Most have heard the word "Protestantism" used many times. However, I am afraid "Protestantism" is a word with which many are not conversant as to its origin, evolution, and current meaning. We are told that the religious world is divided into three divisions: Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic. In reality, the division should be, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and Christian. I say this because Protestant does not necessarily imply Christian.
The word Protestantism has an interesting origin. The rule of the Catholic Church was being questioned in the 1500's. Two important dates stand out, 1526 and 1529. The diet at Spires in 1526 gained some religious freedoms for "churches" to obtain a measure of autonomy or self-government. However, in 1529 when the diet again met at Spires, the Roman Catholic party was in the majority. The emperor declared: "By my imperial and absolute authority I abolish the clause in the ordinance of 1526 on which the Lutherans relied when they founded their territorial churches ." Those who declared that they would not abide by the decision of 1529 but that they would continue to recognize the ruling of the diet of 1526, were called "Protestants." (The Church, Falling Away, and Restoration, by J. W. Shepherd, pg. 116, 117.)
The idea of protestation is contrary to the thinking of our day and current definition of politically correct. We are in an age of all grays, truth is not clear if its exists at all, this is how many today think. The expanded thinking is, "Even if truth can be established, truth really does not matter." The criterion is often viewed as, "It is not what a person believes or practices that is important, but how sincerely the belief or practice is embraced." Thus, the action of protesting anything is often viewed with disdain. Positivity is the popular mind-set today. Many today are comparable to the Jews of old when they said to the seers and the prophets, "See not prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits" (Isa. 30: 10).
As noticed in the origin and derivation of "Protestantism," Catholicism was the object of the protesting. However, many today do not have knowledge of the spiritual and moral atrocities inflicted on people by Catholicism in their efforts through the centuries to physically force people to become Catholics. Moral scandal continues to characterize the Catholic Priesthood, yet, many do not protest or speak out against it. It is evident that many are unfamiliar or have rejected the plain teaching of such verses as Ephesians 5: 10, 11:
"Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."
Paul requires knowledge of the truth or what is "acceptable unto the Lord." The avoidance of fellowshipping all that is contrary to truth or that comprises the "works of darkness" is also taught. Moreover, Paul enjoins in addition, " but rather reprove them." Herein lies the action of "protesting," if you will. Let us now turn our focus on what we should be protesting relative to Catholicism.
Some specific areas that demand protestation. Involved in Catholic Theology, there are many particulars that merit exposure. I shall now mention a few tenets of Catholicism that are well documented.
The doctrine of original sin. Have you ever wondered why Catholics "baptize" infants? There are a lot of deflective reasons offered but the primary reason, doctrinally speaking, is the Catholic belief that babies are born with sin. It is contended that the original sin of Adam is transferred to babies, thus the doctrine of hereditary total depravity. Since Catholics believe that "baptism" is "for the remission of sins," they insist on "baptizing" babies. Such a doctrine and practice ought to prompt protesting from every Bible believer. Babies are pure and free of sin (besides, babies cannot believe or repent, Mk. 16: 16, Acts 2: 38). Jesus said:
"1: At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2: And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3: And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4: Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5: And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me" (Matt. 18).
The Papacy. The idea of one man in charge or ruling over the church is repulsive to the Christian. The church belongs to Jesus and he is the head over the church (Matt. 16: 18; Eph. 1: 22, 23). Elders are appointed to superintend local churches (Acts 14: 26, Heb. 13: 17, I Tim. 3: 1-7, Tit. 1: 5-11). The Papacy seems to be in Paul's mind in the matter of the great falling away from the true church, Jesus' church (Acts 20: 17, 28-31, 2 Thes. 2: 3-9, cp. I Tim. 4: 1-3). The Papacy concept is essential to the very existence of Catholicism, but the Papacy is totally unknown as far as pristine first century Christianity is concerned.
The Catholic Priesthood. Also essential to and involved in the controlling hierarchy of the Catholic Church is the Priesthood. Again, though, the Catholic Priesthood concept is unknown in the New Testament. Instead of a separate priesthood, the New Testament speaks in terms of every Christian being a priest and officiating for himself in his service to God (I Pet. 2: 9). Without the controlling Papacy and local Priesthood, Catholicism would vanish.
The doctrine of transubstantiation. The emblems used for the instituting of the Lords Supper are set forth in such passages as Luke 22: 14-20 and Matthew 26: 26-29. There was the "bread" and the "cup." Unleavened bread was used, as this was the bread present for the Passover (Lk. 22: 14 ff.). The "cup" is the fruit of the vine," the juice from the grape (Matt. 26: 29, cup, the container, is used by way of metonymy to stand for the contained). Jesus said, "take eat, this is my body this is my blood " (Matt. 26: 26, 28). We are told transubstantiation (the bread and blood become the actual body and blood of Jesus) was first significantly taught in a sermon by Hildebert in 1134 A.D. Transubstantiation, however, was not officially accepted by the Catholic Church until 1215 A.D. It is clear to the serious Bible student, though, that the bread and fruit of the vine stand for or, better stated, cause us to remember the sacrificial body and blood of Jesus (cf. Gal. 4: 24, 25).
The doctrine of transubstantiation would have us believe that the Christian literally eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Jesus, something expressly forbidden in the scriptures (cp. Acts 15: 29).
Salvation by works. It is a well known fact that the Catholic Church teaches a concept of man's salvation that involves man engaged in meritorious works. Earned salvation is not only not taught in the scriptures, but it is totally antithetical to salvation by grace (Rom. 4: 1-10, 11: 6). If man can earn his salvation, there is no need for the death of Jesus and the shedding of his atoning blood (Matt. 26: 28). Salvation cannot be earned or bought with money. Every Bible believer is insulted by the Catholic plan of salvation (see Eph. 2: 8-10, Tit. 3: 5).
Beloved, the very nature of the gospel requires protestation. Consider these inspired statements from Jude and Paul:
"3: Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" and "7: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace" (Phili. 1).
The term Protestant has come to only mean non-Catholic today. In too many cases, even the Lord's people have begun to "accent the positive and eliminate the negative." The same religious atrocities that prompted protestation against Catholicism centuries ago should also activate the righteous into speaking out today. After all, God's word has not changed and the perversions of the Catholic Church continue (cp. Gal. 1: 6-9). I trust that you recall that in the introduction, we mentioned that the religious world is divided into Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Christian. Christians have not stopped protesting Catholicism and every other false way as well, even false teaching and practices within the body of Christ (Ps. 119: 103-105). Alas, while Protestantism continues, there certainly is not much "protesting" today!