Many Catholics the world over have been bombarded with questions about the Catholic faith by other religious groups and sects. Many Catholics either have not been privileged to be exposed to the authentic teachings of the Church, or simple never made the effort to find out about their faith. This topic is meant to clear up the misconceptions that Catholics as well as people of other beliefs, have about the Catholic Church, her teachings and her authenticity. There is a misconception that all of the Church’s teachings and practices must be found in the Bible. This topic will show that the Catholic Church existed for several hundred years before the Bible was printed.
Please click on the “play button” above to listen to the lecture on the history of the Catholic church by Fr. John Theodore.
The origin of the Catholic Church
After creation, sin took over the world – the story of Adam and Eve – and God decided that he would start over; that he would bring man back to himself. God choose Abraham, a Jew, as the starting point and said to him, “From you, I will start a new people.
Now the climax of the Jewish people was the coming of the Messiah, our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In John’s gospel Chapter 4 verse 22, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, “salvation comes from the Jews.”
After Jesus’ work on earth was done and before he ascended into Heaven, he left a group of men – his disciples – behind. The Greek word for group in the ecclesia, which comes from the word ecclesiastics, which means church.
In Matthew 28: 16-20, we see Jesus on ascension morning commissioning his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I give you.” Jesus assured them by saying, “And know that I am with you always; yes to the end of time.” That was a promise that Jesus made to his group – the Church – which he left.
In John 10: 16, Jesus says, “There are many other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” Note the oneness of which Jesus speaks. His desire is that there should be only one group and not the tens of thousands that currently exist, each claiming to the the truth.
The group of men that Jesus left were not left alone. Jesus left his Holy Spirit to be with them and to teach them. John 14: 25-26 says, “I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you.”
John 16: 12-13 says, “I still have many things to say to but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of things to come.” This is the same Holy Spirit that Jesus said will be with his group until the end of time. So to summarize so far, we have:
Mankind fell from grace with God (The story of Adam and Eve)
- God started over with the Jews (Abraham)
The climax of the Jewish people was the coming of the Messiah – Jesus Christ
Jesus left a group – ecclesia, from the word ecclesiastics, which means Church
Jesus left his Holy Spirit to be with that group until that group – the Church – always, and further promised them that he will be with them until the end of time.
The only group that can trace itself all the way back to the original group that Jesus left is the Catholic Church and that is a historical fact. The Catholic Church can trace from Her present Pope all the way back to Her very first leader, Peter. Click Here for a list of all the popes.
- This Church that Jesus left was a distinct reality in the time of the first apostles. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 9, “I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve to be called apostle.”
1 Corinthians 15: 3 says, “Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Jesus died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures;” St. Paul says here that he teaches what he was taught. This is how the faith of the Church was handed down and lived by the early Christians since there was no ‘formal documentation’ on her teachings.
1 Corinthians 15: 11 says, “but what matter is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.” St. Paul underscores the importance of the Church teaching one doctrine.
Whenever the Church had a problem, it would always call a council to discuss the problem and then decide the way forward under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus left with the Church. An example of this, the first such council, can be seen in Acts 15: 1-29. Here the early Church had a problem where “some men came down from Judaea, and taught the brothers ‘unless you have yourself circumcised in the tradition as Moses, you cannot be saved’.” This posed a problem to the Church at Antioch because it was not what they were taught. It is important to note the tone of the letter that the Church wrote to the people (Acts 15: 22-29). Verse 24 says that ‘they acted without authority from us’; and verse 28 goes on to say, “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and ourselves not to saddle you with any burdens beyond these essentials.” So from the very beginning, the Church was speaking with absolute authority because she had the Holy Spirit.
This letter that the early Church wrote is important because:
- She speaks with absolute authority
Some people have no authority because they were not sent by the Church. Another example of this can be seen in Romans 10: 13-15.
The Church’s authority is based on the Holy Spirit
The Bible And Its Origin
2000 plus years ago, after Jesus rose from the dead, He did not leave a Bible. He left a group of people – group is ekklesia which means church. Matthew 28: 16-20
Jesus also empowered the group with His Holy Spirit and left the Holy Spirit as a promise for the future. John 14: 25-26, John 16: 12-13
Jesus therefore left a group (the church) and His Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Church is the only church that can trace itself back to this original group. This can be seen by looking at the line of Popes from the very first one Peter, all the way down to our present Pope. Click here to view list.
The Church was a recognized reality preaching a simple doctrine. 1 Cor. 15: 8-11, Eph. 5: 28-29
Early Christians received their faith from the life of the Church. There was no Bible at that time. 1 Cor. 15: 3-7, 2 Thes. 2: 14-15
A very important scripture that demonstrates how the early church existed can be found in Acts 15: 1-29. In this passage we see that the Church has authority coming from the Holy Spirit. – “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves, not this value with any burden beyond these essentials:” Acts 15: 28
Some persons have no authority because they have not been sent by the Church.
- Acts 15: 24 – “We hear that some people coming from here, but acting without any authority from ourselves, have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds”
Romans 10: 14-15 clearly tells us that preachers must be sent, and Catholic Church has that authority; “How then are they to call on him if they have not come to believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them? And how will there be preachers if they are not sent? As scripture says: How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of good news.“
The Church has clear leadership that decides on to the of doctrines. We see this in Acts 15: 23 – 29
The Bible came about as a result of one of the Church’s Councils – The Council of Carthage in the year 397. Prior to that there were many writings which were divided into three groups:-
- Those that were accepted by all
Those that will be rejected by all
Those that were rejected by some and accepted by some.
In the year 397 the Council of Carthage decided upon the 73 books as inspired by the Holy Spirit that made up the Bible.
The Bible therefore comes to us through the authority of the Church. Therefore, the correct question to ask is not ” wind do you find this in the Bible?” but rather ” what does the Church teach about to this?” it is the Church that tells us that the Bible is the word of God.
It is important to note that the Protestant Bible is different from that of the Catholic Bible. The Protestant’s Bible has less books. This came about as a result of a man called Luthor who broke away from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. He left out the following six books from the Bible so as not to contradict what he was teaching :
1 & 2 Maccabees
He left out part of the books of Esther and Daniel, and changed up parts of the New Testament. For instance, the original text says that ‘we are justified by faith’, but Luthor wrote that ‘we are justified by faith alone’. Because he was teaching that there was no Purgatory, and the books of Macabees says otherwise, he omitted them.
The Bible needs someone in authority to give correct interpretation of scriptural passages. Only the Catholic Church can do this since she is the author of the Bible.
- 2 Peter 3: 16 tell us, “He makes this point too in his letters as a whole wherever he touches on these things. In all his letters there are of course some passages which are hard to understand, and these are the ones that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture–to their own destruction. Since you have been forewarned about this, my dear friends, be careful that you do not come to the point of losing the firm ground that you are standing on, carried away by the errors of unprincipled people. Instead, continue to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory, in time and eternity. Amen
Acts 8: 26-35 tells the story of Philip meeting the eunuch who was reading the scriptures but could not understand what it all meant. So Philip sat next to him and explained the good news of Jesus to him.
Matt 28: 16-20 reminds us of Jesus’ command to the eleven to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
The Catholic Church has the authority to teach. The Bible tells us that there are many false teachers who can work miracles.
- 1 John 4: 1-6, we are warned – “My dear friends, not every spirit is to be trusted, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets are at large in the world. This is the proof of the spirit of God: any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature, is from God, and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus is from God; it is the spirit of Antichrist, whose coming you have heard of; he is already at large in the world. Children, you are from God and have overcome them, because he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world, and therefore the world inspires what they say, and listens to them. We are from God; whoever recognises God listens to us; anyone who is not from God refuses to listen to us. This is how we can distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.”
2 John: 7-11 tells us, “There are many deceivers at large in the world, refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human nature. They are the Deceiver; they are the antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and you will forfeit your full reward. If anybody does not remain in the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he does not have God with him: only those who remain in what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them. If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him into your house or even give him a greeting. Whoever greets him has a share in his wicked activities.” Note how the Bible say we should treat with those who preach and teach different doctrines.
In Rev. 16: 12-14, we hear that not every miracle comes from God – “The sixth angel emptied his bowl over the great river Euphrates; all the water dried up so that a way was made for the kings of the East to come in. Then from the jaws of dragon and beast and false prophet I saw three foul spirits come; they looked like frogs and in fact were demon spirits, able to work miracles, going out to all the kings of the world to call them together for the war of the Great Day of God the Almighty.“
2 Thes. 2: 9-10 tells us “But the coming of the wicked One will be marked by Satan being at work in all kinds of counterfeit miracles and signs and wonders, and every wicked deception aimed at those who are on the way to destruction because they would not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.”
To conclude, I want to encourage you to embrace the Catholic Faith; be what you are – Catholic; live the Catholic Faith; share the Catholic Faith and be ambassadors of Christ Jesus our Lord. God has spoken and continues to speak to the human race. There has to be a place to hear his voice with absolute clarity. That place is the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the church that he has left.