The Thomas Pages homepage
The ‘Apostolic Succession’ Heresy
Apostolic succession teaches a lineage of ordination-authority in uninterrupted lines back to the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus.
The
core of the Apostolic Succession doctrine, upon which the Roman Catholic (including Old Catholic), Orthodox (including Eastern, Oriental, Assyrian), and Anglican (Episcopalian) religious denominations base their claim to authentic Christian identity as organisations, is a consortium of three specific misrepresentations of Holy Scripture, all three of which interpretations violate both the literary and historical context of the Bible's precious teachings.
 
The
misrepresentation of the first of these Scriptures below has been watered down by both the Orthodox and Anglican communions to help justify their split with the Roman Catholic Church, although the Orthodox associations of churches would prefer to see their earlier association with the Eastern Mediterranean as preceding the Vatican's claim to primacy.
 
1.  
Christ's promise to Peter
 
The
misrepresentation says in effect that Peter was given an office as primate of Christianity which has been inherited by his successors.
 
 
"And answering, Jesus said to him,
Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but My Father in Heaven.
And I also say to you that you are Peter
[Πέτρος/Petros=Rock], and on this rock [foundation] I will build My assembly [ἐκκλησία=congregation], and the gates of Hades [powers of Death] will not prevail against her.
And I will give to you the keys
[authority] of the kingdom of Heaven.
And whatever you bind on earth shall occur, having been bound
[found guilty] in Heaven.
And whatever you may loose on the earth shall be, having been loosed
[found innocent] in Heaven." (Literal Translation).
Matthew 16:17-19 LITV.
Christ's
promise to Peter, concerning the foundation of Christ's Church, was exclusively to Peter the person, which is why his personal name is changed by the Lord from Simon to Peter.
 
In
other words:
    • it was not Peter's 'declaration-of-faith' which is the Rock referred to as the foundation of Christ's Church, as many Reformed churches still teach;
    • nor was it some make-believe 'office of Peter' which was to be the foundation of Christ's Church, and so this promise is not inheritable by any successor, no matter whoever may claim to now be in Peter's place as is foolishly taught.
 
We know this for certain from the Bible itself!  
 
Christ's unique twelve foundation-apostles of the Christian Church are described in the Bible as being personally the historical foundation of the Christian Church, the holy Bride of Christ, represented as the New Jerusalem –
 
  "And the wall of the city [Christ's Bride] had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Revelation 21:14 LITV
 
Neither was this an office-of-the-twelve, as the Mormon religion claims for its leaders today!
 
 
The minimum qualification to be one of the foundation apostles of Christ's Church is spelled out clearly in Acts Chapter One. To fill the vacancy left by Judas the Betrayer, the apostle Peter said:
 
 
"Therefore, it is right that men being together with us all the time in which the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us [His historical ministry], beginning from the baptism of John [of Jesus at the Jordan River] until the day when He was taken from us [His Ascension from Olivet], one of these to become a witness of His resurrection with us. And they set out two: Joseph, he being called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And having prayed, they said, You, Lord, knower of all hearts, show which one You chose from these two, to take the share of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas fell, to go to his own place. And they gave their lots. And the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles."
Acts 1:21-26 LITV
 
These twelve are the Twelve and the only twelve apostles of Christ, and the unique historical foundation of Christianity, which exists in all history. They, as individuals, are noted by personal name in the foundation of the New Jerusalem! None of any has ever had, or could have, a successor!
 
2.  
Christ's spiritual mandate on forgiveness
 
The
misrepresentation says that only the Twelve Apostles and their successors in office were given the authority to forgive sins.
 
  "Then it being evening on that day, the first of the sabbaths, and the doors having been locked where the disciples were assembled because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, Peace to you. And saying this, He showed them His hands and side. Then seeing the Lord, the disciples rejoiced. Then Jesus said to them again, Peace to you.
As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. And saying this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. Of whomever you may remit the sins, they are remitted to them. Of whomever you hold, they have been held. But Thomas, one of the Twelve, the one called Twin, was not with them when Jesus came."
John 20:19-24 LITV.
 
A knowledge of the Bible makes it incontrovertibly clear that, not only were all the foundational apostles of Christ's ministry not present, but there were persons present who were not apostles.
 
The
Bible gives us the important context to these words of the Lord Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John –
 
  "And rising up [at Emmaus] in the same hour, they [Cleopas and friend] went back to Jerusalem, and they found the Eleven [Thomas absent], and those with them, having been gathered, saying, The Lord really was raised and appeared to Simon [Peter]. And they related the things in the highway, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the loaf. And as they were telling these things, Jesus Himself stood in their midst, and said to them, Peace to you! ..." Luke 24:33-36 LITV
 
There is no contradiction between the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles regarding when the Holy Spirit was given as some theologians have dared to claim. The manner of Christ's acted metaphor in breathing on the disciples present concerning receiving the Spirit says it all, if one knows the Bible.
 
 
The is a complete distinction between the new life given to Christ's disciples as a consequence of His resurrection, which Jesus called 'being born of the Spirit' in His talk to Nicodemus (Jn.3:5-6), and the gift or baptism of the same Spirit on the day of Pentecost fifty days later. As God had breathed into Adam in giving the first human spiritual life in distinction from biological life common to all animals, so Christ the new Adam, the new beginning, breathed upon His disciples as a sign of the new spiritual life which began for them through Christ's resurrection.
 
 
The disciples' reception of this new spiritual life within, given to them by God through the resurrection of Christ on their behalf, needed faith not fear. Hence, the appearance of Christ and His actions toward them were designed to stimulated this faith in them, and so they became participants in the life of God's second Adam.
 
 
The Spirit of God makes this clear through Paul in his letter to the Ephesian congregation –
 
  "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even we being dead in deviations,
He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved) and raised us up together..
."
Ephesians 2:4-6 LITV
 
The baptism of Christ's Church in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost more than a month later is a distinctly different reality.
 
3.  
Christ's gift of the Spirit at Pentecost
 
The
misrepresentation says that only the Twelve Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and their successors may confer the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.
 
 
The myth has been perpetuated as part of the control mechanism of 'apostolic succession' churches that the Holy Spirit was only given to the Twelve Apostle at Pentecost and therefore comes to the individual believer in a confirmation ritual when the hands of a Bishop in succession from the Twelve Apostles lies his hands upon the believer. This nonsense also has no foundation in Holy Scripture!
 
 
The Bible takes the trouble to tell us, because God wanted us to know, that the company of those from whom a successor to Judas was chosen and who were of one accord in one place on that unique occasion were 120 men and women –
 
 
"These all were continuing steadfastly in prayer and in supplication with one mind, with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. And in these days, standing up in the middle of the disciples, (and the number of names together being about a hundred and twenty), Peter said..[see point one above]. And in the fulfilling [arrival] of the day of Pentecost, they were all with one mind in the same place."
Acts 1:14-15;2:1 LITV
no chapter division
in the original text
This
unique spiritual community was the first church, led by the Twelve, which, as a consequence of the gift of the Holy Spirit, launched the gospel of Jesus Christ in the city which had crucified Him. These all, this whole community, participated in the gift of God's Holy Spirit to His people.
 
Samaritan Believers'
Exception!
The delay in the participation in this gift by the Samaritan believers, those who had turned to Christ under the preaching of Philip (a Gentile name), was needed in view of the generations-old religious animosity between Samaritans and Jews, to ensure that Christianity remained one fellowship of God's people and was not split along the old lines of group prejudice. Group prejudice had already shown itself in this first church in Jerusalem in the discrimination which had required the election of deacons to manage its welfare program (Acts 6). Hence, it was only when Jewish Christian leaders Peter and John expressed formal identification with these Samaritan converts through the laying on of their hands in prayer, that the Holy Spirit came upon these new converts (Acts 8).
 
Taken
out of its context this has been used to arrogate special power to a rank of clergy which claims to give the Holy Spirit through a rite of laying on of hands. Considering that even Jesus was in submission to the Spirit of God, it borders on blasphemy to think that anyone could dispense the Spirit Himself.
 
A Legacy Today: ORDINATION
wolf in sheep's clothing
A
sad legacy of this false doctrine, as reflected in many Protestant and Pentecostal churches today, is the idea that clerical ordination by the denomination somehow places a person in a special class and thus confers some special leadership authority upon a pastor or preacher.
  IMPARTATION
In
addition, a fairly recent development of this error has appeared among charismatic evangelicals usually referred to as 'impartation', in which a successful or highly reputed preacher/leader is asked to lay hands upon other preachers in order to 'impart' the anointing. This idea violates the very nature of the Holy Spirit's relationship to God's people by regarding His presence/anointing/ministry-gift/blessing as a commodity that can be transferred. It is the seed of a serious error that has the potential to recreate the lie that misled the Christian Church during much of its history.

The Whole Gospel Gifts of the Spirit Church Ordination Church Behaviours Menu


Back to Church Behaviours menu
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 2004-2016. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included.
To Home Page
FOR A ROUGH TRANSLATION SIMPLY CHOOSE A LANGUAGE