Saint Irenaeus stands out as a Church Father who stresses the need for Apostolic Tradition. In his historical context, he engaged in polemical debates with heretics of every stripe. These heretics would, of course, appeal to Scriptural texts to justify their heretical doctrines. Again and again, Irenaeus stressed that the Catholic Church maintained a true "apostolic succession" and thus the true "apostolic tradition". In other words, Irenaeus appealed to a dogmatic lineage. The Scriptural texts don't float out there for just anyone to interpret. Rather, they belong to the Church and remain in that context.
"In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the Apostles until now, and handed in truth."One might observe that "succession" and "ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles" safeguards the "one and the same vivifying faith".
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3, 3, 3 (ca. A.D. 185)
So that there is no confusion, Irenaeus believes that a true historical succession is necessary and essential to right doctrine:
"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who as I have shown, possess succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of bishops, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession of the succession, and assemble themselves...But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, shall recieve from God the same punishments as Jeroboam did."In other words, if a teacher is not union with the successors of the Apostles, he is to be held "in suspicion". The Apostle John has not yet been dead 100 years and yet the Church has already insulated itself from heresy by recognizing only the successors of the Apostles.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4, 26, 2
Luther and Calvin's denial of a real historical "apostolic succession" places them alongside the Gnostics who also denied the historical lineage of the Church's bishops. They find themselves fundamentally opposed to Irenaeus - an orthodox Christian writing in the late second century!