Gary W. Summers
A few weeks ago, included in Spiritual Perspectives [the author’s bulletin] was an article in which a woman named Carla attempted to defend Roman Catholicism primarily by asserting that the Apocryphal books were omitted from Protestant Bibles but that Catholics had them—as if that made some sort of difference. Those books were writ‐ ten prior to the New Testament and are not under the new covenant of Jesus Christ. In a later post, she cited Matthew 16:18 and tried to insist that the church was built on Peter. She presented all manner of information from Greek lexicons, as if she were somewhat of an expert (although she failed to list her credentials). She only listed one source for one item in her lengthy paragraph. For all the reader knows, she was copying information from a Catholic Website. In other words, without documentation, she has no credibility. Among other things she asserted:
On him [Peter] he [Jesus] builds the Church.…but the primacy is given to Peter, by which is made clear that there is one Church and one chair.…if someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he think that he holds the faith? If he deserts the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he be confident that he is in the Church? God bless each of you!
Carla clearly stated that the church is built on Peter. If that were so, then several things would have to be true.
The church of Jesus Christ would be built on a fallible man. Does this fact even need to be pointed out? Understand that no disrespect is meant to Peter, but he was a human being with flaws. When he stepped out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus, his faith weakened, and he began to sink. Jesus had to save him (Mat. 6 Defender September 2020 14:25-32). Jesus specifically asked him why he doubted. Is this one upon whom the church should be built?
Immediately after the passage where Jesus spoke of building His church, He spoke of His coming death in Jerusalem, as well as His resurrection (16:21). Peter rebuked Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to you!” (16:22). Jesus then said, “Get be‐ hind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (16:23). Is the church indeed built upon someone whom the Lord called Satan?
On the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Peter denied Jesus three times, as He had previously predicted. After the third denial, Jesus turned and looked at Peter, after which he “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). Is this one upon whom the church should be built—one who denied Christ?
Now someone will surely point out that bringing up these things is not fair—that Peter repented of these things, and that is true. None of these things is mentioned to belittle Peter, but it does show that he made mistakes and was not a perfect being. Nor did he become flawless on the Day of Pentecost after he received the Holy Spirit. He was to be blamed for wrongful actions, as reported by Paul in Galatians 2:11-14. If the church is built on Peter, it is going to be built on an imperfect human being.
Peter could not meet today’s qualifications to be a pope because the Scriptures teach that he was married. In Matthew 8:14-15, Jesus healed a woman who is referred to as Peter’s “wife’s mother.” Peter was married! Oh, but that was before he became the pope. Really? Does someone desire to explain when Peter became the pope, then? In the event someone was tempted to say that Peter’s wife died after Pentecost, well—he still was married to her two decades later when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 9:5, which was about A.D. 57. Furthermore, she traveled with him. Paul asked if he did not have the right “to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles of the Lord, and Cephas?” Carla has already admitted that she knows Cephas is another name for Peter; so then, she must know that he was married and therefore disqualified from being pope, a word and a concept never mentioned in the Scriptures. So then, how could the church be built upon someone who cannot meet today’s prerequisites?
The household of God, the church, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being “the chief cornerstone,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:20. All of the apostles (including Peter) share an equality in this text, as do the prophets. There is only one individual in this passage who is exalted—the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone, the most important part of the foundation. Peter himself stresses the same thing concerning Jesus in 1 Peter 2:6: “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Was Peter speaking of himself? Of course not. It is on Jesus that all men must believe. It was Jesus Who was rejected but has been exalted (2:7-8). If Peter were the head of the church, this would have been an excellent time for him to have made the claim. Instead, he honors Jesus.
The Bible actually teaches that Jesus is the head of the church. First of all, He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat. 28:18). Notice that the Lord did not say, “I have all authority in heaven, and I have given Peter all authority on earth.” No, the church belongs to Christ—not to Peter. Jesus is the Head of the body, the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). Peter never claimed to be the head.
What exactly does Catholic Carla mean when she says there is “one Church and one chair”? Chair does not appear anywhere in the King James Version of the Bible. It occurs once in the New King James (2 Kin. 4:10), but this text has no relationship to the church. Paul talked about unity in Ephesians 4:4-6. He stated that there is one body (church, cf. 1:22-23), one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Try as the reader might, he cannot find one chair anywhere in a text that is promoting unity! She is using terminology that is not Biblical and expects everyone to agree with her! Does she not realize that anyone else could do the same thing—come along with terminology invented after the New Testament was written and then tell everyone they must con‐ form to it?
In fact, Protestant denominations have done exactly that in their assumption that a congregation of Christians is led by “the pastor.” This phrase is not in the New Testament. Pastor does not even appear in the singular anywhere in the New Testament, nor is a church ever said to be led by a single individual. Always we find a plurality of pastors (bishops, elders). The Mormons have their own unbiblical terminology, as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. They insist that God must be called Jehovah even though the word is never once used in the New Testament. Why are people never content to use Biblical terminology exclusively? If they did, they would not be able to teach false doctrines that are different from what the Word teaches. Jesus and Peter Contrasted Not only did Peter never use any title such as pope but he also comes across as being a humble man. When he went to the household of Cornelius, for example, the centurion “fell down at his feet and worshiped him” (Acts 10:25). The apostle did not say, “You are wise to accept my supremacy and to recognize that I stand in the place of Christ.” No, he responded by lifting Cornelius up and saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (10:26). This is strange behavior for one who is supposed to be highly exalted. Jesus did not react this same way. In Matthew 8:2, a leper worshiped Him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus did not rebuke the man for worshiping Him or calling Him Lord. He simply agreed to heal him (8:3). Jesus agreed that Simon’s assessment of Him as the Son of God was correct (16:13-19). He confessed that He was the Son of the Blessed before the high priest, which led to His crucifixion (Mark 14:61-62). Peter, on the other hand, never accepted the worship or exaltation of men. When Peter wrote his letters, he did not describe himself as the chief apostle, but simply an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1). In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter addressed the elders receiving his letter and never once mentioned his alleged “primacy.” He merely referred to himself as “a fellow elder.”
Confident About Being in the Church
Carla asked if anyone could be confident about being in the church if he deserted the “chair of Peter” (whatever that means). In reality, confidence can only truly be obntained when a person does what the Bible says. Since Peter’s name has been frequently mentioned, there must be a certain amount of respect for him on the part of Catholics. Therefore, why not consider what Peter taught as he presented the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost? All will agree with the part of his message where he quotes a prophecy from David to show that Christ would be raised from the dead (Acts 2:22-36). Not only had the resurrection been prophesied; Peter and the rest of the apostles had seen Him and were eyewitnesses of it.
The people who were convinced by the evidence realized that they had crucified the Messiah; a violent act that could not be undone. So they asked what they should do (2:37). Peter answered, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins” (2:38). “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (2:41). They continued to preach, and people continued to repent and be baptized. In fact, “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (2:47).
Peter did not mention faith because it was that very thing that prompted the question. Repentance is a Biblical concept that means—not only to be sorry for—but to make a change in the way one is living. In other words, one does not repent of drunkenness when he is planning on getting drunk the same evening. One does not repent of fornication when he continues to cohabit with a woman to whom he is not married. Repentance involves a change in the way a person lives.
Baptism refers to an immersion in water. No one in the New Testament ever sprinkled water on someone and erroneously called it baptism. Since Carla has such a familiarity with Greek lexicons, she can find out that meaning for herself. But Romans 6:3-5 makes it clear that baptism is a burial in water that corresponds to Jesus being buried in a tomb. As a result of repentance and baptism, disciples were added to the church. By doing what Peter said, anyone today can have confidence that he is in the church.
The rock to which Jesus referred in Matthew 16:18 is not the fallible human being, Peter. The rock refers to what Peter had just confessed—the Deity of Jesus. It is this fact that sets Christianity apart from every other religion. All other religions (except Judaism, which has been replaced by the covenant of Christ) have a human founder, who is buried somewhere on the earth. Jesus ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:9-11); His tomb remains forever empty. He came down from Heaven and returned to Heaven. He was God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14; Phi. 2:5-8). That fact is the rock of the church on it.