Matthew on Church

Usually, three classic passages from Matthew are cited as foundational for the Christian church: 10 Jesus sends out the Disciples; 18 Jesus discusses the inner life of the Church; Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus sets out the terms of authority and mission.

Before turning to strictly ecclesiological questions, however, it is important to put the church in context by considering the Sermon on the Mount as a whole (5-7).

Matthew's idea of a church is of a believing community whose beliefs are in contrast to those of traditional Jews; most scholars agree that he was writing in a period of tension between Christians and Jews with the object of distinguishing between the two groups. However, there was no settled church structure when Matthew was writing. The Gospel Apostles, Paul and a few others (Acts 15; Galatians 1:13-24; 2:1-14) had been, not without controversy, the initial authority; they had handed on authority (Acts 14:21-23) and, regardless of the authorship of 1/2 Timothy, it is important to recognise the beginnings of structure towards the end of the 1st Century (1 Timothy 3). There is also a reference to "elders" in James (Matthew 5:13-15). We must, however, contrast this with 1 Peter 2 on the "Royal priesthood of all believers"

There are three strands of discussion which we might pursue:

  1. How do we square the idea of the "Royal Priesthood" with clerical hierarchy; and what might this say about Synodical Government?
  2. How important is the 'Apostolic succession" which defines episcopacy and divides Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism?
  3. Who has the power to "bind and loose".
  4. There is a critical fourth question:
  5. In view of the idea that God is Love and that God came to save all mankind, how should we view Matthew 25:31-46? For Evangelical Christians this is very coherent but for liberal Catholics this is a challenging passage.


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