Would you agree that the best way to interpret these words from Jesus is to find out how the other apostles who heard these very words
understood them? After all, if Jesus really did mean that Peter was to be the "head" of the church, then we should find some
support for this in the rest of the New Testament writings.
Let us start with the very apostle who these words were directed at; Peter. Who did Peter believe was the "rock" upon which the
church was to be built? Speaking of Jesus Christ before the people, Peter said:
Acts 4:11-12 ...'This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is
there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.'
Ok, is there any reference at all here from Peter that the church was to be built upon himself? No, he clearly points to Christ Jesus as the
"stone" or "rock" that the church is to be built on, with Jesus being the HEAD of it. And notice what else Peter says. He
clearly states that NO OTHER NAME HAS BEEN GIVEN AMONGST MEN whereby we can be saved. Only Jesus Christ. And yet the Catholic
leaders teach that it is only through the Roman Church that salvation can be secured, due to Jesus giving Peter the "headship"
of the church. But Peter himself disagrees with them!
1 Peter 5:1-4 ...'The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and
also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint,
but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And
when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.'
I love this verse from Peter. We can clearly see that Peter thought himself to be just an "elder" amongst the other elders of the church.
Nothing more! And he confirms Christ to be the "chief Shepherd" and only Leader of the Christian church. Also, look at what
else he says. No one is to act as a "lord" over God's heritage, ie, no one is to exercise any kind of dominion over the church.
A rebuke to Roman Catholicism from the very man they believe to be their leader and first pope!
What about the apostle Paul. Who did he proclaim as the "rock"? Well, in all of Paul's writings in the New Testament, not once does
he refer to Peter as any kind of leader of the church. But he does share something interesting:
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ...'Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the
cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual
meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.'
The Greek word for "rock" here is the same one used by Jesus in Matthew 16, which is "PETRA". And Paul is clearly
pointing to Christ Jesus as that "Petra" (Rock).
Interestingly, the Old Testament is awash with verses describing our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as a "Rock". See Deuteronomy 32:4;
1 Samuel 2:2; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 28:1.
Paul also states in 1 Corinthians 3:11 that "no other foundation can be laid other than the one already laid which is Christ Jesus."
What is a building built upon? It's a FOUNDATION right? So the "Rock" that Jesus said He would build His church on is the very foundation
of the church, which is Christ Jesus crucified. Think about it. How can the Christian church be built upon a sinful man, Peter? There is nothing
to build upon with Peter, because salvation requires faith in Christ Jesus alone, and Him crucified for our sins. THAT is the "rock",
the rock of calvary. There is NO OTHER foundation that the church can be built upon. And if we attempt to build a church on a sinful man,
then that church will end up falling, just like Babylon has fallen!
Because she built her foundation upon the sand, rather than the TRUE rock, which is Christ Jesus.
So let's ask the disciples who is the "greatest" among them and if Jesus had given any one of them the position as leader:
Luke 22:24 ...'And there was strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.'
Now this is AFTER Matthew 16, so surely they should know who is the leader of them, because Jesus had already told them. The problem
is, they clearly understood Jesus' words in Matthew 16 to be pointing to Himself, NOT Peter. Which is why they are now arguing as to which
one of them should be the leader. And what about Jesus' reply to their arguing? He will surely clear this up and tell them that Peter is
now the leader right? Wrong. Jesus confirms no such thing. In fact, He states that WHOEVER wants to be the greatest, needs to be the least.
In Galatians 2 we find Paul confirming that he was the apostle to take the gospel to the Gentile world, while Peter was the apostle
charged with taking the gospel to the Jews. And Paul states in verse 9 that it was James, Cephas (Peter) and John who ALL "SEEMED" to
be pillars of the church. Making no distinction between them whatsoever.
What about the great church meeting in Acts 15? Did Peter stand out as the leader in this great meeting? No, Peter did speak, but if you read
the whole of that meeting, you will see that in fact James seemed to be the presiding elder, as he was the one who gave the final decision on
the question of circumcision (see Acts 15:19).