Many of my friends will wonder why I’m writing about the true church and apostolic succession again.
Well because there’s hardly a week that goes by that I’m not presented with arguments either that I should join the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church or explanations from someone who is going to join them.
I think that many people, even ones who oppose apostolic succession with me, don’t understand the church, the Scriptures about the church, nor why they are part of the church.
So that’s why I’m writing about it again.
This is a shortened version of a longer page that has many more references.
The True Church Is the Local Church
The true church is supposed to be able to do some things:
- Be delivered from seducers by revelation from the anointing. (1 John 2:27)
- Possess and diligently maintain a unity of Spirit. (Ephesians 4:3)
- Grow together into the fullness of Christ, come to unity of faith, and be delivered from men who are skilled in deceit by speaking the truth in love to one another, something they are trained to do by leaders appointed by God. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
- Be the pillar and support of the truth (which I believe happens from the first 3 points — 1 Timothy 3:15)
The local church can do all these things. An organization uniting many local churches can’t do any of them except possibly the last one if it’s interpreted as holding to a dogmatic statement of beliefs.
Thus, it is more than a waste of time for a local church to join an organization uniting it to other local churches; it is a grave danger. There is a danger of losing the ability to seek and trust answers given by “the anointing” and trusting decrees from the organization instead, and there is the danger of replacing the guidance of the Spirit with confidence in some set of interpretations of the Scriptures.
Remember, no one–not even any righteous people–were able to interpret the Scriptures well enough to recognize Jesus from the Scriptures. The Pharisees used the Scriptures to reject Jesus, something he rebuked them for (John 5:39-40), and others recognized him by a recognition provided by God (Matthew 16:17).
That really ought to be enough said, but I want to attack two things: the false interpretation of apostolic succession by the Orthodox and Catholics and the false and, let’s face it, bizarre interpretation of Matthew 16:18 by the same groups.
I harp on this all the time. No sense banging heads with those who can’t be honest enough to see the obvious. For those of you who can, it’s better if you read it yourself.
The following link is Irenaeus’ argument from apostolic succession, for apostolic succession is an argument, not a doctrine. Irenaeus (c. A.D. 185) and Tertullian (c. A.D. 210) are the only early Christian writers to argue from apostolic succession.
Irenaeus’ most well-known passage is in Against Heresies III:1:1 and forward. Read it for yourself and determine whether he is arguing for truth or promoting an organization whether it holds to the truth or not.
Tertullian addresses the subject throughout a whole book called A Prescription Against Heretics. I think chapter 28 makes it clear what he’s talking about. And if there’s any doubt about what constitutes a true church, those who hold the truth or those who hold to an organization, try chapter 32.
(Just to add a little more, try reading Cyprian’s 67th epistle (as numbered by The Ante-Nicene Fathers set. The 3rd paragraph addresses what to do when the leaders of the church are sinful. Then try reading about the 7th Council of Carthage, called by Cyprian and attended by 87 bishops who got together solely to reject the bishop of Rome’s claim to be a “bishop of bishops.” You won’t have to read far to see what they think of that claim.)
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
First, let’s address the Protestants. The fact that Peter is petros and rock is petra does not matter. Peter is a man, and so in Greek his name has to end in -os. He can’t be called petra. It doesn’t matter if there’s a difference in definition between the two words, Jesus is obviously calling Peter the rock, and we sound pitiful when we say he’s not. It’s embarrassing.
However, this is in no way a promise that “the church” will never fall.
Gates are not offensive weapons. The church is not in danger of being attacked by the gates of Hades and collapsing.
Jesus is saying that the church will be able to overthrow death (however you want to interpret “death” here).
Amen. It will. But only if it is healthy and thriving.
If it is not healthy and thriving, then Jesus might “remove its candlestick” or “vomit it from his mouth” as the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 put it. Even Ephesus, the great church founded by Paul, was in danger of no longer being a church.
And the fall of a church, many churches, nor even all churches does not contradict Matthew 16:18.