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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 allegedly 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, "petra" means a mass of rock. Thus there exists a distinction between both words occupied in Matthew 16:18. 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 the passage from the Gospel According to Matthew.
  • 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 church is built on all of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20-22). In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation stone upon which the church is built, not Peter (1 Corinthians 3:11). While the Apostle Peter's name is defined in Scripture to mean "a stone" (John 1:42), Christ is referred to as "the rock" (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). The "rock" mentioned in Matthew 16:18 is simply Peter's confession of faith (Matthew 16:16). This interpretation of the passage is very reasonable, especially in light of the fact that the surrounding context (v. 13-18) is about the spread of the gospel and the identity of the Messiah, not the establishment of some sort of authoritative office with successors. It is upon our confessions of faith that the church stands or falls. Thus every doctrine and practice of the church should be in accordance to the Will of Jesus Christ. Never does Scripture describe a mere human being as being "the rock" (i.e. 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalm 18:31; Isaiah 44:8; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6-8). 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.
  • All of the apostles were given the ability to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18): 
          -This power was not possessed by Peter alone. He was not the only one who was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
  • The meaning of the keys, binding, and loosing:
          -Quite simply, the "keys" represent the authority to proclaim the salvation of converts and the condemnation of sinners (i.e. Luke 10:16). The keys are knowledge of the Kingdom of God (i.e. Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:52). The door of salvation is opened to those who accept the message of the gospel (i.e. Acts 14:27; Romans 1:16), 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 through the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost (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 (i.e. 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 and conversion of perishing souls (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).
  • The Apostle Peter was not the first pope:
          -The concept of a New Testament church hierarchy is unbiblical. In other words, Scripture mentions nothing about 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, it seems as if nobody recognized him as having any primacy over the other apostles. What is even more significant to observe about the pages of the New Testament is that we never see the Apostle Peter acting in the authoritative manner that popes do. Although he can rightly be accredited as possessing historical salvation primacy, 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 Roman bishop 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.