On Whom Is The Church Founded?

by Thomas F. Heinze


The Apostle Peter himself explained in the Bible on whom the church was founded. He said that Jesus was the cornerstone: This Jesus is the stone rejected by you the builders which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:11-12).

To have a Biblical basis for the papacy, the Roman Catholic church neglects the numerous passages such as the one above which clearly teach that Christ is the head and foundation of the church, and quotes a short part of a passage from the Gospel of Matthew. They neglect to realize that even if the church was founded on Peter, there is nothing in this passage to infer that his status was passed on to the popes. I quote that passage here, with a few verses which precede it, and will add to our understanding.

They replied, "some say John the Baptizer, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "And you, who do you say that I am?"

"You are the Messiah," Simon Peter answered, "the Son of the living God!"

Jesus replied, "Blest are you, Simon son of Jonah! No mere man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I for my part declare to you, you are "Rock," and on this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:14-18). In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, Christ calls Peter "Rock" (masculine gender) then says "on this rock" (feminine gender) I will build my church. What is the rock on which the church is built? The usual Catholic interpretation is Peter, but the difference in gender makes this questionable. Then, just five verses ahead, Jesus reproves Peter with such severity that He calls him Satan. In the context itself then, it is equally possible that the "rock" upon which the church is founded is found in the statement that Peter made, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

If we will let the passages in other parts of the Bible that refer to the same subject help us decide who it is that the church is founded upon, we find that it is Christ. No one can lay a foundation other than the one that has been laid, namely Jesus Christ (1·Corinthians 3:11).

Peter certainly should have understood whether the church was founded on himself or on Christ, and he wrote that it was on Jesus Christ: For Scripture has it: "See, I am laying a cornerstone in Zion, an approved stone, and precious. He who puts his faith in it shall not be shaken." The stone is of value for you who have faith. For those without faith, it is rather, "A stone which the builders rejected that became a cornerstone." It is likewise "an obstacle and stumbling stone." Those who stumble and fall are the disbelievers in God's word; it belongs to their destiny to do so (1 Peter 2:6-8). Peter understood Christ to be the cornerstone, the foundation of the church, and was obviously referring to Him in this passage.

Christ Himself said, Are you not familiar with this passage of Scripture: The stone rejected by the builders has become the keystone of the structure (Mark 12:10). The Jews understood that in saying this, Jesus was claiming to be their Messiah, and since they did not want Him to be their head they immediately tried to kill Him, stumbling on the stone, as the Scriptures had predicted. Later they succeeded, but He rose from the dead and became the stone upon which the church was founded. Will you accept Christ as the foundation and director of your life?

Returning then, to Matthew 16:14-18, with this background from the Scriptures, it seems clear that The rock to which Jesus referred was not Peter himself, but his confession: You are the messiah, the Son of the living God.

Even if this were not true, and Peter were the rock upon which the church was founded, there is still no Biblical reason to think that Peter's authority was passed on to others, and that the popes are his successors. Neither is there reason to believe that this idea was accepted by the early church. In fact the idea of a "pope" developed a little bit at a time and it was only in 1870 that the infallibility of the pope became a dogma. Even then there was a strong opposition to the idea from within the Roman Catholic church itself. There is just no real foundation to the idea that one man, other than Jesus Christ Himself, has the authority over us that the Pope claims to have, although there are good reasons why he may want us to believe it.

It is also rather confusing that the Pope ties his claim to authority, infallibility, and the right to have others bow down to him, to his being the successor to Peter. Peter certainly never claimed these things. Just the opposite! When one tried to bow before him he said, Get up! I am only a man myself (Acts 10:26).

In addition, Paul found it necessary to rebuke Peter very severely, not because he was infallible, but because he was wrong. He wrote, When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I directly withstood him, because he was clearly in the wrong (Gal. 2:11). Nor was this the first big mistake that Peter made. We all remember how Peter denied Christ three times at the very moment of our Lord's trial and condemnation. I don't want to take away anything from this great apostle, but it is not logical to claim that the pope's infallibility was handed down to him from a man who made mistakes and his authority over the church came from a man who refused to let people bow down to him.

Since the true church is founded on Jesus Christ, we should find a church that does not preach another salvation based on works and sacraments, but one which has as its base the Holy Bible, and the one name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved. Since virtually everything that can be known about Christ is found in the Bible, don't go to a church which has some other authority, whether it be the pope, the Book of Mormon, the Watch Tower, or even its own pastor's alleged communications with God. If you can be comfortable in a church without taking your Bible, there is probably something wrong.

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