Was Peter the Rock Christ Built His Church On?

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

Peter was the first Christian who preached the gospel to Jews to see Holy Spirit fall on them (Acts chapter 2). Then he added Samaritans to Christ’s church. They received the Holy Spirit also (Acts 8:14-17). And finally, Peter was the first Christian to preach to Gentiles who received Holy Spirit (Acts 10:34-48).

So the Bible record certainly shows Christ gave Peter that assignment of being the apostle to open the way of salvation to all three groups, through preaching Christ’s gospel. I say that because Christ, as leader of his church, and part of its god (Father and Son), he certainly knew in advance who would first preach to each group even before he sent his Spirit upon them. When Peter preached to the Samaritans John was with him sharing that message, and when he preached at Pentecost other Spirit anointed Christians were present, but it was Peter’s speech that moved some in that Jewish crowd to repent and accept Christ.

Christ did use Peter for those special jobs, being first to preach the gospel with the resultant Holy Spirit falling on all three groups. So is that what Christ meant by giving Peter the “keys to the kingdom,” or stating “on this Rock I will build my church?” Your belief in answering that question shouldn’t change your salvation status. Why would it? Nevertheless, you should not accept the misguided teaching that Peter, or any man except Christ, ever headed up Christ’s church.

Biblical history shows Peter was never head of the church. For example, look closely at the rest of Peter’s history in the Church, and compare his history with Paul’s church history. Scriptures in the book of Acts focus first on Peter’s preaching, and then Paul’s preaching in the second half. Other Christians are included, but the book covers their contributions far less.

What about the rest of the New Testament Bible record? What do we learn from the degree of prominence given each apostle, between these two? When we count all the pages Peter wrote, and then count all the pages Paul wrote, we see the ratio is totally lopsided in favor of Paul’s writing. Thus, so far as Christ’s whole church has been affected, Paul was certainly a more prominent leader than Peter, if you accept that their inspired writings constitute part of their church leadership. If you compare the decisions made to correct opinions about Christian living and Christian doctrines, again we see Paul offered much more correction to doctrinal thinking in his writings than Peter gave us in his scriptures. Again, which one wrote more to influence the church after they died, Paul or Peter? If Peter was first to lead Christ’s church wouldn’t it make sense his writings would be more plentiful, and more insightful than Paul’s? The opposite is true.

Is there anything in the Bible record where we see Peter leading the whole church, with the whole church following him as the appointed leader? No! The Bible record shows Apostle Paul wielded just as much authority in Christian congregations as Peter did. Paul even publicly rebuked Peter at least once for sinning. See Galatians 2:11-21. Furthermore, Paul was not directed by Peter or even by that Christian group of elders in Jerusalem. If Peter was over the Christian congregation, as leader, certainly all Christians back then would have to follow his directions. If they didn’t, he could not be a leader of theirs, because of not leading them. Paul didn’t even go to Jerusalem to meet Peter until 3 years after he had already been preaching the gospel to gentiles-Galatians 1:16-18. Paul didn’t receive permission or directions from Peter or that Jewish group in Jerusalem to do his preaching. Even after Paul met Peter his activity was still not directed by Peter. So Paul could not have considered Peter his superior. Neither could Peter have considered Paul his subordinate.

Paul publicly rebukes Peter for discrimination against gentile Christians.

There is only one occasion in scripture, that I remember, when disputes about Christian procedures and doctrines were settled, where the outcome was not decided exclusively by Paul. It was when Paul and a whole council of Christians in Jerusalem decided on an outcome together. And their decision went in favor of Paul’s opinion. That decision was not decided solely by Peter. It was over the matter of whether or not a Christian male must already be, or get, circumcised to be a Christian? See Acts 15:1-22.

The whole council in Jerusalem sent their ruling on circumcision to outside congregations.

Christ told his apostles that they have only one leader and teacher, Christ himself. What could he have meant by that, since apostles and elders taught Christian groups in the first century, while Bible writers such as Peter and Paul set some church policies in addition to Christ’s teaching? See Acts 2:42. Perhaps Christ meant that members of his chosen church would not need church rules to guide them after being baptized with Holy Spirit; since the Spirit would lead them into all things necessary for them to know. See 1John 2:27. So why all the Christian teaching and directions from Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John? Perhaps because not all in those Christian congregations were led by Holy Spirit, or even baptized in it, as is also true today.

For Peter to accept a position of being leader of Christ’s church he would have done so in contradiction to Christ’s words:

“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9 In the next scripture Christ told them they only have one leader or teacher, the Christ. “And do not be called teachers (or leaders); for One is your Teacher, the Christ” vs 10

Peter never took on any title claiming leadership, he was never the Pope of the church, or its leader. There is no mention of that in scripture. That idea was fabricated after the apostles died. Arguing over the name Peter meaning rock, which it does, and therefore claiming he must be the rock mass in scripture cannot help justify the claim Peter took on the position of Church Father. For that claim contradicts the direction Jesus gave Peter, as cited in the scriptures above-Matthew 23:9-10.

Jesus built his church upon himself. He was the stone the builders rejected, not Peter.

Jesus said he was building his church, not Peter’s church. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18)

Peter’s own writing also shows the church was not built on him, but upon Christ. Peter wrote:

“For this is contained in Scripture:

This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” (2Peter 2:6-7)

The cornerstone the rest of the church is built on is Christ, as stated by Peter’s quote of Christ’s words. See Matthew 21:42. Also see Psalm 146:3.

Some Catholics claim the Catholic Church was the first Christian church, and so, they believe, it must have the correct biblical view on this and other matters. But Catholicism wasn’t the first Christian church. The first was a group of Christ’s followers in Jerusalem, established on the day of Pentecost in 33 AD. It consisted of Jews who had been observing their Pentecost celebration (the Feast of Weeks). Some of those converts then spread their message after returning to their home regions. Once Paul was baptized he immediately preached the truth in Damascus, and eventually went out from a Christian congregation already established in Antioch, traveling to spread the gospel-Acts 9.

Scriptures claim those early churches were providentially called Christian, not Catholic. See the Bible record, at Acts 11:26. Sometimes when writing to a specific church Bible writers would address them in letter salutations naming the locales those congregations resided in. The Bible never calls them Catholics. Therefore, the Catholic Church has no factual right to claim a first denominational standing before God.

Even though Catholicism has no supremacy over other Christians with respect to being first, some Catholics, in ignorance, claim they are the first Christian church; and because of that their leaders must have a superior understanding of scripture. Yet even if they had been first, Christ said:

People will come from east and west and north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And indeed, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last. Luke 13:29-30

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