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Founded by Christ Part III
The one true church in history
According to the King James Bible, John the Apostle proclaims, Christ "hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father (Revelation 1:6)..." For he and the eleven were made heirs of Christ's kingdom - His Church.
As we have come to learn, this kingdom, The Church, spread like wild fire and continues to burn today. For the kingdom which Christ founded upon the Apostle Peter is the Roman Catholic Church.
Now, there are those who hold to the claim the Catholic Church came much later and the Apostles were mere followers of Christ. For to acknowledge Catholicism's true longevity, demands the concession, Christ and his followers (the Apostles) were most certainly Catholic.
Yet, we know this to be true, for history attests to it. As we have seen, it was first at Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, according to, Acts 11:26. As a historical note, most scholars agree Luke wrote The Acts of the Apostles around 80-90 AD.
Now, in around the year 110 A.D. Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch (where the term Christians was originally used), in a letter to the Romans, stated: "Only pray for me that I may have strength both inward and outward; that I may not merely speak but also have the will; that I may not only be called a Christian but may also be found to be one."
In this historical document, we have a Bishop of Antioch, where the word Christians was first used, proclaiming himself to be a Christian ten or twenty years after Luke wrote The Acts of the Apostles.
Oh, but hold on to your seats. For while on his way to martyrdom, this Bishop of Antioch wrote six additional letters. One of these letters was to the Christian community of Smyrnea, also mentioned in The Acts of the Apostles. And to them he wrote:
"Wherever the Bishop appears, let the people be there, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
Again, this is in the year 110 A.D. by a Christian from the biblical city of Antioch. But we are just getting warmed up.
In The Acts of the Apostles, we are given a hint as to what precisely these early Christians followed or practiced. Acts 9:1-2 states:
"Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains."
We are told in the new testament the Christians persecuted by Saul, the disciples of the Lord (Paul) were those who belonged to, "the Way." This term is again used in Acts 19:23, where we are told, "About that time a serious disturbance broke out concerning the Way."
So what exactly is this "Way" these biblical Christians, the disciples of Christ belonged to? The answer to this question lies within, what is perhaps, the earliest Christian document (apart from the writings in the new testament), dating anywhere from 60-90 A.D. The first part of this document is known to many scholars as, The Two Ways: The Way of Life and the Way of Death (though it is most commonly known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), or the Didache.
The ancient document begins, in part, with the statement: "The way of life is this:" and instructs the Christian as to this "way." The document states: "Confess your offenses in church." Does this sound Catholic to anyone out there? It absolutely should.
The document goes on to say: "In regard to the Eucharist" (the Catholic belief the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ). The Two ways document then expounds upon how one is to partake of the Eucharist and the manner in which it is to be celebrated. It further condemns, as the Catholic Church does today, the practice of abortion and artificial contraception, and advices as to the election of Bishops.
This ancient document goes further back than The Acts of the Apostles, yet it seems to shed light on aspects of the early Christian faith, Luke only hints at. And the aspects of that faith are undeniably Catholic.
Throughout every century after Christ founded his Church, there is only one Church that history adorns its pages with. And that Church is not Protestant, it is not Evangelical, Baptist or Pentecostal. No, it is undoubtedly Catholic. In the year 155 A.D., for example, we find St. Polycarp, Bishop of the biblical city of Smyrnea who states:
"The Church of God which sojourns in Smyrnea, to the Church of God which sojourns in Philomelium, and to all the dioceses of the holy and Catholic Church in every place..."
In the year 200 A.D., we find Irenaeus, the second Bishop of Lyons who states:
"The epistle of Jude, indeed, and the two ascribed to John are received by the Catholic Church."
We could go on citing Saints, Bishops, Popes, and martyrs from one generation to the next. From Clement of Rome to Justyn Martyr to Irenaeus to Eusebius to Augustine to Gregory the Great to Pope Benedict XVI.
Christ intended to found a church, scripture is crystal clear on this point. It is the Kingdom of God come upon us. Taking him at his word, as Christians, we must believe that Church - that Kingdom to be among us today. For He emphatically stated: "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
We must ask ourselves then: What Church can we look to today whose longevity is unsurpassed, whose ministry is unbroken (in spite of her members) whose history stretches to the time of the Apostles?
There is only one, holy, universal, and apostolic - The Catholic Church!
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