For instance look upon these verses:
And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:11)
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (Acts 8:1)
But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.(Acts 8:3)
So t**he church **throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.(Acts 9:31)
The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.(Acts 11:22)
and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.(Acts 11:26)- Luke would be supporting the equation of “church” and “disciples”. ****
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.(Acts 12:1)
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church (Acts 12:5)
Now there were in** the church** at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.(Acts 13:1)
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.(Acts 14:23)- Actually here, Luke makes a direct distinction between “elders” and “church”. They are intricately related, but in their own essence, distinct. The “Church” is the whole community of disciples, and the “elders” are those who preside "in the Church".
And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.(Acts 14:27)
Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers. (Acts 15:22)- **In this single place, Luke makes distinct “apostles” and “elders” with the “church”. It would seem as though the apostles are directly related to the Church and have a function within the Church, but that “Church” cannot be understood in the Strict sense as the Papacy.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(Acts 20:28). Here, the word “Church” is actually made distinct from the “bishops” in that the Bishops are to care for the “Church”, which renders more favor towards understanding “church” as an assembly of disciples, those who follow Jesus Christ. **** Now, think how concerning it would be to insert in the meaning of “church” here as a strict reference to the institutional offices of bishop. And consider how even more concerning it would be to think that Christ’s shed blood was only in reference to this institutional offices and not the actual human disciples in community.
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,(1 Corinthians 11:18)
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (1 Corinthians 11)- **Here this is a reference to the catholic church, and is really speaking of Christ’s true disciples on earth. These will not perish. **
Do you see where I am having a problem? Why reduce the scope of “Church” in Matthew 16 to be strictly the Papal Office (not even the human being in it) and the Offices of Bishop (not the humans) as the singular ordained source of offering the sacraments? It would seem to me that everywhere else in Scripture, church carries the meaning of the community of baptized disciples, those who are obedient to Christ, whether universally or locally. Therefore, to say that “church” has a strict reference to Peter’s successors and the bishops in communion, and that it is not even the human beings who fill these positions, is to me a major reduction, and really uncatholic.