Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | June 29, 2009

Quotes from Concord — Peter or Peter’s Words?

An appropriate quote to commemorate the Feast of Peter and Paul, Apostles:

22 They cite against us certain passages, namely, [Matthew 16:18–19,] “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.” Also, “I will give you the keys.” Also, [John 21:15,] “Feed My lambs,” and some others. Since this entire controversy has been fully and accurately treated elsewhere in the books of our theologians and everything cannot be reviewed here, we refer to those writings and wish them to be considered repeated here. Yet we will briefly reply about the interpretation of the passages above.
23 In all these passages, Peter is the representative of the entire assembly of apostles, as appears from the text itself. Christ does not ask Peter alone, when He says, “Who do you say that I am?” [Matthew 16:15]. What is said here to Peter alone in the singular number, “I will give you [singular] the keys; and whatever you [singular] bind” [16:19], is elsewhere expressed in the plural [e.g., Matthew 18:18,] “Whatever you [plural] bind”; [John 20:23,] “If you [plural] forgive the sins of anyone”). These words show that the Keys are given to all the apostles alike and that all the apostles are sent forth alike.
24 In addition, it must be recognized that the Keys belong not to the person of one particular man, but to the Church. Many most clear and firm arguments show this. For Christ, speaking about the Keys, adds, for example, “If two of you agree on earth” (Matthew 18:19). Therefore, He grants the Keys first and directly to the Church. This is why it is first the Church that has the right of calling. ‹For just as the promise of the Gospel belongs certainly and immediately to the entire Church, so the Keys belong immediately to the entire Church, because the Keys are nothing else than the office whereby this promise is communicated to every one who desires it, just as it is actually manifest that the Church has the power to ordain ministers of the Church. And Christ speaks in these words: Whatsoever you shall bind, etc., and indicates to whom He has given the Keys, namely, to the Church: Where two or three are gathered together in My name. Likewise, Christ gives supreme and final jurisdiction to the Church when He says: Tell it unto the Church.›
Therefore, these passages demonstrate that Peter is the representative of the entire assembly of the apostles. They do not grant Peter any privilege or superiority or lordship.
25 As for the declaration “on this rock I will build My church” [Matthew 16:18], certainly the Church has not been built upon the authority of a man. Rather, it has been built upon the ministry of the confession Peter made, in which he proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [Matthew 16:16]. Therefore, Christ addresses Peter as a minister, “On this rock,” that is, this ministry. ‹Therefore, He addresses him as a minister of this office in which this confession, and doctrine is to be in operation and says: “Upon this rock,” i.e., this preaching and preaching office.›
26 Furthermore, the ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places and persons like the Levitical [Old Testament] ministry was. Rather, it is spread throughout the whole world. That is where God gives His gifts, apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers [Ephesians 4:11]. Nor does this ministry work because of the authority of any person, but because of the Word given by Christ [Romans 10:17]. ‹Nor does the person add anything to this Word and office; it matters not who is preaching and teaching it; if there are hearts who receive and cling to it, to them it is done as they hear and believe.› 27 Most of the holy Church Fathers, such as Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, Hilary, and Bede, interpret the passage “on this rock” in this way, as not referring to the person of Peter. 28 Chrysostom says this:
“Upon this rock,” not upon Peter. For He built His Church not upon man, but upon the faith of Peter. But what was his faith? “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
29 Hilary says:
The Father revealed to Peter that he should say, “You are the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:17]. Therefore, the building of the Church is upon this rock of confession. This faith is the foundation of the Church.
30 As for what is said in John 21:15–19, “Feed My lambs,” and “Do you love Me more than these?” it does not follow from this passage that a peculiar superiority was given Peter. Christ tells him “feed” (i.e., teach ‹preach› the Word ‹the Gospel›, or rule the Church with the Word ‹the Gospel›), which task Peter has in common with the other apostles.

— The Power and Primacy of the Pope, paragraphs 22-30 (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Readers’ Edition, pages 297-298).


  1. Thank you for this very informative article quote. It opens my eyes in some common questionable areas.

  2. Nice article. It is appreciated.

  3. Cool!

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