What's Your Authority?

Whenever I am involved in conversations with non-Catholic Christians I go straight to the authority question. If that question is not resolved then every other discussion is only matter of swapping opinions. It is important, therefore to be clear on the basics of the Catholic understanding of authority. It is rooted in the fact that Jesus Christ was sent by God and had all authority on heaven and earth. (Mt 22:18) Jesus exercised this authority by:

  1. Teaching the truth
  2. Healing the sick
  3. Vanquishing the Devil.

He told his apostles to continue this work. (Mt. 22:19) He delegated that authority to his apostles because he said, “As the Father has sent me I am sending you.” (Jn 20:21) The apostles appointed their successors who are the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church.

This is what the early Christians believed about apostolic succession:

Clement of Rome, 95AD
“The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ and they went out full of confidence in the Holy Spirit and appointed…bishops and deacons…they appointed them so that tested men would succeed their ministry.”

Ignatius of Antioch, 115AD
“When you obey the bishop you obey Christ…it is essential that you do nothing without the bishop. Submit to the priests as to Christ.”

“By knowledge of the truth we mean the teaching of the Apostles… the order of the Church as established from earliest times throughout the world…preserved through the Episcopal succession: for to the bishops, the apostles committed the care of the Church in each place which has come down to our own time…safeguarded by the most complete exposition the reading of the Scriptures without falsification and careful and consistent exposition of them avoiding both rashness and blasphemy.”

St Irenaeus, 160AD
We can enumerate those who were appointed bishops in the churches by the apostles and their successors down to our own day. They were handing over to them their own office of doctrinal authority.”

That same authority continues in the Catholic Church today. The Holy Father really is the successor of Peter and the bishops are the apostles alive and active today.

This is why Catholic priests and the Catholic faithful need to be true to the teachings of the Catholic faith. Without it we are simply trading in our own opinions. When we contradict church teachings, dissent from Church teachings we are taking ourselves outside the line of authority and our views–no matter how seemingly reasonable and no matter how passionately we hold them–are dust in the wind. They have no more authority or weight than anyone else’s opinions. You may argue your point and rage against the authority of the church, but step outside it and you are on your own.

The analogy I use is that of the barque of Peter. Launch out on your own and your on the wild and wide open sea in little more than a self inflated life raft. The barque of Peter may be an old ship. She may be creaky and leaky at times. She may have troubles in the engine room and the cargo in the hold may be rotting, but she’s still more seaworthy than your own little lifeboat, and even though she may be tossed about by the winds and stormy seas she’ll make it to the port at last.

Better to stay on board, batten down the hatches and weather the storm than to set off on your own.

Taken from: patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2015/01/apologetics-101.html

The Word of God.

Hi Indi,

I guess this prompts the question as to, specifically and exactly - What IS the Word of God and how do we recognize it? In other words, what is it and what is it specifically NOT?

God Bless You Indi, Topper

How does the conversation usually go with someone who’s Orthodox? Couldn’t they use the same ECF quotes you use and state that the same authority continues in the Orthodox church today?

My authority has to be the church Catholic which is seen in history since the apostles in line of succession of its Bishops with correct faith. Of course I am not referring to the Roman Catholic church.

I do not understand how a protestant can believe in the bible without granting authority to those who came before him.

IgnatianPhilo #5
My authority has to be the church Catholic which is seen in history since the apostles in line of succession of its Bishops with correct faith. Of course I am not referring to the Roman Catholic church.

As Christ established His Church on St Peter and gave Him full authority in His Name as head of the Apostles, there is no other group, including the various Orthodox Churches, which have the authority of the Magisterium established by Christ to fully teach, rule and sanctify as He established and commanded.

My authority in a rational sense is the church that rightly proclaims the Gospel and administers the Sacraments.

My authority in spiritual sense is Christ and Him Crucified.

OK Randy, since you are asking,(or rather bating us), my authority is based on my relationship with my father,and that I am in covenant with Him. Jn:12 "But as many as received Him, to them gave He POWER… or rather authority. So as a son I have the responsibility to exercise God’s authority in the earth today. As a confirmation, Jesus said these SIGNS will follow them that believe, “In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing , it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” We have the authority to do the same things that Jesus did.

Well…which gospel interpretation?

And on the sacraments…the apostolic churches both have 7 sacraments…and Lutherans have redefined and reduced them to 2 or 3…so according to you…which sacraments…the ones with 7 or those with less?

So can you explainhow having a relationship with the Father gives you the authority?

Do you think the CC does not have a relationship with the Father too?


I’m curious too. How does having a relationship with the Father give you authority? It also sounds very centred; “my relationship”, “my father”, “I am in a covenant with Him.” my? I? Also, what covenant?

It might be helpful to finish that verse of scripture;

John 1:12 “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God

What does it mean to receive power to become a child of God?

Moses’ authority was a result of his covenant relationship with God and his election. But we have a much better covenant, one that is sealed by the blood of Jesus. This covenant includes everything that Jesus has inherited. That is also the believers inheritance. (Eph.1:11,18,19). It also includes the Kingdom (Lk. 12:32) and the authority of a king as under the one who is The King of Kings.

eazyduzit #12
Moses’ authority was a result of his covenant relationship with God and his election. But we have a much better covenant, one that is sealed by the blood of Jesus. This covenant includes everything that Jesus has inherited. That is also the believers inheritance. (Eph.1:11,18,19). It also includes the Kingdom (Lk. 12:32) and the authority of a king as under the one who is The King of Kings.

The “covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus” has redeemed us – salvation is dependant on following His teaching when we know it.

That teaching:
**All four promises to Peter alone: **
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later to the Twelve, also].

**Sole authority: **
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

The first error is in disregarding the mandate of Jesus, the Son of God, in founding His Church and installing St Peter as His Supreme Vicar

The second error is in disregarding history.
Already, Peter had exercised his supreme authority in the upper room before Pentecost to have Judas’ place filled. At the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Peter settled the heated discussion over circumcising the gentiles and “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:7-12). Paul made sure that his ministry to the gentiles was recognised by, Peter (Gal 1:I8).

The third successor of St Peter, Clement, wrote to the Catholics of Corinth in A.D. 95: “If any man should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger… Render obedience to the things written by us through the Holy Spirit.” (I Clem. ad Cor. 59,1). This Is The Faith, Francis J Ripley, Fowler Wright Books, 1971, p 151; 139-141].

About Pope Victor I’s declaration by edict, about the year 200, that any local Church that failed to conform with Rome was excluded from the union with the one Church by heresy, none other than the radical protestant Adolph von Harnack admitted that Victor I was “recognised, in his capacity of bishop of Rome, as the special guardian of the ‘common unity’… " (See And On This Rock, p 118, 1987, Trinity Communications, Fr Stanley L Jaki).

Harnack asked: “How would Victor have ventured on such an edict – though indeed he had not the power of enforcing it in every case – unless the special prerogative of Rome to determine the conditions of the ‘common unity’ in the vital questions of faith had been an acknowledged and well-established fact?”


The apostles were a collegial community, under Peter. “By the end of the apostolic age, the bishops of the Catholic Church began meeting together on a regional basis, and with the first ecumenical council at Nicaea in 325, this co-operative activity reached worldwide proportions.” (Fr John A Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday, 1975, p 320-321).

We maintain the practices of what the Catholic Church calls sacraments - the title matters not to us, and wouldn’t be a barrier to reunification. The Lutheran definition of sacrament is just a bit more particular.

Lutherans claim to be a valid continuation of the western church, so typically such arguments aren’t too effective with us.

Who (not what) is my authority? God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). One reason why Christ did what He did was to remove all things and people between God and man that were hoops to jump through or men to mediate. There can now be a direct and immediate connection betwixt God and man because of Jesus.

Who is in authority over me? God, and my husband.

Interesting. Did Jesus give you the authority to bind and loose and to forgive sins? Did he give you the keys to the kingdom? Why do you think he gave this authority to specific people and not all; including you and me?

Steve, please first describe what you actually mean by the “keys to the Kingdom”?

I would defer to Randy Carson’s thread “The King and the Royal Steward” for a great discussion and explanation of this topic.

Begin with Isaiah 22:15-25. Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given “the key of the house of David,”. What he opens cannot be shut and what he shuts cannot be open. It is a sign of great authority and was given to Peter alone.

The point is this. Christ founded a Church and gave great, unprecedented authority to that Church; his own authority. He gave the Church its hierarchical structure with Peter at its head. This idea that it is just “Jesus and me” is completely unfounded. We are a body, not a bunch of dismembered parts scattered around.

I found it interesting that you addressed the “Keys” but did not address “binding and loosing” and the power to “forgive sins”. Do you believe the Church alone has this authority or do you believe this authority was meant to extend to all Christians?

I just need to do this one step at a time. First, how do we know the “house of David” represents "the Kingdom of God? Second, what could Jesus give to open the Kingdom? Some esoteric (hidden) knowledge? No that is not His MO. The only thing that can open the door to the Kingdom of God is the Gospel. Peter understood this at some point, because he used this “key” to open the kingdom to the Gentiles in the book of Acts. In Lk12:32, Jesus is addressing His words to “little flock”. Who is in view here? Is it Peter only? The 12 only? No, I think that no matter how desperate we are to see this as Peter alone we will eventually need to yield to the logic that “flock” is plural, and it consistently means the “church”. Then, if I am a son of the King, I am under authority, and there fore I have authority, which includes the power of binding and loosing anything I need in His kingdom. If this is not so, then of what use is the Kingdom? How can I have healing or prosperity or whatever is mine in the Kingdom? What an impoverished Christian life would this be? I refuse to be misled by any church when the scripture is clear.

In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward or prime minister) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

Isaiah 22:20-22
"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

In the passage above, God is speaking to Shebnah, an unfaithful steward serving King Hezekiah. God is telling Shebnah that he is about to be replaced by Eliakim, and this confirms the existence of the office, the key worn as a symbol of the office, and the continuation of the office in perpetuity – despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else. God Himself passes the key from one steward to the next.

In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

Luke 1:31–33
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

We also read the following:

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The passage quoted above from Matthew tells us that Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Peter died as a martyr as Jesus foretold, but the successors of Peter have taken his place in the perpetual office that Jesus established in His royal court.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus specifically referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter, and Peter received authority from Jesus to speak universally in His name. To do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error; therefore, Peter (and his successors who hold the office of the Royal Steward - also known as the Bishop of Rome) are protected by God through the charism of infallibility.

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