Lessons From Acts 15-Peter Was Not The First Pope

It is written:

And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:14  Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15  And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 16  ‘AFTER THIS I WILL RETURN AND WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID, WHICH HAS FALLEN DOWN; I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL SET IT UP; 17  SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, EVEN ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, SAYS THE LORD WHO DOES ALL THESE THINGS.’ 18  “Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19  Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20  but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. 21  For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” 22  Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. (Acts 15:13-22)

One of the lessons that we learn from Acts 15 is that the Apostle Peter was not recognized by the other Apostles-or by the church-as the first pope. When we carefully study the text, we see that if anyone presided over the council in Jerusalem, it was James, not Peter.

Speaking of the equality of the Apostles, White has written:

“Peter’s position in the early church also comes out in the book of Acts. When the “Jerusalem Council” meets in Acts 15, Peter is indeed present, but nothing in the text suggests that he ruled over the council, or was looked on with any higher respect than any of the other apostles. Indeed, many scholars recognize that it was James who was in control of the church at Jerusalem, not Peter. 3 Earlier, when the leaders at Jerusalem wished to ascertain the facts of Philip’s work in Samaria (Acts 8: 4-13), they sent Peter and John to investigate. This surely does not suggest that Peter had some “primacy” when he and John are sent on this errand. Rather, it suggests a complete equality among the apostles. The same kind of equality can be seen when we look to Paul’s writings as well. He writes to the Corinthians, “… for in nothing was I less than (or behind) the very chiefest apostles…” (2 Corinthians 12: 11). Paul may have been referring to certain false apostles who were troubling the Corinthians, but far more likely he is referring to the true apostles (see verse 12), and in that case, he is claiming to be behind none of them. But if Peter was given a primacy how could Paul say this? Did Paul believe Peter was the head of the Church? There is no evidence he did at all. Instead, when Peter was in error in Antioch, as recounted by Paul in Galatians 2: 11ff, Paul “withstood him to the face” and rebuked him publicly for his hypocrisy. And well he should have! Peter’s failure struck at the very heart of the Gospel message itself, and Paul would have none of that. Aside from the fact that here we have anything but an infallible Pope in Peter (surely his actions are relevant to “faith and morals” are they not?), it is apparent that Paul was not hindered by any idea that he was publicly rebuking the “Prince of the Apostles,” the very “Vicar of Christ on earth”! No, for Paul, and Peter, and all the apostles, there was only one Vicar of Christ, that being the Holy Spirit of God. None of them dared to blaspheme Him by claiming His titles.” (James R. White, Answers to Catholic Claims: A Discussion of Biblical Authority, 1512-1523 (Kindle Edition))

Clearly, Peter was not recognized as the head the church on Earth!

When we study the Scriptures about the organization of the church on Earth, we quickly realize that there is no hint of the Roman Catholic papacy.

1 Corinthians 12:28-And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.

Ephesians 4:11-16-And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13  till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14  that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Years ago, Alexander Campbell debated a Roman Catholic priest. Campbell (using official Roman Catholic historical sources) documented that there was no pope until some six hundred years after the time of Christ:

“I shall therefore proceed to the great council of Chalcedon, of preeminent authority, the greatest of the first four general councils. From all the canons of the council relating to government, it is evident that they had not yet excogitated the idea of a supreme head. Says Du Pin, ” The 28th canon grants t D the church of the city of Constantinople, which is called JV ° £ M’ Rome, the same privileges with old Rome, because this city is the second city in the world. It also adjudges to it, besides this, jurisdiction over the dioceses of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, and over the churches which are out of the bounds of the emperor, and a right to ordain metropolitans in the provinces of these dioceses.” p. 678. Thus this council, composed of 340 bishops, and assembling in the year of our Lord 451, gave the same power to the patriarch of Constantinople as to the patriarch of Rome, and makes the supremacy of the one equal to the supremacy of the other. I have examined the proceedings of all the councils of the first six centuries, of which I find about 170, promulgating in all about 1400 canons. I have read and examined the twenty creeds of the fourth century with all their emendations down to the close of the sixth ; and I affirm, without the fear of contradiction, that there is not in all these a single vestige of the existence of a pope or universal head of the church down to the time of Gregory the great, or John the Faster of Constantinople.” (John Baptist Purcell & Alexander Campbell, Campbell-Purcell Debate: A Debate On The Roman Catholic Religion, 259-268 (Kindle Edition); Cincinnati, Ohio; J. A. JAMES & Co.)

The papacy of the Roman Catholicism is an apostasy from the beautiful design God created for His church.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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