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Beating a Horse that Will Not Die

Christ, Thou art the sure Foundation, Thou the Head and Cornerstone;
Chosen of the Lord and precious,
Binding all the Church in one;
Thou Thy Zion’s Help forever
And her Confidence alone.
TLH #466:1)


“Beating a dead horse” phraseology may seem to fit, but it does not apply to our subject. This horse is beaten, but it won’t die.

The Roman Catholic Church claims that the apostle Peter was the first pope. It does so upon its false interpretation of the passage, “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” (Matthew 16:18). This is a—if not the—foundation stone of Catholic theology.

The Roman claim falls for a number of reasons. First, it is not linguistically possible. In Greek petros is the man Peter, and petra (rock) is the substance of the confession that Peter made (Matthew 16:16). To declare Peter the foundation of the Church contradicts Scripture which says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is
Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Nor is there conclusive evidence that Peter was ever in Rome, and he makes no reference in his epistles to being there—although Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 may be a reference to Rome. Another false claim is that Peter alone was given the power over the binding and loosing keys in connection with Jesus’ words, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 16:19). Rome’s claim that this refers exclusively to Peter is contradicted by Jesus in John 20:23.

Furthermore, one of the attributes claimed for the pope is ‘papal infallibility’—the notion that when he speaks officially, he cannot err. This specious claim falls under its own weight. No man—none—is infallible! Only One is true and infallible—our Lord Jesus Christ!

Later Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me…” (Matthew 16:23). Of course, we also know that at Jesus’ trial the alleged first pope denied with an oath that he even knew the Lord!

Peter was a dear disciple of the Lord who knew the forgiving grace of God. He was chosen of the Spirit to record the divinely inspired Word of God. We acknowledge the witness which the apostle—one of the inner group of three disciples—left us as a spokesman of the Lord. Yet our faith and confident hope are built not on Peter but on the Lord Jesus Christ! The Church is not built on a mortal man, but on Christ! It is Christ, the Foundation and the Head of the Church, who secured its victory over all foes.

Yes, it is Christ, the risen One, upon whom our faith and hope are built, not upon one whose bones lie moldering in the grave or in a fancy chest.

The Roman Church is built on human tradition and on superstition, which is idolatry.

In November of 2013 this idolatry was reported as follows: “Bones believed to belong to Saint Peter, one of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church, went on display for the first time Sunday…, as Pope Francis held a ceremony to end the ‘Year of Faith’. Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered to catch a glimpse of the remains, eight fragments of bone between two and three centimeters (around one inch) long displayed on an ivory bed within a bronze chest on a pedestal in St. Peter’s Square. The chest, given to pope Paul VI in 1971 and usually kept in the tiny chapel of the papal apartments, was decorated with a carving of Peter, who was a fisherman before becoming the Church’s first pope, casting his nets into the sea.”

At the start of the solemn ceremony, Francis prayed before the chest, bordered by white and yellow roses, before blessing the bones with incense. The bones have long been the object of controversy between historians and archaeologists: they were first discovered in a 1940 dig next to an ancient monument honoring Saint Peter, but ended up gathering dust in a storage box.

The claim was made that the bones ‘belonged to a robust man who died aged between 60 and 70 and had been buried in a purple, gold-threaded cloth—enough to convince Paul VI to say in 1968 that Peter’s bones had been identified ‘in a convincing manner.’”

“…The people of God, have always believed these to be the relics of the apostle Peter, and we continue to venerate them in this way,’” according a spokesman quoted in the Vatican’s newspaper. A picture showed the present pope kissing the chest in which the bone fragments were encased.

The claim that these are the bones of pope Peter fits the Roman agenda and plays nicely into its emphasis on the veneration of dead saints and dusty relics to which are ascribed miraculous powers as well as blessings to the faithful.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (on-line), “The teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to the veneration of relics is summed up in a decree of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXV)… “The holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ—which bodies were the living members of Christ and ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost’ (1 Corinthians 6:19) and which are by Him to be raised to eternal life and to be glorified are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that they who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of the saints…are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and also now condemns them.” (Italics—our emphasis).

Count us among the condemned. Acknowledging their right to believe what they choose, we reject the Roman claim.

In our ecumenical age, much of Lutheranism has moved closer and closer to Rome. Gathering the “separated brethren,” as Rome describes those who have forsaken “mother church,” has always been the goal of the Catholic Church. But as nominal Lutherans and Rome move closer to each other, and inasmuch as the Catholic Church has not changed in substantive doctrine, who is changing?