Having looked at how people want to look at churches, sometimes ignoring their historical development, coming from a schism group growing out to an established church. People from those main churches now, like the Roman Catholic church did in ancient times, calling others heretic and calling them cults or even sects.
Still today the Roman Catholic Church considers itself as the only true church.
The American prelate who, as archbishop of Baltimore from 1877 to 1921, served as a bridge between Roman Catholicism and American Catholic values, Cardinal James Gibbons in his book The Faith of Our Fathers, page 100, makes this statement:
“Jesus, our Lord, founded but one Church, which He was pleased to build on Peter. Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God. This is plain.”
A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, published by Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953, says:
“By this revelation the Father had singled out Peter as the natural foundation for his Son’s society.”
For sure when we talk about Christianity or Christendom and its churches, we should find churches where the members should be following Christ and the community whereof they are a member should have Jesus Christ as their cornerstone.
People should know that the word “church” appearing in many Bible translations does not have reference to a literal building of one particular stone. We also should remember that the Bible tells us that God
“does not dwell in handmade temples.” (Acts 17:24)
In our community of Bible Students we do prefer to use the original Greek word ecclésia which we can find translated in many English bibles as “church” and means a congregation or gathering (Matthew 16:18). The followers of the Nazarene master teacher first went to the synagogue but when more goyim joined the Jewish movement the Way they started forming congregations and called their assembly of people an ecclésia.
Their place of gathering was not a specific building for worship. At first they came together in private and public houses. When they spoke about their ecclesia or church they did not have it about a building of wood or stone made by men’s hands.
A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, page 881, makes this comment:
“The ‘church’ (ἐκκλησία, the customary LXX rendering of the Hebrew qahál, i.e. religious assembly, congregation) is the new society of Christ’s faithful answering to, and supplanting, the OT qahál. Simon is to be the ultimate authority on earth of this society.”
The Greek term ek·kle·siʹa comes from two Greek words, ek, meaning “out,” and ka·leʹo, meaning “to call.” It refers to a group of people summoned or called together for a particular purpose or activity. The followers of the Nazarene rabbi Jeshua (Jesus Christ), felt they were called out by him to gather regularly. Jesus is the sent one from God and the authorised one on which all have to count and build. It is him who gave himself as a price for the sins of many and as such bought us free, a ransom as a “touchstone”. It is him who God appointed to create not only a new world but also a new assembly of believers. All those who would come to believe in him should feel like they would be part or member of his body.
When Jesus spoke to the apostle Peter
“On this rock-mass I will build my congregation,” or “my church”
Jesus says “my church” and is speaking about his footstep followers. The Catholic Commentary makes this point clear when it refers to them as
“the new society of Christ’s faithful.”
These faithful footstep followers Jesus calls his body, his bride, his congregation or church. Jesus foretells the formation of the Christian congregation, made up of anointed Christians, who as “living stones” are being
“built up into a spiritual house.” (1Pe 2:4, 5)
It are the close ones to Christ and later those who wanted to go into the footsteps of the apostles and by time became called Christians, who are
“called . . . out of darkness” and “chosen . . . out of the world”
to make up
Bible scholars will note that Jehovah the Almighty God is often referred to in the Scriptures as “the Rock,” because He is the eternal foundation of everything what exist and shall be able to stand all sorts of storms. Therefore there are groups which consider themselves part of what they call “His holy universal organization” of which He is the Rock or the foundation. At Deuteronomy 32:3, 4 we read:
“Do you attribute greatness to our God! The Rock, perfect is his activity.”
Jehovah God Almighty is a foundation that can never be moved. Samuel’s mother Hannah in prayer said:
“There is no rock like our God.”—1 Sam. 2:2.
That Great Spirit Being called Jesus Christ His son, and also in His infallible Word, the Bible, has that other Biblical character identified as the rock or cornerstone that the builders rejected. (Matt. 21:42) In his writings the apostle Peter testifies to this fact, saying:
“Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, you yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it is contained in Scripture:
‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.’
It is to you, therefore, that he is precious, because you are believers; but to those not believing,
‘the identical stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense.’” (1 Pet. 2:4-8)
Thus stones or rocks are used in an illustrative sense, representing individual faithful members who become a part of the Christian congregation built on the foundation cornerstone Jesus Christ.
Note how this view is also supported by the apostle Paul. He writes:
Israel “stumbled on the ‘stone of stumbling’; as it is written:
‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense, but he that rests his faith on it will not come to disappointment.’” (Rom. 9:32, 33)
Now over whom did ancient Israel stumble? Was it over Peter or over Jesus Christ?
Paul shows the stone of stumbling and foundation to be Jesus Christ, not Peter.
We can see that it is the prophet raised by God who is presenting the world a living water and a steadfast rock.
Further, when Paul mentions “apostles and prophets,” which certainly would have included Peter, he, nevertheless, refers to Christ as
“the foundation cornerstone.” (Eph. 2:20)
Why this if Peter headed the church?
Again, at Revelation 21:14 all twelve apostles of Christ are designated as twelve foundation stones.
2 The names of the 12 apostles are these:+ First, Simon, the one called Peter,+ and Andrew+ his brother; James the son of Zebʹe·dee and John+ his brother; 3 Philip and Bar·tholʹo·mew;+ Thomas+ and Matthew+ the tax collector; James the son of Al·phaeʹus; and Thad·daeʹus; 4 Simon the Ca·na·naeʹan; and Judas Is·carʹi·ot, who later betrayed him.+ (Mt 10:2-4)
Peter is not singled out. But in John’s book it says that these twelve apostles are of “the Lamb,” who is the chief foundation and precious cornerstone.
We also hear that there is “only one master”, namely Christ Jesus.
Nowhere in the Book concerning the first church, the Acts of the Apostles (the 2nd book of Luke), is given an indication that Peter would have been the leader. In case Peter would have been in charge of the whole congregation, then Peter would have had occasion to remind the others of that fact. Though we can find some one who was not a follower of Jesus, when he was alive, who came to rebuke Peter. The apostle Paul opposed the apostle Peter to his face because, according to Paul, he clearly was wrong and bring him (the supposed pope, the vicar of Christ, the infallible one! according the Catholic Church) into line doctrinally for fearfully compromising in his dealing with Gentile converts.
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?+ Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 Even if I am not an apostle to others, I most certainly am to you! For you are the seal confirming my apostleship in the Lord. — 1 Cor. 9:1, 2;
11 However, when Ceʹphas*+ came to Antioch,+ I resisted* him face-to-face, because he was clearly in the wrong.* 12 For before certain men from James+ arrived, he used to eat with people of the nations;+ but when they arrived, he stopped doing this and separated himself, fearing those of the circumcised class.+ 13 The rest of the Jews also joined him in putting on this pretense,* so that even Barʹna·bas was led along with them in their pretense.* 14 But when I saw that they were not walking in step with the truth of the good news,+ I said to Ceʹphas* before them all: “If you, though you are a Jew, live as the nations do and not as Jews do, how can you compel people of the nations to live according to Jewish practice?”+ – Gal. 2:11-14.
Further, when the elders and apostles gathered in Jerusalem to discuss the question of circumcision, we find that it was not Peter but the disciple James who asked the gathered ones to listen to him. It was James who gave his judgment, that they had to stop troubling the Gentiles who turned to God. Some scholars think that the apostolic decree then given was suggested by James, who was then considered the immediate leader of the Jerusalem community. Surely had Peter been the chief and in Christ’s place he would have done so. Had Christ Jesus been present, could we imagine him letting James thus sum up the matter?
After they finished speaking, James+ replied: “Men, brothers, hear me.+14 Symʹe·on+ has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.+15 And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written: 16 ‘After these things I will return and raise up again the tent of David that is fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the men who remain may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things,+18 known from of old.’+19 Therefore, my decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God,+20 but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols,+ from sexual immorality,+ from what is strangled, and from blood.+21 For from ancient times* Moses has had those who preach him in city after city, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”+ —Acts 15:13-21.
Neither the early Christian congregation nor the early “church fathers” held that Peter was the rock on which the church was built. He himself also did not consider himself as the appointed leader of ‘the church’.
In his own writings Peter never calls himself pope or speaks of himself as the head of the church. Rather, he identifies Christ as the rock-mass foundation:
“Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God, you yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. . . . It is to you, therefore, that he is precious, because you are believers; but to those not believing, ‘the identical stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense’.” — 1 Pet. 2:4-8, NWT.
The doctrine that Peter is the head of the church and that he supposedly has successors was something which came into idea much later and was for a long time not thought so.
This is clearly seen from the facts brought to our attention by one Bishop Strossmayer of Bosnia, in his speech made before the college of cardinals in 1870, at the time that the dogma of the infallibility of the pope was discussed. Among other things this bishop told that august assembly:
“I come now to speak of the great argument — which you mentioned before — to establish the primacy of the Bishop of Rome by the rock (petra). If this were true, the dispute would be at an end; but our forefathers — and they certainly knew something — did not think of it as we do.
St. Cyril, in his fourth book on the Trinity, says,
‘I believe that by the rock you must understand the unshaken faith of the apostles.’
St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, in his second book on the Trinity, says,
‘The rock (petra) is the blessed and only rock of the faith confessed by the mouth of St. Peter;’
and in the sixth book of the Trinity, he says,
‘It is on this rock of the confession of faith that the church is built.’
says St. Jerome in the sixth book on St. Matthew,
‘has founded His church on this rock, and it is from this rock that the apostle Peter has been named.’
After him St. Chrysostom says in his fifty-third homily on St. Matthew,
‘On this rock I will build my church — that is, on the faith of the confession.’
Now, what was the confession of the apostle? Here it is —
’Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
Ambrose, the holy Archbishop of Milan (on the second chapter of the Ephesians), St. Basil of Seleucia, and the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon, teach exactly the same thing. Of all the doctors of Christian antiquity St. Augustine occupies one of the first places for knowledge and holiness. Listen then to what he writes in his second treatise on the first epistle of St. John:
‘What do the words mean, I will build my church on this rock? On this faith, on that which said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
In his treatise on St. John we find this most significant phrase
‘On this rock which thou hast confessed I will build my church, since Christ was the rock.’
The great bishop believed so little that the church was built on St. Peter that he said to the people in his thirteenth sermon,
‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock (petra) which thou hast confessed, on this rock which thou hast known, saying, Thou art Christ the Son of the living God, I will build my church — upon Myself, who am the son of the living God: I will build it on Me, and not Me on thee.’
That which St. Augustine thought upon this celebrated passage was the opinion of all Christendom in his time.” (Augustine died A.D. 430, or about 400 years after Jesus spoke those words to Peter.)
Nor was Peter the first bishop of Rome, any more than he was the “rock” or the first pope. Many scriptures show that Paul was in Rome, so why should he have found it necessary to give the Roman Christians so much counsel if Peter were there and were superior to Paul?
In his letter to the Romans Paul mentions 35 Christians by name and sends greetings to 26 of them, but no mention of Peter, no greetings for him. If Peter had been in Rome and there as the pope or bishop, could we imagine Paul so completely ignoring him?
Further, Paul wrote a number of his letters from Rome, and in these he made reference to other Christians in Rome who were with him or who also sent greetings, but never a word regarding Peter.
Why the great silence if Peter actually were there at the time?
And had Peter established himself as bishop of Rome could he still have been termed the apostle to the circumcision? To claim that Peter’s reference to Babylon in his first epistle (1Pe 5:13) refers to Rome merely is to admit how weak the case is for Peter’s having been in Rome.
According to Bishop Strossmayer, one Scaliger (termed by the Encyclopedia Americana “the founder of the science of chronology” and therefore no mean authority) did not hesitate to say that
“St. Peter’s episcopate and residence at Rome ought to be classed with ridiculous legends”.
Thus we see that both the Scriptures and historical facts unite to testify that the Christian congregation is built on Christ Jesus and not on the apostle Peter, that Peter was not the first pope, and that there is no proof that he was ever in Rome. Truly, “the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32, NW.
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