Post-Apostolic Authority?

By Guest Author: Stephen Kuntzman

If we take the time to interview a Roman Catholic priest we'll soon find that what the Roman Catholic Church follows and believes in as a "plan of salvation" is "the apostolic tradition of the 3rd century." Since we know that the Church began in the 1st century and was firmly established on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the Chief cornerstone we need to study this out and see if there is any validity to it.

If we were to begin studying some of the writings and personalities of that period (3rd century) we would quickly ascertain what it is that the priest referred to. It should be alarming to us that so many people fall back to those so-called post-apostolic fathers, claimed by the Roman Catholic Church, as part of their foundation.

The foundation of God and the Church stands sure. It is not built on histories heroes of the faith, like Praxeas or Sabellius (although we certainly agree with most of what the RCC has reported as their stance), nor is this foundation built on the so-called post-apostolic fathers, and certainly not on the perspective of the historians who wrote from a trinitarian point-of-view, but on the teaching and practices of the Apostles, the prophets, and Jesus Christ.

There are a number of men listed in books who are registered as having been a part of the post-apostolic era, and if we were to take a synoptic view of only five of these men and their doctrine in comparison to the true orthodox practices of the early church in the New Testament we might find some interesting points of departure relative to the post-apostolic fathers and New Testament Church. So, let's use Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, Justin (Martyr), and Hermas as our post-apostolic sources.

The fundamentals of our faith are based solely on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the twelve Apostles (referred to as the "Apostles' Doctrine"), which includes total adherence to Acts 2:38 as the only plan of salvation and a biblical understanding of the oneness of God (monotheism). The Apostles' Doctrine then must be followed to be a true Biblical Christian, which is:

  1. Repentance.
  2. Baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ.
  3. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost evidenced initially by speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gives the ability to do so.
  4. The Oneness of God.

Any deviation from the original teachings and practices of the Church at Jerusalem is an obvious rejection of the true message of Christ and not in accordance with the true orthodox Christian Church of the New Testament, which began in Jerusalem and not in Rome.

Repentance as practiced by these men was largely based on works since they do not appear to have any real understanding of the true spiritual significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They did not understand the concept of justification by faith and were constantly looking towards martyrdom as a way to assure their place in heaven. These men also began to buy into the idea that repentance could involve confession to a priest. This is in direct contradiction to the scriptural teaching on repentance. We need only go to Jesus Christ in prayer to find forgiveness of sins.

The doctrine of water baptism was also perverted at this time. The writings of Clement would cause one to believe that these men taught baptism in name of Jesus Christ, but further studies show this to be incorrect because many believe that Justin began the formation of what became the trinitarian formula. Prior to this, the early Church baptized only in the name of Jesus Christ (as they had been taught by Jesus and the Apostles). Besides using the wrong formula for baptism, it also appears that at this time immersion began to be replaced by pouring water on the head, sprinkling, and eventually even infant baptism. Such disregard for the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles should reveal something about the true nature of these men.

As far as speaking in tongues is concerned, it is evidenced by different books and writers that none of the so called post-apostolic fathers wrote about or stressed the importance of receiving the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. This leads us to believe that in this area they had thrown away the doctrine of the Apostles and most importantly the teaching of Christ. These men covered many different subjects in relation to the Church (like eschatology, responsibilities of the bishops, and so on), but never spoke of the gift of the Holy Ghost as it relates to initial evidence. Without this experience in their lives they could not truly say that they were adherents to Christ or even Apostolic in doctrine.

From the many quotations taken from the writings of these men, we understand that they did not have a true understanding of the oneness of God and thus were not strict biblical monotheists, but rather tri-theists, or dualistic, in their understanding of God. Although it is highly improbable that these men used the word "trinity", their thinking on the matter was evidently a primitive form of what came to be known as the heresy of trinitarianism.

Because of their total disregard for the scriptural mandates of the Word of God as to salvation, we must deduce that the post-apostolic fathers did not truly believe that the Word of God is the final authority. They were already at ease with changing what God had established as the plan of salvation for all mankind.

Therefore, it is safe to say that the post-apostolic fathers are not extensions of the true Church, but rather they broke off with the teachings of the Apostles almost from the moment that the last Apostle died. These men did not follow any of the fundamentals of faith and because of their lack of obedience to the Word of God, their personal faith in Christ is suspect and without any real credibility. It is sad that many believe these men were in some way a part of the heritage of the Apostolic doctrine. These men are a stain on the pages of Church history and helped to bring many to apostasy and heresy by their doctrine, which is most assuredly not the Apostles' Doctrine.

Stephen Kuntzman has been a Christian since December 31, 1979. He is also a general licensed minister with the United Pentecostal Church, International. He has been in ministry, in one way or another, since 1995. Stephen also holds a bachelor of theology degree from Parkersburg Bible College and an RBA from West Virginia University. You can see more of his thoughts at his blog--The Pillar and Ground of Truth.


Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)