Apostolic Succession

Discussion in 'Doctrinal Discussions' started by SueJLove, Jun 29, 2015.

  1. Hello! I just got introduced to this subject yesterday, so I am just beginning to do some research on it, so if you have any knowledge of this subject you would like to share with me, I would appreciate it. Thanks!
  2. In a nutshell, the authority to loose and bind (act as a representative of Jesus and speak with His authority) was given to Peter and the other apostles, and later to any persons that the apostles had ordained. Thus you have a chain of authority that has been passed down through the centuries.
  3. Is that what you believe, or are you just defining it for me?
  4. Yes to both.
  5. It certainly is a subject worth discussing, because it's very a very popular doctrine in Christendom today. It's also a doctrine which I believe the scripture shows us to be false, for one simple reason: The Lord is coming quickly.

    "He that testifies these things says, Yea, I come quickly." (Revelation 22:20). The Lord says it clearly, three times in Revelation 22: "I come quickly". Elsewhere in the same book, He warns, "Repent therefore: but if not, I come to thee quickly..." (Revelation 2:16) and cautions "I come quickly: hold fast what thou hast, that no one take thy crown." (Revelation 3:11). Elsewhere, the apostles remind us of His soon-coming: James writes, "Ye also have patience: stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is drawn nigh." (James 5:8) and Paul writes, "For yet a very little while he that comes will come, and will not delay." (Hebrews 10:37). The scripture couldn't be more clear and emphatic, the Lord is coming quickly. I believe that these words are recorded so that we're kept in constant watchfulness and expectation of His coming, so that we don't get weary and impatient, and don't let our hearts grow cold in his absence. Some might say, "Well, it's been more than two thousand years! Where is He?" But scripture answers those fears and doubts: "The Lord does not delay his promise, as some account of delay, but is longsuffering towards you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).

    What has that got to do with apostolic succession? Well, quite simply, if the Lord is coming quickly, then there's no need for a succession of apostles. The apostle Paul laid down the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10) and that work is done, once and for all, "For other foundation can no man lay besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11). We get the order in Ephesians 4:11, "... He has given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers...". The apostles come first, then others come - as Paul says, "I have laid the foundation, but another builds upon it. But let each see how he builds upon it." (1 Corinthians 3:10). The Church has been established, and no further establishment of another Church is required, therefore there are no more apostles. There is what's apostolic in character (and the Church certainly needs that), but no-one can now claim truly to be an apostle. The harm of the notion of apostolic succession is clear: if we, as believers, embrace that doctrine, it keeps us in constant expectation of the next apostle, rather than the coming Christ.

    Paul is keen to shut off the opportunity of those who would come afterwards, falsely claiming to be apostles:

    "The truth of Christ is in me that this boasting shall not be stopped as to me in the regions of Achaia. Why? because I do not love you? God knows. But what I do, I will also do, that I may cut off the opportunity of those wishing for an opportunity, that wherein they boast they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And it is not wonderful, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also transform themselves as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." - 2 Corinthians 11:10-15

    If anyone doubts that there is no succession of apostles down the ages, they only need to look at those who have claimed and are claiming to be apostles now. The Church of Rome has one. Throughout Christendom there are others, people setting up their own churches and claiming leadership of them. I'll leave it to the brethren to judge whether or not their actions show them to be successors of the apostles. This might be a good opportunity to bring in a word about the danger of going about setting up new churches, laying a foundation which is not that which was laid at the first. The scripture doesn't sanction such a thing. The Holy Spirit will not lend Himself to the establishment of the Church of Such-and-Such or the Church of This Country or That. That there is only one Body is a fact that every believer must know, as the scripture says (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 10:17, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Colossians 3:15 Ephesians 4:4, and so on). The sad state of Christendom, with believers scattered among thousands of sects and denominations, is grievous and very humbling for the believer who cherishes the divine thought of the one Body. However, the overcomer in this broken day is the believer who doesn't merely accept this fragmentation as the norm (because none of God's thoughts is ever lost, none of His plans are ever frustrated). The overcomer acknowledges the truth of the one Body and moves in accordance with that. How a believer might do that is a subject for another discussion altogether, and it's really an exercise which has to be taken up by the individual believer.
  6. There is no such thing as apostolic succession. It is not a biblically sound concept, but is only a tradition created by the catholic religion.
    Francis Drake, SueJLove and Grant Melville says Amen and like this.
  7. Thank you. It does exist, in theory and in practice, even though it does not exist in reality, and it is not cohesive with the teachings of scripture. What I mean is, I believe it is a false doctrine, and that it is very dangerous, and that it has all kinds of implications within the church in these last days, but there are those who believe it is real, and who are practicing it, in theory, as though it is real, and they are leading many, many people astray to what I believe is an abuse of authority, and which is leading people to raise men to the status of God, so that they follow men as though they are following God, and it allows men, thus, to abuse that authority, and to lead people astray to what is false, and to a false gospel or worse. I believe it is being used to tear down the church and to silence those who still hold to the foundations of our faith as taught by Jesus and the apostles as recorded in the New Testament.
    Complete and Grant Melville say Amen and like this.
  8. Give me time to digest all of this, and I will get back with you. Thanks. Sue
  9. There is so much wrong with this post, it's hard to know where to start.
    Except that He hasn't. Whatever you think scripture may mean, the fact is, He has not come quickly.
    Not by any understanding of the word "quickly" that humans use.

    Absolutely nothing whatsoever.

    Perhaps for you, but not for anyone else I've ever heard of or spoken to.
    What Paul wrote and what you assume have nothing to do with each other.
    There is no person in the Roman Catholic Church who claims to be an apostle. The Pope is the Heir of Peter, with the same authority as Peter. Not an apostle, you are misguided.
    You mean like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Joseph Smith, Benny Hinn and their ilk, yes?
    Apostolic succession is about having the authority to do the things that a priest is required to do.
    You do remember Jesus giving the Keys to Heaven to Peter, and the authority to bind and loose?
    That means an awful lot more than you understand.
    If someone claims to be clergy and can do nothing more than a lay person can do, they aren't clergy, just pretenders.
    And there are plenty of those.
  10. Yes, Sue, I agree, that while it does "exist" as many practice it, it surely does not exist in reality. It is indeed a false doctrine of belief that caters to the idea of a spiritual hierarchy, where none exists. All spiritual gifts and callings are equally important to the Body of Christ, and it is Holy Spirit alone who does the equipping of those He calls.
    Grant Melville and SueJLove say Amen and like this.
  11. Agreed! http://www.christianforumsite.com/threads/retain-the-standard.43057/#post-414111
    Euphemia likes this.
  12. I read through what you wrote. You seemed to cover several different subjects, and in some areas I agreed with you, but in others I did not agree or else I was unclear as to your meaning. Yet, I thank you for responding, and for answering my question. Everyone's input so far is helping me to understand this subject a little more clearly. I am concerned over the direction I believe this doctrine is taking the church, and the deception that naturally flows from that. I believe there are some serious ramifications that will ultimately result from such a held belief (doctrine).
  13. #13 Grant Melville, Jun 29, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2015
    Well, @Glomung, dear friend, I'm not going to answer most of your comment - the scripture is quite clear, and what can I say to add to that if it isn't accepted? I will answer the questions and points you raise at the end, though.

    You say that these are the false apostles? Well, certainly Luther and Calvin didn't claim to be apostles (as far as I'm aware), not in the explicit way the some do these days. Luther and Calvin were used of God in the recovery of the truth, and that has to be recognised. However, there was the problem after that of sects growing around these men, so we get Lutheran Churches and Calvinists, the setting up of new churches, an act which has no basis in scripture. It wouldn't be until the 19th century that the truth of the one Body was recovered. As to Joseph Smith - the less said the better, sadly. I haven't heard of Benny Hinn.

    Revelation 1:6 teaches us that all believers are priests. There's no exclusive earthly priesthood now, in contrast to what existed under the Jewish system.

    I do remember it: and Peter used those keys in Acts 2, opening up the gospel to the Jews, and in Acts 10, to open the gospel to the Gentiles. I'm absolutely sure that you're right that I don't understand the half of what that means - what a glorious subject! But, I trust that the Lord will grant it, if I go on in subjection to Him and dependence on Him, that I "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18).

    There's no basis in scripture for the division of believers into clergy and laity - on the contrary, Nicolaitanism is condemned as something hateful to the Lord (Revelation 2:6). Undoubtedly many will take issue with my understanding of what the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes was, but I'm assured that it was this unscriptural division. It's my experience that God has set certain gifted ones in the assembly (1 Corinthians 12:28), and when believers gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus, these gifts can be exercised for the edification of the Body. It's a simple thing, without earthly ornament or ritual, without the need for man's ordination of man, without chairmanship or direction by an official. The blessed promise of the Lord Jesus highlights the simplicity of the thing: "For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20). That is my experience: when believers gather in simplicity to the Name of the Lord Jesus, He will honour their faithfulness.
    Francis Drake and Euphemia say Amen and like this.
  14. Sue, if there's anything you'd I've said that you'd like me to clarify, please be free to ask. I tend to write things down as they come to me and it isn't always comprehensible to someone else! It's quite a test to me to be clear and keep my language simple.
  15. I don't quite understand your thoughts you shared on the subject of starting new churches and naming them the church of such-and-such, of a particular place. In the Bible, churches were called the church in Corinth, or the church in Ephesus, etc. Are you referring to beginning new churches that are not founded on the word of God? Because, as the gospel goes forth, and the church body expands and grows, it necessitates forming new fellowships in various places, which is a good thing, as long as it is founded on the Word of truth and not on humanistic philosophy and human marketing schemes. Thank you for responding, and for being willing to clarify some of what you said to me.
  16. Yes, I think you have it exactly: churches which are not founded on the word of God. I firmly believe (though many will no doubt disagree) that we have the divine pattern of what the Church is in the scripture, and no other pattern will be in line with the mind of God. C.H. Mackintosh says about the Church (or 'assembly') that "The Gospel prophetically intimates the assembly; the Acts historically presents the assembly; and the Epistles formally address the assembly". Throughout the New Testament, we have the Church in view, God's mind as to it. In the Epistles, we have the Church in Corinth, and the Church in Ephesus. Not a church in Corinth or Ephesus, or even the church at Corinth or Ephesus. That may seem like a small distinction, but I believe it shows us that there is only one Church, represented in different localities which are part of the same Body.

    What I mean when I talk about "Church of Such-and-Such or the Church of This Country or That" is a very different thing from what we get presented to us in the scripture, which you've highlighted. I mean (for example) the 'Church of St Jude', or 'The Church of Scotland' or 'The Presbyterian Church'. The scripture doesn't contemplate such thing as independent churches. There have been independent churches set up, formed around doctrines, or nations, or persons. They might be true doctrines, they might be god-fearing nations, and they might upright and godly persons - but none of those things provide a foundation for setting up a new Church. "For other foundation can no man lay besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11).

    The gospel is going out, reaching every part of the world. People are coming to know Jesus as Saviour. As you quite rightly say "the church body expands and grows, it necessitates forming new fellowships in various places". The question is, who forms those fellowships, practically? Is it God, or is it man? It is undeniably God who leads people to the Saviour, so the personnel - the materials, we might say, of the local fellowship - are secured by God, not by man - though He uses men to announce the glad tidings. The question is whether the work of God in consolidation stops with merely securing the materials, and the mind of man has to be brought in to organise the rest. The scripture is clear that this isn't the case: Paul says to the Corinthians, "ye are God's husbandry, God's building." (1 Corinthians 3:9). God is the Husbandman and the Builder, Christ is the true Vine and the Cornerstone. How does that work out practically? Well, I believe that if the brethren assemble - whether it's in Corinth, in Rome, in Istanbul, in Falkirk, in Moscow - to the all-sufficient Name of the Lord Jesus and wait upon the Holy Spirit, then the divine building will go on, and flourish. It's natural to tend to want to make an organisation, give it a name so that it's distinguished, appoint officials to direct the services, and so on. But this isn't the divine pattern as we get it in the scriptures.

    Well, there's a lot more which I could say on this subject, and I have to make a real effort to be brief, accurate and simple, so I'll leave it at that for the moment. I am, of course, happy to expand on any aspect of what I've said, and perhaps it might be easier if anyone who's interested would ask the particular questions that come to them.

    For anyone who's really interested in the subject as a whole, I can't recommend more highly Mr Mackintosh's little pamphlet:


    I don't know the website or the authors of it, so I can't vouch for its content, but that brief article is certainly worth reading. It sets out the truth much more clearer than I ever could!
  17. Thank you. That helps me understand better your position. From what I can tell so far, it sounds as though we think similarly with regard to the church being the body of Christ, and there is only one body, but it meets in different places, and there is only one foundation, which is Christ, and only one head, which is Christ, and we are his building, not that of man.
    Complete and Grant Melville say Amen and like this.
  18. Absolutely, @SueJLove, that's the key to the whole thing.
  19. You are correct. Biblically speaking, only those who saw Jesus Christ personally and was commissioned by Him are able to be Apostles. Since John was the last Apostle to die, there has not been an Apostle since him. There has been lots who have claimed that they are but it is Biblically impossible so them to be so.

    One of the Biblical requirements for one to be rightly regarded as an apostle were those following Jesus from the time of John’s baptism. They also were to have seen the risen Lord be witnesses of his resurrection. When the closed group of twelve became eleven, they sought another to take Judas' office:
    Acts 1:21-22...............
    Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time the Lord Jesus went in and among us beginning from the baptism of John to that day he was taken up from us One of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.' “

    Others claim it by showing their signs, wonders and miracles. This so-called signs and wonders movement is part of an effort to restore what they understood to be the five-fold ministry described in Ephesians 4:11. The proliferators of the movement claim that these dynamics are what is necessary for the church to have power. In actuality, those who lay claim to this ministry today are operating under a misunderstanding of apostles and prophets of the Bible.

    The Lord confirmed His signs to the apostles' words to show a transition of authority from Israel and its priesthood to the apostles who were laying down the foundation for the church, a new entity. This unique anointing testified to Israel and to the gentiles a new order of leadership, the demonstration of spiritual authority was transferred to the church Christ body.

    Validated by signs and miracles, the apostles deemed the faith for the whole Church and established the written word by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Once the scriptures were completed, the Church had all that was necessary in the area of revelational truth. The apostles' instructions were in words, then put to paper for all succeeding generations on how to live in obedience to the faith.

    Once a foundation is laid down and a house is built, we don't rebuild the foundation.(Eph.2:20) Neither should we rip apart the house that the Lord has built.

    Now, what happens when a church denomination accepts someone as an Apostle, these impostor’s claim to be exclusively without error in their interpretations and teachings on all church matters. They are to be questioned by no one.

    But in reading the letter of Jude, we find him exhorting the believers to contend for their faith among apostates in the church. More specifically, verse 17 reminds the church of the apostles' warnings of mockers coming in the last days that are natural men not having the Spirit. Today we find those who claim to have more of it than others. Nowhere do we find the apostles preaching they are anointed and certainly did not imply they were more so than others. The danger of these mislead leaders is that they will cause divisions without realizing the harm they do, nor the judgment that they will eventually incur upon themselves.

    I hope this answers your question and I apologize for such a long response.
    Complete and Grant Melville say Amen and like this.
  20. Who says?

    Paul himself tells another story. There is no cessation of what God provides for His Church.

    1 Corinthians 12:28
    Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
    first are apostles,
    second are prophets,
    third are teachers,
    then those who do miracles,
    those who have the gift of healing,
    those who can help others,
    those who have the gift of leadership,
    those who speak in unknown languages.
    Francis Drake likes this.

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