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STUDY TWO

Upon This Rock

A Study in Scriptural Integrity:

Defining the Few by the Many

In Scripture is a series of fail safe measures for our understanding. Should one or several fail through wrong translation or error in interpretation, there is always many clear records given.


THE CHURCH has, through its history, clung to many different leaders and institutions in search of unity. Often these attempts at unity have seemed to divide rather than unify. Some groups usually cling to the bulwark of tradition while others branch off in search of an identity that they believe is closer to the ideal that Christianity should portray.

What are the arguments regarding this subject? What is the "true" church? And where are we to "hang the hat" of our faith?

What are we to follow, and who should we disciple under? Above all, do the Scriptures speak on the subject? If they do, what do they say?

We will in this study compare a doctrine which has been based on a few hard verses against many clear verses. But only after we have prayed for understanding, and after we remember that it is God's will that our eyes are enlightened regarding spiritual realities.

It is vital that we always compare evidence of the scriptures.

If ninety verses point to one truth and five or ten seem to contradict, we don't say of the few verses, "It's a mystery but the Bible says so."

Instead, we acknowledge that there is an error. Not an error in God's original Scripture, but an error in how we understand it. Either the hard verses were translated incorrectly, or our understanding is cloudy right now.

In the meanwhile, we will be better off to hold true to the message portrayed in the majority of verses while we seek understanding at God's pace, not ours, with patience and hope. And our patience will eventually be rewarded.

But we do continue to study and seek answers.

In this study, we will explore a cornerstone of some Christian creeds, by comparing the majority of Biblical evidence against a few that have been used to portray an apparently contradictory dogma.

One of the oldest Christian traditions is the "Apostolic Succession," whereby Peter was head of the Christian Church, and those who succeeded him in him prime position were (sole) legitimate successors.

This doctrine is based largely upon the section in Matthew whereby Peter seems to be given leadership of the Church:

"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona (referring to Simon Peter): for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shalt be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shalt be loosed in heaven."

Matthew 16:17-19

And Jesus said to his twelve apostles upon sending them out,

"He that receiveth you receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me."

Matthew 10:40

Upon these verses were founded the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, whereby Peter was the first leader of the Church, and he who had been handpicked by the Church authorities to follow was the legitimate heir, and so forth.

The Catholic Church thus holds that since Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, the Roman Bishop, also known as the Pontifix Maximus, or Pope, is the legitimate heir, head of all the Church.

And that only those Christians fellowshipping as Catholics, or within groups "accepted" by the Catholics, such as Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox and those adhering to accepted rites are in any way Christian, but only the Catholic Church holds the keys to heaven.

And the Bishop of Rome, heir to Peter, holds the keys to the Catholic Church.

What do the vast body of Scriptures say?

"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

"But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Matthew 10:5&6

This section of Matthew in which Peter is sent with the eleven could not be referring to a ministry to Rome: it was to Israel!

"And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

"And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

"And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

"And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

"And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

"Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

"And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

"But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:"

Acts 9:8-15

Here, it is Paul that is sent to Gentiles, Kings, and Israel.

"And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome."

Acts 23:11

Again it is Paul that is sent, not merely to Gentiles, but to Rome.

"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

"(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

"And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."

Galations 2:7-9

And once more, Paul is the one sent to the uncircumcised heathen gentiles, even as Cephas (another name for Simon Peter) and the other Apostles were sent to the circumcised of Israel. And following is where Scripture says it was Paul who was apostle to the Gentiles.

"For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office."

Romans 11:13

The New Testament mentions Peter in Antioch, Samaria, Joppa, and elsewhere, and some extra-church documents place him in Mesopotamia, but never in Rome. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia quotes mid-second century for the earliest references of Peter's supposed reign in Rome.

And when Paul mentions Rome-based Christians in scripture, and greets them, he never mentions or greets Peter, supposed head of the Church!

A serious oversight on Paul's part, slighting the head of the Church?

Or was Peter never Bishop of Rome?

Was he even ever head of the Christian Church?

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

"For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

"Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

"Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"

I Corinthians 1:10-13

Even among a possible list of heads of the Church, Paul mentioned himself or Apollos first and second, and Peter (Cephas) as only one of a list. But Christ is not divided, Paul was not crucified for them, Paul was not the name they were baptized into, nor was Peter.

"For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."

"So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."

I Corinthians 3:3-7

Men, whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas (Peter) or any other, are only ministers. Ministers, not heads.

What does Peter himself say of Paul?

"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

"As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. "

II Peter 3:15&16

See? Peter himself states that the salvation in the patience of the Lord toward us was to be found in the writings of Paul, the truth regarding that many struggled with.

And this truth reveals that the body of Christ has Christ its sole foundation.

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

I Corinthians 3:11

Jesus is the foundation. Not Paul who was sent to Rome, not Peter (who was not sent to Rome,) but Jesus is the foundation.

"And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

"Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

"Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

Ephesians 1:19ff

It is Jesus that is the Head of the Church. Not an apostle, not a Bishop of Rome, not a revivalist preacher, not the founder of our denomination or ministry. Just Jesus, our risen Lord.

"And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

"Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."

Colossians 3:10&11

Yes, it is in Christ that we are admitted into his body, the Church.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

"But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

"And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

"And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Philippians 2:5 16:13

Yes, all are to look to Jesus. Jesus is the Head of his Christian Church, and it is to him that we bow, glorifying the Father that set him as risen Lord over us.

Peter means "stone." In the Greek, it is "petros," a tiny pebble. "You are a tiny pebble, Peter, but upon this Rock, this "Petra," a mighty rock, I will build my Church.

Jesus is the Rock, the Petra, not Peter who was a tiny pebble shifting in the sand, oft rebuked by firmer souls, such as Paul, and the Lord himself.

"And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

I Corinthians 10:4

Yes, Christ was, and is, the Rock, the "cornerstone," the firm foundation upon which he built his Church, a Church that has stood through the centuries!

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

"And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

"And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

"Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ."

Matthew 16:13-20

"Who do you say I am?" Jesus asked. They answered, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." The Rock.

Jesus then basically said, "Peter, you're a little pebble, shifting upon the sand, and upon this Rock, upon MYSELF, I will build my Church, and the forces of hell itself shall not prevail against it.

"After I've built it, THEN I will give unto you the keys of heaven and you will THEN have power.

"Oh, and don't go blabbing yet what I've just revealed about myself. (That will be a little later.)"

This is the evidence of the majority of scripture.

The risen Jesus is the Rock, and he alone is our leader. Jesus Christ is our only foundation, the Rock we are to stand upon.

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