The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment - Commentary">Critical and Exegetical NT. Taken from the TheWord Bible Software. In loc. Words within square brackets supplied. ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

...8c00;"souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into Hell; where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day; besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.
  1. Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Acts 13:36; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22[1]
  2. Gen. 2:7; James 2:26; Matt. 10:28; Eccles. 12:7
  3. Ps. 23:6; 1 Kings 8:27-49; Isa. 63:15; 66:1; Luke 23:43; Acts 1:9-11; 3:21; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; 12:2-4; Eph. 4:10; Phil. 1:21-23; Heb. 1:3,4:14-15; 6:20; 8:1; 9:24; 12:23; Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13; 20:4-6
  4. Luke 16:22-26; Acts 1:25; 1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:9

The bodies of men after death return to dust (Gen. 3:19), the original substance, but their souls...having an immortal subsistence (i.e., a state of existence)...neither die nor sleep and immediately return to God (Eccles. 12:7). Our bodily death is not the cessation of our life. When our bodies die, our souls immediately return to God Who gave them. There is no period between our physical death and our returning to God. After our last breath, we immediately return to God. There is no period of waiting or soul sleep. But this returning to God of our souls does not mean we remain with God. Only the souls of the righteous now having been made perfect...are received into paradise, where they are with Christ (Heb. 12:23; Phil. 1:21-23). What a blessing and a privilege to be with Christ for all eternity. The One Whom we love and adore and to behold His face is the greatest blessing which we can imagine. We will likewise behold the face of God in light and glory, no longer afraid or trembling at His sight or in fear of our lives because of His glory. The souls of the righteous await in heaven the redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:23) at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The souls of the wicked on the other hand are cast into Hell where they are in torment and utter darkness and await the judgment of the great day (Luke 16:23; 2 Peter 2:9). The word “Hell” in this context is not really accurate as Hell describes the place of torment after the resurrection, where the wicked are cast in body and soul. What would be more accurate here is to say that the souls of the wicked are cast into Hades as the rich man was (Luke 16:23). The wicked are reserved for a greater judgment in both body and soul on that great day in Hell, which is the second death.

Finally, aside from Heaven and Hell, Scripture knows of no other place. Therefore, Purgatory does not exist and is unbiblical. 

The body returns to the dust from whence it came, but the souls are immortal from the time they begin to exist; they cannot just disappear and go out of existence. They will exist without a body in heaven or Hades until Christ comes to end the world and bring in the New Heavens and New Earth. The elect then will receive a glorious body like that of Jesus and enjoy endless fellowship with the God Triune, while the reprobates will receive physical bodies just to be tormented in the lake of fire.

The Intermediate State describes the time between death and the resurrection of the body, this includes a discussion of the immortality of the...

A Review of Hell Under Fire


Hell Under Fire:

Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment

By Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson

Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. Ed. by Christopher W. Morgan, Robert A. Peterson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

Had this book sitting on my shelf for a while and thought that it would merely be an academic book and a dry read. I couldn't be more wrong. Surely it was academic, but never on a level that made it impossible for an average Bible student to understand.

The Book and Its Content

The authors are top-notch theologians in our day who in this book respond to Annihilationism and Universalism, while at the same time give a biblical and holistic picture of Hell. The subject of Hell is sobering and terrifying. As believers we know that thanks to Christ we have been saved from this awful fate, which we should recognize--we rightly deserve. We likewise believe that all those without the Gospel of Christ, do not have a hope, are under the wrath of God and will everlastingly be under the wrath of God. It is terrifying to think of that and we cannot, without sympathy, discard the emotional appeal of Universalists and Annihilationists. The Bible is the sole infallible and highest authority for the Christian and if the Bible teaches that historical view of Hell, then my emotions do not matter and cannot settle the truth about Hell. It is as simple as that.

This book contains 10 chapters dealing, containing among other things, 

  • a historical survey about Hell up to our day (chapter 1, by Albert Mohler Jr.); 
  • the OT and Hell (chapter 2, by Daniel I. Block); 
  • the Lord Jesus and Hell (chapter 3, by Robert W. Yarbough); 
  • Paul and Hell (chapter 4, by Douglas J. Moo); 
  • the Apocalypse and Hell (chapter 5, by G. K. Beale); 
  • Biblical and Systematic Theology as it relates to Hell (chapters 7-8, by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, respectively); 
  • an examination of Universalism and its arguments (chapter 8, by J. I. Packer); 
  • an examination of Annihilationism and its arguments (chapter 9, by Christopher W. Morgan); and finally
  • Hell and pastoral theology (chapter 10, by Sinclair Ferguson).

There is a ton to be learned in these chapters by the Bible student. What is to be learned from this book should not only fill our heads with information, but motivate us to share the Gospel with the lost because of the dreadful fate which faces them if they receive not Christ and His righteousness.

The reason we believe in the existence and everlasting nature of Hell and of its punishment is simply because we believe that Holy Writ teaches it. If it were not for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who spoke more often about Hell than Heaven, we would not believe in Hell, because it is so repugnant to our fallen natures.


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

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Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree

What does it mean that God is sovereign? Does God control all things? Does God ordain and is sovereign even over sin? What about election? Does God choose who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? Did God predestine because He saw what was going to come to pass? Does it matter what we do? Does God ordain the ends as well as the means?

§1 God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity...whatsoever comes to pass

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably1 all things, whatsoever comes to pass2 yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; 3 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather establishedin which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. 5
    1. Prov. 19:21; Isa 14:24-27; 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9:19; Heb. 6:17[1]
    2. Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11
    3. Gen. 18:25; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5
    4. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 10:5-7; Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
    5. Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

God hath decreed in Himself means that He decreed by Himself alone without considering others. As the modern translation puts it: “From all eternity God decreed everything that occurs, without reference to anything outside himself.” He was not influenced when He decreed everything. But what does it mean that God “decreed”? A decree, in this context, means putting everything in order and planning everything that is to occur in history. This decree of God was from all eternity and therefore is unchangeable. To further stress the “decreed in himself” part, the Confession adds that this decree was made freely. God was not limited by anything outside Himself. Furthermore, this decree was according to the most wise and holy counsel of His own will. It was not arbitrary or random. Rather, it was ordained by the Wisdom Himself Who does nothing without a goal, reason or a purpose (cf. Eph. 1:11). What did God decree? All things, whatsoever comes to pass. There is nothing that occurs that was not already decreed by God from all eternity. But this does not mean that God is the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein. God does not create sin or author it, nor does He have delight in it. Rather, He orders it and ordains it to be for His own holy purposes, according to the most wise and holy counsel of His will. Even evil and sin are ordained according to His holy purposes. Our redemption came about by the greatest sin committed by man, the crucifixion of the Son of God, which was ordained by God (Acts 4:27-28).

When God ordains sin, He does no violence to the will of the creature, nor is their liberty hindered or taken away. Everyone committing sin and evil does so because they will and desire so. In the example about the crucifixion of the Lord, everyone in the act was a willing participant: Judas, the Jewish leaders, the Romans. All really wanted to do these things and they were not forced to will so. Nonetheless, the Scriptures are clear that they came to “do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” According to Reformed theology, God’s decree establishes the liberty of creatures, because their liberty is found within God’s decree. This high and mysterious doctrine shows...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

...ver does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 

He is our Savior also. On the day that He will come, the believers will not be condemned by Him, but hear the words of commendation and the words of love—

Matt. 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

But those who will stand on his left will be righteously judged according to the fruit of their hearts—their works, and be condemned by Him to the flames of Hell

Matt. 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31) and to stand before Him Who can see you as you are (Rom. 2:16) and require an account of everything (Matt. 12:36).

Dear reader, do not face the Lord in judgment while today is the day of salvation. Repent, therefore, and place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone so that when He comes you will not be terrified, but rejoice with the saints and not be taken away by judgment—

2 Thess. 1:9-10 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 

Christ’s Seed

The Bible does not speak of the Messiah being married to a woman nor are any references in the New Testament which suggest such an idea. But the Bible does refer a few times to Christ’s “offspring” or “children.” Obviously, those are His church—the believers. The first reference that we will look at occurs in the great Messianic Servant song in Isaiah 53. There we read—

Isa. 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Here Isaiah speaks of the Messiah’s death and then of His resurrection. Yahweh willed and was pleased to crush His Servant and He has made Him an offering for guilt—an atonement for sin, indeed. Yet even through His distress and death, the Servant will be encouraged to see the fruit of His work, to see His spiritual offspring. Those whom He has redeemed for God. As the Lord Jesus Himself says, it is necessary that He die that the fruit and reward of His work may be seen (John 12:24). Hebrews 2 also makes mention of Christ’s children and seed—

Heb. 2:11-13 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” 

We are both children of Christ as He is the One Who freed us from sin and died for our redemption, and we are also brothers of Christ with respect to our adoption by God into His family. John Gill says the following concerning this verse:

...the saints are children with respect to God, who has adopted them, and with respect to Christ, who is their everlasting Father; that they were given to Christ as his spiritual seed and offspring, as his portion, and to be ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling - Commentary

...ced. Why are innocent infants visited with what entails death on them? One answer only can be given, and no ingenuity can evade the conclusion, “in Adam all die.” The wonder is, that this doctrine should ever have been denied. On the human family at large, on man and woman, on infant child, and hoary sire, on earth and sky, are traced the dismal effects of the first sin.[4]

If these little children were not in sin, they would not have died. But it is because they are born and conceived in sin that they die. This would mean that they do deserve to go to Hell if God wanted to give them what they deserve. Therefore, any theology about infant salvation must stress the fact that infants are not sent to heaven because they’re sinless or good; they are not. They are in the sinful federal head, Adam, who broke the covenant. But they are sent to heaven solely because of God’s grace, not because they deserve it. Don’t forget this emphasis!

That’s why I believe the Confession uses the language of “elect infants.” The phrase neither says that all dying infants are elect, nor does it suppose that there are non-elect infants. Theologians from both sides believe this. What the phrase does, is ground the salvation of the infant or the mentally handicapped in the sovereign grace of God and the internal work of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the phrase is contrasted with infants who live past their infancy. Those infants will be called by the usual operation of the Spirit along with the Word, as paragraph 1 teaches. But elect infants will be called by the special operation of the Holy Spirit.

Sinful, But Not Willful Rebels

Hereby I mean that it is true that infants are born sinful and from their earliest times they demonstrate that they’re leaning toward sin, but they are not making their choices with understanding. They do not understand the implications of their choices and deeds because their understanding and other capacities have not yet matured. There is no question about what happens to older children/people who have never heard the gospel. Romans 1 clearly says that they’re without an excuse.

Rom. 1:18-23 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 

Do you see the stress that Paul lays upon the willful disobedience and rebellion of people to the general revelation of God? 

Verse 18: They are actively holding down the truth. They are fighting the truth by their unrighteousness. They don’t want it to come out. It is like a ball in a swimming pool. All that you need to do to have the ball come on the surface is nothing. To have the ball under the water you’ll have to push the ball down. This is exactly what these people are doing. But can unborn children, infants, and little children truly be said to do this?

Verse ...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints - Commentary

...ropitiation. Propitiation is the sacrifice which atones for sins and therefore removes the wrath of God from us. The sins of God’s people, the elect, have already been dealt with on the cross. God has forgiven them of all their sins since He has been made propitious toward them thanks to the sacrifice of Christ of Himself. The price for their sins has already been paid for on the cross 2000 years ago, although the application will happen at God’s chosen time for each of His elect. If the sins of God’s people have been already dealt with and satisfied the wrath of God that was against them, how can God’s wrath, after being satisfied for them be aroused against them in Hell again? How can God go back on His word and be wrathful against those for whom Christ was the propitiation and they be condemned (Rom. 8:1)? This leads us to the idea that it is not possible unless God requires double jeopardy which is unjust, for Christ to pay for the sins of God’s people and yet some of them be doomed to Hell because they “fell away.” It is Christ Who is the merciful and faithful high priest before God, which one of His functions is to intercede and plead for the people. The people do not make God propitious, but God has become propitious because our sins have been punished in the Substitute and furthermore, it is He Who intercedes and pleads for us before the throne of God above.

2. In Hebrews 3:1, the believers are said to be “holy brothers” who share in the “heavenly calling”. This calling is the special and effectual calling of God about which the New Testament often speaks. We learn that

  • we have been called to belong to Jesus Christ and be saints (Rom. 1:6-7; cf. 1 Cor. 1:2);
  • we have been called to be justified (Rom. 8:29-30);
  • we have been called to be vessels of mercy, prepared beforehand for glory (Rom. 9:23-24);
  • we have been called into the fellowship of God’s Son (1 Cor. 1:8);
  • we have been called to peace (1 Cor. 17:15);
  • we have been called to the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6);
  • we have been called to freedom (Gal. 5:13);
  • we have been called to the hope of the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Eph. 1:18; cf. 4:4);
  • we have been called to belong to the one body (Col. 3:15);
  • we have been called into God’s kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12; cf. 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3);
  • we have been called to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7);
  • we have been called through the gospel to obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 2:14);
  • we have been called to eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12);
  • we have been called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15);
  • we have been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9);
  • we have been called to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Pet. 2:21);
  • we have been called to bless those who curse us that we may obtain a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9).

The question here is: Can those who share in this heavenly calling lose their calling? None of the passages above place the condition of the believer’s calling upon themselves. They were called as a result of God’s sovereign election. They did not earn it, but they are, in fact, encouraged and exhorted to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (e.g., Eph. 4:1). But that does not imply that we can lose our calling or lose our salvation. It seems to me when I put all these things together it is impossible for such a one who has been truly and effectually called by God through the gospel to be uncalled or lose his salvation. Romans 10:29 declares: “For the gifts and the calli...

A Review of Perspectives on the Doctrine of God

...ould be virtually indistinguishable from the devil” (p. 154). Thus, the only way that God can remain good and show His loving-kindness is to give humans libertarian free will. This is problematic in my opinion to subject God to our standards and to judge Him as if He is a creature. Here, I worry, as does Dr. Ware, “deeply for Olson and others who think the way that they do when it well may be the case that the view of God they find indistinguishable from Satan turns out to be the true and living God of the Bible” (p. 195).

Throughout the chapter, Dr. Olson also uses the fact that God created people Whom He could save but does not and who will spend an eternity in Hell as if it is only an argument against Calvinism (e.g., pp. 154, 160-161; on p. 161, he even compares Hell to a concentration camp!). This is an object against any self-respecting Christian theist position which does not deny God’s comprehensive foreknowledge. If God doesn’t want them to go to Hell, then He could have struck down their parents or not bring them into being better than allowing them to be born, trying to save them and ultimately being eternally disappointed. I’m sure anyone in Hell would have preferred to not exist rather than having their free will “violated.” The Calvinist is satisfied in his conviction that nothing happens outside or without God’s will and those who are in Hell, God wanted them to be there because of their sin and He will be glorified in their damnation. This is indeed a horrible decree, but it is nonetheless for the glory of the triune God. Either God had a purpose in their destruction and brought them into being or He did not. Dr. Olson’s answer is “People determine themselves for Hell by their free choices and especially by their rejection of God’s offer of salvation (whether through the explicit preaching of the gospel or through the light of God present in every culture and in conscience)” (p. 161). There is no offer of salvation in natural revelation, but his theology has ventured off so far based on his conception of goodness and love that he would perhaps be an inclusivist? The gospel comes to us by special divine revelation (e.g., Rom. 10:14-17).

Another point which Dr. Olson mentions is that “God limits his power in relation to creation and especially in relation to human persons” (p. 155). One should not wander that Calvinists have often accused of Arminians of not being as God-centered as Calvinists when such statements are made. God is adjusting Himself just to make room for His creatures. God does not need to restrict Himself or His power in order for His creatures to be responsible. He also says that “For free will theses, God’s glory is not might but goodness” (p. 155). Why such a dichotomy? As if His power is contrary to His grace and mercy. This is in nowise the case.

According to Olson, libertarian free will is simply presupposed in the Bible (p. 159). It is “the Hebraic view of persons as possessing free will” (p. 159). I’m not sure if we can paint with such a broad brush. There are interesting indications about the Essenes and divine determinism. In the rest of the chapter, he goes on to substantiate more claims about libertarian free will and some tenants of Arminianism like prevenient grace. All in all, a fine but an unconvincing case for classical Arminianism.

The open theist position

The last essay is for the Open Theism view by Dr. John Sanders. Dr. Sanders is a fine and gracious gentleman who ...

2 Peter 3:8-9, not wishing that any should perish

...usand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)

(For a better and more recent defense see here.)

This is one of what is called the “Arminian Big Three.” And it is huge when you don’t consider the context. All you see is that God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell, yet somehow being the Almighty, He is not able/willing to save them, but instead sends so many to Hell, because they sin against Him. What people mostly miss is that this passage (v 9) actually is not referring to non-believers or the entire human race, but to God’s elect and we will see why. (Please understand that I am not saying that God loves sending people to Hell, no, I totally believe Ezek 18:23, 32. But what I believe is that God is glorified in the damnation of the reprobate indeed, Prov 16:4; Rom 9:22).

The first thing we need to examine is to whom all these words refer to (you, any, all). It is clear from the greeting of Peter’s second letter to whom this letter is directed, “&Hellip;To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1), thus believers, God’s elect. 2 Pet 3:1 says that those recipients have had received another letter from Peter, that is 1 Peter and we directly see in v 1, “&Hellip;To those who are elect exiles&Hellip;” We see again at the beginning of 2 Pet 3:8 that Peter is talking to the “beloved,” a term used referring to Jesus or the believers. Thus we have established that the context and the audience to whom these passages are directed are fellow believers of Peter. In chapter 3 Peter warns his fellow believers about those who will come scoffing about the Second Coming, that it has not yet happened yet Jesus said that He will come soon. He tells them that this present Universe is stored up for wrath (v 7); time is nothing with God (v 8); God is patient toward His sheep, waiting for the ones who yet have to be born and/or be saved, so the Lord is patient toward His own and He’s not willing that any of them perish, but all of them come to Him (v 9).

In 2 Peter 3, the Christians – all God's elect are represented by Peter's audience as His beloved, even when they were dead in trespasses God loved them (Eph 2:1-10) and in love predestined them (Eph 1:3-6). It is for their sake that God is delaying the Parousia of our blessed Savior. God is waiting until the number of His elect is complete then He will send the Savior to judge the world in righteousness.


John MacArthur says the following in the ESV MacArthur Study Bible [1]

2 Pet. 3:9 not slow. That is, not loitering or late (cf. Gal. 4:4; Titus 2:13; Heb. 6:18; 10:23, 37; Rev. 19:11). patient toward you. “You” is the saved, the people of God. He waits for them to be saved. God has an immense capacity for patience before he breaks forth in judgment (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15; Joel 2:13; Luke 15:20; Rom. 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:15). God endures endless blasphemies against his name, along with rebellion, murders, and the ongoing breaking of his law, waiting patiently while he is calling and redeeming his own. It is not impotence or slackness that delays final judgment; it is patience. not wishing that any should perish. The “any” must refer to those whom the Lord has chosen and will call to complete the redeemed, i.e., the “you.” Since the...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

... our brethren is that for us local church membership is not the same as New Covenant membership. There are many local church members who are not New Covenant members. But they are church members falsely. They lay a claim to a thing they don’t have a right to. They set up their homes on a ground which is not theirs.

Since the New Covenant consists only of those for whom Christ’s blood was shed, we believe that a local church should likewise be composed of those for whom Christ’s blood was shed. But we are getting ahead of ourselves at this point.

Christ’s Church (Matthew 16:18)

The Lord Jesus promised to establish His church which no power of Hell could stand against. He said:

Matt. 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

It is Christ Who builds His community of believers, His congregation, His church. Men do not build the church. Men may build church buildings, but Christ is the architect of His church. Sadly, the Roman Catholic interpretation is how this passage is remembered for. As Albert Barnes noted, if “it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it [Matt 16:18, and who the rock is], and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for.”[6] The controversy that surrounds this verse between the Protestants and Catholics lies in the question as to who “this rock” is which is being referred to and the further Roman Catholic implications from this identification. The Roman Catholic church claims that here, Christ gave Peter supreme authority over the church and raised him above all the other apostles. Furthermore, they see in this the doctrine of the Papacy. They say that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and from him, there has been a direct succession of popes/bishops of Rome. Therefore, they see in the Pope the authority of Peter, which they understand as being the supreme leader on earth over the Church. The Pope, so to say, is Christ on earth.

Barnes was right, these things could not be found anywhere in the Bible, let alone in Matthew 16:18. It was not the intention of the Lord Jesus to give us here a doctrine of a single bishop of Rome who will be called the Head of the Church. There is no difficulty in identifying Peter as “this rock” which Christ was speaking of. As Keith Thompson has studied this passage and observed, “Conservative Protestant exegetical scholarship is basically unified in affirming Peter is the rock here. D. A. Carson, Craig Blomberg, Craig S. Keener as well as the late Oscar Cullmann and W. F. Albright among many dozens of others are in agreement on this point.”[7] The difficulty lies in the fact that the Papists have read all kinds of things in the words of the Lord Jesus which He never intended.

The apostle Peter did function as the “starter” of the Church. On the day of Pentecost, it was he who first preached the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:14-41). Furthermore, it was also he who brought the message of salvation to the Gentiles in Acts 10. So, in a real sense, Christ did build His church on Peter’s preaching and through Peter’s ministry. This may also be tied to the keys given to Peter a few verses later (Matt. 16:19). But it is wrong to say that by this declaration and by this deed, now Peter is the head of the Church on earth. The passage communicates no such thing, nor is such a thing taught elsewhere in Holy Writ. The Bible teaches there is only one He...