Power given to Apostles - was it meant to be passed on?

The power to forgive sins and to heal given to the Apostles - Where does it say it was ever meant to be passed on? I am told the laying of hands conveys this.

If a priest today has that ability to forgive sins, would he not have the ability to heal as well?

And if the laying of hands is what allows him to consecrate the Eucharist, why can’t a Deacon who has received the laying of hand do that?

Hi, there.

The remaining Twelve realized that their mission to spread the Gospel as part of a new ministerial priesthood. Christ illustrated the difference between His instruction of disciples and followers versus instruction given to the Twelve in many examples. Further, after His resurrection, Christ’s repeated appearances to the Twelve alone to give them (as the Apostles would do so to others and bishops would do later in turn) the sacraments of ordination.

In one instance, Christ breathes on the gathered members of the Twelve (any time God breathes, it is a key transmission of something important). and tells them, “Whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven, and whoever’s sin you retain are retained.” This was part of the transmission of the holy orders, the authority of Christ, the High Priest, passed down to the Apostles, who would pass on this ordination to bishops, and to priests.

Look at Matthew 5:17. “I did not come to abolish the Law or the prophets but to fulfill them.” Christ was not abolishing the nature of the priesthood of the old Covenant but enriching it through a new priesthood for his new Covenant, built on a central steward (Peter, the first pope) and with other priests (bishops and today’s priests). Likewise, the traditions formed around the old Covenant were no longer binding, through Christ’s example.

For a priesthood and by extension, the faith it supports, to propagate and continue, a senior priesthood must exist to ordain and teach others. Peter himself realized the nature of the office of the Apostles in Acts 1:15-22 by filling the spot vacated by Judas with the disciple Matthias.

Remember, it would over 30 years before any of the stories of Christ’s message would be codified to writing, and another 300 years before these writings would be established through the bishops, the successors to the Apostles, and canonized as the books of the New Testament. So, not every action of Christian teaching, apostleship or discipleship is codified on paper. (In fact, many non-Catholic Bibles are short several books, established as canon centuries before Martin Luther, that further support many teachings of Sacred Tradition.)

In short, as with the old Covenant, you cannot have a church without a priesthood. Christ is the One Sacrifice, but it requires His priesthood to offer this One Sacrifice as a representation to any who are worthy to receive it, in the form of the Eucharist. As with the old Covenant, part of the offered sacrifice to God must be eaten (John 6 drilled that home, and Christ didn’t equivocate his words). A priest/bishop must be properly ordained for this special service and not everyone is qualified to do this. While all Christians have a sacramental priesthood, as Scripture notes, the ordained priesthood has a special role.

Hopefully, that’s a start for more questions or clarification.

A priest act “in Christi Persona”, and it does not mean that he can forgive sins, he don’t forgive them, Christ do, but thru the priest. The pastor is a kind of a middleman, so in a way the power are given forward.

And about healing, and I would be much obliged if someone with better knowledge correct if I am wrong. Some of us, not only spiritual people, have the gift to heal. There however is one thing that must be carefully scrutinized, was it a “miracle” or not. As we all know some illness do get better with time, and even if someone will not actually be healed, he or she can feel that they are only because they believe in THE PERSON who heal them. In those cases the sick will not really be healed, not by Christ anyway, but the faith in the HEALING PROCEDURE and the “healer” make the person to THINK he/she is healed, and almost in all cases the illness will return, or get worse because the sick person may stop taking the medicine or treatment prescribed, or time will do the trick.
Then there are cases where a person, with the power given by God, do actually heal, but The RCC are very careful and take a extremely careful look on what really did happen, and when all facts are clear The RCC may say it was a miracle.

All in all, if someone is sick, a doctor is the first option, it does not hurt to ask a priest or a whole congregation to pray for the sick one, in fact, it often help.

I hope somebody will provide a better answer.

See the Gospel of John, chapter 21.

I won’t quote it all, but paraphrase it.

This is a post-Resurrection event.

Christ asks “Simon, Son of John [bar-Jonah] do you love me?”
Peter responds “yes.”
Christ “Feed my lambs”

This is repeated three times. In other words, it’s very important. Very, very important.
He addresses Peter by his “last name” (the equivalent of the time), son of John (that’s what the bar-Jonah means, that we see in some translations). So, Christ is making Himself clear that He is addressing Peter specifically (not the other disciples–who, in fact, are not even part of the conversation–we know that Christ & Peter are alone by the surrounding verses) and making it clear to the rest of us that he means “this Peter, this son of John” as opposed to just “any” Peter. Think of it this way: we rarely address our own friends by their first-and-last names. The times when we do, we are emphasizing precisely who we’re addressing. Calling him by his full name is a reminder to future generations that He means to speak His words to “this Peter and this Peter alone; this Peter, son of John, not that Peter, son of the potter Adahm”
The event also provides balance between Peter’s previous denials of Christ. On the one hand, Christ is giving Peter the opportunity to right his past wrong, and also (this is important) recognizing that Peter is human–that Christ knows full-well that Peter is not sinless or perfect, but human and has his faults.

Christ (in his Incarnate form) is about to leave this earth, but he does not want to leave his flock without a shepherd, therefore, he appoints Peter to be that Shepherd in Christ’s stead; not just once, but three times.

OK. So far, we “all know this” but what we often miss (and what, I believe goes to the heart of your question) is what comes next. This is what happens immediately after that:

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Paraphrase: Christ knows that Peter will die–that Peter will not be on this earth for much longer. Instead, Peter will likewise die on his own cross.

But wait…Christ just appointed Peter to be the Shepherd. Why would He appoint a Shepherd to act in His stead when Christ knows full well that the Shepherd will not be around for much longer? It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a given that Christ is the Good Shepherd, that He loves His sheep. Why then would the Good Shepherd effectively abandon His sheep by leaving them in the hands of a vice-shepherd who will himself soon be dead? That’s not the act of a “good” shepherd, but a very short-sighted one. Why???

The answer is that because Christ knows and fully intends that Peter will only be the Shepherd for a short time, and then a new Shepherd will take Peter’s place—that’s the next “Peter” (named Linus) all the way down to Francis in the present day.

You asked if this was meant to be passed on? If you read John 21 it becomes clear that Christ had every intention that this should be “passed on”; otherwise, Christ would be abandoning his flock. A Good Shepherd doesn’t do that—He provides for His sheep even after the Ascension, and even after the death of the first Peter on his own cross.

Some good answers already.
For me the “passing on” is something that logically follows from Jesus knowing that he would not return until after the original apostles (ambassadors / church leaders) died. Two things fit this together. In John 28:18 Jesus says that all authority has been given to him and then he sends them out to make disciples. Earlier in John 20:21-23 - this sending forth also seen - along with (as already pointed out) the breathing on and the granting of authority.
There is a third aspect of this which is seen in the famous “bind and loose” passages. The authority is passed on because those with the authority to bind it have done so.
It all fits together.

If a priest today has that ability to forgive sins, would he not have the ability to heal as well?

I have to say yes to this…but with the caveat that there are various factors that will effect the ability.

And if the laying of hands is what allows him to consecrate the Eucharist, why can’t a Deacon who has received the laying of hand do that?

Well here I think it probably has to do with what is intended to be conferred. It’s not just the laying on of hands, but what is said and what is intended during the process.
I’m not that familiar with the process so perhaps another can clarify.


Thanks again James.

The Deacon one is really a hanger for me. I have reasearched the Bible enough to know that I trust it.

I guess a lot of what I am doing is determining that I can trust that I can trust the Catholic church. Some things initially seem to be done to keep power and controll people - and over history people controlling people usually has some other motives.

The first question that ought to be asked is did the power given to
the Apostles die with the Apostles? Of course not, it was passed
from Jesus to the Apostles, from the Apostles to their disciples,
and so on and so on.

This link may help:

Yes - I can understand your concern.
The thing we need to recognize is that - when studying the development of these things - the bible is only one source. The other important source is the ECF’s - the Early Church Fathers.
Now I have not read them extensively by any stretch - but I recall reading somewhere that in the earliest days, only the Bishop could confect the Eucharist. It was then distributed by deacons to people and places where the bishop could not reach. As the Church grew, it was seen that the Bishop would really need help in this - and so the ministerial priesthood came into being - men who are ordained by the bishop with the authority to confect the Eucharist.

This is how I understand the development - - as always I stand open to being corrected.


You’re taking the definition of power the wrong way.

Yes, the Laying of Hands is how the Apostles passed on their ministry. As Paul explains in his epistles, not everyone is a Priest, not everyone a prophet, not everyone a healer, etc…

Here’s a snippet from THIS article that directly addresses the title of your OP:

“Catholics also believe that this Church is Apostolic. Jesus chose specific men to lead His Church (Jn 15:16), gave them His own mission (Jn 20:21), and conferred on them a Kingdom (Lk 22:29-30). Christ chose to build His Church on one of His Apostles, (Mt 16:18) and said that it would be One Flock with One Shepherd (Jn 10:16) and then He appointed a shepherd to tend His Flock on earth until He comes again (Lk 22:32, Jn 21:17). When one of them betrayed the Lord, he was replaced…succeeded (Acts 1:20, 25-26), and so this Apostolic Church has Apostolic Succession. We believe that the OT verses 2Chr 19:11, Mal 2:7 point to this and the NT verses Eph 2:20, 4:11, 1Cor 12:28-29, 1Tim 3:1,8 1Tim 5:17, Acts 14:23, 2Tim 2:2, Titus 1:5, etc…confirm it, even showing how that succession takes place. (Acts 6:1-6, 1Tim 4:14, 1Tim 5:22 and 2Tim 1:6).”

Hi there. I recommend you these videos that explain the authority of the Catholic Church and succession:

1-Catholicism: Confession, Reconciliation or Penance

2- Origins of the Authority of the Catholic Church Part 1

3- Origins of the Authority of the Catholic Church Part 2

God bless!

If a Priest reads this, perhaps he can respond.

I don’t know the details, but I can tell you this… All Priests become Deacons first while still in the Seminary. We call them “Transitional Deacons” to differentiate between the “Permanent Deacon” which will not become a priest. However, if I’m not mistaken, both “kinds” of Deacons are the same from a Sacramental point of view. The only real difference is that a Transitional Deacon is still studying to become a Priest, while the Permanent Deacon is complete and now in the Parish.

So a Priest becomes a Deacon first and then a Priest.

Marie Boy, as someone who was raised in the Catholic Church, and after spending some time in other Protestant denominations, has come back. I can understand where you are coming from.

To me the answer to if the power was meant to be passed on, is answered when the apostles added Matthias to replace Judas in Acts 1:12-26. And added him to their number. Thus conferring to him all there powers. If they could pass on the power, why couldn’t there replacements? Do you think Jesus would setup a shepherd for his sheep (Peter), and give the twelve the ability to forgive sins, and pass it on, but not intend for it to continue being passed on? Personally I don’t.

Personally the above about the disciples and Peter and 1 Timothy 3:15, where Paul says the church is the pillar and support of truth, was the final thing I could not get around. If Paul says “the church” is the pillar and support of truth, what church. There are hundreds of different churches teaching different truths. But there is only 1, the Catholic Church that has an unbroken line of Popes all the way back to St Peter.

So, we know that the 11 could pass it on to Matthias by adding him to the number, and we know Christ wanted the Church, not anything else (the bible for example) to be the pillar and support of the truth. To me at least the only reasonable way to combine those two versus, was to come to the decision that Jesus wanted it passed on after the original 11.

That was the logic I used, hopefully it helps you.
God Bless

Apostolic Succession Through the Laying on of Hands Proved from Scripture

How was Apostolic Authority handed on? By a formal ceremony known as “laying on of hands” as we see in the following passages:

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders [or bishops] laid their hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

Notice that multiple Bishops were present at the ordination of Timothy and that Paul was apparently among them. This practice of having multiple Bishops involved in the ordination of a new Bishop continues in the Catholic Church today to ensure the validity of the Apostolic Succession.

Later, Timothy was sent to Corinth with the Authority of Paul to teach and remind them of the things Paul had taught them personally. Again, Paul instructed Timothy concerning the handing on of his teachings:

2 Timothy 2:2
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

In this one passage, we see four generations in the line of Apostolic Succession: 1) Paul, 2) Timothy, 3) those to whom Timothy would pass on Paul’s teachings, and 4) those whom they in turn would teach. Remember, the mission of the Church is to teach, and one office in the Church is that of teacher. Thus, Paul is instructing Timothy about the handing on of teachings of Christ which is the function of a Bishop. This is Apostolic Succession at work. Paul also told Titus:

Titus 1:5-7
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer [or bishop] is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless.

Paul also cautions Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:22
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands

So we see that the ordaining of Bishops is not something to be taken lightly or done spuriously. The mission of the teaching Church must be entrusted to reliable men through the laying on of hands – a ceremony which we now call “ordination”.

The authority of the Apostles is necessary to maintain the unity of the Body of Christ and the dedication to the various ministries. Consider what St. Paul says in 1 Cor 12:28: “Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.” Already by Paul’s day, about 20 years after Christ’s death, the various ministries are sorting themselves out and being “split” among various people.

Also, when it comes to the sacraments, the intention (and so the form) of the sacrament matters. A deacon is ordained to certain ministries, especially working with the poor and preaching the Gospel–as the first seven deacons were ordained to oversee the distribution of food to the widows of the Jerusalem community. A priest, on the other hand, is ordained to minister the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. This is why priests can preside at Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick, while deacons cannot.

And, yes: priests go through various ministries before ordination. Usually in their first year of Seminary they are designated as candidates (and obliged to the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours), then in their second year are given the ministries of Lector and Acolyte. In or after their third year of study, they are ordained as Deacon, and only after the fourth year ordained as Presbyter/Priest. So all priests also have the office of deacon. Similarly, Bishops must be ordained Priest (and Deacon) before being ordained as Bishop.

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