Since the Protestant rebellion over 500 years ago, thousands of Christian denominations and sub-denominations have been established. The rebellion resulted in contradictions, divisions, and confusion that have haunted Christianity ever since. Conversely, we know from history, Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition that Jesus Christ founded only one church and gave this single church his preeminent authority. The original church is the one Jesus Christ founded 2000 years ago; all others are counterfeit. This article will prove that Jesus founded one church, that it is the Catholic Church, and that all other churches devalue Christianity with their counterfeit nature.
Counterfeit Currency Analogy
When I was a Special Agent with the Secret Service, I and other agents received countless hours of instruction on every denomination of paper currency in circulation. We learned how these notes were made, their security features, size, density, and even the types of ink that were used. Only after gaining a thorough understanding of authentic notes, were we trained on identifying counterfeit currency. The reason for this was quite simple. We needed to know the original in order to identify the myriad counterfeit bills that were being manufactured and circulated. Counterfeit bills are not identical, and they all have something that makes them different from the original.
Additionally, counterfeit currency devalues true currency by diluting our monetary system with an inferior product. For example, let us imagine that the federal government caps the number of $50 denominations at 1000. At some point, 1000 counterfeit $50 bills make their way into circulation, resulting in 100 percent more $50 bills in circulation. A 100 percent increase in bills results in a 50 percent decrease in value because the federal government has backed only 1000 bills. If this activity were to go unchecked, prices for goods would rise to reflect the illegal injection of these bills. Therefore, commerce depends on reliable currency.
Similarly, when learning about Christ and his teachings, we need to know which church is the original and which are counterfeit, because salvation depends on reliable truths passed down from the beginning, preserved, and developed without error. Without this knowledge, we would receive versions of Christianity peppered with lies, watered-down, and devalued. We would consequently worship a type of Jesus Christ who is remade in man’s own image, which would result in a counterfeit Jesus. These counterfeit versions of Jesus would teach what man wants him to teach rather than what he really teaches, and counterfeit churches would falsely claim to preach and teach with Christ’s authority. Therefore, we need to know which Church Christ founded and infused with his preeminent authority.
Scripture on the True Church
In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus says,
And I tell you, you are Peter (meaning rock), and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.” Notice that Jesus says he will build his “church” not “churches.
He also says that whatever Peter binds or loosens on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. This authority, though subordinate due to Peter alone having the keys to the kingdom, was also transmitted to the other apostles (see Mt 18:18). Jesus, being God the Son, would have known that the Church he founded would bind and lose many things until the Second Coming. Therefore, God eternally preapproved everything this Church binds and loosens. Consequently, the truth must undergird this power; otherwise, binding and loosing would be built on lies. To say that the Church Jesus founded teaches lies is to say that God had no idea what this Church would teach, or that God predestined a Church ordered toward teaching lies. One position makes God ignorant, the other makes Him a liar.
Matthew 28:18-20 states,
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 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 behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.
First, “Go, therefore,” means Jesus is giving his apostles his authority. In other words, “Go in my authority.” Within this authority, they were to teach all nations and baptize “to the close of the age.” The close of the age is not yet here. Therefore, Jesus has not withdrawn his authority from the Church he founded. Second, he instructs his Apostles to make disciples of all nations and to teach others everything he has “commanded” them. You cannot teach someone and direct them to obey unless you have authority. Third, Christ gave his Apostles authority to teach “all nations.” Since the Apostles would not be able to go to, much less teach all nations during their lifetimes, Christ’s authority extends to those selected to succeed them. If they did not select men to succeed them (cf. Acts 1:26), no one would have the authority to teach.
Think about a man walking into a high school classroom and teaching without first being hired and without permission from the school. What would happen? He would be removed because he never received authority to teach. This would happen in any institution. Christ gave authority to the Apostles to teach and to ordain successors to teach after them. When the Protestant forefathers (Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and King Henry VIII) broke away from the Catholic Church, they lost the authority to teach and remained without authority to appoint successors. Lack of God-given authority is one reason for the perpetual contradictions and divisions in Protestantism.
The Church Jesus founded, however, does not teach contradiction but exists in unity of truth, guided by the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, Matthew 28:18-20 shows church authority, unity, and succession. Acts 15:4-29 provides an excellent example of early church authority and unity. Hebrews 13:17 commands us to obey our spiritual leaders, which is precisely the opposite of what the Protestant forefathers did when they rebelled against Christ’s Church. Many other verses demonstrate the Church’s unity and authority, but we still need to show that the Church described in the aforementioned verses is the Catholic Church.
Acts chapters 9, 19, 22, and 24 mention “the Way,” which was the name of the early Christian community. Clearly, Saints Peter, John, Paul, and the other Apostles were leaders of the Way. With this in mind, read the below paragraphs and notice the connection between the Apostles and their successors. This connection is called apostolic succession, and the Church in which this connection continues to exist is the Catholic Church, aka the Roman Church, a title used in some of the below quotes.
In his Letter to the Roman Church, St. Paul says to the Roman Christians,
To all God’s beloved in Rome who are called to be saints….” “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Ch. 1).
Scripture nowhere states that the faith of the Roman Church stopped being proclaimed throughout the world. In fact, when one looks at all the churches, one will notice there is no other church that comes close to the size and geographic presence of the Catholic Church (1.3 billion members, 197 countries). The Roman Church’s faith is truly “proclaimed in all the world.” In addition to Scripture, the Early Church Fathers had much to say about this Church (Below quotes from The Fathers Know Best by Apologist Jimmy Akin, Catholic Answers Press, San Diego, 2010).
The Early Church Fathers
St. Ignatius of Antioch (Bishop), ordained by St. Peter and taught by St. John, said,
“Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.” “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” “…the Church that is beloved and enlightened by the will of him that wills all things according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, that presides in the place of the Romans…” (A.D. 110).
The Roman Church was and continues to be Catholic.
St. Polycarp (A.D. 69-155) was a disciple of St. John and bishop of Smyrna. A letter titled the Martyrdom of Polycarp states,
Having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquiring the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, the governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, A.D. 189, bishop and disciple of St. Polycarp, argued, “…we confute all those who,…assemble in unauthorized meetings, by indicating those Traditions 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.” “For it is a matter of necessity that every church agrees with this church (the one in Rome), on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, in so far as the apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” By refusing to agree with the Roman Church’s teachings, other churches separate themselves from authentic Christianity.
St. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth under Pope Soter (A.D. 170), wrote,
From the beginning, it has been your practice to do good to all the brethren in various ways…, you Romans (meaning the church in Rome) keep up the hereditary custom of the Romans, which your blessed Bishop Soter has not only maintained, but added to, furnishing an abundance of supplies to the saints, and encouraging the brethren from abroad with blessed words, as a loving father his children.
Tertullian of Carthage (A.D 155-240), early Christian author, wrote in A.D. 200,
Where was [the heretic] Marcion, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago, in the reign of Antonius for the most part, and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherius….
These men were members of the Catholic Church but later spread heresies. The reason they were heretics was because they were Catholics who intentionally taught contrary to the teachings of the Church Christ founded.
Lastly, St. Hegesippus wrote,
And when I had come to Rome, I remained there until Anicetus (eleventh bishop of Rome), whose deacon was Eleutherius. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherius” (A.D. 180).
The early bishop/historian St. Irenaeus also verified the list of Rome’s early bishops. Note: J.N.D. Kelly’s, “The Oxford Dictionary of Popes,” traces the names and biographical information of all popes from St. Peter to today.
Other Early Church Fathers and historical figures who wrote about Roman Church’s preeminent authority include St. Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 251), Firmilian of Caesarea (A.D. 255), Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 312), Pope St. Julius I (A.D. 341), Council of Sardica (A.D. 342), St. Optatus of Milevis (A.D. 367), St. Jerome (A.D. 376), Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381), St. Augustine (A.D. 411) and many others.