(The following article was written by Charles Bury when he served as the pastor of the Open Bible Church, now the Grace Bible Church of Oshkosh, WI. In the latter years of his ministry he also pastored the Falls Bible Church located in Menomonee Falls, WI. I had the privilege of succeeding him at the Falls in 1979, when he had to retire from full-time ministry due to heart problems. Pastor Bury was well read and had a working knowledge of the Greek language. We’re sure you’re going to enjoy his defense of Paul’s gospel.—Pastor Sadler)
In Old Testament days, when the father of a family was about to pass out of this life, he delegated the rulership of the family to one of his sons, usually the eldest. In 2 Kings 2:1-15 we read of another kind of authority being delegated from one to another. Elisha had asked that a double portion of the spirit of Elijah be upon him. When Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven, Elisha rent his clothing and took up the mantle that Elijah left behind, and with it carried on the ministry of his predecessor.
The Roman church claims that her popes are wearing Peter’s mantle, and that all the authority Peter had is now vested in the Roman church in the person of the pope.
Scripture is silent on any apostolic succession from Peter to others, but it is not silent on this concerning Paul. When Paul was about to depart from this life he tried to make sure that the message which God had deposited with him would not die with him. He deposited with Timothy that deposit of truth which Christ had made with him. “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us…And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 1:13,14; 2:2).
Christ had made the truth known to Paul. Paul gave it to Timothy. Timothy was to pass it on to faithful men. These faithful men were to pass it on to others. Several times Paul exhorts Timothy to hold fast to the message (See I Tim. 1:18; 6:20; II Tim. 1:8,13,14; 3:14).
Just as Elisha picked up Elijah’s mantle, so Timothy picked up the one Paul left behind. The faithful men picked it up when Timothy dropped it, but it is doubtful if any picked it up when these faithful men laid it down. Walker’s History of the Christian Church gives us this information: “The forty years of Church history from 70 A.D. to 110 A.D. are very obscure, due to lack of evidence. During this period a rapid change took place however, for when the characteristics of the Church can once more be clearly traced, it shows surprisingly little of the distinctive stamp of Paul.”
Jowett, in his book “The Epistles of St. Paul” says: “In later writings we find no trace of the mind of St. Paul. His influence seems to pass from the world. There is no trace that his writings left any lasting impress within the Church, or perhaps anywhere in the first ages.”
The Epistle to the Galatians shows that, even in Paul’s own lifetime, legalism was beginning to exclude the message of Grace. The generation after Timothy would not take up Paul’s mantle and the line of succession was broken. For hundreds of years Paul’s mantle lay in the closet, covered up by the rubbish of religion and tradition. Now there is a movement on foot to pick up Paul’s mantle again, and we are a part of this movement to revive the message that goes with the mantle. Some in Paul’s day wore it for a while, then when persecution came they threw it into the ragbag. Many in our day have done the same thing. Cost what it may, let us not discard the mantle that we have wrapped about us. The Grace of God is the remedy for the ills of sinners, saints, and a feeble, religious Christendom. According to religion the mantle is out of style, but according to the Lord the mantle will be in style as long as the dispensation of the grace of God lasts. Let’s wrap it tightly about us and fight the good fight of faith in it. Let us not compromise with religion concerning truth, nor with the world concerning practice. May Christ come soon and find us wearing the mantle faithfully.