So what is the role of the Church, as given to us from the Bible? Is the Bible alone all we need, or does the Church also play a role in our lives? Does the Bible come from the Church, or does the Church come from the Bible?
The answer is that the Church gave the world the Bible. The Bible does not exist apart from the church, nor does the Church exist apart from the Bible. The Church was established by Jesus Christ around 33 AD, and the New Testament was not finalized in its present form until 382 AD, about 350 years later. Pope St. Damasus I, at the Council of Rome, in 382, proposed the current canon of scripture with 73 books (46 OT + 27 NT). Subsequent councils at Hippo in 393 AD, and at
What authority does the Church have in our lives? Isn’t it just me and the Bible alone? Why do I need a man-made institution like the Church to tell me what to do? Well, for starters, who can properly interpret all of the passages of scriptures, written thousands of years ago, in different languages with different idioms, nuances to words, & in a vastly different culture? Well, the Church was there at the time, while we were not. Even people who believe in scripture alone have bibles with explanatory footnotes in them, which are not inspired words. If we live to be 100, and study the bible every day, we will not have the knowledge of a 2000 year old institution like the Church. The great thinkers and scholars of the Church, like Ignatius, Jerome, Augustine, Thomas of Aquinas, etc., have already figured it all out for us. To not listen to them would be as silly as not listening to Einstein when trying to understand the theory of Relativity.
And is the Church man-made, or does it come from God Himself? In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus establishes His Church for eternity when he told Peter:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
“My Church”, He said, not “My Churches”. And Jesus gave his church authority to bind and loose anything in His name. To bind and to loose means to be able to ratify issues, or to not ratify issues. Any issues. And the matter is not only settled on earth, but also in heaven.
Are there any other instances in the Bible where Church authority is spelled out? Yes, there are. In Matthew 18:15-19, Jesus says:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven."
Jesus says that we should listen to the Church, or be regarded no better than a tax collector! Also, in Luke 10:16, Jesus tells the Church leaders the following:
"He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
By rejecting the authority of the Church, you reject Jesus Himself!
In 1 John 4:1-6,
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already. Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
So what about all of the Church scandals? Doesn’t the fact that there have been priests who have abused altar boys prove that the Church is not of God? The answer is that there have always been fallible humans in the Church, starting with Judas and Peter, who both denied Christ in their own ways. The Church has survived them, as it will all scandalous people. The Bible itself (Matthew 16:18) says that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church”. In
So is the Church infallible? Certainly it is when teaching faith and morals, but it certainly is not when it comes to investments, sports, politics, etc. Why is this? The Bible says in John 16:13:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
The Spirit came to the Church at Pentecost, 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus, and has indeed been guiding the Church in truth for all of these years. Notice that the Spirit didn’t come to each individual, but to the Church. In Revelation 2-3, Jesus wrote His letters to the individual churches, not to individuals. It seems each branch of His Church was going off on its own way, like churches today even do, and He was trying to let them know what they were doing right and wrong.
The authority of Jesus is that of God the Father. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18:
“And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
And Jesus told the Church leaders in John 20:21:
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
So here is Jesus, who has ALL authority on heaven and earth, sending the Church leaders of the day forward just as the Father sent him: to preach, to teach, to heal, to appoint successors, to give the faithful the Eucharist, to forgive sins, etc.
How do we know the Catholic Church is true? Because, according to the Bible, the true church has to be:
1. One (Romans 12:5)
2. Holy (Ephesians 5:25-27)
3. Catholic (Matthew 28:19-20)
4. Apostolic (Ephesians 2:19-20, Acts 1:15-26)
No other Church today can claim all 4 requirements; only the Catholic Church can.
In summary, Jesus Himself created the Church, about 350 years before the Bible in its present form was canonized by the Church at the Councils of Rome, Hippo, and
“And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Notice that Jesus didn’t say for the Church leaders to write everything down in a book, make sure that everyone gets a copy, have them figure it all out for themselves, and whatever they come up with is OK. No, he said for the Church to go forth and TEACH all nations. The Bible, of course, is the book that the Church uses to teach, but the authority of the Church must be taken into account when trying to understand its true meaning. The Bible itself warns us that some scripture is hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), and warns us that misinterpretation can lead to our own destruction:
“There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”
The Bible also talks about the need for someone to explain the true meaning of scripture, in Acts 8:30-35:
“So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless some one guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: "As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb,so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him.Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth."And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.”
You don’t learn to fly an airplane on your own, without a teaching authority, so why would you think you can get to heaven on your own without a teaching authority? If you want to go to the moon, you have to go to a launch site and get on a rocket. You can’t get there all on your own. It’s the same with getting to heaven. You have to use the Church, and its teaching authority from Jesus, at least according to the Bible.
To many people looking in from the outside, the Catholic Church appears dark, like when one looks at a stained glass window from the outside of the Church building. However, once people truly investigate the early Church Fathers, and see that the Church today is the same Church that was around for the first 15 centuries of Christianity, it is like being on the inside of the Church building and looking at the same dark stained glass window, only now it is beautifully lit up by the "sonlight".