The MOST Theological Collection: Catholic Apologetics Today: Answers to Modern Critics
"Chapter 14: Behold, I Am With You All Days"
We now reach the climax of our search: The proof that the messenger from God told His Apostles to teach, and promised that God would protect their teaching and that of their successors until the very End of Time. In this chapter, we will see the positive proof; in the next chapter, we will answer the chief objections raised to the validity of the foundation of the Church.
"And he went up to a mountain, and called those he wanted, and they came to him. And he caused the twelve to be with him, to send them to preach." Thus Mark 3:13-14 (cf. Matt. 10:5; Luke 9:2) describes the call of the Apostles and their appointment by Jesus to continue His mission of preaching and teaching.
This was at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Himself; at the end, after His Resurrection, Matthew (28:18-20) tells about the confirmation and extension of this mission: "And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and earth. Going therefore, teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
After Pentecost had calmed their first fears and strengthened them, the Apostles went forth fearlessly, teaching the message of Jesus in spite of all threats of beatings, imprisonment, and death, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles.
Everyone then understood that only the Apostles were the official teachers appointed by Jesus, for Acts 5:13 states, "But of the rest no man dared join himself to them; but the people magnified them."
Paul too, commissioned by Jesus on the road to Damascus, went out, tirelessly preaching, in spite of every kind of obstacle and persecution. He, like the other Apostles, made provision for the continuance of the teaching of Jesus. Hence, he left Timothy at Ephesus,64 and wrote to him, "These things command and teach ... Till I come, attend to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine ... Take heed to yourself and to doctrine: be earnest in them. For in doing this you will save yourself and those who hear you." (1 Tim. 4:1 1, 13, 16).
And still more explicitly in 2 Timothy 1:13-14, 2:2: "Hold the form of sound words, which you have heard from me in faith, and in the love which is in Christ Jesus. Keep the good deposit committed to your trust by the Holy Ghost ... And the things which you have heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also."
In the same vein, at the end of the first century, Pope St. Clement I, who was of the same generation as the Apostles Peter and Paul,65 wrote to Corinth, where rebels had dared to oust and supplant the properly appointed successors of the Apostles, "Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of Bishop. As a result, having received full foreknowledge, they appointed those we have mentioned, and meanwhile added a provision that if these would fall asleep [die], other approved men should receive their ministry."66
Jesus Himself had indicated that the mission He gave to the Apostles was not for the one generation only. He made this clear in the words recorded in Matt. 28:20, when He said, "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." He made it clear in other ways too, especially in the parables of the weeds (Matt. 13:24-43) and the net (Matt. 13:47-50). In the first, the kingdom of Heaven is compared to a field in which the master sowed good seed, but his enemy came at night and sowed weeds in the same field. The servants wanted to pull out the weeds but the master said, "No, lest in gathering the weeds, you root up the wheat along with them." He advised, "The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the world." So the Church, with both good and wicked men in it, is to last until the harvest, the end of the world. The same thought is clear in the parable of the net which gathered up fish of every kind. Afterwards, the fishers sorted out the good and the bad fish. "So it will be at the end of the world."
So, as one would naturally expect, Jesus wanted His teaching, by the Apostles and their successors, to go on until the very end.
As one would expect, too, He promised that God would protect that teaching. Really, any sensible leader, if he had the means to do so, would want to protect his organization and see that it would stay faithful to the teachings he imparted to it. Ordinary men cannot make such a provision, but a messenger sent from God could do it, if God so willed. We know that God did so will, for that messenger made the fact clear more than once.
As St. Luke records (Luke 10:16), Jesus told the Apostles, "He who hears you hears me; and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me." That is, he rejects God Himself. So Jesus did, as a messenger from God, assure them that men in hearing them would hear Him-and so in turn, would hear God's message. If not, they would be rejecting God, who sent Him as His messenger.
Similarly, in Matthew 18:17-18, He told the Apostles, "And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to you as the heathen and publican." The words that follow make the case even more emphatic and clear: "Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven."
The words, "binding and loosing" were well known in the teaching of the rabbis of the time. Their regular meaning was to impose or remove an obligation by an authoritative decision or teaching. In the verse just quoted, they were spoken to all the Apostles. As we shall see in Chapter 16, they were also spoken individually and specially to Peter (Matt. 16:19). Commenting directly on the commission to Peter, and so indirectly on the same words to all the Apostles, W. F. Albright, a noted Protestant Scripture scholar often called in his last years "the dean of American Scripture scholars," wrote in his commentary on Matthew, "Peter's authority to 'bind' or 'release' will be a carrying out of decisions made in Heaven. His teaching and disciplinary activities will be similarly guided by the Spirit to carry out Heaven's will."67
We see then, the full import of the words Jesus used in His last farewell to the Apostles, which we quoted earlier (Matt. 28:18-20), "All power is given to me in heaven and earth. Going therefore, teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
Let us now determine at what point we have arrived in our study. We have seen that there lived a man named Jesus, who claimed to be a messenger sent by God, who proved it by miracles worked in special connections. We have seen that He, as we would expect, had an inner circle among the crowds that followed Him, and that He spoke more fully to them, and that, as we would also expect, He told them to continue His teaching. Finally, as we would also suppose from anyone having the means to do so, He arranged to protect their fidelity in continuing His teaching. He said that he who hears you, hears Me; and he who does not, rejects the One who sent Me. So He, by divine commission, sent them as He was sent, with authority, and promises to be with them as they taught men to observe all that He commanded. He will do this until the end of the world.
Now that we have established that there was a body commissioned by a messenger from God and promised protection in the name of God for its teaching, what is expected from us? Intellectually, it is not only permissible to believe what that body teaches-if one is intelligent enough to follow our proofs, it is not just permissible, it is intellectually inescapable. Thus, Catholics follow that teaching, not out of esteem for the humans who bear the commission-in fact, the first head of the body, Peter, even denied Jesus at His trial. No, Catholics accept that teaching because the Apostles and their successors are on the receiving end of the promises. "He who hears you hears me ... I am with you always, to the end of the world."
Therefore, it is not only rational to have faith-it is intellectually required. It is inescapable intellectually, as we have said. As a result, now we can ask that same body to clarify many other things for us, to tell us if the Messenger might happen to be God Himself.68 We ask it to tell us if the Gospels are also inspired by the Holy Spirit, besides being ancient documents that pass the same tests other reliable records pass. Such assurance is needed, for in the first centuries there were in circulation many alleged Gospels and other alleged sacred books. We need to know which really are sacred and inspired. Now we can find out; for the body commissioned by the Divine Messenger can tell us, and has told us. Only in this way do we know what writings constitute the Bible. Anyone who does not accept that divinely-given teaching authority really has no logical right to appeal to the Gospels at all as sacred and inspired. How could he know if they are inspired or not?