In a previous article, we briefly discussed the Lord’s Supper, in substance, importance, and instruction, which is outlined in 1 Corinthians 11. We also examined Paul’s definition of what an unworthy practice of the Lord’s Supper is. Here we will examine the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, which in a general sense they refer to as the Eucharist (Greek, “thanksgiving”—thus, the action of thanksgiving to God).

 

The action of receiving the elements (i.e., the actual eating and drinking of the bread and wine) of the sacrament of the Eucharist is called the “Holy Communion”. However, as you will see, the Roman practice of the so-called Holy Communion is anything but a “Holy” Eucharist to God. It is a blasphemous practice that

1) rejects the biblical view that the “once for all time” atoning sacrifice of Christ alone was sufficient for salvation and was the very ground of justification (apart from man-works) and

2) the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation, as explicated hereafter, deforms and dismembers the incarnation of Christ.

 

Transubstantiation

Rome holds to a distinctive doctrine called, Transubstantiation. In short, this Roman Catholic  theological position is where the  priests who preside at the Eucharist (or Lord’s Supper”), “consecrate the bread and the wine so [that these elements actually] become the Body and Blood of the Lord…. By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [hereafter, CCC], 1411, 13).

 

So according to Catholicism, when Jesus said, “This is My body” (Matt. 26:26), and “This is My blood” (v. 28), and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), He instituted the so-called Mass,[1] and gave the apostles, and thus, all future Catholic priests, the power to change (transubstantiate) the bread and wine into Jesus literal body and blood (New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism  [hereafter, BC], vol. 2, Q. 354, cf. also Q. 355). [2] But note, this so-called changing of the bread and wine into the actual and literal flesh and blood of Jesus did not, Rome argues, involve a change in appearance or taste. The BC (Q. 348) states: “After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood, they remained only the appearances of bread and wine.”

 
Theological Heresies of the Transubstantial Eucharist

 Rome’s doctrine of the transubstantial Eucharist, a) presents a perpetual re-sacrificing of Christ, and b) it deforms and confuses the incarnation of Christ.  

First, the notion of the Eucharist as an ongoing sacrifice clearly,   

 

  • Rejects any idea of a “once for all time” or “finished” atoning sacrifice accomplished by His perfect life and cross work.

 

  • Rejects the sufficiency of the glorious cross work of Christ for both the forgiveness of sins and the averting of wrath due to us because of our sin.

 

  • Rejects the notion that sinners are justified though the death of the Son and not according to works.  

 

Note for example, the repetitious way Rome uses the terms such as “sacrifice,” “re-presents,” “propitiation” defining the effects of the Eucharist:    

 

“The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ” (BC, vol. 2, Q. 360).

“The Eucharist is also a sacrifice” (CCC, 1365).

“The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross” (CCC, 1366).

“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice,” (CCC, 1367).

 

The Eucharist, according to Rome, is propitiatory (i.e., forgiving sins and removing the wrath of God): “This sacrifice [Eucharist] is truly propitiatory” (CCC, 1367).

“The Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a ‘true and proper sacrifice’” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Sacrifice of the Mass”; emphasis added).

Clearly, Rome sees the Eucharist as a “sacrifice,” which is offered through the hands of the priests: “The sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands” (CCC, 1369, also cf. 1414).

 

The Roman system of the transubstantial Eucharist is an insufficient sacrifice that is offered continuously by sinful Roman priests. This, clearly controverts and attacks the biblical presentation of the once for all time atoning accomplishment of Christ, as He Himself affirmed—“It is finished.”

 

The Roman “Christ” is not able to save a sinner in and of Himself by grace alone through faith alone—apart from human efforts. Nor is the redemptive work of Christ in Romanism the very ground of the believer’s justification.

 

Biblically, a sinner is “declared” righteous before God not through works such as water baptism, nor through the sinful hands of the Roman priests in their representing the sacrifice of Christ at the Mass; rather it is through faith alone. Paul rightly says: “just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6) “Through the [one time] obedience [atoning work] of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

 

Neither the church, Mary, Roman priests, nor anything or anyone can mediate between God and man. Only the two-natured person (God-man), Jesus Christ is able to be the Mediator:

“For there is one God, and one Mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).   

 

To emphasize the infinitely completed redemptive propitiatory work of the Christ, the author of Hebrews uses the Greek term ephapax (ἐφάπαξ) which means “once for all” (from epi, “upon” + hapax, “once, one”). Thus (lexically), “Taking place once and to the exclusion of any further occurrence, once for all, once and never again (BDAG), or “upon one occasion only” (Thayer).

 

The author of Hebrews (and Paul in Rom. 6:10) teaches that the sacrifice of Christ as the eternal priest was ephapax (“once for all time”)—for all other OT priestly systems (Aaronic and Levitical) were lesser, imperfect, and obsolete (Heb. 7:11, 23-28). Note the following passages:   

“who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did ephapax [‘once for all time’] when He offered up Himself (Heb. 7:27).

“and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place ephapax [‘once for all time’] having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12).

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ephapax [‘once for all time’!].11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14). 

 

The ephapax [“once for all time”] and Paul’s doctrine of justification through faith alone, shows in and of itself that the Roman Mass where the Eucharist is a repetitive propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ is an offensive attack on Christ and His one-time finished atoning work.        

    

The second theological heresy of Rome’s doctrine of Transubstantiation is the deformation of the incarnation of Christ. The Roman Church happily agrees that Jesus became flesh. However, in Romanism, the “flesh” that Jesus became is anything, but normal human flesh and likeness. Because, as Rome teaches, the elements in the Eucharist (bread and wine) actually transubstantiates (viz. changes into the non-figurative literal flesh and blood of Christ). Hence, wherever in the world Catholics are receiving the Eucharist (“Holy Communion”) at the Mass, the literal body and blood is being sacrificed at the hand of the priests. This clearly implies that Jesus’ physical body is ubiquitous—namely, its able to be in multiple places simultaneously!

 

A ubiquitous anomalous human nature sharply counters the biblical teaching that the eternal Word became the perfect representation of man—not a “hyper-flesh” ubiquitous fleshly body: “The Word became flesh…. being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man” (John 1:14; Phil. 2:7-8).

 

Rome’s doctrine of the transubstantial Eucharist is an idolatrous practice that mocks and rejects both the substitutionary work of Christ as the alone means of justification and manipulates the biblical view of the incarnation of the Son—who “emptied Himself, taking the form [real nature] of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [not in the likeness of a unusual ubiquitous man]. Being found in appearance as a [normal] man” (Phil. 2:7-8).          

 

Those who partake in the Roman Eucharist are

1) proclaiming the Jesus of Rome who did not take the nature of normal humanity, and

2) proclaiming the impotent Jesus of Rome whose atoning work was neither sufficient nor perfectly completed. Thus, they would be celebrating that which Paul condemned as anathema (cursed) in Galatians 1:8, 9 (viz. the faith + works system of the Judaizers).

 

Christians, in stark contrast, proclaim the Jesus of the NT: “Through the obedience of the One [Christ] the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19); “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God”! (Heb. 10:12; cf. Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).      

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

 

Sola Gratia, Solo Christo, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

NOTES

[1] In Catholicism, the Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist, where Catholics participate together in “Holy Communion.”     

[2] In support of their erroneous doctrine of Transubstantiation, Catholics appeal to John 6:53-54. However, Jesus had already defined what He meant here back in verse 35, where Jesus refers to Himself as the “Bread of Life” – “he who comes to Me will not hunger [thus, coming to Him is equivalent to ‘eating His flesh’], and he who believes in Me will never thirst [thus, believing in Him is equivalent to ‘drinking His blood’].” Further, unlike the Synoptics, the Gospel John never even records Jesus’ institution of the Last Supper. Further, the historical time frame of the institution of the Lord’s Super would have been not until John 13, which was a different context than that of chapter 6, and at least one year later! In his Commentary on John, Calvin pointed out, “Indeed, it would have been inept and unreasonable to preach about the Lord’s Supper before He had instituted it.”               

“A false Church with No significant truths”

The Fundamental Difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics is this: Rome does not see salvation from start to finish as the work of the triune God alone. Thus, justification before God (salvation) is not through faith alone by God’s grace alone, but, as Rome teaches, salvation comes by faith + the meritorious works that a man must do (including unquestionable devotion to Rome and “worship” to Mary (in the form of “hyperdulia”)

Paul’s main thesis in Romans: God’s method of justification does not change. He offeres Abraham (pre-law) and David (under the law) as his chief examples: “God credits [logizetai] righteousness chōris ergōn (apart from works, Rom. 4:6).

Although Catholics, in their mind, do not give Mary latria (Gk. latreia) “worship” reserved to God alone, by giving her so-called dulia (Gk. douleia), that is, hyperdulia (hyper-service/enslavement), they functionally give her religious “worship,” which is reserved for God alone and prohibited by God, who commanded His people: “You shall not worship them or serve [Heb. avad] them; for I the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exod. 20:5). In a religious context, Scripture makes no distinction between latreia and douleia – as Paul shows: “When you did not know God, you were slaves [douleuō] to those which by nature are no gods” (Gal. 4:8). Along with a functional “worship” to Mary, Rome asserts of her:

There can be no doubt . . . Mary was made mediatress of our salvation. . . . St. Bonaventure says that Mary is called “the gate of heaven because no one can enter that kingdom without passing through her . . . . Go to Mary, for she will intercede for thee with the Son. . . .” (St. Alphonsus Ligouri, The Glories of Mary, 160, 201–see below article on the Catholicism and the worship of Mary).

Rome denies that the work of Jesus Christ completely sufficient for salvation. That faith plus meritorious works must be employed for salvation (as Rome teaches) is, according to the Apostle Paul, Christological heresy (cf. Gal. 1:6-8)–it rejects the work of Christ and hence rejects the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ.

The Christ of Rome is Not a Diligent Savior; As Rome believes, He cannot keep baptized Christians In His Hand – they keep falling out – There is NO perseverance or Definite Atonement For anyone.

Rome’s doctrine of Purgatory, for example, is that when a Christian dies without un-forgiven mortal sins, but who retain either un-forgiven daily sins (viz. venial sins) or “temporal punishment” due for sins are “purged” before entering heaven, so as to be made perfect. In other words, they must suffer for these sins in a place of torment (not hell, though) to be, so to speak, “scrubbed up” (viz. purified) before they can dwell with God in heaven.

Thus, the work of Christ, according to Rome, is not completely sufficient to atone and *justify* a sinner–for one must suffer for his or her own atonement in order to become righteous (just) before God.

Though Scripture testifies in passages such as Hebrews 10:10-14

10:10: By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

10:11: And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again – sacrifices that can never take away sins.

10:12: But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God . . .

10:14: For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.

Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory (NET; See Justification through Faith Alone).

As with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, we must see Catholics as men and women in need of evangelism. One cannot biblically claim to be truly Christian and reject Christ as the sole means of salvation, justification through faith alone, and engage in creaturely worship.

It is fair to say that most Christians, including major Christian leaders and popular TV preachers (esp. those on TBN) see the Roman Catholic Church (hereafter RCC) as merely another *Christian* denomination. Mainly due to (a) a lack of theological understanding of essential biblical doctrines such as justification, (b) a lack of understanding as to what the RCC teaches on essential doctrines, and (c) a false perception of the RCC because of the humanitarian and “good works” preformed by Catholics.[1] What is seemly clear, unfortunately, is that most Christians have never objectively investigated nor studied the distinctive theology of the RCC (let alone studied the *fundamental* doctrines of their own faith!).

I will say at the onset, though, and as others have pointed out, there are really two categories, biblically speaking, that the RCC can fall under:

1 The RCC is a true church with significant errors, or

2. The RCC is a false church with significant truths (e.g., monotheism, the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Christ, the incarnation, etc.).

However, anyone who has done even a cursory examination of the “official teachings” (ex cathedra)[2] of the RCC will see plainly and in fact that the RCC rejects categorically essential biblical doctrines such as justification through faith alone and Christ as the sole means of salvation and mediation (to name a few). And, of course, they reject the sufficiency of Scripture alone. For the Catholic: the teachings of Rome are correct because Rome says they are. As seen, in 1870 (Vatican I) Pope Pius IX proclaimed: “I am tradition” and hence, the RCC’s doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope (ex cathedra)[3] emerged.

For the Catholic, only the RCC has the authority to interpret the Bible. As Vatican II affirms, “The task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church” (Vatican II, Dei Verbum). Catholics are taught, therefore, that only the RCC can “correctly” interpret Scripture and define tradition.[4] Consequently, since the RCC is the *ultimate authority* there can be no higher authority or standard that can test the claims of the RCC since no higher authority can exist.

Mary of Nazareth

Scripture contains only a limited amount of information about Mary. However, she was, indeed, a very special woman. For God chose her among the women of the earth to bear the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, she saw herself as being in the same category with other believers, as she herself expressed, “my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). She was a faithful, obedient, godly woman. Regardless of the limited biblical data, the RCC improperly exalts and even worships her, as clearly shown below. Aside from that, other Catholic Marian doctrines should be briefly mentioned (most of which developed throughout the centuries)[5] such as the Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception and Mary’s sinless life, Mary as the Mother of God, Our Queen of Heaven, Our Salvation, Co-Redemptrix, Co-Mediatrix, Our Advocate,[6] the Bodily Assumption of Mary; etc. Mary, the object of Catholic Worship. Space precludes here to treat every doctrine of the RCC, however, some of the RCC’s key theological teachings regarding Mary should be revealed.

Many Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary, in which Catholics normally respond by saying, “Not at all, worship is to God alone, which we call latria (from the Greek verb latreuō, “to worship, honor” ), but to Mary and the saints we give “veneration,” which we call dulia” (from the Greek verb douleuō, “to serve”).

So, to avoid the charge of worshiping Mary (in the same sense as worshiping God), the RCC has developed (again, throughout the years) a doctrinal scheme that distinguishes two kinds of worship: latria (Gk. latreia)[7] meaning, “honor,” which is to God alone and dulia (Gk. duleia) meaning, “servitude” (veneration), which is given to the saints; however, Mary is to receive “hyper-dulia,” which is the highest form of dulia. In this way, Catholics can avert the charge of idolatry when they pray to Mary and the saints and bow before statues while reciting the Rosary.

But is this distinction of between latria and dulia biblically valid? Does Scripture permit and even teach that Christians should give dulia to creatures and hyperdulia to Mary in a religious context? Absolutely not! Praying to Mary (and the saints) bowing before statues of her, giving her “hyperdulia” is pure idolatry, hence, creaturely worship. Note the following:

1. Three forms of the same thing–which is functional “worship: latria, which is the highest form of worship—reserved for God alone, dulia, which is given to saints, and hyperdulia (the highest form of dulia), which is given to Mary.

2. But, as John Calvin accurately observed, in Scripture the distinction between latria and dulia “is somewhat blurred.” (Institutes, I:12:2). Although, if this distinction is granted, then, as Calvin stated,

“it is greater to be enslaved [dulia] than to honor [latria]. For it would very often be hard for you to be enslaved to one whom you are not unwilling to honor. Thus it would be unequal dealing to assign to the saints what is greater [dulia] and leave to God what is lesser [latria]” (ibid.).

His point was clear: what is given to the saints and Mary (dulia, servitude) is of greater value than what is given to God (latria, honor).

3. Regarding idols and false gods, God commands in Exodus 20:5: “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” The term translated “serve” is from the Hebrew word abad. The “most frequent English translation of the term is ‘to serve.’”[8] In fact, both “to serve” and “worship” are translated from the same word, abad in many places in the OT.[9] Further, the Septuagint (LXX)[10] translates abad as both douleuō/duleia and latreuō/latreia. Thus, there no distinction made between the terms in the context of religious worship—to give dulia is to give latria.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul says, “when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” The phrase “were slaves” (or “you served”) is from the verb douleuō.[11] Paul was clear: “to serve” (i.e., to give dulia) anyone other than God in a religious context[12] is wrong—it is idolatry.

Hence, when Catholics pray to the Mary (and the saints, which is clearly an act or religious worship), bow before statues, give Mary hyperdulia, etc., they are doing the very thing in which God prohibits. Thus, we must see Catholics as men and women in need of evangelism. Aside from rejecting Christ alone as the sole means of salvation, justification through faith alone, and Scripture alone as the sole authoritative rule of faith, Catholics engage in creaturely worship.

Although Catholics, in their mind, do not give Mary “worship” reserved to God alone. However, by giving her so-called dulia, that is, hyperdulia (hyper-service/enslavement), they functionally give her religious “worship,” which is reserved for God alone and prohibited by God, who commanded His people:

“You shall not worship them or serve [Heb. abad] them; for I the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exod. 20:5).

“When you did not know God, you were slaves [douleuō] to those which by nature are no gods” (Gal. 4:8).

Notes

[1] There are other issues that influence many Christians to assume automatically that the RCC is a true Christian church. For example, Mel Gibson is applaud and thus assumed as *Christian* by many Christians and prolific Christian voices such as James Dobson for his recent movie, The Passion. But Gibson is a *traditionalist* Catholic. “Traditionalists” hold strictly to only Vatican I rejecting Vatican II (1962) mainly because of various changes implemented by Vatican II. However, they hold tenaciously to the same heresies as that of the modern RCC (esp. Marian worship, rejection of justification through faith alone, etc.) and affirm the pre-Vatican II RCC’s teaching that “there is no salvation outside the RCC” (extra Ecclesia, nullus salus): “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215); “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Pope Boniface VIII, papal bull, Unam Sanctam, 1302).

[2] Ex Cathedra (lit., “from the chair) was proclaimed as Catholic dogma in 1870. See Pope Boniface’s statement above.

[3] See note 2 above.

[4] *Tradition* is basically the writings of the early church Fathers. Even though there existed thousands of traditions many upon which were in disagreement among church Fathers (such as the Matt. 16:18 interpretation), Catholics must believe without question (fides implicita) how Rome defines tradition. Further, the RCC teaches that “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (Catechism of the Church, para. 82).

[5] Example, the Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was not officially pronounced (ex cathedra) until 1950!

[6] Accurately explaining the official Catholic teaching regarding Mary as Our Queen, Our Life, Our Hope, Our Mediatress, Our Advocate, and Our Salvation, etc., St. Alphonsus Ligouri, who was a “canonized saint” designated as a “Doctor of the Church” writes in his renowned book, The Glories of Mary:

for as angels and men . . . are subject to the empire of God, so are they also under the dominion of Mary” (36).

There can be no doubt . . . Mary was made mediatress of our salvation. . . . St. Bonaventure says that Mary is called “the gate of heaven because no one can enter that kingdom without passing through her . . . . Go to Mary, for she will intercede for thee with the Son. . . .” (160, 201).

the clients of Mary will be saved. . . . And St. Bonaventure [says]: “He who neglects the service of the blessed Virgin will die in his sins.” Again, “He who does not invoke thee, O Lady, will never get to heaven” (210, 221-22).

Both Vatican I and II confirm these Marian teachings. For example, a major document that come from the Second Vatican Council (1962), entitled, Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, proclaims in unambiguous terms these outrageous Marian doctrines (viz. sections fifty-second—sixty-ninth) such as when Mary was “Taken up to heaven . . . by her manifold intersession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin Mary is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (sec. 62).

[7] Latreia (latreian) is translated as “service of worship” (NASB) in Romans 12:1.

[8] Cf. James White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, 210).

[9] The English translators determine whether to translate abad as “to serve” or “worship.” For there is no difficulty understanding the meaning in Hebrew—both “to serve” and “worship” are united under the same term—abad, “you cannot separate the two” (ibid.). In Exodus 20:5 of the LXX (see note below), the term “serve” is from latreuō—thus, both latria and dulia mean the same thing (esp. in religious contexts).

[10] The Septuagint (LXX) was the Greek translation of the OT.

[11] The noun being duleia.

[12] Of course, there are places in Scripture where men honored and served others, but it was never in a religious context. For when Cornelius bowed before Peter, Peter rightly stopped him saying, “I too am just a man” (Acts 10:25-26).

 

Spanish version here

Roman Catholicism is the largest “professing” Christian denomination worldwide with over a billion members. In spite of the numbers, as pointed out many times before, the Roman Catholic Church is a false church embracing many teachings that sharply oppose “essential” biblical doctrine. Some of Rome’s anti-biblical teachings include Purgatory (which is a flat out denial of the sufficiency and infallible work of Christ alone); the worship of Mary (as well as other false Marian doctrines); and Rome’s denial of justification through “faith alone.”

It is unfortunate that many Christian leaders, who are either afraid and/or unaware of the basic teachings of Catholicism, stay utterly silent on the issue; or, even worst, they endorse the Catholic Church as a true Christian church! What happened to the divine command of Jude 3: “Contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all handed down to the saints”?

 

The “Rock” of Matthew 16:18

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

This passage is the so-called hallmark proof-text that Rome uses to teach that Peter was the “rock” (and thus, the first “Pope”) upon which Christ built His church. This notion also spawned other false Catholic doctrines such as the “infallibility” of the Pope when speaking, ex cathedra—“from the throne”)[1]: We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Pope Boniface VIII, papal bull, Unam Sanctam, A.D. 1302; emphasis added).

However, as with any text of Scripture, to arrive at a correct interpretation of the intended meaning, one must engage in a proper exegesis of that text. Hence, for any interpretation to be “biblically” accurate, it must be exegetically justified. Before examining this text in detail, we must consider two important points in Jesus’ response to Peter.

1. Peter’s confession was of divine origin, thus, not of himself: “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (cf. Phil. 1:29)[2], and, as we will argue,

2. According to Jesus, Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is “the rock,” upon which Jesus will build His church. Conversely, Rome asserts that the “rock” upon which Jesus will build His church is the Apostle Peter, not his confession. This erroneous interpretation can be shown as (a) exegetically false and (b) historically problematic.

Exegetically. The phrase in question reads: kagō de soi legō hoti su ei Petros kai epi tautē tē petra oikodomēsō mou tēn ekklēsian (lit., “I also and to you say that you are Peter and upon this the rock I will build My [the] church”). Note the following: 

The context, which surrounds Jesus’ statement to Peter in verse 18, starts in verses 13-15 with Jesus’ question to His disciples regarding His identity: “But who do you say that I am?” It is Peter’s response (v. 16), that is, his confession of who Jesus is (“the Messiah, the Son of the living God”) that prompts Jesus’ statement to Peter.

“You” vs this the rock.” The singular second person personal pronoun, su (“you”) is in direct reference. Thus, Jesus here is directly addressing Peter: “I also say to you that you [su] are Peter.” Thus, Jesus said to him, not about him. Whereas the pronoun tautē (“upon this rock”) is a demonstrative pronoun, which has a third person significance,[3] that is, it is in indirect address. “Indirect,” in that Jesus is not directly addressing or speaking to the rock, but rather He is speaking to Peter: “You [su] *direct address] are Peter[4] and upon this [epi tautē, indirect address] rock I will build My church.”

Hence, the text differentiates between Peter, to whom Jesus is directly addressing and the “rock,” to which is indirectly addressed (“upon this rock”). If Jesus had meant what modern-day Catholics assert, He simply would have stated: “Upon you [su] I will build My church” or “You Peter are the rock,” but He did not. Rather, as the text literally reads: “upon this the rock [epi tautē tē petra] I will build My (the) church.” Main point: the indirect reference, “this the rock” (lit.), therefore, is other than the direct reference, Peter, who is being directly addressed in the preceding phrase—, which is also clear in the immediate context. Roman Catholics, however, cannot accept any doctrine contrary to the “infallible” position (ex cathedra) of their Ultimate Authority—Rome.

Historically. Most Roman Catholics are not aware of the historical research done by Roman Catholic Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick regarding the early church’s view of Matthew 16:18. Archbishop Kenrick prepared a paper on this subject, which was to be delivered to Vatican I (1870). However, it was never delivered, but it was published later, along with other insights.[5] He points out the 5 interpretations, which Fathers of antiquity held to: 1) Peter as the Rock, 17 Fathers, 2) all the apostles, 8 Fathers, 3) that the church was built on the faith that Peter confessed, 44 Fathers, including the most important Fathers, 4) Jesus as the Rock, 16 Fathers, and 5) all Christians were the living stones, held by very few Fathers. Kenrick rightfully concludes:    

“If we are bound to follow the majority of the Fathers in this thing, then we are bound to hold for certain that the rock should be understood as the faith professed by Peter, not Peter professing the faith.”

Thus, only 20% of the Fathers held to Rome’s now canonized “infallible” “Petrine Rock” interpretation of Matthew 16:18. That is far from being the norm of the early church. As Roman Catholic apologist, H. Burn-Murdock admits: “None of the writings of the first two centuries describe St. Peter as a bishop of Rome.”[6] In fact, no one before Callistus (A.D. 223) used Matthew 16:18 to support the primacy of the Roman bishop (i.e., “Pope” as Rome call it)—no one.

The church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 263-339), sees the “rock” as Christ. He links this interpretation with the parallel rock and foundation statements of 1 Corinthians 3:11 and 10:4. Sharing this view (Christ as the Rock) was Augustine. In fact, he commented more on Matthew 16:18 than any other church Father. It is true that at the beginning of his ministry, he saw Peter as the Rock. However, he changed his position throughout the balance of his ministry in which he adopted the view that the Rock was not Peter, but either Christ or Peter’s confession, which pointed to the Person of Christ:

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 (Sermons, XI, Sermon 229, 327). 

What has been demonstrated over and over is that Roman Catholics do not engage in critical exegesis when interpreting Scripture, nor do they objectively examine the patristic (church Fathers) record, not because Catholics lack the ability, but because they do not need to—for Rome has already provided the “infallible” interpretation for them. Thus, for the Catholic: Rome’s interpretations are correct, because Rome says they are.

However, the following points seriously challenge Rome’s position of the so-called Primacy of Peter and him being the first Pope of Rome:

1) There is no biblical evidence indicating that Peter had supremacy over all the other apostles.

2) Peter never once considered that he was Pope, Pontiff; Vicar of Christ, Holy Father, or Head of the whole Christian Church, nor did any of the other apostles make such as claim.

3) Peter outwardly denied the Lord (out of fear) and Peter was rebuked by the Apostle Paul for being prejudice against the Gentiles (cf. Gal. 2:11-12).

4) At the first church council in Jerusalem (not Rome), it was James and not Peter who was the leading speaker and decision maker, for James authoritatively declared: “It is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles. . . .” (Acts 15:19). Moreover, the letter that was sent out regarding the judgment never mentions Peter (cf. v. 23).

5) At the end of Romans, Paul sends his greetings to at least 26 people—but Peter is not even mentioned! Why? Surely, if Peter had “recognized supremacy” over Rome and all the apostles, we would expect Paul to have greeted him first!

6) Peter was a married man, unlike the Roman Popes (cf, Matt. 8:14; 1 Cor. 9:5).

These are but a few of the many valid objections to Rome’s position. Simply, there is no place in the NT where Peter acted as “Pope,” or as the “supreme leader” or “head” of the apostles and the church. Quite the opposite is true. Paul says that the Christian church has “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). The Christian confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God is the very ROCK of faith upon which the Christian church has been built—and not upon the man Peter.

The religious belief of Rome is a “both-and” system: God’s Universal Plan- and man’s free will; faith and works; Jesus and Mary; the Cross and the perpetual sacrifices of Christ at the Mass; Biblical doctrine and the Church; Scripture and tradition. Thus, The Christ of Rome is anything, but, a Powerful Savior- The Christ of Rome Could not Save Alone- – “Shared” Cross Work      

The word of God is both Scripture and tradition; salvation is by faith and works, nature (i.e., man’s own natural ability) and God, Mary and Jesus, and submitting to the ultimate religious authority, i.e., the Roman Pontiff (i.e. the Pope). Whereas biblical Christianity teaches that Scripture alone is our final authority, and salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, and for the glory of God alone—Soli Deo Gloria!

“By His doing [alone] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD” (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

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NOTES

[1] In 1870 (at Vatican I) Pope Pius IX proclaimed: “I am tradition” and hence, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope (ex cathedra) emerged.

[2] In contrast to the teachings of Rome, salvation, faith, belief, repentance, etc. are grace-gifts granted by God alone. Hence, man does not cooperate or participate in God’s sole work of redemption, as Rome teaches. Salvation is God working alone—namely, monergistic (cf. John 1:13; 6:37-40; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 30-31; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:13).

[3] Although demonstrative pronouns (“this”/“that”) technically do not have “person,” they can express an indirect significance as with a third person pronoun, thus expressing a thing (“this”) other than the speaker (Jesus) or the one spoken to (Peter).

[4] Petros, “piece of rock.”

[5] Cf. An Inside View at Vatican I, ed. Leonard Woolsey Bacon (New York: American Tract Society, 1871).

[6] H. Burn-Murdock, The Development of the Papacy (1954), 130f.