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Doctrinal Discussions:

History Of The Church Of Christ

May 30, 2002

These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men.  Bernie Parsons

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History Of The Church Of Christ

By Bernie Parsons - May 30, 2002

Part 5

Apostasy: Foundation Of The Catholic Church

The Shepherd of Hermas

The foundational idea of a Catholic purgatory can be readily discovered in 3The Shepherd of Hermas, an early document (thought to be written about 150 A.D.) in which the writer purported to have been spiritually transported and given a vision. This Hermas is identified as the brother of Pius, "Bishop of Rome".

Among these writers, and others of the time and soon to follow--as Ignatius and others--there is a noticeable departure from the writings of the Apostles Paul and Peter. Where the two apostles placed emphasis upon the individual members behaving righteously, these later writers show a tendency toward emphasis of presbyters, deacons, and especially bishops. The sense is that a single Bishop ruled a congregation, or an area that included more than one congregation. This is contrary to scripture, and shows how that after the Holy Apostles were gone, the apostasy spread quickly.

There is also frequent mention of the universal, or catholic, church--a phrase not used by the Apostles. By these evidences, we see a rapid divergence from Apostolic doctrine toward doctrine shaped by men. Jesus established one collective body--those who followed Him--and the same was assumed by the Apostles. There being only one body, there was no point in calling it universal, or Catholic. This indicates that men had begun to carve out territories of rule, and were at odds with one another.

Romans 12:4-5 "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."


In the 4Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, we see the demarcation of this new concept of a lone bishop as lord over the congregation, a thing that the Apostle Peter warned against.

4Chapter VI "Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself."

1 Peter 5:1-3 "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock"

Ignatius talks in this letter and his others of "the bishop" in the singular, which expression is contrary to that found in the letters of the Apostles Paul and Peter, wherein they refer to a plurality of elders as church leaders. There is danger in one man telling others what to do, as Jesus indicated.

Matthew 18:18-20 "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

It is important to notice that two or three disciples, led by God's Holy Spirit, could agree upon the truth, whereas one man alone might be mistaken. This refutes the commonly accepted Catholic doctrine that Apostle Peter was the first "Pope" of the "church". They say that Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter, when in reality, our Lord bestowed them upon the Apostles as a group.

Matthew 16:17-19 "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also 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 in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Yet we find Ignatius in his various letters urging each group to "do nothing without the bishop", and to "reverence the bishop as the Lord". We see here the transformation from the autonomous congregations of the Apostles' writings, overseen and led by a plurality of elders, to a system of one man lording over the congregation. The stage is now set for even more egregious apostasy.

Justin Martyr

The later writings of Justin Martyr, as in the 5First Apology of Justin, Chapter LV.-Symbols of the Cross, indicate a substitution for the symbol of the cross in place of heathen symbols of worship. Nowhere did Jesus or the holy Apostles of His appointment indicate use of this symbol, so beloved by the Catholic and Protestant religions. We are to directly worship God the Father, and His beloved son, Jesus the Christ, with no intervening symbol as surrogate for our Lord.


One Irenaeus, thought to have been born around 125 to 130 A.D., and to have died 202 A.D., speaks of the Catholic Church, the (singular) Bishop, and so completely wrecks the accuracy of the scriptures that he is certainly apostate and his teachings cannot be followed by true believers. For instance, he refers to the church as having begun in Rome under the leadership of the Apostles Paul and Peter, when the scriptures validate that the church began in Jerusalem, founded by Jesus Christ.

6Irenaeus, Book III, Chapter 3, passage 2: "by indicating that tradition 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; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops."

Matthew 16:18 "And I say also 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."

Luke 24:46-49 "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."

Acts 2:1 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven."

Acts 2:47 "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."

The scriptures prove that the Lord's church was "founded" by Jesus, in Jerusalem, and not in Rome by Apostles Peter and Paul. The apostasy of this man and his fellow worshippers is evident from passage 3 of the same writing:

63. "The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians..."

With this mention of "the episcopate", and "the bishopric" (singular) "succession", we see the extent of the apostasy, less than 100 years after the Apostles died. Now we have the claim that one man ("the episcopate", "the Bishop", or "the Pope") rules the church of God. What clinches this is his reference to the letter written from the "Church in Rome". reprimanding the brethren at Corinth. Individual teachers such as Apostles Paul and Peter wrote admonishing letters, but there was never a letter from one church usurping authority over another. In the Bible, each local church was overseen by a plurality of elders, served by a plurality of deacons, and handled its own affairs. One church did not oversee another church, nor did "the bishop" of one dictate to another.

We witness in these ancient writings the very apostasy predicted by Jesus and the Apostles, coming to pass as history unfolded.

Matthew 7:15-17 "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit."

Matthew 24:24 "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before."

1Timothy 1:6-7 "From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."

1 John 2:18-19 "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."

That the Catholic Church embraces these ancient apostate writers as their church "fathers" proves that the Catholic Church is indeed apostate.

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