God’s Word for You
Malachi 2:17 Can the Pope be Contradicted?
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 10, 2021
It’s been two weeks since we last visited Malachi. If we remember that Malachi’s physical place in the Old Testament (last) is also his place chronologically, and that his overall theme is “Last Call for Repentance,” we will have the right context to continue.
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. You say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
Jeremiah had asked: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do the treacherous live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1). Another prophet cried out from the walls of the city: “Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:3-4). But Malachi doesn’t join in. Malachi always stands as God’s messenger. He had read Jeremiah. He had read Habakkuk. The people heard, or should have heard those prophets read alongside Moses in the synagogues (Acts 15:21). Malachi stands accusing the people of sinning because now they themselves were the wicked, they themselves were doing wrong. They acted as if God didn’t care.
They had rebuilt the temple, and to them it seemed as if nothing had happened. There was no big miracle. Surely, when Moses built the tabernacle, the smoke of the Glory of the Lord had descended from heaven and filled the tent (Exodus 40:34-35). And when Solomon built the temple to replace the tabernacle, the same thing happened and the cloud of the Glory of the Lord filled the temple once again (1 Kings 8:10-12; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14). But when Ezra rebuilt the temple and the high priest Jeshua son of Jozadak began offering sacrifices once again, there was no descent of any cloud. Where was the Glory of the Lord? Hadn’t the prophet Haggai said, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house?” (Haggai 2:9). But Haggai was talking about the coming of the Savior, the one who would bring peace to mankind (Haggai 2:9b). And Habakkuk had said: “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). The outpouring of the gospel into all the world, touching every shore the way the sea touches every single shore, is far more important an event than one hour’s settling of the cloud of God on a hill. But the people acted as if God were no longer there. Worse: they acted as if God had never been there at all. They began to think that wickedness is the way of the world, that crime pays; that sin has no punishment. They began to think: Whatever God says, we don’t care. We’ll do what we want and not what God would have us do.
One of the canons of the Roman Catholic Church says, “If the Pope should lead the whole world into the control of hell, he is nevertheless not to be contradicted.” This is just the kind of ‘leadership’ that Malachi is condemning. Whoever questions God’s justice or chases after evil calling it good, or suggesting that the fall into sin was a fall “up,” is thoroughly corrupt and completely under the sway of the devil. We are shown by the Apostles that we should say, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And Paul cries out: “Even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8). The canons of that church should be condemned whenever and wherever they lead God’s people away from the gospel of Christ, away from the forgiveness of sins, and into “the control of hell,” as they themselves say.
Malachi points out these sins as a call to repentance. Don’t defend your sin, he calls, turn away from it! Don’t accept your sinful traditions, reform your life, your religion, your sinful heart! Jesus warned: “When the Counselor (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me” (John 16:8,9). The sinful man thinks, “If God were just, he would come and punish all those other people for what they do.” The repentant believer says, “God is just, and would be right if he came to punish me for what I have done. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Lord is merciful, and this has always been his gospel promise. Moses said: “When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget you” (Deuteronomy 4:30-31). Turn to the Lord, whatever your sin has been. He is forgiving, and he has a place for you by his side in Paradise.
Canon quoted: Decreti Magistri Gratiani Prima Pars, dist, XL, VI. CIC 1, 146.
Pastor Timothy Smith