The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. - 2 Corinthians 12:12
Well, we must grant one thing, the Vatican does know how to put on a spectacle! As a local radio host and friend who is Roman Catholic posted on Facebook upon the selection of Francis I as pontiff: "I just cracked open some Champagne. Let's see you Protestants top that!"
But now that the show is over and the crowds have gone home, we have an important two-fold question to ask ourselves, "Is the office of the papacy from God and is the Roman Catholic pope what Catholicism claims he is?" If you are uncertain of the claim of Roman Catholicism concerning the papacy, here it is in part:
"Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and deacons, have taken up the service of the community, presiding in place of God over the flock, whose shepherds they are, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing. And just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles' office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. Therefore, the Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ." (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, Chapter 3, article 20: On the hierarchical structure of the Church, the episcopate)
"For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands, and it has been transmitted down to us in Episcopal consecration. And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church's liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry." (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, Chapter 3, article 21: On the hierarchical structure of the Church, the episcopate)
The more familiar term we would use in regard to this claim is "Apostolic Succession", meaning that the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church with the pope as the Successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome have "succeeded to the place of the Apostles".
That we should question the claim that the pope is an Apostle is not irreverent or forbidden but actually necessary for Scripture tells us that there have been men who claimed to be Apostles and were not:
But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. - 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
It would appear from what Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, that He expects us to challenge anyone's claim to Apostleship and he commends the believers in Ephesus for doing so:
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; - Revelation 2:2
In the Scripture at the head of this post the Holy Spirit through Paul teaches us that true Apostles will be known as such by signs. Paul is defending his Apostleship in light of accusations that he is not one and reminds the Corinthians that when he was with them, God validated his office by signs, in particular, "wonders" and "miracles".
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul makes it clear that claims and words alone mean nothing as he seems to call out those who exalted themselves while charging that he was not an Apostle:
Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. - 1 Corinthians 4:18-20
In the Lumen Gentium quoted above we find that Rome claims that the bishops of the church have "succeeded to the place of the Apostles" and have received, "a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit" to empower them to discharge their duties. Now, taking Rome's claim that the pope through Apostolic Succession is the Successor of Peter, should we not expect to see from every pope attesting works like those that God performed through Peter and the other Apostle's? Quite simply we must ask: Where are the signs? Where are the wonders? Where are the miracles?
Just because a process is enacted that seems very religious and steeped in tradition, does not mean that it is from God, it could just as easily be from the devil. Paul has just warned us that, Satan and his servants transform themselves into "ministers". Yes, Satan and those who do his will look very religious and claim to be ministers.
If you think this all unkind just remember that the claim of the Roman Catholic Church is that the Supreme Pontiff is pastor of the entire Church of God and can wield his power unhindered in the matters of God:
The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 9, Paragraph 4, #882)
Do we not require of such a claim more than just, "Our church says so and here is the white smoke to prove it"? Yet, the world does not ask, we are just to accept the claim and apparently submit.
God has given us His Word and through it we are to "test all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This is not a matter of being nasty or unkind, it is a matter of truth. Over a billion people on earth look to an office holder called "The Pope" whose position is not found in Scripture and whose life does not bear the signs of those we know to have been Apostles in the New Testament. The Apostolic age is over, the pope is not an Apostle and those of us who know God's truth by His grace must be willing to say so.