Keys of Church and Presbyterial Succession

Attached is an mp3 of a Sunday School on Heidelberg Catechism 83-85, dealing with the “Keys of the Church.” Those just starting to think about apostolic succession and its necessity need to consider this issue carefully and with a sense of urgency. The Powerpoint viewgraphs can also be downloaded. This subject is one of the most neglected yet most important for the modern American church to get straight.

4 thoughts on “Keys of Church and Presbyterial Succession

  1. P. 11, point 2. Incorrectly and erroneously gives credence to the fact that ‘pastors/elders/deacons, is a FAULTY translation of

    Episcopoi, Presbyteros, and Diakonos. Only ONE of those is correctly translated.

    The other two directly translate into BISHOP and PRIEST

    Or haven’t you read Heb. 13:10? An ALTAR presupposes a sacrificial priesthood. Which no reformed possess.

    Sorry, beating a dead horse you are. Rome is no true church, but then, neither are the Presby/Reformed, any more than the SDA’s or the Mormons. the only thing you have going for you, is that you TOOK the Seven Ecumenical council decisions (well, actually, most prots only took Four!) and that was what has kept you from formal, cultic heresy lo, these many years. Which denomination has most quickly gone into utter heresy- the UCC, which was the Pilgrim’s denomination. Why? Calvinism, without the predestinating grace of a sovereign God, devolves into Unitarianism, then Universalism. Without a priesthood, a sacrifice, and an efficacious sacrament, that’s all you have left- a feel good unitarianism.

  2. Fr John, it is hard to know which fallacy you are committing here — I think it is word/concept confusion. That is, you are saying that certain Greek words should be translated a certain way because of certain concepts that you have derived from a completely separate train of reasoning. Presbyteros “means” old, older or elder. Yet as the designation of an office, one can then say, synecdochally, that it “means” an office with certain deduced prerogatives and duties. But you won’t be able to make your case by a simple lexicographical appeal. Better to leave the translation of the word to the lexicon, then make your case about office from argumentation according to the analogy of faith.

    Heb 13:10 could only mean what you say it means if you first rip chapters 9 and 10 out of the book and burn them. For there, the apostle shows that the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, which had to be repeated, is fulfilled and thus abrogated by the once-for-all, utterly satisfactory sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And though on that particular sacrifice, the priests could not feast on the victim (it having been burned outside the camp), we have something better in that we “feast” on the final victim, who though he was also sacrificed “outside the camp” — rose again and so we feast on him who gives life because his death was satisfactory. There is no repeating that sacrifice.

    Note that he is speaking typologically and metaphorically throughout — continuing the theme of “sacrifice,” note how little it has to do with what you are thinking about: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Heb 13:15-16.

    Likewise, Peter teaches “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet 2:9-10; cf also 2:5) The priesthood is not at all a sacerdotal order, but the entire body of the redeemed, in fulfillment no doubt of the promise to Israel in Ex 19:6. That people failed and was at length cut off (Matt 21:43); in Christ on account of his once-for-all sacrifice we are now constituted a people feasting on him the one sacrifice, thus we are the new priesthood, no longer gathered in a tent nor around an altar.

    Your theory for why the Congregationalist church of the Puritans fell into heresy is interesting, but ultimately arbitrary. If you are going to point to doctrinal declension as proof that a church ceases to be a church, then don’t squeal when we do the same. Which is it, ordination, or doctrine? I say it must be both, and thus confidently stand in the Protestant church (which excludes many bodies that you are too quick to call Protestant) wherever the gospel is preached in its purity.

  3. Apparently the Scottish church in the first couple decades of the Reformation (1560-1578) did not practice the laying on of hands in ordination. The great James Bannerman, in his Church of Christ, vol 2, Appendix H, “The Imposition of Hands in Ordination,” presents arguments defending that practice, or, shall we say, lack of practice.

    The question then is, given the arguments from Scripture that I presented in this lecture, must we say that the apostolic succession ceased in the Scottish church, and thus (based on those arguments) the Scottish church is not a part of the holy catholic church, or can we say that the succession did continue for that generation, though without the imposition of hands?

    The matter deserves more than this brief comm-box commentary: I will take it up again anon. Tentatively, however, I suggest that we can grant that succession did take place, albeit defectively, for the reason that ordination was still controlled by a pre-existing Presbytery (thus representing the holy catholic church in the local/universal duality), and it was done with cognizance that they were ordaining to office. See the three-fold criterion given on p. 422.

    It was a serious mistake to miss the signifying and sealing aspect of the imposition of hands. But let us remember that the thing signed and sealed is what is most important; that which signs and seals less important.

    An analogy. Let’s say that further study would lead us to the view that the Lord’s Supper should be done with unleavened bread, or again, with leavened bread. Would we say that those that had been practicing it with the opposite simply did not have the Sacrament? Certainly I don’t want to take the antinomian view that good intentions sanctify, but nonetheless we should be willing to make a kernel/shell distinction.

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