Peter and the papacy

The life and lifestyle of the apostle Peter and that of the popes are miles apart. The differences are enormous.

Peter led a normal married life, being accompanied by his wife on his missionary journeys (1 Corinthians 9:1ff). The pope boasts of celibacy while the crass immorality and vile sexual behaviour of many popes is too notorious to even mention.

Peter preached a sound gospel of faith alone in Christ alone. The pope brings a different message of justification by faith plus works upon which rests the anathema of God (Galatians 1:1ff).

Peter lived in relative poverty or at least very decently without extravagances. "Silver and gold have I none..." (Acts 3). On the other hand the pope is easily accounted today to be head over many peoples and riches and wealth of all sorts.

Peter wore no crown while on earth, though now he is wearing an incorruptible one in heaven. The pope wears the triple tiara, claiming to exercise dominion in heaven, earth and hell itself.

Peter had no army; he trusted in God to deliver him from dangers. The pope up to this day enjoys the protection of the Swiss Guards and an intricate security system.

Peter never received the adulation or worship of men (Acts 10). The pope is carried processionally for the very purpose of being admired by the crowds. He receives worship by the cardinals on his election, and is given blasphemous titles that can only be given to Christ.

Peter never abused his apostolic authority, and he warned other presbyters to feed the flock of God and take good care of it (1 Peter 5:1ff.). The popes makes merchandise of Roman Catholics. John Paul II inaugurated the Jubilee claiming to forgive the punishment of sins in purgatory upon the reception of money.

Peter was a faithful steward of the mysteries of God. The pope invents and disseminates doctrine that is foreign to the pure Word of God.

Peter loved his Lord and even died a martyr's death. The pope seeks to subvert the pre-eminence of Christ by arrogating to himself the role that only Christ, in his deity and humanity, can rightly fulfill. He pretends to love Christ while seeking to hide him from the view of men.

From such undeniable facts I conclude in accordance with the testimony of Scripture that the pope indeed has a succession but it certainly cannot be traced to Peter just as man cannot be traced back to a chimpanzee. The species are distinctly different.

Pope Peter?

Peter's own shortcomings and failures prove that he could not be pope.

The Roman Church can be pictured as an inverted pyramid, resting its whole weight on Matthew 16, "Thou are Peter." But once this is correctly interpreted in the light of the rest of Scripture, then it becomes evident that no-one enjoys the primacy in the church save the Lord Jesus Christ, its head and Saviour, the One whom God the Father wills to have the pre-eminence (Colossians).

Supreme headship?

That Peter is disqualified from supreme headship is clear from the following considerations:

1. Peter was, at least once, inconsistent and hypocritical in the confession of the gospel, so much so that he was publicly rebuked by his fellow-apostle (Galatians 2:11). In this instance, out of fear he actually sided with the false brethren in their Jewish legalism, thus virtually denying justification by faith alone (by his actions, though not by his teaching). Obviously Pal did not regard Peter as infallible in faith and morals, neither did he recognize any supremacy on his part.

2. Peter attempted to deter Christ from his holy mission of accomplishing redemption by accepting the cross. This happened immediately after he was illuminated by the Father to confess Jesus as the messiah. Jesus made it clear that his misdirected zeal was motivated by Satan.

3. A number of mistakes were committed by Peter. He is prominent but so are his errors. He thought it wonderful to forgive his brother seven times, but Christ corrected him. (Matthew 18:21).

4. Peter's faith failed so that he denied his Master thrice, knowingly, with oaths and cursings. He boasted he would ever be faithful (Mark 14:29), but his weakness was predicted.

5. Peter resisted the idea of preaching the gospel to Gentiles, so much so that the heavenly vision had to be repeated thrice (Acts 10).

Not primus

That Peter was not the chief of the apostles and their head is evident from the following considerations:

1. The church is built on the one foundation, that is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11); in another sense it is built on the doctrine of the apostles, all of them (Ephesians 2:20).

2. Peter was never recognized as the supreme head. The apostles several times, disputed who among them was the greatest. But if Christ had made him head in Matthew 16 then this would be absurd and inconceivable (Mark 9:33-35; 10:34-44).

3. In the exercise of his apostleship, Peter never claimed to be supreme over the others (1 Peter 1:1; 5:1-3). He held himself to be simply "a man" (Acts 10:25,26), contrary to papal claims throughout history up to this day.

4. Paul, in relating his experiences and relationship with the twelve, described the pillars of the church to be James (mentioned first), Cephas and John. Obviously no sole headship is accorded to Peter.

5. The other apostles seem totally unaware of any appointment that made Peter the head of the church. Nowhere do they acknowledge his authority as supreme. And nowhere does he attempt to exercise authority over them. The appointment of Matthias as apostle was not made by Peter, but by prayer, seeking God's guidance through the casting of lots.

6. On another occasion Peter, together with John, was sent by the other apostles to preach the Gospel in Samaria (Acts 8:14). On the principle of Christ, the one sent is not greater than the one who sent him. Can we imagine the pope today being sent by the bishops on any such mission?

7. At the important council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) not Peter but James presided. Peter, together with Paul and others, addressed the assembly but the decision was announced by James, "Wherefore my judgment is..." (v.19). And his judgment was accepted by the apostles and presbyters. Peter was present, but only after there had been "much questioning" (v.7) did he even so much as express an opinion. No infallible pronouncements here! We see infallibility only because the assembly correctly interpreted the scriptures of the prophets, as led by the Spirit!

Submission to the pope

To make matters worse the papal claim of subjection to the pope as necessary for salvation is still unrevoked.

To put it simply this is unheard of in the New Testament. We find many succinct passages telling us what is absolutely necessary for forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 10:10; Mark 16:16, etc.), and that is (repentance and) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God made flesh, who died as substitutionary and penal death to bring about reconciliation of sinners with God.

To introduce new dogmas and pronounce them necessary for salvation is monstrous; it is putting on the necks of the disciples such a yoke that they cannot carry and are not meant to carry. The papacy, especially in medieval times, reached such peaks of arrogance and pride, that many bullas was issued urging total and unreserved subjection to the roman pontiff.

But if any Scripture was fulfilled in such blasphemous acts it was the prediction of Paul concerning the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2) who exalts himself above all that is called God. To faithful Christians who adhere to Sola Scriptura, the papal claim reveals the papacy for what it really is.

It is not only heretical (a human invention inspired by hell) but also schismatical, for then Christians are duty-bound to cut all communion with Rome (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).