To whom did Christ give the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church?
Christ gave the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church to the Apostles, the first bishops of the Church.
- St. Peter was the first Head. After a miraculous escape from prison in Jerusalem, he founded his See in Antioch; here the followers of Christ were first called Christians. Peter made frequent missionary journeys through Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Asia Minor, and probably even Greece. He finally fixed his See at Rome.
St. Peter presided at the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem in the year 50 A. D. At the same time that St. Paul was beheaded, St. Peter was crucified head downwards, on Vatican Hill, Rome, 67 A. D.
- St. John, the Beloved Disciple, lived at Ephesus and governed the Church in Asia Minor. In the time of Trajan he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, but was miraculously preserved. Later he was banished to Patmos, where he had the revelations which we call the Apocalypse. He died at the age of about 100 years, the last of the Apostles, and the only one who did not die a martyr's death. He left his Gospel and Epistles.
- St. James the Greater, St. John's brother, labored in Judea, and according to tradition, travelled as far as Spain. He was the first of the Apostles to be martyred being beheaded in Jerusalem in the year 44, by Herod Agrippa.
- St. Matthew preached among the Ethiopians, Persians, and Parthians, and was martyred in Parthia. He wrote the first of the four Gospels.
- St. James the Less was Bishop of Jerusalem. He was cast down from the pinnacle of the Temple in 63 A. D. He left one Epistle.
- St. Andrew, St. Peter's brother, preached along the lower Danube, and was crucified in Greece.
- St. Thomas preached in Persia, Medea, and went as far as India. He was martyred in India, pierced with a lance at the command of the king.
- St. Philip preached in Phrygia and Scythia, and was crucified at Hieropolis.
- St. Bartholomew preached in India, Arabia,.and Assyria. He was flayed and crucified in Armenia.
- St. Simon preached in North Africa, and was martyred in Persia.
- St. Jude preached in Syria, and was martyred in Persia. He wrote the "Catholic Epistle".
- St. Matthias, chosen to take the place of Judas, preached in Ethiopia, and was martyred in Sebastopolis.
- St. Paul was converted miraculously (Acts 9) in the year 34. He of all the Apostles labored the most abundantly. He wrote many Epistles. He is called the Apostle of the Gentiles, because he carried the Gospel to the pagan world. He travelled extensively and successively to Seleucia, Cyprus, Asia Minor, Phrygia, Galatia, Macedonia, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Miletus, and finally Rome. From Rome he went to Spain and the East, then returned to Rome, where he was martyred in 67 A. D.
Did Christ intend that this power should be exercised by the Apostles alone?
No, Christ intended that this power should be exercised also by their successors, the bishops of the Church.
- The Apostles first preached in Judea on the very first Christian Pentecost. Then they dispersed throughout the different countries of the then known world. Everywhere they preached, baptized, and ruled the Christian communities. They were the first bishops of the Church. "As the Father has sent me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
- The Apostles chose men to assist them, imparting to them greater or less powers. Before leaving a place, they chose a successor with full powers (Acts 14:22). Those who received only a small part of the powers of the Apostles were called deacons. Those given greater power were the priests. Those appointed successors to rule in the place of the Apostles were the bishops.
- Christ had given the Apostles full powers to choose successors, when He gave them the powers His Father had given Him (John 20:21) It was His wish that the Apostles should have successors to continue the Church, which He said would last till the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). Without successors to the Apostles, the Church would have no rulers, and being unorganized would never have lasted.