Jump to content

The Protestant Community

Welcome to Christforums the Protestant Community. You'll need to register in order to post your comments on your favorite topics and subjects. You'll also enjoy sharing media across multiple platforms. We hope you enjoy your fellowship here! God bless, Christforums' Staff
Register now


Christforums is a Protestant Christian forum, open to Bible- believing Christians such as Presbyterians, Lutherans, Reformed, Baptists, Church of Christ members, Pentecostals, Anglicans. Methodists, Charismatics, or any other conservative, Nicene- derived Christian Church. We do not solicit cultists of any kind, including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Eastern Lightning, Falun Gong, Unification Church, Aum Shinrikyo, Christian Scientists or any other non- Nicene, non- Biblical heresy. God bless, Christforums' Staff
Register now
Sign in to follow this  

Authority and Apostolic Succession

Recommended Posts

Authority and Apostolic Succession



What is authority and how do we get it?


Authority is the power and legitimacy to require others to do something.


Legitimacy is the right to require others to do something.

Power is the ability make others do something.


A person can have legitimacy without power (e.g. a king in exile)

A person might have power but no legitimacy (e.g. the usurper who exiled the king)


If someone has authority, then when they give someone a task, a mission, an office under their authority, then they give them the authority that goes with it. This consists of the power to act and to speak in their name (within the scope of the authority they give them).


We can see this in Jesus. His authority comes from the Father. In Mt 28:18 he says:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”


But earlier than that he said

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. (Jn 5:19)


When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. (Jn 8:28)

Jesus acts and speaks in his Father’s name


One of the features of authority is that it is exercised by persons, and it is passed from some to has it to someone who does not have it, normally under them in a hierarchy. You can see this most visibly in, for example, the Army as in this example from the Bible in Mt 8:5-10


A Centurion with a sick servant approaches Jesus and asks him to cure his servant.


Verse 9 is a key verse For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes


The Centurion has authority because of his rank, given him by those above him. I don't know the exact structure of the Roman Army but ultimately his authority comes from Caesar himself. When he gives an order to a soldier it was as if Caesar himself was standing there giving the order. The Centurion acts and speaks in the name of Caesar. To disobey the Centurion was to disobey Caesar.


Or we could put it another way - for a soldier to listen to the centurion was to listen to Caesar; to reject the centurion was to reject Caesar.


When the centurion said to Jesus "For I too am a person under authority" he was acknowledging that Jesus too had authority from above and that his word was sufficient to cure his servant Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed..(verse 8) This is why Jesus was astonished at the faith of the centurion.


When Jesus heard him, he marvelled, and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."(verse 10).


Now move on to Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-6 Jesus enunciates these two principles with the disciples he send out on mission.

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. (Lk 9:1-2)


He gives them authority to act and authority to speak in his name. And he sums this up in verse 16 - Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.


That is a universal principle when Jesus gives someone a task, a mission, an office under his authority, they act and speak in Jesus’ name.


Thus when Jesus sends the apostles out on the great mission with the great commission in Mt 28:19-20

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." He gives the apostles the authority to act and to speak in his name, and the "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." applies to them.


The NT gives us an example of people trying to usurp authority:

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.. (Acts 19:13-16).


They had no authority to act or speak in Jesus’ name and the evil spirits knew that.


No go back to the Old Testament.

In Ex 3&4 God gives Moses a mission and gives him authority to act and speak for God. Moses is reluctant because of his poor speech so God put Aaron under Moses’ authority to speak on Moses behalf. (4:14-15). But note what God says to Moses in verse 16 He shall speak for you to the people; and he shall be a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.

We see this in the plagues where God told Moses and Moses told Aaron who acted.


Now move on to Numbers 12 where we see a warning about trying to claim authority you do not have. Aaron and Miriam grumble about Moses and thinking they are just as good as him.


and they said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" (vs 2).


God was angry and called all three of them to the meeting tent and said to them (vs 6-8)

And he said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"

He then turned Miriam into a leper.


Just before giving the apostles the great commission in Mt 28:19-20, Jesus says:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”


Jesus has all authority. He gave authority to the apostles to go out making disciples and preaching the word.


Some Christians will claim they get authority from the Bible. But they cannot. Authority is given by a person. It does not reside in a book. Authority must come from Jesus. We must not usurp authority by claiming what we have not been given.


So who speaks and acts for Jesus now? Who has his authority?


Perhaps we can answer this by asking - whom did Jesus leave to act and speak for him?

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (Jn 20:21-22)


Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt 18:18)


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mt 28-19-20)


We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. (1Jn 4:6)


But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jn 14:26)


But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. (Jn 16:13)


In all these quotations Jesus was speaking to the apostles. It was the apostles that Jesus left to act and speak for him, guided by the Holy Spirit.


John writes We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit. (1Jn 4:6)


And whom did the apostles leave to speak for Jesus in their turn?


Paul passed on to Timothy what he himself received:

Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. (2 Tim 1:13-14)


And instructs him to proclaim what he has received

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. (2 Tim 4:1-2)


Paul instructs Timothy to pass the sound teaching and good treasure to faithful people in his turn

So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well. (2Tim 2:1-2)


In first place among these faithful people who are to be entrusted with this teaching are the bishops:

For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, ……holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents.(Ti 1:7,9)


The apostles left those whom they appointed to their offices - the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, guided by the same Holy Spirit.


This is witnessed by the early church as these examples from the first two centuries demonstrate:

"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier.... Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (Pope Clement, fourth Bishop of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians 42:4-5, 44:1-3 [A.D. 80]).


In the same way all should respect the deacons as they would Jesus Christ, just as they respect the bishop as representing the Father and the priests as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Apart from these there is nothing that can be called a Church. (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians, AD 107)


"When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord" (Hegesippus, Memoirs 4:22:1 [ca. A.D. 180]).


"For all these [heretics] are of much later date than are the bishops to whom the apostles handed over the churches, and this fact I pointed out most carefully in the third book. It is of necessity, then, that these aforementioned heretics, because they are blind to the truth, walk in devious paths, and on this account the vestiges of their doctrines are scattered about without agreement or connection. The path of those, however, who belong to the Church goes around the whole world, for it has the firm tradition of the apostles, enabling us to see that the faith of all is one and the same" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies. 5:20:1 AD 180-199).


"Polycarp was instructed not only by the apostles and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also appointed bishop of the church in Smyrna by the apostles in Asia. I saw him in my early youth, for he tarried a long time and when quite old departed this life in a glorious and most noble martyrdom. He always taught those things which he learned from the apostles and which the Church had handed down and which are true. To these things the churches in Asia bear witness, as do also the successors of Polycarp even to the present time" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:3:4 AD 180-199)


"After the death of the tyrant, [the apostle John] came back again to Ephesus from the Island of Patmos; and, upon being invited, he went even to the neighboring cities of the pagans, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole churches, and there to ordain to the clerical state such as were designated by the Spirit" ( Clement of Alexandria, Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved? 42:2 [A.D. 190]).









Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.