Apostolic Vs. Catholic Church: How Are They Different

By Paul King •  Updated: 09/21/23 •  14 min read

The distinction between the Apostolic and Catholic Churches is of utmost significance, both historically and theologically. To truly understand their contrasting identities, we must delve into their origins, doctrinal differences, hierarchical structures, sacraments, and ecumenical relations. Through the lens of relevant facts, quotes from Bible verses, and captivating stories, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances inherent in the relationship between these two Christian denominations.

Let us begin by exploring the origins of these churches. The Apostolic Church traces its roots back to the apostles themselves, who were chosen by Jesus Christ to spread his teachings and establish his church on earth. As we read in Acts 2:42, ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ This verse emphasizes the apostles’ crucial role in guiding the early Christian community.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church also traces its origins back to the apostles. Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.’ This verse highlights Peter’s significant role as the foundation of the Church. The term ‘Catholic’ itself means universal, signifying the church’s mission to spread the gospel to all nations.

When it comes to doctrinal differences, it is important to note that both churches hold the Bible as the sacred and inspired Word of God. However, the Catholic Church also places equal importance on church tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, which is the teaching authority of the church. This is based on 2 Thessalonians 2:15, which says, ‘So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.’

In terms of hierarchical structures, the Apostolic Church typically follows a more decentralized structure, with individual churches having their own autonomy. This can be seen in the example of the early churches in the New Testament, where local elders and leaders were appointed to oversee the affairs of the church. However, the Catholic Church has a more centralized hierarchical structure, with the Pope as the supreme head, followed by bishops, priests, and deacons. This hierarchical structure is based on Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:19, ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

When it comes to sacraments, both churches acknowledge the importance of baptism and the Eucharist. However, the Catholic Church recognizes seven sacraments, including confirmation, confession, marriage, holy orders, and anointing of the sick. These sacraments are seen as channels of God’s grace and are deeply rooted in the early Christian tradition.

In terms of ecumenical relations, both churches strive for unity among Christians. The Apostolic Church often engages in dialogues and cooperative efforts with other Christian denominations to promote understanding and collaboration. Similarly, the Catholic Church has been actively involved in ecumenical dialogues, seeking to heal divisions and work towards Christian unity, as Jesus prayed in John 17:21, ‘that all of them may be one.’

To truly grasp the complexities of the relationship between the Apostolic and Catholic Churches, we must not only examine the historical and theological aspects but also immerse ourselves in the stories and teachings of the Bible. By doing so, we can appreciate the distinctiveness of each denomination while also recognizing the shared foundation in the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Key Takeaways

Historical Origins and Founders

The historical origins and founders of the apostolic and catholic churches are rooted in biblical teachings and events. The apostolic church finds its foundation in the time of Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, who were chosen by Him to spread His message to the world. As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19).

The apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, played a crucial role in the early development of Christianity. They preached the Gospel, performed miracles, and established churches in various regions. The Book of Acts tells us about the formation of the first Christian community, where the believers ‘devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (Acts 2:42).

In contrast, the catholic church, while having its historical origins in the apostolic church, underwent a process of development and expansion over time. This development can be seen as a reflection of the growth and challenges faced by the early Christian community. The catholic church was greatly influenced by theological disputes and debates, which led to the formulation of various creeds and doctrines.

One example of a significant dispute in the early Christian community was the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This council was called to address the Arian controversy, which questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ. The council affirmed the divinity of Christ by declaring that He is ‘of one substance with the Father’ (Nicene Creed).

The catholic church, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of the apostles, continued to develop its understanding of faith and doctrine. The Holy Bible, being the inspired word of God, serves as the ultimate authority for the church’s beliefs and practices. As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16).

Throughout the Bible, there are numerous stories that illustrate the importance of faith, obedience, and unity within the church. One such story is found in the Book of Acts, where the apostle Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit, preached to a Gentile named Cornelius and his household. Through this encounter, it became clear that God’s salvation was not limited to the Jewish people but extended to all who believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 10:34-35).

Doctrinal Differences and Beliefs

Doctrinal differences and beliefs between the Apostolic and Catholic churches are evident and contribute to their distinctiveness. These differences arise primarily from their theological interpretations and the role of Mary within their respective traditions.

The Apostolic Church places a strong emphasis on the authority of the Bible as the sole source of divine revelation. As it is written in 2 Timothy 3:16, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.’ The Apostolic Church upholds a strict adherence to biblical teachings and views the Bible as the ultimate guide for faith and practice.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church recognizes the authority of the Bible but also gives equal weight to sacred tradition and the teachings of the Church. As it is written in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, ‘So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.’ The Catholic Church believes that the Church has the authority to interpret the scriptures and guide believers in matters of faith.

Regarding the role of Mary, the Apostolic Church regards her as a revered figure, recognizing her as a faithful disciple of Jesus. However, they do not ascribe any special status or role beyond that. The Apostolic Church focuses on the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, as it is written in Matthew 12:48-50, ‘He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’

In contrast, the Catholic Church holds Mary in high esteem, considering her as the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven. They believe in her perpetual virginity, as it is written in Luke 1:34-35, ”How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” The Catholic Church advocates for her intercession and veneration, as it is written in Luke 1:48, ‘For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.’

These doctrinal differences and beliefs shape the distinct identities of the Apostolic and Catholic churches and continue to influence their teachings and practices today. It is important to note that while these differences exist, both churches share a common foundation in the teachings of Jesus Christ and strive to follow his example in their faith and actions.

Hierarchical Structure and Authority

Hierarchical structure and authority within the Apostolic and Catholic churches are significant aspects that contribute to their organizational and leadership framework. These structures are rooted in biblical principles and teachings.

In the Catholic Church, the belief in papal supremacy is based on Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus said to Peter, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ This verse is seen as Jesus appointing Peter as the leader of the Church.

Similarly, in the Apostolic Church, the role of bishops is based on biblical teachings. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, it is stated that a bishop must be ‘above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled…able to teach.’ This emphasizes the importance of bishops in providing spiritual oversight and guidance to their respective regions.

One example of hierarchical structure and authority in the Bible is found in Acts 15:1-29. In this passage, the Apostles and elders come together to discuss and make decisions regarding the requirements for Gentile believers. This gathering shows the importance of authority and order in the early Church, as the Apostles and elders exercise their governance over the entire community of believers.

Furthermore, the Bible provides stories that highlight the significance of authority and order in maintaining faith. In Numbers 16, the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram against Moses and Aaron serves as a cautionary tale. Their rebellion and disobedience ultimately led to their demise, highlighting the importance of respecting and submitting to God-given authority.

Understanding these biblical principles of hierarchical structure and authority is crucial in comprehending the differences between the Apostolic and Catholic churches and their perspectives on sacraments and worship practices. Both churches emphasize the importance of maintaining unity and continuity with the apostolic tradition, as guided by the teachings of the Bible.

Sacraments and Worship Practices

Sacraments and worship practices hold immense significance in both the Apostolic and Catholic traditions, shaping the religious experiences and spiritual growth of their respective communities. These practices have evolved over centuries and are deeply rooted in liturgical rituals and communion practices. Let us delve deeper into these sacred practices and explore their theological and spiritual foundations.

In the Catholic Church, the Mass stands as a central liturgical ritual. It is a powerful and structured framework for communal worship. As we find in the book of Luke, Jesus himself instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19). The Mass, therefore, becomes a reenactment of this sacred event, where believers partake in the body and blood of Christ, receiving spiritual nourishment and unity with Him.

Similarly, in the Apostolic tradition, the Divine Liturgy holds great significance. It is a profound and solemn celebration of the Holy Qurbana, which means ‘offering’ in Syriac. This liturgical ritual, as described in the book of Acts, has its roots in the early Christian community, where believers gathered together ‘to break bread’ (Acts 2:42). The Divine Liturgy is a beautiful expression of worship, with prayers, hymns, and symbolic actions that convey the presence of the divine. Through the Holy Qurbana, believers experience spiritual nourishment and unity with Christ and one another.

To further understand the spiritual depth of these sacraments and worship practices, let us turn to the story of the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). In this narrative, two disciples were walking to Emmaus, saddened by the crucifixion of Jesus. As they walked, Jesus himself appeared to them, but they did not recognize him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ (Luke 24:17). They expressed their disappointment and confusion, unaware that they were conversing with the risen Lord.

Jesus then began to explain to them ‘what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ (Luke 24:27). He opened their minds to understand the prophecies and teachings that foreshadowed his sacrifice and resurrection. As they reached Emmaus, Jesus sat down with them and took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. It was in that moment of communion that their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus.

This story beautifully illustrates the significance of sacraments and worship practices in our spiritual journey. The disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus echoes the transformative power of the Mass and the Divine Liturgy. Through the breaking of bread, their eyes were opened, and they experienced the presence of the divine.

These sacraments and worship practices have not only shaped the spiritual lives of believers in the Apostolic and Catholic traditions but have also fostered dialogue and understanding between these two communities. By exploring the depths of these practices, we can continue to build bridges of unity and appreciate the richness of our shared faith in Christ.

Ecumenical Relations and Interactions

Ecumenical relations and interactions between the Apostolic and Catholic traditions have played a significant role in fostering dialogue and understanding, promoting unity and appreciation of their shared faith in Christ. The Holy Bible serves as a firm foundation for both traditions, and it is crucial to refer to relevant facts and quotes from Scripture to enhance our understanding.

One example from the Bible that highlights the importance of unity and finding common ground is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul writes, ‘I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.’ This verse reminds us of the significance of unity among believers and the need to set aside differences for the sake of the shared faith.

Additionally, the sacraments hold great importance in both traditions. The Catholic tradition recognizes seven sacraments, while the Apostolic tradition emphasizes the significance of baptism and the Eucharist. John 3:5 reinforces the importance of baptism, as Jesus says, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’ This verse emphasizes the shared belief in the sacrament of baptism and its role in spiritual rebirth.

When it comes to the differing interpretations of Scripture, it is important to approach these discussions with humility and a willingness to learn from one another. Proverbs 3:5-6 advises, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ This verse reminds us to trust in God’s guidance and to approach theological disputes with an open heart, seeking His wisdom and understanding.

Furthermore, the differing approaches to church governance can be a source of tension in ecumenical dialogue. However, the Bible provides guidance on the importance of leadership and serving with humility. In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus says, ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ This verse reminds us of the importance of servant leadership and the need to prioritize humility and service in our interactions.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.