Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Christ-centered Church, Part V of V

Jesus said to Peter, “You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” He gave to Peter “the keys to the kingdom,” so that whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed would be loosed. Jesus gave similar authority to the other Apostles - the power to loose and bind - but to Peter alone He gave the “keys.” As such, Peter is the chief steward who exercises authority in the absence of the king. This authority, granted to Peter and exercised through the Church, is binding on all Christians. As we have seen, the Church that Jesus built on the “Rock” possesses even the power to forgive sins and to cut off from the fold those Christians who do not repent (Matthew 18:15-18). In short, Jesus established His Church with real authority and power, and entrusted its governance to mortal men.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “I give to you the Bible, and on this Bible I will build my Church.” He did not say that the power to loose and bind would reside in a book. Yet there are many Christians who turn to the Bible to construct their own version of the church. They form “Bible-based” churches, when it is clear from Christ’s own words that the true Church of Christ rests on the authority given to Peter and the Apostles as a living institution. The true Church is not built on a book, but is a living Body of believers – the Body of Christ, empowered with the Spirit.

Then where is this living Church today? Where is the Church that Christ established so many years ago?

Only one church has maintained the teaching authority first granted to Peter. Only one church can trace itself back to the Church of the Apostles, through a steady succession of bishops, back to the First Century. Only one church can truly claim to be established by Jesus Himself upon the “Rock,” upon Peter, to whom was given the keys of the kingdom.

The Catholic Church has been governed by the successors to Peter (the popes) for nearly 2000 years. Meanwhile, Bible-based churches are at best only a few centuries old, or (more often) a few decades. None of these “Bible churches” have a tangible, historic link to the Apostles. Nor can they claim any real authority. The fact is, anyone can pick up a Bible and “claim” to know what it teaches, but only the Catholic Church was granted the power to loose and bind, an authority granted by Jesus Himself. Only the successors to Peter have passed on the keys to the kingdom as the stewards of God’s people until the King returns.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would not leave his flock to wander untended. And so, before He ascended to the Father, Jesus commanded Peter, “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep” (John 21:15-19). He appointed Peter as shepherd in His stead. The Church has been lead ever since by Peter’s successors. All Christians who wish to be truly Christ-centered in their obedience must turn to the authority which Christ left us, the authority of His Church, the power of the keys, which the Catholic Church alone possesses.

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