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The Acts of the Apostles and Church Authority

In the online article Three Biblical Arguments for the Authority of the Church for Catholic Exchange, Dave Armstrong highlights three passages. Below is what he wrote about one of those passages. Click on the link above to read rest of this well-written defense of Church authority.

Acts 16:4: As they went on their way through the cit­ies, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.

This verse is often overlooked in discussions about author­ity in Christianity. St. Paul didn’t simply hand out Bibles, nor did he preach the gospel only on his evangelistic journeys. He also proclaimed an authoritative Church decision, made at the Jerusalem Council, which is described in Acts 15:1-30.

What happened there was not “Bible alone” or individual Christians and the Holy Spirit, independent of other Christians, but very clearly a strong Church authority. The “apostles and el­ders” (Acts 15:6), representing the “whole church” (Acts 15:22) gathered, much as bishops in our time got together at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).


St. Paul then went out and proclaimed what the council (in­cluding him) had decided, to be observed as a binding decree. If that’s not Church authority, it’s difficult to imagine what would be. If God approved of such Church-wide decisions in the early Church, why not also today? Why would that cease? It makes no sense to argue that it all went away and that we were left to fend for ourselves as mere individuals.

And from the conclusion of Dave Armstrong’s same article:

What reason and facts and evidence can do is to confirm over and over that the Catholic Church is right. When that happens so many times, it becomes easier (by the weight of cumulative evidence) to accept in faith that she is always right when she claims something dogmatically or infallibly. We must accept that there are things that we don’t and can’t understand and must believe because of what we do understand. No one can ever figure out every jot and tittle. For one thing, no one has the time to do so.


I’ve become more and more assured of this truth during my nearly twenty-four years of defending it. The more I learn, the more my faith is strengthened (never weakened), and this is one of the joys of apologetics.


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