I live in a nation where the Orthodox Church has great power. They teach that true church must have continuity, with consistent succession of members from person to person all the way back to the first century to the apostles. It's believed that apostle Andrew himself wandered through this land and here started the church (not clearly proved or disproved by historians), which now is Ukrainian Orthodox (Russian Orthodox). It's said that only apostles and their physical successors link the apostolic church to the church of today. Please help me find scriptures and/or teaching that clarifies that the teaching in church, not the church's institutional continuity, is important for God and salvation. -- Oleg Naumenko (Kiev)

Let me say at the outset that I agree with you: the continuity between the Christian church and the first century church is doctrinal, not institutional. The thread that connects us to them is in the scriptures, not in a supposed chain of physical successors of the apostles. The church is described as a building, not as a chain. In Ephesians 2 the foundation is apostolic. There are no apostles today. We can build on the foundation, of course, since through the apostolic scriptures the foundation is firmly laid. But just as if we add a story to a home we do not need to re-lay the foundation, so when we plant a church we do not need to lay the foundation all over again.

The early church devoted itself to the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42). Yet even the apostles did not have the right to change the teaching! Galatians 2:11 is a powerful passage in this regard, as is Galatians 1:7-9. I would certainly make use of these passages to argue your point. One more helpful passage is Mark 3:35 -- we are members of Jesus' spiritual family not by virtue of which group we are part of, but on the basis of our acceptance of God's will in our lives!

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