Let me start by defining what is church first.
Biblically, church is Christ’s body both in natural first then became spiritual or symbolic.
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Ephesians 5:23
“But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 15:46
The natural first happened which is his literal body as the church.
When He said;
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
The rock in strong concordance is “petra”
petra: a (large mass of) rock
Original Word: πέτρα, ας, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Phonetic Spelling: (pet’-ra)
Definition: a (large mass of) rock
Usage: a rock, ledge, cliff, cave, stony ground
This means that the “rock” is not simply like a small rock being held by Christ showing it to Peter rather, He must be referring to a huge mass of rock (a boulder), such as a projecting cliff meaning, the Christ must be referring to a stony ground where He stands to which He will build His church. This stony ground is “Israel“, true enough, Christianity started from Israel to which the center is Jerusalem. This is where Christ’s Church was built. As defined earlier, church refers to His body, therefore, this is where His body was built, in Israel His body was born. His body was crucified, resurrected, ascended also in Israel. All in all, the literal body of Christ- the church was built in Israel, the rock also is a symbolism of a cornerstone in which a structure is build upon, this cornerstone is Israel where Christianity in all nations begins.
Peter which means rock in which, apart from the symbolic meaning-cornerstone also symbolizes strong or solid foundation meaning, doctrines and beliefs should be built from the revelations given to Peter which no doubt are solid foundation (rock).
So, now we knew what is the church which is the literal body of Christ build by Himself in Israel, and that the doctrines and beliefs about Jesus Christ should be built from the revelation given to Peter, this is what Matthew 16:18 mean.
As the verse says,
“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19
This alone proves that the founding church or the body of Christ is not catholic. Catholic means universal, how can the body of Christ initially be universal when His body stand-alone and was in Jerusalem?
Now, let’s move to the spiritual meaning of the body of Christ. The church spiritually is an assembly of people who worship God in Spirit.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12
Can the church be an individual? Yes! In fact, the founding church who was Christ Himself is an individual and as an individual, we strive to be like Christ following his steps (1 Peter 2:21) Therefore, striving to be like Christ is striving to be a church ourselves. Every individual in Christ is a church within the church, it’s like circles within the big one circle. The circle that encompass the smaller circles within are all called circles.
Now, we have defined the church as both an assembly of believers and an individual who worships God in Spirit. The question now becomes, what is the label of this assembly and individuals who worship God in Spirit? Were they called Catholics?
Well, to be labeled as one, the early church must have taught what is and has been taught historically by the Catholics. Let’s find out then if this is so using the parameter that Jesus Himself had set.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16
“You will recognize them by their fruits”. Fruits of a person basically range not just referring to progeny but what comes from within produced by that person, such as but not limited to words, action, teachings, characters, etc. And so, the fruit that was mentioned can be referred to teachings produced by the early church. Using this parameter and comparing it with the teachings of the Catholics either in the past or in today’s time, we will have an idea whether the fruit (teachings) that were and are being taught by Catholics are the same as the fruit (teachings) produced by the early church. Then, let the reader judge.
So, let’s start with this teaching, “tithing”.
In Number 18:21, tithing according to the law was given to Levites as their inheritance in return for the work they will perform concerning the tabernacle. So, as long as the Levites were functioning, this part of the law was effective. Heb 8:4 says the priesthood of Christ was not effective while He was on earth as there were Levites who function as priests according to the law. And so, from the old up to when Christ ascended, this tithing law was effective. For this reason, the Christ while on earth still encourages Pharisees to pay what was due to the Levites in Matt 23:23, but after ascension, the early church has no record that they practice this, even encouraging everybody to follow their example and work and not make money out of the Gospel as it was freely received, therefore should be freely given.
Now, let’s used the above early church teaching and practice as a baseline whether Catholics did at some point in time teach and practice tithing.
An excerpt this wikipedia link says;
The Council of Trent, which was held after the Reformation, taught that “tithes are due to God or to religion, and that it is sacrilegious to withhold them.”Nowadays the Catholic Church no longer requires anyone to give ten percent of income.
This can also be found on the decree concerning reform chapter XII and I quote;
“Tithes to be paid in full: those withholding, or hindering, the payment thereof are to be excommunicated.”
See, early church never teaches tithing yet at some point in time, catholic had decree tithing.
Ironically, catholic also teaches infallibility. According to Catholics encyclopedia, an ecumenical council is an organ of infallibility to which, by their definition, infallibility is the exemption or immunity from liability to error or failure.
This doctrine of infallibility was defined dogmatically at the First Ecumenical Council of the Vatican of 1869–1870 in the document Pastor aeternus, but had been defended before that, existing already in medieval theology and being the majority opinion at the time of the Counter-Reformation, this counter reformation began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563). See here and here for the source.
Given the above premise, it follows that the 19th ecumenical council which is the council of Trent should have produced decrees that are infallible or immune to error since supposedly, whatever they define was a prefaced with the apostolic formula yet, tithing which was part of the decrees is not being practiced by Catholics nowadays. Infallible decrees since it’s not in error should be continuously practiced all throughout, yet now in particular to tithing, Catholics are not excommunicated since they don’t tithe.
Again, See! I have proven that the catholic in history had taught different from what the early church had taught, moreover, I also have shown that the ecumenical council which is an organ of infallibility is also bound to error otherwise, catholic nowadays should still be practicing tithing or else excommunicated.
Another teaching that even to date the Catholics teaches is the baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let’s check whether this is a fruit also of the early church.
Biblically, Jesus did instruct in Matt 28:19 to baptized in the name of the Father of the Son, Holy Spirit but when this instruction was executed, the early church used the name Jesus Christ coming from Peter Himself (Acts 2:38)- the catholic first pope “supposedly”, whatever His reason was, He already has the authority to bind whatever on earth which will also be binding in heaven (Matthew 16:19). And so, there has to be a reason why Peter had baptized in the name of Jesus Christ instead of baptizing in 3 title names which I explained in this link, click here. This has to be one of the keys in heaven which were also given to Him.
If the early church was labeled as catholic, how so that their baptism formula is different from the one being used by catholic even in today’s time? Is there a possibility that those who supposedly succeed in the early church have somehow deviated from what was originally taught?
The bible has an answer:
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; Acts 20:29
Catholics do claim that their first pope was Peter followed by Linus then Cletus and so on, this is the so-called Apostolic Succession, a chain of authority that is unbroken “supposedly”. How accurate is this anyway? Is this not contestable?
An excerpt from newworldencyclopedia says;
Linus’s term of office, according to the papal lists that follow Irenaeus’ lead, lasted 12 years. The Liberian Catalogue specifies 12 years, four months, and 12 days, giving the dates as 56-67 C.E. The Liber Pontificalis corroborates this, speaking of his reign as lasting from the consulship of Saturninus and Scipio through that of Capito and Rufus. This, however, presents a problem for Catholic tradition, since Peter himself was thought to have reigned as pope at Rome until his death c. 64.
Linus pontification was dated at 56 C.E yet, Peter was thought to have reigned as Pope of Rome until 64 C.E, this suggests an overlap of 8 years whereby during these years, 2 Popes was reigning both at the same time? Supposedly, succession is when authority is passed from a predecessor Pontiff to a successor Pontiff yet, how could there be an overlapping? Is it possible that Linus was appointed without the knowledge of Peter? Were they even communicating?
Catholic Encyclopedia says that the date given by Liberian Catalogue was in error but in the anomalies pointed by George Edmundson (source Wikipedia), this supposed error was not included. Moreover, the 56-67 C.E dates were also collaborated by the Liber Pontificales to which, Catholic encyclopedia did not say in error hence solidifying it.
The bible did say;
“This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”2 Corinthians 13:1
Moreover, there is inconsistency in how the authority was passed on, how so? Authority was passed from Christ to Peter, He had the full authority to decide on his successor thus, by his discretion, whoever he chooses, it would have been binding on earth and in heaven yet, Linus was not personally chosen by Peter rather, like other bishops, Linus was chosen by the consensus of the clergy and laity of the diocese, click here. This alone proves disconnection, not to mention that before 1059, Papal appointment was often characterized by confirmation or “nomination” by secular European rulers such as Kings who are not even spiritual leaders, click here. Henry III, for instance, installed the 3 successors to Pope Leo IX (1049–54), all Germans, without the formality of an election. Click here for the source. Who gave authority to these Kings anyway to assign a representative of Christ on earth?
And Lastly, the last apostle who died was John AD 6 – 100. Click here.
According to Wikipedia, the pope is a supreme pontiff. John outlived at least 2 popes, it makes no sense that John who was one of the 12 apostles became lower than Linus and Cletus who obtained the Pope title- supreme pontiff.
The bible says;
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles…”1 Corinthians 12:28
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,” Ephesians 4:11
In conclusion, by defining what is church which is the body of Christ literally and figuratively, I believe I have presented clearly that the body of Christ was not or should not be labeled as Catholics in a sense that, the early church did not adhere to the teachings of the Catholics sometime in history and in today’s time, and that the apostolic succession is highly contested.
One definition of succession is, the action or process of inheriting a title, office, property, etc. The subject of inheritance to which one can be considered as an apostle’s successor is their teachings in a sense that, anyone who teaches in line and not contradicting to the doctrines and tradition of the apostles has succeeded them.
Remember, the only way to know who is the true church is by their fruits, one of these fruits is their teachings which should be coherent and not contradicting with the fruits that the early church had yield for, after all, they are the foundation if not, it’s probably not the true church.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
But, I do respect Catholic beliefs, it’s personal anyway, we alone are responsible for what we choose to believe.