Was the Authority over the True Church handed to Peter by Jesus?


This is a claim made not only by the Roman Catholic Church, but also by the Orthodox Church and other churches and religions. But does scripture give any comfort to those who believe that any organization was delegated authority over the body of Christ (The True Church) by Jesus. Let’s look at Matthew 16, which is the basis for the Roman Catholic Claim that Jesus established the Roman Catholic Church as the one and only true Church.

Matt 16:13-19

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."


What do we see here?

- Jesus was speaking to his disciples as a group

- The topic was "who is Jesus"

- Peter answered that he is the Messiah, son of the living God.

- Jesus does not immediately refer to Peter, but rather the fact that the revelation of the truth came from God the father.

The word Peter here is Petros, which means stone or a piece of a rock, and then Jesus refers to the "rock" which is the revelation of who he is, and states that His church shall be built upon this revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The word "rock" here is Petra, which means rock, or a mass of rock. We do not build a building upon a piece of a rock or a stone, but rather upon a rock that is massive enough to provide a solid foundation. Jesus' choice of words made it clear which should be the foundation of His church.  It is interesting to note the consistency of scripture in the use of these terms, Rock and stone. Throughout scripture, the Rock almost always refers to God (Father or Son):


Deut 32:4

4 He is the Rock, His work is perfect;

For all His ways are justice,

A God of truth and without injustice;

Righteous and upright is He.


2 Sam 22:47

47 "The LORD lives!

Blessed be my Rock!

Let God be exalted,

The Rock of my salvation!


Ps 18:46

46 The LORD lives!

Blessed be my Rock!

Let the God of my salvation be exalted.


Ps 95:1

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.


Isa 17:10

10 Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation,

And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold,


1 Cor 10:4-5

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.


We could also have quoted Deut 32:15, Deut 32:18, Deut 32:30-31, 2 Sam 23:3, Ps 28:1, Ps 42:9, Ps 144:1, Iss 44:8 and Hab 1:12
. As for the stone, there is much less, but here is what we do find:

John 1:42

42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, A Stone).



1 Peter 2:4-6

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,


So, we are stones, but there are references to Jesus as a stone as well, for example Romans 9:33, where He is referred to both as a Rock and a Stone. That is because he is the cornerstone:

Eph 2:19-22

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.


The cornerstone is in fact, a rock. So Jesus can be called a stone (cornerstone), but is more frequently called the Rock and even the reference to Him being a stone refers to a Rock (cornerstone). On the other hand, there is no reference in scripture anywhere of Peter being called a Rock. He is a stone, as we all are stone per 1 Peter 2:4-6. This may also be a reference to the fact that Jesus is both God (Rock) and man (stone), and is the sole person to hold such a distinction.


Jesus, as the Rock, is also the cornerstone, which is the most notable piece of the foundation, but the confession of Peter that Jesus is Christ is the foundation upon which the church will be built. We see this endorsed in scripture as well, later by Paul:

1 Cor 3:11

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.


So the foundation is Jesus, not Peter. A church built upon Jesus, and the revelation of the fact that he is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God is the church that will stand, not a church built upon a man.


What were the keys that Jesus says that He is giving? We see that the Pharisees had previously held the keys:

Luke 11:52

52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."


The keys were knowledge, but what knowledge would bind people and what knowledge was it that the Pharisees did not use to loose themselves by entering in? It was the key of the truth and specifically the truth of the gospel. The Pharisees were the priests who had the key of truth by which they could guide the people into salvation, and instead of loosing the keys to open the door, they bound the key, took it away from the people and bound themselves by not using it. Jesus gave the keys to the disciples. We see in Matthew 16:13 that he was speaking to the disciples:

Matt 16:13

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"


The gospel was not given just to one man, but to the disciples to use to take into the word to bring salvation to the people. Note that even the Pharisees were not given the keys, but Luke 11:52 says that they took the keys. Who from? It was from the people of Israel. The keys were never intended to be in the hands of only some people or one person, but Jesus took the keys from the Pharisees and gave them to the disciples, people who had already entered into their salvation and who knew that to use the keys, they had to give them to the people, that they too might enter in. If they use the keys, people will no longer be bound and can enter in and be saved. It is the keys of knowledge that loose men to be free in Christ and be no longer bound by sin.


There are those who claim that the keys are the key of David mentioned in Isaiah 22:20-23, and that Jesus owns the key as King (parallel to the king in Is 22), but that the key is being delegated and is held by the servant (Peter/popes).  But that is not the case. Jesus addresses that in the book of Revelation:

Rev 3:7-8

7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,

'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens":


So Jesus has and uses that key alone. Jesus has the key and He alone uses it to open and shut.


Roman Catholics will suggest that Matthew 16 Must refer to Peter because Jesus referred personally to Peter by using the Greek singular form of the word that is interpreted as “you”. Did Jesus speak to Peter personally in Matthew 16:19 to Peter by using the Greek singular of the word "you"? Let's look at other places where Jesus used the Greek singular of "you":

Matt 5:23-26

23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you are thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.


In this passage, Jesus uses the Greek singular of then word "you" in each case that is highlighted. The various occurrences varies in case only (Dative, Genitive or Accusative), but all are the singular of the Greek word "you". So whom is He speaking to in Matthew 5? Let's go back to the start of the chapter and see:

Matt 5:1-2

5:1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:


He is therefore speaking to the "multitudes", not an individual, yet His words are aimed at each person as an individual by using the singular of the Greek word "you". If we look at Matthew 16 in context, we see the same thing. Jesus speaking to a number of people, but using the singular to point out that each and every person, as a priest (1 Peter 2:9) has a responsibility to use the keys, the gospel, to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Those who would take the keys and claim them for themselves are following the path of the Pharisees, not of Jesus.


Man is fallible -why would God make his foundation fallible. The confession is the gospel - that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the Living God. That is a perfect foundation for the church, the confession of the gospel of Jesus, not a man. Jesus remains the head of the church, and the gospel is the foundation.


Tom Smith

August 14, 2006


Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.


Scriptural Analysis of Roman Catholic Church Teachings