The Roman Catholic Church claims to be exclusively the true church of Christ. All churches other than the Romish are the false church. No man may know Christ unless he is willing to learn that this church, than which there is no other, is not a thing of evil, but instead the one only hope of the world, and, indeed, an extension of Christ Himself. So that haters of this church hate Christ and crucify Him afresh. This claim, to the ears of most people, especially to the internationally minded, does not ring with the clang of extremism, for the modern church, even with its denial of the Bible as the Word of God, its denial of the virgin birth of Christ and its denial of the ontological trinity, is moving down the ecumenical stream into the Roman Catholic Church. There is, indeed, one true church consisting of true Christian believers, but it is the holy catholic church, not the Roman Catholic Church. In this Christian church all the members expect their salvation alone in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood. This church has been from the beginning of the world, which cannot be said of any Roman church. Furthermore, this holy church is not bound, as is the Romish church, to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world, so that it consists of an assembly of those (not trying to be, but) who are saved. This same true church is to be discerned and distinguished from all sects and from all which call themselves the church only by the Word of God, as found in the canonical Scriptures. There will then be certain identifying marks the church will bear, which are three, the preaching of the pure doctrine of the Gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and the proper exercise of church discipline. In short, the true church manages all things according to the pure Word of God, rejects all things contrary to Scripture, and acknowledges Jesus Christ as the only Head of the church.
The Roman Catholic Church claims that the marks of the true church are four. First, a united church. This isthe outstanding mark of the ecumenical, one world church. The unpardonable sin to the modern church is disunity, not heresy nor apostasy. But the fundamental mark of the true church is not unity, for unity itself must be rooted in the truth. It must be “the unity of faith” (Eph. 4:13, Douay-Rheims). The “unity of the Spirit” is established in the “one faith” Eph. 4:3, 5), and in “the truth” (v. 15). It must be, not a unity inhering in the church, for this would be a unity in mankind, but must be in the Head of the church. But “if any man teach otherwise” than “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is not only “proud, knowing nothing” (I Tim. 6:3, 4, D-R), but is not in that Head. Second, a holy church, through which holiness is conferred upon its members. It is an error to take the attributes of the church and make them the marks of the church. The church is its attributes. It has marks. Not the nature of the church is its distinguishing mark, but its one main identifying characteristic is the pure preaching of the Word. But the church with no preaching, with mumblings in a foreign language, and that by men in feminine attire, is not holy. Third, a universal church. We certainly believe there is one catholic church, by which we mean one universal church. A catholic church is a universal church. A Roman Church is manifestly not a universal church. A Roman Catholic Church is a contradiction in terms. Fourth, an apostolic church. The apostolicity of the church is not a mark of the church, nor is it an attribute of the church in the sense of a so called “apostolical succession.” The only apostolical succession supported by the Word of God is that of the doctrine of the apostles. In that succession we stand, and that is the mark of the true church.
The Romish claims to be the true church because it has the Bible, more Bible than Protestants, and “has the highest regard for the Bible.” But it is evident that Rome’s highest regard is not for the Bible, but for the church. Roman Catholics are not readers of the Bible, are largely ignorant of its contents, and it is a rare sight if a copy of the Bible may be found in a Roman Catholic Church. The Bible, pushed into the background, is made to take a back seat to Tradition, which competes with the Bible for standing before the ever imposing authority of the church. The Bible is shelved in favor of Rome’s authority, not God’s. The Bible has authority only in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. This means that the Bible in Protestant hands has no authority, because it is not the Bible as the Word of God which has the authority; it is the church as the extension of Christ which alone has authority. “The reliability of the Bible depends wholly on the authority of the (Roman) Catholic Church . . .” This church, then, really has no mark, sees no need for any mark, the church being church and known as such by virtue of coming on its own terms as inherently superior to every power and standard, including that of the Word of God. However, for the true church the Bible is, not merely contains, the Word of God, the only infallible rule of doctrine and life, the complete truth of God in all respects, and is above all, above all writings of ,men, above custom, tradition, antiquity, succession of times and persons, above councils, decrees, concordats and encyclicals.
The Romish church professes to be the only true church because it holds the doctrine of the trinity. Yet, like Freemasonry, it has a trinity peculiarly and more popularly its own in Mary, Joseph and Jesus, in that order. The Romish church makes much of the deity of Christ, “the doctrine that Christ is God,” but little of the divine lordship of Christ. It will admit that Christ is the mediator between God and man, but avoids the reminder that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Tim. 25) For there are the pope, the mediatrix Mary and a host of saintly mediators, who displace Christ as our only great high priest and mediator.
The Romish church claims to be the true church because for it was shed “the precious blood,” and therefore salvation and atonement are found only in the Roman church. But the once-and-for-all sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction of Christ is denied by the Mass, which is a daily repetition of the sacrifice of Calvary, wherein Christ is brought down from heaven in transubstantiated bread, crucified afresh, and then eaten up alive by the priest. The Mass is unscriptural and unchristian because Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, the memorial of a sacrifice, not the Mass, a real sacrifice. The bread is “for the commemoration of Me.” (I Cor. 11:23-34, D-R) But if Christ is actually present in the bread and wine, and actually received in eating the elements, then there is no commemoration. When you receive a person you do not commemorate that person. We commemorate a person in his absence. In the Lord’s Supper we “shew the death of the Lord,” we do not slay the Lord and make a new sacrifice. When we show forth His death we point out that which has already been accomplished. In the Mass the superstitious look at a sacrifice. In the Lord’s Supper we look back to the finished work of Christ on the cross. There is not a word in the Bible concerning the Mass, not a word as to its institution, nor a word that Mass was said by Jesus or the apostles. That it is identical with the holy communion or the Lord’s Supper, Romanists themselves deny. To them, the Mass is the sacrament; the Lord’s Supper is a criminal abuse (I Cor. 11:20, note, D-R).
The Roman church the one, only true church? That church where the pope has more prominence than Christ? Where traditions and Vatican councils prevail over the Holy Spirit? Where the absolution of the priests is more popular than the forgiveness of our great high priest? Where doubt concerning eternal destiny and fear of hell and purgatory prevail instead of the full assurance of faith and salvation? This is indeed Romanism, but not Christianity. This is hierarchy and priest craft displacing the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. Where they speak not according to this Word we can only say there the true church is not, because there is no light in them, but rather ignorance and spiritual darkness hold sway.
The Romish church claims to be the true church because it avowedly has been built on the visible headship of Peter. According to Rome’s interpretation of Matthew 16:18, Peter is the rock upon which Christ builds His church, “in which building he should be, next to Christ Himself, the chief cornerstone.” (D-R Bible, Mt. 16:18, note) Against this church Christ said the gates of hell shall not prevail, Yet immediately after the Lord uttered those words the gates of hell did prevail against that rock, for the Lord said to Peter, “Go behind Me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto, Me” (D-R). But Peter himself disavowed being the cornerstone, and insisted that “Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:10f, D-R) Not only once did Peter affirm this, but again, and in the plainest, most unequivocal language. “Jesus Christ . . . chief cornerstone, elect, precious . . . the stone which the builders rejected . . . made the head of the corner.” (I Peter 2:6f, D-R) Neither did Paul for a moment foster such a story as that Peter was the cornerstone. He taught a truth to depart from which is fundamental heresy. “For other foundation can no man lay, but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” (I Cor. 3:11, D-R)
The Roman church as it itself evidences cannot but bear certain unmistakable marks. But such marks can only be the marks of the false church, and the marks of the false church, wherever we find them, whether in the papal communion or elsewhere, are: 1. Assumption of more power and authority by the “church” and its ordinances than that of the Word of God. 2. Refusal or failure to submit to the yoke of Christ. 3. Administering the sacraments not as appointed by Christ in His Word, but adding to and taking from them as seems fit. 4. Relying more upon men than upon Christ. 5. Persecution of the true church and its members, who live holily and according to the Word of God, and who reprove the unfruitful works of darkness for their error, covetousness and idolatry. This is Rome—Semper Eadem .
In keeping with these marks, some Romish priests are now teaching: 1. that they no longer believe that man was formed from the dust or that woman was made from the rib of man. 2. That old theologies enshrouded Adam with unbelievable physical and mental qualities. 3. That the book of Genesis has two separate accounts of creation and at least two authors. 4. That Adam probably was not a monotheist. 5. That the authors of Scripture wrote from late periods, after the captivities, and projected their own thinking into what they presented as original histories. (Spokane, Spokesman Review, June 30, 1964, quoted in Chr. Beacon, Sept. 28, 1964). Both within and without the Romish church Modernism is fast winning the day for the one-world church. Some churches “have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth to worship God according to His will.” (Westminster Confession, 25:5)