they will never be wrong to the extent that their wrong will be salvation-threatening to the people of God. Yes, they are human beings and will make mistakes, but in their capacity as shepherds, God will not allow them to make salvation-threatening errors.
Don’t forget that God made promises concerning them (unless you do not believe the promises of God). Mathew 16:18, “So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it.” Don’t you think that the powers of hell would have conquered the congregation (Church) of God if her leaders made salvation-threatening errors?
Also, Matthew 28:18-20 – “Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’’’ Since when did Jesus cease to be with His Church, and if He has ceased, whom did he give that message to? Also note that He told the apostles to go and teach and not to go and write a book for believers to read and reference. Jesus knew that such a move would create unnecessary confusion, so He did not instruct His disciples to do that. Jesus' disciples, knowing what He wanted, did not write a book for reference. However, some Christians are trying to use the writings of the apostles as a complete reference.
“However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking of his own accord, but will say only what he has been told; and he will reveal to you the things to come.” – John 16: 13. Has the Spirit of Truth suddenly become the spirit of lies? Also note that the verse says, “Things that are to come”. How long is this “to come”? – Food for thought. Are we to rely on a "Spirit of Truth" or a book of truth to guide the Church?
Believing in the Bible is believing in people
You can’t believe in the Bible unless you believe in people. Believing in the Bible is believing in the witness of other people about the bible, which is what you are at the same time rejecting by insisting on “the Bible alone” and “the Bible is the final authority”.
Anyone who says that the Bible is the final authority is actually saying that he himself is the final authority. Why?
The Bible has to be interpreted, and the notions of “sola scriptura” and “the Bible is the final authority” mean that anyone can interpret the Bible on their own. Yet people come out with different (and often contradictory) interpretations of the Bible, each person claiming to be right, everyone claiming to have interpreted it under the guidance of the (same) Holy Spirit! If relying on the Bible alone creates such confusion, God must have a more definitive way of letting His people know His truth. Isn't it true that God gave that way to us but many people just lost it? Continue to read and you will probably get the answer. Don't forget what you have read above. All the information in this article have to be connected to get the whole message.
How do you know that the Bible, and not for example the Qur’an, is the true word of God? It is because someone, maybe your father, your mother or your pastor, told you so. Without your belief in that person, you cannot believe in the Bible. How do you know that the words that are in the Bible are the true words of God? It is because (the people of) the Catholic Church told you that they are, because the NT was put together by the Catholic Church from among many writings purporting to be authentic Christian teachings. So how can you accept the Bible without accepting (the people of) the Catholic Church?
“Martin Luther had genuine reasons for breaking away”
People will also point out the reasons why Luther and co broke away. Whether they were right or wrong, there is no genuine reason for a Christian to break the unity that Christ established.
Unity is something that was so dear to Jesus that He devoted a big chunk of His prayer in John 17 to it. Read the whole of John chapter 17. Notice the number of times Jesus used the word “one” (or probably united or some other word in your Bible version) referring to unity. Note verse 21: “May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”
A big part of our success in letting people know that Jesus came from God and is the son of God and is God depends on our unity. The devil, knowing this has tried his best to disrupt this unity, and has succeeded in using some people to accomplish it to some extent.
We have been admonished throughout the scriptures, especially by Paul, to remain united and never allow anything to touch that unity. Read these passages: 1 Timothy 6:2-5; 1 Timothy 1:3-4; Jude 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:2; Acts 4:32; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 3:2-9; 1 Corinthians 12:3-27; 2 Corinthians 13:11; etc.
We can learn more from John 17 than unity. In verse 11 Jesus said “…Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name ….” Then in verse 12, He said “…I have watched over them and not one is lost except one who was destined to be lost ….”
The one who was destined for destruction was the only one who separated himself from the group (de-united)!
Also note in verse 20 that Jesus made this prayer not only for the apostles of that time, but also for all generations of Christians. We expect that the efficacy of that prayer will extend to the church for all ages.
Characteristics of a matured Christian
Three main characteristics every Christian should possess are first obedience, second faith and third prayer. The level of these graces in a Christian will show how matured a Christian really is. The action of Luther and co makes me doubt whether they were matured in these areas.
If Jesus taught nothing at all, He taught obedience. First, it was by His obedience to the Father’s will that He came to earth, suffered and died on the cross. Without this obedience, you and I would have no hope of salvation. Our hope of salvation began with Jesus’ obedience. – Philippians 2:5-11. Second, Jesus demonstrated this obedience after He was found in the temple. “He went down with them then and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. ...” - Luke 2:51.
To make it amply clear, Jesus taught what He lived. “Then Jesus told the crowds and his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So do whatever they tell you and follow it, but stop doing what they do, because they don’t do what they say.” - Mathew 23:1-3. There wasn’t a pretty relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees. These were the same Pharisees that Jesus often condemned. In fact, He had just finished “debates” with them where they tried to catch Him with the law. Many times the Pharisees even tried to arrest and kill Jesus. Yet Jesus did not ask the people to disobey them. He rather categorically asked the people to obey them. These are some of the unpalatable things Jesus said about the Pharisees:
- Jesus calls them whitewashed tombs – Matthew 23:25-28
- Jesus told his disciples to guard against the teaching of the Pharisees – Matthew 16:6-12.
- Jesus said, “For I tell you, if your righteousness does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:20.
- Jesus said the Pharisees prevent people from entering heaven but do not enter themselves – Matthew 23:13.
- The Pharisees make converts more deserving of hell – Matthew 23:15.
- The Pharisees neglect to practice justice, mercy and honesty – Matthew 23:23-24.
It was after Jesus had instructed the people to obey the Pharisees that He said all the hash things about the Pharisees in Matthew 23. These are the “kinds” of people Jesus instructed the Jews to obey. Many Christians today have the wrong notion that they must only obey leaders who are holy. What a deception!
Paul understood this command very well and so even though he believed that in Christ the Jewish law was no longer necessary for salvation, in Acts 21:17-26 he showed his obedience by participating in the ceremony of purification, when some people were peddling rumours that he was preaching against such practices. Mathew 5:38- 42 – This teaching is about revenge but you also see in it a clear teaching about obedience. Verse 39: “But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well.” Verse 40: “If someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Verse 41: “And if anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him.”
In these verses, Jesus has even asked us to obey people we have a legitimate right to resist, oppose, fight or disobey.
Paul too made it abundantly clear in Romans 13:1-7, “Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God.” – Verse 1.
Enough on obedience. Let’s move to faith and prayer.
Show me someone who has faith and yet does not believe that his prayers can move mountains and let me show you someone who has faith and believes that his prayers can move mountains. No matter why Martin Luther and co had to break away, they could have maintained the unity and exercised the required obedience and yet achieved what they wanted. There is even another question mark on their decision to break away. They discovered that there were things going wrong in the Church, so they decided to fight but could not have their way. They then decided to take some people and leave the church, to form their own perfect church, leaving behind the masses who they believed were destined for hell. This is selfishness of the highest degree that Jesus would condemn.
I would not be surprised if Luther and his friends were the types who were very good at talking but not good at praying and fasting. I believe that if they combined intensive prayer and fasting with their talking, and exercised enough patience, they would be able to turn around whatever was wrong in the church (if indeed there was something wrong). If they prayed and fasted but God did not change anything, then it means that there was nothing God was supposed to change.
The fruits of obedience, prayer and fasting
Let me give you a live example to make this point very clear. This is something that happened in 1990 in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR), a movement in the Catholic Church. This took place in a prayer group in the Wa Diocese, Ghana. I was not a member of the group then but this incident was related to me by one of the members of the team who is still with the group today and can be contacted for verification.
An outreach ministry (now called Faith Outreach Ministry) was formed based on a revelation to one of the members. This ministry went out to various parts of the diocese to preach the word of God and pray for people (healing and deliverance). God was really using this ministry to heal, deliver and touch people in many ways. Yet after operating for just about a year the leadership of the Church in the diocese stopped them from moving out to evangelize. They were also asked to stop organizing healing and deliverance prayers for the general public. They could only attend their normal prayer meetings and pray together and only pray for individual members of their groups. They couldn’t do more than this.
What would be the reaction of most Christians in this situation? “To hell with the church leaders. It is not only in the Catholic Church that one can serve God. Let’s break away and form our own church and serve God. After all we are not being allowed to serve God in the Catholic Church,” forgetting of unity and obedience. Instead of following this line of thinking, the team took an admirable path worthy of emulation by all.
Now, before you start condemning the leadership of the Church, let me make a few things clear. The leadership was carrying out their responsibility of ensuring that everyone was in line (yes, they have that responsibility and authority). Peter and co did that all the time. They are responsible for ensuring that people do not introduce wrong doctrine or practices into the Church and so whenever they feel unsure about or do not agree with the practices of a group, they have that mandate to intervene. So in most cases, the intention of the leadership is not to stop the group altogether, but to pause them and to observe and ascertain the genuineness of the group, as you will see later. This is where we need to exercise obedience that we are obliged to exercise, and exercise our faith, that if it is indeed God who has instructed and empowered us to do what we are doing He will make a way where there seems to be no way, rather than destroying the unity which is a very key ingredient for evangelization.
It is also worth noting that at this point, some members of the CCR were breaking away from the Church to form their own churches. Some of these with the gift of healing and deliverance would form prayer camps and start “extorting” money from people for healing and deliverance. This was a very unacceptable situation. From the way the ministry was going, it would be very easy for them to break away and form a church.
So the church leaders had good reasons for stopping the ministry, even though if I were in their shoe, I would not do the same. What I would probably do would be to assign a priest to the ministry and let him monitor and report their activities. They would then get to find out that the ministry didn’t have the intention that the leaders were afraid that it had.
Alright, enough on that. Even though the ministry was, by the action of the diocesan leadership of the Church, given good reasons to break away, they did not do that. They rather sat back and prayed their way through.
Starting from the time they were stopped, the ministry used to organize 3 days fasting and prayers every week. During these days of fasting and prayers, they did not sleep in their houses; they would go deep into the bush where they prayed through most of the night and only went back to their homes at dawn to bath and go to work. There were even times when, to add to the suffering of fasting, they would kneel on stones to pray. They did this for one (1) year and then God worked a miracle to restore the ministry.
This happened during one Pentecost vigil. This is a programme that is organized every year, even to date. It is organized on the night before the commemoration of Pentecost where we remind God of what he did for the disciples on the day of Pentecost and ask Him to do the same for us. On that particular day, because they were asked not to organize prayers for people, they just chose to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (Eucharist). There were two (2) priests present. As the worship progressed, people who were oppressed by evil spirits started manifesting, wailing and falling here and there, without anyone touching them. These priests had to engage in deliverance. In fact, one thing most people outside the CCR (at least within the Catholic Church) believed when people fell during prayers was that they were pushed down by the deliverance ministers. However, that night, these priests, one of whom was chaplain of the CCR for the diocese witnessed something that convinced them that something extraordinary, and of God, was happening in the CCR.
To top it all, this priest (may his soul rest in peace) was so empowered that night that the next day (which was Sunday), his homily (preaching) was extraordinary. While he was preaching, demons were wailing in the church. Following these events, the next day (Monday) the ministry received a letter from the bishop giving them permission to resume their work. Wow! What a mighty God we serve! The angels bow before him, heaven and earth adore him. How many people would be able to do what this ministry did? Truth be told, some people had already left the church for similar reasons. Some of them now regret for leaving the church. Some have even returned. Glory to God in the highest.
Thanks to people who loved God and did everything possible to preserve the unity of brotherhood; people who were obedient to the chosen leaders of God; people of faith and prayer, the CCR is well and firmly established in the Church and has touched many lives. Through the CCR, the ministry of healing and deliverance is once again very active in the Catholic Church and so many people are now benefiting from it. This would never have been possible if everyone else towed the line of Martin Luther and his friends.
Effects of the Protestant “revolution”
I believe that Martin Luther and co had good intentions for breaking away from the Catholic Church, but however good their intentions were I don’t believe they were according to the will of God. The question to ask is, “Were they able to form the perfect church?” Didn’t people also break away from the church they formed for similar reasons? In fact, soon after they broke away, they fought physical wars among themselves. Do your research.
What they succeeded in doing was to create a very big rift in Christianity and set the precedence for splintering and further splintering of churches to the point that Christians are no longer sure whom to follow. Remember that this was not the case before the “revolt” of Martin Luther and his friends in 1517. The result of this splintering is that it has kept some people away from Christianity. It has also given the opportunity to imposters to use the name of Jesus to accrue wealth.
Offices in the Church
Another thing that is fuelling the splintering of churches in our day is the ignorance of the offices God has assigned to people. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, “Now Christ's body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole. And those whom God has appointed in the Church are, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers; after them, miraculous powers, then gifts of healing, helpful acts, guidance, various kinds of tongues. Are all of them apostles? Or all prophets? Or all teachers? Or all miracle-workers? Do all have the gifts of healing? Do all of them speak in tongues and all interpret them?”
Paul has made it clear enough. Some people with the gifts of prophecy, preaching, teaching, miracles and healing consider themselves as apostles. Apostle is a different office altogether.
The office of apostle is reserved for the legitimate leaders of the church; those who have succeeded the twelve (12) apostles. These are responsible for guiding the church. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is inspired by God and useful for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be upright.” The correction and reproof aspects, are reserved for the apostles, and not all Christians, when it comes to matters that concern the whole Church.
Paul clearly spelled out the order of authority in the Church: Apostles → Prophets → Teachers → Miracle workers → Healers → Helpers → Administrators → Speakers of tongues.
It is very important that we understand and recognize this “chain of command” because there is a reason why God established it. We read in 1 Timothy 4:14, “You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you; do not neglect it.” Note in this passage that the prophets did not speak and also lay their hands. It was rather the elders (the people appointed by the apostles to act on their behalf) who laid their hands. We again read in Acts 8:3-17 that after Philip had baptized the Samaritans, Peter and John were sent to confirm them (that is, to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit). The above passages of scripture tell us that the early Christians respected the chain of authority.
When God creates an office and puts people in it, He also anoints them for the functions of the office. Anyone who is not anointed for a particular office but decides to usurp the functions of that office will surely mess up like many have done!
When God wanted 70 elders, he had to select them and give some of the spirit that Moses had to them, thus empowering them for the service that they were called to perform – Numbers 11:16-17. They would never have been able to perform their duties according to God’s will without that proper empowerment.
Also, the first apostles of Jesus were empowered on different occasions for different purposes. For example, they had been empowered to go out and preach, cast out demons and heal the sick (Matthew10:5-8 and Luke 10:1-12). Yet after Jesus' death they did not have the courage to face the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). They had to be empowered for that purpose on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Also, when they were being persecuted and they needed boldness, they prayed for the anointing for that purpose (Acts 4:23-31).
The above teach us that God anoints people for different purposes. Therefore one cannot use the anointing of a prophet, a teacher, a miracle worker or a healer to function in the office of an Apostle.
Anointing/empowerment comes along with an appointment. If you are not appointed, you are not anointed!
Dear friend, if you have understood the message in this article, next time there is an issue, you will not be asking, “Show me where in the bible it says so,” instead you will ask, “Who has the authority to speak on the matter?” Similarly, when you have argument about the interpretation of a scripture passage, you will ask, “Who has been given the authority to interpret scripture for refuting error?” You will then run to that person for help.
**Unless otherwise stated, all scripture texts are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible.**