The following is provided by Defending the Bride.  https://www.defendingthebride.com/ch/apostolic_succession.html


This article has the following seven sections.

1.A.  CHRIST   AND  HIS  MISSION -To Teach, Rule, and Sanctify

1.B. NOW  THAT  WE  HAVE  THE  BIBLE, WHY  IS  APOSTOLIC  SUCCESSION  NECESSARY ?? - To define what is the Bible and what it means.

2.  HAND  -   AUTHORITY -  A Word study on “Hand” in Old Testament showing that the “laying on of hands” was the method of passing on authority.

3.  THE  CHURCWe are not Orphans.

4.  APOSTOLIC  SUCCESSION  IN  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT - Authority is passed on by laying on of hands.

5.  CHURCH  IS  HIERARCHICAL  -  Saint Peter


7.  THE  EARLY  FATHERS  OF  THE  CHURCH  - an off site article 




John 5:19  
“Jesus said to them,  ‘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.’ ”  

John 12:49  
“For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.”

By His example Jesus gives us a model of humility to imitate in regards to our approach and attitude toward Truth and how reluctant we should be in promoting our own ideas or our own thinking.

There are three aspects to the mission of Jesus Christ.

1.  To teach,  
see Mark 1:38 which depicts His role as the Prophet; 
2.  To rule, 
see  Revelation 17:14 depicting Him as the King of Kings; 
3.  To Sanctify, 
see Hebrews 5-10 especially 7:21- 8:6 depicting His role as the High Priest.

Just as Christ was sent by the Father, He sends the Twelve Apostles.  He entrusts and empowers them with this three fold mission of His.

Luke 22:29-32  
 … and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,  that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.   Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.’ ”   


Now that we have the Bible, 
Why is Apostolic Succession Necessary ?


There are over 32,000 different Protestant denominations who claim to be following the Bible Alone.  And yet, they all contradict each other on what is to be believed.  Jesus promised in

John 17:20-21
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” 


Since it is Jesus who made this prayer we know that the Church He established has perfect unity.  [See Note 1]   Jesus prays for a visible unity so that it will be an apologetic sign to the whole world that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Therefore, there must be some visible authority - John 17:20-21,  Matt. 18:17 -  through which God reveals what is the correct and infallible interpretation of the Bible.  It is unacceptable to hold that Jesus has failed in His mission and has failed to provide us a way of knowing how to follow Him to heaven, or what the Bible means.

The Old Testament reveals a hierarchical structure for God’s people.  It should be noted that nowhere does Jesus dispense with this type of hierarchical structure.  In fact he even defends its authority when those in charge are corrupted, that is, not following its own teachings.  Its teachings of course are protected from error by the Holy Spirit.  See Matthew 23:1-3.   John 11:49-53.  In regards to the New Testament Church see  Luke 10:16.

We also need to recognize that the Sacred Scriptures that came to make up the contents of the Bible where not collected into one work until the latter part of the fourth century.  The earliest complete and accurate list of which books comprise the New Testament, the 27 Books, is 367 AD.  Neither Jesus nor the Apostles give us a written list of the Books that belong in the Bible.   

It was the Catholic Church at the Council of Rome 382 AD, and confirmed by the subsequent Councils of Hippo 393 AD, Carthage 397 AD, and Trent 1546 AD, that settled the issue, and all of which agree on which of the 400 plus books really belonged in the New Testament.  Based on their guidance of the Holy Spirit they chose which books they believed were approved and passed on by the Apostles through oral tradition.   

So, before the fourth century there was no definition as to what constituted the Bible.  Without a hierarchical Church there is no authority to decide the issue of,  “What is the Bible, which books belong in it ?”  And without that Church there is also no way to infallibly define what the Bible means, and what is the true path to salvation.  Remember there are over 32,000 different Protestant, Bible Alone claiming churches.  It is through Apostolic Succession that Christ's mission is carried out through the Church.

The Church is “the pillar and foundation of truth.”  1 Timothy 3:15

Note 1.
The Catholic Church is One.  Her definitive teachings have been consistent from the Church’s  “birthday” on Pentecost Sunday almost 2000 years ago.  Pope John Paul II made it clear that those who dissent from her teachings by that very fact, put themselves outside of the Church.





This authority to teach, to govern, and to sanctify is passed on to others through Apostolic Succession by the laying on of hands.  This authority has been passed on in an unbroken line down to the present day Bishops of the Catholic Church.   In order to see this we first need to do a Bible word study on the word  hand  and the phrase  laying on  of hands.

In the following examples the translation for the Hebrew word for hand, is underlined.  These examples demonstrate that it means authority. 

Strong’s   #3027 meaning hand

2 CHRON 31.13 
“…Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.”  
[the New American Standard Bible translates 
hand as  authority.] 

NUMBERS  33.1 
“These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.”    

“These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.”      RSV

In today’s language we have an idiom that retains the use of the word hand to signify authority.  To rule with a heavy hand, is used to refer to someone who has a lot of authority and he doesn’t let anybody forget it.

Consecrate  -  literally in Hebrew fill their hand   = 
  Strong’s:   #4390 meaning- to fill   [plus]    #3027 meaning- hand

The English word that is translated for the Hebrew word for  fill their hand    is underlined below.   In the RSV it is translated as ordain.

EXODUS  28: 39-43    
“And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen, … 41And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.  …   43And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place;” 

“41  And you shall put them upon Aaron your brother, and upon his sons with him, and shall anoint them andordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests”   RSV

EXODUS 29: 29-30     
“And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them.   And that son that is priest in his stead shall put them on seven days, when he cometh into the tabernacle of the congregation to minister in the holy place.” 

LEVITICUS  16: 32-33    
“And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments:  And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary” 

NUMBERS  3: 3    
“These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office.”    

“these are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to minister in the priest’s office.”  RSV

The laying on of hands in the Old and New Testament drew from this context.   Thus the "laying on" of hands was the way of passing on one’s own authority to another and filling up his hands with authority.  Moses passed his authority onto Joshua by this method.

Numbers 27:15-18, 22-23  
“Moses said to the Lord,   ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation,  who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep which have no shepherd.’     And the Lord said to Moses,   ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him…’      22 And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; he took Joshua and caused him to stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands upon him, and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses.”  

Deuteronomy 34:9  
“And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Thus we can see that the hierarchical structure of authority was passed on by the laying on of hands.  Just as it was true in the Old Testament it also is true in the New Testament.

It is important to note that if those in authority were morally corrupt, they did not lose their authority.   Jesus says in

Matthew 23:2-3   
“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.   Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”




Romans 8:14-16   
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry,  ‘Abba, Father!’   The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God

In John 14:18  Jesus promises not to leave us orphans.  To fully appreciate His promise we must clearly distinguish what it means to be an orphan.

What is an orphan ?  Does that mean to be without a father ?  
No !  An orphan has a father.  His father may be in heaven, hell, or purgatory, but he has a father.  The following example helps to clarify the meaning of the term.

A man writes his last will and testimony on how to divide up his family fortune among his kids.  He and his wife die, but the children find the will and testimony can be interpreted in various and conflicting ways.  The oldest child, who was very close to his father, believed with all his heart that he knew his father and his wishes because this son had a close intimate relationship with him.  And this child really believed that he knew the spirit in which the father wrote the last will and testimony, so he believed that his interpretation was correct.  However, the other children also claimed to have a close intimate relationship with their father and they also claimed to know the spirit with which he wrote his last will and testimony.  And they disagreed on how to interpret certain passages on how to divide the family fortune.

And so, a great disagreement arose between them.  Some of the children no longer even wanted to speak to the others.  The rift became so bad that these siblings no longer wanted to live together or share a common meal.  And because of this great division which arose among them all the children moved out and built their own houses.

Therefore, we can see that an orphan is someone who cannot hear an audible voice from the father giving a clear and infallible interpretation of the words that the father has written.

While it is true that the Bible does not teach error, the question on how to interpret it has led to over 32,000 different Protestant denominations who all contradict each other on what it means and yet each of those denominations claims to be following the Bible and the Bible alone.  And the position that no one can infallible interpret the Bible leaves it as a book that serves no certain and definite purpose. 

John 14:18
I will not leave you orphans

However, because we are not orphaned we must be able in some way to hear God’s voice spoken to us through His Church.  Jesus comes to us through the Church that He established. 
Cf. Acts 9:4-5.  The term “Pope” comes from the term “papa” which means father.  His authority over us is as a father over his spiritual children.

Luke 10:16   
He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.

The Church that Christ built  [ See Matthew 16:18 below]  is the pillar and foundation of truth which God works through to guide us in how to follow Jesus Christ and what it means to have faith in Him.

1 Timothy 3:15
“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.”


A Fatherly Office

The priest is also a father Judges 17:5, 10.  And Judges 18:19.

Judges 18:19    
“Come with us and be our father and priest. Is it better for you to be priest for the family of one man or to be priest for a tribe and a clan in Israel ?”

Saint Paul also call himself a father and passes on to Timothy this office of Priesthood.  (The word for Priest comes from the word presbyter, which means elder in a literal sense, yet Timothy was young.)

1 Corinthians 4:15-17   
“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  Therefore, I urge you, be imitators of me.   For this reason I am sending youTimothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord; he will remind you of my ways in Christ (Jesus), just as I teach them everywhere in every church.” 

So this office in the Church, the Priesthood is to be understood not as a Chief Executive Officer, but as a fatherly service to the Church.  The Bible uses this  father"   son"  description of this office.

Ephesians 3:14-15   
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named …”  
The Greek word that is translated to  
family"  in this verse is actually based on the Greek word for  "father"  and could be translated as  fatherhood." 

The  Church  Is  Governed  By  A  Father  -  Son  Relationship

1 Timothy 1:2, 18   
“… to Timothy, my true child in faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. … 18 I entrust this charge to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophetic words once spoken about you. Through them may you fight a good fight”

2 Timothy 1:2    
to Timothy, my dear child: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Timothy  2:1   
“So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Titus 1:4   
to Titus, my true child in our common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.”

1 Corinthians 4:17   
“For this reason I am sending you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord; he will remind you of my ways in Christ (Jesus), just as I teach them everywhere in every church.”

Philippians 2:22   
“But you know his worth, how as a child with a father he served along with me in the cause of the gospel.” 

This fatherly office of the Priesthood / Bishop was passed on by the laying on of hands.  We see this position of authority being passed on this way in the next study of Apostolic Succession in the New Testament.





Romans 10:13-15
“For  ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’   But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are 

The word  “sent”  in Romans 10:15 is a translation of the Greek word  apostalosin,  Strong’s # 649.  This word has the same root as the words  “Apostles” and  “Apostolic.”   It is necessary that the early church to have been able to distinguish the validity between one preacher’s interpretation and another preacher’s interpretation who contradicted the first.  Jesus did not write out a Bible, however He sent out the twelve Apostles who had been given His authority.  [ See Luke 22:29-32  above]   These Apostles in turn sent out others to carry on their mission.  And these ordained others down through history.  No one has the authority to send himself as the authority comes from above.   In Jesus’ prayer to the Father He speaks about the special Twelve that He had chosen.

John 17:18
“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.”

As Apostles, the chosen Twelve, had the authority to reveal the new teachings of Jesus Christ.  They also had the office of Bishop to oversee the Church and safeguard those truths.  They passed on the office of Bishop to their successors by the laying of hands as was done in the Old Testament.  We can have no new doctrines since the fullness of the teachings of Christ was passed on by the Apostles.  Those teachings and the correct understanding of them are safeguarded by their successors.  

Peter points out in Acts how after Judas died, they needed to appoint a successor to his bishopric, or office. 

Acts 1:20  
“ … His office let another take.”

The Greek word that is translated above as “office”  is “episcope,” Strong’s number 1984.  Literally it means “one who oversees” or “one who supervises.”  This Greek word is translated as “overseers” below.

Acts 20:28
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.”

Episcope” is translated as “bishop” in 1 Timothy 3:1,  and in Titus 1:7.  The office that is transmitted is  “bishop”  not Apostle.

1 Timothy 3:1   
“If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.”

Some object to this passing on of the office because of the following restrictions.

Acts 1:21-22   
“Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

However, it can be shown that these restrictions were not perpetual, but only temporary.  Paul, who was not originally a follower of Christ, is also a Bishop.  1 Thess. 2: 3-7  and  1 Timothy 2:7.    Besides Timothy was very young when Ordained by Paul as a Bishop and was not an original follower of Christ, yet he becomes a Bishop as well.  Philippians 2: 19-22.   1 Timothy 4: 12-16.    2 Timothy 1:6     First Timothy was written in about 60 AD and it refers to Timothy as young, so obviously these restrictions were not binding on him.  In fact the note at the end of Second Timothy in the King James (Authorized) Version says that Timothy was the first ordained Bishop of Ephesus.

Others object by saying that the number of Bishops was always restricted to twelve.  However, this view is not in keeping with the view of Christ that the Church is like a seed that grows into a big beautiful tree.

Luke 13:19   
“It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

We see this progress and growth of the Church already taking place in the Letter to Titus.

Titus 1:5    
“This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you …”

This authority was passed on through the laying on of hands.

Acts 6:6    
“These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.”

The Bishops passed on their authority to their successors by the laying on of hands.

Acts 9:15-19  
“But the Lord said to him,  ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’   So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said,  ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’   And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.
For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus.”    RSV

God called Paul in a unique and personal way.  Yet God still chose to work through an officer /minister  in His Church to administer grace to him.   Paul remained with them and became an officer /minister of the Church himself.

Acts 13:2-3  
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,    ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’    Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

Colossians 1:24-26   
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known …”

1 Timothy 1:3   
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine”  

1 Timothy 4:11-16    
Command and teach these things.  Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elderslaid their hands upon you.  Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress.   Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

1 Timothy 5:22  
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure.”

2 Timothy 1:6  
“Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands

Paul tells us that he is about to be martyred.

2 Timothy 4:6    
“For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.”

Instead of setting up a church based on Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, he shows that the Church is an authoritative teaching Church that passes on her teachings through oral Tradition.  This oral Tradition is that which is heard.

2 Timothy 2:2   
“ … and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

The need for an authoritative teaching Church, as opposed to each person using his own interpretation, is demonstrated by the following.

2 Timothy 4:1-4    
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.   For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”

Titus 1:5, 9  
“This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…9 he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.”

Titus 2:15    
“Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


Simon Magnus tried to obtain this authority but Saint Peter denied it to him.

Acts 8:17-20   
“Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was conferred by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said,  ‘Give me this power too, so that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive the holy Spirit.’   But Peter said to him,  ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money …”  NAB

Thus we can see that the individual could not obtain this power or authority on his own private relationship with God.  These graces and this office come to us through a hierarchical structured Church.  And it comes through the laying on of hands by those who have had that authority passed onto them by the same manner.  This hierarchical structure is even more apparent in the next study, the Church is Hierarchical. 




Luke 6:13  
“And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles”

1 Corinthians 12:28   
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.”

The Church has a hierarchical aspect as can be seen in the manner in which the authority was passed on to others.  It is the type of  authority that a Father possesses.  For example, a father does not say to his children, if you agree that my decisions are correct and persuasive, then and only then are you bound by them.  Like a good father who disciplines as needed, the Church also governs to safe guard the faith for the people as a service to them.

2 Corinthians 13:10   
“I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”


Clearly the early Church had a hierarchical structure of authority where the leaders had supreme authority to teach, rule or govern.  This hierarchical aspect can be clearly seen in Paul’s claim to have the power to excommunicate another.  To excommunicate is the most hierarchical aspect that a person can have.  It essentially is the power for one person to be able to say that he is in the Church, but that another person is not.  This power demonstrates very clearly the visible characteristic of the Church, that it can be identified with some people but not with others.  Of course the final judgment of the soul is left to God.


1 Corinthians 5:2-5   
“… The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst I, for my part, although absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who has committed this deed, in the name of (our) Lord Jesus: … with the power of the Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” 


Notice that Saint Paul does not defend his right to excommunicate this other person.  He assumes that they already know this apparently basic hierarchical aspect of the Church.

God has giving us a Church that has specific purposes.  By the power of the Holy Spirit she proposes the unity of Christ to all the world so that they might embrace it, and thereby direct their efforts in a common direction for the effective accomplishment of that Church’s goals.  This is done for the good of its own members as well as for the good of the whole world.  This unity of purpose is essential for any society.

Mark 3:24-25   
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.   And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

John 17:17-21    
“Consecrate them in the truth … so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

So, the Church has a visible aspect and she can be identified.  She is a visible apologetic sign to the world that Christ was sent by the Father.  The Church has perfect unity (cf. CCC 813 - 822), it is just that some of those who attempt to follow Christ do not accept and receive that perfect unity because of their dissent from the Church’s teaching.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13   
“But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”   

Jude 8-11  
“Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones … Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. 

Numbers 16:1-33
Korah, son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi  took two hundred and fifty Israelites who wereleaders in the community, members of the council and men of note. They stood before Moses, and held an assembly against Moses and Aaron, to whom they said,   ‘Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the LORD is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the LORD’S congregation?’  …
Moses also said to Korah,   ‘Listen to me, you Levites!  Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has singled you out from the community of Israel, to have you draw near him for the service of the LORD’S Dwelling … and yet you now seek the priesthood too. …
Then each of your two hundred and fifty followers shall take his own censer, put incense in it, and offer it to the LORD; and you and Aaron, each with his own censer, shall do the same.’  …
and the 
LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
‘Stand apart from this band, that I may consume them at once.  … 
Speak to the community and tell them: Withdraw from the space around the Dwelling’ (of Korah,
Dathan and Abiram). …
No sooner had he finished saying all this than the ground beneath them split open, and 
the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families (and all of Korah’s men) and all their possessions. They went down alive to the nether world with all belonging to them; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the community.”    NAB

The head of the Church is Jesus Christ in Heaven.  However, he has left us a visible earthly head that He works through.  First Corinthians refers to the Church as the Body of Christ and this earthly head.

1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 21
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. … 21 The eye cannot say to the hand,  ‘I do not need you,’  nor again the head to the feet,  ‘I do not need you.’

The reference to  “head”  above cannot refer to Jesus Christ because it would be presumptuous, and therefore wrong, for St. Paul to tell God what He could or could not say and presumptuous to say that God could not tell a person that he was not needed.


Saint Peter

Luke 22:29-32  
“ ‘… and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,  that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.   Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you (plural in Greek), that he might sift you (plural in Greek)  like wheat,  but I have prayed for you (singular in Greek)  that your (singular in Greek)  faith may not fail; and when you(singular in Greek)  have turned again, strengthen your (singular in Greek)  brethren.’ ”    

The King James version retains the meaning of the original Greek where Satan had demanded to have“you -plural,”  - meaning all of the disciples -  but Christ says that He prayed for  “you -singular”  meaning Peter uniquely.

Luke 22:31-32   
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thybrethren.”  

Christ only started one Church.  And He built that Church on Saint Peter.  Peter, who as only a man is weak is now made strong by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And he is entrusted with special and unique guidance to lead the Church and strengthen the other Apostles.  The passage below shows that it was God the Father who singled him out for this special role. 

Matthew 16:15-19   
“He said to them,  ‘But who do you say that I am?’    Simon Peter replied,   ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’    And Jesus answered him,  ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona ! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.   And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  I will give you  
( in the Greek it is you - singular  the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’   RSV  ( clarification added according to the Greek text.)

That the  “the powers of death”  or  “gates of Hades,”  as some translations put it,  “shall not prevail against it”  implies that after Peter’s death there will be a successor to the position that Christ is referring to here and which will be given to St. Peter after the Resurrection.  Cf.  See Papacy  by Karl Keating.

To find the context of the meaning of the keys we look to the Bible, Isaiah 22.

Isaiah 22:15, 19-24    
Thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts: Up, go to that official, Shebna, master of the palace… 19 I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.   On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;  I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority.  He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.   I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.   I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family;  On him shall hang all the glory of his family: descendants and offspring, all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs.”  

Isaiah 36:1-3   
“In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, … 3 there came out to him the master of the palace, Eliakim,son of Hilkiah, and Shebna the scribe, and the herald Joah, son of Asaph.”   

The keys represent absolute power to rule.  They are owned by the King of Israel who entrusts them to his representative the “master of the palace.”  Christ is the true King of Israel who gives his keys to Peter.

The key of the  “house of David”  implies succession because King David had been dead for hundreds of years at the time of King Hezekiah’s rule.  Just as the king had a successor so did the head of the household, or the  “master of the palace.”   Or in today’s language we might use the terms  “prime minister” or even better “the king’s regent,”  “viceroy,”  or “vicar” since he had absolute authority under the king.   His office was one of being a father to the people, Cf Isaiah 22: 21. 

John 21:15    
Jesus said to Simon Peter,  ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these ?’   He said to him,  ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’   He said to him,  ‘Feed my lambs.’ ” 

Jesus gave over to Saint Peter the care of all of His sheep. 
Now the only question is how many Christian sheep belong to Jesus ? 
……………Answer:    All of them.

Saint Peter, and the Church's mission to care for the sheep is manifested by carrying out Christ's mission to teach, to rule, and to sanctify all those who are called to Him.  The Church’s mission is made more abundantly clear in the next study, the Church’s Threefold Mission.

See separate article demonstrating that the office bestowed on Peter by Jesus Christ implies a succession.

Succession for Peter’s office





It is through this Apostolic Church that the Catholic Church’s earthly leaders can be traced back through history.  See external link to see the list of Popes going back to Saint Peter.  Also, see the list written by St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, around 180 - 199 AD, see sections two and three.  And it is through these earthly leaders that our heavenly leader Jesus Christ carries out His mission to teach, to rule, and to sanctify.

1.  To Sanctify :
The  Church  Receives  The  Mission  Of  Priesthood  To  Make  God’s  People  Holy  By  The  Transmission  Of  God’s  Grace


If the validity of God’s sacraments depended on the holiness of the minister giving them then we would be in quite a quandary because we are forbidden to try to judge another person’s holiness.  Fortunately, it is Jesus Christ who works through the minister who has been validly ordained by the Church that He established.  And it is Jesus Christ who makes the sacrament valid.

John 20:21-23    
“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.’ 

Matthew 28:18-20  
“Then Jesus approached and said to them,  ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 … ”

2.  To Teach :
The  Church  Receives  The  Mission  Of  Teacher  To  Teach  In  God’s  Name.


Acts 8:26-31
“ … Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.  Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. … Philip … said,  ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  He replied,  ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ 

The Bible is the inerrant Word of God.  All that it teaches is true.  However, even though a person may have access to the Bible he still needs instruction on how to interpret it.  Private interpretation has led to a tremendous disunity among those who seek to follow Jesus and a certain obscurity of His teachings.

Jesus did not give us a Book for each man or woman to interpret however they wished.  He gave us a Church that He established to guide us in how to follow Him.

Matthew 28:18-20  
“… Jesus … said to them,  ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’ ”

John 17:17-21    
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth … so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

John 16:13   
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak ...”

1 Timothy 3:15   
“ … the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. 


3. To Rule or Govern :
The  Church  Receives  From  Christ  The  Power  And  The  Right  To  Govern  And  To   Pass  Binding  Decrees  So  As  To  Fulfill  Her  Responsibility  To Serve  Those  Who  Are  Her  Spiritual  Children  In  Christ.


Matthew 10:1   
“Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them outand to cure every disease and every illness.”

Luke 10:17-19    
“The seventy (-two) returned rejoicing, and said,  ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.’   Jesus said,  ‘I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.   Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.

2 Corinthians 13:10   
“I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”

Titus 2:15    
Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

Matthew 18:17   
“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Notice that Jesus does not say that the final authority is a book, but rather a Church, which by necessity had to be a visible Church in order to be identified so that we could listen to it and obey its decisions.  

John 17:20-21
“I [Jesus]   pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

Therefore, the Church that Jesus established has a visible unity, unlike the false claim to an invisible unity that Protestants claim to have, and this unity is a visible sign, or a visible apologetic, pointing to the world that Jesus is the Messiah.

This Church and her Apostolic Tradition working along with Sacred Scriptures would be the final authority, “the pillar and foundation of truth”
 1 Timothy 3:15
,  in determining what God had revealed.  It is by the authority of the Church that Christ founded, being guided by the Holy Spirit, that we know which books are truly the inspired Word of God and which are not, therefore we can know with infallible certainty which books belong in the Bible and which do not.  This Church, whose teachings are protected by the Holy Spirit, shows us the correct interpretation of the Bible.

Luke 10:16   
“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”