Around this time of the year be look at the beginnings of the church. Unfortunately in our day unlike those first days after the resurrection there is great division about who is in charge of the Church. Is your local pastor in charge? Is it you? Or did our Lord set up certain men like Peter and the papacy to be a guide and rock of the church?
Let’s begin with Peter, did he have any special role to play in the early Church?
Certainly he did. I think to see his role though you have to do some digging. Sometimes we get caught up in the narrative and miss the details.
The first detail is from the Greek word Protos – which means first. We see a derivative of protos in the English word – prototype. A prototype of a car is an sample of a new kind of car.
We see this word protos – first, used in two ways though in Greek. It of course means first, yet it also has the meaning of best. The best, or chief. You can naturaly see why protos can mean first, best, or chief. Here are some examples from the Bible.
When the prodigal son returns the father says this:
Luke 15:22 "… 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him”
The word best here is protos.
When St. Paul lands on Matla it says this:
Acts 28:7 In the vicinity of that place were lands belonging to a man named Publius, the chief of the island. He welcomed us and received us cordially as his guests for three days.
The “chief of the island” The Greek uses the word protos to mean chief.
Now we come to Peter. Matthew says this:
Matthew 10:2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew;
Now the significance of this is great. There are four lists of the apostles and Peter is always listed first and Judas 3 of the 4 times is always listed last. The 4th time being in Acts of the apostles after he had died so he wasn’t listed. They list Peter always first and Judas always last because Peter was chief and Judas was the betrayer.
Some might object and say that Peter is first because he was the first one to be called an apostle.
That is a possibility until you learn in the Gospel of John chapter one that Andrew was called by Christ before Peter, so that answers that objection.
Other verses suggest that Peter has primacy.
Peter is distinguished by others.
Tax collectors approach Peter alone:
Matthew 17:24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"
At the resurrection an angel says:
Mark 16:7 But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'"
Peter recognizes that Judas’ office should be filled by another. Acts 1
Acts 1:15 During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers …
Peter gives the first sermon in Acts of the apostles.
Acts 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, "You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
Peter works the first miracle:
Acts 3:6 Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk."
It is to Peter in Acts 10 that God reveals to Peter that Gentiles are to be baptized.
It is Peter in Acts 15 that says that Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised in order to be saved, but it is through grace.
I could go on, but I had better stop.
Now concerning Acts 15, some people claim that it isn’t Peter who makes the final decision but it is James, who speaks after Peter who makes the final decision.
That is a common objection and if we take a step back and look at what is happening, we get a clearer picture.
The issue in Acts 15 is this:
Acts 15:5 But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law."
There was some debating because circumcision began with Abraham, is that a good thing to stop doing what God told Abraham to do?
So they hold a council in Jerusalem and there is a debate: Peter says that no we don’t need to circumcise people any more. That is the decision.
Paul and Barnabas then stand up and say how God has been working through the Gentiles.
James then says – Hey Peter is fulfilling the Scriptures from Amos 9 with that decree. We should tell the Gentiles though to stay away from practices that will trip up people like idolatry, and things associated with it.
Yet the big picture shows that Peter is the one who answered the question that Paul came to ask. Do Gentiles need to be circumcised – Peter says – Nope.
So to get back to our original question. Yes Peter had Primacy.