Most Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that apostolic power, the power to create a new church, is derived from Peter in apostolic succession (Matthew 16:18), and all church leadership should be centralized under their respective organizations. Centralization practically means that a small group of men have the power to control any aspect of any church, including the definition of morality. Catholics also believe in papal supremacy: that the pope exercises unhindered universal power, similar to a dictator. The following reasons show how Jesus fought extreme centralization (Luke 9:49-50) and taught the decentralization of apostleship (Ephesians 4:8,11,13) because of His lack of trust in humanity (John 2:24-25). Paul says his ability to lead churches comes not from men (Galatians 1:1) and he didn’t need to consult the first Pope (Galatians 1:16-17).
All Protestants disagree with apostolic succession and believe anyone can start a church if God has personally called them to it. Pope Francis said that Protestants are “Christians brothers” to the Catholics.
Paul said he did not need Peter’s approval to be an apostle.
Paul said his apostleship is directly from Jesus and “not from men” (Galatians 1:1), and this directly contradicts the concept of papal supremacy. He didn’t need the apostles’ approval (Galatians 1:16-17). If Jesus instituted apostolic succession to Peter, Paul would be required to talk to Peter first. Only after 3 years of church planting did he visit the Pope (Galatians 1:18). Paul created many churches, all from where we get our books of the Bible, such as Galatians, Ephesians, and Corinthians. None of these churches, historically, or biblically, have any tie with the original Pope Peter.
The apostle John also once thought that all churchgoers must be under the authority of his group, but Jesus corrected him (Mark 9:38,39). Instead, Jesus said, “the one who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40) Logically, if a Protestant is not against a Catholic, yet he supports him because he belongs to Christ, then the Protestant will not lose his reward (Mark 9:41).
Paul said to never “follow” another person or organization.
Paul says that real unity (I Corinthians 1:10-11) is not following individuals humans or organizations (I Corinthians 1:12-13) or dedicating large amounts of resources to non-Christian organizations (II Corinthians 6:14-15,16-17) because we are baptized under Jesus (I Corinthians 1:13) as our only Master (Matthew 6:24). Following humans always leads to tribalism because nonbelievers’ good intentions are always corrupted by demonic power (II Corinthians 4:4). Following Jesus always leads to life (John 14:6). Note that you can and must have Christian leaders (II Timothy 2:2), just make sure not to follow them blindly (I John 2:27).
Jesus directly makes apostles in a decentralized format.
Jesus is giving men (Ephesians 4:8) the gift of apostleship (Ephesians 4:11) until we measure up to Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Almost all Christians would agree that the church currently doesn’t have faith that measures to “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Therefore, apostles are currently made by Jesus directly, just like Paul (Galatians 1:1). Because a human will likely never be perfect like Christ, human apostles will probably be created forever.
Jesus promoted unity through separation, not assimilation.
Although Jesus created the Jewish movement, He wanted the first Christian disciples to leave His old church to start a new one (Matthew 16:18), because the Jews were too corrupt (Matthew 23) and needed reformation (Galatians 2:7-8). Jesus is saying that the best way to preserve the wine of God’s Word is not by putting a patch on the old wineskin of His Jewish movement (Matthew 9:16), but to create a new wineskin of the Catholic church (Matthew 9:17). In the same way (as will be forever until Jesus returns), the Catholic church has been corrupted by the very same sins of the Jewish Pharisees, by creating books that are equivalent with God’s Word, and as such needed reformation (Mark 7:7-8,13). The Catholics too equate tradition with the Bible, and as such need reformation.
Following any church is not listed in the list of core doctrine.
Titus 3:4-8 gives a list of core doctrine, and Titus 3:1-3,9-11 tells us to avoid quarreling any further about core doctrine. If following a church was required for salvation, it would have been listed here.
The pope believes that non-Catholics can go to heaven.
Pope Pius XII said in 1949, “It is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing. However, this desire need not always be explicit…” If you, like many Catholics, believe that a person not in your group will go to heaven if they genuinely seek Jesus’ church (John 14:6), then logically not all Protestants need to be united on earth with Catholics but only when Jesus is King (I Corinthians 13:12)
Would a centralist have chosen Jesus?
If you were a centralist back in those days, you likely would have been a Pharisee, someone Jesus disliked, because they believed in traditions over truth (Mark 7:7-8,13). If Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), would you? Most likely they would have said that the one true church is found only in the Judaic law, and would have rejected Jesus because He did not feel like a safe home with great leaders to fall back on.
There is no ministerial qualification that requires submission to a higher church.
If apostolic succession was truly a command, then it would follow that deacons and elders would be required to submit to these line of apostles, but the Bible never mentions this in any of its requirements of church leadership (I Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:5-9; I Peter 5:1-3).
Jesus said the kingdom of God cannot be observed.
Most Catholics or Orthodox refer to their church as the “one true church.” They say knowing God and his kingdom clearly is going to your local parish. Jesus actually taught the opposite, that it would be difficult to observe the kingdom of God (Luke 17:20). Because the Catholic organization can easily be observed, we know the kingdom is not them. Rather, the kingdom is like an invisible church composed of dedicated followers of Christ (Luke 17:21), despite what group they are a part of (Luke 9:49-50).
There is no logically denoting verse about apostolic succession.
There is no verse in the Bible that logically denotes that the power of an apostle is derived from the public or private favor of a previous apostle. Some verses are used to support “apostolic succession,” but they would agree that the claim is implicit. Something as important as who is allowed to lead in a church wouldn’t be implicit, and it isn’t (Ephesians 4:8,11,13).
Is forgiveness found in my church alone (John 20:23)?
This verse is sometimes explained that only the disciples and their ancestors can forgive because only Peter was given the keys that bind people to heaven or hell (Matthew 16:18-19). This is misinterpreted because 2 chapters later, Jesus said everyone can bind to heaven (Matthew 18:15,18). Salvation through forgiveness is not found in any person or church (Psalms 146:3). Forgiveness comes from God alone after inner repentance (I John 1:9).
Isn’t my church’s unbroken line of successors from Peter mean we’re the only church?
Like any organization, it’s normal for the president (Matthew 16:18) to pass his authority down; otherwise, the organization would die. This does not mean that Jesus was somehow limited to one organization. It’s quite normal for a president to create other companies that can work more efficiently rather than one large company. Jesus said directly that He didn’t want just one organization (Mark 9:38,39,40-41) because He wants to preserve the old truth with the new breaking of old lies (Matthew 9:16,17).
What is “keys to the kingdom” a reference to?
Apostolic succession is usually implicitly derived from the keys in Matthew 16:18-19, but unlocking the lock to the kingdom has already been defined as accepting Jesus as Lord by believing in His grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The context of Matthew 16 doesn’t give a single reference to succession, or the passing of authority from one leader to another.
Who is teaching entrusted to?
Another commonly used verse is II Timothy 2:2, but it says directly in the verse that these men are not apostles, just faithful. The context of II Timothy 2 gives no reference to church hierarchy or leadership but is just a general charge for churchgoers. Moreover, churchgoers have no need, even if helpful, for church teachers because that’s the job of the Holy Spirit (I John 2:27).
Why should I question my church if it feels safe and like home?
Jesus said His home is in anyone who loves Him (John 14:23). We understand it’s hard to leave your home, as this is also why many Muslims and Hindus stay in a religion they don’t believe in. This is why Jesus came to separate households (Matthew 10:34-36,37), not keep us stuck to them. God wants us to put Him over any group (Matthew 10:38-39). If you feel your church is missing some of the truth, it is your duty to find the truth, the only thing that can give you salvation (John 8:32).
Is my church validated in all of its miracles?
Like us, so long as you are for the Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox churches, you are still validated in all of their miracles (Mark 9:38,39,40-41). Just because you leave a church, that doesn’t mean you are against them are even stop loving them; it just means that you believe there is a better way (Matthew 9:16,17).