Is the Papacy Biblical?
Text: Matthew 16:13-20
I. The world was fascinated with the process the Roman Catholic Church used to pick a new pope.
A. We were given detailed accounts of all the traditions surrounding a pope’s selection
B. We were shown the events step by step.
C. But in all the hoopla, how many wondered where the papacy came from?
1. It certainly wasn’t from the Bible because popes are not mentioned in the text.
2. Nor can you find cardinals, let alone elections, or colored smoke and the like.
D. The Roman Catholic Church bases it’s papacy on a set of beliefs
1. That Peter was the rock on which the church was founded
2. That Peter was the chief apostle
3. That there has be a succession to the apostles
E. While other denominations reject the papacy, the Roman Catholic church is not alone in these basic tenets.
1. Several major denominations believe that their leaders are a in a succession of leaders dating back to the apostles: one leader being appointed by other leaders, who were in turn appointed, and so on back to the days of the apostles.
2. The Episcopal Church and the Greek Orthodox Church are notable representatives of this belief.
II. Was Peter the rock? - Matthew 16:18
A. Much is made of the fact that Peter’s name means “stone” (Greek: petros)
1. What is glossed over is that Jesus said upon this rock (Greek: petra) I will build my church. There is a change in terms.
2. To slide around the difficulty, you will find people saying that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, where the two words are the same. It is then argued that the difference was introduced by the translator to bring stylistic variances so it would be easier to read in Greek.
a. But wait! No Aramaic version of Matthew exists!
b. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “One thing which seems certain is that whatever this Hebrew (Aramaic) document may have been, it was not an original form from which the present Greek Gospel of Matthew was translated, either by the apostle himself, or by somebody else ... Indeed, the Greek Matthew throughout bears the impression of being not a translation at all, but as having been originally written in Greek.”
c. Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: “It must be admitted, however, that no fragment of an Aramaic Matthew has ever been found and a Greek edition is more plausible than a Greek translation. Matthew’s gospel does not give evidence of being a translation, which is one of the weak evidences for the Aramaic theory.”
d. What leads scholars to admit that Matthew was written in Greek and not Aramaic?
(1) The little interpretations imbedded in the text - Matthew 1:23
(2) The smoothness of the word flow in Greek – especially idioms.
e. Besides other know translations, such as the Latin Vulgate preserves the different genders of the two words, using petrus (masculine) and petram (feminine) in it’s translation.
3. Some will say, Jesus spoke Aramaic and this was just translated by Matthew into Greek.
a. If so, Matthew was guided by the Holy Spirit in his writing - I Corinthians 2:12-13
b. Therefore the difference was by the choice of God, not man
B. Just who was the rock?
1. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be the foundation - Isaiah 28:16
2. Paul said Jesus was the Rock - I Corinthians 10:4
3. Peter quotes Isaiah and applies it to Jesus - I Peter 2:4-8
a. In this passage, Peter uses the Greek word lithos for stone
b. But note verse 8, he also calls Jesus a rock (Greek: petra) of offense – the same word Jesus used to say that upon this His church would be built.
c. Peter is claimed to be the Rock, but Peter said the rock was Christ!
4. The only foundation is Jesus Christ - I Corinthians 3:11
C. What was the rock in Matthew 16:18?
1. It was what Peter confessed, that Jesus was the Son of the Living God.
2. The truth of who Jesus was, is the foundation of the church.
III. Was Peter the chief apostle?
A. One proof offered is that when apostles are named, Peter always comes first.
1. While generally true, it is not always true - John 1:44; I Corinthians 3:22; 9:5; Galatians 2:9
2. Nor was Peter always first, such as at the foot washing - John 13:6
B. Another proof is the claim that Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom - Matthew 16:19
1. Yet it is ignored that Jesus repeated this in Matthew 18:18-20 to all the apostles.
2. When the church was founded, Peter was the main speaker, but notice - Acts 2:14
3. The foundation was laid on all the apostles - Ephesians 2:19-21
C. A few Catholics will claim that Peter was head of the council in Jerusalem, demonstrating his headship
1. However, Acts 15 shows that Peter testified at the council as had Paul and Barnabas - Acts 15:7, 12
2. But it was James who summed up the findings - Acts 15:13
3. And it was James who made the recommendation on how to solve the problem - Acts 15:19-20
4. The letter came from the group, not Peter - Acts 15:23
D. Paul said he was not inferior to the other apostles - II Corinthians 11:5; 12:11
E. Peter refused homage - Acts 10:26, something the popes have never refused.
F. Peter saw himself as a fellow elder, one of many - I Peter 5:1
G. Paul properly rebuked Peter for following James’ lead - Galatians 2:11-12
H. The closest claim is that James, Peter, and John seemed to be pillars in the church - Galatians 2:9. No where is there a claim that any single man was the pillar of the church.
I. Odd that when the apostles argued about who would be first, that Jesus rebuked them - Luke 9:46-48; 22:24-27
1. It was this desire for pre-eminence that Jesus condemned in the Jews - Matthew 23:6-11
2. This is why Jesus commanded no titles, such as “father.”
a. Yet Catholics call their priests “father”
b. The word “pope” is Latin for “father”
c. The very establishment of the pope is contrary to the wishes of the church’s founder, Jesus Christ.
3. Pope’s title: Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City State
IV. Was Peter succeeded?
A. A Catechism of Christian Doctrine: “Did Christ intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone? Christ did not intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone, but intended that this power should be passed down to his successor, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, who is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible head of the Church. (a) A successor to Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, was required for the same reason that successors were required for the other apostles. From the very beginning it was acknowledged by the Church that the successor of Saint Peter as Bishop of Rome was at the same time head of the entire Church. This successor of Saint Peter is called the Pope.”
B. The claim is flawed on many levels.
1. There is no proof that Peter was bishop in Rome.
a. The claim is based on a Roman Catholic tradition.
b. It is not found in the Bible
c. Nor is there historical evidence that I am aware of.
2. The first claim for succession of authority from Peter that we have recorded is by Stephen I in 250 AD; long after Peter’s death.
3. The claim that it has always been so is historically false
a. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, 248-258 AD, “None of us has ever dared to proclaim himself bishop of bishops, forcing with tyrannical terror the obedience of his colleagues ...”
b. It was Leo I (440-461 AD) who got the Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, to issue an edict declaring the Roman See as the supreme court of appeal for all bishops. The fact that such as declaration was necessary indicates it was in dispute.
c. And it was Augustine in Carthage who wrote in 430 AD, “Anyone who appeals to those overseas [i.e. Rome] shall not be received by the communion of the bishops of Africa.”
4. Interestingly, the first person to claim the title of pope was the bishop of Constantinople in 588 AD.
a. In response, the bishop of Rome, Gregory I, wrote: “You know it, my brother; had not the venerable council fo Chalcedon conferred the honorary title of universal upon the bishop of this apostolic See, whereof I am, by God’s Will, the servant, And yet none of us hath permitted this title to be given him; none has assumed this bold title, lest by assuming a special episcopate, we should seem to refuse it to all other brethren ... But far from Christians be this blasphemous name by which all honor is taken from all other priests, while it is foolishly arrogated by one.”
b. Gregory I also wrote: “I am bold to say, that whosoever adopts or affects the title of universal bishop has the pride and character of anti-Christ, and is in some manner his forerunner in this haughty quality of elevating himself above the rest of his order.”
c. In 604 AD, the emperor Phocas tried to give the title to Gregory I, but he refused it. However, his successor, Boniface III, accepted the title in 607 AD.
V. The claim for a universal head of the church, resting upon a man living upon the earth is clearly a man-made doctrine that took centuries to develop
A. There is no support for the office, the nature of the office, or even a remote concept within the Scriptures.
B. Why modify the truth? Why follow a religion that is the figment of man’s imagination?
C. Come to Christ, the true head of His church.