Friday, July 7, 2017

Addressing The Roman Catholic Misinterpretation Of Matthew 16:18-19

  • Defining The Issues:
          -The meaning of the "rock" found in Matthew 16:18-19 has been disputed among Roman Catholic and non-Catholic scholars alike. Literally volumes of books have been written to defend various interpretations of this symbol. In fact, the three most prominent views on the identity of the rock are that it is representative of Jesus Christ Himself, the Apostle Peter's bold confession of faith, and Peter himself. However, the Church of Rome has made significant claims regarding the meaning of the rock in Matthew 16:18-19 in relation to its inflated views of its own authority. In short, the purpose of this article is to interact with the Romanist interpretation of the rock found in Matthew 16:18-19.
  • How The Roman Catholic Church Interprets The Rock Of Matthew 16:18-19:
          -Roman Catholics argue that because the Apostle Peter is the rock, their church is built on him and is therefore the true, original church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism maintains that 1.) Christ granted Peter special primacy over His entire church and 2.) that this apostle passed his unique position of spiritual authority to the Roman bishops who would succeed him in later generations (CCC #881-882). Consequently, it is claimed that the doctrines of the Church of Rome have been infallibly preserved throughout the centuries.
  • The Greek "Petros" And "Petra" Distinction:
          -The words "petros" and "petra" are used in the original Greek grammatical construction of Matthew 16:18. In other words, the passage reads, "You are Peter ("petros") and upon this rock ("petra") I will build my church." While "petros" means a piece of rock (masculine), "petra" means a mass of rock (feminine). Thus, there exists a distinction between both words occupied in Matthew 16:18. Peter is not the rock on which the church is built. But if the Apostle Peter was meant to serve as the foundation upon which the Christian church stands, then we should not be seeing two different Greek words with two different meanings in this passage. Consider how the Good News Bible renders Matthew 16:18, "And so I tell you, Peter; you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and not even death will ever be able to overcome it."
  • The Rock Of Matthew 16:18-19 Is Not The Apostle Peter Himself, But Rather Is His Solid Confession Of Faith (Matthew 16:16):
          -The "rock" mentioned in Matthew 16:18 is Peter's confession of faith (Matthew 16:16). This interpretation of the passage fits the context, which is about the spread of the gospel and the identity of the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-18). The establishment of some sort of authoritative office with successors is nowhere present. It is upon our confession of faith that the church stands. Thus, every doctrine and practice of the church should be in accordance to the will of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:16-18, the words "it" and "this" are referring to the Apostle Peter's statement identifying the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is built on the revelation that Christ is the promised Jewish Messiah.
          -"He gave him a new name: Cephas. [1.] His giving him a name intimates Christ's favour to him. A new name denotes some great dignity, Rev. 2:17; Isa. 62:2. By this Christ not only wiped off the reproach of his mean and obscure parentage, but adopted him into his family as one of his own. [2.] The name which he gave him bespeaks his fidelity to Christ: Thou shalt be called Cephas (that is Hebrew for a stone), which is by interpretation Peter; so it should be rendered, as Acts 9:36. Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas; the former Hebrew, the latter Greek, for a young roe. Peter's natural temper was stiff, and hardy, and resolute, which I take to be the principal reason why Christ called him Cephas—a stone. When Christ afterwards prayed for him, that his faith might not fail, that so he might be firm to Christ himself, and at the same time bade him strengthen his brethren, and lay out himself for the support of others, then he made him what he here called him, Cephas—a stone. Those that come to Christ must come with a fixed resolution to be firm and constant to him, like a stone, solid and stedfast; and it is by his grace that they are so." (Excerpt taken from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible)
  • The Meaning Of The Keys, Binding, And Loosing:
          -The "keys" represent the authority to proclaim the salvation of converts and the condemnation of sinners (Luke 10:16). The keys are knowledge of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:52). The door of salvation is opened to those who accept the message of the gospel (Acts 14:27; Revelation 1:5), whereas the door of eternal condemnation is opened for those who reject the salvific message of the gospel. The mission of the entire church is to preach the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49). In the Book of Acts, converts such as Paul and Cornelius received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They rejoiced as a result of hearing the proclamation of eternal salvation. But notice how the Lord Jesus Christ instructed His original disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they encountered cities who rejected them for preaching the gospel message (Matthew 10:14-15; Mark 6:11; Acts 13:51). This is a perfect way of applying the principle of "loosing," or announcing the condemnation of sinners. Today, we serve as ambassadors for Christ by performing the ministry of reconciliation through the preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Christians have been authorized to declare the terms of forgiveness as provided by the gospel: holding fast by faith in Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). This power of the keys was not possessed by the Apostle Peter alone, nor does the Scripture passage in question point to that interpretation. Rather, it was given to all the apostles (Matthew 18:18).
          -"What is the power of binding and loosing? These disciples immediately recognized the background of its meaning. If you were a Jew, living at the time of Christ, and you had done something that you thought could be a violation of the Mosaic Law, you would have to take your problem to the ruling elders. They would have debated your case; then they would have come to one of two conclusions. They would have either bound or loosed you. If they had bound you, this meant that you had violated the Mosaic Law and that you were obligated to pay the penalty-sacrifice and/or restitution. If they had loosed you, this meant that you had not violated the Mosaic Law. No sacrifice was necessary. These ruling elders were simply declaring what had already been legislated by Moses" (Was the Church Established by Peter?, Robert Gromacki, cited by Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, p. 109-110)
  • The Apostle Peter Was Not The First Pope:
          -The New Testament never mentions the one-head bishop structure that is found in the modern Church of Rome. In fact, the Bible never even records the Apostle Peter as passing on his apostolic authority to a designated successor or a discussion on who would occupy his seat of authority after his departure from the world. In Scripture, the Apostle Peter does not act in the authoritarian manner that popes do. Although he can rightly be accredited as playing an important role in preaching the gospel, we never see him acting as the "prince of the apostles."
  • Even If The Apostle Peter Was The Rock Of Matthew 16:18, That Fact Would Still Not Grant The Pope Universal Jurisdiction Over Christendom: 
          -The context of Matthew 16 is absolutely silent about the establishment of an extremely wealthy church hierarchy that claims infallibility with a continual chain of leading successors. The Scripture text addressed in this article says nothing about a "Vicar of Christ" or a teaching Magisterium. It says nothing about the unbiblical offices and societies contained in the Church of Rome. Neither does Matthew 16:18 command us to adhere to a mysterious body of extra-biblical revelation, as Roman Catholicism does. In fact, this passage says nothing about submission to an earthly institution that is headquartered in Rome, Italy! So appealing to Matthew 16:18-19 as a biblical proof-text for the Papacy is completely unwarranted. Roman Catholics are placing too much weight on this particular Bible verse. They are merely reading their church hierarchy into a passage where such notions are absent.

2 comments:

  1. When I tell someone who has professed belief in the gospel that their sins are forgiven, it's not my statement to them that makes it true, but it's already true in heaven. Christ death and sacrifice is a blanket across history and he lives to now intercede for us.

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