0F PETER ?
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Peter was the first bishop
of Rome, but not only that, they also say Peter was the head and
chief apostle, the one with final authority over all other
ministers and elders in the New Testament Church of God.
They say Christ Himself gave Peter this rank of authority, that
he had "binding and loosing" power, that he was given the "keys
of the Kingdom" above all other apostles. Following are some of
the main arguments used to defend such a doctrinal position. We
shall also see that the scriptures teach something quite the
opposite to that held by the RC church, and some of late from
the Church of God.
Before we look at some specific verses in the New
Testament(NT), we need to look at the overview. Some may say this
is arguing from silence, but silence can be significant at times
especially if we are looking for a teaching and doctrine of the
church that claims to be taken from the writings of the NT.
We in the Church of God(7th Day Sabbath keeping) will argue
that the teaching of "going to heaven at death"(if one is a good
Christian) CANNOT be established upon the writings of the NT,
that it is just NOT THERE! Oh, there maybe a few verses that
seem to indicate we go to heaven at death, but we can explain
them quite easily when we take into account ALL verses on the
subject from ALL the pages of the Bible.
We would say that if it was common knowledge, and an every
day teaching in the NT church that a Christian went to heaven to
be with the Father and Christ, at death, then it would surely be
all over the NT writings. Such phrases as "he's gone to heaven
to be with Christ" or "we go to heaven upon death" or "they are
in heaven talking to the Lord" would be all over the NT writings.
But we find no such statements. The NT is coldly silent when it
comes to these phrases that today's Christians use as common
church language among themselves.
I think there is a pretty good argument from SILENCE in the
NT concerning the subject of "going to heaven" at death, in favor
of it not being a true doctrine or teaching of the Lord and the
early apostolic Church of God.
Now let us consider the subject at hand in this light and
with the same overview.
We will say then that Jesus did indeed make Peter HEAD
apostle with the top primacy. The NT church was going to be built
upon Peter under Christ, and all others under Peter. We will say
Jesus gave the "keys of the Kingdom" to Peter ABOVE all other
Apostles and Elders, he was to have special insight and special
powers in the church, manifesting themselves with final authority
on BIG issues. Jesus, we will say made this VERY CLEAR to all
the other apostles and disciples. I mean they knew it, and knew
that they knew it, Peter was to be the supreme head of the church
once Christ had left this
earth, he was to have PRIMACY.
So the apostles knew this.....well......did they really? On
the last night before Jesus was to die, when He and His disciples
were eating the Passover, what do you think the apostles got into
STRIFE over? Why it was "which OF THEM should be accounted the
GREATEST" (Luke 22:24). Now I read that as another way of saying
"which of them should be accounted as the one with the top
PRIMACY" the one all the others were to kneel before as having
the final authority in the church.
Now of course Jesus immediately said: "Hey fellows, I've
gone through this before with you(He had because it was not the
first time this argument arose, see a Harmony of the Gospels
book), and I've told you all before a number of time, that Peter
has the primacy, and he only is the one with the full keys of the
Kingdom. He is the one that will feed you, so no more argument."
JESUS SAID NO SUCH THING!!
If Jesus had made Peter the "chief" apostle, the one with
the primacy, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO NEED TO ARGUE AND HAVE
STRIFE OVER THE SUBJECT!
They would have all known Peter was the greatest, so chosen and
made by Christ Himself!
BUT THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS, the disciples had no idea
whatsoever that Peter was given or to have the primacy, hence the
strive and argument.
Look HOW Jesus answered them in the following verses. Here
was His golden chance, if He had not done so before, to tell them
it was Peter who was in charge, had final authority, was the
supreme one among them and had the primacy. But look at what
He taught them. Their dealing with each other was NOT TO BE LIKE
the world with a pyramid primacy structure, as in an army or the
Roman Empire. His example was enough - Jesus SERVED!
Remember when the mother of James and John came to Jesus
wanting Him to give her sons the highest positions in the
Kingdom, one on His right hand and one on His left hand. What did
He say to her? Did He say: "Why, woman, Peter has primacy here
on this earth in the church, after I am gone, so he, for starters
will be on my right hand in the Kingdom." No, He said no such
thing. He told her HE DID NOT KNOW, ONLY THE FATHER WOULD GIVE
OUT THOSE PRIMACY POSITIONS!
Why is it that we cannot find any PLAIN words in the gospels
where Jesus told Peter: "Look Peter I've made you head and chief
apostle over the others. You will have primacy and final
authority in the church. Teach them all well on my behalf. Make
sure you have the final say and decision on all important
issues." Why? Because it is just not there. Jesus never said
those words or anything like them, for one simple reason, NO
APOSTLE OR ELDER WAS TO HAVE THE PRIMACY OR DICTATORIAL AUTHORITY
OVER ANY OTHER APOSTLE OR ELDER IN THE CHURCH! In fact He made
it clear to them that anyone who THOUGHT he was the greatest or
the chief, had better be like the younger(humble, teachable,
looking upon themselves as unimportant) and as one that SERVES,
not the one being served.
With all of this before us, whatever was meant by the words
in Mat.16:17-19, it cannot be understood to mean Jesus was giving
Peter the primacy over all others in the church.
To whom did Jesus first appear after His resurrection? Was
it to Peter? Some think so. If you have a HARMONY OF THE
GOSPELS book(and I recommend the one by Fred Coulter as the best
ever written), then you will soon discover Jesus first appeared
not to Peter or to any of the apostles, BUT TO A WOMAN!
Just before the Day of Pentecost, Peter was inspired to see
that someone had to replace Judas who had hung himself. He could
see the scriptures said it should be so.
Two men were chosen. This was a VERY IMPORTANT position to fill -
to be one of the twelve, each were to rule over a tribe of Israel
in the Kingdom as Jesus had appointed and promised. Was it Peter
with his primacy who said: "Well you know I have the primacy
and the keys of the Kingdom, so it is I who will make this
decision as to the man to replace Judas." Did Peter say: "So you
cannot decide between these two men, so as I have the keys, as I
am to teach and feed you, as I have the primacy, I will pick the
No! Peter said no such thing, nor did any other person say
it was Peter as the chief and head apostle who would and should
make the choice.
Some will argue that this was before the Holy Spirit was
given and Peter was not yet officially invested as head of the
church and with full primacy. Well okay, but Peter and the
others could have then delayed the decision until later, after
Peter was fully converted and in the primacy. I mean a few more
days would not have meant the end of the church, for things had
not really got going yet, and the gospel certainly had not gone
very far to anyone, let alone the House of Israel to whom the
apostles were to go, and other nations, as instructed by Christ.
Peter was the main speaker on the Day of Pentecost, but what
does that prove of and by itself? Paul was used to teach and
preach to the Gentiles WAY MORE than Peter, and Paul was used to
write 14 books of the NT. Peter only two. So if we want to
use comparisons(which Paul was inspired to tell us "not to
compare ourselves among ourselves") then we could document a good
argument that Paul had more primacy than Peter.
If Peter was the one given responsibility by Christ to feed
the sheep of the church, including other apostles and elders, the
one who was to be chief of instruction and the one with the
primacy over theology, then someone sure missed the boat with
Jesus called him to repentance on the road to Damascus not
in Jerusalem under the nose of Peter. Jesus chose a disciple from
Damascus not Jerusalem, or one sent by Peter. It was this
disciple who was told by Jesus what Paul was chosen for and the
work he would do, not Peter. Paul was converted, baptized by
someone not from the church at Jerusalem or from the authority of
Peter. There is no suggestion that Paul even thought about going
to Jerusalem to see or be taught by Peter at this time. He stayed
in Damascus and preached Christ there. When he finally did come
to Jerusalem only Barnabas believed he was a true disciple, the
others were afraid of him still (see all this in Acts 9).
When did Paul first go to Jerusalem? Acts does not tell us,
but Paul does in his letter to the Galatians.
We are told that Paul did not get his Christian theology
training from ANY human man, or local church. He was taught and
trained DIRECTLY by Jesus Christ(Gal.1:11,12). We are told that
when he was converted by Christ he immediately conferred not with
flesh and blood. He did not go up to Jerusalem to see the other
apostles. He went into Arabia and again back to Damascus.
It was only AFTER three years did he go up to Jerusalem to
see Peter and there abode with him fifteen days. Big deal,
fifteen days only. What do you learn from someone in two weeks?
The truth is he did not have to learn anything from Peter, for
Jesus had taught Paul not Peter.
What a huge SNUB from Paul towards Peter IF it was a common
doctrine of the church that Peter was Christ's chief and head
apostle of the church, the one with the primacy, the one with the
keys of the Kingdom to feed and teach all others the inner
secrets of the truths of the Lord. Somehow Paul never got the
message of that doctrine. Even Jesus must have forgotten to tell
him. I speak as one in a dream. Jesus never forgot to tell Paul
this truth because it never was truth and never did Peter or the
NT church proclaim such a "primacy of Peter" doctrine.
One very short visit with Peter did Paul have, and only
after three years of teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.
Then did Paul make regular visits to Jerusalem to be taught and
fed by Peter? Not according to Paul. It was FOURTEEN YEARS
later before he again went to Jerusalem (Gal.2:1). Oh, he did
acknowledge that there were some in Jerusalem who "seemed to be
somewhat" - "seemed to be pillars" but they added nothing to him
in what he was doing for the Lord (Gal.2:6,9). It is very
interesting the order of names that Paul gives concerning these
"seemed to be pillars." Peter's name is NOT PUT FIRST! The
order is JAMES, Peter, and John. Another kick in the stomach for
Peter IF indeed Peter was the head apostle with primacy over all
other apostles and elders in the church.
It is also very interesting, more than interesting, it is
very revealing, for it gives us Paul's attitude towards people
who "seemed to be somewhat" in the church. Notice it in
verse 6 of chapter 2. "but of these who seemed to be somewhat
(WHATSOEVER THEY WERE, IT MAKES NO MATTER TO ME: GOD ACCEPTS NO
Whether they seemed to be somewhat, or seemed to be pillars,
he really was not bothered, it meant nothing to him, for he knew
in the NT church that God is no respecter of persons among His
ministers and elders/overseers in any congregation or the church
as a worldwide whole. Paul had been taught by Christ who had
already taught His first 12 apostles that no one of them had
primacy over the others, but they were all to be servants to each
other, just as Jesus Himself came not to be served but to serve.
When Peter came to Antioch and behaved himself not according
to the truth but against the truth that had been established by
the whole church, Paul was swift to CORRECT him, and that before
There arose a very large and disturbing conflict within the
church, it was over the subject of circumcision. Some claimed
people had to be circumcised in order to be saved. The issue was
resolved by a church conference at Jerusalem. We shall look at
this later in detail during the second part of this study. For
now we need to meditate upon WHY bother with a church conference
over a doctrinal matter IF Peter was HEAD apostle with the
primacy of authority and with the special gift of the "keys of
the Kingdom" and with appointed power to "feed the sheep" above
all other apostles and elders.
Look at all the time, and expense it would have taken to
bring in ministers from far and wide to Jerusalem. Why bother
and put added costs and pressure on the church WHEN PETER could
have used his primacy power and authority to settle the matter
"out of court" so to speak.
This was not a new matter but had been plaguing the church
for quite some time. Most were very familiar with the arguments
and the issue. Certainly the apostles at Jerusalem would have
been. Peter could have saved the church a whole lot of trouble
much earlier if he had used his primacy authority, and taught and
ruled for the church what the truth of the matter really was on
this circumcision issue. Why did he not do so? Very simple. He
did not do so because he had no primacy above any other apostle
over doctrinal matters such as this one.
There were many large problems at times in the NT church.
Paul had to deal with many in different congregations. Never do
we read about Paul or any other writer in the
NT word, pointing anyone or any congregation to the primacy of
Peter in any matter. We cannot find any words used like: "I shall
take this to Peter for his decision" or "This is such a large
issue that Peter will need be called to exercise his keys of the
Kingdom" or "As Peter is to teach and feed the flock, the
apostles, and elders, we will wait on him for his judgment and
final authoritative verdict."
What about Peter himself. He did write two letters that are
part of the inspired NT. He had the opportunity in those letters
to set the doctrine of his primacy down for all the church
throughout all the ages. But he never so much as even brought up
the subject. He did call himself "an apostle" and "an elder" but
never THE apostle, or "the head of the
church" or "the one who has the primacy over all apostles and
What he did teach concerning the Eldership is EXACTLY what
Jesus taught. You will find it in his first letter, chapter
five, verses one through six.
All elders are to "feed the flock of God," being not "lords
over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." The
younger ministers are to submit to the older ministers,
BUT....."all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed
with HUMILITY........Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty
hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."
Such is the OVERVIEW of the NT concerning this idea of a
primacy for Peter.
This ends part one of this study. Part two will look in
detail at Mat.16:17-19; Acts 15; and 2 Cor.11:5(within the
Keith Hunt(January 19th 1997). All quotations from the KJV.