It’s not happened since the 15th century, but today the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic church, resigned his office. At the age of 85, the reason cited is poor health and increasing frailty.
In his closing speech, Pope Benedict said: “I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter,” and it’s worth considering what he meant. The Roman Catholics claim that Jesus Christ appointed Peter, one of his disciples, the first Pope, and since then there has been a handing on, or a succession, to this office, right down to Pope Benedict himself.
The verses in question are Matthew 16v15-19:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you… for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.'”
They claim that here Jesus pronounces that Peter is to be the leader of the church. But a careful reading of what he is saying reveals that Jesus is actually saying that the rock on which the church is built is his confession and understanding of who Jesus is. After all,
– Peter is not the leader of the Apostles at all: James leads the discussion at Jerusalem in Acts 15v13; Peter is rebuked by Paul in Galatians 2v11; and he is listed with James and John equally in Galatians 2v9.
– 1 Corinthians 3v11 says that “No-one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” So how can Peter be a foundation?
– Peter is called Satan in Matthew 16v23, and the disciples are under no impression that Peter is the greatest since they all argue (fruitlessly) who it is to be in Mark 9v34 and Luke 22v24.
– Nowhere is it implied that Peter has any authority to pass this leadership on to others.
This undermines the authority that the Pope claims to have, of course. When we also read verses like:
“Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven,” (Matthew 23v9) [The Pope encourages the use of the term Holy Father to refer to him], and
“There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2v5) [The Pope proclaims himself as the Vicar of Christ, God’s representative on earth]
…we start to see the more accurate Bible picture of the Pope as someone who is leading people astray from the Truth of the Scriptures. The Word Pope does not appear anywhere in the Bible, and there is certainly no indication that we need any other mediator than the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that for centuries, the Roman Catholic church tried to suppress the translation of the Bible into English which people could read for themselves!