MY CATHOLIC FAITH
XLVII. Foundation of the Church
From among His disciples Our Lord chose twelve Apostles, and gave them special training. He sent them forth to teach His doctrines, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” The Apostles were the foundation of the True Church. Christ gave them all power and authority, saying, “He who hears you hears me: he who rejects you rejects me.”
(Ninth Article of the Apostles’ Creed.)
Did Jesus Christ found a Church? –Yes; all history, religious and non-religious, including the Bible, clearly proves that Jesus Christ founded a Church.
After teaching publicly what He required all to believe and practice, thereby announcing the main doctrines of His Church, Christ gathered a number of disciples. From them He chose twelve, to whom He gave special instruction and training.
The term “a kingdom”, by which Our Lord used to refer to His Church, implies organized authority. And He said to the special men He had chosen, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). He did not teach the disciples for themselves alone, but to be the foundation of His Church. God did not come to save only a few disciples, but all men.
“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). God is just; He would not have threatened condemnation to unbelievers unless He had furnished the means whereby they could believe. His Church is this means; all men must join it.
Not only did the men chosen by Christ have authority; He gave them extraoidinary powers, particularly the twelve special men, the Apostles.
“Then having summoned his twelve disciples, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every kind of disease and infirmity” (Matt. 10:1).
They had power to sanctify, when Christ bade them:
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
They had power to forgive sin, when Christ said to them:
“Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them” (John 20:23).
They had power to rule when Christ said:
“He who hears you hears me; and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). And: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).
They had power to offer sacrifice, when at the Last Supper Christ, after instituting the Eucharist, bade them:
“Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25).
After training the disciples and Apostles to form the organization of His Church, Christ chose Simon Peter, and made him the Chief. Simon, whose name Christ changed to Peter, was the Head of the Church.
On Simon Christ promised to build His Church, saying: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18). After the Resurrection He confirmed Peter’s authority over the Church, saying to him: “Feed my lambs; feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Finally, He promised to remain for all time with the Church He established.
If the death of Our Lord were to do good only to a few persons then living in Judea, its merits would have been very limited. But it could do good to future generations only if there were an organization with authority to carry on His teachings and preserve them from all change. This is His Church.
Why did Jesus Christ found the Church? –Jesus Christ founded the Church to bring all men to eternal salvation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ established the Church in order to lead men to heaven by:
Continuing His teaching and example; and
Applying the fruits of His Sacrifice on the cross to all men until the end of the world.
Our Lord gave to the Church a three-fold office: the office of teacher, the office of priest or sanctifier, and the office of pastor or ruler. By these offices Christ intended His Church to accomplish the purpose for which He founded it.
After Pentecost Sunday the Apostles began to carry out their mission of making disciples of all nations. Through them and their successors this mission continues and will continue to the end of the world.
On the first Pentecost about three thousand were received into the Church after St. Peter’s sermon. They were the first members converted and baptized since the Ascension of Our Lord.
Was the Church founded by Christ a visible organization? –The Church founded by Christ was a visible organization, with certain distinguishing marks.
No one can deny that Jesus Christ gathered disciples, and out of them chose twelve Apostles, to whom He gave special instruction and orders. He formed them as the foundation of His organization; was this not visible?
Speaking of a stubborn man, He said: “If he refuse to hear even the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen” (Matt. 18:17). And He promised his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). Surely something must be visible to bind and loose, to be heard and obeyed. And Christ referred to this visible organization as a city set on a mountain, that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14).
From the very beginning the Apostles exercised their authority and powers; these were signs of a very visible organization. They did not advise; they directed, as superiors, and decided, as judges.
Thus St. Paul excommunicated the sinful Corinthian; and he commanded the Hebrews: “Obey your superiors, and be subject to them” (Heb. 13: 17).
The Apostles and Fathers condemned schism. This fact implies a visible organization; for how can there be schism against an invisible body?
St. Paul urged the Corinthians: “By the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ … that there be no dissensions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10). And St. Cyprian in the third century wrote: “Whoever is separated from the Church is separated from the promises of Christ … One cannot have God as a Father who has not the Church as his mother.”