Thursday, June 5, 2014

Church Authority

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  How was Jesus sent?  He was sent by the Father with all authority in heaven and earth (Mat 28:18) in such a way as to never bind a believer to a falsehood since whatever is bound or loosed on earth is also bound or loosed in heaven (Mat 18:15-18).  Nothing untrue can be bound in heaven therefore whatever is bound on earth must be true.

But is this how it was understood at the time of the Apostles?  Were there disagreements between the disciples?  If so, how did they resolve it?  One need not look any further than verses 1 and 2 of the Book of Acts, chapter 15.  It says:

“ 1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

One set of Christian teacher were telling new converts that they are to be circumcised first if one was to be saved.  The other set, Paul and Barnabas, told the converts that circumcision was unnecessary.  Who were the converts to believe when confronted with conflicting teachings?  The converts sent both groups to Jerusalem to settle the matter. The leaders of the Church…Of the WHOLE Church decided the matter for all believers in Christ.  As is clearly seen a little further down when Paul and Barnabas traveled through the towns after the Council of Jerusalem, Scripture says that “As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.”  It wasn’t a choice or simply for those believers in Jerusalem but for all believers in Christ.

The first followers went to the Church when disputes arose between believers to settle the matter because that’s how Jesus told the Apostles to do it.  He told them try to settle the matter between themselves but if they couldn’t, they were to go to the Church.  The buck stops at the Church.  Here is how Jesus put it.  When one sins against another (separating oneself from the Body of Christ is a grave sin against the whole body), they are to:

If your brother sins, go and point out his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won him over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he still refuses to listen, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Mat 18:15-17)

These verses show us that the Church that Christ builds must have a visible aspect to it because there is no way two individuals in a dispute can go to all believers in Christ (all Christians) when so many believe contradictory doctrines.  Paul tells us in his first letter to Timothy that some will abandon the faith by believing false doctrines and therefore instructs Timothy to go to the Church, the One True Church to settle the matter.  Go to the leaders of the Church.

And because Jesus promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church in Matthew 16:19 means that His Church will never teach false doctrines.  If His Church did teach a false doctrine as true then that would put the faithful at peril of losing the faith (1 Tim 4:1).  His Church could never do that since it would go against its very nature of being the upholder and defender of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).


Let’s use a concrete example to clarify what I’m saying.  Let’s say my cousin comes to me one day and tells me that his wife is pregnant and she feels she isn’t ready for a child right now.  She decided to have an abortion, and failing to convince her and following Scripture my cousin comes to me with another friend to try to convince her not to have the procedure.  But she still wants an abortion.  My cousin then goes to his church (which is Catholic) for help.  Now, since the Catholic Church teaches that absolutely, abortion is wrong, we know the church will tell her that she shouldn’t have an abortion.  But she just goes to her church (one of many possible ones who do teach that abortion is a personal choice and can even be redemptive).  So now we have come to an impasse, which church are we to listen to?  Which church is actually teaching the truth?  You see how the idea of His Church being only a conglomeration of all believers prevents us from knowing the truth with certainty?  His Church must have a visible entity so that all may know the truth of what He teaches.  And His teachings are made known to us in its fullest form through His Church because only His Church has been given the promise of being led into ALL truth (John 16:13).

The only Church which has had a physical presence throughout the centuries beginning in the first century up to today’s councils is the Catholic Church.  All these councils, 21 in all beginning with the council at Jerusalem found in Acts 15, are teaching doctrinal truth because we know that His Church is the pillar and defender of the truth.  We can know this Church is the Catholic Church by simply going through the writings and declarations inside the documents produced by these councils were written by Catholic Bishops and ratified/approved by the Pope. When it comes to doctrinal matters, either of faith or morals, we are to accept the Catholic Church’s doctrinal teachings whether we like them or not, whether they are easy to follow or not because they are the truth. 

Isn’t it a great blessing to be able to go to an authority that can guide and correct our wayward ways by identifying the truth in a sea of confusing and conflicting ‘truths’?  Thank you Lord for giving us a sure fire way of knowing the truth!

God Bless

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