Malankara World

What Shall I Do To Be Saved?

By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil

Question 64. What does it mean by Apostolic succession?

We have already seen that Christ founded the church and that the Church is His. He commanded the apostles to go all over the world, preach, and baptize those who believed and to receive them to the Church. He gave power to the apostles to govern the Church, and commanded many important things the members of the Church should obey and observe. He taught them things pertaining to the kingdom of God. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45). He appointed St. Peter as the head of the Church and established the Eucharist after the Last Supper. He blessed the bread and wine and said, "this bread is My body and this wine is My blood, being shed for the remission of sins and for eternal life to all who eat and drink."

One should believe that:

(a) Jesus Christ is the Son of God and is God.

(b) He came to this world to offer salvation to humanity.

(c) He suffered on the cross, died, and ascended to heaven.

(d) He will come again for the final judgment, and therefore on should:

1) Be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, and

2) Participate in Eucharist after confession of sins and eat with firm belief that it is the 'body and blood of Jesus Christ.'

After the Last Supper, He gave His body and blood to the apostle and commanded them to perform this till the end of the world (for coming generations). The apostles also received from Christ the power to bind and loose (power to forgive or not to forgive sins). Some protestant groups argue that those who believe in Christ, become disciples and that there is no distinction between the believers and apostles. This is wrong. If this is true every one is capable of forgiving sins (Jesus told the apostles that they could forgive sins). If this was the case, whose sins should they forgive? Their own sins (in that case, any one who sins can declare themselves as forgiven!) Is this what Christ meant? If each one performs the Eucharist (breaking of the bread) to whom should he give it to? To himself?

Jesus Christ blessed the bread and wine and gave to the apostles and commanded them to do as he did and gave them the right to do. The apostles themselves have to perform this and give it to the believers till the end of the world. So the above argument doesn't make any sense. More over, after the resurrection, He gave them all power to do everything (John 20: 20-23). He also sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles after ascending to heaven. The apostles knew their special status. This is why St. Paul said, "We are the ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us." (2 Cori. 5:20). 'We are God's fellow workers.' (1 Cori. 3: 9). The following powers were given to the apostles alone:

(1) To preach and baptize

(2) To forgive sins (Mat 16:19)

(3) To Offer Eucharist

(4) Peter was appointed the administrator

So the apostles are the representatives or ambassadors of the Church (2 Cori. 5-20)

The apostles were blessed at the time of ascension and received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. All powers are vested in them and are to be exercised till the end of the world. But the apostles cannot live till that time; it is only logical that they appoint their successors to perform their duties. This is seen in the epistles to Timothy and Titus (1:5). This transfer of power from the apostles to their successors is called apostolic succession.

During the apostolic time itself we can see that pastors or presbyters of the church were appointed. The apostles were the authority of the church and elders received their authority and power from the apostles (Acts 5:13, 8:16). St. Clement (AD 96) has documented that the apostles appointed successors before their death. St. Ignatius has written that "There is no church without three grades of priesthood, i.e. bishop, priest and deacon."

Therefore the true church of Christ should have a continuous chain of succession from the apostles. It should have the apostolic faith and observances, which is in the book of Acts, Epistles, and in the writings of the immediate successors of the Apostles like St. Clement, St. Ignatius, and others (Refer to the Faith of early church fathers). Tertullian has written that believers should know if they are going to a true church - each church should have a bishop who should show a continuous chain from the apostles and should believe everything as taught by the apostles.

Merely making a building and calling it a 'church', fellowship, or an assembly and attending there will not make it a church that the Lord Jesus Christ had established.

TOC Section 1 (Q 1-26) | Section 2 (Q 27-56) | Section 3 (Q 57-81) | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

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