Succession and Authority

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

Rome claims the Pope and the bishops are successors to the Apostles and that, together, they constitute the Teaching Authority of the RCC which, she argues, is the very church that Christ founded.

77 In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them 'their own position of teaching authority.'" Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time. -- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc,

The RCC claims that this 'Apostolic Succession" is clearly seen in Christ's "rock" comment to Peter, which is the linchpin of all Romish claims to leadership of and control over the visible church.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. -- Matthew 16:18,19, KJV

Does Scripture support the fantasy of apostolic succession? The logic Rome appeals to is cumbersome and convoluted. Some defenders of Romanism like to point to the selection of Matthias to replace Judas as a beginning point for their argument.

The Catholic apologist might suggest that selecting Matthias, someone who had been associated with Christ from the beginning of His ministry, was a sound and logical decision. However, they will then argue, if the apostolic ministry were to continue many years after the appointment of Matthias, it eventually would be necessary to select people who had not walked with Christ; someone who had walked with the apostles. It is useless to point out to a person who presents such an argument that there is no mention of an 'apostolic succession nor, for that matter, any other succession, in the New Testament.

At this point, the Catholic spokesman might ask, "Well, are you suggesting that when Peter declared the apostolic ministry should continue he was only addressing the vacancy created by the departure of Judas Iscariot?"

Actually, as often is the case when Catholic apologists refer to the Scriptures, there is no record of Peter having used such words. In the passage in question, the Apostle is reported as having said:

20 For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take.
21 Wherefore of these men who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us,
22 Beginning from the baptism of John, until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection.
23 And they appointed two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24 And praying, they said: Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
25 To take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas hath by transgression fallen, that he might go to his own place.
26 And they gave them lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
--Acts 1:20-26, Douay-Rheims Bible

That this was a one-time replacement process is pretty clear from a careful examination of the passage. In verse 20, Peter refers to Scripture as proof that Judas' defection was all part of God's plan, as would be the choice of his replacement (Psalm 55:12-15)

Peter goes on to list the qualifications Judas' replacement must possess. He must have participated in Jesus' earthly ministry and he must have seen the resurrected Christ. The resurrection was central to apostolic preaching. (cf. Acts 2:24,32; 3:15; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30-37). The Eleven narrowed the field to two, Barsabas and Matthias, whom Eusebius says was numbered among the 70 mentioned in Luke 10:1.

In verse 24, we see clearly that the selection of the replacement was God's sovereign decision. At that point, the Eleven cast their lots and Matthias was chosen. The casting of lots was a common Hebrew practice for determining God's will (cf. Leviticus 16:8-10; Joshua 7:14; Proverbs 18:18). This is the last time the casting of lots is mentioned in the Bible. Such a practice no longer was necessary with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

But the Roman Catholic is not likely to accept that clear reading of Scripture. He will argue instead that other apostles were replaced as they died, though he may admit there is no record of this in the Scriptures.

The process involved an act of faith. After having proposed two men who had been with them throughout Christ's worldly ministry, they prayed to God to guide them in making their selection. Those who would have the world believe that those who have occupied the Holy See in Rome, with the notable and quite few exceptions of men referred to as antipopes, represent links in an unbroken succession of "apostles." When one compares the manner by which some of these popes attained their "apostolic" status with the method employed by the Eleven, does it not give pause to wonder about the reality of the myth of apostolic succession?

There were popes who used murder to gain the papal throne. There were popes, "apostolic successors", who lived lives of utter dissolution while sitting on the papal throne. History records that several maintained mistresses, others maintained incestuous relationships, others were pedophiles and one (John XII) kept a harem in the Lateran Palace. Can such men, clearly unrepentant of their continuing sexual sin, truly have been selected by Divine inspiration to be members of the mythical apostolic succession? Look to Scripture. Look to the church discipline exercised in Corinth against the man who was having an affair with his father's wife:

1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
--1 Corinthians 5:1-5, KJV

How does the RCC explain away such clear conflicts of papal behavior with the Word of God? Why, they respond that the Catholic Church has never required "impeccability" of its popes. And a good thing, too, for were that the case, how difficult it would have been to maintain that unbroken chain of "apostolic succession."

In my 15 years of dueling with Romanist online, I have yet to encounter one who was willing to explain to me why God also does not require impeccability in those who claim to represent Him on earth -- calling themselves Sweet Christ on Earth and Vicar of God -- or Christ.

Peter was a simple man, as were all the Twelve. Though he tended to go off half-cocked at times, his letters are remarkable in their even-handed tone and humility. He does not declare himself to be " Praesentia Corporalis Christi", as did Innocent IV (1243-54).

Not Peter nor any of the 12 other men called "apostle" held any positions of worldly power and surely none were wealthy. When the Sons of Zebedee wrangled among themselves over who would sit on which side of King Jesus, did not the Lord rebuke them?

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.--Mark 10:35-45,

Yet, so many of those links in that "unbroken line of apostolic succession" that Romish apologists are so fond of appear clearly to have lusted for worldly power and strived mightily to enhance their own authority. Drunken Urban V (1378-89) proclaimed "I can do anything I like, absolutely anything I like." Innocent III (1198-216), called himself Universal Bishop.

Recall Jesus' words to Pilate:

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.--John 18:36

With Christ's words in mind, consider Pope Julius II (1503-1513):

A patron of artists like Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante, Julius II commissioned plans for the new St. Peter's Basilica, to be funded by the sale of indulgences--the kindling for the Protestant Reformation soon to follow.

Born Giuliano della Rovere of impoverished but noble parents, he was, like so many other popes, a nephew of a previous pope, Sixtus IV (1471-84), and , like these others, he benefited greatly from favors granted by his uncle the pope. He was named bishop of Carpentras at age eighteen and later the same year cardinal-priests of San Pietro in Vincoli. He was quickly given other diocese (including Avignon), abbeys, and benefices (income-producing ecclesiastical offices), including appointment as cardinal-bishiop of Santa Sabina. As a cardinal, he fathered three daughters....Apart from his interest in art and architectured, Julius II was a thoroughly political, even military pope, far removed from the example of the Apostle Peter and the mandate of Jesus Christ. He restored and enlarged the Papal States, forced the still dangerous Cesare Borgia out of Italy, won back most of Romagna, and in 1506, in full armor and in the lead, captured Perugia and Bologna from their tyrannical rulers. In 1508, having joined the League of Cambria (France, GErmany and Spain), he defeated Venice so completely that it had to surrender Rimini and Faenza as well as taxation rights...--Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (c) 1997 by Richard P. McBrien; pp. 270-71

Apparently, few popes have taken to heart Christ's admonition that one cannot serve two masters, yet Romanists ignore these conflicts with Scripture and continue to view their popes as Peter's successors.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.--Matthew 6:24

At this point, the Roman Catholic may argue that it is not necessary for the Bible to list all of the successors to the other apostles or the successors to their successors to show that this was a valid practice started by Peter. "All that is necessary," he might claim, "is to show that it was the intention of the apostles to have their apostolic ministry and offices filled upon their departure from this world." Doctrine based on imagination.

I agree completely there is no need for the Bible to list all of the successors to the other apostles. Certainly, it can be shown from Scripture that the Eleven indeed felt a need to select a successor to Judas' chair in the college of Apostles. There is, however, nothing in Scripture to indicate that there was any intention that such a process be continued indefinitely. To accept the RCC argument, based on Acts 1:20-26, one must fill many gaps in the Scriptural record. The RCC is quite practiced at such activities; however, those of us who do not accord to "Sacred Tradition" the same authority as does the Magisterium seek more substantial evidence.

To extend the argument that it was "the intention of the apostles to have their apostolic ministry and offices filled upon their departure from this world," one must logically expect there to also be an unbroken line of "apostolic succession" originating with each of the other eleven Apostles. Where, then, are the records of the popes, or whatever they are called, who comprise the links of the chains of apostolic succession issuing forth from the offices of Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite and Matthias?

But let us instead examine the question of apostolic succession in the light of Scripture unadulterated by the Magisterium's spin doctoring. Peter, writing "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1), and by extension the true Church, provides a clear statement of just who are the successors to himself and all the apostles:

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:--1 Peter 2:1-9

Who are the links in the unbroken apostolic succession? Why they are all the saints. All those who have been called out by God and delivered from condemnation by faith in the atoning sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Those who read at this site likely have encountered some of those apostolic links. Surely, they will have met and heard of many others. Those who cling to the Christ of Scripture, rather than the Roman clone, are those links. Take down your Bible, get to know the Lord and compare His Word with the lies and deceptions that Rome would foist off on you as God's truth. Perhaps you, too, can be a link in that unbroken chain of apostolic succession.

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