The canonization of Saint John Paul the Great and Saint John XXIII give us a good oportunity to explore papal authority and all other pope related things. I’ll spend the next few blogs on the Catholic teaching behind the office currently held by Pope Francis.
There are many places in the bible and in the writings of the early Christians that show us when and where the first pope was named. The first and clearest is Matthew 16:18-19, in which Christ tells Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
To Catholics, Christ’s words are crystal clear in Matthew as well as John 21:15-17 (do you love me?), but there are several other verses in the new testament in which Peter is shown to have authority that the other apostles do not have, and where the apostles are shown to respect that authority. Jesus didn’t say that Peter was being named pope, and the word pope never appears in the bible, but the concept and understanding certainly does.
Christ’s Prime Minister:
2000 years ago, the early Christians recognized that Christ is the true son of David and that in restoring the prophetic kingdom of David, Jesus made Peter the “prime minister” or master of the palace. The disciples eventually recognized the significance of Matt 16:18-19 based on their knowledge of the old testament. Isaiah 22:20–22 “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Then in Revelation 1:18 “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.”
During Christ’s public ministry, a prime minister was known to be someone who held the keys to the kingdom and the power to bind and loose while the King was away. In Matt 16:19, Christ gave Peter the keys to His kingdom as well as the power to bind and loose.
But the above verses only scratch the surface of the overwhelming evidence that Peter was the chief apostle, Christ’s prime minister, the leader of Christ’s Church on earth, etc…
- When more than one apostle is mentioned, Peter’s name always appears first. Mt 10:1-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13; Lk 9:32; Mk 16:7
- Christ had one on one conversations with Peter on several occasions, but never had such a conversation with any of the other apostles. When Christ spoke to any other apostle, it was always in the presence of other people.
- Mk 16:7 – An angel tells Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples and specifically Peter that Christ had risen and would appear to them in Galilee.
- Christ prayed for Peter and told him about it. Lk 22:31-32
- Lk 24:34 – The first person to whom Christ appeared in recognizable form was Peter.
- Acts 1:13-26Peter headed the meeting to replace Judas.
- Peter speaks for all the apostles and does so with authority, not merely as a spokesperson. Mt 18:21; Mk 8:29; Lk 8:45; 12:41; Jn 6:69; Acts 15:7-11
- Acts 2:14 – Peter is the one who preached at Pentecost.
- Peter’s name appears in the bible 195 times, which is more than all the other apostles combined.
- Acts 2:41 – Peter’s leadership produced the 1st converts after the resurrection.
- Only Peter has his name changed by Christ.
- Acts 3:6-7 – Peter cures the crippled man after the Resurrection.
- Acts 5:1-11 – Peter handles the first disciplinary matter in the Church.
- Acts 10 – Peter was the one to whom God announced that Christianity was for gentiles as well as Jews.
- Acts 15 – Peter led the first council of the Church in Jerusalem and pronounces the first dogmatic decision of the Church at that council.
- Gal 1:18 – Paul goes to see Peter after Paul’s conversion and stays with him for 15 days.
These are specific verses, but as you read the Gospels, you cannot miss the fact that Christ was preparing Peter to lead His Church from the first day they met.
As you know, Christ was fully aware of the persecution, heresies, human failings, wars, scandals and the long period of time that would pass before his 2nd coming. Does it make any sense that he would fail to appoint a leader and successors to govern His Church after his Ascension? Christ certainly appointed a leader and to that leader, He promised the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Jn 14:16-26 as well as Jn 16:13.