=jinc1019;13008242]Just to clear a few things up …
From my reading of history, this is what I see: First, you had Jesus Christ and the apostles. Jesus gives authority to the apostles to bind and loose sin, preach the gospel, and practice the sacraments.
Next, the apostles go out into the world and appoint people to positions of authority, giving them the power to do the same. I won’t argue that the episcopacy was the first form of church government because I don’t think it matters. What does matter though is that people who had authority, in whatever form, at some chose to create the episcopacy and vest ultimate authority in individual regional offices.
No argument. In fact, you’ve stated this in a way rather acceptable to Lutherans.
Over time, those offices because more powerful and a hierarchy within that structure developed.
You eventually end up at the Reformation, where Luther and others declare that because the Roman Catholic Church is preaching a false gospel, they no longer have valid authority, relying primarily on Galatians 1:8.
If we assume the Reformers were right and the RCC was wrong, just for the sake of argument, then we’ll assume they did have the right to break from the RCC
I think this is an overstatement. For example, we do not dispute that the Bishop of Rome has jurisdiction in his bishopric. We would, further, not dispute that he has authority as the western patriarch. Those claims are valid. Where we would dispute is the claim of universal jurisdiction, papal supremacy, and the related claims.
But the next step is the one I’m thinking about. How do the Reformers and their successors today understand their own authority? If anyone at that point can basically create their own structures of authority, how does anyone know who “the Church” mentioned so many times in the Gospels is?
***"The church is reborn where God restores the doctrine, and gives his Holy Spirit. Paul testifies in Eph. 4:11] that the church is ruled and preserved in this manner, not by orderly succession: ‘He gave gifts to men, apostles, prophets. . . .’ He teaches that the true church is where Christ is at work and where he bestows true teachers. . . . Let us not permit ourselves to be scared away from the Word of God by the false protection of the name church.
“Second, after it has been said what the true church is, one must add that the true church is small and consists only of saints. It retains the true doctrine of the Gospel, the articles of faith, or, as Paul calls it, the source of the truth. Yet this same true church sometimes preserves the doctrine purely and clearly, but at other times less so. . . .” ***-
The Augsburg Confession further lays out what/who the Church is, and the importance of ecclesiastical order:
Article V: Of the Ministry.
1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.
Article VII: Of the Church.
1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.
Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.
Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.
Article XV: Of Ecclesiastical Usages.
1] Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquillity and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like.
2] Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance was necessary to salvation.
3] They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to propitiate God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. Wherefore vows and traditions concerning meats and 4] days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the Gospel.