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                         "APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION"


1. In Mt 16:18 Jesus promised to build His church...
   a. A church built on a solid foundation
   b. A church that would never be destroyed

2. Where is His church today...?
   a. There are many churches claiming to be "the one true church"
   b. Is it possible to know which church is the "true church"?

[Many people believe that the answer is to be found in...]


      1. Apostolic succession is the line of bishops stretching back to
         the apostles. - Catholic Answers, Apostolic Succession (San
         Diego: Catholic Answers, 2001)
      2. All over the world, all Catholic bishops can have their lineage
         of predecessors traced back to the time of the apostles,
         something that is impossible in Protestant denominations (most
         of which do not even claim to have bishops). - ibid.
      3. The Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of succession,
         regularly appealed to apostolic succession as a test for
         whether Catholics or heretics had correct doctrine. - ibid.
      -- Such is the view as defined by Roman Catholic sources

      1. The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox,
         Nestorian and Anglican Churches hold that apostolic succession
         is maintained through the ordination of bishops in unbroken
         personal succession back to the apostles but do not necessarily
         interpret this 'succession' identically. - Wikipedia
      2. Roman Catholics recognize the validity of the apostolic
         successions of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox
         churches (such recognition is not reciprocated by the Eastern
         Orthodox...) - ibid.
      3. The Roman Catholic church believes that the Anglican Church's
         ordinations are invalid because of changes made to the rite of
         ordination under Edward VI, thus denying that Anglicans
         participate in the apostolic succession. - ibid.
      4. The Armenian Apostolic Church, which is one of the Oriental
         Orthodox churches, recognizes Roman Catholic episcopal
         consecrations without qualification (and that recognition is
         reciprocated). - ibid.
      5. Some Protestant churches, especially Anglicans (including those
         known in the USA as Episcopalians), and also Moravians and some
         Lutherans, do have Apostolic Succession (also known as the
         "historic episcopate"). - ibid.
      6. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has a
         similar, but unique position.
         a. The LDS claims that apostolic succession was broken during
            the Great Apostasy, or falling away from the teachings of
            Jesus Christ, and later restored in America. - ibid.
         b. The LDS Church maintains that God the Father and His son,
            Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. near Palmyra,
            New York in 1820 and called Joseph as a prophet to restore
            Christ's church and correct doctrines and practices to the
            earth. - ibid.
      -- Thus the view is held with some variation by different churches

      1. Based on Scripture
         a. Mt 16:18 - the assumption is made that apostolic succession
            is necessary for Jesus' promise concerning the church to be
         b. Ac 20:17,28 - from this passage some assume authority to
            govern the church universal
         c. 2Ti 2:2 - this passage is offered as proof of apostolic
      2. Based on tradition
         a. The Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of
            succession, regularly appealed to apostolic succession as a
            test for whether Catholics or heretics had correct doctrine.
            - Catholic Answers
         b. Those who argued for the doctrine apostolic succession
            1) Iraneus (A.D. 189)
            2) Tertullian (A.D. 200)
            3) Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 253)
            4) Jerome (A.D. 396)
            5) Augustine (A.D. 397)
      -- See http://www.catholic.com/library/Apostolic_Succession.asp
         for quotes

[The doctrine of apostolic succession certainly has it advocates.  But
it is a doctrine with problems upon close examination...]


      1. Based on Scripture
         a. Mt 16:18 - if the church universal is the mystical body of
            Christ, it's continuation is not dependent upon a physical
            succession of church leaders; it requires only the Head
            (Christ) and members (Christians)
         b. Ac 20:17,28 - this passage only authorizes the authority of
            elders (bishops) over a local congregation; no authority is
            given over the church universal
         c. 2Ti 2:2 - a succession of teachers was the goal; nothing in
            this passage supports an unbreakable succession of leaders
            whose authority was to be unquestioned
         d. Ac 12:1-2 - when the apostles James was beheaded, no
            successor was appointed to replace him
      2. Based on history
         a. The appeal to apostolic succession did not appear before
            A.D. 170-200 - Elwell Evangelical Dictionary
         b. All early succession lists were compiled late in the second
            century - ibid.
         c. It was developed as a means to counter Gnostic and other
         d. It became a convenient way to assert validity and authority,
            taking precedent over appealing to the Word of God
      -- Today, different churches use their "succession lists" to prove
         their claim to be the true church; which one are we to believe?

      1. An apostasy was foretold by the apostles - 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Th 2:
         1-3; 2Pe 2:1-3
      2. Even some appointed by the apostles would fall away - Ac 20:
      3. Those who taught differently from the apostles were to be
         rejected - cf. Ga 1:6-9
      4. Those who first claimed apostolic succession were already
         teaching things different from what the apostles' taught
         a. E.g., they taught a distinction between bishops and elders
            (contra Paul and Peter)
         b. Those who first claimed apostolic succession were heretics
      5. Those who claim apostolic succession today teach many things in
         addition and contrary to the teachings of Christ and His
         inspired apostles
         a. The concept of apostolic succession therefore did not
            prevent apostasy
         b. Claiming a historical connection does not prove
            faithfulness; apostates in the line of succession would
            render such claims untrustworthy
      -- Claims of apostolic succession were first made by early
         apostates; the doctrine of those claiming apostolic succession
         today is far removed from apostolic teaching

[Yes, churches claiming apostolic succession today differ quite a bit
from the church as revealed in the New Testament.  If apostolic
succession does not prevent apostasy, what will...?]


      1. The Word of God is like seed
         a. It is the seed of the kingdom - Lk 8:11; cf. Mt 13:19
         b. It has the power to produce fruit in the hearts of those who
            receive it - Mt 13:23
      2. The Word of God is an incorruptible seed
         a. An incorruptible seed by which we can be born again - 1 Pe
            1:22-23a; Jm 1:18
         b. It lives and abides forever; it endures forever - 1Pe 2:
         c. It is contained in the gospel of Christ - 1Pe 1:25b
      3. The Word of God is sufficient for salvation and godliness
         a. Able to save our souls - Jm 1:21
         b. Profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in
            righteousness - 2Ti 3:16
         c. Making one complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work
            - 2Ti 3:17
         d. Providing all things pertaining to life and godliness - 2 Pe
      4. The Word of God is the antidote to apostasy
         a. The Faith (i.e., the Word of God) has been revealed once for
            all - Jude 3
         b. Paul directed elders to the Word of God, not some doctrine
            of apostolic succession, as the protection against apostasy
            - cf. Ac 20:32
      -- We need to appreciate the value of the Word of God to save and
         secure His people from the dangers of apostasy!

      1. Many have an incorrect view of the universal church (i.e., the
         kingdom) - Mt 16:18-19
         a. That the church is a physical institution, with a
            hierarchical organization
         b. That the organization contains several levels of authority
            above the local church
         c. That the church cannot exist without a physical continuation
            of the hierarchy
         d. That membership requires approval of the hierarchy
      2. Yet contrast that with what is revealed by Christ and His
         a. The church (or kingdom) is a spiritual institution
            1) The kingdom is within you - Lk 17:20-21
            2) The kingdom is not of this world - Jn 18:36
            3) The kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy
               Spirit - Ro 14:17
         b. The organization of the church universal is spiritual
            1) Christ is the cornerstone, His apostles and prophets are
               the foundation, and all other Christians are 'living
               stones' - cf. Ep 2:19-22; 1Pe 2:5
            2) Christ is the Head, Christians are members of His body
               - 1Co 12:27; Col 1:18
            3) As long as Christ is the Head, His church will exist!
               - cf. He 12:22-24,28
         c. Earthly organization was limited to the local church
            1) A local church when scripturally organized had bishops
               and deacons - Php 1:1
            2) These bishops were also called "elders" or "pastors",
               whose role was to oversee and feed the local congregation
               - Ac 14:23; 20:17,28; 1Pe 5:1-2
            3) The only authority over the universal church on earth
               were the apostles, and they were not replaced when they
               died - e.g., James in Ac 12:2
         d. Membership in the church universal is determined by the
            1) He is the one who adds people to His body, when they are
               saved - Ac 2:41,47
            2) He knows those who are His - 2Ti 2:19
            3) He only has the right to blot out our names from the book
               of Life - Re 3:5
      -- We need to understand the spiritual nature of the church, to
         see why there is no need for 'apostolic succession' to preserve
         the Lord's church today!


1. The doctrine of apostolic succession...
   a. Is without true scriptural basis
   b. Was devised by false teachers, in an attempt to counter other
      false teachers
   c. Has been used by many different churches, each asserting their own
      validity and authority
   d. Yet has not prevented wholesale apostasy from God and His Word

2. The Lord's church mentioned in Mt 16:18...
   a. Is built on the foundation of Christ and His apostles - Ep 2:19-22
   b. Grows whenever people respond to the gospel as proclaimed by the
      apostles - Ac 2:38-41,47
   c. Is manifested wherever people continue in apostolic doctrine, not
      traditions of men - Ac 2:42
   d. Is preserved by the power of God and the all-sufficient, once for
      all revealed, Word of God - Ac 20:32; 2Ti 3:16-17; Jude 3

By remaining faithful to the incorruptible seed, the Word of God, and by
His grace, we will receive that "inheritance among all those who are
sanctified" (Ac 20:32)...
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