The question arises: How does the Catholic Church keep going despite the revelations in country after country, city after city, of child abuse by the Catholic clergy? What is the glue that keeps the members of the Roman Catholic Church faithful to the hierarchy?
“The strongest appeal of the Roman Catholic Church lies in its claim to ‘apostolic succession,’ that is, that its popes descended in direct line from the apostles [Peter]. Protestants, originating in the sixteenth century, have no such appeal. Their strong argument lies in their exact conformity with the Bible in faith and morals. ‘The Bible, and the Bible only’ is their battle cry.” Christian Edwardson, Facts of Faith, 26.
The Church Rests On a Person. “The true church of God rests on a Person, even Christ. No one is saved by simply believing a system of truth. The truth is the light that shows the sinner his way to the Savior. He is united to Christ by his faith which takes hold of the Savior, and by the Spirit who comes to dwell in his heart. Thus is he a member of the spiritual body. The Bible, ministers, and ordinances are the channels through which the life of the Head flows into the members of the body. Thus are they built up a spiritual house, a holy temple—’built on the foundation of prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself the chief corner-stone.’
“All this is most adroitly counterfeited in the Pope’s church. It is only in the way of the members of that church resting on Peter, or what is the same thing, on the Pope, that they can be saved. Romanists tell us that it is essential to the salvation of every human being that he be subject to the authority of the Pope. Peter—that is, the Pope—is the one reservoir of grace; from him it flows down through the grand conduit of apostolic succession to all the members of the ‘church,’ and thus are they built up a spiritual house-built upon the foundation of traditions, sacraments, priests, bishops, cardinals, the Pope himself being the chief corner-stone.” 1920 WW Prescott, The Doctrine Of Christ, 276, 277 .
Alignment with scriptural teaching, not apostolic succession, is the determining factor of the trueness of a church. What is mentioned in Scripture is the idea that the Word of God was to be the guide that the church was to follow (Acts 20:32). It is Scripture that was to be the infallible measuring stick for teaching and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the Scriptures that teachings are to be compared with (Acts 17:10120. Apostolic authority was passed on through the writings of the apostles, not through apostolic succession.[ELLEN WHITE: “The Pharisees had declared themselves the children of Abraham. Jesus told them that this claim could be established only by doing the works of Abraham. The true children of Abraham would live, as he did, a life of obedience to God. They would not try to kill One who was speaking the truth that was given Him from God. In plotting against Christ, the rabbis were not doing the works of Abraham. A mere lineal descent from Abraham was of no value. Without a spiritual connection with him, which would be manifested in possessing the same spirit, and doing the same works, they were not his children.
This principle bears with equal weight upon a question that has long agitated the Christian world—the question of apostolic succession. Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship. A life actuated by the apostles’ spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel.” Desire of Ages, 466, 467.
Apostolic Succession.—Like most of those subjects which have involved Christendom in fierce debate, the question is not raised in Scripture at all. The real question is that of the right and Divine authority of man to preach the Gospel.
Notice Paul’s language to the Galatians: ‘But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’ Gal. i. 8. This shows at once the folly of placing any dependence upon ‘apostolical succession.’ The important thing is not the station of a preacher, or the line of ‘succession’ which he may be able to trace back to early times, but the word which he preaches. But people have come to pay little attention to the latter, and are ready to accept as truth almost anything which the Church dignitaries may say, provided only that there be no question as to his rightful place in the ‘succession.’
The Bible tells us who are authorized to give the Gospel invitation. ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come.’ Rev. 22:16. Whosoever hears the gracious invitation may pass it on to his fellow man. It is both his privilege and his duty to do so. But any person, no matter how high or ‘valid’ his station, who preaches any other gospel than that which Paul preached, puts himself under a curse.
The only apostolic succession that the Bible knows anything of is that of apostolic faithfulness in preaching the Word. ‘And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ 2 Timothy 2:2. The important thing was the teaching, and the command of the Lord was that believers should teach all things that He had commanded, even unto the end of the world. ‘I charge thee therefore before, God, and the Lord Jesus Christ,… Preach the Word.’ He, then, is in the apostolic succession who preaches the Word. E.J. Waggoner, Present Truth UK, 9/9/1897.