Apostolic Succession In The Church
The logic of the philosophy of the Protestant Faith is that all Church authority and teaching ended with the death of the Apostles. If you understand that Christ created a living Church for all time, the obvious is to acknowledge the succession to the Apostles to the current day. The Bishops of the Catholic Church can trace their ordination from today back to Peter, upon which Christ founded his Church. The following scripture passages point to clear evidence of Apostolic succession and the need for the Church as founded by Jesus to continue.
“Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.” Acts 6:3-6
This scripture passage is an example of the expansion of the Church. It represents the ordination and continuation of the Faith. Much like today, hands are “laid upon” those being ordained. Many protestant religions have what is called “ordained” ministers. The question is ordained by whom. Since the Protestant Reformation was started by man, its authority is granted by man. The authority given by God to the Church is of God and cannot be claimed by any man. You cannot storm the gates of heaven, you must be called. Christ created one Church, one authority. Just because someone professes to be called by God does not make it the case. It may be wise to try and determine where those operating outside the one true Church gain their authority. God would not divide his kingdom. God would not divide his Church. What motives would cause man to leave the Church created by Jesus?
“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20
The household of God is built upon the Apostles and Prophets. The successors of the Apostles are the Bishops of the Catholic Church, not subsequent generations of the followers of Luther, Calvin, or Henry VIII. Many times we are who we are because we were brought up that way. For example, many Protestants are thus because their parents were. At some point we must all accept responsibility and answer for who we choose to follow. Do we follow the Church founded by Jesus or do we follow a “church” created by man? For example, Henry VIII created the Anglican Church (Episcopal) because he wanted a divorce. So many stray from the teaching of the truth because of the questionable motives of man.
“This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1
The position of Bishop of the Church is an office. It is not a one time position that dies with that person. It is an office that will continued to be filled when vacant. Christ created a living Church that will continue to the end of the age. He did not create a Church based on “words alone”, but a breathing, living Church that will always be there for us. This is further illustrated in the following scripture passage.
“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’ And: ‘May another take his office.’ Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:20-26
In the early Church, there were only 12 Apostles. This was very symbolic in the twelve tribes of Israel. As an “office” became vacant, another was chosen to take his place. Another interesting point in this passage was the acknowledgement that Judas turned away. If a man, chosen by Jesus, would turn away is there any reason not to understand that others would turn away, like Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, etc? But the primary point of this passage is that the church is to continue in an Apostolic ministry.
“They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” Acts 14:23
All great heretics, like Judas, were once members of the Catholic Church. Even though the term “Catholic Church” was not used in the time of Jesus, all members were of the same faith community. The point to understand is that the Church appoints presbyters (priests) to meet the needs of the Church as they continue to do today. Any who turn away lose their authority.