Bible study on the church (Leader’s notes)

Does the Church possess authority to “rule over” believers?

Mat 18:17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Does this verse teach that the church has authority over believers?

Leader’s Notes: Yes, the Bible teaches that the church has authority over believers, especially in the area of enforcing discipline of believers who have committed sins. But there is no teaching that there is an infallible authority to interpret scripture.

Did Jesus appoint Peter as the Pope or leader of the church?

Matthew 16:15­18 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God….18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (in Greek, Petros), and upon this rock (in Greek, Petra) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (KJV)

Roman Catholics believe that Peter was the rock upon whom Christ will build His church. Therefore, Jesus was appointing Peter as the head of the church. If Peter was the “rock” referred to in the verse, why would Jesus deliberately use two different Greek words?

Leader’s Notes: Mt 16:18­19 has often been misunderstood. Jesus did not say to Peter, “upon thee I will build My church” but “upon this rock”. When Jesus said “this rock”, he referred to Himself whom Peter had acknowledged earlier in verse 16.

Matthew 16:15­18 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God….18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter (in Greek, Petros), and upon this rock (in Greek, Petra) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (KJV)

In the Greek, the term for Peter is “Petros” (masculine gender) while the term for rock is “Petra” (feminine gender). The use of two different words “Petros” and “Petra” clearly proves that Christ was not referring to Peter.

It is sometimes argued that the Greek distinction of “stone” and “rock” is not valid since the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic before it got translated to Greek. Advocates refer to quotations of early Church Fathers. For example, Eusebius quotes Papias regarding a “Hebrew” Matthew which everyone “translated as best they could.”  However it is obvious to Greek experts that the Gospel of Matthew was not written in translational Greek. Therefore, it is possible that this refers to an Aramaic narrative, no longer extant, called the “Gospel of the Hebrews” or “Nazarenes.”  This gospel, according to the writings of the early Church Fathers, was referred to as “Matthew” by the various primitive communities but should not be linked with canonical Matthew.

According to other verses in the Bible, who is this “rock” upon whom the Church will be built?

1 Cor 10:3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

1 Cor 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (KJV)

Besides giving Peter the keys of the kingdom, who else did Jesus give these keys to?

Matthew 18:18 (NIV) “I tell you (plural, to all the disciples) the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Should the Pope be regarded as the father of the church?

Mat 23:9  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Is there an infallible authority to interpret the Scriptures?

2 Peter 3:16 His (ie Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Does this mean that we should leave interpretation of scripture to the church authority?

Leader’s Notes: 2 Peter 3:16, therefore, is not talking against the use but the abuse of private interpretation of Scriptures. The word “ignorant” refers not to those uneducated in the academic sense because Peter and the other apostles were academically uneducated (see Acts 4:13). It refers to those who refuse to learn from the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that it is the Holy Spirit who guides us into a correct understanding of the truth, not an infallible authority.

John 16:13 (NIV) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Finally 2 Peter 3:16 further proves that the Scriptures in Peter’s time were left to the people to interpret themselves and not to some infallible authority. If not, Peter would have called attention to such a tribunal since he was warning of the danger of distorting the Scriptures. We also note that nowhere in the New testament does Jesus Christ tell us anything about an infallible authority to interpret the Scriptures.

2Pe 1:20  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Does it mean that scripture should not be open to private interpretation and we should rely on church authority to interpret scripture for us?

Leader’s Notes: Firstly, this verse is talking about prophecy specifically and not scripture in general. The context of the verse shows that it is saying that whatever prophecies we have in the Bible, they are the result of men used by the Holy Spirit as passive instruments through which to hand down prophecies.

(WNT)  But, above all, remember that no prophecy in Scripture will be found to have come from the prophet’s own prompting for never did any prophecy come by human will, but men sent by God spoke as they were impelled by the Holy Spirit.

Is it advisable to leave scripture to private interpretation since that has led to many denominations within the Protestant church?

It is true that private interpretation of the Scriptures has led to divisions among the Protestant Churches but the Roman Catholic Church is not without its own division even with Papal infallibility. As discussed earlier, Popes have been known to contradict other Popes. Even Councils have contradicted other Councils. Who do we believe? True, Protestants may differ on certain matters of doctrine but they are united on the vital questions of what is necessary to be saved.

How did we get our canon of scripture if not for the church’s official decision?

Leader’s Notes: At a very early date the 4 gospels were united in one collection. The collection of Paul’s letters was brought about together the same time as the collection of the fourfold Gospel. The only books about which there was any doubt after the middle of the second century were some of those that came at the end of our New Testament. However, a consensus finally evolved at the Synod of Hippo (AD 393) and the Synod of Carthage (AD 397).

Which were the two Church Councils that formalized the books of the Bible?

Leader’s Notes: The two councils were the Council of Hippo in 393 and the Council of Carthage in 397.

It is true that the church had come up with lists of books that were accepted as Scripture. The earliest known list was in AD 393. However, the accepted books were not decided by these communities. The committees merely stated formally what was already accepted by the community. As stated above, we have evidence from as early as Jesus’ days that the Old Testament we have is accepted by the community. We also have evidence from as early as the second century that the books we have in the New Testament have been accepted by the community. Not only that, we also have in possession complete copies of manuscripts of the Bible – Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus – which were written 40 to 50 years before the even 393 A.D. that contain all 27 books of the present New Testament Bible.

Did the Bible teach that Peter was infallible in interpreting the Scriptures?

Gal 2: 11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

If Peter was infallible, why did Paul have to correct him?

What does Paul’s “opposing Peter in his face” tell you about Paul’s leadership standing vis-à-vis Peter in the church?

Did the Bible teach that Peter was infallible when he was writing the Scripture?

2 Tim 3:16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

Leader’s Notes: The Bible does teach that Peter was infallible when he was penning down Scriptures. If Bible writers were not infallible, whatever they wrote would not be useful for teaching, rebuking, etc.

Was Peter the only one who was infallible when he was writing the Scriptures or are all Bible writers infallible?

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…