A mixed group of Catholics and Christians were discussing the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19; that Peter was the first leader—pope, if you will—of the Christian church. One of the non-Catholic participants had suggested that when Jesus said that He would give the keys of the kingdom to Peter, this was proof that the Apostle would be the first to preach the Gospel.
In that I had never come upon anything in Scripture that clearly declared Peter's primacy within the college of Apostles, I could not agree with this position.
I had written:
One of the Catholic participants jumped on my unwillingness to accept an improvable statement and attempted to fashion my disagreement into a weapon useful for defending the Romish understanding. Notice that he addresses a statement that I did not make. I had made no mention as to who was the first to preach to the Jews, but that was the premise chose to deal with.
Catholic "apologetics" in action. If not possible to convince by the weight of argument, then introduce division into the ranks in the opposite camp. Deceptive. Devious. Dishonest. Utterly Roman Catholic.
I do not "dispute" the stated position, nor do I wish to appear to dispute it. What I do is offer a simple statement of fact: There is no indisputable evidence upon which to build a dogma. Play fair, Sir Romanist. Deceitfulness does no honor either to you or to Rome.
Perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps the full text of my statement did not come through on your machine. Or perhaps you experienced a power failure before you had read all the way through the paragraph. On the other hand, it seems always safe to say that Windows crashed and the file was corrupted before you were able to completely read it. Of course, you could admit that you were merely practicing normal RCC apologetics by ignoring those parts of a difficult passage that are inconvenient to the position you are defending. Naah. That would be expecting too much of a Romanist apologist.
Undaunted, the Defender of Romanism diverted the discussion of Matthew 16:18-18 to a number of different threads, the first of which was:
Wow!!! You really like this angle, don't you? Certainly, there was significance attached to Abraham's new name, as there was to Israel's. However, I fail to see how this supports the RCC fantasy concerning Peter as first Pope. God gave a reason for His renaming of the Patriarchs. Sound exegesis of Matthew 16:18 does not support your argument. Spend time reading the interpretation of Dr. Robertson, whose seminal work, Word Pictures In The New Testament, is widely acclaimed by Bible scholars.
The man then fired a number of apologetic volleys, supporting them with out-of-context verses from Scripture:
In this verse, we learn that God gave Abram a new name, a covenant name. In renaming the Patriarch, the Lord God also tells him why and spells out the details of the covenant between Himself and man, given through Abraham.
The Catholic apologist then called up Genesis 32:28, where God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, after Jacob had wrestled all night with his Lord.
Jacob's renaming came after the decisive moment in his life, when he wrestled with God Himself. Now, who can believe that a mere mortal could have prevailed against the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, particularly through the night, unless God so willed it? No, God was making a major point here. Read what The Eerdman's Bible Dictionary has to tell us about this event:
To recap, God renamed Abram when He established a covenant with the Patriarch. God renamed Jacob, after striving with him throughout the night, and blessing him. Both renamings were proximate to a significant interaction between man and the Lord God. There was no interval between the renamings and the proximate action. This biblical fact may be of some interest to the serious student -- and those who would invent dogma out of lapses and "omissions" in Scripture.
One day, John was baptizing for repentance in the Bethabara area. Jesus came to him for baptism, and John made his landmark declaration, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:28). Two men who were with John that day (John and Andrew) heard these words and set out to follow Jesus. (John 1:37) Andrew was so impressed by Jesus that he ran off to get his brother, Peter (John 1:41). That first encounter between Jesus and Peter went like this:
Now, to resort to RCC apologetics, why is Peter's renaming different? Peter was renamed when first he encountered Jesus, not after some major Christological occurrence. We do not see Jesus making a word play of Peter's new name until many months have passed. Why is this? No doubt the Teaching Authority of Rome has come up with some fantasy to force all three incidents into a common mold. The Bible is clear; Peter is NOT the rock upon which the true Church is built.
I then pointed to another "Rock" that is surely identified as the cornerstone, the foundation, of the Christian Church. Look, for example, to this passage:
John MacArthur comments thusly on the foregoing passage:
I find it of extreme interest that Peter, now infallible according to arguments you have presented on this board, did not see himself as the stone upon which the Church rests but, instead, gives that appellation to Christ.
Now, is Peter referring to Jesus as cornerstone of the Church? Well, I do believe he is. There are those who would agree with me. In his Exposition of the Bible John Gill comments on verse 11:
Hey! Do you see something in Gill's words that could be used as a definition of the Roman Catholic Church? Check it out:
Hello, members of the Magisterium. Are your ears burning?
Let's see what Gill wrote concerning Matthew 21:42:
Ver. 42. Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read the Scriptures, &c.] The passage which stands is #Ps 118:22,23. The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
Apparently, Paul wanted to make those in the Ephesian church aware of just who is the stone upon which the church is built:
Robertson explains verse 20 thusly:
The spokesman for Rome pressed his argument that the council in Jerusalem provides proof that Peter was premier among the apostles, implying that Peter silenced the disputing apostles by his authority. This, despite the fact that the words of Scripture do not say such a thing. Once again, the voice of Rome had found a void in the scriptural account and filled it with a fantasy. The biblical account does not say that those present at the meeting were silenced by Peter or by his authority. What the biblical account does say is that they listened.
When I read the account of the council meeting (in Acts 15), I get the impression of a meeting attended by passionate men. I see them arguing among themselves and I see Peter rising to state his arguments. Again, we have no information as to whether others at the meeting also rose to speak -- with everyone being respectfully quiet to hear their words. Perhaps no one stood to speak until that moment. Perhaps many did. Scripture does not say and, when Scripture is silent, man does not have the right to fill the perceived gaps in God's Word. Perhaps, it simply was Peter's turn to speak. We do not know, and literal/grammatical/historical hermeneutics does not permit fantasy as exegesis. Rome's allegorical/fantastical/imaginative hermeneutics may support such unfounded declarations but, then, this is not a Roman board. The Bible says:
In fact, if one reads the biblical account of this meeting, there is no clear indication that those present stopped their wrangling until it was time for Paul and Barnabas to speak. This raises the questions: 1) Did the disputing cease while Peter was speaking?; or 2) did the disputants not cease their wrangling until it was time for Paul and Barnabas to speak?; and 3) could they not have grown quiet out of respect for Paul and Barnabas? So many questions. So many possible answers. How interesting that Rome and those who parrot her twisted theology do not focus on the doctrine declared in these verses but, rather, on a fantasy primacy of Peter that is necessary to support the flimsy dogma that Peter was the first of an unbroken succession of popes.
James was the guy running the council. If Peter was considered senior to him, why did he not take charge of the business of the council? If Peter were running things, would that not have fallen to him? Do not popes normally convene church councils and then ratify and promulgate the council results? Why did it fall to James to make and declare the final judgment on the issues?
James settled the issue with these words:
My Catholic antagonist had a ready explanation to support the Romish position:
It appears that you are not carefully reading what is presented in refutation of your Romish claims. As I showed in an earlier response to you, Paul was teaching that doctrine before he and Peter came face to face in Jerusalem on the issue. I provided the passage in Paul's letter to the Galatians (5:1-6) that clearly demonstrated that. In what is characteristic of Catholic apologists, you apparently elected to pass over that biblical verification that the concepts declared by Peter were not original with him and that, in fact, the reason Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem was to defend the validity of these positions. In effect, Peter, in his declaration to the Jerusalem council, merely re-iterate Paul's prior position. However, in any case, the doctrine at issue here was not Peter's, nor even Paul's, but had its origins with the Lord God Almighty.
Perceiving his stand to be weak, I suspect, the defender of the Roman cult aimed his apologetic gun in a new direction.
Again, you misstate facts, Sir. Someone less inclined to be civil might even say you are a liar. Fortunately, I am in a civil humor this fine day. As I quite clearly demonstrated above, Sir Roman Apologist, I never said that Peter was not the first to preach to the Jews. What I said, which may be verified above, is that there is no conclusive evidence upon which to build a dogma. As to whether there exists evidence that early Christians believed Peter to have been the first to preach or the last, what does it matter? In Rome's apparent desperation to discover (even if it must be manufactured from whole cloth) such evidence, she is anchoring her ship of fantasy to a flimsy rock made of silence. And this, of course, points to why Rome clings so to Tradition, as defined by herself.
In any event, Mr. Romanist, biblical truth is not confirmed by a majority vote, nor even by the declarations of men -- however enlightened they may be. No, Sir. Biblical truth and God's doctrine are revealed in Scripture, through the illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit. No pope, no Christian theologian, no Catholic Magisterium can create biblical truth. It exists because God declared it. And those whom the Lord has regenerated, who attend to the ministering of the Holy Spirit can find it in God's Word. That this truth can be comprehended by those whom God has called to salvation should not be read to mean that all heed the illuminating council of the Holy Spirit. Some, far too many in my opinion, bring strong presuppositions and pre-conceptions to their studies and rely on their own counsel. While this is a problem that can make their walk in faith a difficult and troubled one, so long as their grasp of the foundational doctrines is correct, they continue to walk in Christ's footsteps. It is only when fallen man persists in looking to his own strength for salvation, such as in the semi-Pelagian doctrine and dogma of Rome, that he will discover only lies and false promises pointing to a vain hope for eternity.
Sophistry and unworthy of a response.
The guy continued to press his argument:
Sigh! Do you Catholic apologists ever devote any effort or energy to research? Do you ever make any attempt to discover on your own the answers to the questions you raise concerning Christian beliefs? What we have seen on this board is your exposition of the Catholic belief concerning Peter's primacy. And that was found wanting of biblical support. Now, in an apparent effort to divert attention from the reality that has been shown to you, you are attempting to build a Trojan horse, based on a survey of Christian thought on the matter. Shame! Shame on you. Biblical truth is not determined by the results of a survey or a popular vote. Biblical truth was determined long ago by the Lord God Almighty. Rather than kick up a dust cloud to hide the weaknesses of your own position, why not instead explore the foundation document of the Christian faith: The Holy Bible?
The apologetic smokescreen thickens:
More sophistry, and yet another attempt to divert the focus of the discussion.
Why don't you do a little research of your own to seek what other "Bible Believers" think on the issue? Now, of even more importance, why don't you tell us why this issue should be of interest to this board, which exists for the purpose of examining Catholic doctrine in the light of Scripture? Are you here attempting to establish yet another rabbit trail to distract readers and those who would respond to you?
The guy was indefatigable:
You do like to repeat yourself. Now, concerning infallibility (a favorite word of popes and popish), apparently Peter's infallibility paralleled that of more modern Catholic popes. Peter's infallibility was such that Paul publicly called him to task in Antioch for the errors he was teaching. It was after having been corrected by Paul that Peter claimed the doctrine that he declared at the council in Jerusalem. So, to use the RCC turn of phrase, the doctrine Peter declared at Jerusalem was not his, as you, Sir, have declared, but Paul's (though we all know it's origins are in the Lord God.). Oops!
My Catholic opposition then outdid himself in his effort to explain away Scriptural indications that Peter would have been a less-than-perfect first pope:
This champion of Romanism, who apparently considered himself to be a knowledgeable Catholic, sees nothing to concern himself as regards Peter's behavior in this account (Acts 10). You see? Peter's unwillingness to take the Gospel to the home of a Gentile had nothing to do with biblical doctrine. After all, the Great Commission was given before Pentecost, reckon that made it unbinding on Peter.
You claim Catholics believe the Holy Spirit protects the church's teachings and therefore the teachings of Peter when he was settling a theological dispute. OK. Then, by extension, would you acknowledge that same Holy Spirit was protecting Paul's conflicting teaching when he publicly corrected Peter's faulty doctrine in Antioch? Or is that a different issue, being that it affords no support to the Roman fantasy that Peter was first among apostles and the foundation stone upon which the RCC was built?
You missed my point entirely, Sir. Or, perhaps, you chose to misstate it deliberately. What I had hoped you would grasp is that John Paul II, or any pope for that matter, does not speak to Christians when he speaks to the Roman Catholic Church. I am disappointed, Sir. You seem so adept at discovering things that are not clearly stated. How could you miss my intent here?
Read the Bible. It will be as the balm of Gilead for your spirit.
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