Why we left N********* Church

I put off writing this post for several months because it documents a difficult experience and decision, but here goes…

I returned to the Lord in 2014 after a very long and very dumb prodigal “season.” My wife and I then attended a small, Southern Baptist Convention church in close proximity to us, but we left after one year because the young pastor made it increasingly clear that he was very favorably-inclined towards ecumenism with Roman Catholicism.

I then drew up a short-list of possible church homes. Finding a solid Christian church up here in Western New York isn’t easy. The vast majority of churches are either Roman Catholic or mainline Protestant, all of which are apostate. There are a number of Pentecostal and charismatic churches, but we are cessationists in regards to the apostolic sign gifts. There’s also a number of fundamentalist churches, but they weren’t an option after our 1983-1991 experience at an IFB church. That left only a few non-denominational church options.

On a Sunday in November 2015, we drove to the first non-denominational church on our short-list, which was ten miles from our home. Services were held in the auditorium of a public middle school. It was actually one of two satellite campuses, with the main church campus being ten miles away in the city of Rochester. Each of the three (eventually four) locations had it’s own pre-sermon “worship” (song and singing) portion, but the sermon was a digital feed from the main church to big screens at the satellites. Hmm. That was different. But we enjoyed it. The preaching (more like a lecture) was actually quite good.

So we settled in at N********* Church, but were disappointed six-months later when the senior pastor announced he was leaving for a new career with a pastor-placement consulting firm. A new pastor was then selected from a list of candidates. One of his most desirable qualities, we were all told, was his young age (30).*

We attended N********* Church every Sunday for the next three-and-a-half years, but were increasingly conflicted. There were things about the church that we didn’t particularly care for, but we told ourselves no church is perfect. Then COVID-19 hit in mid-March. We began watching live-streaming of our church’s Sunday morning services, but around the same time my wife and I also began listening to 25-minute segments from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons nightly throughout the week (See here. There’s also an app for smart phones). Well, in listening to MLJ’s sermons it became painfully apparent that we had compromised way too much by attending N********* Church and we resolved we wouldn’t go back. As the pandemic lingers, we continue with our daily sermon podcasts from MLJ and others (but definitely NOT from N********* Church).

Let’s now get into some sad specifics. This mega-church followed the Warren-Drucker-Hybels seeker-growth model which included the following characteristics:

  • The auditorium was darkened like a movie theater to accentuate the “rock concert” light show experience during the “worship” portion of the service. The worship band played Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) exclusively and the volume was quite loud. The singing of the congregation was completely drowned out by the amplified singing of the worship leaders and by the electric instruments. Songs popularized by apostate Hillsong and Bethel were occasionally featured.
  • As an essential part of its seeker-growth model, the pastor avoided deep topics in his sermons. Doctrine was skimmed over and church history was absolutely avoided. The previous pastor did refer to the Reformation and the Five Solas, but those topics were never to be heard of again after he left. Presentations by heterodox teacher, Francis Chan, were available from “RightNow Media” as part of the church’s online resources (see photo above). We participated in a “small group” for about eighteen months, where the church’s shallow teaching was also manifest. A couple of our group’s members used Joyce Meyer devotionals for their daily “scripture” readings.
  • Every facet of every church service was geared towards an 18-49 age group including the rockin’ worship portion of the service and the numerous videos and handouts. Members over the age of 50 were glaringly excluded from presentations. I strongly suspected that the main reason the previous pastor left was because he had just turned 50 and felt he had come to the end of his rope with the church’s self-imposed focus on young adults. We’re in our mid-60s and already felt out of place, so it’s impossible to imagine a believer in their 70s or 80s attending this “hipster” mega-church. It wasn’t a welcoming atmosphere for older believers to put it mildly.
  • The previous pastor mandated that he and all of the staff follow a very casual dress code. Polo shirts and khakis were not an option. Jeans and flannel shirts were the uniform de rigueur. Not a huge deal, but the new pastor gradually took the “casual look” to a radical, Steven Furtick-like level, wearing skin-tight, skinny jeans with requisite holes in the knees along with a trendy, swag haircut. I frankly was embarrassed by his skin-tight jeans and, excuse my bluntness, his unavoidable “man bulge.” It’s beyond disconcerting that I must use “pastor” and “man bulge” in the same paragraph. After taking a guest to a church service one Sunday, the first thing out of his mouth when we got back into the car was, “Man, that pastor has some TIGHT jeans!”

There you have it folks, all of our reasons for leaving this last church. We had compromised way too much by staying as long as we did.

*I’m certainly not averse to 30-year-old pastors, but this church specifically chose a young, “hipster” candidate to fit its Millennials-focused, seeker model.

Even our good deeds are like filthy rags, like showing off at church!

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” – Isaiah 64:6

All of the world’s major religions teach that a person may merit Heaven/Paradise/Nirvana/Jannah by becoming increasingly good and moral. The exception is Biblical Christianity, which declares that everyone is a sinner and no one can merit salvation. Only by repenting (turning from rebellion against God) and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone can a person be saved.

The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 that even our “good deeds” are tainted by sin and are as “filthy rags” in God’s sight. But how can that be?, people ask. I do A LOT of good things!, people object. However, even the “good” that we think we do is routinely motivated by sin. I can think of one humorous example.

My wife and I began attending a Gospel-preaching church right after we were saved back in the early-1980s. Things were done differently at church back then. Everyone brought their Bibles to church and we also used hymnals. These days, Scripture passages and CCM song lyrics are shown on the auditorium overhead, so many attendees leave their Bible at home (if they even have a hardbound Bible). But back then, everyone brought their Bible to church. If you showed up to church without a Bible, boy oh boy, you were judged to be spiritually lax or immature. Whoops, I’m already pointing out how our “goodnesses” are tainted and I haven’t even gotten to my example yet. Okay, let’s proceed.

Throughout the course of his thrice-weekly sermons, the pastor had us constantly picking through our Bibles. “Turn in your Bibles to…” was a regular instruction. When you’re a new believer, it’s very difficult to navigate through the Bible with its 66 books and odd sounding book names. Most new Christians had to resort to…argh…the index. But over time, the new believer became better acquainted with where all of the different books of the Bible were in conjunction with each other and could join in the race. The race? Every time the pastor called out the passage that we were to turn to, everybody in the congregation began flipping determinedly to the desired spot. Some cheaters had Bible tabs and automatically disqualified themselves. Those who got to the passage first gloated with pride. “Do I know my Bible or what,” they silently and self-satisfyingly beamed as others still noisily and frantically flipped through the pages of their Bibles. Nobody wanted to be last in the race, a sure sign to everyone around them that they did not know their Bible. Yup, I pridefully tried to win that race many times myself.

So even going to church and reading Scripture along with the pastor and the congregation involved a bit of prideful sin.

Disappointing and dangerous

I normally don’t publish two posts in a single day, but this one is important.

On Friday, July 24th, Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California (16 miles northwest of Los Angeles) announced that they were going to defy the state restrictions imposed after a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen worship services to the public. Health safety precautions and protocols such as social distancing and PPE masks would not be enforced at the church or even encouraged.

The photo above is from the Sunday morning worship service at GCC on July 26th. It’s clear that social distancing is not being observed by the congregants and not a single mask is in evidence among the tightly packed crowd. The congregants are standing and enthusiastically applauding JMac for his defiance of the state mandates, but will they be applauding a month from now?

From his comments, it’s clear Pastor MacCarthur views the state restrictions almost entirely as a freedom of religion issue. That very strangely belies the fact that California is in the middle of a coronavirus surge and 10,400 Californians and 162,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19.

There’s a paradigm that’s popular within conservative evangelicalism that, while grudgingly acknowledging the overburdened hospitals and funeral homes, holds to the belief that the pandemic is largely fake news, a hoax, and a conspiracy foisted upon “Christian America” by the elites of the New World Order. Some Christians have pointed to the BLM demonstrations and argued, “Many of the BLM protesters don’t social distance or wear masks and the government let’s them get away with it, so we’re not going to social distance or wear masks, ether!” The logic in that argument wouldn’t appeal to a junior high school debate team.

I quite frankly don’t get it. COVID-19 is spread in close quarters by those infected with the virus. The environment at Grace Community Church, with many people in close proximity, without masks, and singing their lungs out is prime breeding ground for the virus. Many Christians admire John MacArthur and many pastors across the nation emulate his leadership. Opening GCC and not mandating any health safety protocols is irresponsible and dangerous. Some members of GCC will attend services and forego health safety protocols, even though they know better, because of social/group pressure. What will MacArthur say to the families of members of GCC who contract the virus and are hospitalized and die? The chances of that happening are very high given the conditions I see in the above photo.

Nope, I just don’t get it. I’m very disappointed in JMac.

Postscript: In his July 26th sermon remarks, MacArthur categorized all those who disagree with his decision to reopen and ignore health safety protocols as unbelievers.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones examines “Church and the State”

After returning to the Lord in 2014 after my very long prodigal “season,” the Lord introduced me to some solid Bible teachers, past and present, including D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). I’ve read several books by and about MLJ and also enjoyed the 2015 documentary, “Logic on Fire,” about the life and ministry of the Doctor.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I desired to read some more about/from MLJ so I Screenshot 2020-05-19 at 6.59.44 AMdownloaded “Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life” by Jason Meyer to my Kindle (review to follow). While reading that book, I thought about another resource, the MLJ Trust. I was vaguely aware that Lloyd-Jones’ former ministerial assistant and biographer, Iain H. Murray, had collected the Doctor’s recorded sermons and made them available via the MLJ Trust website. I was curious if MLJ Trust had a smart phone app and, sure enough, they do! I downloaded the free app to my iPhone and, voilà, I now have access to 1600 of the Doctor’s sermons. Wow!

I quickly browsed the list of MLJ’s sermons and stumbled across a series of six sermons on “Church and the State” delivered on successive Friday evenings in January-February, 1967. Friends of this blog know the topic of the church’s relationship to the state is something I am very interested in. Roman Catholicism took its cue from Constantine and the Roman imperial model and continued to fuse together church and state. The early Reformers regrettably continued this error to a degree and when the Pilgrims and Puritans settled in Massachusetts, they established semi-theocracies. The Puritans preached that America was the New Israel and that its citizens were in covenant relationship with God and enjoyed special blessings and prerogatives thereby. That thinking was perpetuated from American pulpits for four-hundred years, although the genuine Gospel preached by the Puritans was gradually replaced over time in mainline denominations by a watered-down, social gospel. The God of the Bible was replaced by the nebulous deity/higher power of American “civil religion.” American civil religion infiltrated the church resulting in national citizenship superceding spiritual citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Americans of all denominations, Protestants and Catholics (and even Jews), could harmoniously join together in singing “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

After Americans became increasingly secularized in the 60s, 70s, and 80’s, Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority drew a line in the sand and attempted to return America back to “Judeo-Christian” values. Some high-profile ministers like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. continue Jerry Sr.’s crusade to “return America back to Jesus.” Regrettably, alliances formed with pseudo-Christian religionists in the cause of shared political and cultural concerns has led many temporal-minded evangelicals to overlook doctrinal differences and compromise the Gospel via ecumenism.

The church has been struggling for two-thousand years to define its proper relationship with the state, but it’s clear from history that the church has erred way too far on the side of church-state alliance. I fully realize that the deeply-rooted concept of America as a “Christian nation” continues to be quite popular amongst American Christians.

Okay, time to step down from my soap box and get to the crux of this post.

In the six sermons below, Martyn Lloyd-Jones thoroughly examines the relationship between church and state including the regrettable historical record and what the Bible teaches. It’s one of the best treatments I’ve ever seen or heard on this topic. Lloyd-Jones has much to say about the Roman Catholic model and the dangers of ecumenism. I’ve provided a link to the MLJ Trust website for each individual sermon. You can also download the MLJ Trust app to your smart phone and search “church and the state” to easily find the six sermons:

Church and The State (1)
Church and state; ecumenism; church and state under Christ’s authority; Constantine; Roman Catholic teaching; Wycliffe; the Reformation; Erastianism; Luther; the Church of England; religious toleration.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233337

Church and The State (2)
Church and state essentially different; common grace; the differences explained; value of history; Luther; Zwingli; Calvin; Belgic Confession on magistrates; Puritans; Presbyterians; Westminster Confession on magistrates; Melville; two kings; two kingdoms.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233338

Church and The State (3)
Pilgrim Fathers and American colonists; Separatists; Cromwell; the ‘Free Church idea’; Roger Williams; the Commonwealth; democracy; the Ejection of 1662; established churches.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233339

Church and The State (4)
Church-state relations unknown in New Testament; Old Testament appealed to; Israel’s position unique; Christ’s kingdom not of this world; confusing the world and the Church.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233340

Church and The State (5)
Summary of teaching; lesson of history; traditionalism; the state cannot Christianize society; parable of the leaven misunderstood; no gradual advance; except in the Church.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233341

Church and The State (6)
The lordship of Christ; tension between the two kingdoms; the Church should lay down principles; freedom; education; the arts; science; law; morality; individual Christians may influence society.

https://www.mljtrust.org/search/?q=%233342

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #4

It’s Tuesday once again, which means we have a couple of sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. In the first sermon, Associate Pastor, Kelvin Richarson at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana expounds on the sins of King David and what we need to learn about seeking God’s forgiveness. In the second sermon, Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City uses the sorry example of King Agrippa in Acts 26 to exhort unbelievers to accept Christ and believers not to be lukewarm followers.

Pastor Kelvin Richarson – King David

 

Pastor Cody Andrews – Almost

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #2

It’s Tuesday, which means we have a couple of sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. In the first sermon, Pastor Roger Copeland at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana expounds on the sufferings of Job. In the second sermon, Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City exhorts us to wake up and walk with Christ with intentionality. Thanks to brother Wally for uploading Cody’s sermons to YouTube!

Roger Copland – The Minister of Misery

 

Cody Andrews – Are You Spiritually Sleeping?

Throwback Thursday: Next time you drive past a Catholic church on Sunday morning…

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to revisit a slightly re-edited post that was first published back on August 28th, 2015.

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Many evangelicals pass a Catholic church on Sunday morning and probably think to themselves, “Sure, Catholics worship God a little differently than we do, but we’re all worshiping the same God, that’s the important thing.” But let’s examine that thought. At an evangelical worship service there’s typically some announcements and singing of hymns and songs of praise for about a half an hour followed by an hour of preaching from God’s Word by the minister. The Gospel is presented and the unsaved are invited to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

The Catholic “mass” is quite different. At the mass, there are also announcements, singing, a couple of very short readings from the Bible and a short seven or eight-minute “homily” (sermon). But the main focus of the mass is the lengthy ritual whereby the priest allegedly changes bread wafers and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus. Jesus spoke about being the “bread of life,” but Catholics interpret those passages in a literalist sense that defies sound exegesis and a spiritual understanding of God’s Word. The priest then offers up Jesus the “host” (i.e., “victim”) to God the Father as a sacrifice for the sins of all the participants and any others who are mentioned. The mass attendees then line up to take the Jesus wafer and Jesus wine from the priest and consume them, believing grace is imparted that will wash away “venial” sins and supposedly help them avoid committing “mortal” sins in the future in order to hopefully merit their salvation at the moment of their death.

Catholicism is really an extension of the Old Testament Levitical sacrificial system with the priest serving as a mediator between God and the people. The priest is essential to the Catholic sacramental and works-righteousness system. Without his ordained “powers” and role as mediator, the people are doomed and the Catholic hierarchy has always desired to keep it that way.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Timothy 2:5.

However, Jesus completely did away with the Old Testament sacrificial system when He was crucified and breathed His last breath with the words, “It is finished,” and the veil to the Holy of Holies of Jerusalem’s temple was torn in two, giving all people direct access to God through Jesus Christ the Savior. God’s Word says Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Father, NOT on Catholic altars as a broken victim, being sacrificed again and again, thousands of times daily all over the world.

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” – Hebrews 10:11-12.

Here’s a passage from a Catholic source that should put the Catholic priesthood and the mass in stark perspective for all evangelicals:

“When the priest pronounces the tremendous words of consecration, he reaches up into the heavens, brings Christ down from His throne, and places Him upon our altar to be offered up again as the victim for the sins of man…The priest brings Christ down from heaven, and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal victim for the sins of man – not once but a thousand times! The priest speaks and lo, Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest’s commands.” – from “The Faith of Millions” by Father John O’Brien, Nihil obstat; Rev. Lawrence Gollner, Censor Librorum Imprimatur: Leo A. Pursley, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend; March 16, 1974.

What anti-Biblical BLASPHEMY!

So when you drive by that Catholic church next Sunday morning, remember they’re NOT worshiping God the Son inside, rather they believe they’re sacrificing Him on their altars as part of a process to merit their salvation. Rather than trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone for their salvation, they’re relying on priests, sacraments, “good” works, and “obeying” the Ten Commandments (impossible!)

Another Regrettable Example of Coerced Tithing

I don’t believe in mandatory tithing. See my post on the topic from January 2017 here. I think it’s very wrong for pastors to appropriate a law meant strictly for ancient Israel and impose it on the church, but of course it’s obvious why they do it.

The only standard for giving in the New Testament is found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7:

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

I really don’t wish to go through my arguments against coerced tithing that I stated in my January 2017 post. So why do I bring it up again?

While my wife was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, a Christian couple who are good friends came up to visit her. The conversation eventually turned to their church. For several years, the pastor and elder board have been contemplating purchasing or building a larger facility. One of the local YMCA* branches (photo above) is moving into a new facility and the pastor would like to purchase the old “Y” and convert it into the “new” church building. The purchase of this large complex and the subsequent renovations will require a massive amount of money. The pastor addressed the membership and told them that many of them are disobedient because they currently do not tithe and he is compelling…er…”asking” them to make a commitment to begin tithing immediately to support the purchase and renovation of the YMCA property.

This is so wrong. Giving to the Lord’s work is surely a privilege and a blessing, but using coercion and making the Old Testament law of tithing mandatory is un-Biblical. Pastors drive people away and lay unnecessary guilt trips on people with this type of un-Biblical, heavy-handed manipulation.

The short article below offers a very helpful perspective on tithing:

Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn?
Pastor John MacArthur, Grace to You
http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA144/does-god-require-me-to-give-a-tithe-of-all-i-earn

*It’s quite strange that the YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association – still uses that name. The organization moved away from any kind of connection to Christianity many decades ago.

Celebrity pastors, discernment ministries, and secondary separation

Below are some thoughts I have about an issue that I come across constantly. Some readers may take offense to some of the names I mention in the context that I mention them, but such is the crux of the issue.

There’s this big tent out there called “evangelical Christianity” and it contains a lot of good and godly things and also a lot of not-so-good things. At one end, there is some really wacky and dangerous theology (e.g., prosperity gospel, word of faith, New Apostolic Reformation, full-blown ecumenism with Rome, seeker-sensitive church growth model, emergent church relativism, etc.) propagated by people like Bill Johnston, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Lou Giglio, Mike Bickle, Christine Caine, Nick Hall, Brian Houston, Joyce Meyers, etc., etc.

At the other end of the tent we have what I consider conservative, orthodox theology taught by solid teachers like John MacArthur, Paul Washer, Justin Peters, Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson, and Steven Lawson.*

Then there’s the in-betweeners. In-betweeners? Those would be the folks who are comfortable appearing on the same conference platforms with both the heterodox and the orthodox, who have their feet in both camps, so to speak. Such would be people like Matt Chandler, Ravi Zacharias, Russell Moore, Francis Chan, and John Piper.**

Folks from the orthodox group make it a point not to appear on the same platform with folks from the heterodox group. That’s rightly separating from false teachers and unbelievers. But we often do see the orthodox regularly sitting down with the in-betweeners. What do we make of that? How far should we go with this notion of “secondary separation,” separating from those who partner with false teachers?

I listened to a YouTube video last week from a “discernment ministry” guy who castigated Justin Peters, Paul Washer, and John MacArthur for rubbing shoulders with in-betweeners like Chandler, Piper, and Moore. The brother had some valid points. John Piper has made it a point to publicly endorse Rick Warren and some other very troublesome pastors. Should a MacArthur or a Washer then refrain from sitting on a conference platform with Piper? It’s a tough call. Many of these “discernment ministries” do nothing else but micro-analyze these kinds of things, like who appeared with who at such-and-such a conference. On the other hand, there is legitimate cause for concern regarding the continual spread of error throughout the church. Martyn Lloyd-Jones did not lend his support to Billy Graham’s crusades in Great Britain because Graham had enlisted the support of the Catholic clergy and Anglican modernists. John R. Rice separated himself from Graham for similar reasons.

As believers, we should get our primary teaching directly from God’s Word. I appreciate solid teachers who expound the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. But we must be careful not to put celebrity pastors on a pedestal. They will always disappoint us in some form or fashion.

There’s thousands of discernment ministries and blogs out there. Some of the information is valuable, some is not. The temptation for some of these folks is to get downright hateful towards anyone who is not exactly in-line with their particular brand of theology. They are also apt spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on a very small facet of theology rather than taking into account the larger picture. They often get puffed up, nasty, mean, belligerent, scornful, and mocking. But I also recognize the pure Gospel must be defended with zeal.

There’s no bottom line to this post except that we all need to be constantly evaluating everything we see and hear according to God’s Word.

*All of these guys teach Reformed theology. I agree with most of the things they teach, but I’m in the middle of the Predestination-Free Will debate.

**The line between heterodox and in-betweeners is not black and white. Some that I would say are in-betweeners others might say are heterodox.

Comments welcomed.

Postscript: I drafted the above a week ago. The same discernment blogger who castigated Washer and MacArthur for rubbing shoulders with Piper in the video mentioned above also recently (10/4/18) pointed out that MacArthur has signed up to appear at the 2019 National Religious Broadcasters Convention. Others advertised to appear include Rick Warren, Greg Laurie, and Catholic-New Ager, Roma Downey and her husband. See here. I’m assuming J. Mac will be at the convention to thank the owners of Christian radio stations that broadcast the daily messages from “Grace To You” and to try to interest other station owners in broadcasting “Grace To You” material? I’m assuming he won’t be sitting on a dais with Warren and Laurie discussing theology? I’m not sure what kind of interaction MacArthur is going to have with all of the TBNers at this convention. However, seeing J. Mac on the same marquee with Rick Warren (see below) is not something that gives me joy.

Capture69

Postscript 2: Below is a video that answers the concerns about John MacArthur’s appearance at the NRB convention:

 

Todd Friel at Wretched Radio also recently dealt with J. Mac’s appearance at the NRB convention in the video below:

Did Jesus actually promise to build His church upon lowly Peter?

In its efforts to bolster its claims regarding the alleged supremacy of the bishop of Rome, the pope, Roman Catholicism had to scour Scripture looking for validating proof texts. They found their primary “evidence” in Matthew 16:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” – Matthew 16:13-18

Catholic apologists argue that the passage teaches that Jesus promised to build his church upon the apostle, Peter, who they claim was the first bishop of Rome, but Protestants disagree. In the original Greek text, the word used for Peter is “petros,” which means a small stone or pebble, while the word used for rock is “petra,” which means a massive rock formation. Jesus was using a play on words to indicate that while Simon was an insecure, rolling pebble, the truth that he had proclaimed, that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah and Savior, would be the massive, unmoveable truth that would be the bedrock foundation of the church.

But Protestants are not the only ones who correctly exegete this passage. Church “fathers,” Augustine, Chrysostom, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, and Cyril also interpreted Matthew 16:18 to mean that Jesus was going to build His church upon the truth proclaimed by Peter, that He was the long-awaited Messiah and Savior.

“Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter’s confession. What is Peter’s confession? ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ There’s the rock for you, there’s the foundation, there’s where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer.” – Augustine from “The Works of Saint Augustine” (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Vol. 6, Sermon 229P.1, p. 327.

But an even more convincing case against Catholicism’s self-serving misinterpretation is Scripture itself. As in most cases with God’s Word, one passage of Scripture clarifies another and that is the case for Matthew 16. Just four chapters after chapter 16 we find:

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:20-28

If Jesus had already granted apostolic primacy to Peter in Matthew 16 as Catholics claim, then why would James and John have requested apostolic primacy in Matthew 20? Does not compute. If Catholics are right, James and John would not have bothered to request apostolic primacy as they had. We see in the passage that Jesus gently rebukes James and John for their ambition and also forbids the Catholic notions of apostolic primacy and an ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Further, in the apostle Paul’s epistles, not only is there NO mention of Peter’s alleged primacy – zero, zip, zilch, nada – but he deliberately contradicts the notion:

“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.” – Galatians 2:6

Peter was certainly a leader of the apostles and was used by God to spread the Gospel, but he was not the pope or the foundation of Jesus’ church.