This article will prove that the Church of the New Testament is the Catholic Church. It will use the Bible and early Christian history to demonstrate this point. Please notice the continuity between the Bible and the early Christian writings.
Acts chapters 9, 19, 22 and 24 mention “the Way,” which was the name of the early Christian community. Clearly, Saints Peter, John, Paul and the other Apostles were leaders of the Way. With this in mind, read the below paragraphs and notice the connection between the Apostles and their successors. That connection is called apostolic succession, which was discussed in Article 3b. The Church in which this connection existed and continues to exist is the Catholic Church, aka the Roman Church, a title used in some of the below quotes.
In his letter to the Roman Church, St. Paul says to the Roman Christians, “To all Gods beloved in Rome who are called to be saints….” “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Nowhere in Scripture does it state that the faith of the Roman Church stopped being proclaimed throughout the world. In fact, when one looks at all the churches, one will notice there is no other church that comes close to the size and geographic presence of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church’s faith is truly “proclaimed in all the world.”
St. Ignatius of Antioch (Bishop), ordained by St. Peter and taught by St. John, said, “Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.” “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” “…the Church that is beloved and enlightened by the will of him that wills all things according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, that presides in the place of the Romans…” (A.D. 110). The place of the Romans, aka the Roman Church.
St. Polycarp (A.D. 69-155) was a disciple of St. John and bishop of Smyrna. A letter titled the Martyrdom of Polycarp states, “Having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquiring the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, the governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world” (A.D. 156).
St. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth under Pope Soter (A.D. 170), wrote, “From the beginning it has been your practice to do good to all the brethren in various ways…, you Romans (meaning the church in Rome) keep up the hereditary custom of the Romans, which your blessed Bishop Soter has not only maintained, but added to, furnishing an abundance of supplies to the saints, and encouraging the brethren from abroad with blessed words, as a loving father his children.”
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, A.D. 189, bishop and disciple of St. Polycarp, argued, “…we confute all those who,…assemble in unauthorized meetings, by indicating that Traditions derived from the Apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul.” “For it is a matter of necessity that every church agree with this church (the one in Rome), on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, in so far as the apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those (faithful men) who exist everywhere.”
Tertullian of Carthage (A.D 155-240), early Christian author, wrote in A.D. 200, “Where was [the heretic] Marcion, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago, in the reign of Antonius for the most part, and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherius….” These men were members of the Catholic Church but later spread heresies. The reason they were heretics was because they taught contrary to the teachings of the Church Christ founded.
St. Hegesippus wrote, “And when I had come to Rome, I remained there until Anicetus (eleventh bishop of Rome), whose deacon was Eleutherius. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherius” (A.D. 180). These bishops of Rome were also verified by the early bishop/historian St. Irenaeus.
J.N.D. Kelly’s, “The Oxford Dictionary of Popes,” traces the names and biographical information of all popes from St. Peter to today. Kelly was a Presbyterian who converted to the Anglican Church.
Other early church fathers and historical figures who talk about the authority of the pope include: St. Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 251), Firmilian of Caesarea (A.D. 255), Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 312), Pope St. Julius I (A.D. 341), Council of Sardica (A.D. 342), St. Optatus of Milevis (A.D. 367), St. Jerome (A.D. 376), Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381), St. Augustine (A.D. 411) and many others.
Scripture and history together unambiguously hold that Christ established the Roman Catholic Church. By Roman Catholic, I mean the original church headed by the Bishop of Rome (later known as the Pope), beginning with St. Peter and still in existence to this day. In the earliest days, it was not referred to as “Roman Catholic” because no other existed. However, after the Great Schism in A.D. 1054, and especially after the Protestant Reformation, the term Roman Catholic became more and more common.
One might respond by saying the Church was founded in Jerusalem, not Rome. Though the Church was founded in Jerusalem, this rebuttal ignores the fact that Jerusalem, and all of Israel at that time, was a territory of the Roman Empire. It was Roman! Another important point to remember is that the New Testament was written by early members of the Catholic Church and the canon of Scripture (official list of biblical books) was decided by the Catholic Church. Protestant churches took the Bible out of its native land and have rendered erroneous interpretations ever since. This problem will be further explored in the next article. The next article will also prove that Protestantism is a corruption of Christianity; one in which lies are taught but members are expected to receive them as infallible truths. Understanding this fact is vital for the person who loves and seeks truth.