PETER POPE OF THE CHURCH?
I have taught you on this Website that you must ALWAYS be willing
to grow in grace and knowledge of the truths of God. We are to be
CORRCTED, to be willing to admit where we may have been wrong,
where we may have not fully or correctly understodd a verse or
In answering someone who was asking me questions on Matthew
16:15-19 I took out my Albert Barnes' Bible Commentary and looked
at what he had to say on the matter. I was delighted to find I
could have been wrong on my full understanding of this passage,
as I may have written elsewhere on this Website.
I believe Albert Barnes gives the natural meaning of this passage
as it would be read in the KJV. I believe a young child would
understand it as given by Albert Barnes.
It should always be a joy to adjust our understanding of a
passage, but in the end, because of OTHER VERSES and passages in
the New Testament, the basic truth does NOT change.
The Roman Catholic church uses Matthew 16 to claim Peter was
ALWAYS the head of the NT church, that he had full and final
authority over the Church of God, while he lived, and then such
final authority was passed down to the next head of the church,
and so the succession of the Roman Popes, down to the present
Albert Barnes disproves that teaching of the Roman church, while
he admits Peter was the strong rock that led the New Testament
church in its first years of growth.
I believe Albert Barnes gives more of the truth of the matter,
hence I will stand to be corrected. Here is what Barnes has to
say on this passage.
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, 'Thou art the Christ, the
Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon
Bar-jona; - for flesh and blood bath not revealed it unto thee,
but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee,
2 Ps.2.7; ch.14.33; Jn.1.49; Ac.9.20; He.1.2,5. 1 Co.2.10;
Ga.1.16; Ep.2.8. 1 Jn.4.15; 5.20.
In this noble confession Peter expressed the full belief of
himself and of his brethren that he was the long-expected
Messiah. Other men had very different opinions of him, but they
were satisfied, and were not ashamed to confess it.
17. And Jesus answered -- Blessed art thou... Simon Bar-jona is
the same as Simon son of Jona. Bar is a Syriac word signifying
"son." The father of Peter, therefore, was Jona, or Jonas, Jn. i.
42; xxi.16,17. Blessed... That is, happy, honoured, evincing a
proper spirit, and entitled to the approbation of God. For flesh
and blood... This phrase usually signifies man (see Ga.i.16; Ep.
vi.12), and it has been commonly supposed that Jesus meant to say
that man had not revealed it, but he seems rather to have
referred to himself. "This truth you have not learned from my
lowly appearance, from my human nature, from my apparent rank and
standing in the world. You, Jews, were expecting to know the
Messiah by his external splendour; his pomp and power as a man;
but you have not learned me in this manner. I have shown no such
indication of my Messiahship. Flesh and blood have not shown it.
In spite of my appearance - my lowly state - my want of
resemblance to what you have expected, you have learned it as of
God." This they had been taught by his miracles, his instruc-
tions, and by the direct teachings of God on their minds. To
reveal is to make known, or communicate something that was
unknown or secret.
18. And I say also unto thee, That thou are Peter.... The word
Peter, in Greek, means a rock. It was given to Simon by Christ
when he called him to be a disciple, Jn.i.42. Cephas is a Syriac
word, meaning the same as Peter--a
That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church;
Jn.1.42. Ep.2.20; Re.21.14.
rock, or stone. The meaning of this phrase may be thus expressed:
"Thou, in saying that I am the Son of God, hast called me by a
name expressive of my true character. I, also, have given to thee
a name expressive of your character. I have called you Peter, a
rock, denoting firmness, solidity, stability, and your confession
has shown that the name is appropriate. I see that you are worthy
of the name, and will be a distinguished support of my religion."
And upon this rock, &e...
This passage has given rise to many different interpretations.
Some have supposed that the word ROCK refers to Peter's
confession, and that Jesus meant to say, upon this rock - this
truth that thou hast confessed, that I am the Messiah - and upon
confessions of this from all believers, I will build my church.
Confessions like this shall be the test of piety, and in such
confessions shall my church stand amid the flames of persecution,
the fury of the gates of hell.
Others have thought that Jesus referred to himself. Christ is
called a rock, Is. xxviii.16; 1 Pe.ii.8. And it has been thought
that he turned from Peter to himself, and said, "Upon this rock,
this truth that I am the Messiah--upon myself as the Messiah, I
will build my church."
Both these interpretations, though plausible, seem FORCED upon
the passage to avoid the main difficulty in it.
Another interpretation is, that the word "rock" refers to Peter
This is the obvious meaning of the passage; and had it not been
that the Church of Rome has ABUSED it, and applied it to what was
never intended, no other would have been sought for. "Thou art a
rock. Thou hast shown thyself firm, and fit for the work of
laying the foundation of the church. Upon thee will I build it.
Thou shalt be highly honoured; thou shalt be first in making
known the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles." This was acc-
omplished. See Ac. ii.14-36, where he first preached to the Jews,
and Ac. x., where he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his
neighbours, who were Gentiles. Peter had thus the honour of
laying the foundation of the church among the Jews and Gentiles;
and this is the plain meaning of this passage. See also Ga. ii.
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Ps.9.13. Is. 54.17.
Christ did not mean, as the Roman Catholics say he did, to exalt
Peter to supreme authority above all the other apostles, or to
say that he was the only one on whom he would rear his church.
See Ac. xv., where the advice of James, and not of Peter, was
followed. See also Ga. ii.11, where Paul withstood Peter to his
face, because he was to be blamed - a thing which could not have
happened if Christ, as the Roman Catholics say, meant that Peter
should be absolute and infallible. More than all, it is not said
here, or anywhere else in the Bible, that Peter should have
infallible successors who would be the vicegerents of Christ and
the head of the church. The whole meaning of the passage is this:
"I will make you the honoured instrument of making known my
gospel first to Jews and Gentiles, and will make you a firm and
distinguished preacher in building my church."
Will build my church... This refers to the custom of building in
Judea on a rock or other very firm foundation. See Notes on Mat.
vii.24. The word church means literally those called out, and
often means an assembly or congregation. See Ac. xix.32, Gr.; Ac.
vii.38. It is applied to Christians as being called out from the
world. It means sometimes the whole body of believers, Ep. i.22;
1 Co. x.32. This is its meaning in this place. It means, also, a
particular society of believers worshipping in one place, Ac.
viii.1; ix.31; 1 Co. i.2, &c.; sometimes, also, a society in a
single house, as Re. xvi.5. In common language it means the
church visible - i.e. all who profess religion; or invisible,
i.e. all who are real Christians, professors or not.
And the gates of hell, &e... Ancient cities were surrounded by
walls. In the gates by which they were entered were the principal
places for holding courts, transacting business, and deliberating
on public matters. See Notes on Mat. vii.13. Comp. Notes on Job
xxix. 7. See also De. xxii.4; 1 Sa. iv.18; Je. xxxvi.10; Ge. xix.
1; Ps. lxix.12; ix.14; Pr. i.21. The word gates, therefore, is
used for counsels, designs, machinations, evil purposes. Hell
means, here, the place of departed spirits, particularly evil
spirits; and the meaning of the passage is, that all the
19 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
plots, stratagems, and machinations of the enemies of the church
would not be able to overcome it - a promise that has been
19. And I will give unto tree, &e... A key is an instrument for
opening a door. He that is in possession of it has the power of
access, and has a general care of a house. Hence, in the Bible, a
key is used as a symbol of superintendence - an emblem of power
and authority. See Notes on Is. xxii.22; Re. i.18; iii.7. The
kingdom of heaven here means, doubtless, the church on earth. See
Notes on Mat. iii.2. When the Saviour says, therefore, he will
give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he means that he
will make him the instrument of opening the door of faith, to the
world--the first to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.
This was done, Ac. ii.14-36, and x. The "power of the keys" was
given, on this occasion, to Peter alone, solely for this reason;
the power of "binding and loosing" on earth was given to the
other apostles' with hint. See Mat. xviii.18. The only
pre-eminence, then, that Peter had was the honour of first
opening the doors of the gospel to the world.
Whatsoever thou shalt bind, &c.... The phrase to bind and to
loose was often used by the Jews. It meant to prohibit and to
permit. To bind a thing was to forbid it; to loosr it, to allow
it to be done. Thus they said about gathering wood on the Sabbath
day, "The school of Shammei binds it"--i.e. forbids it; "the
school of Hillel looses it"-- i.e. allows it.
When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that
whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine
authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also
have divine anthority--that is, should be bound or loosed in
heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided
infallibly in the organization of the church, 1st, by the
teaching of Christ, and, 2d, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
This does not refer to persons, but to things - "whatsoever," not
"whosoever." It, refers to rites and ceremonies in the church.
Such of the Jewish customs as they should forbid were to be
forbidden, and such as they thought proper to permit were to be
allowed. Such rites as they should appoint in the church were to
have the force of divine authority. Accordingly, they commanded
the Gentile converts to "abstain from pollutions of idols, and
from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood "(Ac.
xv. 20); and, in general, they organized the church, and directed
what was to be observed and what was to be avoided. The rules
laid down by them in the Acts of the Apostles and in the
Epistles, in connection with the teachings of the Saviour as
recorded in the evangelists, constitute the only law binding on
Christians in regard to the order of the church, and the rites
and ceremonies to be observed in it.
End of quotes from Albert Barnes
In the matter of binding and loosing the AMPLIFIED Bible brings
out the tenses of the Greek, and so give the true meaning of what
Jersus was saying and instructing:
"And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; and
whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth,
must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatsoever you loose
(declare lawful) on earth, must be what is already loosed in
This last verse I have expounded fully in my studies on the
subject of "Church Government." I refer the reader to those in-
On the matter of the previous verses I will correct then what I
may have written on the matter elsewhere on this Website, as of
today November 13th 2010.
It really does not matter here what is "feminine" and "masculine"
in the Greek, for it really proves nothing. We in English often
may say in referring to our special built car: "Wow she really
flies when I hit the gas pedal." Of course a car is not a female
nor does a car fly.
On the meaning of the Greek words "petros" and "petra" it is
splitting hairs to try and prove one "stone" or "rock" is
massively larger than the other. It is also not possible from
this passage to dogmatically say Jesus turned away from Peter and
pointed to Himself as the rock on which the church would be
Of course we know Jesus was and is and always will be head over
any other human person, even when other humans are born into the
family of God. Jesus will ALWAYS REMAIN the first-born from the
dead, THE Son of God that is now exalted above ALL in heaven or
in earth, THE One who will be next to the Father in authority, on
His right hand. The Godhead I have proved in other studies on
this Website. Jesus will always be the HEAD of His church, MANY
OTHER passages in the NT clearly show that truth.
Also (as I've carefully and thoroughly examined in the studies on
Church Government) the NT proves beyond doubt that Peter was NOT
to be the sole authority for all his life, in the Church of God,
then pass that sole authority on to his hand-picked or board-
picked successor, as the Roman Catholic church teaches.
Yet with all that truth said, I believe the simple way to read
this passage, the way a child would read it, would be that Jesus
did here tell Peter the New Testament church would be founded
upon his rock/hard like character. That the church would START
out with him being the STRONG leader and spokesman. He would lead
the way. He would be the one to spear-head, to charge forward
with power and might, with the loudest voice, and backed by super
miracle power. This we see clearly from the first chapters of the
book of Acts.
Jesus then indeed is here, telling Peter that God's Spirit was
revealing to him that Jesus was the Messiah, and that God did
have a plan for Peter, because of his strong stone like
character; a plan to have him LEAD OUT in the building of the New
Testament Church of God.
God uses natural abilities of people together with His Spirit of
power to have them perfrom His work. Elijah was a spear-head in
his time (God had 7,000 other that had not bowed the knee to
Baal, as he told Elijah when he thought he was alone in serving
the true God); yet Elijah had a day when it was over for him, his
work as spear-head was over, and it would in this case be given
to Elisha. Then Elisha did not live forever. God moved to others
to do His work.
The NT church would not be like as often was in Israel of old -
one leader, then followed by another top leader and so forth. I
have covered in detail the form and structure of the NT Church of
God government, as it was to be under the leadership of Christ,
as He guided the church at the right hand of the Father in
But I can see where we need to see this section in Matthew 16 as
Albert Barnes saw it. I believe his thoughts on the matter are
closer to the truth of the matter than has previously been
brought out by many Protestant ministers as they pulled away from
the Roman Catholic church.