Is the Pope Vicar of Christ, based on Matthew 16:1-18 interpretation?
Roman Catholics interpret Matthew 16:15-18 to mean Jesus gave Peter unique authority (Keys) and made him the rock (Petras) to establish the church of Rome, known as the Petrine theory.
- Jesus gave Peter primacy among the apostles.
[No, Jesus commended Peter, not primacy or authority over the other apostles.]
- “Keys of Kingdom” handed to establish the church.
[The “Key” is the “Gospel,” a privilege of all believers. Peter opened the door for the Jews.]
- Peter is the rock (Petras) where the Catholic church built upon.
[No, Jesus is the rock (Petros); the church of Christ are all Believers]
Why did Jesus commended Peter?
Matthew 16:1-12 | “Earthly minds”
The Pharisees, Sadducees tested Jesus with a trick question. He rebuked them for their “earthly minds.” In verses 5-12, Jesus warns against the “the yeast.” They thought Jesus was talking about bread. He rebuked the apostles for their “ignorant minds.”
Matthew 16:13-14 | “Spiritual mind”
Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Everyone gave the wrong answer except Peter. He alone (Saint Peter) had the ‘spiritual mind’ to understand spiritual things. Jesus commended Peter, changed his name, and gave the “Keys of the Kingdom.”
Matthew 16:15-17 | The Great confession
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 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.
- Peter’s role in the early mission was important which does not mean he is more effective than Paul, or anyone else.
- Jesus first asked this question to all His disciples (Matthew 16:13). It was Peter who got it right. If Paul was part of Jesus’ earlier mission, he would also answer correctly.
- Jesus commended Peter for knowing who He is, based on revelation from God, not from men.
Paul and Peter
- Paul and Peter were critical in establishing the early churches.
- After Paul’s conversion, he proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. (Acts 9:20).
- Paul was the most accomplished apostle but he joined the ministry after Jesus’ resurrection. Surely, Jesus would have commended Paul in front of the other apostles just as he did to Peter.
Petra and Petro
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock (Petra; πέτρᾳ), I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
- Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (Petros)
- Jesus is the “big rock,” the rock of all ages. “On this rock” refers to a smaller rock (Petra).
- The verse does not imply Peter’s primacy in founding a church. The other Apostles, like Paul, Bartholomew, Andrew, Mark, and John, also established churches.
- Instead, Jesus referred to the church as “the body of Christ” that Christ will build (not Peter).
- The church of Jesus comprised of all Believers. These are anyone who belongs to Jesus by faith. (1 Cor. 12:27)
The church is the body of Christ
Gates of Hell
“…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.“
- Jesus foretold His resurrection in verse 21. Although Jesus died, death did not prevail, He resurrected. Likewise, the church (body of Christ) has victory over death. Hence, the gates of hell (which is death) will NOT prevail.
- Peter established some of the first churches, including Rome (with Paul). It became corrupted—but the gates of Hell did not prevail. God purged Catholicism through the Reformation in 1517.
- Then came a split among Protestants. God continues to purify His church—Satan will not prevail. Today, Christian churches under “Reformed tradition” growing exponentially.
→ READ Matthew 16:18 commentary
“Gates of hell won’t prevail.”
Peter’s “Keys of Heaven” that opened three doors
19 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.
Jesus gave the “keys of heaven” to Peter because of his pivotal role in establishing the first church of Jerusalem and in other cities. Peter “opened” the door to three groups:
- Peter first preached the Gospel to the Jewish people. He “opened the door” for the Jews. (Acts 2)
- Peter was instrumental in introducing the Gospel to the Samaritans. Peter “opened the door” for them. (Acts 8)
- Peter brought the Gospel to Rome (through an influential centurion). Peter “unlocked the door” for the Gentiles. (Acts 10)
The “Key of David”
- In Revelation 3:7, Jesus calls the keys of heaven, “Key of David.” (Isaiah 22:22, referring to Jesus’ Davidic line)
- The “Key of David” is the Gospel. When we receive it, it can never be taken. Hence no man can shut. (John 6:37-40)
- “Key” in the Bible is a badge of authority used to open or shut doors (Luke 11:52). Peter used it to open the door for the Jews, Samaritan, and Gentiles.
Binding and loosing
- In Matthew 18:18, Jesus says the same phrase of “binding-loosing,” addressed to His disciples.
- These are expressions. A privilege of Believers and those expanding God’s Kingdom—not just Peter.
Peter is not the vicar of Christ nor does he have primacy over other apostles
- The Holy Spirit is the Vicar of Jesus.
- Paul and Peter established the home churches in Rome.
- Scriptures do NOT support apostolic succession.
- To say that the Pope is Christ’s Vicar is an insult to the Orthodox churches who also claim roots with Peter and the apostles.
- If the Catholic Pope is the Vicar of Christ, why were so many Popes in the past involved in murder, immorality, teachings that contradict scriptures such as indulgence, Mary Co-Redemptrix, and papal infallibility?
The Holy Spirit is the Vicar of Jesus
In Matthew 16:21, Jesus called Peter “Satan,” calling out Peter’s sinful nature as a human, deceived by Satan. Jesus does not need a human to be His vicar. That is the role of the Holy Spirit.