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Did Peter Have The Primacy?
by Wayne Blank
Peter's bold and impetuous personality often made him the first to step into a situation, and the first to speak. The Lord's answers to the other apostles' questions, as recorded in the Bible, were often directed toward the very forward Peter for this reason.
But, did Jesus Christ actually appoint Peter over the other apostles? And more importantly, was the Christian church founded just on Peter, or on Christ? What does The Bible really say about Christ's Church?
When the mother of the apostles John and James asked Jesus to place her two sons in a high position, and the other ten apostles "became indignant about it" (Matthew 20:24), The Lord's response was:
"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20:25-26 KJV)
Jesus Christ plainly said that no apostle outranked any other. The apostles would be given great positions of responsibility, as we shall see below, but not over each other.
In the famous "keys to the Kingdom" verse (Matthew 16:18-19), although Peter was the first to speak up, The Lord was talking to all of the twelve disciples gathered there before Him. Peter's name Cephas meant a small rock, but Jesus Christ, throughout The Bible, past (see Rock Of Ages) and future (see The Kingdom of God) is referred to as The Rock.
The Rock on which the Christian church would be built is Jesus Christ. That is what the events of the entire Bible lead to. What mere sinful human could ever take the place of The Son of God?
Peter never exalted himself over the other apostles before Christ's Crucifixion, and later, after Jesus' Resurrection when the church was becoming popularly established, he remained a very prominent, but humble servant of God:
"And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man." (Acts 10:25-26 KJV)
Peter was nothing more than an equal among his fellow apostles. Nor did Peter ever claim to be infallible, as evidenced in this confrontation between the apostles Peter and Paul.
"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation." (Galatians 2:11-13 KJV)
That confrontation states just who it was that Peter had the responsibility for - the Christians from among the tribe of Judah, the Jews - as restated more directly here:
"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision [i.e. the Gentiles] was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision [i.e. the Jews] 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" (Galatians 2:7-8 KJV)
Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, while each of the twelve apostles were given to be an apostle to one tribe of Israel, of which Peter was the apostle to the people of Judah. That reality will hold true yet in the future as plainly stated by Jesus Christ to all of them.
"And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; That ye may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:29-30 KJV)
Again, in describing the future, the twelve apostles will each be responsible for one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
"And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:10-14 KJV)
And just where did the mythical tradition of "Peter at the pearly gates" come from? In further describing the future new Jerusalem, on earth, of which Peter will be one of the twelve foundations, and will have charge of one of the twelve gates, we read:
"And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass" (Revelation 21:21 KJV)
Fact Finder: What eventually happened to Peter?