I was recently asked this question by a blogger: Can you trace the Roman Catholic Church back to Jesus and the New Testament. Show me the Chapter and the Verse. My answer is an unequivocal YES.
The New Testament is the living witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, His Bride, the Church from it’s beginnings. The Early Church Fathers are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th century witnesses to the growing church. The New Testament is complete. The living witness, the New Testament, has within it’s pages, letters left by the Apostles to individual churches as well as to the Church at large.
There is one Epistle in particular that does link the Roman Catholic Church to the Apostles. This Epistle is known as The Epistle to the Romans.
In Matthew 28: 16-20
The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Notice in verse 19-20 that Jesus commissions the Apostles and Disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. We call this the Great Commission.
St. Paul writes an Epistle to the Church in Rome. We know from the context of this Epistle that this young church was having difficulties due to being made up of both Jewish converts and Gentile converts.
We can all say that the Epistle to the Romans is St. Paul’s masterpiece. It is the most theologically rich piece he ever wrote. We know from historians such as Eusebius, the first Church Historian, and others that both St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred in Rome; the seat of the Roman empire. Some deny this, but those denials stem from the Reformation onward.
This Church, that St. Paul writes to, suffered persecution after persecution, as the history books tell us. At no time did this original Roman Church ever fade into the dust bin of history, only to restart decades or centuries later. That has never happened because we have the history of this church throughout history. It survived the tyranny of the emperors, made-made disasters, natural disasters, famines, plagues, and war after war. Yet, it survived until Constantine converted and legalized the catholic religion.
No annihilation of the Roman Catholic Church ever occurred during it’s 2,000 year old history. It has existed from before St. Paul wrote to them and continues to exist today. The Catholic Church of Rome never once was lost and restarted. It has never known a break in its continuity from the time of these two great Apostles, St. Paul and St. Peter. This Church continued to exist alongside the Roman Empire even when the seat of the empire was moved to Byzantium.
If you claim the Roman Catholic Church is not the same Church that St. Paul wrote too, then show me the break in its history. You will not find one, because there isn’t one. The same holds true for the Alexandrian Church and the Antiochian Church. These two, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, are the 3 major Holy Sees that are still in existence today. In his master work, Irenaeus (100-165): Against Heresies, in Book III, Chapter III of this monumental work, he states unambiguously that of all the Churches in existence, only one has the preeminent primacy, The Church of Rome.
2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
As a commentator asked me, “All denominations claim a link to scripture. How many have scripture claim a link to them?” Only 1. The Roman Catholic Church.
AND THIS IS WHY I CAN SAY THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS
The Catholic Church is also Apostolic with an unbroken line of Bishops reaching back to Jesus Christ to St. Peter, St. Paul and the Apostles. And just as Jesus Christ said to the Apostles, they will receive the Holy Spirit to guide them in all Truth, so it is today.
This article does not contain information on Apostolic Succession, which certainly would be included if I wanted to write an article 20 to 30 pages long. But that is another issue.
In the Peace of Christ,