Listen to God\’s Voice

Words of wisdom for today

What is genuine apostolic origin?

I have been thinking about this question for a number of years and have come to a number of conclusions. Having some type of apostolic succession is entirely unnecessary, primarily because of the completed cannon of Scripture. The last of the apostles to die was the apostle John and after him there were no more apostles. This left the church with elders and deacons as primary administrative functions as well as the ministry of the word of God. However, this can also be looked at historically and legally as well. That church which can claim the closest tie to the early church is that one which resembles the early church the most. So negatively, apostolic origins is not found in any type of physical relationship to the apostles, the apostles did not pass down to future generations the apostleship. However, they did pass down the apostles doctrine and it is in this area that we must go to scripture for our answers. There comes a point that you must also answer the question from the viewpoint of history. Which, church best represents historically the Christian faith? Is there anywhere that we can point to with confidence and say they represent best the apostles doctrine!

(1) Does the Roman Catholic church have any kind of apostolic authority. Most certainly it does exist back to the age of apostles. However, what was it like in the second and third centuries? In the time of Cornelius there was no “Prelatical bishops in the novatian age were just sprouting–not sufficently adopted to be a characteristic of any large body of Christians.(Jarrel, 82)” Elders or presbyters were chosen (elected) ordained by the presbytery, they had much in common with modern Baptist pastors. The new testament word for pastor is linked to the word usually transliterated as presbyter, but actually means elder.

During the time period right around 250 A.D there arose an election of a new bishop of Rome. The controversy was around Novatian and Cornelius. Novatian was elected by a minority and Cornelius became bishop of Rome. The Novatian schism was concerned about church discipline, consecrated church membership and church purity, just the things that the Cornelius schism was not concerned about. The election of Cornelius repudiated the marks of a scriptural church (Jarrel, 77).

“The actual first bishop of Rome to be called Pope was Sylvester I, bishop of Rome from January 314 to December 335.” Up to this time the bishop of Rome was just one bishop among many bishops. For instance in Ireland during this same period there were in the neighborhood of 300 bishops in Ireland. There are not 300 Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland today. These were merely elder/pastors of churches before any kind prelatical bishops existed.

The Roman Catholic church has no organic connection to the age of the apostles as has been demonstrated not only here, but in many church history works, including Dr. Jarrels work that I am using here. Remember there were no prelaytical bishops before Sylvester. There were not very many of them for the first 200 years following Sylvester. There were elders who were pastors of churches which we could term as bishops (elders).

The Catholic church can demonstrate a physical linkage to the apostles and hence to Christ. The problem is that same connection is not in agreement with the doctrine of the apostles. If we are to look for a church that best exemplifies the new testament church, that church would not be the Roman Catholic church.

(2) Positively the spiritual descendants of the new testament age are those Christians who hold the closes to the new testament pattern. It has been argued that the Catholic church is the pillar and ground of the truth and to do so this verse is quoted:

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
(1Ti 3:14)
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
(1Ti 3:15)

The Roman Catholic church is not the church that is being mentioned here by the apostle Paul. The Roman Catholic church by its very nature is not a local body, but a general body. What is mentioned here is a local body of Christ. Think for just a minute Paul is telling Timothy, the elder/pastor of this church at Ephesus, how that Timothy ought to act in this local church. This same local church is said to be the “pillar and ground of the truth”.

So just exactly what kind of competition did the Roman Catholic church have between say 200 to 400 AD? Primarily there were several Christian sects that existed over several hundred years following the death of the apostle John (who by the say is my favorite apostle, he called a spade a spade and called people to holy living in an apostate age, much like today). A few of these assemblies of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were the Montanist’s, the Novatian’s, the Donatists and then closer to our times there were the Waldensian (1100 AD). All of these had areas that were less then perfect, but they could all be traced in some fashion back to the apostles. Most of the writings against these people came from Roman Catholic authors. When your enemy writes about you, you can be sure that he will not cast you in the best light. Even at that there came through for the Waldensian testimony that said they were of ancient origin. What can be said of them is that they were apostolic not just in physical relationship, but in one of being with the apostles doctrine. Our modern baptists owe there heritage to these brave men and women who stood up to the Roman Catholic church during the dark ages.


Written by tfheringer

September 5, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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