I was actually tempted to skip this next footstep. But when we study Scripture we need to have the courage to honestly view it all, even those passages that are troublesome or that might cause controversy. So here goes. Was the Apostle Peter really given authority over the Church? Was he really its head? Many believe that’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:18 when He told Peter “Thou are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This occurred right after Peter correctly replied to Jesus’ question, “who do you say I am?”
But was Jesus really making Peter the head of the church? I can understand why some believe this, especially since it has spawned an entire hierarchy of heads or Popes, and a host of traditions, many of which are not Biblical, and because Ephesians 2:20 says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Does that mean the Old Testament prophets were “popes” too? Heads of Judaism? Hardly. And what foundation is it talking about? Jesus, of course, who revealed Himself in scripture long before his arrival in Bethlehem’s manger. And finally, when you carefully examine the above scripture and understand that a word-play, like so often occurs in the Bible, was going on, a different meaning actually comes to light.
First, the word Peter in Greek is petros meaning a piece of rock, while petra is the word Jesus used when saying “on this rock (petra) I will build my church,” and petra means a massive rock like a mountain. So who or what is this petra? Well, it’s none other than Jesus Himself! 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 talks about how Moses and the Israelites ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” Both Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22 clearly state that Jesus is the head of the church. And 1 Corinthians 3:11 says Jesus is the foundation of the church while Peter himself in 1 Peter 2:3-8 says Jesus was the chief corner stone of the church.
And all this makes perfect sense since no mere man could ever be the head of Christ’s church. Only Jesus Himself can be its head. But what of Peter? What was Jesus saying in His play of words? In modern vernacular Jesus was calling Peter a “chip off the old block” with the block being Jesus Himself. I wonder if this was what Peter was remembering when he said in 1 Peter 2:5 that we are all “living stones” that make up the spiritual house of the church. It’s interesting to note that in verse 5 Peter also calls us a “holy priesthood” and in verse 9 a “royal priesthood” ending forever the need for any other priesthood.
In Matthew 15:6 Jesus tells the Pharisees, those religious folks, that they were making the commandment of God of none effect by their traditions. I think that’s why Jesus, right after stating He was going to build the church on Himself, issued this caution in Matthew 16:19 (Amplified), “I will give you (the church) 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 whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed (lawful) in heaven.”
So, is a man, any man, able to lawfully call himself head of Jesus’ church? I don’t believe scripture supports that claim at all. On the contrary, it indicates that only Jesus can be its head.
If we expect to stand in these darkening days we must truly know and understand God’s word. And that can only be done by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May God give each of us the courage to open our hearts and minds to His truth.
Until next time,