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The doctrine of Apostolic Succession is the belief that the twelve apostles passed on their authority to successors, who then passed the apostolic authority on to their successors and continuing throughout the ages to this day.
However, nowhere in the New Testament are any of the twelve apostles recorded as passing on their apostolic authority to successors. Jesus ordained the apostles to build the foundation of the church. “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).
God’s Word basis for the church
The church does not need apostolic successors to continue but rather it needs the teachings of the apostles accurately recorded and preserved. And that is exactly what God has provided in His Word: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise“; (Ephesians 1:13 also Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2).
Some believe that there is no legitimacy to any church that cannot trace its lineage back to the apostles. But a true church is not based on the apostolic succession but rather on following the doctrines of God’s Word. And doctrinal differences are a result of some Christians refusing to agree with what the scripture says – and not a result of there being no “supreme authority” to interpret Scripture.
“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32)
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more a]fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).
The Bible is very clear that the Lord adopts people into His church who may not have any apostolic succession. For instance, the apostle Paul, was not trained by Jesus or the apostles directly, and yet was called by the Lord to lead in the church. Also, Martin Luther, is another example of a Christian leader who received the calling of God through the study of the Word not through the apostolic succession. And there are many other examples through the history of the Christian Church.
In His service,