Gordon Fee, says that the New Testament is full of surprises, "but none is so surprising as its generally relaxed attitude toward church structures and leadership. Lists of succeeding bishops, such as that begun by Irenaeus, tend to be based on dogma and expediency rather than factual history. Hans Kung, who is the most widely read Roman Catholic theologian in the world today, says, "An uninterrupted sequence of 'laying on of hands' from the apostles to the bishops of today, an unbroken chain of succession of the kind cited in later lists of succession cannot be demonstrated historically.
John Wesley, who as an Anglican minister, initially held to an apostolic succession through the Anglican bishops, found his views refined in the fires of the 18th century Methodist revival, which he spearheaded. Through his diligent study of the New Testament and after observing the Holy Spirit raise up powerful ministries from the ranks of the common people outside the Anglican Church, he declared that "neither Christ nor his apostles prescribed any form of church government.
In the primitive church there was no single system of church order laid down by the apostles. During the first hundred years of Christianity, the Church was an organism alive and growing—changing its organization to meet changing needs. Uniformity was a later development. The idea that there can be no church without this Catholic rite of Apostolic Succession, diminishes both faith and Christ. It makes a doctrine—and a tenuous one at that—to be predominant and central.
It makes both church and the apostolic appear mechanical and doctrinaire. Jesus, on the other hand, said that where two or three are gathered together in His name, that he would sanction that gathering with His presence Matthew Is His presence not adequate? For many Protestants, the Catholic approach to Apostolic Succession, wherein the authority of the apostles is passed along by a programmed religious rite, does not make sense or pass the test of Scripture. I would ask my Catholic friends to consider the following questions.
Meditate & Declare (A Journey with the Apostle Paul)
Should not Apostolic Succession be a thing of substance—of faith and of the Spirit? Should it not be a succession in apostolic faith, apostolic commitment to Christ, and an apostolic experience of the Spirit? Are we not all responsible for adhering to the faith and vision of those first apostles? Apostolic succession as a thing of the Spirit cannot be restricted to a religious ritual that is mechanically repeated generation after generation—as though the Holy Spirit could be confined to a particular ecclesiastical order.
The wind blows where it wishes , Jesus said Jn. This is why Henry P. Van Dusen, former president of Union Theological Seminary, declared, "The Holy Spirit has always been troublesome to Church officialdom, because He does seem to be unruly, unpredictable and radical. The apostles recognized all gatherings of believers as true churches. Even though the church in Antioch was not under Peter's authority, as evidenced by the fact that Paul publicly rebuked him when he came there and waffled on the issue of the Gentiles equal acceptance in Christ, there was no question of Antioch being a true church.
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Apostolic succession is the responsibility of the whole church—of every Christian. A church is not apostolic because it has a leader who calls himself an apostle, bishop, or pope. Every believer must seek to walk in the same selfless devotion to Christ as those first apostles. Every believer must live in the same selfless love toward others that characterized the early apostolic church.
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And every believer must live in a radical dependence on the Holy Spirit as did those first followers of Christ. Only then can the church today make any claim to being apostolic. Apostolic succession is neither mechanical nor automatic. Apostolic succession is a succession in apostolic commitment to Christ and apostolic life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Acts of the Apostles
Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian and Biblical scholar. Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. Great Resources to help you excel in ! Prayer helps you overcome anything life throws at you. Please consider the following statements pertaining to comments posted by you and other visitors to our website:.
It's a challenge for most pastors to find a way to inspire church members to develop a heart for those outside their communities. Please follow these guidelines before commenting on our website: Please be considerate and respectful of your fellow posters. Paul also had at least a passing acquaintance with other religions of his day. On at least one occasion he quoted from pagan religious texts while preaching.
In addition, he knew the useful trade of tent-making, which helped support him during his missionary journeys.
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It was apparently this religious zealotry that led the young man to persecute Christians, whom he must have viewed as a new and dangerous cult, threatening the Pharisaic traditions he so passionately embraced. We first encounter Paul in this account as an associate of those who stoned to death St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. But God had other plans for Paul.
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On the road to Damascus, the Risen Christ himself showed up, in an appearance so powerful that it knocked Paul to the ground and blinded him. Paul was confronted with the reality that the Man of Nazareth who had been crucified truly was raised from the dead, as His followers claimed. This Man, he came to realize, was in fact the divine Son of God in the flesh, the Christ or Messiah long promised to His people. In opposing the Church, Paul had been opposing the God he had wanted to serve. Then He gave the trembling man in-structions about how he was to begin the radically new life that lay ahead for him.
Paul had become a follower of Christ, called to a new mission to preach the Gospel of his new Lord to the world. Then he received his first instructions about the Christian life from other believers.
Paul, Apostle of Christ Jesus | Simply Catholic
As passionate as ever about what he believed, Paul began sharing his new faith right away in the local synagogues of Damascus, where Jewish people gathered to worship. Before long, the Jewish religious leaders opposed to the Christian movement were seeking to kill Paul. The persecutor had become the persecuted. So he fled to Arabia or Nabatea for awhile. Eventually, he returned to Damascus, but he had to flee once more, barely escaping his enemies by being lowered secretly in a basket through the city wall. This time Paul went back to Jerusalem to get acquainted with the apostles, to be taught by them and to seek their recognition of his own vocation.
He stayed awhile with St. Peter and continued preaching. Then, once again facing dangerous opposition, he withdrew into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, his home province.
In the first, he went to the island of Cyprus, several cities in Asia Minor, back to Antioch, then to Jerusalem and Antioch again. Typically, in each place he preached first in the local Jewish synagogue, then to the Gentiles of the area.
In his second journey, Paul returned to the sites in Asia Minor where he had preached before to check up on the new Christian communities he had established. This strategy of planting new local churches, moving on to preach in other cities and then following up again through visits or letters became the pattern for his ministry. These letters provided the young churches he had founded with instruction, correction, inspiration and encouragement.
Paul also wrote the biblical letter to the Romans, though the church there was not one he himself had planted. In addition, some of the biblical epistles of Paul were written to individuals, such as 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Scholars have debated whether some of the letters attributed to him might, in fact, have been written by another author using his name.
Paul wrote more books of the Bible than any other author.