“ The very first Christians did not determine which persons were Christ's Apostles by seeing who taught what they themselves thought must have been Christ's gospel. They determined what Christ's gospel was by finding those whom Christ sent, and then listening to their teaching. And the second generation of Christians did not determine which persons were the bishops by determining who believed and taught what they themselves thought was Christ's gospel, but rather by finding those whom the Apostles had authorized and sent, and then listening to their teaching. And the third generation of Christians did the same. That is the way Christ set up the Church.”
But there is a huge problem in Cross’s statement. The apostle Paul said in Galatians 1.8-9: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
The statements of Cross and the apostle Paul are at odds here. Paul says that if the who preaches a different what, he is to be accursed and not followed, and he includes himself and all his fellow holy apostles in that number. That even an apostle was capable of erring in this way is evidenced in Paul’s confrontation with the apostle Peter over the gospel (Gal 2.11-14). The standard of testing is the what delivered once and for all to the saints (Jude 3).
But Cross disagrees with this. He claims that the standard is always the who, not the what. And the who, for Cross, is
Michael Brown is right. Reformed Protestants focus on what Paul, Jude, John and Peter were focused on – the truth; the apostles doctrine. The first church in
focused on the apostles' doctrine. (Acts 2:42) Roman Catholics focus on the persons, the bishops, and their successors throughout history. What happened when the successors went to Arianism for a while and Athanasius was "against the world"? Athanasius writing to true believers, said, "they have the places (buildings, churches), but you have the faith." Jerusalem
"I know moreover that not only this thing saddens you, but also the fact that while others have obtained the churches by violence, you are meanwhile cast out from your places. For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true Faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you. Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the Faith. Clearly the true Faith." (Athanasius, Festal letter 29)
When the apostle says, in Galatians 1:9 “so now I say again”, he was saying “so now I say again, by writing this verse, . . . “ Here is basic Sola Scriptura teaching. “As we have said before” means both in his oral preaching and in verse 8. The writing is God speaking through the apostles. Paul expects the churches to understand his writings. The writings are all we have from the apostles. They are the what. The whos are exhorted to continue to hold to the what, the truth, to guard the deposit ( 2 Tim. 1:14), to remember the words of the prophets and apostles (2 Peter 3:2, Jude 17); to pay attention to the more sure prophetic word, the Scriptures. ( 2 Peter 1:19-21).
Peter, the great who, according to the Roman Catholic Church, did not focus on the who that would succeed him. Instead before he dies, he knows he is going to die soon ( 2 Peter 1:12-15) and he says that by writing this second letter ( see 2 Peter 3:1), he is diligent while he still alive to remind them in the truth (the what; see 2 Peter 1:12). He says that after he is dead, the elect, the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia, Bithynia, (I Peter 1:1) "will be able to call these things to mind." ( 2 Peter 1:15) It is the writings, the Scriptures that "stir up your sincere mind by way of reminder." ( 3:1)
Peter says nothing about any successors or bishops. He calls himself a fellow-elder. ( I Peter 5:1) If the Roman Catholic doctrines and dogmas of the papacy and apostolic succession were the truth, the great apostle Peter, the one who is allegedly the first Pope, would have said something about that in his writings, if it was so important. As it is, he emphasizes the truth, and the writings that believers will have to read after the apostles die, so that they can keep on holding on to the truth.