My struggles are varied, but I begin here with John, where Christ meets the Apostles, all of them,
Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (Joh 20:21-23 NLT)
Here is John’s version of Matthew 16.17-19, but the power is given equally to all the Apostles. Yet, even in John, Peter is singled out to ‘feed my sheep.’ We cannot deny that in the Gospels, Peter has a certain role which others did not.
But, I look at Cyprian who, in his treatise On Church Unity maintains that Peter stands for the whole of the Episcopate, that all the Bishops of the Church are equal and act as one:
4. If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:18-19) And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.” And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” (John 20:21) yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, “My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.” (Song of Songs 6:9) Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, “There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?” (Ephesians 4:4)
One should note that had it not been for Rome in the West, then the West and Christianity in the West would have fallen during the Dark Ages.
I admit, my views on the early Christian voices have changed considerably, as have my views on the Roman Catholic Church – especially in the short time of the existence of this blog. I rather enjoy this fact. I enjoy the fact that I am no long an anti-Catholic bigot, but that I can admit that they in fact may be correct on the reading of Matthew 16.17-19. I encourage you to read the above linked posts and examine for yourselves if you are in the faith.
None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus10 which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sinneth; nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end. (To the Ephesians 14)
And from Cyprian –
Through the presumption of thsoe who beguile with false promises of salvation, the true hope of salvation is destroyed – Cyprian, To the Lapsed, 34
I especially enjoyed Payton’s summation of the Reformation Doctrine of Sola Fide, which is wholly different than the easy beliefism touted by so many today. And yet, so many of these ‘just walk the isle’ style preachers believe that they can lay claim to Luther, Zwingli, Bucer and Calvin, when it seems, at least through Payton’s eyes, that these men believed that one had to start with faith and go on to sanctification by works. As Wesley said, religion is not solitary and as Payton points out, faith alone is not the Gospel.
For it has been delivered to us, that there is one God, and one Christ, and one hope, and one faith, and one Church, and one baptism ordained only in the one Church, from which unity whosoever will depart must needs be found with heretics; and while he upholds them against the Church, he impugns the sacrament of the divine tradition. The sacrament of which unity we see expressed also in the Canticles, in the person of Christ, who says, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a fountain sealed, a well of living water, a garden with the fruit of apples.” But if His Church is a garden enclosed, and a fountain sealed, how can he who is not in the Church enter into the same garden, or drink from its fountain? Moreover, Peter himself, showing and vindicating the unity, has commanded and warned us that we cannot be saved, except by the one only baptism of one Church. “In the ark,” says he, “of Noah, few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water, as also baptism shall in like manner save you.” In how short and spiritual a summary has he set forth the sacrament of unity! For as, in that baptism of the world in which its ancient iniquity was purged away, he who was not in the ark of Noah could not be saved by water, so neither can he appear to be saved by baptism who has not been baptized in the Church which is established in the unity of the Lord according to the sacrament of the one ark. (Epistle LXXIII)
For Cyprian, it was clear that baptism was a unifying measure for the Saint to the Church
Cyprian, Bishop of Catharge, writing about 250, stated his creed as this:
I believe in God the Father,
In His Son Jesus Christ,
In the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the forgiveness of sins,
And Eternal Life
Through the Holy Church
It is found Epistle to Magnus (Ep. 69, al. 76), the other in his synodical Epistle to Januarius and other Numidian bishops (Ep. 70). Both are in form interrogative, in answer to the question Credis? put to the baptismal candidate. ‘No salvation outside the church’, or in Latin, ‘Nullus salus extra ecclesiam’, is the doctrine accredited to Cyprian. It should be understand, however, that at this time, Cyprian was seeing fractions develop around him, generally associated with the lapsed of the persecutions and other heretics.
Cyprian’s counterpart, Novatian a schismatic of Rome, writing about the same time, writes,
The rule of truth demands that, first of all,
we believe in God the Father and Almighty Lord,
that is, the most perfect Maker of all things.…
The same rule of truth teaches us to believe, after the Father,
also in the Son of God, Christ Jesus,
our Lord God, but the Son of God.…
Moreover, the order of reason and the authority of faith, in due consideration of the words and Scriptures of the Lord, admonishes us, after this, to believe also
in the Holy Ghost
promised of old to the Church, but granted in the appointed and fitting time.
It is found in his writings (De Trinitate s. De Regula Fidei (Bibl. PP. ed. Gallandi, Tom. III. pp. 287 sqq.), but we have to note that Novatian was another of the long lines of schismatics that would later be called upon to support developed doctrine.
Immediately, we see Novatian, unlike Cyprian places the title of Lord God on the Son as well as the Father, calling Him the Son of God (as of yet, the phrase God the Son has not been found). Also seen is Novatian, unlike the others that preceded him, and many that came after him, actually gave more diligence to the holy Spirit. It was during this, it must be remembered, that Montanism was raging which focused more securely on the Spirit than it did anything else. The Spirit, for the followers of Montanus, was just now being given to the Church. Here, the echoes that doctrine is seen in Novatian.
Writings 20 years from Cyprian of Catharge and Novatian of Rome was Origen of Alexandria.His creed is preserved for us by Rufinius
The form of those things which are manifestly delivered by the preaching of the Apostles is this:
First, that there is one God, who created and framed every thing, and who, when nothing was, brought all things into being,—God from the first creation and forming of the world, the God of all the just—Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve Patriarchs, Moses, and the Prophets: and that this God, in the last days, as he had before promised through his Prophets, sent our Lord Jesus Christ, to all Israel first, and then, after the unbelief of Israel, also to the Gentiles. This just and good God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, himself gave the Law and the Prophets and the Gospels, and he also is the God of the Apostles, and of the Old and New Testaments.
Then, secondly, that Jesus Christ himself, who came, was born of the Father before all creation. And when in the formation of all things he had served the Father (for by him all things were made), in these last times, emptying himself, he became man incarnate, while he was God, and though made man, remained God as he was before. He took a body like our body, differing in this point only, that it was born of the Virgin and the Holy Ghost. And since this Jesus Christ was born and suffered in truth, and not in appearance, he bore the death common to all men and truly died; for he truly rose from the dead, and after his resurrection, having conversed with his disciples, he was taken up.
They also delivered that the Holy Ghost was associated in honor and dignity with the Father and the Son.
Origen then goes on to say that ‘such questions, as to whether the Holy Spirit was born or unborn (natus an innatus), whether he was also to be regarded as a Son of God or not, are left for inquiry and investigation out of the holy Scriptures, according to the best of our ability; but it was most clearly preached in the churches that the Holy Spirit inspired every one of the saints and prophets and apostles, and that there was not one Spirit given to the ancients and another to the Christians.’ Then he mentions (§ 5) as part of apostolic preaching (ecclesiastica prædicatio) the future resurrection and judgment, the freedom of will (omnem animam rationabilem esse liberi arbitrii et voluntatis), the struggle of the soul with the devil and his angels, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and their deeper meaning known only to those to whom the Holy Spirit gives wisdom and understanding.
Throughout this passage Origen makes an important distinction between ecclesiastical preaching and theological science, and confines the former to fundamental facts, while to the latter belongs the investigation of the why and wherefore, and the deeper mysteries.
Origen speaks plainly – Christ was not eternal, but a creature of the creation by the Father. Further, while Origen could not assign the same statements to the Spirit, he thought that the Spirit was associated with the Father and Son a symphonia of wills.
If we are to preach, then let us preach from the Scriptures – not allegory, but what is written; not before the eyes of man, but by the breath of God:
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”(Genesis 2:18 NKJV)
Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:20-21 NKJV)
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-15 NKJV)
Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” (Acts 11:1-3 NKJV)
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. (Acts 15:1-2 NKJV)
Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”–to whom we gave no such commandment– it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. (Acts 15:22-29 NKJV)
One of the greatest follies of the Reformers was that it created a large number of independents, yet we see that the Bible clearly considers it an error to stand alone in this world. Since the Reformation, the number of doctrines and denominations have grown exponentially, and with very destructive results. The Scriptures, on the other hand, lays out a pattern from the very first, concerning organization, and the benefits thereof.
First, we must start with the ages-long premise that it is not good for man to dwell alone. When God saw this, He created Woman as one that was comparable with Man. Skipping the intervening years, we find that the Apostles, and some Elders, remained at Jerusalem while others were sent into the world. Further, we find that when the word of God had reached different areas, they would then send out others to that city, such as what happened in Acts 8. In Acts 11, we find that Peter went to Jerusalem to make a report concerning the Gentiles while it was Paul and Barnabas who, when they had a question, went to the same city to face the same Apostles and Elders, to receive from them direction.
The idea of independent congregations was evidently a problem during Cyprian‘s term as Bishop of Carthage in the middle of the 3rd century. His objections are well heeded in his De Unitate Ecclesiae. Although there must be some understanding between the congregations concerning culture, the doctrines must be the same. And organization further, as we saw in Jerusalem with the First Council, prevents any false doctrine from arising.
We also see from the examples above that not one of the Apostles and Elders had the preeminence other another. James was no doubt the first among equals, but the decision was made with the pleasure of the Apostles and Elders, as well as the whole Church. Now, this is does not prevent one man from making leading, but he cannot lead alone.
The Church is made to dwell together, in unity.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV)
Paul is not speaking to an individual congregation only, but the entire Church through that congregation. We all are those fellow citizens. Not only that, but we, as the Church, are members of the one household of God, built on one foundation – Jesus Christ. If we have that same household and the same foundation, does it behoove us to then be organized in such a way as to draw from that unity?
In your house, is there independence between husband and wife, parent and child? Or is there is manner of organization – not authoritarian in nature, but one of family – that accomplishes for the family that which God has intended? The Husband is not independent of the Wife, nor the Children of the Parents, but all fall within the organization of the house, just as we, who are of the household of God, have an organization that we may fall into it.
I am not saying that one Church organization is it – and all others are without hope of salvation, but it is better to strive with others, than to be alone. It is scriptural to have a center point to go to for addressing problems.
Finally, we are the one body of Christ,
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 NKJV)
John Chrysostom, in his commentary on 1st Corinthians, says,
But what is the expression, “severally?” “So far at least as appertaineth to you; and so far as naturally a part should be built up from you.” For because he had said, “the body,” whereas the whole body was not the Corinthian Church, but the Church in every part of the world, therefore he said, “severally:” i.e., the Church amongst you is a part of the Church existing every where and of the body which is made up of all the Churches: so that not only with yourselves alone, but also with the whole Church throughout the word, ye ought to be at peace, if at least ye be members of the whole body.
Calvin, contrary was he was apt to be, says,
Chrysostom is of opinion, that this clause is added, because the Corinthians were not the universal Church; but this appears to me rather forced. I have sometimes thought that it was expressive of impropriety, as the Latins say Quodammodo, (in a manner.) When, however, I view the whole matter more narrowly, I am rather disposed to refer it to that division of members of which he had made mention. They are then members severally, according as each one has had his portion and definite work assigned him. The context itself leads us to this meaning. In this way severally, and as a whole, will be opposite terms.
Both are easily reconciled in that there is but one Body – the Church which is Christ’s – but members – individual or congregationally – that make up this one body, and each member has a part and function in this one body, the Church.