The Church, from the very Beginning…was Catholic! By Kenneth Henderson – Part 2 of 3

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The Synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus and His disciples visited many times.

We can see by the year A.D. 110, in the writings of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John, yes “that” John, that the Church had bishops that had authority. That they were to obey the clergy and deacons, just as they would the apostles. They were also supposed to regard the bishop as a “type” of the Father. (…hmmm, sound familiar?) Also note that the Eucharist was only valid if the bishop or by a person authorized by the bishop were to celebrate it. They had a council and a college of apostles and without these it could not be called a church. Why? Because Jesus provided an authoritative teaching body in the Church to maintain the Truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Ignatius even calls the Church, the Catholic Church! Sounds like what we refer to today as the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Read for yourself.

Ignatius of Antioch

Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery 1, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries 2 of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.

Be you subject to the bishop as to the Lord, for “he watches for your souls, as one that shall give account to God.” (Heb 13:17) Wherefore also, you appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, you may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection. It is therefore necessary, whatsoever things you do, to do nothing without the bishop. And be you subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall be found in Him. It behooves you also, in every way, to please the deacons, who are [ministers] of the mysteries of Christ Jesus; for they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would a burning fire. Let them, then, prove themselves to be such. (Letter to the Trallians 2:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

1- presbytery translates in English as priest, ministers.
2- Mysteries of Christ, also translated as Sacraments 

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]). –> Read online in its entirety here

The early church was NOT an unorganized band of Christian followers, but a very organized group, even though they were most of the time practicing their faith “underground” due to persecution. There were no factions or splinter groups that were allowed to stay in operation, but as Ignatius points out, if you were not in union with and under the authority of the bishops, then you were not following the Church that Jesus Christ established.

In the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, also a disciple of John the Apostle, written around A.D. 160 we can see that the Church at the time was Catholic and shows that the church was seen as a unified Church.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 160]). –> Read online in its entirety here

We also see in the writings of Saint Irenaeus in A.D. 189 that he refers to a unified Church. Of important note, this writing comes from his Letter Against Heresies. He is pointing out in the letter that any who teach a gospel outside of the unity of the Catholic Church are teaching heresy.

Irenaeus

The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]). –> Read online in its entirety here

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the church? (ibid. 3:4). –> Read online in its entirety here

Did he say that we are to lay hold of the tradition of the truth? Yes, he did. And how did he say we should solve disputes and questions about what we should believe? We should have recourse to the ancient churches, which at this point in history were only around 200 years old. Still, that is a long time. Yet, here we are 2000 years later, and yet those outside of the Catholic Church, do not follow his advice.

 

LOOK FOR PART 3 ON WEDNESDAY

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