Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Which Church is THE Church in the Bible?

In Timothy 3:15, we see Paul explaining to Timothy that, should Paul be delayed, he writes to Timothy so that one may know how to conduct himself in “the Church…which is the pillar and bulwark of Truth”.  But which Church was he talking about?  Obviously he is talking about God’s Church, since he says, “…the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth…” (1Tim3:15)  But what did this Church look like?  Was it an invisible body of all believers?  Was it a visible Church?  Could it be both rather than either/or?

Firstly, we Catholics believe the Church is One…meaning Christ founded one Church and intended it to remain as such.  (Jn 10:16, Jn 17:17-23, Eph 4:3-6, Rom 12:5, Rom 15:5, Rom 16:17, 1Cor 1:10, 1Cor 12:13, Phil 2:2, Col 3:15, etc…)

Catholics believe the Church that Paul is talking about in 1Tim 3:15 has both visible and invisible aspects. For example, in the verses immediately prior, Paul speaks about Bishops and Deacons and how they are to conduct themselves. So, this Church had a visible hierarchy...which included Bishops and Deacons, which is also seen in Eph 4:11. Also, Christ tells us that if our brother sins against us and it can't be resolved, that we should take it to the Church in Matt 18:15-17. Well, if the Church is not visible, how do we know where to go for this? So, we believe the Church is visible...something like would be set high on a mountaintop...or a light for the world (Mt 5:14)...a light that would not be hidden under a basket, but visible for all to see.  We believe it also has some invisible aspects, such as the communion of believers…but it was also visible.

Catholics also believe that this Church is Apostolic. Jesus chose specific men to lead His Church (Jn 15:16), gave them His own mission (Jn 20:21), and conferred on them a Kingdom (Lk 22:29-30). Christ chose to build His Church on one of His Apostles, (Mt 16:18) and said that it would be One Flock with One Shepherd (Jn 10:16) and then He appointed a shepherd to tend His Flock on earth until He comes again (Lk 22:32, Jn 21:17). When one of them betrayed the Lord, he was replaced...succeeded (Acts 1:20, 25-26), and so this Apostolic Church has Apostolic Succession. We believe that the OT verses 2Chr 19:11, Mal 2:7 point to this and the NT verses Eph 2:20, 4:11, 1Cor 12:28-29, 1Tim 3:1,8 1Tim 5:17, Acts 14:23, 2Tim 2:2, Titus 1:5, etc...confirm it, even showing how that succession takes place (Dt 34:9, Acts 6:1-6, 1Tim 4:14, 1Tim 5:22 and 2Tim 1:6).

Catholics also believe it is universal...that it applies to ALL. This is confirmed for us when Christ says to preach the Gospel to, and baptize, all nations…all the world (Mt 28:18-20, Mk 16:15-16).  It is also evident in Christ’s words that all who listen to the Church listen to Christ, and vice versa (Lk 10:16). We see it again in the fact that this Church decided, under the direction of Peter, to forgo circumcision for the Gentiles and to allow Gentiles to be admitted to the Church (Acts 10).

Further, we believe it is Holy because it is founded by Christ (Mt 16:18-19) and not by man, and because it is led by the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16,26; 16:13).  It is also Holy because Christ is its Head (Col 1:18) and the Church is His Body (1Cor 12:20-27, 1Cor 6:15 Eph 5:30, Rom 12:4-5) as well as the Bride of Christ (cf. Eph 5:22-32).

We also believe that this Church is perpetual...that it goes on until the end of the world. We believe that Is 9:6-7 and Dan 2:44; 7:14 allude to this and that it is confirmed in Lk 1:32-33, Mt 7:24, Mt 13:24-30, Mt 16:18, and Jn 14:16.  In these, we see Scriptural evidence of a Church that shall not be destroyed, built on a rock, with weeds and wheat growing together until harvest, which the gates of hell cannot prevail against, and which the Holy Spirit is always with and whom Christ is always with, for “all days” (Mt 28:19-20).

Being perpetual...the Church should be for “all time”….”perpetual”. And being in time, we ourselves cannot look into the future, we can only look into the past. So, looking in to the past, looking for a Church that is visible AND invisible, Apostolic and universal and Holy, and not founded by man, we can work our way backward to see what Churches there were and if they meet these criteria. If we go back 400 years or so, for example, we can rule out the Mormon Church and the SDA and JW's...because they did not exist yet. Go back another 400 years, get the idea...

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