What Happened to the Church Jesus Built - Pt. 6

by Tommy Thornhill

When the word of God is no longer respected as the source of faith, doctrine and practice it leaves the door open for human ideas and schemes to be introduced, adopted and practiced as matters of faith and doctrine. This can be seen in the acceptance of the doctrine of penance mentioned in the last issue.  The doctrine of penance (involving public shaming and punishment, discussed a little later), was first advocated ca.157 AD, and over the centuries developed into one of the established sacraments of the apostate RCC, 1022 AD.

The public humiliation of penance was the seed that produced the doctrine of purgatory (a place of punishment for sinners after death from which they could eventually escape after one had sufficiently suffered), was first advocated 220 AD by Origen. The idea of purgatory was later repudiated in a church council in 533
AD, but reversed again and formally adopted as doctrine in 1070 AD. These concepts of public punishment for sin, and a place of purgatory then opened the door to the doctrine of Auricular confession, where the sins of the penitents were confessed to, and then forgiven by the priest.

This concept was first practiced in the 4th century, and became an established sacrament (doctrine) of the RCC in 1215 AD. These things led to the “sale of indulgences” whereby one could pay a sum of money to a priest and have the priest pray away their sins, and even pay to get their loved ones out of purgatory. Let’s examine these things in the light of scripture.

One becomes a Christian by obeying the gospel Mk.16:16; Acts 2:38, then, under the threat of persecution, in a time of weakness, might deny the faith, and leave the Lord’s church. Later, this person would repent of
his/her cowardice in denying the faith, and want to return to the Lord and His
church. How could this person return?

Those who are familiar with the word of God know what is required of one that has fallen away from the faith, to return. In such, or similar situations in which one sins, God’s word teaches the conditions required by God, for one who has fallen into sin, to gain forgiveness and return to the Lord. When a person shows true remorse (godly sorrow) for sin 2.Cor.7:9-10,
repents of the sin Acts 8:20-24, and
confesses the sin 1.Jn.1:8-10; 2:2 the
person is forgiven by God, and is to be treated by the congregation as one in good standing 2.Cor.2:4-8. When a person has done these things, God deems it sufficient punishment for the one returning.

After the church went into apostasy, the clergy imposed certain acts of their
own choosing to make sure the penitent had truly repented. Fisher, in “The
history of the Christian church” writes that the penitent would be given “a
special seat in the meetings for worship and had to go through a course of
public humiliation, the duration and severity of which was appointed by the clergy” chap.2, p.58. Note, it was the clergy who determined this, not the
Lord. Returning penitents were publicly shamed and humiliated by not being
allowed to enter the place of assembly while services were being conducted.
They would have to stand outside the assembly and beg people to pray for them. Others might be allowed to hear the lesson preached, but had to leave before the service was concluded. Some could ask people to pray for them, but were not allowed to participate in the service. These things were the forerunner of what came to be known as “The mourner’s Bench.”  

As already stated, this practice of public humiliation of a penitent person, led to the concept of a purgatory after death. Purgatory was a place of extreme punishment, where one was forced to suffer immense pain for an extended period of time for sins committed, after which the person, having suffered sufficiently for his sins, would then be allowed to leave purgatory and enter heaven. Of course, Purgatory is not mentioned in the Bible. Hades (the place of the departed souls) is much different than the false doctrine of Purgatory. In Lk.16:19-31, Hades is described, divided into two parts, one for the saved, and one for the unsaved. Those in Hades cannot not move from one side to the other.

The doctrine of Purgatory, with the idea that one could eventually escape it, naturally led to the idea of Auricular Confession, in which a person who sinned, could confess the sins to a priest in the clergy, and the priest could forgive the sins, and the person would escape the
fires of purgatory. Once penance was expressed, the clergy could then say, “I
absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” The idea of confessing sins to a priest was elevating such men to a place that belonged only to God and His Son. What passage of scripture gives
man the authority to forgive sins? Read 1.Tim.2:5.

Only God can forgive sins. But the things just mentioned were not the only things being ushered into the Lord’s church without scriptural authority. History
shows that the first mention of the     apostles’ creed (a statement of belief) was
190 AD (this creed has been changed 16 times since it was first introduced). Where did the apostles delegate to any man the right to produce a human creed? If the things believed had to be outlined by the apostles, then such would have been revealed in God’s word. 2.Pet.1:3.

The above doctrines were not all that was
happening to the corrupted church during the first 600 years of history after the church was established. In the next issue we will point out some more of the human doctrines that were introduced after the “falling away” began 1.Tim.4:1-3.