The world’s attention has recently turned to the election of a new pope for the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Once the white smoke arose from the Sistine Chapel all who were waiting outside in St. Peter’s Square knew that two days of voting were over and a new leader had been selected. For Catholics this meant not only rhapsody but also relief. But amongst non-Catholics it has only raised questions. What does the Bible have to say about the pope?
The Bible speaks for the authority of Jesus Christ as the Head of the church. (Col 1:18) And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (see also Eph 1:22, 4:15; Col 2:10, 19) Of course there are spiritual leaders that God has raised up in the church to build up the church in spiritual growth: (Eph 4:11-12) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Catholics believe Peter was the appointed leader by Christ to lead the church (and his successors). But this would go contrary to what Peter wrote in his own epistle: (1 Pet 5:1-5) The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
So where did the idea of pope come from? It came from a conversation Jesus had with Peter: (Mat 16:15-19) He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Catholics believe Jesus was referring to Peter being the rock that Jesus would build the church upon. Non-Catholics believe Jesus was referring to Peter’s confession about Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
In Revelation it is stated that Jesus hated the deeds and doctrine of the Nicolaitans (2:6, 15). Nicolaitans is from the Greek word nikao and means “to conquer”, and laos meaning “people”. The Nicolaitans appear to be a sect that was the forerunner of the clerical hierarchy who exercised control over the laity. The Lord had such distaste for anything that would come between His headship over our lives. And if you think about it . . . so should we.