So, is there supporting evidence of the primacy of Peter, as the Roman church puts forth? This is the second part of a two part look at the fifth verse on Marcus Grodi’s list; Matthew 16:13-19. Even Marcus mentioned the fact that giving the keys to Peter was foreshadowing of Peter’s role in preaching on Pentecost, though he believes it doesn’t end there, obviously.
But, does this mean the Peter was the first “Pope” (did that position every really even exist in the early church)? Does this mean that Peter was the end-all, be-all arbiter of the church’s position on things? Does this mean he was the head of the church?
First, Peter is not the head of the Church; Christ is. Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Christ was the head of the church then, and is the head of the church (the ekklesia) now.
Secondly, Peter wasn’t even the head of the first organizational church in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the center point, and the meeting ground of the first organizational church. We “see” them meet in Acts, in Jerusalem, and we clearly see that Peter wasn’t the leader; James was. Was Peter influential? Yes, as were the other Apostles and elders, but he was not the head.
Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
The Greek in verse 19 makes it clearer that James was rendering a judgment; he was the leader of the congregation, and his judgment was carried out. It is also clear in other verses that James it the leader, since the others sought him out when coming to Jerusalem; (this leadership of James makes sense in the culture too, as he was the Lord’s brother).
We also have an instance of Peter hiding from James’ men, and this same set of verses shows Paul correcting Peter on matters of public doctrine.
Galatians 3:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
The greek for “blamed” up in verse eleven means, “to find fault with, blame, to accuse, to condemn.” Paul did this to Peter in front of all those gathered. Clearly Paul took this as a matter of doctrine, and uses this example in his letter to the Galatians to show them that they should not pervert the gospel. Apparently Peter was in fact not infallible on matters of doctrine, and wasn’t seen as the final arbiter of the truth, nor head over Paul. Again, Peter also hid from James‘ men.
Was it ever necessary for believers in Christ to follow one organizational group? I don’t believe so; and here’s one example from scripture that always catches my eye: Mark 9:38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
How about primacy within the apostles? Read the verse right before the one above, and see why verse 38 says “John answered him,” what was he answering? Mark 9:34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. 35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
Luke 22: 24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
Clearly Jesus taught something other than primacy amongst his apostles, disciples, and believers. He did not appoint one above all, certainly not in an organizational way such as “The Pope”…His teaching points to equality amongst all believers; those who faith in Him and follow His commandments (such as loving one another).
The very office itself is never labeled, though other are quite clearly, such as “deacon.” The organizational churches, such as those Paul (the Apostle to the Gentiles, BTW) sets up were matters of worldly necessity. They had to organize them into some semblance, and mostly it was set up around the concept of “elders” or those that were in the faith the longest; not from primacy, but by common sense. This in no way limits the activities of new converts, or changes the fact that there is total equality amongst believers, or places all authority on one person; all are priests, all are saints.
It’s like organizing any secular meeting or group, not placing one person in a position of all authority (save Christ), nor a position of infallibility (as previously seen with Peter). I would also point out that nowhere does Paul instruct all believers to hearken to Peter, he does not tell them that there is any other headship of the church other than Christ, but he does make it quite clear that he was sent to them (the Gentiles) and not Peter.
All of these things put together show that there was no “primacy” of Peter, and that Peter definitely was not infallible (nor believed himself to be so). Again, the head of the church is clearly taught; Christ Colossians 1:18 And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.