Hence, all of Rome’s propaganda notwithstanding, Catholicism’s antiquity is self-assumed, and has no relationship whatever to the truth. All the claims of longevity are just that, and only that - claims unsubstantiated by history, the Holy Scriptures, or the writings of early church saints. Rome is undaunted in the face of reality and truth, however, adamantly insisting that Catholicism is the one and only true church founded by Christ. Therefore, of Catholicism’s numerous heresies, this must be considered the first, for it is the one from which all the others derive their existence. Moreover, it is a chief cause of Rome’s well-documented antipathy to the Scriptures, a matter given extensive coverage later in this chapter.
What our Lord left on earth was left not just to 12 Apostles, but to 120 disciples who were in the same upper room together on the first Pentecost. These all were indwelt by and filled with the Holy Spirit who empowered them to carry the salvation message throughout the world. Not one of those 120 disciples was a Catholic. Nor were Peter, James, John, Thomas, or any of the other Apostles Catholics. Their immediate successors - Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Linus, Cletus, etc. - were Christians, not Catholics. When, in the middle of the 2nd century, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was martyred, the crowd of onlookers called him the “father of Christians.” Referring to himself, Polycarp declared, “I am a Christian!” In the Bible we read, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Act 11:26)
The Council of Nicaea, AD 325 - 225 years removed from the apostolic church - was a synod of Christian, not Catholic, bishops. It was convened and supervised by the emperor, Constantine, an alleged convert to Christianity, not Catholicism. At the time, there were at least 1800 known Christian, not Catholic, churches, each one independent of the others, each led by its own bishop. The Council was attended by 318 of those bishops, but Sylvester, the sitting bishop of Rome, (who is listed by the Vatican as a Catholic pope,) was not among them. Historically, the designation “Catholic” is not found in common usage until the fifth century. Church historian, Eusebius, writing in the 4th century, recorded events of Christendom’s early years without once mentioning a Catholic Church. Near the start of the 5th century, Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Africa, was called by his mother a “Catholic Christian.”
Possessed of these facts, we conclude that what was passed on by Christ’s disciples to their successors was not a religious denomination - Catholicism - but the simple grace-based Christian faith instituted by our Lord. History, the Bible, the writings of the early church saints, these offer no support whatever for Rome’s claims that Catholicism was the one and only true church founded by Jesus; nor that Christ ordained Peter as bishop of Rome and the first pope. The so-called “holy sacrifice of the Mass,” was unknown in the apostolic church; the Lord’s Supper was a memorial, not a reenactment, of Calvary, and there were no priests allegedly endowed with the power to take the place of Jesus here on earth. Baptism was not mandatory for salvation or receipt of the Holy Spirit. No works were required of the individual who wished to be saved, only faith in Christ Jesus. “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31) “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
No one, this writer included, disputes the fact that the Roman Catholic Church emerged from apostolic Christianity. So did the eastern branch of Christendom, known today as the Orthodox Church. So did the Anabaptists, the Arians, The Docetists, the Marcions, the Ebionites, the Gnostics, etc. All emerged from the same Christian roots and are eloquent proof that common beginnings do not guarantee truth will be the end result.