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Nearly a billion Catholics from around the world believe in Peter's primacy and apostolic succession. To them the apostle Peter was the first pope, the chief of the apostles, and was given the keys to the Kingdom. The chief reason is the way Roman Catholicism interprets the following:
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Mt. 16:18)
Let's objectively test the popular Roman Catholic interpretation by comparing it with facts about the Apostle Peter's life and doctrine, as recorded throughout the Scriptures. The following are related facts that must not be overlooked:
Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever (Mt. 8:14, NKJV).
The Apostle Peter had a mother-in-law who was sick. This explicitly shows that the real Apostle Peter was a married man, for it is impossible to have a mother-in-law and not be married. If the Apostle Peter was the first pope, he was also a married man! Why then does Catholicism forbid present-day popes to be married like the Apostle Peter was? [1 Cor. 9:5 also shows Peter (or Cephas, Jn. 1:42) was married.]
When Peter came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?' (Gal. 2:11-14).
The Apostle Paul openly opposed the Apostle Peter because Peter was in the wrong. St. Paul would never have openly opposed the Apostle Peter if he was the visible head of the church. Can you imagine a Catholic bishop publicly opposing the Pope today? This single incident alone shows it is impossible for the Apostle Peter to be the head of the church. Please read the aforementioned passage from Galatians again.
If the Apostle Peter was the head of the church, why did St. James preside over the first and only church council cited in the New Testament (Acts 15:6-30)? The Apostle Peter was present, yet he did not preside over this important council dealing with circumcision and its non-role in salvation! This is one of the most powerful and clear proofs that The Apostle Peter was not the head of the early church!
Did the Apostle Peter consider himself to be the head of the early church? The following are his own words about himself:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed (1 Pet. 5:1).
The Apostle Peter wrote to other elders but never mentioned any primacy that he uniquely had, which was supposed to have begun at the point of Mt. 16:18! Peter merely referred to himself as a fellow elder. (The Apostle John, likewise, referred to himself as an elder, 2 Jn. 1.)
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them (Acts 8:14).
If the Apostle Peter was the head of the apostles, he would have ordered other apostles to go to various places, but instead the Apostle Peter (and the Apostle John) were sent by the other apostles! Obviously, the Apostle Peter was not the designated head of the apostles!
If the Apostle Peter was the head of the church (visibly), why did both the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul write more of the New Testament than he did? The Apostle Peter wrote 2 books of the New Testament (or 8 chapters), while John wrote 5 books (or 50 chapters) and Paul at least 13 books (or at least 87 chapters). Both John and Paul wrote much more of the eternal Word of God than Peter did.
If the Apostle Peter was the head of the apostles, why did Paul work harder for the Lord than the rest of the Apostles, including him?
But by the grace of God I [Paul] am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Cor. 15:10)?
If the Apostle Peter was the head of the apostles, certainly the other apostles would have known it. However, they didn't! This is apparent since they argued about which of them was the "greatest," even while Jesus was still living among them!
Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest (Lk. 9:46).
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest (Lk. 22:24).
Clearly, this last passage occurred after Jesus spoke Mt. 16:18 and in Jesus' presence! Please note that Jesus never corrected them by saying Peter was made the "head" at the point of Mt. 16:18! The other apostles never thought that verse uniquely exalted Peter above themselves, so why should we?
NOTE: Even IF the Bible taught Peter was the chief apostle and pope, which is does NOT, there is not a hint in Scripture of any apostolic succession! Unfortunately, apostolic succession has led to present-day Popes, who have said that Mary is the sinless, ever Virgin, mediatrix and dispenser of all grace, Queen of heaven, Mother of God, Mother of mercies, etc., but the Apostle Peter never taught that way. What were the Apostle Peter's doctrinal beliefs about salvation? According to him, Mother Mary plays no role at all in salvation. We do NOT first go to her to get to Jesus. If we needed to, Peter would have certainly known and taught so, but he didn't. Again, he NEVER mentioned Mary in either of his two epistles or any sermons he preached, as recorded in Acts! Let's look at the eternal record. Peter said of Jesus:
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
To him all the prophets witness that, through his name, whoever believes in him will receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43).
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they (Acts 15:11).
The Apostle Peter exalted Jesus and faith in his name for salvation with no mention of Mary, even in an indirect way! The focus was on Jesus and him alone for salvation. Again, the Apostle Peter NEVER mentioned Mary in either of his two books of the New Testament.
As with the other apostles, the Apostle Peter likewise never mentioned the sacraments, church membership, attending mass, praying the Rosary, or any other Catholic distinctive as having any role in salvation at all! What then should we believe about Peter's Primacy and the proper interpretation of Mt. 16:18 when we consider the sum total of Scripture?
This is certain: The Bible is eternal truth and it doesn't allow for the popular self-exalting Roman Catholic interpretation of Mt. 16:18. Furthermore, it was given to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus:and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:15-17)We are to go by the Bible and use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible alone is final authority. Jesus said that the Word of God will be our judge (Jn. 12:48), and the Word of God teaches that we must repent and place all (100%) of our trust in Jesus for our salvation (Jn. 3:18; Acts 20:21; 26:20; etc.). Baptism, holy communion, good works, church membership, subjection to the Pope, praying the Rosary and Mary cannot save us, according to the Bible! So why not believe the Bible? Could there be anything wrong with repenting and trusting Jesus 100% for salvation?
The Amplified Bible
Regarding Mt. 16:18, the Amplified Bible says:
I tell you that you are Peter [Petros, masculine, a large piece of rock], and on this rock [petra, feminine, a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church....
Peter is "a large piece of rock," but the church is built on petra which means "a huge rock like Gibraltar"! Peter is also masculine gender and not feminine gender as petra is. The misuse of this verse has led people to wrongly believe that the church was built on St. Peter, who was supposed to have been the visible head of the church and the first Pope. From that came the invention of apostolic succession leading to many popes, who have taught many spiritually deadly things. For example, popes have taught Mary has a role in salvation!Clearly, that is not the mother of Jesus. Hence, such a wrong belief about Peter from Mt. 16:18 has led to other false ideas and doctrines regarding how one finds salvation, which in turn has led to the damnation of many.
In summary, it is impossible to embrace the correct interpretation of Mt. 16:18 without considering the aforementioned facts of Peter's life and doctrines. Sadly, when one considers the sum total of the evidence, it must be stated that a distortion of Mt. 16:18 and the unfounded belief in apostolic succession has led to the spiritual destruction of multitudes over the centuries. Dear reader, don't let this happen to you or your Catholic friends! (Click here to purchase our book, Is This The Mary Of The Bible?)
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