The Papal Claim to Have the Keys of the Apostle Peter

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For most Catholics, the authority of the Pope, as derived from Peter, is the main cornerstone of their faith.  For the others, it is the lifesaver to fall back on when all else fails.  In my own life, it was a presupposition that I did not question until the very end of my years as a priest.  I did begin to investigate seriously the Pope’s position when John Paul II came to visit Trinidad in 1985.  I remember the loud and pompous ceremony of that day in the Port-of-Spain stadium.  Vivid in my mind is the memory of the veneration given to the Pope by the crowds as he entered the stadium.  The people rose and with one voice continued to shout, “JP, we love you,” accompanied by the rhythmic beat of bongo drums.  The Pope bowed in recognition to the adulation.

Inside myself, I was already debating the premise of whether or not he held the keys of the Apostle Peter.  So painful was the evening to me that when it came to the end and each priest was to have a personal photograph taken together with the Pope, I quietly left.  In driving home in the pouring tropical rain, it seemed as if dark clouds had come down on my presupposition.  How could this man claim to have the authority and power of Peter, since in most respects he was utterly different in manner and message from St. Peter?  I thought of the account of Cornelius, “Cornelius met him [Peter] and fell down at his feet, and worshiped him.  But Peter took him up, saying, stand up; I myself also am a man.[1]  From that evening on, I knew that I had to begin analyzing in earnest the famous text in Matthew’s gospel, blazoned in stone, in Latin, on St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, “Tu est Petrus.”  I wish to share the thoughts I had then and now as I have continued to study the precious Word of the Lord.

The Petrine primacy of the Pope is an historic holdover from the false Decretals of Constantine and Isidore.  Nonetheless, the Papacy is the bulwark and foundation of the Church of Rome.  It is also the pride and joy of devoted Catholics by giving them, they are assured, a direct link to Jesus Christ.  And in these latter days, it appears that the world has rekindled its love of the Papacy.  Against the voices of Scripture, history, and reason, the Papacy declares its Church to be founded on the Apostle Peter alone, stating that he was the first bishop of Rome, thus bequeathing his full authority to subsequent popes and bishops.  This is the linchpin of Roman Catholicism.  Officially the Church of Rome states,

“The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church….This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.”[2]

This statement, in fact the whole Roman Catholic structure, is based on three presuppositions:

1.     That the text of Matthew 16:16-20 means Peter was the foundation of the Church; that         the Church was built on him,

2.     That Peter went to Rome and was the first bishop in Rome,

3.     That Peter’s successors are the bishops of Rome under the primacy of the Pope.

It is worth mentioning here that the list of popes concocted by Rome is a fable.  In its humble beginning, the church at Rome was guided by a plurality of elders rather than one single bishop.  Then throughout its latter history, there was much intrigue with many of those claiming to be the successor of Peter, an overview of which I will incorporate in the conclusion of this article.  In this article, however, our main focus is not to recount the history of the Papacy but rather to analyze the premise of this notion that the Church of Rome takes for granted.

Presupposition 1: the Lord Made Simon Alone (Whom He Named Peter) the “Rock” of His Church; i.e., the foundation of His Church.

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:  for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven:  and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ”  (Matthew 16:16-20).

Whatever his contemporaries apprehended Christ to be, this text of Scripture plainly shows that the disciples had a distinct knowledge of Him, expressed without hesitation by Peter on their behalf.  The Lord attributes this intuitive knowledge that He was “the Christ” (Anointed-Messiah) and “the Son of the Living God” (co-eternal with the Father and therefore likewise God) to be a revelation from His Father in heaven.  It is this revelation, the Lord declared, that would become the rock or foundation stone upon which He would build His Church.  This cannot be argued against as it is the very concluding subject of the Lord’s charge to the disciples, “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”  To hold the view that Peter himself is the rock is to deliberately pervert the plain sense of the Lord’s own words.  To infer that the Church was built upon a mere man—and not upon God’s revelation of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God—is to insult Christ’s doctrine and corrupt God’s Word.

The Holy Spirit confirmed the true meaning of the verse by having it written in Greek.  The word for Peter in Greek is petros.  It is masculine in gender and signifies a “piece” of rock, larger than a small stone.  In contrast, the word for a large rock in Greek is petra.  It is feminine in gender, describing bedrock, massive in size, and immovable.  The Church was thus founded upon massive bedrock, not a mere chip of granite.  That bedrock is the God-given revelation by the Father in heaven.  Congruent with this revelation is the distinct commission given to Peter in verse 19.  “Unto thee,” that is, to Peter personally, was given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  Keys can both open and close.  In this declaration by Christ, these keys were meant to open.  In fact, this prophetic declaration of the Lord was literally fulfilled when Peter was made the first instrument of opening the same revelation to the Jews, “God hath made that same Jesus…both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), and to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-44).  The power of the keys was concerning this same revelation of the Person of Christ, actuated by the initial proclamation of this revelation, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.  The Apostle Peter alone fulfilled the initial proclamatio
n.  Succession to this prophetic commission is not possible since there was but one first opening of the kingdom for the Jews as for the Gentiles.  The second part of verse 19 was a commission for the responsibility of binding and loosening.  This is concerning church discipline and was given as well to the other Apostles, as is seen in Matthew 18:18.  The whole focus, therefore, of the Matthew 16:16-20 text is on the divinity of Jesus as “the Son of the living God,” and His role as Messiah or Christ.  This fact is the rock (petra) on which His Church is built.

The Catholic apologists argue that the gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic.  They claim that the original text of Matthew 16:18 used the word Ke’pha for both the name given to Simon Barjona and as the word for the rock upon which Christ promised to build His Church.  The fallacy of these claims is that the New Testament was inspired in the Greek text, and that there is no Aramaic text in existence from which it is purported to have come.  There are Aramaic and Syriac “translations” of the original Greek text; these, however, cannot be trusted to accurately represent any supposed original Aramaic text.  The Aramaic texts are merely uninspired translations of the original Greek text.[3]

Even without inventing a non-existing original Aramaic text, the Church of Rome has taken to their advantage the fact that the word Peter and the word “rock” closely resemble each other.  As a result Rome has adeptly substituted the one for the other, and thus made the passage to read, “Thou art Peter; and upon thee, Peter, will I build my Church.”  However,, the Lord said “upon this rock,” not “upon thee.”  “This rock” signified the truth that had just been enunciated in the words, “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This truth holds a place so fundamental and essential to the Church that it may be truly call “a rock.

Preposterous Claims for a Pontiff Who Substitutes for Christ

Jesus as the Christ has full, supreme, and universal power.  This prerogative is His alone, and any pretension by another to hold this power is heinous, despicable, and blasphemous.  Yet, the Church of Rome does not blush to claim Christ’s power for her pope.  In fact, she officially teaches,

“For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”[4]

Only Christ Jesus, being the very Son of God, can claim that every human creature is to be entirely subject to Him in faith and practice.  The Church of Rome has ascribed to her Pontiff the offices that belong by nature to Christ alone.  “Full, supreme, and universal power” solely and rightfully belongs to “the Son of the living God.”

It delighted the Father that in Christ Jesus alone as Savior, all fullness should dwell, “the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”[5]  He alone abundantly gives to all that are His own people, “grace for grace.”[6]  The Church of Rome’s lust for power is not satiated by attempting to usurp supreme and universal power over the whole Church, rather she alleges further that she has been allotted the very fullness of grace and truth, “…[T]he very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.”[7]  Thus, the Roman Church has made herself into a substitute for Christ.  She decrees therefore, “There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive.”[8]  Outrageous and pretentious as these claims are, the Pontiff goes still further by declaring, “It is the right of the Roman Pontiff himself alone to judge…those who hold the highest civil office in a state.”[9]  The Roman Pontiff is presented as supreme, accountable to no one, and the sole judge of what is right and wrong.

The Claim Also Speaks Against the Holy Spirit, the True Vicar of Christ

In stating “the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise,” the Church of Rome also speaks against the Holy Spirit.  The Lord Jesus Christ entrusted the universal care of souls into the safekeeping of the Divine Person of the Holy Spirit.  Concerning this third Person of the Trinity who was to be His substitute, the Lord promised that, “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”[10]  The Holy Spirit convicts of sin as He makes the sinner realize his lost condition and convicts him of his need of Christ’s righteousness.  He it is who brings to life a soul dead in sin.  This miracle of grace is spoken of in Scripture as, “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.”[11]  The majesty, greatness, and indescribable power of the office of Vicar of Christ are such that a believer must stand in awe of His divine Person.  That any human being should lay claim to the office of Vicar of Christ is totally absurd and blasphemous.  Because there is a direct connection between the redemption of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is a soul-damning error to mistake the work of the Holy Spirit as Vicar of Christ with the position or work of any man.  As Christ Jesus had been the Master, Counselor and Guide to the believers, He promised to send the Holy Spirit as His substitute so that He might abide with them for ever.[12]  In believers’ lives the Holy Spirit has full, immediate, and universal influence, as the Scripture so wonderfully teaches, “Now the Lord is that Spirit:  and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”[13]  The work of the Spirit is transforming; the believers are changed from one degree of glorious grace unto another until by that same grace one day they will be perfect with Him in glory forever.  How much therefore should Christians prize the full and complete ministry of the Holy Spirit!

In the face of these awesome truths conce
rning the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, it is horrendous to learn that the Vatican proclaims, “The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, ‘supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls.’”[14]  Persuading men and women that Christ the Lord left a mortal man to be His vicar on earth attempts to gainsay the very purpose of Christ Jesus.

Historic Devolution from the Vicar of Caesar to Vicar of Christ

The outlandish assertion that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ came relatively late in the history of the Papacy.  To begin with, the Bishop of Rome claimed to be the vicar of Caesar and his successors, the rightful heirs to the Caesars.  The city that had been the seat of power for the Imperial Roman Empire became the city for the bishop of Rome to exercise his authority.  Gradually other bishops and national monarchs accepted him as vicar and successor to Caesar with the same supreme title of “Pontifex Maximus.”  Next the bishops of Rome claimed to be “The vicar of the prince of the apostles,”[15] that is, the vicar of Peter.[16]  Thus, in the early fifth century Bishop Innocent I (401-417AD) insisted that Christ had delegated supreme power to Peter and made him the Bishop of Rome.  Following this, he held that the Bishop of Rome as Peter’s successor was entitled to exercise Peter’s power and prerogatives.  Boniface III, who became Bishop of Rome in 607, established himself as “Universal Bishop,” thus claiming to be vicar and master of all other bishops.  It was not until the eighth century, however, that the particular title, “Vicar of the Son of God,”[17] was found in the fraudulent document called “The Donation of Constantine.”[18]  Although this notorious document was proven false in the early sixteenth century, the Bishops of Rome have used the title “Vicar of Christ” since the eighth century.  This title has been the Pope’s supreme claim to spiritual and temporal supremacy.  The taste of divine power, with which the title resonates, has proven to be addictive.  The “Vicar of Christ” is able to recognize no authority other than his own.  He looks upon himself as Master of all, and boldly proclaims, “The First See is judged by no one.”[19]

The end result of the Church of Rome’s interpretation concerning what Christ said to Peter is the creation of a pontiff who claims inerrant infallible teaching authority and power over all creatures in both spiritual and temporal realms.  The Apostle Paul foretold such an absurd office when he prophesied that there would come “the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God[20] in place of “the Christ, the Son of the living God.[21]  Indeed, there has been erected the Pontiff, the son of perdition.  The Papacy at its core office and essence, professes to be an entire substitute for the true Christ and His work.  This office must therefore be identified and denounced, as the Holy Scripture does, “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”[22]

Presupposition 2:  That Peter Went to Rome and Was the First Bishop in Rome

The Scripture is utterly silent about the Apostle Peter going to Rome.  His visits to Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea, and Antioch were carefully recorded.  But there is simply no mention made of his going to Rome, which is essential to establish the Roman Catholic position.  Certainly the Holy Spirit would not have passed over an event so significant and essential.  In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul greets many in the Church at Rome but offers no salutation to Peter.  The same Apostle Paul, being at Rome in the reign of Emperor Nero, never once mentions Peter in any of his letters written from Rome to the churches and to Timothy, although he does remember very many others who were with him in the city.  Clearly this presupposition regarding Peter being in Rome as its first bishop is a supposed conjecture, a deception, pure and simple.  It cannot be the rock solid foundation on which faith is based.

Presupposition 3:  That Peter’s Successors Are the Bishops of Rome Under the Primacy of the Pope

This presupposition is officially stated in the following words,

“Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church…”[23]

In Scripture there is no mention of successors to Peter or the Apostles.  The criteria for apostleship are given in Acts 1:21-22.  The position of the Apostles was unique to them and to Paul—all directly chosen by Christ Jesus with no hint of succession.  In the New Testament, the Apostles appointed not other apostles but rather elders[24] and deacons.  This false presupposition is of the essence of the Papacy.  It is a huge system based on the concept of apostolic succession.  But apostolic succession without apostolic doctrine is a fraud.  The Lord God never entrusted His truth to a personal succession of any body of men.  Such a foundation of its very nature is flawed.  Visible apostolic succession throughout history was impossible.  If one link failed, the whole sequence after it was invalid.  Yet Catholicism hitched its star to the notion of apostolic succession.

The real roots of the Papacy are those of the Imperial Roman Emperor and not the Lord Christ Jesus.  The Lord commanded, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.  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.[25]  Christ absolutely proscribed all domination in his kingdom.  The same condemnation of worldly ways was repeated by the Apostle Peter, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”[26]  The Roman Catholic Church is not the successor to the Apostle Peter but rather to the Imperial Roman Empire, as her hierarchical and totalitarian control so steadfastly demonstrates.

Early Church Leaders on the Meaning of the Matthew 16 Text</ p>

The early church leaders and theologians gave unanimous agreement, in writing, on the true meaning of the Matthew 16 text.  The writings of forty-eight church leaders together with the “apostolical constitutions”[27] from the third to the eighth century are preserved.  William Webster has compiled these writings in a scholarly article entitled “The Patristic Exegesis of the Rock of Matthew 16:18.”[28]  From this article we quote the testimony of Theodoret, the bishop of Cyrus (393-457).

“Let no one then foolishly suppose that the Christ is any other than the only begotten Son.  Let us not imagine ourselves wiser than the gift of the Spirit.  Let us hear the words of the great Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  Let us hear the Lord Christ confirming this confession, for ‘On this rock,’ He says, ‘I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’  Wherefore too the wise Paul, most excellent master builder of the churches, fixed no other foundation than this.  ‘I,’ he says, ‘as a wise master builder have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon.  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’  How then can they think of any other foundation, when they are bidden not to fix a foundation, but to build on that which is laid?  The divine writer recognizes Christ as the foundation, and glories in this title.[29]  Other foundation no man can lay but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus (I Cor. iii.11).  It is necessary to build upon, not to lay foundations.  For it is impossible for him, who wishes to build wisely, to lay another foundation.  The blessed Peter also laid this foundation, or rather the Lord Himself.  For Peter having said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;’ the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church.’  Therefore, call not yourselves after men’s names, for Christ is the foundation….[30]

“Surely he is calling pious faith and true confession a ‘rock.’  For when the Lord asked his disciples who the people said he was, blessed Peter spoke up, saying ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God.’  To which the Lord answered: ‘Truly, truly I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’[31]

“‘Its foundations are on the holy mountains.’  The ‘foundations’ of piety are divine precepts, while the ‘holy mountains’ upon which these foundations are laid are the apostles of our Saviour.  Blessed Paul says concerning these foundations:  ‘You have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus.’  And again he says:  ‘Peter, James and John who are perceived to be pillars.’  And after Peter had made that true and divine confession, Christ said to him:  ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’  And elsewhere Christ says:  ‘You are the light of the world, and a city set on a hill cannot be hid.’  Upon these holy mountains Christ the Lord laid the foundations of piety….[32]

“Let us inquire who is he that is called a stone; and at which appearing small, later became very great, and covered the earth.  Let us, therefore, hearken to God Himself saying by the prophet Isaias, ‘Behold I lay in Sion a stone costly, a corner stone, precious, elect, into the foundations thereof, and everyone that believeth in it shall not be confounded’ (Is. xxviii.16)…Let us also listen to the blessed David prophecying and crying out, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?’ (Matt. xxi.42).  And the blessed apostle Peter teaching among the Jews, and bringing before them the prophecy of the Lord, says, ‘This is the stone which, rejected by you the builders, is become the head of the corner’ (Acts iv.11).  And the blessed apostle says, ‘Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone’ (Eph. ii.20); and elsewhere he says, ‘Other foundation no man can lay but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus,’ (1 Cor. iii.11); and again, ‘They drank,’ he says, ‘of the spiritual rock which followed them, but the rock was Christ’(1 Cor. x.4).  Wherefore we are taught by the Old and New Testament, that our Lord Jesus Christ is called a stone.[33]

“For if they say that these things happened before baptism, let them learn that the great foundation of the Church was shaken, and confirmed by divine grace. For the great Peter, having denied thrice, remained first; cured by his own tears. And the Lord commanded him to apply the same cure to the brethren, ‘And thou,’ He says, ‘converted, confirm thy brethren’ (Luke xxii.32).”[34]

Final Word in Conclusion

As we saw at the beginning of this article, the church at Rome was guided by a plurality of elders rather than by a single bishop.  Throughout its latter history, there was much deceit, with many claiming to be the successor of Peter.  What in fact these bishops demonstrated was that they were descendants of Adam and his sin.  The concept of the bishop of Rome as a successor of Peter was not seriously held until the fourth century.  It was first devised by Damasus, bishop of Rome (366-384), then Innocent I (401-417).  It was more fully formulated in the teaching of bishop Leo I (440-461) in the fifth century.  It took many centuries of intrigue and massive forgeries before the concept became dogma in the Roman church.  The Hibernian Christians never accepted the teaching until the Norman Conquest in 1172.  The Eastern Orthodox Churches have never accepted it.[35]

The desire to be the successor of Peter was the driving force of many men over the centuries so as to reign with power and majesty.  Two, even three, concurrent popes were known to vie for the throne at the same time.  Thus, for example, at one time three popes in their lust for power each claimed the authority of Peter amid the curses and excommunications with which they assailed one another.  The Council of Constance in 1415 set out to settle the matter.  The historian Wylie gives some of the details,

“The way being thus prepared, the Council now proceeded to the trial of the Pope.  Public criers at the door of the church summoned John XXIII to appear and answer to the charges to be brought against him….The indictment contained seventy accusations, but only fifty were read in public Coun
cil; the rest were withheld from a regard to the honor of the Pontificate….Thirty-seven witnesses were examined, and one of the points to which they bore testimony, but which the Council left under a veil, was the poisoning by John of his predecessor, Alexander V.  The charges were held to be proven, and in the twelfth session (May 29th, 1415) the Council passed sentence, stripping John XXIII of the Pontificate, and releasing all Christians from their oath of obedience to him.  When the blow fell, Pope John was as abject as he had before been arrogant.  He acknowledged the justice of his sentence, bewailed the day he had mounted to the Popedom, and wrote cringingly to the emperor, if haply his miserable life might be spared[36]—which no one, by the way, thought of taking from him.  The case of the other two Popes was simpler, and more easily disposed of.  They had already been condemned by the Council of Pisa, which had put forth an earlier assertion than the Council of Constance of the supremacy of a Council, and its right to deal with heretical and simoniacal Popes.  Angelus Corario, Gregory XII., voluntarily sent in his resignation; and Peter de Lune, Benedict XIII., was deposed; and Otta de Colonna, being unanimously elected by the cardinals, ruled the Church under the title of Martin V.”[37]

Coming to reign on the chair of St. Peter was not done by election as it is commonly understood.  Rather craft and intrigue of depraved men and women were the major part in deciding succession to the papal throne, as the historian Miller explains,

“For many years the papal tiara was disposed of by the infamous Theodora and her two daughters, Marozia and Theodora.  Such was their power and evil influence, by means of their licentious lives, that they placed in the chair of St. Peter whom they would—men wicked like themselves.  Our pages would be defiled by an account of their open unblushing immoralities.  Such has been the papal succession.  Surely Jezebel was truly represented by these women, and in the influence they obtained over the Popes and the city of Rome.  But, alas! alas! Jezebel, with all her associations, corruptions, tyrannies, idolatries, and uses of the civil sword, has been too faithfully represented by popery from its very foundation.”[38]

Believing on Christ and believing on the pontiff are irreconcilable positions.  As others in the past have noted, with the pontiff there is found an “altar” instead of a communion table, a “priest” instead of a preacher, ceremonies instead of sound doctrine, sacraments instead of saving grace, traditions instead of the Written Word of God.  This is not in the Church based on God’s revelation of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” but rather an institution based on the rule a pontiff.  Therefore, we voice the Lord’s own exhortation, “hearken unto me now therefore, o ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth.  Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.  For she hath cast down many wounded:  yea, many strong men have been slain by her.  Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.”[39]  Those persons or nations submitting themselves to her and her pontiff know neither life nor freedom.  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is found freedom and eternal life!  Believe on Him and Him alone “and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”[40]

Scriptures proclaim that the one supreme sovereign head of the Church is the all holy, unchangeable, all-powerful, all knowing, all wise Lord Jesus Christ.  The Roman Catholic Church proclaims that reigning Pontiff, “as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”[41]  One cannot serve two sovereigns for the Lord’s commands contradict those of the Pontiff.  A man cannot be impartial between two masters who are incompatible.  When the necessity of a choice arises, he is will despise the one he does not love supremely.  So when the Lord Jesus Christ says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,”[42] and the so-called Sovereign Pontiff demands, “a religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate.…”[43], one must decide who it is that he loves and fears the most.

The Lord Christ Jesus died in place of the true believer.  His life and finished sacrifice alone are the ransom for the believer.  “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  This was the price demanded by the All Holy God in order that His justice might be satisfied in the forgiveness of sins.  As a result of this payment the true believer on Christ Jesus alone is freed from sin and Satan.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The Matthew 16:16-20 text is foundational to eternal life, as the role and the divinity of “the Son of the living God” is the rock on which His Church is built!


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[1] Acts 10:25-26

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), Para. 881

[3] An in-depth study of this topic and its historical background (including an examination of the translations of the Greek New Testament which were made in the first five centuries of the Christian Church) is given by Pastor David Th. Stark at:  http://www.gpcredding.org/petra.html  7/10/04

[4] Catechism, Para. 882

[5] Ephesians 1:23

[6] John 1:16

[7] D
eclaration “Dominus Iesus”, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, Sect. 16, Sept. 5, 2000

[8] Catechism, Para. 982

[9] Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Ed., New English Tr. (Canon Law Society of America, 1983) Canon 1405

[10] John 16:8

[11] Ephesians 1:19-20

[12] John 14:16

[13] II Corinthians 3:17-18

[14] Catechism, Para 937

[15] “Vicarius principis apostolorum” is the official title in Latin.

[16] This has been a long-standing contention, since Scripture never mentions Peter as ever residing in Rome.

[17] “Vicarius Filii Dei” is the official title in Latin.

[18] “The Donation of Constantine” states “…as on earth he (Peter) is seen to have been constituted vicar of the Son of God, so the pontiffs, who are the representatives of that same chief of the apostles…” http://www.jmgainor.homestead.com/files/PU/PF/doco.htm 3/9/05

[19] Code of Canon Law, Canon 1404

[20] II Thessalonians2:3, 4

[21] Matthew 16:16

[22] Revelation 17:18

[23] Catechism, Para 892

[24] The terms overseer and elder/pastor are used interchangeably (Acts 20:17, 28; I Peter 5:1-4).

[25] Luke 22:25-26

[26] I Peter 5:3

[27] These were Augustine, Ambrose, Ambrosiaster, Aphraates, Apostolical Constitutions, Asterius, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Basil of Seleucia, Bede, Cassiodorus, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, Peter Chrysologus, Cyprian, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Didymus the Blind, Epiphanius, Ephrem Syrus, Eusebius, Firmicus Maternus, Firmilian, Fulgentius, Gaudentius of Brescia, Gregory the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary of Poitiers, Ignatius, Isidore of Pelusium, Isidore of Seville, James of Nisbis, Jerome, John of Damascus, Maximus of Turin, Nilus of Ancyra, Origen, Pacian, Palladius of Helenopolis, Paschasius Radbertus, Paul of Emessa, Paul Orosius, Paulinus of Nola, Prosper of Aquitaine, Tertullian, and Theodoret.

[28] http://www.christiantruth.com/fathersmt16.html

[29] Ibid., Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume III, Theodoret, Epistle 146, To John the Economus, p. 318

[30] Ibid., Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1, 12.  Cited by J. Waterworth, A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), p. 149

[31] Ibid., Commentary on Canticle of Canticles II.14, M.P.G., Vol. 81, Col. 108

[32] Ibid., Commentary on Psalms 86.1, M.P.G., Vol. 80, Col. 1561

[33] Ibid., Commentary on Daniel ii.34.  Cited by J. Waterworth, A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), p. 153

[34] Ibid., Haeret. Fab. Book 5, Chapter 28.  Cited by J. Waterworth, A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), p. 152

[35] King Henry with a strong military carried out the designs of the Papacy in 1171.  He received submission from Archbishop and Bishop at the Synod of Cashel in 1172.  See our article “The Legacy of the True Historical Patrick” on our webpage: www.bereanbeacon.org

[36] Hardouin, Acta Concil., tom. viii, pp. 361-362

[37] J. A. Wylie, History of Protestantism (N. Ireland:  Mourne Missionary Trust, 1878, 1985) Vol. I, Book 3, p. 153.  See also Hartland Publications, Vol I, p. 242

[38] Andrew Miller, Miller’s Church History in Books For The Ages (Albany, OR USA:  AGES Software)  Ch. 16, p. 432

[39] Proverbs 7:24-26

[40] Ephesians 5:11

[41] Catechism, Para 882

[42] Matthew 22:37

[43] Code of Canon Law, Canon 752