The Loss of Apostolic Authority in the Church

© 1997 Barry Bickmore. All Rights Reserved.

Reference Info - glossary of ancient Christian writers and documents, guide to abbreviations, bibliography.

Since an apostasy was supposed to happen, and was underway even while the apostles were still alive, let us explore some of the side-effects of this falling away. The first such side-effect was the loss of the apostolic authority from the Church. That is, the Church was in rebellion so God took away the Apostles from the earth, and with them, the apostolic authority. Although Catholics since the second century have been fond of calling their church "apostolic," by virtue of having descended from the churches established by the Apostles, we shall see that living apostles are meant to be part of the true Church of Christ. Otherwise, a church can't have apostolic authority.

Some have espoused the idea that the apostles were just twelve men whom Christ ordained for a specific mission - and were thus no longer needed after the Church was established in the world. However, it is admitted by some prominent Christian scholars that the apostles "did not live to see the Church fully organized and at work,"1 and the New Testament record is quite clear that when vacancies occurred in the Twelve they were promptly filled. Matthias was chosen to take the place of Judas, who betrayed Jesus2, and Paul also said he had later been "called to be an apostle."3 Barnabus was called an apostle along with Paul by the writer of the Acts [probably Luke],4 and Paul reported to the Galatians that on a trip to Jerusalem, "other apostles [besides Peter] saw I none, save James the Lord's brother."5 Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus near the end of the second century, reported the tradition that Philip had become "one of the twelve apostles."6 Indeed, there may have even been others. Paul told the Romans to "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."7 Many noted Christian scholars "... are inclined to think... that Andronicus and Junia... are of the number of the apostles, rather than 'considered in the eyes of the apostles.'"8

Furthermore, Paul insisted that the organization set up by Christ, headed by apostles and prophets, should continue indefinitely:

    And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.9

Has there ever been a time when Christianity or the world in general has been "in the unity of the faith?" Has the Church been perfected? Are not the sects of Christendom "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine"? Latter-day Saints answer that none of Paul's conditions have ever been satisfied, and so we still need apostles and prophets. For "surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."10 Paul also revealed that the Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."11 So what happened to the Church when it lost its foundation?


1 Grant, R.M., Second Century Christianity, p. 9.

2 Acts 1:23-26.

3 1 Corinthians 1:1.

4 Acts 14:14

5 Galatians 1:19.

6 Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, in Grant, Second-Century Christianity, p. 82.

7 Romans 16:7.

8 Battifol, L'Eglise naissante et le Catholicisme, pp. 50-51, translated in Barker,, The Divine Church, vol. 1, p. 103.

9 Ephesians 4:11-14.

10 Amos 3:7.

11 Ephesians 2:20.