You have heard that it was said to those of old, “Pray to Mary, and petition the Saints.” But I say to you that there is only one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5). You need no other go-between than me. Do you not know that you already have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)? Do you not know that I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)? So, when you pray, ask in my name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).
You have heard that it was said, “Kneel before the consecrated host, and worship the one sacrificed in the mass.” But I say to you that when I had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, I sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until my enemies should be made a footstool for my feet. For by a single offering I have perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:12–14). And have you not heard that where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:18)? I meant it when I said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
You have heard that it was said, “Honor the pope.” But I say to you that this is a sadly misguided understanding of the role my disciple Peter played and the reality of succession in the church. The Rock on which I have built my church (Matthew 16:18) for two millennia is not Peter alone, but the band of the apostles together (Ephesians 2:20). All my specially appointed apostles, not just Peter, are my expressly commissioned authoritative spokesmen for my church (John 14:26; 15:26–27; 16:13). Their authority is not their own, but mine. I am the one who has authority (Matthew 7:29), not your ecclesiastical scribes. And when I ascended, it was my apostles together, not Peter alone, who served as my authoritative on-the-ground spokesmen in the first generation of the church. At my word, it was the apostles’ spoken and written words that served as the early church’s final authority — and when the apostles had passed, it was their preserved writings that have carried my voice as the church’s final authority these two thousand years, not the accumulated traditions of the church.
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “Priests are prohibited to marry.” But I say to you, I appreciate that you’re listening to 1 Corinthians 7, but what about the other things I have to say through my inspired spokesmen? I say twice that a presbuteros must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) — without, in any way, excluding the celibate (like me, and Paul) from church office, but also emphatically not excluding the married. Why do you exclude them from your priesthood, except upon special exception? Celibacy is a special calling, not to be coerced with church law. Have I not been equally clear that it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9)?
You have heard that it was said, “Your acceptance with God is not based solely on another’s goodness, but also on your own.” But I say to you, do not rob me of my full glory in your full acceptance before God. Let me be honored as the one who alone forgives your sins (Mark 2:10), and the one who alone provides the perfect righteousness you need to be accepted by God (Philippians 3:9). It is true that you get involved in your ongoing holiness as my righteousness is imparted to you after you have been fully accepted (Romans 6:12–14). But don’t jump the gun by thinking you could ever muster holiness enough to earn your acceptance with the thrice-holy God. It is not the godly that my Father justifies, but the ungodly (Romans 4:6). Do you not know how profoundly sinful you are (Romans 3:23), that it is impossible for those in the flesh to please God (Romans 8:8), that no mere human effort can ever justify you in my Father’s sight (Romans 3:20)? You need Another’s work to count for you — the perfect life and death of the one God-man who came to earth to achieve for you the acceptance with God that you could not achieve for yourself.
You have heard that it was said, “The Scriptures are the product of the Church. The authorized tradition sits alongside the Scriptures as your final authority.” But I say to you, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God (Matthew 15:6). In my new-covenant marriage with my bride, the Groom speaks the authoritative final word, not the Bride. It is my voice the sheep hear and follow (John 10:3–4, 27), not the voice of the church.
It was the unique, irreplaceable apostles whom I specially trained for over three years and specially appointed as my authoritative spokesmen. The old-covenant prophets and new-covenant apostles have spoken for me and about me (John 5:39, 46; Luke 24:25–27, 44–45; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 3:1–2). It is my voice in their recorded words that is your final authority for doctrine and practice. When I say your final authority is Scripture alone — sola Scriptura — I mean the writings of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). And when I say the apostles and prophets, I mean that I myself am the Word (John 1:1), God’s final say (Hebrews 1:2). I am the Church’s final authority, and the way that I have appointed to mediate that authority to you is not through ongoing church tradition, but through the apostolic and prophetic word alone.
By setting your accumulated traditions alongside the Scriptures, you have emptied my word of its power (Matthew 15:6). You have been taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). Putting the traditions of men on par with the words of God means losing the words of God. No matter how hard you try to hold divine revelation equal to human tradition as your final authority, the words of man will inevitably distort and diminish the words of God.
Related resources from Desiring God:
- If You Had Two Minutes to Talk with the Pope, What Would You Say to Him?
- Hans Küng Calls the Pope to Repent
- Trick or Treat? It’s Martin Luther
- Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission