Why Did God Take Peter’s Keys?

Dear K.P.,

I thank God for the blessing in getting to know you.  My soul leapt when I met you, just as the baby leapt inside Elizabeth when he was in the presence of Christ (cf. Lk 1:41).  I intuited that Christ was strong within you and I praise God for making our meeting in Atlanta possible.  As iron sharpens iron, I pray that we will sharpen one another (cf. Prov 27:17), that we will encourage one another and build one another up (cf. 1 Thess 5:11), and through our exchanges we can test to discern the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect (cf. Rom 12:2).  I pray that God’s face will shine upon you during your time at seminary.

Reformed Calvinists and other Protestants all find common cause against papal authority.  If Protestantism is true, after centuries of its existence, God decided to eradicate the office of the papacy.  I would claim that because Catholicism is true, the papacy was established by Christ, has endured, and retains the authority entrusted to it by Christ, even to this day.

Keys to Kingdom

I want to share this essay from the Ignatius Study Bible and solicit your feedback, “Peter, Prince of the Apostles”:

Catholic tradition makes mighty claims for Simon Peter.  It holds that Peter was lifted to an unrivaled position of honor and preeminence among the original apostles.  It holds, too, that Peter was the chief shepherd and teacher of the early Church.

Since these points have generated debate and even division among Christian groups, there is need to reexamine the biblical data that shapes the Catholic perspective on the primacy of Peter.  Do these claims reflect the intentions of Jesus?  Are they consistent with the evidence of the NT?

Peter in the Gospels

Simon Peter is at once the most visible and the most vocal apostle in the Gospels.

(1) When the evangelists recount how Jesus selected the Twelve, they put Peter at the top of the apostolic list (Mk 3:16; Lk 6:14), with Matthew even specifying that he was “first” (Mt 10:2).

(2) When the evangelists mention the apostles together, Peter is often singled out from the group in a way that is not done with any other apostle (Mk 1:36; 16:7; Lk 9:32).

(3) When the collectors of the Temple tax approached the apostles for the annual half-shekel, they approached Peter as the conspicuous representative of the group (Mt 17:24-27).

(4) When Peter spoke with Jesus, he often did so on behalf of the Twelve (Mk 8:29; Lk 12:41; Jn 6:66-69).

(5) Peter was one of three apostles given special attention by Jesus.  Together with James and John, the sons of Zebedee, he was chosen to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:37), the Transfiguration (Mk 9:2), and the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:33).  These are also the only three disciples among the Twelve whom Jesus renamed — Simon being called “Peter” (the rock, Mk 3:16) and James and John being called “Boanerges” (the sons of thunder, Mk 3:17).

(6) On the night of his betrayal, when Satan was about to test the disciples, Jesus told Peter that he had prayed for him personally that he might turn again and steady the faith of his brother apostles (Lk 22:31-32).

(7) On Easter morning, Peter and John raced to inspect the empty tomb.  Though John outran him, he waited for Peter to catch up and in deference allowed him to enter the tomb first (Jn 20:3-8).

(8) Later that Easter day, Jesus appeared privately to Peter, making him the first witness of the Resurrection among the apostles (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5).

(9) Lastly and most importantly, Jesus made promises to Peter that he never made to any other apostle.  He promised to build his Church on Peter, so that he alone would be the foundation stone of Christ’s new and living Temple (Mt 16:18), that he alone would be the keeper of the keys of Christ’s kingdom (Mt 16:19), and that he alone would be the head shepherd in charge of Christ’s sheep (Jn 21:15-17).

Peter in the Book of Acts

This prominence of Peter in the Gospels continued into the earliest days of the Church.  Here we see Peter exercising a level of authority and leadership that was unmatched in the ministry of any other apostle.

(1) Soon after Jesus ascended into heaven, it was Peter who initiated and oversaw the replacement of Judas Iscariot with another longtime disciple, Matthias, to complete the number of the Twelve (Acts 1:15-26).

(2) When the Spirit rained down upon the apostles at Pentecost, it was Peter who delivered the inaugural sermon of Church history to the throngs in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-36).

(3) When the crowds accepted his testimony and wondered how to respond, it was Peter who urged them to repent and receive Baptism (Acts 2:37-41).

(4) It was Peter who performed the first recorded healing in Church history (Acts 3:1-10).

(5) When Peter and John were arrested and asked to account for their actions, it was Peter who addressed the Sanhedrin and gave powerful witness to the Gospel (Acts 4:5-12).

(6) It was Peter who handled the first recorded case of ecclesial discipline exercised in Church history (Acts 5:1-11).

(7) When the Gospel first spread beyond Judea into the neighboring region of Samaria, it was Peter who brought the Spirit to endorse this new missionary development (Acts 8:14-17).

(8) When God arranged for the first Gentile conversions in Church history, he sent Peter to preach and administer Baptism (Acts 10:1-48).

(9) Lastly and most importantly, when the first recorded council in Church history convened in Jerusalem, it was Peter who stood up to end the debate with a solemn proclamation of Christian doctrine (Acts 15:6-11).

The sheer breadth and depth of this evidence is staggering.  In passage after passage in the Gospels we see Jesus grooming Peter for a unique mission of leadership and service.

In passage after passage in Acts, we see Peter engaged in leadership as a spiritual father caring for the family of faith.  The testimony of Catholic tradition is thus merely an echo of biblical tradition.  No other apostle appears so prominently in NT history.  No other apostle receives such honors and is asked to shoulder such responsibilities.  Among the apostles, only Simon Peter holds a position of primacy.

Thank you in advance, K.P., for reading the above and for your thoughtful response.

United in Christ,

KfG

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