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The Power of the Church

September 22, AD2017

There is a movement today in the world that denies the power of the Church of Jesus Christ in our lives. The narrative goes something like this: “I’m spiritual, not religious. I have my bible and my beliefs about God, and I don’t need any organized church to tell me what to think or what to do. We’re all going to heaven anyway, because God is good and wouldn’t send any believer to hell. It’s just me and my bible.” But is this what the Bible teaches? In a nutshell, No.

The foundation of the Church

First off, Jesus Christ Himself built His church on the rock of Peter (Peter is Greek for rock). Upon being introduced to Simon (“One who hears”), Jesus changes Simon’s name,

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas. (Jn 1:42)

Cephas (or Kephas in some translations), is Aramaic for Rock. In the Bible, a name change is very significant. It means that the person will now have a new mission in life, as declared by God Himself. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (from “exalted father” to “father of many”) and Jacob’s name (which means “Supplanter”) to “Israel” (which means “Triumphant with God”). In much the same way, God (Jesus) changed Simon’s name to Rock. So Peter became the head of the Church (the Rock) that Jesus built:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. (MT 16:18)

Infallibility and governing are powers of the Church

A couple of chapters later, in Matthew 18, Jesus tells us of the infallibility and power of His Church on earth:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (MT 17:17-18)

In the above verse, Jesus says that His Church on earth has the power not only to settle disputes, it also has the power of heaven to bind and loose dogmas and decisions. This is why the Church grants annulments, declares infallible dogma, and gives absolution to repentant sinners. It does all of these things with the power of Jesus Christ Himself, according to the bible verse above.

The identity of the Church as Jesus

After Jesus died on the cross, Saul went around persecuting the Church of Jesus Christ:

But Saul laid waste the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

On the way to Damascus to arrest more Christians, Jesus appeared to Saul as a great light and asked Saul why he was persecuting Him (His Church):

And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”  (Acts 9:4-5)

Notice in the above verses that Saul had no idea he was persecuting Jesus Christ. Rather, he thought that he was merely persecuting the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus does not make that distinction in his statement to Saul. Jesus considered His Church to be Himself! Saul, a person in darkness had seen a great light!

Paul’s testimony to the power of the Church

After his conversion to Christianity, Saul changed his name to Paul, and he had a lot to say about the church. For instance, Paul condemns divisions within the church when it meets as a church:

For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, (1 Cor 11:18)

Note in the above verse that Paul does not say “when you are all alone with the scriptures (the “me and my bible alone” heresy); rather, he assumes that we will all be meeting together as one united Church. This is why denominationalism is so bad, because it means division, not unity.

A chapter later, Paul says that there are many different types of people within in the church, not outside the church:

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12:28)

The above verse implies that to be in union with Christ, you have to be in the Church, not outside of it.

One of the most powerful verses that outlines the power of the Church is:

that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:10)

The Bible itself was identified by the power of the Church, who is its interpreter

The Church created the canon of the Bible in 382 AD, at the Council of Rome. Here we see that the wisdom of God is made known through the Church, and not just in the Bible alone. Why? Because the Bible can be misinterpreted in so many ways. Only the identifier of the Bible, which is the Church, has the power of correct interpretation of sacred scripture. We know this also from 2 Peter 1:20:

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

and from

if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. (1 Tm 3:15)

The above two verses say that personal interpretation of scripture is forbidden, but thanks be to God, His Church is the pillar and bulwark of Truth. This means that the Church is infallible when it comes to its interpretation of scripture. Otherwise, it would not be the pillar of truth.

Other powers of the Church

St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is full of references to the Church of Jesus Christ, and what it is. In the following verse, we learn that we give God glory through His Church:

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Eph 3:21)

In Ephesians, Paul also says that Christ is the head of His Church. So many people think of the Church only as a meeting place for like-minded believers, where singing, preaching, and fellowship are paramount. But, Paul says that Christ is the head of His church, which is His body, and that means so much more than just singing, preaching, and fellowship:

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Eph 5:23)

What this means is that Christ nourishes His Church through His own flesh (the Eucharist):

For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, (Eph 5:29)

The central power of the Church, offering the Eucharist

In the above verse, Paul hints that Jesus nourishes and cherishes His church through his own flesh. How? Through the Eucharist, where in John 6 he tells us to consume His flesh and blood, so that we will live forever:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (Jn 6:53-58)

In the Mass, Christ, the Head of the church, meets with us, the body of Christ, where we unite our sufferings with His sacrifice, and we become united with Him. Thus, the Head of the church and the body of the Church become one spiritual entity at Mass:

He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. (Col 1:18)

Our sufferings, which we offer to Christ in the Mass, complete the afflictions of Christ on the cross, so that we, the Body of Christ (the Church) become one with Him on Calvary, through time and space:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. (Col 1:24)

The next verse is a direct reference to the Eucharist, which is present only in the Catholic Church.

When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15)

The sanctifying power of the Church is exercised through its priests

Another thing that the “Me and my bible” believers need to realize is that only priests in the church (the presbyters, or elders) can give the last rites when sickness occurs. The forgiveness of sins when near death should be one of the things that is foremost in our minds:

Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (Jas 5: 14-15)

Jesus also hints at another practice of the Catholic Church, namely priestly celibacy, for the sake of His Kingdom, the Church.

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, (Lk 18:29)

The power of the Church is the power of the Kingdom of God

Finally, when the risen Lord wrote His letters to the believers in the book of Revelation, He wrote them to the churches, not to individual bible-believing Christians:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, (Rv 1:4)

This indicates that it is Jesus Himself who puts such a primary emphasis on the Church. The Church is not some man-made stand-alone entity. Rather, it is the Kingdom of God on earth:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15)

Also, the Kingdom of God is at hand, right here, and right now. Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God in the past tense, so this indicates that it is already here on earth:

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)

The Catholic Church has been in the midst of the world for over 2000 years:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Lk 17:20-21)

Conclusion

So the next time someone says it’s just “Me and my Bible,” tell them what the bible actually says about that!

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Retired engineer from Texas, because the cowboy thing on the ranch growing up didn't work out. Actually rode the Vomit Comet at NASA in Houston once, being totally weightless for 20 minutes! Married with two kids and Vinnie the Wonder Dog. I love the Church and what it stands for. Without the sacraments, I am nothing.

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  • The power of the individuals in the Church is Jesus Christ.

  • YoikesAndAway

    Well, I believe that the Christian FAITH and all that Jesus as taught and given us is like a great ship that cannot be destroyed. Unfortunately, the men that are controlling this ship have driven her into reefs, rocks, sandbars, off waterfalls, tossed people overboard for their pleasure, and every other terrorizing behavior. I believe in the faith, NOT the church, not the ones “leading” it off the cliff with the evil that seems to come from it daily through GRAVE sins and debauchery. I follow Christ, not the men of the RCC.

    • Within the context of your faith, how do you interpret Mt 16:18? The Church is often referred to as the barque of Peter, in keeping with your simile of a great ship.

    • YoikesAndAway

      The dogs of hell are doing what they do with barque (bark) and we stand by and let it happen. We either share their blame and sinfulness and therefore their pending judgement, or we have the faith and trust in God to flee into the wilderness until a time where they have been divinely corrected. I reject not the tenets of my catholic faith, just the ones bent on destroying it.