It is very exciting to be in full communion with the very same community that Jesus Christ established. Whether in 40 AD or today, this community is the very same one that has been continued through apostolic succession, unity with St. Peter and his successors, the sacraments, the preaching of the Word of God in Scripture, Sacred Tradition in the liturgy, the creeds, ecumenical councils, veneration of the saints, and more. We are literally in full communion with the apostles, just as much as if we were at the sacred liturgy in the first century.
Protestants imagine that no community has maintained this true continuity with the early Church. If that is so, I wonder what year the original community founded by Jesus failed and lost its essence? What contemporary writers note this event? A year before this event then, would the Catholic Church have been the proper Church? If it failed right away, what writers in the first 1,000 years of Christian history write about this or why isn't it noted in the New Testament? And, how did the Church operate before 367 AD, which is the first time any Church Father ever listed the exact same New Testament canon contents that we have today?
Do Protestants have compelling answers to these questions? Or are Protestants who engage with these questions, by the grace of God, future Catholics?
Here are 12 quotes from the Early Church that leave Protestants grasping at straws to explain them away. Read all 12. These are not obscure men or obscure writings. They are saints who are firmly within the mainstream of Christian history. Another 12 quotes could have been selected just as well. If a Protestant disagrees, he must ask himself, how were these guys all so clueless and why did later generations of Christians revere them so much? There must be Christian writers from the same period who were "in the right" about these topics, so can you find them?
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20)
Question for Protestants: Since you may believe that Jesus is NOT instituting the sacrament of reconciliation here, what is He talking about? What Church Father comments on this correctly?
18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[d] and on this rock[e] I will build my church, and the powers of death[f] shall not prevail against it.[g]19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,[h] and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16)
Question for Protestants: Sinceyou may believe that Jesus is NOT instituting a visible Church here with visible leadership and authority, what is He talking about? What Church Father comments on this correctly?
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6)
Question for Protestants: Since you may believe that the Eucharist is just a symbol and nothing more, what is He talking about? What Church Father comments on this correctly?
St. Ignatius of Antioch (disciple of John) to the Trallians, ~107AD In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church.
Question for Protestants: Since you may believe that St. Ignatius is NOT talking about the visible Church here with visible leadership and authority, what is He talking about? How did a personal disciple of the apostle John, and who was active in the Church for decades during the first century, get so profoundly confused about the nature of the Church? What Church Father comments on this correctly?
St. Ignatius of Antioch (disciple of John) to Philadelphia, ~107AD
And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into
the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they
may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any
man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not
inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a
strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ]....
For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all
them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in
penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop.
Question for Protestants: What about "communion with the bishop"? Do you have a bishop? How did a personal disciple of the apostle John, who was active in the Church for decades during the first century, get so profoundly confused about the nature of the Church? What Church Father comments on this correctly?
St. Ignatius of Antioch (disciple of John) to Ephesus, ~107AD
Especially [will I do this ] if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.
Question for Protestants: Hmm, go back to QUOTE 3 from the Gospel of John. The "medicine of immortality." What an interesting thing to call a mere symbol. And interesting to note that St. Ignatius was personally instructed by the man who wrote the Gospel of John. What Church Father calls the Eucharist a mere symbol?
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, ~180 AD
2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
Question for Protestants: Since anyone, including you, is free to start a valid church just as valid as the Catholic Church, then what is St. Irenaeus talking about with "unauthorized meetings" and that every church must agree with Rome? How did he get so confused when he was taught by St. Polycarp, who was taught by the apostle John? What Church Father corrects St. Irenaeus on these points?
St. Cyprian, On The Unity of the Church -During persecution, from North Africa, 251 AD - 'The Lord saith to Peter: 'I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; to thee I will give the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and what thou shalt have bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what thou shalt have loosed shall be loosed in heaven.' Upon one He builds His Church, and though to all His Apostles after His resurrection He gives an equal power and says: 'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost, whosesoever sins you shall have remitted they shall be remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins you shall have retained they shall be retained', yet that He might make unity manifest, He disposed the origin of that unity beginning from one. The other Apostles were indeed what Peter was, endowed with a like fellowship both of honour and of power, but the commencement proceeds from one, that the Church may be shown to be one... He that holds not this unity of the Church, does he believe that he holds the Faith? He who strives against and resists the Church, is he confident that he is in the Church?
Question for Protestants: I think St. Cyprian asks it well.
St. Augustine (Against the Donatists)
And so the Donatists in some matters are with us; in some matters have gone out from us. Accordingly, those things wherein they agree with us we do not forbid them to do; but in those things in which they differ from us, we earnestly encourage them to come and receive them from us, or return and recover them, as the case may be; and with whatever means we can, we lovingly busy ourselves, that they, freed from faults and corrected, may choose this course. We do not therefore say to them, "Abstain from giving baptism," but "Abstain from giving it in schism."
Question for Protestants: According to St. Augustine, what were the Donatists in schism FROM?
St. Augustine (Against Manichaeus), ~397 AD
The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
Question for Protestants: Why was St. Augustine, himself a Bishop and widely read today by Protestants in his Confessions, so deeply confused about the nature of the Church? What Church Father corrects St. Augustine on these points?
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catecheses, xviii, 26) d. 386 AD ...And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ...
Question for Protestants: Where does the name Catholic come from? See here: http://www.catholic365.com/article/1167/what-catholics-should-know-about-the-word-catholic.html
John Henry Cardinal Newman (d. 1890)
"To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."
Here is why Protestantism is NOT like the Early Church: http://www.catholic365.com/article/1785/protestantism-is-not-like-the-early-church.html
Final question for Protestants: Is it maybe, just maybe, a possibility that all these guys were Catholics and, instead of being deeply confused, accurately reflect the early Church that Jesus established?