We climbed out of the car. There were five of us–five grown men exiting a compact car like coiled snakes leaping from a trick can. A second car contained other members of the team. Once we were out of the cars, we said our goodbyes. The JeremiahCry Ministries “No Hope in the Pope” outreach was finished. Brian Ingalls said he hoped the Lord would provide us with ministry opportunities as Pastor Chuck O’Neal and I traveled to our respective homes. After hugs and well wishes all around, Pastor Chuck and I made our way up the steps and into the Egloff Family’s home.
James, Christine, and their three lovely daughters were our hosts during our time in Philadelphia. Each night after an extremely long day of ministry, we walked into the Egloffs’ home to see their beaming faces. Each night they eagerly waited, with genuine excitement and anticipation, to hear our stories from the streets. This wonderful Christian family firmly, hospitably, and lovingly held the rope for us as we climbed deep into the well of Roman Catholic idolatry with the message of freedom in Christ.
The next morning James Egloff drove me and Pastor Chuck to Philadelphia International Airport. As providence would have it, Pastor Chuck and I were flying out of the same terminal, only a few gates apart, with our flights leaving at about the same time. The airport was surprisingly quiet considering a million people traveled to Philadelphia to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis. We quickly made it through check-in and security, which afforded us some extra time for fellowship.
Pastor Chuck and I enjoyed a truly edifying time of fellowship, the breaking of bread (authentic Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches), as well as mutual counsel and exhortation. About few men can I say that my heart is as tightly knit to another man as it is with the heart of Pastor Chuck O’Neal. Forged by years of back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder defenses of the gospel and its public communication, with our mutual and expressed love for Christ and our shared indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Chuck and I have a friendship knit together by a cord of three strands (Ecclesiastes 4:12), which, by God’s continued grace, will never be broken.
I boarded my crowded flight and made my way to my seat. Finding myself in the middle of Row 8, I sat down and started to settle in, for my six-hour flight home. Seated to my right was a businessman named Jim. He was traveling to Los Angeles, from his home outside Philadelphia.
Jim soon took notice of my t-shirt. I was wearing a t-shirt by Wrath and Grace Clothing, designed by Johan Henao. The shirt was black with four words in large white letters on the front: EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW.
“I like your shirt.” Jim said.
“Did you get that in Philly, or did you bring it from home?”
“I brought it from home.”
“Were you in Philly for the festivities?”
“Yes. I came with a groupl of men to preach the gospel on the streets.”
As I expected, after I answered Jim’s last question there was a time of silence between us. I thought, with a level of certainty, that our conversation had ended and would not likely restart during the remainder of our flight. Surely, Jim was now thinking, “Oh, great. I’m stuck sitting next to a Christian. And not only a Christian, but a fanatical Christian–a crazy street preacher.
“So, how was your message received?” Jim asked.
Surprised that Jim wanted to continue the conversation, I answered, “I guess I would describe the response as similar to what the apostle Paul experienced in Athens. ‘Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed'” (Acts 17:32-34).
“Oh. Were there some there who didn’t agree with the pope’s message?” Jim asked.
Jim thought I had traveled to Philadelphia to celebrate the pope’s visit to America. He thought my preaching would be something Roman Catholics would affirm.
“Yes. I am one of those who disagrees with the pope’s message. You see; I don’t believe the pope’s message agrees with the Bible, with the true gospel.”
“That’s interesting.” Jim said. “I thought his message is a positive one. Isn’t his message about feeding the poor and looking out for people who are hurting?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I thought his mission is to bring people back to the church? Isnt’ he saying that for a long time people have been pushed away from Jesus because the church is seen as a list of ‘don’ts’–what people aren’t supposed to do, instead of what people are supposed to do?”
“I understand.” I said. “But there is a fundamental problem with all of that.”
“Really? What’s that?” Jim’s tone was not argumentative, but rather inquisitive.
“The Roman Catholic Church and the pope, the leader of the religion, believe and teach a gospel that is different from the one in the Bible. Roman Catholicism teaches that salvation comes by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. But it does not teach, as the Bible teaches, that salvation is by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Rather, Roman Catholicism teaches that the believer must do good works, in addition to having faith in Jesus, or be at risk of losing the grace of God in his life. Sadly, the Roman Catholic has no assurance of salvation.
“The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians that if anyone, whether a man or an angel from heaven, brings a different gospel than the gospel the Bible teaches, then they are anathema–accursed” (Galatians 1:6-10). The gospel of the Roman Catholic church is an accursed gospel.”
“Hmm.” Jim pondered. “My wife and I recently became Christians. We joined a Pentecostal church. We’re still learning what ‘Pentecostal’ means.
“I’m not trying to argue,” Jim continued, “but doesn’t the Bible say it’s wrong to judge?”
Sadly, one of the first things Jim had learned as a new Christian was the commonly held, wrong interpretation of Matthew 7:1-5.
“Matthew 7:1, the verse to which you are referring, doesn’t teach that Christians should never judge.” I explained. “Rather, it teaches that Christians should not be hypocritical in their judgments. I should not harshly judge you for a sin you are committing when I am committing the same sin.”
“Ah. I understand.”
“The Bible actually teaches that Christians should judge, but with right judgment. John 7:24 says, ‘Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.’
“Let me explain it this way.” I continued. “You said you have small children?”
“Yes. Three.” Jim confirmed.
“What would you do if you saw one of your children reaching for a hot stove top? Would you judge the behavior as wrong?”
“Yes, I would.” Jim answered.
“Would you correctly your child, even firmly if necessary?”
“Would it be unloving and inappropriately judgmental of you to correct your child?”
“That’s right. In fact, it would be unloving if you didn’t tell your child not to touch the stove top and, if necessary, physically pull your child away from the stove.”
“I see now what you mean. That’s a good analogy. That helped a lot.”
“Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for another human being is point out their error and plead with them to turn from it.”
“That’s true.” Jim paused to think for a moment. “So, does the pope not believe in Jesus?”
“I don’t believe he does. In order to be pope, he has to believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. He has to believe he is the Vicar of Christ, the Holy See, Christ representative on earth.
“Did you happen to see the pope’s speech before Congress?” I asked.
“He mentioned Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and a Catholic mystic named Thomas Merton multiple times. He talked about global warming, strife in the Middle East, and Syrian refugees. But he did not once mention Jesus. If he was really Jesus’ representative on earth, you would think he would mention the One he is supposed to represent at least once.”
“You would think.”
“Can I show you what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about the papacy?” I asked.
Across the aisle and one row in front of where Jim and I were seated sat two Roman Catholic priests–the one who sat in the aisle seat was the older of the two. I had glanced at him several times as I talked to Jim, looking for body language that might indicating he was eavesdropping on my conversation with Jim. I wanted him to eavesdrop. I made sure to speak loud enough so that Jim could clearly hear me over the engine noise, which meant others in close proximity could hear me as well.
When I asked Jim if he wanted to see what the Roman Catholic Church believes about the papacy, the Roman Catholic priest lowered the newspaper he had been reading to his lap. He tilted his chin slightly upward, and stared straight ahead. He was listening; I was sure of it.
As I turned to the front of my Bible where I have several pages dedicated for note-taking, I once again found myself thanking God for His grace and sovereignty. The notes I was about to share with Jim were taken from a powerful sermon on the papacy, by Pastor Don Green.
First, with Jim looking on, I read several excerpts from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (CCC) and the First Vatican Council (FVC) regarding the papacy. The excerpts included:
1. The belief that there is no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church (CCC, 846).
2. The belief that the pope has “full, supreme, and universal power of the whole church (CCC, 882).
3. The belief that the apostle Peter is the “rock” upon whom Christ built the Church (CCC, 881).
4. The belief that the papacy traces back to the apostle Peter (CCC, 936).
5. The belief that the pope has “world-wide primacy” over all Christians (FVC, Chap 3, Par 1).
6. The belief that a person is forever accursed who denies the supreme authority of the pope (FVC, Chap 3, Par 9).
7. The belief that the pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra about all things regarding faith and morals, and anyone who denies papal infallibility is forever accursed (FVC, Chap 4, Par 9).
Jim was surprised, even a bit stunned by the information he had just received. Even as a relatively new believer, the error of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the papacy was obvious to him.
“Would you like to see what the Bible actually says about Peter and this idea of a papacy?” I asked Jim.
I turned in my Bible to the passage of Scripture the Roman Catholic Church considers the cornerstone of the doctrine of the papacy–Matthew 16:13-20. With Jim following along and my index finger moving across the page, I read the passage aloud to Jim.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Then, I turned back to my pages of notes (again, notes taken from Pastor Don Green’s sermon) regarding what the Bible actually teaches about the apostle Peter, which leaves no doubt that Peter was not the first “Bishop of Rome,” was therefore not the first pope, and would reject the papacy if he was alive today.
I walked Jim through my notes, showing him that the context of Matthew 16:13-20 does not allow for the Roman Catholic notion that Peter was “the rock” upon whom Christ would build His Church. Jesus Christ is the Rock. In the passage, Jesus declares that He is the Rock, not Peter. He tells Peter that his confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” was the confession upon which He would build His Church.
I took Jim to several passages of Scripture, the Canon, which leave no doubt that the Lord God Almighty and Jesus Christ His Son is the only Rock (1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 18:31; Isaiah 44:8b; 1 Corinthians 10:4). I showed Jim what Peter said about himself–how he acknowledged Jesus as the Rock (1 Peter 2:8), and how he never exerted any authority over the Bride of Christ like the unholy authority of exerted by the papacy (Acts 15:1-29; 1 Peter 5:1-3).
I took Jim to several of passages of Scripture that show Peter, in both action and speech, was a sinner just like us, just like every pope. Peter’s character, including his actions and speech regarding matters pertaining to faith, was not infallible (Matthew 16:23; 26:36-46, 69-75; Galatians 2:11).
Lastly, I showed Jim an important piece of biblical, historical data that destroys the notion that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome. Peter, whose primary mission was to the Jews and not to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7), was not the leader of the church in Rome. Paul writes his extraordinary letter to the church in Rome, the letter many Christians today refer to as the “Constitution of the Christian Faith.” At the end of the letter (Romans 16), Paul mentions 25 people in the church, by name. One person Paul does not mention is Peter. Had Peter been the leader of the church in Rome, it would have been the height of impropriety and disrespect for Paul not to personally greet Peter, an apostle, in his letter to the church.
Jim told me that while he wanted to continue talking and, as he put it, was “appreciative of what I was teaching him,” he had an online meeting for which he needed to prepare. I asked Jim for just another minute or two of his time. He agreed with a smile.
I turned in my Bible to Colossians 1. Again, reading aloud with my index finger moving across the page, I read Jim the following passage:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:15-20).
For the benefit of the eavesdropping priest, I think I may have read the passage with a little extra volume and I’m sure I read it with more passion (I usually do when I read this passage in the open-air). I wanted to leave no doubt, none at all, as to who is the head of His Body the Church. Jesus Christ, not Peter or any member of the false Roman Catholic priesthood, is the head of Christ’s Body, the Church. Jesus Christ is the Perfect Prophet, Great High Priest, and Sovereign King!
Just as Jesus never descends from His Throne to assume a cracker or a cup of wine in Roman Catholicism’s blasphemous Mass, no man, whether priest or parishioner, can ever ascend from his pitiful human existence to assume the place and/or the authority of Christ on earth.
I wanted Jim to know exactly where he should stand as a Christian. I wanted the priest to know exactly where he stood as an idolater. I wanted the priest to know that I know his papal house built of cards (all Jokers) was built upon a weak, crumbling, sandy foundation of human tradition and sin.
“Thank you for sharing all this with me. You’ve taught me a lot.” Jim said.
Jim pulled down his food tray, placed his laptop on it, opened his laptop, and went to work.
I, on the other hand: I worshiped. I closed my eyes. I know I was smiling. I could feel it. And I worshiped. I thanked God for His amazing providence. The Holy Spirit, I believe, pointed me to Pastor Don Green’s sermon. He compelled me to take good notes. He motivated me to take the message Pastor Green preached to the streets. He allowed me to preach the message to an untold number of lost Roman Catholics and lost people of other stripes.
Yet, as God often does, He surprised me. I was confident taking Pastor Green’s sermon to Broad Street, Philadelphia, was God’s will. I was content with that. But God’s plan was better than mine. His ways, His thoughts, all higher than my own.
I worshiped in seat 8B. I thanked my great God and King for allowing me to take what I had learned from Pastor Green and use it to disciple Jim. I thanked God that members of an unholy priesthood were sitting nearby, close enough to hear what I taught Jim.
What a testimony of God’s sovereign grace! He allowed me to engaged in discipleship at 30,000 feet. He allowed me to communicate the truth’s of His Word to a new believer. He allowed me to communicate the truth’s about Jesus, Peter, the Church, and salvation to an eavesdropping Roman Catholic priest. Others likely heard as well. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Lord saved one or more of the other people within the sound of my voice, as I proclaimed the gospel, through a time of discipleship, at 30,000 feet?
I pray the Lord did it, or will do it, for His glory.