Church of God, New World Ministries

Lords Over God’s Heritage

The highest ranking men of the Roman Catholic Church, next to the Pope, are a group of cardinals. The Bible says that Christ placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in his church (Eph. 4:11). But we never find any indication that he ordained a group of cardinals. To the contrary, the original cardinals were a group of leading priests in the ancient pagan religion of Rome, long before the Christian era. A booklet published by the Knights of Columbus (This is the Catholic Church) explains: “In ancient times the cardinals were the chief clergy of Rome, the word is derived from the Latin word cardo, ‘hinge’, and thus referred to those who were the pivotal members of the clergy.”!

But why were those priests of ancient Rome linked with the word “hinge”? They were, evidently, the priests of Janus, the pagan god of doors and hinges! Janus was referred to as “the god of beginnings” thus January, the beginning month of our Roman calendar, came from his name. As god of doors, he was their protector or caretaker. Even today, the keeper of the door is called a janitor, a word from the name Janus!

Janus was known as “the opener and shutter.” Because he was worshipped as such in Asia Minor, we can better understand the words of Jesus to the church as Philadelphia: “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth: and shutteth, and no man openeth. I have set before you an open door” (Rev. 3:7-8). The pagan god Janus was a counterfeit: Jesus was the true opener and shutter!

“The college of Cardinals, with the Pope as its head,” writes Hislop “is just the counterpart of the pagan college of Pontiffs, with its Pontifex Maximus, or Sovereign Pontiff, which is known to have been framed on the model of the grand original Council of Pontiffs at Babylon!” When paganism and Christianity were mixed together, the cardinals’ priest of the hinge, which had served in pagan Rome, eventually found a place in papal Rome.

The garments worn by the cardinals of the Catholic Church are red. Cardinal birds, cardinal flowers, and cardinal priests are all linked together by the color red. The Bible mentions certain princess of Babylon who dressed in red garments: “men portrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermillion” ‘ bright red “girded with girdles upon the loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea” (Ezk. 23:14-15). The harlot symbolizing Babylonish religion was dressed in scarlet-red garments (Rev. 17:4).From ancient times; the color red or scarlet has been associated with sin. Isaiah, in his day, said: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).Adultery is sometimes referred to as the scarlet sin. The color red is associated with prostitution, as in the expression “red-light district.”

In view of these things, it does not seem unfair to question why red would e used for the garments of the highest ranking men in the Roman church. We are not saying it is wrong to wear red, yet does it not seem like a curious custom for cardinals? Are we to suppose such garments were worn by the apostles? Or is it more likely that the red garments of the cardinals were copied from those worn by priests of pagan Rome?

The priests of the hinge in pagan days were known as the “flamens.” The word is taken from flare, meaning one who blows or kindles the sacred fire. They were the keepers of the holy flame which they fanned with the mystic fan of Bacchus. Like the color of the fire they tended, their garments were flame color-red. They were servants of the Pontifex Maximus in pagan days and the cardinals today are the servants of the pope who also claims the title Pontifex Maximus. The flames were divided into three distinct groups and so are the cardinals Cardinals-bishops, Cardinal-priests, and Cardinal-deacons.

Next in authority under the pope and the cardinals are the bishops of the Catholic Church. Unlike the titles “pope” and “cardinal,” the Bible does mention bishops. Like the word “saints,” however, the word “bishop” has been commonly misunderstood. Many think of a bishop as a minister of superior rank, having authority over a group of other ministers and churches. This idea is reflected in the word “cathedral,” which comes from cathedra , meaning “throne.” A cathedral, unlike other churches, is the one in which the throne of the bishop is located.

But turning to the Bible, all ministers are called bishops not just ministers of certain cities. Paul instructed Titus to “ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5), and then went on to speak of these elders as bishops (v. 7). When Paul instructed “the elders” of Ephesus, he said: “Take heed unto yourselves and to the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers (bishops), to feed (pastor) the church of God” (Acts 29:17, 28). The word translated “overseers” is the same word that is elsewhere translated bishops. The word “feed” means the same as the word translated pastor. These ministers were referred to as elders, bishops, overseers, and pastors, all of these expressions referring to exactly the same office. Plainly enough, a bishop in the Scriptures was not a minister of a large city who sat on a throne and exercised authority over a group of other ministers. Each church had its elders and these elders were bishops! This was understood by Martin Luther. “But as for the bishops that we now have” he remarked, “of those the Scriptures know nothing: they were instituted so that one might rule over many ministers.”

Even before the New Testament was completed, it was needful to give warnings about the doctrine of the Nicolaitines (Rev. 2:6). According to Scofield the word “nicolaitines” comes from nikao, “to conquer,” and laos, “laity,” which if correct, “refers to the earliest form of the notion of a priestly order, or “clergy,” which later divided as equal brotherhood (Matt. 23:8), into ‘priests’ and ‘laity.’

The word “priest” in a very real sense belongs to every Christian believer-not just ecclesiastical leaders. Peter instructed ministers not to “lord over God’s heritage” (I Peter 5:1-3). The word translated “heritage” is kleeron and means “clergy”! As the Matthew Henry Commentary explains, all the children of God are given the title of God’s heritage or clergy, the word is never restrained in the New Testament to the ministers of religion only.

In rejecting an artificial division between “clergy” and “laity,” this is not to say that ministers should not receive proper respect and honor, “especially they who labor in the word” (I Tim. 5:17).But because of this division, too often people of a congregation are prone to place all responsibility for the work of God upon the minister. Actually God has a ministry for all of his people. This is not to say that all have a pulpit ministry! But even giving a cup of cold water is not without its purpose and reward (Matt. 10:42). It would be well for each of us to pray, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6.) In the New Testament, the full work of a church was not placed on one individual. Churches were commonly pastured by a plurality of elders, as numerous scriptures show. “They ordained elders (plural) in every church” (Acts 14:19-23) and in “every city” (Titus 1:5). Expressions such as “the elders of the church” are commonly used (Acts 20:17; James 5:15).

All who have been washed from their sins by the blood of Jesus Christ are “priests unto God” and “a royal priesthood” (Rev. 1:6; I Peter 2:9). The priesthood of all believers is clearly the New Testament position. But as men exalted themselves as “lords over God’s heritage,” people were taught that they needed a priest to whom they could tell their sins, a priest must sprinkle them, a priest must give them the last rites, a priest must say masses for them, etc. They were taught to depend upon a human priest, while the true High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ was obscured from their view by a dark cloud of man-made traditions.

Unlike Elihu who did not want to “give flatteries titles unto man” (Job 32:21), those who exalted themselves as “lords” over the people began to take unto themselves titles which were unscriptural, and in some cases titles that should belong only to God! As a warning against this practice, Jesus said, “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:-12).

It is difficult to understand how a church claiming to have Christ as its founder, after a few centuries would begin to use the very titles that he said NOT to use! Nevertheless, the bishop of Rome began to be called by the title “pope,” which is only a variation of the word “father.” The priests of Catholicism are called “father.” We will remember that one of the leading branches of the “Mysteries” that came to Rome in the early days was Mithraism. In this religion, those who presided over the sacred ceremonies were called “fathers.” An article on Mithraism in The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “The fathers (used here as a religious title) conducted the worship. The chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called ‘Pater Patrum.’ Now if the pagans in Rome called their priests by the title “father,” and if Christ said to call no man “father,” from what source did the Roman Catholic custom of calling a priest by this title come, from Christ or paganism?

Even the Bible gives an example of a pagan priest being called father. A man by the name of Micah said to a young Levite, “dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest” (Judges 17:10). Micah was a grown man with a son of his own; the Levite was “a young man.” The title father was obviously used in a religious sense, as a priestly designation, Micah wanted him to be a father-priest in his “house of gods.” This was a type of Catholicism, for while the young priest claimed to speak the word of the Lord (Judges 18:6), the worship was clearly mixed with idols and paganism.

The Roman Catholic Church uses the title “Monsignor” which means “My Lord.” It is somewhat of a general title. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains, it can be properly used in addressing several of the higher church leaders. Instead of addressing patriarchs as “Vostra Beautitudine,” archbishops as “Your Grace,” bishops as “My Lord,” abbots as “Gracious Lord,” one may without any breach of etiquette salute all equally as Monsignor. One of the meanings of “arch” is master. Using titles such as archpriest, archbishop, archdeacon, is like saying masterpriest, etc. The superior of the order of Dominicans is called “master general.” We need only to cite, again, the words of Christ which are in contrast to such titles: “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even Christ.”

Even the title “Reverend,” Biblically speaking, is applied only to God. It appears one time in the Bible: “Holy and reverend is his name” (Ps. 111:9). The word “reverend” comes from the Latin revere and was first applied to the English clergy as a title of respect during the 15th century. Variations of these titles are these: The Reverend, The Very Reverend, The Most Reverend, and the Right Reverend.

When Jesus spoke against flattering titles, the basic thought was that of humility and equality among his disciples. Should we not, then, reject the supposed authority of those high offices in which men seek to make themselves “lords over God’s heritage?” And instead of men receiving glory, should not all of the glory be given to God?

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