RISE ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND PAPAL HIERARCHY
By Rolan Monje
centuries, Roman Catholicism has dominated the religious
landscape of the Philippines. From the time Ferdinand
Magellan set foot on Mactan, the Catholic faith has
continued its steady advance. It is the main religious
denomination in the country, and will continue to
have this standing perhaps for the next few decades.
No other branch of Christendom has had such a profound
an effect on Philippine life.
The goal of this paper is not to vilify religious
tradition or cast doubt on Catholic religious experience.
Rather, my goal is to objectively present the history
of the leadership hierarchy which clearly characterizes
Catholicism. This way, our church can avoid the kind
of mistakes they made.
A. The First Three Centuries
The first century of Christianity proved to be a resounding
success. The Book of Acts testifies that the Holy
Spirit's power enabled the disciples to witness effectively
in their world. The work began in Jerusalem, but quickly
spread to other centers. In every step of the way,
the Spirit was leading and directing them disciples.
Despite the challenges facing them, the apostles were
able to carry the message far beyond the borders of
Palestine. Thirty years later the new faith had reached
most parts of the eastern section of the Roman Empire,
and probably even beyond, as well as westwards to
Rome itself. The growth of the number of disciples
was astounding. This should come as no surprise. The
message of the cross (and with it, the inspiration
of the resurrection) was more than enough to launch
the few believers into their bold mission. The few
disheartened followers were transformed into the most
dynamic movement in the history of mankind.
Despite the triumph of the first century, Christianity
started to drift from the line of truth early in the
second century. Growth, not properly handled, became
a bane more than a blessing. In many ways, the drift
was proportional to its expansion. As followers of
the new religion increased, so did the possibilities
for certain sources of error. The truth was not always
protected, and in time, small compromises added up
to create a religion devoid of its original and most
From the start of the second century, many churches
started abandoning the leadership characterized by
"apostles and elders" in the book of Acts.
The Didache shows that, in one region, some prophetic
teachers were settling down, others had become self-seeking,
and 'bishops' were gaining dominance. In many ways,
theology became obscured in the organization. Other
local leaders emerged and new names were used-pastor,
ruler, president. The status and function of the different
posts varied and were considered flexible. However,
it became apparent that the age of the apostles was
reaching its end. Along with this, the pressure to
lead almost inevitably called for a more permanent
structure of office and ministry. In the second and
third centuries, bishops became the single dominant
figures. They were usually above a group of men called
'presbyters', patterned after the band of apostles.
The number of bishoprics varied depending on the age
of the church and its size.
There were other negative consequences of church's
increase in size. In the third century, the growth
of the church had so increased the responsibilities
of the bishop, at least in the cities and larger towns,
that it was no longer possible for him to know all
his flock. What resulted was a leader quite isolated
and emotionally distant from his people. Originally,
the bishop was to act as a shepherd, guiding the flock
and feeding it. A large congregation could not have
the dynamic that a smaller church had. Theoretically
a bishop could have been appointed for each small
congregation, but the idea of dividing the church
by having more than one bishop in a city seems never
to have been considered in the West. Instead, the
number of presbyters (priests) assisting the bishop
was increased and more minor clergy appointed. This
gave rise to an increasing number of tiers in the
leadership. There was little control on the liturgical
and organizational matters of the clergy. By the mid-third
century, exorcists in Rome had joined readers on the
bishop's liturgical staff and sub-deacons and acolytes
had become his personal and secretarial assistants.
A motley crew of church staff emerged. The bishop
closely controlled this developing organization.
Rise of Rome
also played a major factor. The respect enjoyed by
the various Christian leaders in the second and third
century was more or less dependent on the rank of
the city in which they resided. It was possible then,
for a bishop of a large town to supervise the surrounding
congregations. At that time, Rome was the hub of the
Imperial Roman Empire. It was undoubtedly the largest,
wealthiest, and most influential city in the world.
Eventually, the Roman bishop gained influence on the
others. When the issue of apostolic succession came
up, Irenaeus described the Roman church as: "the
very great, very ancient and universally known church,
founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious
apostles, Peter and Paul."
It is not surprising then that Rome became more and
more influential as a religious center. The earlier
statement of Irenaeus hints as some of the reasons
why Rome acquired a leading position among the churches.
Was not Rome the capital of the empire? All roads
led to it. Rome had strode out of Italy early in the
second century B.C. and never looked back. The expansion
of Rome had other than military aspects. The various
facets of Roman development in history is another
voluminous study in itself. The continuing economic,
social, and internal political development of Rome
produced enduring effects. This marked the last great
phase of ancient history.
In many ways, Rome prepared the way for Christianity
to expand. I'm sure their emperors did not have the
slightest about this. The pax romana created a perfect
backdrop for the gospel. Rome controlled business
and trade. It also influenced literature and philosophy.
A main element in the spread of Christianity was the
fact that the pagan world was already moving in the
direction that Christian thought was to take more
consciously. Roman writers and poets, much like the
Greeks introduced reflection and the search for meaning
in a vast, materialistic world.
The tail end of Acts mentions Rome. So do other NT
books. To me, history gives much evidence that Rome
was part of God's great plan for the church. After
Peter and Paul, many high-powered leaders like Polycarp
and Justin had made their way to it. These leaders
recognized the importance of the city as a religious
center. Thus, even when pagan Rome fell to the barbarian
nations, some of the political and religious esteem
that she had won from the nations of the earth remained.
The Barbarian overthrow of the Western Roman Empire
was succeeded by the gradual rise of Papal Rome.
Although for some time the faith of the Roman church
was celebrated, before long it was steeped in compromise.
It was by small beginnings that both imperial and
Christian Rome imbibed worldly dominion. Yet, it was
increasingly influenced by the world and "the
prince of this world." As mentioned earlier,
the most immediate manifestations of drift came from
the leadership. The leadership structure as well as
the practices among ranking men fell short of biblical
expectations. Further, since Rome was the leading
city politically, I think Satan was all too ready
to use it against Christianity itself. The city that
was to inadvertently pave the way for the gospel was
to become the major factor in its corruption.
Gradually, bishops from different parts of the empire,
seeing themselves as above ordinary elders, yielded
to the bishops of Rome. From this esteem, the Bishops
of Rome began to demand submission. They considered
as a right that superiority which the surrounding
Churches had freely yielded. The ecclesiastical power
could not escape the temptation to pride oneself and
seek to mount still higher. The Western bishops favored
this encroachment of the Roman pastors. This probably
stemmed from either from jealousy of the Eastern bishops,
or because they preferred submitting to a pope rather
than to an emperor or king.
these centuries also, as the true Gospel was watered
down, there came in its place the growth of ritualism
in the churches. Sadly, true worship of God and the
inner conviction of the Holy Spirit was replaced by
ceremonialism. Idolatry became rampant. Pagan practices
also took on a veneer of Christianity. The compromise
was more noticeable as more non-Jews and "northern
barbarians" became Christians. More and more
of the "ordinary people" were converted.
Eventually, the wedge between the pulpit and pew was
driven deeper. The clergy-laity division of the people
of God became the accepted base. This further devolved
into a hierarchy of the ruling clergy. By the end
of the fifth century, the early ministers of the Gospel,
who had taught the Scripture, had become replaced
by a sacrificing priesthood. In the first quarter
of the third century, Hippolytus presents us with
Apostolic Tradition, with more or less a defined church
order: the bishop is the high priest, shepherd, teacher,
and the person who makes the decisions for the community.
This depicted a truly clerical church. Much like the
OT (but in violation of the NT), the priest presumed
to mediate between God and men. The church was no
more the fellowship of believers under Christ, but
rather an institution dominated by a hierarchy, with
the most powerful individual being the Bishop of Rome.
The Fourth to Sixth Centuries
The next centuries were to contrast the earlier ones.
The Christian Church had been persecuted by the Roman
Empire until the start of the fourth century. This
changed dramatically. The turning point came when
Emperor Constantine was "converted" to Christianity.
After several convincing religious experiences, the
emperor made an alliance with the Church. He represents
the passing of the Age of Catholic Christianity, and
the beginning of the age of Christian Empire.
Constantine pronounced freedom of worship for all
in the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. At that time the
Church became Roman in both mindset and organization.
Church officials dressed and behaved like Roman noblemen,
and soon Christianity (a watered-down version of it)
became the official religion of the Empire. Constantine
retained the pagan high priest's title of Pontifex
Maximus, and for a decade his coins continued to feature
some of the pagan gods, notably his own favorite deity,
the Unconquered Sun. He also delayed Christian baptism
until the end of his life. In a few decades Roman
Christianity became increasingly watered-down, even
though it was a threat to paganism. In 380 A.D. Emperor
Theodosius required Roman subjects to accept Rome's
version of Christianity. Pagans, Jews and Christians
who refused to comply were punished as heretics.
The fourth, fifth and sixth centuries were also marked
by prolonged controversies, chiefly in the Eastern
church. While most today are content to treat doctrine
as a piece of sublime mystery, Christians then felt
nagging restlessness about the doctrine. These were
about how Christ, the Son of God, was himself God
(the doctrine of the Trinity), and how he was both
man and God (the doctrine of the person of Christ,
or Christology). In order to solidify their stand,
church leaders had to meet and deliberate. Numerous
councils of bishops were held. Four of them, Nicaea
(325), Constantinople (381) Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon
(451), came to be accepted as general or ecumenical
(universal) councils, binding upon the whole church.
Two later general councils, at Constantinople in 553
and 680-81, dealt with similar questions, but have
influenced Western Christianity much less. Many creeds
and statements of doctrine were produced. Perhaps
the most famous ones are the Nicene Creed and the
Chalcedonian Definition. Undoubtedly, despite the
great number of controversies and the unrest that
ensued, the resultant efforts were worth it. These
three centuries are some of the most important in
formation of Christian theology.
At the same time it was an age of interference and
even domination by the emperors, of colorful and abrasive
personalities, and of bitter antagonism between leading
bishoprics. Disunity led to arguments and unhealthy
debates. Soon, meetings were resulting in deviations
from the truth rather than clarifications of it. Technical
terms without biblical origins were made key-words
in authoritative statements of belief. Their use contributed
to the Latin-speaking West and the Greek-speaking
East misunderstanding and misrepresenting one another.
Even between different segments of the Greek church
misunderstandings arose; these disputes contributed
to major division in the Christian world. The differences
became more and more pronounced as the church approached
the seventh century.
in the West
Problems of disunity and disparity grew in the church.
Two sides emerged. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604)
stands at a crossroads in this serious development.
The division between its Eastern (Greek and Orthodox)
and its Western (Latin and catholic) halves had been
under way from at least the fourth century. Any semblance
of political unity between East and West under the
eastern Roman Empire was mere pretence.
From 400 to 600 the Emperors in the West increasingly
relied on bishops to assist in secular matters. The
fall in population and the penetration of the German
peoples into the interior of the Roman Empire helped
create a need for new leaders. It was the Christian
bishop who increasingly filled this role. By the year
600 the effective legislation and leadership of western
Europe was provided by the Christian clergy, particularly
the bishops meeting in local councils.
Intense competition had arisen earlier among the bishops
of the great imperial cities - Antioch, Alexandria,
Rome and Constantinople. Long before 600 Rome and
Constantinople had emerged as the two chief rivals
for pre-eminence. Constantinople was, of course, the
junior of the two. But since it was associated with
the imperial capital, the church of Constantinople
inevitably rose in prestige and influence.
The power of the Bishop of Rome ascended as the imperial
power of the Emperor declined. Edicts of the Emperor
Theodosius II and of Valentinian III proclaimed the
Roman bishop "as Rector of the whole Church."
The Emperor Justinian, who was living in the East
in Constantinople, in the sixth century published
a similar decree. These proclamations did not create
the office of the Pope but from the sixth century
there was such advancement of power and prestige that
from that time the title of "Pope" began
to fit the one who was Bishop of Rome.
The Seventh to Fourteenth Centuries
Rise of Kingdoms
The time period from A.D. 600 to 800 marked the rise
of Latin-teutonic Christianity. The emperors in Constantinople
generally believed that the church should be under
the control of the state. They started to take back
some of the powers that were previously given to the
bishop of Rome. Two medieval kingdoms developed: the
Frankish kingdom and the Carolingian kingdom. For
the next centuries, the Eastern Asiatic section of
the empire continued under the rule of the emperor
at Constantinople. The Frankish kingdom of Clovis
grew into the Christian empire under Charlemagne and
united the now Christian Teutons and the citizens
of the old West empire.
From the late ninth century until the mid-eleventh
century, internal and external problems steadily weakened
western Christendom. The Carolingian Empire fragmented;
no major military power existed in the West. The continued
attacks of the Muslims in the south, a new wave of
attackers from central Asia, the Magyars (Hungarians),
and the almost overwhelming movement of Norsemen from
Scandinavia, brought yet more fragmentation and chaos.
A contemporary chronicler lamented, "Once we
had a king, now we have kinglets!" The end of
the world seemed at hand. It was seriously expected
by many as the year 1000 approached. Ideally, these
dark times were moments for men to truly solidify
and clarify what they believed in. However, compromise
continued to increase as no real biblical leadership
For the papacy this was an era of despair; the pope
no longer had Carolingian `Protectors' to come to
his assistance. The papacy was increasingly involved
in the power struggle among the nobility for the rule
of Italy. Popes became the captive partisans of one
political faction or another, and the result was spiritual
and moral decline. For example, Pope Stephen VI took
vengeance by having his predecessor's body disinterred
and brought before a synod, where it was propped up
in a chair for a trial. Following conviction, the
body was thrown into the River Tiber. Within a year
Stephen was overthrown. He was strangled while in
There was an almost total collapse of civil order
and culture in Europe during the tenth century. Everywhere
church property was either devastated and ransacked
by foreign invaders, or fell into the hands of catholic
nobility. Noblemen treated bishoprics and monasteries
as their private property to dispose of as they wished.
The clergy steadily became indifferent to duty, and
their ignorance and immorality increased.
Starting the twelfth century, whole areas of Europe
began to show tendencies either to purify (for example,
the Waldensians), or to provide alternatives to (for
example, the Cathars), the established church. Both
of these movements were persecuted by lay rulers as
well as diocesan authorities. By the end of the twelfth
century the papacy had entered the battle against
such disruptive groups. Pope Alexander III in 1162-63
suggested that lay and clerical informers who brought
reports of heretics should be supplemented by officials
who went out to discover evidence of heresy. He called
upon lay rulers to combat heresy, and in the Third
Lateran Council of 1179 announced a crusade against
the Cathars of France. These efforts were not particularly
effective. The Fourth Lateran Council was held in
1215 during the reign of Pope Innocent III. It decreed
that heretics were to be turned over to secular authorities
to be killed. Catholics who helped exterminate heretics
were given the same indulgences and privileges as
The Crusades were primarily religious in nature, although
there were economic and political repercussions. Popes
had Crusades mainly to take the Holy Land from the
Muslims (mostly Seljuk Turks). Previously, Christians
had already carried on wars against the Moors in Spain
and the Muslims in Sicily for some time. Preachers
were commissioned to inspire people to join the Crusades.
The Pope gave indulgences to the Crusaders promising
that if they died while on the Crusade then their
sins would be remitted and they would go to Heaven.
The Crusaders went through Europe on their way to
the Holy Land. While going through Europe, they killed
Jews and "heretics". When they reached the
Holy Land, the Crusaders killed Orthodox Christians
and desecrated Orthodox churches. When the First Crusade
conquered Jerusalem, there was massive slaughter.
Six thousand Jews took refuge in a synagogue. The
Crusaders set it on fire. While the Jews were being
burned alive, the Crusaders rode around the synagogue
singing hymns. Thirty thousand Muslims took refuge
inside the Dome of the Rock (an important mosque)
and were slaughtered there. The Fourth Crusade conquered
Constantinople instead of going to the Holy Land.
Constantinople was the center of the Orthodox Church,
the location of its ruler (the Patriarch) and its
greatest cathedral (Hagia Sophia). The Crusaders killed
the men, plundered the city and set many buildings
on fire. They raped and murdered matrons, girls and
Orthodox nuns. They vandalized tombs of Orthodox emperors.
The Inquisition and the Crusades have made it difficult
for some people to believe the Gospel and receive
salvation. Even though these movements were "holy
wars" against the enemies of the cross, Western
Christendom will have to answer for the abuses done
in those days. Also, the rest of the world will have
to wrestle with the consequences of history as it
plays in the minds of people today, whether they are
believers or not.
Zenith of Papal Power & Inquisition
No doubt, the last three centuries before the reformation
was a time of great temporal power for the pope. The
popes had tremendous authority. Innocent III was powerful
enough to force rulers of rising nation-states to
conform to his will. Further, the rise of universities
and scholasticism strengthened the intellectual foundations
of papal power. This was coupled with the various
efforts toward monastic reform, increasing the influence
of the pope among the masses.
People who disagreed with any Catholic doctrine or
any papal pronouncement were considered to be heretics.
The Inquisition expanded the definition of heresy
to include things like reading the Bible or eating
meat during Lent. When the Spanish came to Latin America
they brought the Inquisition with them. Natives were
tortured and killed for refusing to convert to Catholicism.
When people were accused of heresy, they were not
allowed to know what the charges were or who their
accusers were. They were tortured. If they confessed
then they were usually sent to prison. If they refused
to confess then the Inquisitors sentenced them to
be killed by the civil authorities. If the civil authorities
failed to cooperate, then the Inquisitors accused
them of heresy. As a result, the civil authorities
became victims of the system. The Inquisitors said
that they would rather kill 100 innocent people than
let one heretic go free.
The Catholic Church was able to technically keep its
hands clean of bloodshed. The Inquisitors used methods
of torture which caused intense pain but usually did
not cause bleeding. According to the rules the Inquisitors
were not supposed to kill people. However they tortured
them severely which in some cases would result in
death due to shock, heart failure and other stress-related
causes. When the Inquisitors sentenced heretics to
death the local civil authorities did the actual killing
(under threat of being condemned as heretics if they
refused). Through various schemes, they were able
to convince innocent bystanders to denounce the guilty.
The Reformation and Counter Reformation
the moral decline of the clergy and the growing need
for change, a critical mass was reached in the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries. The Reformation was the time
of definition for the church in all its aspects, especially
in doctrine. Theology was challenged and presented
in a clearer way than the Church had ever seen.
Taking from the previous actions of Wyclif and Hus,
Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door
at Wittenburg. This marked a new era for the church
and its followers, who for the most part were simply
waiting for reform. Called to answer for his actions
in front of a Catholic council, Luther refused to
show himself. Instead, he burned the papal bull and
continued spreading his views.
The response of the church of Rome to Martin Luther's
`95 Theses' and his attack upon its authority is both
curious and revealing. It is curious because the Roman
church seemed unaware of the widespread unrest among
the faithful which Luther's protest represented. It
is revealing in that the first response to the rumblings
in northern Europe was low-key and almost nonchalant.
Yet the way in which the church of Rome reacted to
Luther and his cause was to have far-reaching consequences.
Leo X (1513-21), pope at the time of the circulation
of Luther's "95 Theses", had other things
on his mind. Leo was in many ways a typical Renaissance
pope: elegant, worldly, sophisticated, intelligent,
consumed with political and family ambition, more
of an administrator than `a servant of the servants
of God'. He was also an enthusiastic patron of Renaissance
art and ideals. He aimed to advance the fortunes of
his own family - the Medicis of Florence - and to
increase the political power of the Papal States in
central Italy, of which he was ruler. He revelled
in Renaissance activities and spent a great deal of
money on the arts and gambling.
In addition, the day-to-day routine of managing the
large and corrupt papal bureaucracy took much of his
time and energy. All of this sapped his ability to
give any kind of moral leadership over Christian Europe
at a critical point in its history.
Protestantism grew deep roots in Europe north of the
Alps. By 1545, it was firmly planted in Germany, Scandinavia,
France, Scotland, Switzerland, and England. However,
counter measures by the Roman Catholic church resulted
in Belgium and Poland remaining Cathol ic. Of course,
Italy and Spain never gave the reformers more than
Under the leadership of the upper-class clergy and
the papacy, Catholicism fought back hard. The Counter
Reformation brought renewal and reform in the church.
In addition, it developed an outward negative reaction
to Protestants. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was
one large clash of opposing forces. Overall, I see
the Counter Reformation as a war against the Reformed
faith fought on four fronts.
First, national leaders such as Charles V and Philip
II of Spain openly declared antagonism towards Protestants.
Catherine de Medici and Louis XIV of France did the
same. With their mandate, Catholic leaders started
banning the reading of Reformation material. Paul
III for example, proclaimed a list (called an "index)
of prohibited books. Second, they also supported the
creation of religious orders, which started as Monastic
groupings. The initial orders were Mystics, Jesuits
(Society of Jesus) , Theatines, and Ursulines. All
these orders put behind the pope loyal individuals
dedicated to the service of the church in Rome. Social
service and piety were placed at a high premium. Third
was the thrust of mission work. Jesuits, Franciscans,
and Dominicans led religious expeditions to Central
and South America, Quebec, China, and the rest of
Asia. Japan, the Philippines, and parts of Indochina
were visited for the first time. The rend result is
that these adjustments and efforts simply added to
the hierarchical levels that were already there.
The Modern Era
movements led to the establishment of Roman Catholicism
in various parts of the globe. Foremost of these groups
are the Jesuit, Domincan, and Franciscan orders. Later
groups called the Jansenists and Quietists added muscle
to the lengthening arm of Rome. There were losses
however in the political arena from 1789 to 1815.
Certain ideologies from the likes of Rousseau and
Montesquieu led to the decline of religion as a basic
need of man. Voltaire favored a religion of reason
rather than the religion of the leaders of the Roman
Catholic church in France. Uprisings were inevitable.
However, rulers of Europe still managed to support
the papacy whenever possible. The claims of papal
power kept increasing. In 1870 the Pope was declared
to be infallible. A new surge of devotion in the church
was encouraged by the holding of the eucharistic congresses,
starting in 1881. Peculiar doctrines such as emphasis
on the Virgin Mary at Lourdes were allowed to enter
the church. The Benedictines encouraged stress on
liturgy and put the liturgy for some sacraments into
the vernacular. The 1917 Code of Canon Law increased
the power and authority of the Pope. In 1983 Pope
John Paul II revised the Code of Canon Law. He added
new laws that further increased the legal basis for
the power and authority of the Pope.
the Pope is considered to be infallible by Catholic
dogma. He is called "Holy Father" and "Your
Holiness". He is called the "Vicar of Christ".
He demands loyalty and obedience. The Inquisition
tortured people and had them killed for disagreeing
with the Pope.
One of the main tenets of Catholicism is the succession
of Papal authority from Peter, the so-called "first
pope." The Bible says that Peter was given "the
keys" to the Kingdom, but this is thoroughly
abused by Catholic theology. The Roman church professes
that only Peter had the power of the keys. It follows
then that only Peter's true successor would have the
same claim. Also through the years, Popes have claimed
that there is no salvation apart from the Pope. The
most recent Pope to say this was Pope John XXIII who
reigned from 1958 to 1963. However the Bible, speaking
of Jesus, says "Neither is there salvation in
any other: for there is none other name under heaven
given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts
4:12). Christian salvation is through faith in Jesus
Christ, not faith in popes; it is in the name of Jesus,
not the name of a Pope.
Pope Leo XIII said in 1894 that as Pope, he held on
the earth the place of God Almighty. Pope Pius X ruled
from 1903 to 1914 and was canonized as a saint. He
said that when the Pope speaks, it is Jesus Christ
Himself speaking. Pope Pius XI reigned from 1922 to
1939. He said that because he was the Vicar of Christ
he was "God on earth". To this day, the
stature of the Pope has remained the same. At the
top of the hierarchy, he is considered infallible.
The Spirit of God has always desired to build up the
Church of Christ. He has raised up leaders and servants
to strengthen and feed the flock. However, the example
of the church in Rome shows us how leadership can
be corrupted, leading to an ungodly hierarchy.
From the foregoing, it is clear that biblical drift
was one of the major causes of apostasy in the early
church. This has continued to be the main problem
for Catholic dogma as it retains its monolithic adherence
to tradition in parallel with Scripture. By removal
of the Bible from its seat of highest authority, other
questionable practices such as the veneration of men
and mystical sacraments became acceptable.
I pray that our movement will learn from the mistakes
of others. History has ways both obvious and subtle
of teaching its serious students. May God bless our
efforts to develop a leadership the truly pleases
helpful lessons can be learned from the brief Catholic
history we have seen. I pray that we take heed of
the warnings in the soonest time possible.
1. The Church should understand the "priesthood"
of all Christians.
concept of priesthood in the Old Testament had its
value. It served to explain the holiness of God and
prepared the way for recognizing Jesus as high priest
(Heb 3:1, 4:14, 5:10). However, God's grace has allowed
us disciples to share in many blessings through Christ.
We are considered as members of the royal priesthood.
Just as the OT priests made sure the worship was excellent,
we as NT priests are to render worship to God and
make sure others do the same. There is no room for
hierarchical, organizational clergy in New Testament
The Church should understand the meaning of New Testament
in the Old Testament was largely ritualistic, part
and parcel of God's way of teaching the Israelites
about holiness. Many of the practices were symbolic
and had later meaning in the New Testament. Now, according
to Rom 12:1-2, all disciples of the NT offer sacrifice
to God by their lives. We do not need others to render
sacrifice for us since Jesus is the only mediator
(1 Tim 2).
Christian churches should practice plural leadership.
Apostles quickly realized the need for others to partake
in the responsibilities of ministry (Acts 6). In the
same way that Jesus empowered the seventy, the Twelve
saw the need for others to serve in their capacity.
This was probably the start of a deaconship. By the
time of Acts 11, the natural leadership of elders
was recognized in the early church. This was a Jewish
setup that was employed all throughout Acts and beyond.
Ephesians 4 specifies the different top roles in the
church. Remember also that in Acts 20, Paul recognized
a plural eldership as the leadership of Ephesus.
Christian churches should practice healthy interdependence.
many early churches looked at Jerusalem for help,
it was not as if Jerusalem was "over" them.
We know that different churches had different strengths
(Macedonians for giving, Corinthians for giftedness,
Ephesus for perseverance, etc.) but none was really
"over" another. Today, our churches should
strive for interdependence, which is sort of a balance
of dependence and independence. Though none is above
any other, different strengths (and needs) are recognized.