Archive for the ‘Matthew 16’ Category

The "Bind and Loose" Argument Rebutted

April 2, 2013

Over at GreenBaggins, Scott tried to make an argument for an infallible rule of faith other than the Bible.  He wrote: “The fact is that Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:18 teach that man and/or those men can bind or loose, not just sin, but whatsoever they choose.”  Let’s consider this argument piece by piece:

“that man and/or those men”
Peter and the other apostles are gone.  Francis, like his predecessor Benedict XVI, is not an apostle of Jesus Christ, he did not personally receive revelation from Jesus as they did, It is a leap to say that the apostles could do X, therefore someone who is not an apostle can do X.

“bind and loose”
Of course, “bind and loose” doesn’t sound anything like “define dogma.”  It sounds more like freeing people from their sins or leaving people in condemnation for their sins.

“not just sin”
That sounds like Scott is saying, “sin and more.”  But Rome’s teaching of infallibility is that Rome is infallible only in her doctrinal and moral definitions, not in her exercise of discipline.  So, if it is “sin and more” and implies infallibility, then Scott has proved a point that is stronger than what Rome can adopt.  After all, a Roman bishop exonerated Pelagius (and then later condemned), a Roman bishop condemned Athanasius (and then later exonerated), and let’s not even get into the trial of Galileo.

“whatsoever they choose”
In Roman Catholic theology, the definition of dogma is (officially) not arbitrary.  For example, CCC 86 states:

“Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”

Of course, I acknowledge that in practice the power is arbitrarily exercised (contrary to CCC 86), but this is just an internal inconsistency.

Likewise, to be precise the text does not mention choice, it just states that what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven and what is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven.

– TurretinFan

Gates of Hell in the Deuterocanon

June 7, 2012

In a previous post, I explained from the Scriptures why the “gates of hell shall not prevail” in Matthew 16:18 refers to the fact that the church, i.e. all believers, will be raised to eternal life.  In hindsight, I probably should have pointed out that this interpretation is also supported in the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom.

Wisdom 16:13
For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again.

It has nothing to do with an institutional church weathering the storms of heresies, although a lot of people have mistakenly treated it that way.


Responding to "Gabriel Serafin" Regarding the Religion based on the Word

January 4, 2012

A poster using the handle “Gabriel Serafin” wrote:

Protestantism is a religion based on a book. But Jesus Christ did not hand out Bibles, He established a Church and gave her authority to teach. God gave us the Bible through His Church; thus the Catholic Church defined the Canon of Scripture in the first place. “Bible-only Christians” who dismiss the teachings of the Catholic Church are simply living in a state of ignorance and false understanding of Christianity. James White is merely one voice among thousands of voices spreading a cacophony of noise and confusion against the Church that was established by Christ. Without the Catholic Church you have no Bible.. 

I reply:

The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible.  The fact that Jesus himself did not “hand out Bibles” is hardly a compelling point, given that he frequently quoted from the old testament Scriptures and commanded his theological opponents to “Search the Scriptures.”

Moreover, the final book of Scripture is the Apocalypse, which describes itself as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him … .” (Revelation 1:1)  Us folks who follow the Book know this, or at least we should.  So, while it would be inaccurate to say Jesus “handed out Bibles” he certainly gave us the Bible, not only by virtue of being the Word made Flesh, and the capstone of the prophets (“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” Hebrews 1:1-2) but also by delivering this final Revelation to John by the hand of an angel (“… sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” Revelation 1:1-2) just as also the Pentateuch was delivered (“it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” Galatians 3:19).

You may say that Jesus established a church, and indeed Jesus did.  But Jesus did not establish a church headed by some other man, but rather he is the head (“gave him to be the head over all things to the church” Ephesians 1:22; “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” Ephesians 5:23; “he is the head of the body, the church” Colossians 1:18).  Jesus did not tell us that the bishop of Rome is to be a second head – as though when a husband is bodily absent some other man can fulfill that husbandly role with his wife.

In fact, the apostolic writings provide us with zero documentation of any papacy.  There wasn’t one.  Christ did establish his church, but modern Rome is not that church.

In fact, the implied conception of “the church” is foreign to the New Testament scriptures.  The expression “the church” in Scripture can refer to various things, such as the local body of believers or to the entire category of all believers.  It is faith that defines the church, though – not the other way ’round.

Christ built his church on himself, the Rock and our only Rock:

  1. “He is the Rock” Deuteronomy 32:4; 
  2. “he forsook the God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” Deuteronomy 32:14; 
  3. “Of the rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” Deuteronomy 32:18; 
  4. “except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?” Deuteronomy 32:30; 
  5. “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2; 
  6. “The LORD is my rock” 2 Samuel 22:2; 
  7. “The God of my rock, in him will I trust” 2 Samuel 22:3; 
  8. “who is a rock, save our God?” 2 Samuel 22:32; 
  9. “the LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.” 2 Samuel 22:47; 
  10. “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me,” 2 Samuel 23:3; 
  11. “The LORD is my rock” Psalm 18:2;
  12. “who is a rock save our God?” Psalm 18:31;
  13. “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted” Psalm 18:46;
  14. “O LORD my rock” Psalm 28:1;
  15. “be thou my strong rock” Psalm 31:2;
  16. “thou art my rock” Psalm 31:3;
  17. “I will say unto God my rock” Psalm 42:9;
  18. “He only is my rock and my salvation” Psalm 62:2;
  19. “He only is my rock and my salvation” Psalm 62:6;
  20. “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” Psalm 62:7
  21. “thou art my rock” Psalm 71:3;
  22. “they remembered that God was their rock” Psalm 78:35;
  23. “Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” Psalm 89:26;
  24. “the LORD is upright: he is my rock” Psalm 92:15;
  25. “my God is the rock of my refuge” Psalm 94:22;
  26. “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” Psalm 95:1;
  27. “he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel” Isaiah 8:14;
  28. “thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength” Isaiah 17:10;
  29. “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” Matthew 7:24;
  30. “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock” Luke 6:47-48;
  31. “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” Acts 4:11;
  32. “Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” Romans 9:33;
  33. “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4; 
  34. “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ” 1 Peter 2:4; and
  35. “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.  Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” 1 Peter 2:6-8.

Yet against that backdrop, you will foolishly assert that Peter is the Rock of Matthew 16:18?  Why, because Peter’s name means “rock”?  Do you not know that Peter is called “Bar Jona” because of his relationship to his fleshly father Jona?  If so, then why do you not understand that Peter is called Peter because of his faith in the Rock, namely in Christ.

The foundation stone is Christ, as it is written:

  • “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” Isaiah 28:16
  • “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11

Yes, there is some secondary sense in which we are built on the apostles (all of them, together with the prophets): “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Ephesians 2:20) but notice who is the one rock on which everything else is built: it is Christ.

The Bible did not come from “the Catholic church” it was delivered to the prophets and the apostles.  Most of the books were delivered in the Old Testament period, before “the Catholic church” even claims to have existed.  The rest of the books were delivered by the apostles and the evangelists.  The claim the Scriptures make about themselves is that they are God-breathed (“given by inspiration of God” 2 Timothy 3:16) not church-breathed.

When Paul wrote the epistle to the Galatians he expressed it this way: “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)” (Galatians 1:1).  Those are not the words of someone who needs to run it past the church, or even past some imaginary 1st century pope.  Instead, Paul received divine revelation from Christ and was inspired to hand it on to us in writing.

God used many people, including unbelieving Jews, to preserve the text of the Bible for us. We are thankful for God’s providence in that regard.  Nevertheless, their role in preservation of the Scriptures is no endorsement of their theology.

Indeed, those in the English-speaking world ought rather to say that we received the Scriptures despite Rome, rather than because of Rome.  Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible (from the Vulgate!) was suppressed, as was Tyndale’s translation from the Greek.  To be a Bible translator in those days was to risk persecution, yet men did the work necessary to get God’s word into the language of those in England.

The idea that “the Catholic Church defined the Canon of Scripture in the first place” is laughable.  Rome’s first “infallible” definition of the canon of Scripture was at Trent – after Luther’s death.  That’s hardly “in the first place.”  Moreover, even if one goes back all the way to the North African Councils that came the closest to the Tridentine canon, they weren’t the first canons of Scripture to be provided.  Athanasius managed to provide a canon of Scripture before the north Africans.  Moreover, it is plain that others before him (such as Origen) had a canon of the Scripture.

Who is living in a state of ignorance about Christianity?  Those who follow the teachings of Christ and the apostles, which are set forth in Scripture?  Or those who instead following the teachings of Rome, whether or not they contradict what Scripture teaches?

James White is merely one voice among thousands of voices, one witness amongst a great cloud of witnesses. Yet referring to his appeals to the authority of Scripture as “cacophony” suggests that the author of the comment has a confused idea about Scripture.

Would that “Gabriel Serafin” would cast aside his mistaken idea that Christ’s church is founded upon Peter and instead recognize that Christ’s church is founded upon Christ, the true Rock of our salvation.


Response to Cursilista Regarding Church History

December 26, 2011

Cursilista wrote:

The one thing that bugs me is that the question I would ask is for a protestant explanation of how did Christianity move forward through time after Christ died. 

We have a pretty clear answer to that.  Read the book of Acts.  It says zero about a Roman-centered Christianity.  Rome is part of Paul’s mission field, it’s not the locus of a papacy.  We see churches being planted all over the world, wherever Paul and other missionaries go.

Cursilista continued:

Give an explanation of what form of organization did Christianity take that survived since the time of Christ to today. 

The form of the organization was initially elders in every city (Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:), accompanied by deacons (Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:). The terms bishop and elder were originally synonymous.

Eventually, a monarchical episcopate emerged, in which one of the elders became designated as “the” bishop.  Later, certain bishops gained a preeminence over others, particularly in cities that were important in the Roman empire.  I could go on, and recite the tale of the development of a variety of different organizational forms that have existed from ancient times down to modern times, but suffice to say that there have been a significant number of different organizational forms that have existed, both in ancient times and – of course – in modern times.

Cursilista continued:

Christ said that his church would not be overcome by the gates of hell. Satan would not prevail over his church, therefore Christ’s church had to have existed since his death to current time and will continue to exist forever. 

This is a non sequitur, premised on a misunderstanding of what Christ said. 

First of all, the organizational form of the apostolic era church (with a plurality of elders accompanied by deacons in every city) was quite not carefully maintained.  Even historians within the Roman communion (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) acknowledge this fact. 

Second, the apostasy of individual churches (even very many of them) does not entail victory of Satan over Christ’s church.  Recall that during the time of the Old Testament, it seemed to God’s prophet Elisha that he was the last follower of God on earth, but God replied that there were 7000 others.  Thus, even if for a few years – or even a few hundred years – there were only 7000 scattered followers of Christ, it would be Satan’s error to think he had the victory over the church.

We need not, however, assume that apostasy was so complete that there were only 7000 believers.  Certainly there were many errors that crept into the churches, even from a very early time.  Nevertheless, salvation is not obtained by having perfect doctrines or perfect practices, but rather by trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

Third, the reference to the gates of hell is a reference to death, not Satan.  Recall that Wisdom 16:13 states: “For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again.”  The promise that Jesus is making in Matthew 16 is not some kind of victory in spiritual defense against Satan (after all, in warfare gates are themselves defensive not offensive) but rather victory over death: resurrection.  The “church” that Christ is talking about here is all believers.  As Christ explains: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.  … No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  … Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39, 40, 44, and 54)

Cursilista continued: 

So name that church, name the leaders of that church, show a succession of those leaders, there is a 2000 yr. span of time which has to be accounted for. 

This request proceeds from the faulty premises identified above.  Christ does not promise that every apostle would be faithful, much less that those who came after them would be faithful.  The head of Christ’s church is one: Christ, as it is written: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:22), “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”  (Ephesians 5:23), “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

It is true that Christ died, but Christ was raised again on the third day and continues to live even until this day.  So, the two thousand year time span is fully accounted for.

Moreover, while Christ is bodily absent from us, he has provided us with both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we can learn what we need to believe to be saved from them.  The churches are an aid to that, but they are (and must be) subordinate to both.

Cursilista wrote:

What churches did the Apostles start. They should still be around today. 

Why would one assume such a thing?  Look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation (sorry, Rome didn’t make that list).  There is no promise to those churches, which were started in the apostolic era that they would endure forever, or that they would endure without apostasy.  Indeed, can you find those seven churches now?

Cursilista continued:

For 1500 years, my only knowledge of such a Christian church is the Catholic Church. 

There are other churches that claim an ancient lineage.  The Eastern Orthodox churches are the most visible alternative, but there are others as well – such as the Copts in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox.  The fact that a church claims an ancient lineage does not demonstrate that the church teaches what the apostles taught.  We can know what the apostles taught from the Scriptures, and we can compare the teachings of churches like Rome to those teachings to see whether they have maintained or departed from the apostolic faith.

Moreover, Rome’s claims to being ancient are easily challenged.  Events like the Council of Constance or the move from election by the people of Rome to election by the Cardinals suggest that the modern papacy is disconnected from the older Roman bishoprics.  The fact that men have obtained the papacy by simony similarly negate the idea that somehow the Roman bishopric has been maintained against Satan’s attacks.  Do we even need to mention mention men like Julius III and Alexander VI who occupied the papacy but demonstrated by their way of life that they were not Christians?

Cursilista wrote:

The protestant reformation took place in the early 1500’s. 

That’s a typical sociological date.  However, of course, at the time Luther was treated as being a continuation of what Huss (1369-1415) and Wycliffe (1328-1384) had started before him, in terms of opposing Rome.  And we could back even prior to Wycliffe to the Waldensians, who trace their roots to Peter Waldo (1140-1218).  Of course, this is only in the West.  An East-West division occurred in 1054.  So, while the Protestant Reformation was a very notable and important event, it’s more of a continuation of lots of people disagreeing with the bishop of Rome, and the bishop of Rome (at least from the 11th century) acting as an autocrat (see the power struggle between Emperor Henry IV and the pope of his day, for example).

Cursilista continued:

The protestants need to fill in a 1500 yr. gap as to what was Christ’s church, other than the catholic church, here on earth for those 1500 yrs. If they cannot, then, they have to admit that the Catholic church is the church that was established by Christ. If Christ said he church would endure forever then, either his church started at Pentecost and continues to today or Jesus waited 1500 yrs. to start his church during the protestant reformation. The later proposition is hard to believe.

Mostly, this is already addressed above.  The faulty presupposition behind this argument is that Christ came to establish a single denomination.  Instead, the rock upon which Christ’s church is built is a confession of faith in Christ alone (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”).  That is to say, “the church” is whoever trusts in Christ alone for salvation.  It’s not an organization with a headquarters in Rome, ruled by men in fancy clothes who sit on thrones.

Cursilista again:

Also in this debate, my two cents would be to ask the question and make this supposition . Is god a god of order or disorder. In order to organize men, there needs to be a committee and a head of that committee that controls the debate with authority. 

Cursilista assumes too much. In the Old Testament era, there was no pope, yet the same God ruled his people then.  Now, we have Christ as the head of our church, and we have his official word, the Scriptures, to guide and rule us.  That, however, is not enough for some, it seems.

Cursilista wrote:

When Jesus left this earth , he left his church in the hands of the apostles, humans, his committee, to organize and keep intact all of his teachings. 

Actually, when Jesus left, he sent the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to write Holy Scripture. 

Cursilista continued:

Some of those teachings were not written down, so the bible says, because, all that Jesus taught his apostles couldn’t be written down, it would fill up the earth with books. 

Cursilista may have misunderstood the verse in question, but let us suppose that not all of Jesus’ teachings were included in the Bible.  If so, how could we reliably know what those other teachings were?  We would have to examine the historical record to see what else the apostles were teaching, beside those things that were included in Scripture.  But when we examine the historical record, we don’t see the distinctively Roman teachings (like papal infallibility, the bodily assumption of Mary, or the immaculate conception) being taught in the earliest period.

Moreover, the distinctively Roman dogmas are not that hard to put into book form.  So, it is not the case that these were simply not included because the amount of dogma was too much for the New Testament to fit it all.  Indeed, certain Roman advocates attempt to allege that Rome’s distinctive dogmas actually are found in Scripture.

On top of that, we see that the early Christians plainly did not hold to things like papal infallibility.  While many people say nice things about Rome, and many people even seek the wisdom or authority of the bishop of Rome at various times in the patristic era, where does anyone argue that the bishop of Rome is infallible?  It’s absurd to think that such a doctrine is apostolic or from Christ himself, yet we see people try to argue that today.

Cursilista again:

Therefore, The apostles with someone as the , lets call it chairman of the board of the committee, was the governing authority of the faith. 

The book of Acts does not reflect this.  On the contrary, the seeming “chairman” of the council described in Acts 15 is James, not Peter (who was living in Antioch or Samaria at that time, not Rome), and certainly not Linus (who is not even mentioned).  Likewise, as noted above, Rome’s own historians dispute the idea the Roman papacy is something that was from the beginning.

Cursilista concluded: 

How else would the faith survive intact if not for some form of human organizational body in place to keep the teachings intact and without error or human interpretation to twist the teachings to cultural changes as time went by.

The answer should be obvious: Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit preserve and persuade us of the apostolic faith.  There is no promise all believers will have beliefs totally free from error.  But our faith does not depend an organization of men or a particular denomination of believers.


Chrysostom and Vatican I

December 23, 2011

Back in 2007, James White posted the following quotation from John Chrysostom:

Having said to Peter, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonas, and of having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession; not long after He says, Get thee behind me, Satan. And elsewhere he said, Upon this rock. He did not say upon Peter for it is not upon the man, but upon his own faith that the church is built. And what is this faith? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (In pentecosten 52.806.75 – 52.807.1)


A blogger interested in the Roman communion, going by the handle “The Idler” has posted a response to this quotation.

The Idler writes: “It is a difficult quote for a convert investigating the Catholic Church’s view of the papacy to digest, as it seems upon first glance to outright deny the [Roman] Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18-19.” (bracketed insertion mine)

It’s not just on first glance.  The quotation specifically denies “upon Peter” as the meaning, but instead insists that the passage refers to his faith.  Vatican I insists that Matthew 16:18 be understood to refer to Peter himself.

The Idler continues: “If we examine what else St. John Chrysostom says in his writings and homilies, we can tell that he does not agree with James White outside of that select passage.”

Before we continue, it’s important to note that there are not just two options “James White” and “Rome.”  Certainly Chrysostom didn’t see it that way (neither James White nor modern Rome was around in his day).  Thus, it is conceivably possible for Chrysostom both to disagree with James White and modern Rome.

The Idler then provides selections from Chrysostom’s Homily 52 on Matthew.  In that homily Chrysostom uses the following flowery description of Peter: “What then saith the mouth of the apostles, Peter, the ever fervent, the leader of the apostolic choir? When all are asked, he answers.”

He goes on to say, later in the homily:

Seest thou how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as “a brazen pillar, and as a wall;” but him to one nation only, this man in every part of the world.
I would fain inquire then of those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son, which manner of gifts were greater, those which the Father gave to Peter, or those which the Son gave him? For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared it to be stronger than heaven. “For heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” How then is He less, who hath given such gifts, hath effected such things?

(Chrysostom, Homily 52 on Matthew)

The Idler argues:

It is important to note that surrounding the above words both before and after, Chrysostom makes a reference to the Arians, a heretical movement that denied the divinity of Christ, referring to them as “those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son”, and asks them “how then is He less, who has given such gifts, has effected such things?”.  Therefore, it is no surprise in my mind that Chrysostom speaks of St. Peter’s faith being the rock upon which the Church is built.  Simply put, he is showing that it is the faith in Christ as the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, that is of utmost import, and this profession of faith is why Christ placed St. Peter in the position of authority that he did.  In effect, he is countering the Arians with these passages.

There is nothing especially objectionable about this comment from the Idler.

The Idler then continues:

But see how he does not place the idea of the primacy of St. Peter aside, but rather calls him “the mouth of the apostles”, “the leader of the apostlic choir”, the leader of them all, Peter”, and “makes him a shepherd” that is to guide “every part of the world”.  Further on, we see Chrysostom say, “For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world.

Of course, none of this contradicts the point that Chrysostom denies that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16.  It simply affirms that Peter is spokesman for the apostles in this instance, and someone who is to bring the gospel to the whole world.

In effect, Chrysostom is still holding St. Peter as the head of the apostles, but it is confession of faith that makes him this head.

He doesn’t say “head of the apostles.”  But even if he had said that (he does call him the “leader” after all), he can still say that without adopting Rome’s view of Matthew 16:18, and certainly without adopting the papacy as a whole.  Certainly, prior to Paul’s calling, Peter is one of the most prominent apostles.

Moreover, Chrysostom certainly doesn’t suggest that Peter’s confession of faith makes him the head.  We could discuss this in more detail, but Peter’s confession makes him an example and representative of all Christians who make that same confession of faith.  But such a role is not the papacy.

Now, maybe I am blind but I simply do not see Chrysostom as somehow against the [Roman] Catholic notion of the primacy of St. Peter, his being the rock by virtue of his confession, and the like.  Obviously, Protestants will not agree with this, nor will the Eastern Orthodox.  But I cannot help but coming to the conclusion that I do. 

When Chrysostom says “He did not say upon Peter” he’s denying Rome’s current view of Matthew 16:18.  That does not mean that Chrysostom is adopting some other view in which he denies absolutely everything modern Rome says about Peter.  

At the same time the Idler should also be careful about getting too exuberant.  Even if Chrysostom thought that Peter was the chief apostle, or the leader of the apostles, that does not mean, imply, or suggest that Chrysostom thought that there was a perpetual office of “head of the church” to be filled by a mere man, or that the person filling such an office was the bishop of Rome.

As my friend, Pastor David King, wrote on a previous occasion:

Chrysostom was ordained by a bishop who was out of communion with Rome. In fact, for the better part of his ministerial life, Chrysostom was, technically speaking, out of communion with Rome. Therefore, he was ordained (as most Roman Catholics would argue if consistent) by someone outside the communion of Rome, also claiming to be part of the Catholic Church. Chrysostom was baptized (AD 369) and ordained to the diaconate (AD 380) by Meletius who at the time was out of communion with Rome, and Chrysostom was ordained to the priesthood (AD 386) by Flavian, whom Rome refused to recognize as bishop, and had been de facto excommunicated some years before the ordination of Chrysostom. According to the standard of Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum, both Meletius and Flavian were “outside the edifice,” “separated from the fold,” and “exiled from the Kingdom” inasmuch as they were not in communion with the Roman pontiff, who acknowledged only Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see.

By receiving baptism and ordination at their hands, Chrysostom was declaring that he recognized them as the proper bishops in succession from and under the jurisdiction of the see of Antioch. While preaching at his tomb, Chrysostom referenced Meletius as a saint, and said of Flavian that he was not only the successor of Peter, but also the rightful heir of Peter to the see of Antioch. Chrysostom could not have been clearer in his repudiation of Paulinus whom Rome had declared to be the bishop of Antioch. (See his Homily II in Migne PG 52:86).

In similar fashion, when contrary to the canons Paulinus consecrated Evagrius to be his successor upon his death in AD 389, Chrysostom actively declined to recognize him as such, and emphatically warned the people of Antioch against joining the body which recognized Evagrius as bishop.

Moreover, Chrysostom makes reference to this in a sermon delivered in AD 395…


I speak not of you that are present, but of those who are deserting from us. The act is adultery. And if ye bear not to hear these things of them, neither should ye of us. There must be breach of the law either on the one side or the other. If then thou hast these suspicions concerning me, I am ready to retire from my office, and resign it to whomsoever ye may choose. Only let the Church be one. But if I have been lawfully made and consecrated, entreat those who have contrary to the law mounted the episcopal throne to resign it.

NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 11, next to the last paragraph.

It wasn’t until after his consecration in AD 398 to the see of Constantinople by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, that Chrysostom entered into communion with Rome.

Now, most Roman Catholic apologists are not familiar with this information regarding the circumstances of Chrysostom’s baptism and ordinations, but his “orders” as such are denied as proper according to the requirements of Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum. I think this alone proves that there were in Chrysostom’s day other groups claiming to be every bit as much “Catholic,” but nonetheless out of communion with Rome.

It also serves to show that Chrysostom’s positive comments about Peter are not evidence of papalism in his views.


Origen – Not a Papist

April 8, 2009

Origen was not a papist, not a person who held to the modern Roman Catholic doctrine of the papacy. Origen interpreted Matthew 16:18 more like a modern Reformed believer would interpret the passage, and actually a lot like the way that Augustine interpreted the passage. Thus, in the following video, I respond to Mr. Albrecht’s claims that attempt to assert (erroneously) that “Origen does indeed believe Peter to have been given his position in a special sense” in Matthew 16:18 and that Origen (again this is Mr. Albrecht’s erroneous assertion) is “clearly saying that the church is indeed built upon the Rock (being Peter) … .”

I hope that the video clarifies some of the issues involved. We could provide other quotations from the church fathers as well. For example:

Augustine: “Why does Pelagius choose to be sunk in that sea whence Peter was rescued by the Rock?” (On the Grace of Christ, Chapter 50)


What then saith Christ? “Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas.” “Thus since thou hast proclaimed my Father, I too name him that begat thee;” all but saying, “As thou art son of Jonas, even so am I of my Father.” Else it were superfluous to say, “Thou art Son of Jonas;” but since he had said, “Son of God,” to point out that He is so Son of God, as the other son of Jonas, of the same substance with Him that begat Him, therefore He added this, “And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;” that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby He signifies that many were now on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd. “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” “And if not against it, much more not against me. So be not troubled because thou art shortly to hear that I shall be betrayed and crucified.”

(Homily 52 on Matthew, Section 3[second section 3, per this source])

Thomas Aquinas:

Again in the state of the Law the first revelation which was given to Moses was more excellent, and on this revelation all the other revelations to the prophets were founded. And so, too, in the time of grace the entire faith of the Church is founded on the revelation vouchsafed to the apostles, concerning the faith in one God and three Persons, according to Matthew 16:18, “On this rock,” i.e. of thy confession, “I will build My Church.”

(Summa Theologica, 2nd Part of the 2nd Part, Question 174, Article 6)

Now, Aquinas certainly wasn’t a Reformed Presbyterian, but (like the other writers of bygone eras quoted above) he didn’t share the view of Matthew 16:18 that we hear from Roman Catholic apologists and the modern Roman Catholic magisterium.


The Gates of Hell shall not Prevail Against the Church

April 2, 2009

This phrase “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” is one I hear used often and misused often. The one point everyone seems to recognize correctly is that “it” refers to the church. Not any particular church, but the church: the body of Christ universal.

1. The “We will Survive” Error

The most frequent error I hear with respect to this verse is to imagine that the “gates of hell” are the battering rams of Satan attacking the church in this life. That’s definitely not what the verse means, though one can even find this kind of view among the church fathers.

Gates are, as far as warfare goes, defensive only. They do not attack. When the enemy attacks the church he does so with firey darts, but not with gates.

2. Storming Hell? A potential error.

Oftentimes, someone who notices that the gates of hell cannot be offensive weapons of battle against the church assume that they represent the defenses of the kingdom of this world, and therefore interpret this verse as saying that the church will defeat the kingdom of this world, storming and plundering the kingdom of Satan.

This view is not completely out of the question. The basic concept is surely correct, that the church will and does (by the gospel) plunder and invade the kingdom of the world. There are two cities: the city of God and the city of man. We in the city of God are in constant spiritual warfare, and we should be engaged in the raiding parties necessary to bring souls out of the power of the kingdom of darkness.

3. Resurrection

But I think the best view of this verse is as pointing to the resurrection. The church, the body of Christ, all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, will be raised to eternal life. In this view, the “gates of hell” stand simply for the bands of death.

After all, while we usually use the term “hell” to refer to the place of the damned, the term “hell” in Scripture often refers simply to the place of the dead. I think one reason people turn to interpretation (2) above is from simply hearing interpretation (1) too much. They realize that (1) is wrong, but don’t recognize that this is not a warfare analogy at all.

Instead, hell is like a prison, with gates that close in the dead, so that they cannot return to life. These gates are opened with keys. This, I think, is perhaps the most crucial (key? ha!) thing that permits us to properly understand the sense of the text.

Recall that John tells us that Jesus has the keys of hell and death:

Revelation 1:17-18
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Notice that we know this is Jesus: he is the first and the last, the one that lives although he was dead, and now lives eternally. It is through faith in Jesus that we escape death. Indeed, it is only by faith in Jesus that we escape the bonds of death. All mankind will be raised, but those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to the second death.

This all makes sense in the context, for the very next verse continues:

Matthew 16:19 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.

What are these keys? There is debate by some over this, but the easiest explanation is that they are the gospel: they are the way in which we are freed from the gates of hell. Thus, even as here Jesus told Peter that Peter would receive these keys, so also the same promise (without mentioning the keys specifically) is given to the other apostles:

Matthew 18:18 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.

The apostles fulfilled this purpose. They preached the gospel and committed Jesus’ teachings to writings: the scriptures of the New Testament.

It’s important to recall that this is the metaphor of the key in Scripture: it is one of unlocking and locking. Thus, we see the lawyers criticized for essentially locking away the truth of Old Testament Scripture:

Luke 11:52 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.

In contrast, Jesus is said to have the key of David, and to be able to shut and close without contest:

Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

(Quoting from: Isaiah 22:22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.)

So, what is it that the verse is saying? It is saying, as best I understand it, that death will not prevail against the church, but rather Jesus will raise us from the dead – and that Jesus did show this way of escape (these keys of the kingdom of heaven) by which we can be loosed from(if he have faith like Peter did) and be bound in (if we do not have the faith of Peter) death.

In my opinion, the final confirmation that this is correct comes from what immediately follow verse 19:

Matthew 16:20-21
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto 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.

This is the victory over death and hell, and these are the keys that Peter freely gave us, recorded in Peter’s sermon in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 2:23-28
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25 For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

Notice how the pains of death are “loosed” because they could not “hold” him. Thus, Jesus was not left in the grave, in the place of the dead, but he was raised to eternal life, as will all those who repent of their sins and trust in him.

Dear reader, if you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus, do so today. It is the only way that you will prevail against the gates of hell.


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