1. THE KIND OF REVIVAL WE NEED - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
2. THE PAPACY IN THE LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE - T. T. Sheilds (1873 - 1955)
1. THE KIND OF REVIVAL WE NEED
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
IT IS GOOD for us to draw nigh unto God in prayer. Our minds are grieved to see so little attention given to united prayer by many churches. How can we expect a blessing if we are too idle to ask for it? How can we look for a Pentecost if we never meet with one another, in one place, to wait upon the Lord? Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.
But now that we have come together, how shall we pray? Let us not degenerate into formality, or we shall be dead while we think we live. Let us not waiver through unbelief, or we shall pray in vain. Oh, for great faith with which to offer great prayers!
We have been mingling praise and prayer together as a delicious compound of spices, fit to be presented upon the altar of incense through Christ our Lord; may we not at this time offer some special far-reaching petition? It is suggested to me that we pray for a true and genuine revival of religion throughout the world.
A Real and Lasting Revival
I am glad of any signs of life, even if they should be feverish and transient, and I am slow to judge any well intended movement, but I am very fearful that many so called revivals in the long run wrought more harm than good. A species of religious gambling has fascinated many men, and given them a distaste for the sober business of true godliness.
But if I would nail down counterfeits upon the counter, I do not therefore undervalue true gold. Far from it. It is to be desired beyond measure that the Lord would send a real and lasting revival of spiritual life. We need a work of the Holy Spirit of a supernatural kind, putting power into the preaching of the Word, inspiring all believers with heavenly energy, and solemnly affecting the hearts of the careless, so that they turn to God and live. We would not be drunk with the wine of carnal excitement, but we would be filled with the Spirit. We would behold the fire descending from heaven in answer to the effectual fervent prayers of righteous men. Can we not entreat the Lord our God to make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the people in this day of declension and vanity?
We want a revival of old-fashioned doctrine. I know not a single doctrine which is not at this hour studiously undermined by those who ought to be its defenders. There is not a truth that is precious to the soul which is not now denied by those whose profession it is to proclaim it. To me it is clear that we need a revival of old-fashioned gospel preaching like that of Whitefield and Wesley. The Scriptures must be made the infallible foundation of all teaching; the ruin, redemption and regeneration of mankind must be set forth in unmistakable terms.
Urgently do we need a revival of personal godliness. This is, indeed, the secret of church prosperity. When individuals fall from their steadfastness, the church is tossed to and fro; when personal faith is steadfast, the church abides true to her Lord. It is upon the truly godly and spiritual that the future of religion depends in the hand of God. Oh, for more truly holy men, quickened and filled with the Holy Spirit, consecrated to the Lord and sanctified by His truth. Brethren, we must each one live if the church is to be alive; we must live unto God if we expect to see the pleasure of the Lord prospering in our hands. Sanctified men are the salt of society and the saviours of the race.
We deeply want a revival of domestic religion. The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the puritans, but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. How can we hope to see the kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own children?
Oh, Christian men and women, be thorough in what you do and know and teach! Let your families be trained in the fear of God and be yourselves "holiness unto the Lord"; so shall you stand like a rock amid the surging waves of error and ungodliness which rage around us.
Vigorous, Consecrated Strength
We want also a revival of vigorous, consecrated strength. I have pleaded for true piety; I now beg for one of the highest results of it. We need saints. We need gracious minds trained to a high form of spiritual life by much converse with God in solitude. Saints acquire nobility from their constant resort to the place where the Lord meets with them. There they also acquire that power in prayer which we so greatly need. Oh, that we had more men like John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to Queen Mary than 10,000 men! Oh, that we had more Elijahs by whose faith the windows of heavens should be shut or opened!
This power comes not by a sudden effort; it is the outcome of a life devoted to the God of Israel! If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility. Beware of being a lean-to; endeavour to rest on your own walls of real faith in the Lord Jesus. May none of us fall into a mean, poverty-stricken dependence on man! We want among us believers like those solid, substantial family mansions which stand from generation to generation as landmarks of the country; no lath-and-plaster fabrics, but edifices solidly constructed to bear all weathers, and defy time itself.
Given a host of men who are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, the glory of God's grace will be clearly manifested, not only in them, but in those round about them. The Lord send us a revival of consecrated strength, and heavenly energy! Preach by your hands if you cannot preach by your tongues. When our church members show the fruits of true godliness, we shall soon have inquiries for the tree which bears such a crop.
Oh the coming together of the saints is the first part of Pentecost, and the ingathering of sinners is the second. It began with "only a prayer meeting", but it ended with a grand baptism of thousands of converts. Oh that the prayers of believers may act as lode stones to sinners! Oh that every gathering of faithful men might be a lure to attract others to Jesus! May many souls fly to Him because they see others speeding in that direction.
"Lord, we turn from these poor foolish procrastinators to thyself, and we plead for them with thine all-wise and gracious spirit! Lord, turn them and they shall be turned! By their conversion, pray that a true revival has commenced tonight! Let it spread through all our households, and then run from church to church till the whole of christendom shall be ablaze with a heaven-descended fire!"
2. THE PAPACY IN THE LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE
T. T. Sheilds (1873 - 1955)
We ought not to approach a subject like this lightly. However greatly men may differ from one another in matters of religion, and however strongly they may speak—and sometime they must so speak—in reference to such subjects, we should at least discuss them in a spirit of reverence; for even people who are in great error, often are profoundly sincere, and to make light of matters which others hold to be true, even though they hold them in error, is only to offend, and can accomplish no good.
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest body in the world bearing the Christian name. That, in itself, is enough to challenge attention, and to merit careful examination. The Roman Catholic Church does not apologize for its existence; it never compromises Its position; but boldly declares its own convictions as to its mission; and endeavors to convert others to an acceptance of its teaching. With that attitude I am In full accord. A man ought not to be ashamed of that which he professes to believe. If we believe we have the truth, we should hold it fast without apology or compromise. We should "buy the truth, and sell it not." No one need be ashamed of believing the truth. Truth is never hurt by discussion. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be manifest, that they are wrought in God."
Why The Roman Church Calls Itself "Catholic"
The Roman Catholic Church does not call itself one of many churches. It claims to be the one and only holy apostolic church. It calls itself the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church. It calls itself "Catholic" in the sense that it claims to be the whole and only church, having universal sovereignty over the souls of men. It goes so far as to say positively that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church; and that submission to the Roman Pontiff is absolutely indispensable to salvation. Whether its position call he justified or not, a church that so boldly makes such extraordinary claims for itself, should certainly be examined, and studied carefully.
Nor can our Roman Catholic friends—I would suggest to you that it is never appropriate to speak of the Roman Catholic Church as a "Catholic" church without the qualifying adjective "Roman"—making such claims, reasonably object to anyone’s investigating as fully as may be possible the validity of that church’s contention. It is never profitable to discuss any religious subject merely for the sake of disproving it. It is well always, if you would under-stand a subject, having divested your mind so far as is possible of all preconceptions, to come to a study of it with an open mind, and without prejudice. That is a difficult task. Sometimes we think we are without prejudice when really we come with a very settled attitude were we able to discern it.
Every Doctrine Must Be Tested by The Word of God
There is a way to study all such matters, and that is in the light of Holy Scripture. Every religion should be tested by the standards of the Word of God. It is possible to discuss many things that are unscriptural, in such a way, and in such a spirit, as to do ourselves and others more harm than good. I believe, for the Christian, it is never wise to consider any such subject apart from the light of Scripture itself. It is impossible to bring any disputed subject to the touchstone of the Word of God without deriving profit therefrom: one either learns the subject under consideration to be untrue, or finding it to be scripturally established, one is confirmed in belief of it.
Some people face the religious problems of the day by buying as many books on the subjects as possible; and by reading them to the utter exclusion of the one supreme authority, the Bible itself. They form the habit of reading books about the Bible, and never give the Bible an opportunity to speak for itself. We have read of scientists who, in the endeavor to isolate the germs of certain diseases, have fallen victims to the plague they hoped to banish. For the Christian there is only one safe way to discuss any religious subject, and that is by comparing it with the teaching of the Word of God: in that light is our only safety.
Let Rome Speak for Herself
When examining a subject like this, it is important to let people or institutions speak for themselves. If I were a Modernist, and were to write a book, I should not object to people’s reading my book, and judging me by what I had written. Were I a Roman Catholic, I should not object to anyone’s studying Roman Catholic books, and learning what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. It is easy to set up straw men, and to appear very heroic in knocking them down. I know a certain man, a very likeable man, but a Modernist to the core, who is fond of speaking after this fashion of the Evangelical or Fundamentalist position: describing some absurd idea which no sane Evangelical ever believed, he exclaims: "If I had to believe that"—and forthwith describes some still more absurd position to which, as an alternative, he would be driven. But nobody ever believed what the gentleman imagines. So that his vaunted heroics are quite unnecessary. He does not know what orthodoxy is. He sets up a view of the atonement which nobody ever conceived, even in a nightmare. His knowledge of evangelical orthodoxy has been derived from a study of its caricatures.
It would be possible, thus, to take a fling at the Church of Rome—or for the Church of Rome to lake a fling at us, and while doing so for each to misrepresent the other. The best way to study the Roman Catholic Church is to let it speak for itself, and to judge it out of its own mouth; and see wherein the Roman Catholic Church differs from positions commonly held by Protestants.
A Recent Roman Catholic Authority
I now quote from a Roman Catholic work entitled "The Papacy", consisting of "papers from the Summer School of Catholic Studies held at Cambridge, August 7th to 10th, 1923." These addresses were delivered at a Summer School in Cambridge University, England. The one from which I quote is by Rev. Hugh Pope, Doctor of Sacred Scripture. He begins with this simple statement:
"For a Catholic, the Papacy is the key to the whole religious question. For—to put it concisely—we believe the doctrines of our faith, not because we fancy we discover them set forth In the New Testament, nor because a vague entity called ‘the Church’ has held them, but because the visible teaching Church—the Corpus Christi. or Body of Christ—has taught them, and continues to teach them, through its head on earth, the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ."
We are here told the Papacy is the cardinal matter, the key to the whole religious question. That is why, when entering upon a discussion of religious authority, in relation to the Roman Catholic Church, I begin with a study of the claims of the Papacy in the light of Holy Scripture.
I quote again from the same authority:
"Now, if the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy is true, it must find solid justification in the New Testament— the charter of Christianity."
Personally, I did not know it was there! I have read the New Testament a great many times, and for myself I never found anything remotely suggestive of the Papacy. But here is a great scholar, who tells us the Papacy is taught in the New Testament. I feel therefore that I have read the New Testament to little purpose, if this Romanist contention be true, since I have failed to discover even a suggestion of this claim. I turn to this Roman Catholic author to discover the ground upon which the Papacy rests as set forth by Roman Catholics themselves, and am told "it must find solid justification in the New Testament".
We shall, I trust, all say, Amen, to that. That, of course, brings us immediately to the New Testament, to see what it has to say about the Papacy. I shall examine the various texts which this authority quotes. He begins with Matthew, the sixteenth chapter, from the thirteenth to the nineteenth verses:
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesara 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."
The Papacy The Key to Whole Religious Question
You will see that this Roman Catholic author does not begin with a definition of the church as such: he begins with the Papacy, for we are told that "the Papacy is the key to the whole religious question". Naturally, if you are going to describe a house, you will begin with the foundation upon which it rests. This author insists that when our Lord said to Peter, "Thou art Peter"—and, as you know, the word means rock—"and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", that He there intended to teach that Peter was the rock upon which He would build His church. That is the Roman Catholic interpretation. They go farther and insist that Peter was given a peculiar and special revelation: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed It unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."
Let us examine that for a moment. Surely no one can fairly contend that there is any implication here of a peculiar and special revelation to Peter, a revelation not given to all who recognize in Jesus the Son of God: "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." There is no knowing God by any mere rational process: God Is not discoverable to the human mind. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." All spiritual truth, the New Testament teaches, comes to us by revelation. It is not something that can be discovered by a test-tube, nor be discerned through microscope or telescope. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." Whatever we know of God, we learn by revelation from Heaven.
That is all our Lord intended to say to Peter when he acknowledged Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God: "You have not discovered that for yourself. You could not possibly know that great truth, except God revealed it unto you." And that is true of everyone who recognizes in Jesus Christ the Son of the living God.
Peter’s Confession Not Peter the Rock
The language of the text itself, its grammatical construction. cannot fairly be made to yield the interpretation which our Roman Catholic friends put upon it. "I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock"—not upon thee as the rock, but "upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." We shall later see what that Rock was.
Peter has just confessed the truth of the essential Deity of Christ, the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus; and He has said, "You did not learn that for yourself: it was revealed to you; and upon this rock, upon that revealed truth, will I build my church."
And let me anticipate later studies by saying that this same Peter, when preaching on the day of Pentecost, led his hearers up to that magnificent conclusion, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." It was when he thus proclaimed the Lordship, the Deity, of Christ on the day of Pentecost, that the people were cut to the heart and said, "Men and brethren, what shall we do? We have been mistaken. If that be true, that the Jesus we crucified is none other than the Son of God. how shall we adjust ourselves to that great truth?" Peter answered, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." That was the only way by which they could come into right relation to God.
What Are The Keys of The Kingdom of Heaven?
Again: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." What do we mean by the "keys of the kingdom of heaven"? Are we to suppose that the Lord did select an ordinary mortal, a man, and hand over to him absolute authority under the figure of the "keys of the kingdom of heaven", and say, "It shall be for you to say whether a man shall enter or stay without"? That Is the teaching of Rome, but apart from that particular text, for the moment, can anyone who has even the most superficial knowledge of the New Testament, contend that that strange doctrine finds any support anywhere in the New Testament? "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." We shall come later to consider what the early disciples, and the apostolic church, understood by these sayings of our Lord, but I anticipate that more thorough investigation by making that enquiry.
Many of you have at least a general knowledge of the text of the New Testament: you can think through it at a glance. When that doctrine is proclaimed, that the Lord God did select a particular man, other than the Lord Jesus, to whom He committed the destiny of immortal souls, instantly you will rebel against it, saying, "I never saw that in the New Testament." That, in general. But we must come to particulars.
What did He mean by "the keys of the kingdom of heaven"? You may recall one place in Luke where our Lord spoke to the lawyers who were before him—and they were not lawyers in the sense in which we use that term today: they were men who were learned in the law of Moses—saying, "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." He spoke of the knowledge of God’s law as a key of which the people had been deprived. What did our Lord mean when he spoke of "the keys of the kingdom of heaven", more than that to the apostles-—and to all others who should yield themselves to Christ, and should constitute the spiritual body of Christ, and who should be put in trust with the gospel, to whom the gospel should he committed for proclamation to others-—what did He mean more than that a key of knowledge was entrusted to their charge wherewith to unlock the kingdom of God?
Everybody who has the gospel, has the key to the kingdom of God. How often those of you who have had some experience have found one who was anxious to be saved, but who had no knowledge. He did not know where to begin. He was like a man fumbling at a door, not knowing how to open it. You have come with your Bible’ and sat down with him, and quoted, perhaps, John three, sixteen, and other verses, pointing out the way of life, until the man has said, "I see it now. I believe." He has been born again, and entered into the kingdom. Everybody who has been put in trust with the gospel, and whose mind has been enlightened by the Spirit of God, and is competent to teach His Word, has, in a sense, the "keys of the kingdom of heaven", in the key of knowledge.
How Are Things "Bound" or "Loosed"?
Once more: "And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." That word was not spoken exclusively to Peter. Turn to the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. verse eighteen, and read this: "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." If you say, "That only transfers from Peter to the Church collectively the same authority", I would have you observe that it is surely not without significance that the very next verse, spoken almost in the same breath, reads as follows: "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, It shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." Undoubtedly the prayer of faith of any believer can loose things in heaven—and bind them; and can loose things on earth, and bind them. Our Lord said to His disciples, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
Surely the loosing and binding do not imply some juridical, official, authority which a man exercises by virtue of an official position he holds. It is a spiritual authority, exercised by Those who agree in faith, and who petition Heaven—and whose prayers are heard.
Peter Frequently Mentioned First
This Roman Catholic author labors to show that Peter is frequently mentioned first among the disciples. That is not extraordinary. Select any dozen men, and there will probably he some distinguishing quality about one of them which will secure his primacy among the group. It may not be that he is personally superior to the others, nor that he is officially the first, but that he is more aggressive, has more initiative, is more outspoken. For example, I should not like to distinguish between various members of the church of which I am pastor. There are many who are naturally of a retiring disposition, but who are in no sense inferior. But there are other positive characters, In their daily occupation they take the initiative, they must do so; and whenever you meet such characters you become conscious of the presence of a positive personality. Peter was undoubtedly just such a man; but to say that because Peter is occasionally mentioned first is to imply that his primacy was recognized among the disciples, proves nothing so much as the want of a better argument.
Peter’s confession is given us not in the Synoptic Gospels only, but is set out in John’s Gospel as well, though under other circumstances. Only in Matthew are these special promises associated with it. I was interested to observe that this Roman Catholic authority explains the absence of any reference to Peter’s primacy in Mark’s Gospel. He says— and I think in that he is probably correct—that Mark received much of his information from Peter, and that there is a very distinct Petrine influence observable in Mark’s Gospel. For that reason, words or incidents which would appear to give more importance to Peter than to others are omitted—because this first Pope was so modest that he refrained from telling Mark anything that especially applied to himself!
Alleged Reason for Mark’s Silence
He attributes Mark’s silence in respect to some of these matters to the alleged fact that he obtained his information from Peter, and that Peter was too modest to tell him. If it be true, that modesty was a distinguishing characteristic of the first Pope he certainly discovered some way of avoiding its transmission to all his successors, No Pope who ever succeeded to the throne of Peter—if that could be allowed for a moment—was ever noted for his modesty.
I am glad to observe little things like that, for it is quite obvious that this was written in part, with the hope that it might reach the eye of Protestants, and that evangelicals would naturally make their appeal to the Scripture. So this controversialist wisely, from his point of view, endeavors to meet all objectors on their own ground by beginning with the New Testament. I presume he has made the best of it. I have read many books on this subject, and have examined not a few Roman Catholic authors, and they all labor that passage in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. That is their great charter. I am constrained to say to them, "If that is the best you can do; if it be so that the Roman Catholic Church is the one and only church, and that the Pope is the supreme head of the Church, and that there is no salvation apart from the Church, or without submission to the Pope, is it not strange that it should require such great ingenuity to establish sour position?"
Alleged Argument For The Papacy in John’s Gospel
I need not quote the passages which speak of the confession of Peter in Mark, Luke, and John. But in John, chapter twenty-one, verses fifteen to seventeen—this author calls attention to the fact that John’s Gospel was written to establish the truth of the Deity of Christ; and of course, that is generally recognized: "Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." Those of you who are familiar with John’s Gospel will have recognized that the twenty-first chapter is a kind of postscript. The Gospel seems naturally to close with the verses I have just quoted: "These are written, that ye might believe." Then the writer begins again, and adds the twenty-first chapter. This Roman Catholic author quite ingeniously imagines that the special reason for the addition of this chapter was that the author, by the Holy Ghost, desired to set forth the primacy of St. Peter!
Let us look at it:
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep"
Three times Peter was here commissioned as a shepherd of the sheep, to feed the lambs and the sheep of the flock. And on this authority our author assumes Peter to have been made the supreme shepherd!
A Sunday School boy in the Junior Department ought to know better than that. Everyone knows that Peter three times bad denied his Lord, and that subsequent to the resurrection he had bad a private audience with his Lord—and this scholar tries to make something of that. "He appeared unto Simon." The Lord has a way of doing that with backsliders, dealing with them privately, giving them a chance to repent. To me, it is significant that there is not in Scripture a word recorded of that interview. There is no Oxford Groupism there. Peter alone settled that matter with his Lord, and was forgiven. Then the Lord gave him an opportunity for a threefold public declaration of his love for Him. But who would ever imagine, reading that, apart from the pretentions of Rome, that it was designed to exalt Peter?
On the contrary, Peter was humiliated by it, almost as though he would say, "O Lord, do not remind everybody of my fall. I have said I love Thee:" "Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me." He would not have been grieved had he interpreted it after the fashion of the Roman Catholic Church—but would have been proud of the special distinction accorded him by this alleged three-fold commission.
The General Teaching of The New Testament
The Modernists tell us that it is very dangerous to endeavor to support a given position by citing texts of Scripture in proof. They tell us, for instance, that it is useless to endeavor to establish the truth of the Deity of Christ by quoting Scripture. I grant you that a doctrine is not established by the citation of a single scripture, to the exclusion of the general teaching of the Word. A text may be wrested from its context, and made to convey something opposite to the primary meaning which may be read on the face of it when considered with its context. The way to study Scripture is to compare spiritual things with spiritual. Hence it is not enough to study these particular scriptures to which I have referred, and to which we are referred by our Roman Catholic author.
If the Roman Catholic contention be true, and Peter was really accorded the primacy, and was by divine intention exalted above his brethren, then the first people to understand that would be the people who were Peter’s contemporaries. And certainly of all people, Peter himself should have understood it, He should have known he was a pope, and should have acted as a pope. James, John, and the early church, should have known and recognized it, and accorded him the first place.
How Was Peter Regarded by His Contemporaries?
Did they? Can that contention be supported? Take for example the first passage quoted, in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew: "Upon this rock I will build my church." Later in the chapter it says, "From that time forth began Jesus to shew his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and. said unto Peter—you are mistaken, Your Holiness"? Oh, no "Get thou behind me, Satan." I think at that point Peter did resemble some of the Popes! Said our Lord, "Thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God."
Our Lord did not recognize Peter as being superior to the other disciples when, having just made his confession, he showed that he was not immune to the attacks of the evil one by objecting to the program that the Lord had just announced. Christ did not then, or at any other time, accord the primacy to Peter. Someone has remarked that the only time Peter acted like a pope was when he drew his sword and cut off a man’s ear; but there is nothing to indicate that our Lord accorded Peter the first place.
Peter Never Claimed Primacy For Himself
Furthermore, Peter did not claim it for himself—and Peter was not particularly reluctant to claim anything; he was never backward in coming forward. I think the true interpretation of these passages in which Peter appears so prominently is that he was naturally a man of initiative, a man of positive conviction, a man of impulse, a man who was a born leader of men; and when there was anything to be said, he said it; where there was anything to be done, he did it. We have all met people like that. Very naturally, they are mentioned first. There was all that about Peter, but he never claimed superiority over his brethren.
There were three whom our Lord took with Him on several occasions. To the mount of transfiguration He took Peter—but He took James and John as well. Into the room where lay the body of the ruler’s daughter, he went, excluding everybody except the parents, and Peter, James, and John. When He went to the garden, not all the disciples followed Him closely; but He did take Peter, James, and John—not Peter alone. Those three were close to Him, but Peter never assumed, before Pentecost or afterward, the position of one who had been appointed by the Founder of the church as its supreme visible head.
We have two epistles written by Peter, as well as the record of his missionary endeavors in the Acts of the Apostles, and we have several references to him in Paul’s epistles, notably Galatians and First Corinthians; but in none of these does it appear that either Peter or the other disciples recognized that Peter had been given a place superior to that of the other apostles.
There are two or three further observations, I must make at this stage of my argument. Peter was the preacher on the day of Pentecost. Peter preached, but he "stood up with the eleven". It was very natural that Peter should speak. When a deputation waits upon the government, or any public body, someone is usually appointed to speak for the group. Peter very frequently did the speaking. and on the day of Pentecost, being filled with the Holy Ghost. he "stood up with the eleven" But when they were asked, "What shall we do?" Peter said nothing to indicate that membership in a particular human society, or submission to a particular human authority was a term of salvation. He said, "Repent, and he baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . . then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers"
The Apostles "Sent" Peter
In the eighth of Acts we read that "Philip went down to Samaria, and preached Christ unto them." Then follows an account of the blessing of God upon His word and we read again: "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent forth Peter and John." Think of it, "The apostles which were at Jerusalem"—"sent Peter." "Peter did not remain in Jerusalem, sitting upon a throne, "reigning" over the church: he was commissioned by the church, and he went down to add his testimony to that of Philip, and to confirm the saints. Then you will recall how he was specially commissioned to go to Caesarea, and how he preached the gospel to Cornelius, a Gentile. Thereafter the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God—you have the account in the eleventh of Acts—and those who were of the circumcision contended with Peter saying, "Thou wentest into men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them" And Peter explained and justified his conduct. But at that day no one believed in Peter’s infallibility. Later (Acts fifteen), there was a discussion as to circumcision, and at that assembly, not Peter, but James, presided. At the conclusion, it was James who summed up their findings; and they commanded the people to abstain from blood and certain other things.
We see therefore that the apostles called Peter to account. They did not regard him as a "holy father", who, speaking, ex cathedra was infallible. Although he had been the church’s mouthpiece on the day of Pentecost, he was still required to give an account to his brethren and explain his conduct. Later Paul writes in Galatians, and records how Peter behaved himself rather strangely, and states, "I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." He read the "holy father" a lecture! Not privately but "before them all". Think of any Roman Catholic doing that to the Pope! But Peter was blameworthy.
In the same epistle Paul speaks of "James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars"—but he did not call Peter the pope. He was one of three "pillars", but not the head of the church. Then again to the Corinthian church, Paul writes in his first epistle, chapter three, saying, "One saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos." That was tantamount to saying, according to our Roman Catholic friends, that there were some who preferred Paul and Apollos to the Pope! But Paul said they were but ministers by whom they had believed. It is true Paul did not mention Cephas when he said, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase", but the implication of equality was there. Indeed in the same chapter from which I have just quoted, Paul says, "Whether Paul, or Apollos or Cephas," etc. Here he names Peter last.
Paul said of himself—and he wrote the greater part of the New Testament—"I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." Paul did not recognize the supremacy, the primacy of Peter. I am sure the contention of our Roman Catholic friends cannot be supported by Scripture.