Was Peter the Chief Apostle? Part 3

We saw in part 2 that Jesus continually pointed them to becoming servants whenever the disciples started arguing about who the greatest was to be. It points to the natural tendency to want to be in charge, to be the top dog, to be the end-time Apostle, to be That Prophet, or whatever other powerful title one can come up with. However, Jesus did not appoint a “top dog”, you will notice. Instead, He told them He came to serve, yet He is their Master, and no servant is greater than their master!

Gerald Flurry, David C Pack, Ronald Weinland, Roderick C Meredith, David Hulme, et al, want to be the top dog. Do they even wash other people’s feet once a year? Makes you wonder. If they do, they surely don’t understand the lesson!

All unclear Scriptures need to be put into context with the clear ones. Part 2 showed very clearly that Jesus not only avoided appointing a “chief apostle”, but He continually pointed them to being slaves (literally, the word means “slave” and not just “servant”). So, with that in mind, we can look at the more obscure verses that others purport to show Peter was the “Chief Apostle”.

The First

2Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

3Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;

4Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. (Matthew 10:2-4, King James Version)

The argument: “First” does not imply chronological order. Jn 1:35-42 shows that Andrew, Peter’s brother, knew Christ before Peter did and even introduced Peter to Jesus. Rather, “protos” in this case means “leader” or “chief”.

Counter: This is a strawman argument. It assumes only 2 alternatives. It probably means that Peter was the first one chosen to be one of the 12. After all, it was an important decision – one in which Jesus prayed about all night long (Lk 6:12).

In fact, it makes a lot more sense that the order portrayed would be in the order in which Jesus named them. Each gospel book lists their names in the same order, indicating that all of the authors remembered that particular order for some reason, and what better reason than it coming from the Master’s lips? Rank and station, however, would have changed over time, especially after martyrdom set in.

The Keys

16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:16-19, King James Version)

The argument: Peter alone was given the keys to the Kingdom. Although in Mt 18:18 the others were given the power to bind and to loose, none of the other Apostles were given the keys.

Counter: Keys simply lock or unlock something. Peter did unlock the door on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection. Furthermore, Peter unlocked the door to the Gentiles in Acts 10, even though he was not the Apostle to the Gentiles. However, there is no indication that after these doors were opened that Peter remained the sole door keeper to the Kingdom.

Peter, being Peter, was not one to hold back in the slightest. It was normal for him to give these first sermons for the same reason he was the one who spoke out first on other occasions. He was the first to call Jesus the Christ and Son of God of the twelve, for which he was given permission for this special duty.

Jesus is the door (Jn 10:9). Peters’ first sermons, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, opened the door of salvation to them. That is all this passage means.

Peter Saw Resurrected Jesus First

3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (1 Corinthians 15:3-5, King James Version)

The argument: Jesus went to Peter before the other Apostles, making Peter preeminent.

Counter: Time to play Twisted Scripture!

Seriously, by that logic, Mary Magdalene should be the chief apostle, then, as she saw Him before any of the men and she is “preeminent” as He actually talked to her after the others had departed (Jn 20:11-19). Peter saw the risen Christ only after Mary had (cf Lk 24:10-24, 34).

Frankly, all you have to do with this passage is read the rest of Galatians 2 to see that Paul was no respecter of persons. If Peter was “chief” and “preeminent”, then obviously Paul had to have some courage to stand up to his boss!

The Jerusalem Conference

7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. (Acts 15:7, King James Version)

The argument: During the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15, it was Peter who quieted them down and “there was no further discussion” in verse 12. It was Christ Who silenced them through His chosen chief Apostle, Peter. Therefore, the matter was settled by Peter.

Counter: You’re kidding, right?

Here is verse 12 in the beloved KJV:

12Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. (Acts 15:12, King James Version)

1. Notice that the others “gave audience”. Rather than being an enforced silence, it sounds very voluntary.

2. Notice that the attention was not on Peter at all but on Barnabas and Paul! Therefore, using this argument makes Paul and/or Barnabas the chief apostles, not Peter!

3. It is simply untrue that there was no further discussion as vv 12-21 show. We see Barnabas and Paul speaking just after Peter.

4. It is not Peter who concludes the conference but James! Not only was there not silence after Peter had spoken, but it is James that concludes the conference! Now, who has “preeminence”?

5. They absolutely did get a consensus at the conference, unlike others would teach (v 22). This is in line with the philosophy of a multitude of counselors (Pr 11:14; 15:22).

Peter Did Thus-and-such

The argument: Since Peter did thus-and-such, he was preeminent.

Counter: Luke and Acts were written by Luke the Physician. All indications are that the Book of Luke and the first part of the Book of Acts were written by Luke transcribing various memories of Peter.

That does not mean Peter was preeminent. It only means that his memories were specially chosen. I could just as easily make a case that John was preeminent, since he wrote so many books of the NT. Better yet, Paul’s actions and writings are more prominent than any of the Twelve, so perhaps he was really the “chief apostle”!

God’s Spirit does not change our core personalities. We are still individuals, even though we align our beliefs and morality to God’s. Peter was brash before, but now it is replaced with a confidence in God. Why wouldn’t he be somewhat prominent? All groups develop unofficial leaders. More than that, sociologically speaking, there are 2 types of leaders, which the entire preeminent theory disregards.

Jesus called people covering a spectrum of abilities and personalities. Some, like Peter, were natural leaders. Others, like Andrew, were naturally submissive. Neither is better than the other. They are just different.

In all seriousness, if church government were so important, don’t you think Jesus would have left clear and concise instructions?

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