“Apostolic Succession” or the “succession of ordination of bishops” is one of the abuses I spoke about in part 1 that has caused some to over react to ordinations of called men to preach and pastor. Here I discuss “Apostolic Succession”.
The Episcopal form of church government is church rule by bishops. “This form of government maintains a threefold ministry of the church: bishops, presbyters (or priests), and deacons. The essential concept of this government is that the right to consecrate other bishops and ordain priests and deacons belongs only to the bishop. This provides for a succession of bishops and their rulership over the two subordinate ministries” (Robert Saucy, The Church in God’s Program, Chicago: Moody Press, 1972, p. 106).
The succession of ordination of bishops as the only valid ministry is traced back to the apostles and thus is called “Apostolic succession.”
1. The R.C.C. holds that the Pope is the successor and speaks ex cathedra.
2. The Methodist denomination is also Episcopal in government but does not hold to “apostolic succession.”
What is the basis for Episcopal or rule by bishops?
“History seems to show decisively that before the middle of the second century each church or organized Christian community had its three orders of ministries” (Lightfoot, “The Christian Ministry” in Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, p. 186).
While a third office is not found in Scripture there is a development of certain features evident in the N.T. say the advocates of Episcopal rule.
The primary basis for this church government is the position of James at the church of Jerusalem.
1. Paul referred to James as an “apostle” in Gal. 1:19.
2. Paul also called James one of the “pillars of the church” in Gal. 2:9.
3. Other references show the prominence of James (Acts 12:17; 21:18).
4. James presides (not rules) over the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:4, 22.
Why was James such a prominent leader?
1. Because of his holiness of character seen in his nickname “The Just” and his prayer life.
2. Because James was the closest male relative to Christ (Gal. 1:19).
Why is “Apostolic succession” unbiblical?
1. Bishop is interchangeable with elder in the NT (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet 5:1-2).
2. The absence of instructions for succession (Mark 3:14 ff.).
3. The absence of early historical succession (Acts 20:17 pastors succeed Paul but not as apostles who performed the signs of an apostle in 2 Cor.12:12).
4. The uniqueness of the apostolic office (Apostles must have seen the resurrected Christ, Acts 1:22). While “Apostolic succession” and succession of ordination is unbiblical, the ordination of God called men to preach and pastor is very biblical which I trust these three posts have demonstrated.