At This Point, Systematisation of the Church Begins. Vol.4 No.22

Historically speaking, the inception of the church instituted by Christ, there was no clearly defined system of authority; No sacred scriptures, No sacraments (as a name), No creed and no hierarchy of bishop, priest and deacon. Besides, the question of how this system developed constitutes one of the most controverted chapters in the history of the Church.
However, history cannot deny the fact that Jesus himself founded the Church and conferred authority. History also confirms that from the beginning, the first believers formed a tightly knit community belief in the risen Jesus.
Nevertheless, there are two most important rituals that revealed that the early Church was characterized by a unique Christ-centered self-image. First was the Eucharist, which was celebrated by repeating Christ’s words at the Last Supper over bread and wine, in obedience to his command “Do this in memory of me.” The second ritual was the initiation rite of baptism, a cleansing with water in obedience to his command “baptize them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit.” (Mtt. 28:19-20). These two rituals therefore express the distinct sense of the Church’s sense of supernatural oneness in Christ. It also clarifies the traditional Catholic view of the organization of the Church upon which Jesus himself appointed the twelve apostles and gave them authority to assume control of the Church after his death. It therefore follows that these twelve apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which Christ promised to send them, slowly organized the primitive Church and shaped its system of authority in response to a variety of situations that existed in different localities. These situations gradually led to the three-tiered structure of Bishop, priest and deacon. We are not unaware of how the apostles fasted and prayed that the Holy Spirit may enable them select seven deacons. St. Paul himself, in each of the community he evangelized, at Ephesus for instance, he fasted and prayed before he selected some Ephesian elders (i.e. Presbyteroi in Greek meaning Priests) to look after the worshipping community.
Nevertheless, as long as the original apostles were still alive who were able to guarantee the veracity of oral tradition about Jesus, the issue of continuity was very far from the agenda of early Christians. But when awareness grew that the Church was destined to continue in history, whereas death has begun to carry off the apostles, the Church was challenged with the possibility of preserving its unity and continuity with the original apostolic witness.
This challenge has become very necessary because of the high tendency of loosing the pristine tradition in a mass of conflicting interpretations of the meaning of Christ’s life and resurrection. During that period when the apostolic tradition has not been systematized, it could be recalled that there was a group called Gnostics who put forth an interpretation of Jesus that subverted most of the basic doctrines of the Church. They held that Christ was not a true man but a particle of divinity who had merely assumed a human costume. One of their leaders, Marcion, even rejected the Old Testament as the work of an evil, inferior demigod and professed belief only in Paul’s writings. It was in an attempt to overcome such crisis that a threefold solution was gradually devised. They include, the establishment of a specially commissioned ministry, the issuing of an authoritative list of apostolic writings and compilation of the rule of faith or creed. It was upon the foundation of these three-fold solution that the Church erected a durable structure of authority as we shall research by subsequent series

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