Vol.XIX No.VI Pg.4
August 1982


Robert F. Turner

We hope that heading will not turn you off or scare you away. It is rarely discussed these days, yet has a place in the thinking of many who do not recognize its presence. Webster says it is "Of priests; relating to the priestly office or function. The doctrine that ordination confers special powers and rights." Still wonder why we brought it up??

Priests in many of today's churches are specially empowered administrators who alone can dispense grace by means of the sacraments. In R.C. doctrine: "...they are also the dispensers of His graces and the almoners of His mercy ... To them alone He gave the power of consecrating His Body and Blood and dispensing the same to the faithful. He has empowered the Priests to impart the grace of regeneration in Baptism." (Faith of Our Fathers, Gibbons.) Need more??

This has direct bearing on church concepts. "The Church alone dispenses the sacraments. It alone makes known the light of revealed truth. Outside the Church these gifts cannot be obtained." (Catholic Encyclopedia, V.3) Is it beginning to get through to you?

The R.C. (and others) believe the Lord established an institution (the church), gave it administrators (the Apostles and their successors), put subject to their administrative power the sacraments ("channels of grace"); so that the institution stands squarely between man and God. "The church" makes valid one's baptism; only "the church" can serve the Lord's Supper; indeed, "The only authority which non-Catholics have for the inspiration of the Scriptures is the authority of the Catholic Church" — so says O'Brien in "Understanding the Catholic Faith." Augustine said, "I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Church" (Schaff, V.7.)

Are Roman Catholics the only ones who have such a concept of "church"? They spell it out for us, but many others accept the spirit of this error. "The great middle-section of the church" just couldn't be wrong — or so we are told. "Baptism is not valid unless one of our preachers baptize you" says another. "The church must serve the Lord's Supper, says another. Somehow many have accepted the idea that the institution administers blessings instead of being the ones on whom the Lord bestows blessings.

Have we truly partaken of the Supper because of who served it, or the hour or place served; or must we commune with the Lord? Can a certain preacher make baptism valid for one who lacks personal faith or dedication? Do we go to "the church" which in turn goes to the Lord on our behalf; or have we a direct relationship with the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, our High Priest?

Sacerdotalism is by no means dead, nor is it confined to the R.C. church. It pops to the surface in discussion of "exclusive" work of the church. We certainly believe the church has assigned functions, but we should be careful in our studies to differentiate "validating authority" from simply "doing" as a team, what the Lord authorized all His followers to do. We are a royal and holy priesthood.