The Fullness of Truth

Throughout the past two thousand years of history, Christianity has been defined by a few basic truths. All who call themselves Christian have acknowledged these truths as fundamental to the faith. First is the belief in One God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. Before we can believe in anything else we must first believe in God. Secondly, the faith of all Christians depends on our belief in the Holy Trinity as the central mystery of Christianity. We believe that the One God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Three Persons sharing one divine nature. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, three Divine Persons really distinct and equal in all things, yet they are one and the same God, having one and the same divine nature and substance. The Trinity is a strict mystery because it could not be rationally conceived before the self-revelation of God, and cannot be rationally comprehended (fully understood) even since its revelation. Another basic tenet of Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. He suffered and died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. He rose from the dead and He ascended into heaven. We also believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Furthermore, we believe in the mercy of God - that He will reward us for our good deeds. We also believe He is a God of Justice - that He will punish those who have sinned. Therefore in order to be saved we must have faith, we must obey the Commandments of God and of the Church He established, we must have an active prayer life (communicate with and listen to God), and we must put into practice what we have learned.

God chose to reveal Himself to the children of Israel. He inspired the prophets of old to write down and pass on their understanding of who God is and what He wants from us. The history of salvation starts with our first parents, Adam and Eve, using their free will to disobey God by allowing themselves to be tempted to sin by the serpent (Satan). They and their offspring were cursed with the stain of original sin, which is the absence of God's presence (restored in Baptism). But God provided hope for the future. The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:14-15) "The woman" He spoke of was the Virgin Mary. "Her seed" was the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.

"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22) Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who was born of the Virgin Mary, the second Eve, came to redeem us from the sin of the first Adam and to reconcile us with God. In order to fulfill God's plan for our salvation, Jesus chose Twelve Apostles to receive the fullness of the Gospel teachings. He specifically chose Peter to be the first in authority among the apostles. It was upon "this rock" (Peter) that Christ promised He would build His Church. It was to Peter alone that Christ gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven. He also promised Peter infallibility (the inability to err when teaching in matters of faith and morals) when He said, "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)

Jesus Christ intended for His Church to continue teaching the Gospel with His authority until the end of time. Jesus is like the wise man who built His house (the Church) on a rock (Peter), "...it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Matthew 7:24-27) He promised the gates of hell would not prevail against it when He said, "...you are Peter (Kepha - Rock), and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) In Matthew 18:15-18 Jesus commands His followers to take disputes involving religious matters to the Church for resolution. He would not instruct us to do such a thing if He knew that the Church would soon fall into total apostasy and become corrupted. The Church must, out of necessity, always exist in order for Jesus to give such a command. Matthew 28:19-20 provides the undeniable statement from Jesus that He would be with His Church until the end of time. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." It is impossible for the Church to apostatize and become doctrinally corrupt, for Jesus promised He would always remain in His Church. Lastly, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the pillar and ground (bulwark or foundation) of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) These are very strong words used to indicate strength, stability, and permanence. In order to be the pillar and foundation Paul speaks of, the Church must be a permanent teacher of truth, not a temporary household built upon sand only to be rebuilt later.

The Twelve Apostles chose others to be bishops (Greek meaning "an overseer"). These bishops were appointed by the Apostles to continue their mission from Christ. The bishop has the authority and power of Christ to administer all the sacraments, including ordination of other men to the priesthood. Apostolic succession was first demonstrated in Acts 1:20-26 when Matthias was chosen to replace Judas. Every validly ordained bishop in the Catholic Church can trace his priesthood authority back through history to one of the Twelve Apostles. This authority has been passed on in an unbroken chain of ordinations by the laying-on of hands from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops, and to their successors, other bishops, and so on down the line throughout all of Catholic Christian history. The bishops of the Catholic Church are the successors to the Apostles in a continuous line of apostolic succession. The Catholic Church has existed continuously since the time of the Apostles, and it was founded as an earthly organization upon Peter, the rock.

My brothers and sisters, the choices are quite simple. Either there was a "Total Apostasy" in the early Christian Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was lost to the world for hundreds of years, or the Christian Church has survived intact for almost 2,000 years through "Apostolic Succession". If we accept the "Total Apostasy" theory then we must believe that the Gospel was lost and the promises of Christ set forth in the Bible are meaningless. For arguments sake, let's say that the Gospel was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Even if that were true we have no assurance that it will not be corrupted again. According to Mormon teaching, Jesus Christ founded what would eventually become an apostate church built upon sand, both in the Holy Land and in the New World, according to the Book of Mormon. Since He failed to establish a lasting church twice before, we may reasonably question whether or not He will succeed this time. Thus, logically we cannot trust the Word of God to contain the fullness of truth, hence the Mormon need for continuing revelation which updates and changes the truth. However, if the "Total Apostasy" theory cannot be proven by biblical or historical evidence, then the Ancient Church is in fact the same Catholic Church that we see today. No other Christian church can trace its authority unbroken back to the original apostolic source other than the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ. We can be confident that the original Deposit of Faith was carefully handed down to us through "Apostolic Succession". We can also be sure that Jesus Christ kept His promises, that His Church survived, and that it will continue to proclaim the fullness of truth until the end of time.

 



References and Footnotes

All Bible references are taken from the
Revised Standard Version (RSV) - Catholic Edition
(unless otherwise indicated)

 

Genesis 3:14-15

The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."


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1 Corinthians 15:22

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.


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Matthew 16:18-19

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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.


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Matthew 7:24-27

"Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."


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Matthew 16:18

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.


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Matthew 18:15-18

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 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."


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Matthew 28:19-20

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."


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1 Timothy 3:15

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.


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Acts 1:20-26

"For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it'; and 'His office let another take.' So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us -- one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsab'bas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthi'as. And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthi'as; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.


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