Roman Catholicism makes Peter’s confession of Jesus Christ
the ultimate schismatic offense, proving they are the ones
forcing schism upon the body of Christ.
Where I grew up – in Boston Massachusetts – no building was allowed to be taller than the massively elegant “Custom House.”
Completed in 1849, it still stands proud at 496 feet.
A century later the John Hancock Insurance company erected their first building but they were required to keep it shorter than the Custom House. Begrudgingly, they settled for their own structure a mere 12 inches shorter than the Custom House.
But ironically, both buildings broke the law. All along Boston’s building codes only allowed a maximum height of 125 feet, a fact known only to insiders who accepted bribes and favors to forget that in all their inspections.
It was easier to pay off the politicians and the various governmental disciplinarians than change the codes, and so the statutes were covered up and politics were played. But you know what? Some pretty great things were built.
Boston, like all cities, had one set of codes in its law books and another set of codes for actually getting things done. No one stills claims Boston as the “city set on the hill,” filled with righteousness for all to see.
After all, Boston wasn’t built on a hill but a filled-in swamp, so the foundations have never cried for righteousness, architecturally or otherwise. The city I know succumbed to architectural modernity by compromise and blood money. Two insurance titans built skyscrapers in the 1960s and 1970s. First came the square-shaped Prudential, and then in a fit of revenge, John Hancock Insurance built again, only this time a wedge-shaped tower. When it opened to the public many of its massive sheets of glass fell hundreds of feet to the ground.
That got patched up in embarrassment and today the John Hancock Tower rises to 790 feet. Visitors to its upper levels peer down on all things Boston including “The Pru,” Boston’s name for the Prudential building. John Hancock finally got the preeminence they were denied decades earlier.
Take that, Boston, and take that, New England. For over 30 years this insurance giant has owned the tallest building in this über-quirky 6-state region of the USA.
I Will Build My Church
One day all man-made buildings will fall but one architectural masterpiece will forever stand – Christ’s Church. The reason why is simple. Jesus promised it would, saying,
“I will build My Church and the gates of hell
will not prevail against it”
Matthew 16:18 is the passage of Holy Scripture that stands tallest when considering all things Church.
Protestants and Evangelicals join Orthodox and Roman Catholics in confessing this great cornerstone text. Not only is it the first mention of the word “church” in the Bible but we who love Christ’s churches are ourselves a living proof of Christ’s prophetic power. It was spoken more than a year before our Lord was crucified and sure enough, here we are, 2000 years later. Like the hymn so wonderfully puts it, “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord…”
But something is desperately wrong in the present era of Christian churches. We confess with Peter that Jesus is “the Son of the Living God” but we live out schism Sunday after Sunday against those who make the same confession. And more schisms are occurring all the time. The fact is we don’t trust each other and even if we live on the same street we won’t worship together every Sunday.
Oftentimes our churches are built on opposite sides of the same street corner but we are worlds apart when it comes to agreeing on role of Jesus’ apostles, who wrote the New Testament.
There are only two ways churches claim a connection to the 1st C apostles. Many churches in Christendom connect themselves to the apostles by some form of Apostolic Succession (AS), a belief that Christ is revealing ongoing instruction on how churches are to believe and function through bishops. These beliefs and practices exist only in seed form in the New Testament but are developing into maturity later in church history.
Apostolic Succession is most popularly expressed by Roman Catholicism but is also expressed as confidently by Eastern Orthodoxy and even in some Protestantism (i.e., Church of England, some Lutherans), though it differs in consistency from church tradition to church tradition but all feature one commonality.
But if schism is to end in a unity that honors Jesus Christ then those church practices built on successionism will need to be replaced by church practices built on the foundation for the church given in NT’s 27 books, and easily accepted because they are made clear since they are taught in both Precept and Example. This is called Apostolic Foundationalism, the other way to claim a connection to the 1st C apostles, and is based on Paul’s words,
“you are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation
of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus
Himself being the corner stone”
One Church rests on one cornerstone and one foundation.
So in this article we will examine the great text of Matthew 16:15-19 and look at how it is used to justify schism in Christendom. For instance, is Peter the “this rock” Jesus mentions in Mat. 16:16 and is he thus made the first Pope? Since all who disagree are anathematized into schism, is this text a just and proper foundation for the most developed form of AS in Christendom?
Furthermore, does Jesus in Mat. 16:18 claim that the church is an institution that will exist forever, or is He referring to the church as a people redeemed out of every tribe and tongue who will live with Him and the Father forever? And since this is a foundational text on the church, what is its connection to another foundational text on the church, Ephesians 2:20: “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone?”
Finally, we will examine the great verse that follows Matthew 16:18, the granting of the keys of the kingdom to Peter in Mat. 16:19. There we attempt to answer the great question, “Who has the greater understanding of what Jesus was saying in Mat. 16:19, the gospel writer Matthew, or those who lived in the centuries after him?
Rome’s Power to Schism
Jesus asked His disciples:
“…whom do you say that I am?
Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.”Based on Douay-Rheims, American version
But Roman Catholic teaching in Vatican I anathematizes and thereby schisms those who do not confess that Peter was hereby made the head of the Roman Catholic Church:
“Therefore if anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not constituted by Christ the Lord as the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant, or that he received immediately and directly from Jesus Christ our Lord only a primacy of honor and not a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction: let him be anathema.”
This anathema was not a 19th C invention. The Code of Canon Law (751 AD) defines schism this way:
“schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff
or of communion with the members of
the Church subject to him.”
Thus the major reason the Roman Church schismatizes and anathematizes is their sacredly-held belief that the word “rock” (Greek: petra) in Mat. 16:18 refers to Peter.All other reasons for anathematizing descend from this central belief in the keys given to Peter are placed in the hands of the bishop in Rome, granting the RCC the power to bestow salvation as taught by sacred Tradition such as Holy Orders and the Regula Fidei (Rule of Faith). These include priests, sacraments, and hierarchical visibility – subjects that while important are tangential to this article. After all, when Jesus says, “Upon this rock I will build My church,” doesn’t Jesus mean to say, “Upon you, Peter, I will build My Church?”
That, in a nutshell, is the biblical case for Roman Catholicism’s claims.
But is it really damning unbelief that causes so many people to disagree with Roman Catholic dogma here? After all, hundreds of thousands of people have noticed that the word petra Jesus spoke is feminine in form. If Jesus directed a feminine noun toward a very masculine Peter, then He initiated a gender confusion. OK, that happens sometimes. But very rarely, and honestly, you would never want to base a doctrine on a gender mismatch. It’s too easy to dispute. It’s a shaky foundation.
It forces one to ask, ‘What size rock is Peter if he is a petra rock?’ Only five words earlier Jesus called Peter, petros, a masculine word referring to a smaller rock than a petra rock. Is it unbelief to follow the logic of language? How can a small rock be big rock at the very same time?
Are people wrong to point out not just the gender mismatch in Jesus’ words but the size mismatch as well? Are we all guided by animus against Peter, or by a rebellious desire to be in schism with the Roman Catholic Church?
No. It’s that we learned Jesus Christ from a source other than the Roman Catholic Church. The Jesus Christ we know is the Jesus Christ who chose His own apostles. These were men who lived with Him and knew Him both before and after His crucifixion and resurrection. We learn of Christ through them, through their written witness.
These were men like the apostle John, who wanted us to know Jesus Christ directly through His witness:
“what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with
His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so
that our joy may be made complete.”
(1 John 1:3-4)
So we who have faith in the apostle’s Jesus Christ naturally want to cross-check where else in the apostolic writings Peter is described as petra, as Vatican 1 claims. How can we do any less, we who have learned Jesus and His glory from the pages of apostolic writ? To satisfy our love for Christ we simply must look at all other places in the sacred writings that taught us Christ in the first place to see if they either confirm or deny that petra in Mat. 16:18 referred to Peter.
Peter Calls Jesus Christ the Rock
Indeed, the NT gives a good reasons not to believe Peter is what Vatican 1 claims.
Perhaps the strongest is the fact that Peter himself teaches that he is not the petra:
“for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and
a petra (rock) of offense.” They stumble because they
disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
(1 Pet. 2:7-8)
Peter teaches, yes, there is a petra that offends to anathematization, but no, it isn’t the petra that Vatican 1 claims, that is, Peter. No, it is the petra of offense – Jesus Christ.
How important is it that Peter himself uses the word petra,but not in reference to himself? Well, it shows his self-awareness. Does Peter believe he is the petra? No, Peter believes the petra is Jesus Christ, the stone of stumbling for the disobedient. Peter’s petra is bigger than himself. It is his Lord.
Paul possessed the same awareness as Peter when he used petra in both Rom. 9:33 and 1 Cor. 10:4, which teach the same truth as 1 Peter 2:8. In those two passages the petra is likewise the confession of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah.
Now, if Peter’s original readers, many who knew him personally, thought Peter was the petra, wouldn’t they they have been confused by 1 Peter 2:8 where Peter calls the claims of Christ the petra? Major doctrines are always supported in the NT by Precept and Example, but here is a NT passage that clearly contradicts Vatican 1’s claims.
Therefore it would be accurate to say that there is no greater force in Christendom for schism than Roman Catholicism. Indeed, all who accept Peter’s teaching on the petra in 1 Peter 2:8 are anathematized by Vatican 1.
Every Christian is faced with a choice about which foundation to believe. On one hand there is the foundation of the writings of men who lived after the apostles who claim to have received authority from the apostles to interpret the Bible. On the other hand there is the foundation of the writings of the apostles themselves. These writings testify to themselves in both precept and example. Every doctrine to be believed, and every practice to be obeyed, is confirmed by this straightforward method available to anyone willing to read the NT.
These are two faith systems. The first is Apostolic Successionism (AS) and the second is Apostolic Foundationalism (AF). Rome’s anathemas helpfully point out that these are mutually contradictory. But Rome is merely the most visible offender of what all the schismed streams of Christianity practice by adopting the teachings of men that cannot be substantiated by both Precept and Example. We exist in schism because we are not built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone. There is another faith system that claims to know better.
So if the petra of Mat. 16:16 is not referring to Peter, what is it referring to?
“This rock” is a Confession, not Peter
Peter’s confession, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God” recognizes Jesus for who He is in His relationship with the Father. To be the Son of the Living God is to have life in Himself and simultaneously be the only eternally begotten Son of the Father (John 5:26, John 1:18, 2 Peter 1:1). Peter’s understanding came to him as a gift from the Father: “flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.”
Flesh and blood is humanity in creaturely weakness and could never be petra, or be the source of such a great confession. The confession that Jesus is the Christ must be a gift given to weak people – flesh and blood. God revealed this confession to Peter and Peter responded by expressing that which is a true understanding of the Trinity and of the Son of God.
Therefore it is unlikely that when Jesus says “upon this petra I will build my church” that he is referring to something that can be built on a flesh and blood person. Since Peter’s power to confess “the Christ” came not from himself but was a gift from the Father, the phrase “this rock” cannot refer to that which Jesus just denigrated – “flesh and blood.”
Nor is it a phrase that can be merely “mouthed.” Judas could mouth these words but he never got this revelation from God while Peter and the other 10 apostles did. Had Judas received it he would have overcome the gates of hell (Mat. 16:18). The petra is rock solid because it relies upon the gift of God and is stronger than flesh and blood. Flesh and blood dies, but the petra is stronger than death. Thus Jesus says, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it.”
So then, Mat. 16:18 teaches that the petra is the confession that Jesus is the Christ. This is the NT precept. Have we any NT examples that specifically confirm this? Yes. Peter exhorts, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36) and Paul writes, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The apostles provide both “Precept and Example” for the confession of Christ, the petra that overcomes hell.
Is the Matthew 16:16 Church an Institution or a People?
Jesus promises, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her,” that is, the church. Was Jesus referring to an institution that would overcome hell, or a group of people for whom Christ died? Quite simply, no institution (such as the Roman Catholic Church) is implied here. If that were intended not only would all those in that institution be guaranteed salvation (“the gates of hell shall not prevail against her”) but the institution itself would live on eternally. This simply can’t be said of the institution of any organized church. Thus Rome’s claim to be the church Jesus referred to in Mat. 16 is wrong.
For example, one of the central Roman Church practices is the Eucharist. But once the Lord returns there is to be no more remembrance of Him in this way (1 Cor. 11:26, Luke 22:16). The same can be said of baptism. Water baptism is “as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Once Jesus is present with the church the need for a good conscience is swallowed up in glory.
The church exists to spread the gospel in the world, but this is unnecessary in eternity where only the holy live in the presence of God. There will never be a call issued to turn from sin and repent in the new heaven and the new earth. All missions and all church planting will be forever gone. The institution of the church, like faith and hope, shall be useless in heaven (1 Cor. 13:13).
Hence it is impossible that Jesus is referring to a visible institution called “the church” when He states that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” Instead He is referring to “flesh and blood” people to whom the Father will grant a revelation of the Son of God, thus qualifying them for eternal life that the gates of hell cannot overcome.
None of this is to say that Jesus doesn’t address the church as an institution in other places. He most certainly does. Every church is an institution that exists, but only on earth, and only for the present time. As a result Mat. 16:18 can’t be coextensive to a “visible church,” as Rome claims, since there are likely those in every visible church who fail to make the confession and thereby fail to gain eternal life.
Conversely, if one person makes the confession of Mat. 16:18 but fails to overcome the gates of hell then Jesus fails to build His church. The Roman Catholic Church can’t have it both ways and claim Mat. 16:18 refers to a world-wide visible church, but then allow any in that visible church to suffer eternal wrath. That denies the very confession that Jesus is the Christ. It is Christian suicide.
Nor does Jesus resent the institution of the church. He ordained all its institutional forms and its institutional practices and provides it with a large amount of instruction in “Precept and Example” in the apostle’s writings.Please read here on Precept and Example When churches disobey Him He calls them to institutionally repent (Rev. 2-3).
Jesus loves the institutional church and referred to it in Mat. 18:17, “if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” He requires the church to “hear” about the impenitent sin of a member and to go and tell that member to repent. Since this can only happen locally and not everywhere we know that Jesus is not speaking of the universal church.
As well, Jesus isn’t speaking in Mat. 18:17 about the church as he does in Mat. 16:18 – as each and every person. It isn’t necessary that each and every member of that local church be present to hear about the impenitent sin and respond by going to confront the errant member. In a church of any size some may be in a hospital, or at home sick, others on travels, while others are unable to be in church due to various providences. Jesus is not referring to each and every member of a visible local church in Mat. 18:17 but is referring to the local church as an institution obligated to obey His word.
Jesus Gives Peter Authority
Jesus does indeed give Peter the keys of the kingdom in Mat. 16:19:
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall
be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou
shalt loose upon earth, it shall be
loosed also in heaven.
What authority do these keys give to Peter, a person enabled by God the Father to make a confession about the Christ? As it stands translated just above the keys give Peter the authority to bind and loose heaven (i.e., God Himself). But the original language of Mat. 16:19 withholds such power from him. Two periphrastic perfect passive constructs render Peter’s powers as merely responsive to what God does first:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever
you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall
have been loosed in heaven.”
This translation is more sensitive to the actual words Jesus spoke and grants Peter the power to bind or loose on earth what has previously been bound and loose in heaven. Two chapters later this power is granted to the institutional church that obeys Jesus’ instructions on handling impenitent sin among its members:
Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall
have been bound in heaven; and whatever
you loose on earth shall have been
loosed in heaven
Since both Mat. 16:18 and Mat. 18:17 were spoken well before the church began on Pentecost it seems unwise to grant to Peter a pre-eminence over the church since both are granted the same power to bind and loose before it ever begins. This is reinforced by recognizing that in Peter is granted access to the keys after receiving a gift – the revelation concerning Jesus as the Christ. For Peter the power to bind and loose on earth isn’t earned but freely given by grace.
But this is completely turned around in Mat. 18:17. The institutional church only earns the authority to bind and loose on earth after exercising scrupulous and difficult obedience to Jesus Christ’s words of Mat. 18:15-17. The gift given to Peter becomes, only two chapters later, the obligation of the church.
This difference between Peter and the church is even more pronounced by Peter’s immediate disobedience to Jesus in Mat. 16:22: “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Peter is then renamed by Jesus (for the moment) “Satan” (Mat. 16:23). The church is never called such a derogatory term by her Lord.
Beyond Mat. 18:18 the NT provides no further information on the meaning of the “keys” that bind and loose. Nowhere does it ever say something like, “Now Peter stood up before the people and, using the keys, began to speak….” This is hugely important since it gets to the heart of the capability of the NT to explain itself.
Now, we are all weak and liable to misinterpret Scripture. Sometime we do that by missing what it says, and other times we add to what it says. We may wish to conclude that Peter used the keys in his preaching on Pentecost and with Cornelius’ household but we are never told by Luke in Acts or by Peter himself in his own letters when or how he used the keys. Therefore we are left with four choices.
- We can conclude that the use of the keys of the kingdom is not a topic God wanted the apostles and prophets to give us detailed information on;
- We can speculate on the biblical texts that deal with Peter’s ministry connecting with sin and forgiveness;
- We can rely on the writings of men in church history who have likewise speculated on the meaning of Peter’s keys of the kingdom;
- We can read Mat. 18:17, the only other text to mention “keys” and “binding and loosing,” as intended to communicate all that God wants us to know on what Peter was given in Mat. 16:19.
This last choice is the only choice for those who view Scripture as the word of God. The gift of the keys to bind and loose was not for Peter primarily, but for the local body of Christ gathering in one local church. As we would expect the meaning of “keys” is explained in the NT, and it is explained to full satisfaction in Mat. 18:15-20.
Further corroboration for #4 is seen in the fact that both Mat. 16:18 and Mat. 18:16 are the first two uses of the very important term “church” in the Bible and the only two uses of “church” spoken in Jesus’ earthly ministry. This was sufficient for the apostles until Pentecost, and ought to be sufficient for us as well. For a year or more the apostles relied on Jesus’ own definition of church and the meaning of binding and loosing for their entire understanding of what the church would be and do. Jesus evidently saw no need to provide further clarification beyond what He had spoken concerning these matters, nor did the apostles and prophets in their NT writings. That in itself is most telling. Therefore what Jesus and the apostles deemed sufficient on the “keys of the kingdom” is in fact sufficient for all Christians.
It isn’t that we hold the Church Fathers in suspicion. It’s that we hold the Bible, and in this case the gospel writer Matthew, as sufficient to inform our understanding. When understood this way, one can see that it is in fact Roman Catholicism that holds the apostles and prophets in suspicion. They assume Matthew’s words (in Mat. 18:16-20) are not enough to understand Matthew’s words (in Mat. 16:18-19).
Therefore Roman Catholics err against Matthew and his choices since they reject how he developed the doctrine of the keys in his gospel. They also assume the writers of the rest of the New Testament, who never wrote anything further on the keys given to Peter, were delinquent.
Christian faith simply takes the NT on its own terms – a series of inspired documents that reveal to the church in both “Precept and Example” how to be obedient to Jesus Christ. We want to investigate if Mat. 16:18 teaches that Peter is a Pope and if Mat. 16:19 teaches that he has great authority. Because the Bible is complete that can be done in faith and not in unbelief. But faith in Christ rests in what He inspired His chosen apostles to write (and what not to write) on the matter.
Peter and Scripture
Peter’s first responsibility prior to the formation of the church was to replace Judas with another man to be the twelfth apostle. Did he exercise his powers as Pope and decide there was a need for a replacement apostle? Or did he instead rely on Jesus’ own words to determine the need for a twelfth apostle and for how such a man would be chosen? As Acts 1:16-26 show, Peter chose the path of relying on Jesus’ own words, and organized the process such that Jesus, through lots, chose the twelfth apostle (Acts 1:24).
From start to finish Peter acted upon Scripture alone. He first stated that “the Scripture had to be fulfilled” in Judas’ demise, and that Scripture mandated the apostolic office be filled by another man (Acts 1:16, 20). Peter likely remembered the astounding promise of Jesus to these twelve Jewish commoners:
“… in the regeneration… you also shall sit on twelve thrones
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
This promise specified twelve thrones and one was vacant due to Judas’ defection. The mention of “judging Israel” explains the use of lots for the choosing of Judas’ replacement. Casting lots was national Israel’s practice to ask God’s guidance in decisions affecting national issues. It was used to select Israel’s one national scapegoat (Lev. 16:8-10), determine national guilt (1 Sa. 14:41), select the order of priests for the nation’s temple service (1 Chron. 25:7-8), and importantly, the distribution of the Promised Land for the nation (Num. 26:55, Josh. 18:10). Peter’s use of lots was not arbitrary but showed great sensitivity to His Lord’s own connection of the twelve apostles to the twelve tribes of a future national Israel in the regeneration.
But perhaps the greatest proof that Peter was a sola-Scriptura man was the way he determined the replacement criteria for Judas. He didn’t speak “ex-cathedra” but rather located two criteria from the Lord’s words. The first criteria, “beginning from the baptism of John” (1:22) can be traced back to Jesus’ words the night before He was crucified: “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). “The beginning” refers to Jesus’ baptism under John the Baptist’s ministry (c.f. Mark 1:1-7, John 6:64).
The second criteria of having seen the ascension (1:22) can be traced back to a time of testing for Jesus’ disciples: “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before” (John 6:62)? Some disciples on hearing these words walked away from Jesus (John 6:66). Peter understood that the man chosen to be an apostle had to be one who loved the ministry of Christ from its humble beginnings under John’s baptism, persevered through its most severe testings, and personally observed the ascension.
Based on the criteria two men were put forward to replace Judas, Joseph and Matthias. Since Jesus had promised each apostle a throne and a tribe of Israel to judge, lots were used so the Lord would make the choice. Jesus chose Matthias (Acts 1:24-26) and Peter proved himself a man guided by Christ’s words and not any ex-cathedra authority. Furthermore Matthias was added to the eleven, not to Peter (Acts 1:26). In no way was Matthias or any other apostle accountable to Peter or submitted under Peter’s ministry. Only the theory of AS claims Peter’s ministry was above the other apostles. The Apostolic Foundation of the NT does not.
Peter Expresses His Ecclesiastical Authority
If Peter were the first Pope then there would be an abundance of evidence for it in the writings of the apostles and prophets in both “Precept and Example.” It’s too massive of a doctrine to rest on Matthew 16:18 alone. We would wish to see Peter calling together a council to decide a difficult matter. Or we might wish to see Peter passing along a gift of grace to other men through the laying on of his hands. Or him declared the head of the Jerusalem church and all others beside.
Additionally we would like to see details in the writings of Peter and the other apostles that show him giving commands and directives commensurate with his purported authority as “Prince of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant.” We should see apostles submitting to his authority.
But we see none of this in Sacred Scripture.
So should we who point these things out be charged with schism, or short of that, charged with a hermeneutic of distrust toward the Church Fathers?
Not at all. The writings of the apostles and prophets instead show us how Peter regarded himself in his ecclesiastical authority. Foremost is Peter’s identification to church leaders as a ‘fellow-elder’ (1 Peter 5:1). If this is simply humility at the expense of office then it is misleading since Peter’s authority to write this book of Scripture is his office as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Without losing his office as an apostle, Peter identifies himself with the highest office in the institutional church: elder. And as a “co-elder” he shows he is one who works with the other elders in parity. That’s how he is regarded among the Jerusalem Council – just one of the apostles (Acts 16:4).
And affirmatively 1 Peter 5:1 shows Peter’s own limited sense of governance. When Peter was led by God to write to Christians he only wrote to those in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” not a world-wide universal church (1 Peter 1:1). Peter, the apostle to the Jews (and only tangentially to the Gentiles, Gal. 2:7-8) did not regard himself head of the whole visible church.
When he addressed church leaders he didn’t speak to all the leaders living at that time in the world but only those in the same small region (1 Peter 5:1-4). Is that because only these elders needed his exhortation but not all the other elders in the rest of the world? Hardly. But Peter knew the extent of his apostolic ministry. In other words, Peter did not deem himself a Pope of a universal visible church. in fact, the Roman Catholic claim that he was the first Pope comes from men who never knew Peter personally.
Arguing as we do that Peter was not a Pope is not an argument from silence but rather an argument based on his own teachings and view of self. He knew that just as Paul wrote Scripture, so too did he (2 Peter 3:15-16) and in Scripture, when Peter explained himself to churches, didn’t speak ex-cathedra but in God-breathed Scripture.
Precept and Example
Faith in God seeks understanding from God, and so finds help from the interpretive principle of Precept and Example. If Mat. 16:18 is the precept that asserts the primacy of Peter as the Prince of all the Apostles and head of the visible Church, then where is the accompanying example of this in the NT?
At this point, faith in God runs up against a stumbling block. Scripture never calls Peter petra anywhere else in the NT.
How shall we explain such things?
Of course we could simply claim that any passage in which Peter acts in leadership is evidence of the RCC belief in Peter, but we see other apostles acting in leadership in the NT without any deference to Peter. Further, the “Petra” claim, that is, one of the apostles is regarded higher than the others, is not elsewhere confirmed in the NT (cf. Acts 16:4).
But perhaps we are confused, or aren’t seeing all we should. We are after all, like the original disciples who were so prone to misunderstand and misinterpret what Christ said. Would not Jesus Christ, the ultimate Author of the NT, not give us help in this matter since the New Testament is the New Testament of Jesus Christ?
We are left with two choices. We will either have faith that some men throughout church history know what our faith needs to be able to affirm Peter’s supremacy, or rest in the fact that the Bible does not claim Peter is the petra in both Precept and Example, and live in anathematization and schism with the Church of Rome.
Peter, like the rest of the writers of Scripture, taught us all that we need to know about the church Jesus promised would overcome the gates of hell. Apostolic Successionism, in all its Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic forms builds churches on a foundation of supplemented authority of men’s traditions. Not only do these teachings differ from Scripture at critical points but also with each other. Apostolic Successionism in all its forms is the reason why churches are schismed and is a wrecking ball to unity.
We who are Christians owe Christ loyalty to the foundation of the church which is the writings of the NT. “From Schism to Unity” article #2 takes you further into that foundation by asserting that just as Apostolic Successionism is a system of teachings in all streams of Christian churches that produces schism, there is a foundation from God that heals schism and builds a real unity that honors the Lord, if only obeyed. This article is titled, Apostles and Protestants.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Based on Douay-Rheims, American version|
|2.||↑||All other reasons for anathematizing descend from this central belief in the keys given to Peter are placed in the hands of the bishop in Rome, granting the RCC the power to bestow salvation as taught by sacred Tradition such as Holy Orders and the Regula Fidei (Rule of Faith). These include priests, sacraments, and hierarchical visibility – subjects that while important are tangential to this article.|
|3.||↑||Please read here on Precept and Example|