's church. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of one man being a universal head of the church; this concept is blasphemous.
It is also taught that such an office began with the apostle Peter and that it has continued unbroken through the centuries. Yet, history shows that such an office did not appear until the seventh century A. D. That Peter was not a Pope is shown by the fact that when he became an apostle he was a married man (Matt. 8:14) and that he remained married for many years (I Cor. 9:5). According to Catholic doctrine this would disqualify him from being a part of the clergy.
This word describes a geographical area overseen by a so-called "bishop" of the Catholic Church, with each diocese being directly subject to the Pope. But the church of the New Testament knew no such thing. To the contrary each church was an autonomous body and subject only to Christ Himself, the Head of the church (Col. 1:18). In Christ's structure for His church there is nothing above the local congregation.
Councils are official church symposiums in which moral and doctrinal matters for the Catholic Church are negotiated by its Bishops. There have been several dozen such general councils. An issue approved by the Bishops is sent to the Pope. To become acceptable it must then be approved by the Pope. Such councils are blatantly contrary to the Bible.
The only source of authority for the Lord's church is the inspired word of God, for it contains all that men need to know on matters of faith and morals. The apostle Paul said, "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, throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16,17). And the apostle Peter said, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (II Pet. 1:3).
Within the structure of the Catholic Church are found several so-called "holy orders" (or functions). They are named: Priest, Deacon (minister of the altar), Subdeacon (assistant to the Deacon), Lector (reader), Acolyte (worship assistant), Exorcist (expeller of oppressions), Ostiarius (doorkeeper). However, in the New Testament the Lord's church had no special, titled functions. All such "holy orders" are obviously the invention of men and completely foreign to the scriptures.
Extreme Unction ("special anointing") refers to a Catholic priest giving a special blessing of salvation to someone who has just died or is at the point of death. This is also called the bestowal of one's "last rites." But the scriptures are void of such a doctrine. No man has the power to forgive the sins of someone who is at the point of death. This is nothing short of "deathbed salvation." Nor can anyone's sins be forgiven after they die. A person's spiritual condition is sealed at death.
Hebrews 9:27 makes it abundantly clear that judgment follows death. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Also, in Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man experiencing suffering after death vividly shows there is no forgiveness of sins after death.
The Catholic Church teaches that at death the souls of saved people go to a place called "purgatory" to be temporarily punished for their venial (temporal, lesser) sins. The length of time spent in "purgatory" depends on the volume of such sins. It is also taught that the length of time one spends in purgatory can be reduced by the granting of "indulgences." (See next) This doctrine is the invention of man and is nowhere found in the scriptures.
This is a pardon granted by a priest which reduces the length of time a person is punished for temporal sins in Purgatory. Some of the things for which a priest can grant the pardon of an indulgence, are: Praying the Nicene Creed or Apostles' Creed, reciting several approved prayers, reciting Psalm 51, a devout use of a holy object (a crucifix or rosary), prayer for the Pope. This belief, along with Purgatory, is completely unknown to the scriptures.
Baptism - for the dead (baptism by proxy)
This is the Mormon doctrine of living people being baptized for dead people, and is erroneously based on I Cor. 15:29. However, the baptism mentioned here is not a baptism on behalf of dead people. Rather, Paul is responding to those who said there is no resurrection of dead bodies (v.12). He argued that if their bodies will not be raised, why, then, do they baptize their bodies.
The only thing that can be raised is that which dies, that is, the physical body. Hence, Paul was not speaking of people who have died. The resurrection spoken of in this chapter is the resurrection of physical bodies (vv. 35, 36, 37, 38, 40, 44).
The English word "Mass" refers to the main Catholic public worship. It culminates in a sacrament of the Eucharist. (See Eucharist)
The Mass consists of two parts. The first includes readings from scripture or other sources, sermon, and intercessory prayer. The second includes the presentation of bread and wine at the altar followed by the Eucharistic prayer, after which the members receive the elements.
The focal point of the Catholic Mass is the claim that in the Eucharist, the "sacrifice" (crucifixion) of Jesus is repeated every week. The Catholic Mass is not only a man-made, laborious practice, the teaching of the weekly sacrifice of Jesus is contrary to the New Testament. The scriptures clearly reveal that Jesus offered his body "once for all" (Heb. 10: 10).
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Many words unknown to the scriptures are used to convey false religious ideas. When these words are properly researched and compared to the scriptures, the corruptive use of them becomes obvious.