I. Ordained Leaders Share in Jesus’ Ministry and Authority
Matt. 10:1,40 – Jesus declares to His apostles, “he who receives you, receives Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me and the One who sent Me.” Jesus freely gives His authority to the apostles in order for them to effectively convert the world.
Matt. 16:19; 18:18 – the apostles are given Christ’s authority to make visible decisions on earth that will be ratified in heaven. God raises up humanity in Christ by exalting his chosen leaders and endowing them with the authority and grace they need to bring about the conversion of all. Without a central authority in the Church, there would be chaos (as there is in Protestantism).
Luke 9:1; 10:19 – Jesus gives the apostles authority over the natural and the supernatural (diseases, demons, serpents, and scorpions).
Luke 10:16 – Jesus tells His apostles, “he who hears you, hears Me.” When we hear the bishops’ teaching on the faith, we hear Christ Himself.
Luke 22:29 – the Father gives the kingdom to the Son, and the Son gives the kingdom to the apostles. The gift is transferred from the Father to the Son to the apostles.
Num 16:28 – the Father’s authority is transferred to Moses. Moses does not speak on his own. This is a real transfer of authority.
John 5:30 – similarly, Jesus as man does nothing of His own authority, but He acts under the authority of the Father.
John 7:16-17 – Jesus as man states that His authority is not His own, but from God. He will transfer this authority to other men.
John 8:28 – Jesus says He does nothing on His own authority. Similarly, the apostles will do nothing on their own authority. Their authority comes from God.
John 12:49 – The father’s authority is transferred to the Son. The Son does not speak on his own. This is a transfer of divine authority.
John 13:20 – Jesus says, “he who receives anyone who I send, receives Me.” He who receives the apostles, receives Christ Himself. He who rejects the apostles and their successors, rejects Christ.
John 14:10 – Jesus says the Word He speaks is not His own authority, but from the Father. The gift is from the Father to Jesus to the apostles.
John 16:14-15 – what the Father has, the Son has, and the Son gives it to the apostles. The authority is not lessened or mitigated.
John 17:18; 20:21 – as the Father sends the Son, the Son sends the apostles. The apostles have divinely appointed authority.
Acts 20:28 – the apostles are shepherds and guardians appointed by the Holy Spirit / 1 Peter 2:25 – Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian. The apostles, by the power of the Spirit, share Christ’s ministry and authority.
Jer. 23:1-8; Ezek. 34:1-10 – the shepherds must shepherd the sheep, or they will be held accountable by God.
Eph. 2:20 – the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles. The word “foundation” proves that it does not die with apostles, but carries on through succession.
Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:9,14 – the words “household,” “Bride of the Lamb,” the “new Jerusalem” are all metaphors for the Church whose foundation is the apostles.
Authority is Transferred by the Sacrament of Ordination
Acts 1:15-26 – the first thing Peter does after Jesus ascends into heaven is implement apostolic succession. Matthias is ordained with full apostolic authority. Only the Catholic Church can demonstrate an unbroken apostolic lineage to the apostles in union with Peter through the sacrament of ordination and thereby claim to teach with Christ’s own authority.
Acts 1:20 – a successor of Judas is chosen. The authority of his office (his “bishopric”) is respected notwithstanding his egregious sin. The necessity to have apostolic succession in order for the Church to survive was understood by all. God never said, “I’ll give you leaders with authority for about 400 years, but after the Bible is compiled, you are all on your own.”
Acts 1:22 – literally, “one must be ordained” to be a witness with us of His resurrection. Apostolic ordination is required in order to teach with Christ’s authority.
Acts 6:6 – apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority has transferred beyond the original twelve apostles as the Church has grown.
Acts 9:17-19 – even Paul, who was directly chosen by Christ, only becomes a minister after the laying on of hands by a bishop. This is a powerful proof-text for the necessity of sacramental ordination in order to be a legitimate successor of the apostles.
Acts 13:3 – apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority must come from a Catholic bishop.
Acts 14:23 – the apostles and newly-ordained men appointed elders to have authority throughout the Church.
Acts 15:22-27 – preachers of the Word must be sent by the bishops in union with the Church. We must trace this authority to the apostles.
2 Cor. 1:21-22 – Paul writes that God has commissioned certain men and sealed them with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee.
Col 1:25 – Paul calls his position a divine “office.” An office has successors. It does not terminate at death. Or it’s not an office. See also Heb. 7:23 – an office continues with another successor after the previous office-holder’s death.
1 Tim. 3:1 – Paul uses the word “episcopoi” (bishop) which requires an office. Everyone understood that Paul’s use of episcopoi and office meant it would carry on after his death by those who would succeed him.
1 Tim. 4:14 – again, apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination).
1 Tim. 5:22 – Paul urges Timothy to be careful in laying on the hands (ordaining others). The gift of authority is a reality and cannot be used indiscriminately.
2 Tim. 1:6 – Paul again reminds Timothy the unique gift of God that he received through the laying on of hands.
2 Tim. 4:1-6 – at end of Paul’s life, Paul charges Timothy with the office of his ministry . We must trace true apostolic lineage back to a Catholic bishop.
2 Tim. 2:2 – this verse shows God’s intention is to transfer authority to successors (here, Paul to Timothy to 3rd to 4th generation). It goes beyond the death of the apostles.
Titus 1:5; Luke 10:1 – the elders of the Church are appointed and hold authority. God has His children participate in Christ’s work.
1 John 4:6 – whoever knows God listens to us (the bishops and the successors to the apostles). This is the way we discern truth and error (not just by reading the Bible and interpreting it for ourselves).
Exodus 18:25-26 – Moses appoints various heads over the people of God. We see a hierarchy, a transfer of authority and succession.
Exodus 40:15 – the physical anointing shows that God intended a perpetual priesthood with an identifiable unbroken succession.
Numbers 3:3 – the sons of Aaron were formally “anointed” priests in “ordination” to minister in the priests’ “office.”
Numbers 16:40 – shows God’s intention of unbroken succession within His kingdom on earth. Unless a priest was ordained by Aaron and his descendants, he had no authority.
Numbers 27:18-20 – shows God’s intention that, through the “laying on of hands,” one is commissioned and has authority.
Deut. 34:9 – Moses laid hands upon Joshua, and because of this, Joshua was obeyed as successor, full of the spirit of wisdom.
Sirach 45:15 – Moses ordains Aaron and anoints him with oil. There is a transfer of authority through formal ordination.
Jesus Christ Wants Us to Obey Apostolic Authority
Acts 5:13 – the people acknowledged the apostles’ special authority and did not dare take it upon themselves.
Acts 15:6,24; 16:4 – the teaching authority is granted to the apostles and their successors. This teaching authority must be traced to the original apostles, or the authority is not sanctioned by Christ.
Rom. 15:16 – Paul says he is a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of the ordained which is distinguishable from the universal priesthood of the laity. Notice the Gentiles are the “sacrifice” and Paul does the “offering.”
1 Cor. 5:3-5; 16:22; 1 Tim. 1:20; Gal 1:8; Matt 18:17 – these verses show the authority of the elders to excommunicate / anathemize (“deliver to satan”).
2 Cor. 2:17 – Paul says the elders are not just random peddlers of God’s word. They are actually commissioned by God. It is not self-appointed authority.
2 Cor. 3:6 – Paul says that certain men have been qualified by God to be ministers of a New Covenant. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of Christ handed down the ages through sacramental ordination.
2 Cor. 5:20 – Paul says we are “ambassadors” for Christ. This means that the apostles and their successors share an actual participation in Christ’s mission, which includes healing, forgiving sins, and confecting the sacraments.
2 Cor. 10:6 – in reference to the ordained, Paul says that they are ready to punish every disobedience. The Church has the authority excommunicate those who disobey her.
2 Cor. 10:8 – Paul acknowledges his authority over God’s people which the Lord gave to build up the Church.
1 Thess. 5:12-13 – Paul charges the members of the Church to respect those who have authority over them.
2 Thess. 3:14 – Paul says if a person does not obey what he has provided in his letter, have nothing to do with him.
1 Tim. 5:17 – Paul charges the members of the Church to honor the appointed elders (“priests”) of the Church.
Titus 2:15 – Paul charges Timothy to exhort and reprove with all authority, which he received by the laying on of hands.
Heb. 12:9 – in the context of spiritual discipline, the author says we have had earthly fathers (referring to the ordained leaders) to discipline us and we respected them.
Heb. 13:7,17 – Paul charges the members of the Church to remember and obey their leaders who have authority over their souls.
1 Peter 2:18 – Peter charges the servants to be submissive to their masters whether kind and gentle or overbearing.
1 Peter 5:5; Jude 8 – Peter and Jude charge the members of the Church to be subject to their elders.
2 Peter 2:10 – Peter warns the faithful about despising authority. He is referring to the apostolic authority granted to them by Christ.
3 John 9 – John points out that Diotrephes does not acknowledge John’s apostolic authority and declares that this is evil.
Deut. 17:10-13 – the Lord commands His faithful Israel to obey the priests that He puts in charge, and do to all that they direct and instruct. The Lord warns that those who do not obey His priests shall die.
Num. 16:1-35 – Korah incited a “protestant” rebellion against God’s chosen Moses in an effort to confuse the distinction between the ministerial and universal offices of priesthood, and Korah and his followers perished. (This effort to blind the distinctions between the priests and the laity is still pursued by dissidents today.)
Sirach 7:29-30 – with all your soul fear the Lord and honor His priests, love your Maker and do not forsake His ministers. God is not threatened by the authority He gives His children! God, as our Loving Father, invites us to participate in His plan of salvation with His Son Jesus. Without authority in the Church, there is error, chaos and confusion.
“Through Our Lord Jesus Christ our Apostles knew that there would be strife over the office of episcopacy. Accordingly, since they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those men already mentioned. And they afterwards gave instructions that when those men would fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. Therefore, we are of the opinion that those appointed by the Apostles, or afterwards by other acclaimed men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.” St. Clement Of Rome, “The Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians,” c. 96 A.D.”When we refer them to that tradition which originates from the Apostles, which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the churches, they object to Tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but than even the Apostles.” St. Irenaeus, “Against All Heresies,” c. 180 A.D.
“Therefore, it is within the power of all in every church who may wish to see the Truth to examine clearly the Tradition of the Apostles manifested throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to reckon up those who were instituted bishops in the churches by the Apostles, and the succession of these men to our own times…. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries…they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men.” St. Irenaeus, “Against All Heresies,” c. 180 A.D.
“In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical Tradition from the Apostles, and the preaching of the Truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same life-giving faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the Apostles until now, and handed down in truth.” St. Irenaeus, “Against All Heresies,” c. 180 A.D.
“It is necessary to obey the presbyters who are in the Church – those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the Apostles. For those presbyters, together with the succession of the bishops, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But we should hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever. For they are either heretics or perverse minds, or else they are schismatics who are puffed up and self-pleasing…. Therefore, it behooves us to keep aloof from all such persons and to adhere to those who, as I have already observed, hold the doctrine of the Apostles.” St. Irenaeus, “Against All Heresies,” c. 180 A.D.
“It behooves us to learn the Truth from those who possess that succession of the Church which is from the Apostles, and among whom exists that which is sound and blameless in conduct, as well as that which is unadulterated and incorrupt in speech….” St. Irenaeus, “Against All Heresies,” c. 180 A.D.
“No one will refute these heretics except the Holy Spirit bequeathed unto the Church, which the Apostles – having received in the first instance – have transmitted to those who have rightly believed. But we, as being their successors and as participators in this grace, high priesthood, and office of teaching – as well as being reputed guardians of the Church – must not be found deficient in vigilance.” St. Hippolytus, “Refutation Of All Heresies,” c. 225 A.D.
“He cannot be reckoned as a bishop who succeeds no one. For he has despised the evangelical and Apostolic traditions, springing from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way…. How can he be esteemed a pastor, who succeeds to no one, but begins from himself? For the true shepherd remains and presides over the Church of God by successive ordination. Therefore, the other one becomes a stranger and a profane person, an enemy of the Lord’s peace.” St. Cyprian Of Carthage, “Letter To Magnus,” c. 250 A.D.
“The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are plain that He sent His Apostles and gave to them alone the power that had been given to Him by His Father. And we have succeeded to them, governing the Lord’s Church with the same power.” Seventh Council Of Carthage, c. 256 A.D.