"Is apostolic succession Biblical?"


Answer: The doctrine of apostolic succession is the belief that the 12 apostles passed on their authority to successors, who then passed the apostolic authority on to their successors, continuing throughout the centuries, even unto today. The Roman Catholic Church sees Peter as the leader of the apostles, with the greatest authority, and therefore his successors carry on the greatest authority. The Roman Catholic Church combines this belief with the concept that Peter later became the first bishop of Rome, and that the Roman bishops that followed Peter were accepted by the early church as the central authority among all of the churches. Apostolic succession, combined with Peter’s supremacy among the apostles, results in the Roman bishop being the supreme authority of the Catholic Church – the Pope.

However, nowhere in Scripture did Jesus, the apostles, or any other New Testament writer set forth the idea of “apostolic succession.” Further, neither is Peter presented as “supreme” over the other apostles. The Apostle Paul, in fact, rebukes Peter when Peter was leading others astray (Galatians 2:11-14). Yes, the Apostle Peter had a prominent role. Yes, perhaps the Apostle Peter was the leader of the apostles (although the Book of Acts records the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ brother James as also having prominent leadership roles). Whatever the case, Peter was not the “commander” or supreme authority over the other apostles. Even if apostolic succession could be demonstrated from Scripture, which it cannot, apostolic succession would not result in Peter’s successors being absolutely supreme over the other apostles’ successors.

Catholics point to Matthias being chosen to replace Judas as the 12th apostle in Acts chapter 1 as an example of apostolic succession. While Matthias did indeed “suceed” Judas as an apostle, this is in no sense an argument for continuing apostolic succession. Matthias being chosen to replace Judas is only an argument for the church replacing ungodly and unfaithful leaders (such as Judas), with godly and faithful leaders (such as Matthias). Nowhere in the New Testament are any of the twelve apostles recorded as passing on their apostolic authority to successors. Nowhere do any of the apostles predict that they will pass on their apostolic authority. No, Jesus ordained the apostles to build the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). What is the foundation of the church that the apostles built? The New Testament – the record of the deeds and teachings of the apostles. The church does not need apostolic successors. The church needs the teachings of the apostles accurately recorded and preserved. And that is exactly what God has provided in His Word (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2).

In short, apostolic succession is not biblical. The concept of apostolic succession is never found in Scripture. What is found in Scripture is that the true church will teach what the Scriptures teach and will compare all doctrines and practices to Scripture in order to determine what is true and right. The Roman Catholic Church claims that a lack of ongoing apostolic authority results in doctrinal confusion and chaos. It is an unfortunate truth (that the apostles acknowledged) that false teachers would arise (2 Peter 2:1). Admittedly, the lack of “supreme authority” amongst non-Catholic churches results in many different interpretations. However, these differences in interpretation are not the result of Scripture being unclear. Rather, they are the result of even non-Catholic Christians carrying on the Catholic tradition of interpreting Scripture in accordance with their own traditions. If Scripture is studied in its entirety and in its proper context, the truth can be easily determined. Doctrinal differences and denominational conflicts are a result of some Christians refusing to agree with what Scripture says – not a result of there being no “supreme authority” to interpret Scripture.

Alignment with Scriptural teaching, not apostolic succession, is the determining factor of the trueness of a church. What is mentioned in Scripture is the idea that the Word of God was to be the guide that the church was to follow (Acts 20:32). It is Scripture that was to be the infallible measuring stick for teaching and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the Scriptures that teachings are to be compared with (Acts 17:10-12). Apostolic authority was passed on through the writings of the apostles, not through apostolic succession.

 

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  • Generally that is true, it is not Biblical.  But actualy that covers a very broad area and is itself such a general and broad question.  The question could be answered in other ways depending on the readers understanding of the question. For instance, it is unclear what exactly is being asked. 

    Regardless, there is no specific written suggestion or proposal for such passing along of apostolic authority. This weak argument for it was only invented to support the wants and desires of early heretical leaders of a false christin movement.  In other words it was a means to allow shady "Christians" to amass power and promoted heretical beliefs and pagan practices.  It worked well enough didn't it.

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  • Brother Denis,

    You have answered correctly. G-d is our Authority. The Holy Spirit directs The Church and Jesus identified The Torah of Moses as what we need to understand and live by as Christians. He point out that nothing, not even a jot or a title of The Law of Moses can be removed or even nailed to the  cross. That last point was mine but it seems to be what most Christians think about Moses Written Law.

    Lee...

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  • The sad part is, is that a church that is known for their man-made doctrines and false teaching have to establish their doctrine from somewhere. This false spirit is just a bad imitator.  And they are anti-semetic yet would use a teaching out of Torah to suit their hunger for authority. Where could they have gotten this idea from and For instance how is any power according to scripture suppose to be passed on??? If I may explain my comment.

    Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. ( 1 Timothy 4:1, 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6)  just to name a few scriptures.

    This act is an old belief passed on from generation to generation from the Hebrews, and in the Hebrew it's called " brakhah" from hand to head. The most noticible description of this is with Issac and Esau and Jacob and Jacob performs it again with Ephraim and Manasseh. It was a belief that your hands carried the power of the Ruach/Spirit of men which came from Elohiym. All the way from Adam to Messiah, but it's most well known to come from Elohiym first and then to the Patriarchs Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Moshe all the way down to you got it,,,,,, the Disciples. How? from the time Elohiym breathed life by the instilling of the Holy Spirit, into him. Issac for instance passed on the very best of his power to Jacob so there was nothing much left for Esau. This was serious buisness and could'nt be taken back as not to break covenant and dishonor the Elohiym that it came from.. Apparently Sha'ul and in many other references in the scriptures new covenant this brakhah is applied during the time of the early church. In many countries outside of the U.S. it's still a practice not to give anyone your hands instead they bow when greeting or departing. Sha'ul even warns Timothy not to quickly lay hands. Now does this make any one an Apostle per-say? No instead Sha'ul tells Timothy to stir up the gift (endowment) of Elohiym that is in him. If it be Apostleship it is not anyones choice but Elohiym.

    Once again I explain this because from your topic I saw a similarity to what was watered down by doctrine of man. And you can't pass a brakhah on by the laying on of hands without the real power of Elohiym. This was the great gaul of Simon in Acts 8:18.

    And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.

    Again no we don't pass on anything but the endowment of the Holy Ghost that comes from the Father. Not Apostolic, Prophet, Preaching, Evangelism or Teaching. It all is the gift of Elohiym!

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