v. 13) When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His Disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?”
v. 14) And they said, “Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.”
v. 15) He said unto them, “But whom say you that I am?”
v. 16) And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
v. 17) And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto you, by My Father which is in Heaven.”
v. 18) And I say also unto you, “That you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
v. 19) “And I will give unto you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
This will be the first article in a series dealing with Matthew 16. This wonderful passage above contains great encouragement for the church of Jesus Christ. However, the Catholic Church claims that this passage is “proof” that they are the church that Jesus has established from the beginning. Here, they believe that Christ singled out Peter the apostle and made him the first of many popes. They also see in this passage a special gift given to Peter alone, and they believe this somehow points specifically to the Catholic Church. They derive some of their foundational doctrines by misreading these verses. But these Catholic doctrines are founded on shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27).
When someone accuses the Catholic Church of teaching false doctrine, the Catholic will often say, “Oh, no! If the Catholic church would fall into error, then this would mean that Jesus’ words to Peter (“the gates of hell will not prevail against it”) would be false. You wouldn’t want to call Jesus a liar, would you?!! Therefore, the Catholic church cannot possibly teach error. It is indefectible. It is infallible.”
Or so they say.
The Gift of Indefectibility?
In last month’s article, we mentioned that the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia stated:
“The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Well, the Catholic Church is not indefectible by any means, and this supposed gift of indefectibility was not at all “expressly promised” to them, or to anyone else, for that matter. This is a misinterpretation of the passage. See this article:
The Gift of Infallibility?
And neither is the church infallible. “Infallible” means, in part, that one cannot teach error. Since Peter was an apostle and since he wrote two infallible books of Scripture (1 and 2 Peter), he did have access to infallibility when teaching or writing under the inspiration of God. But there is nothing whatsoever in the above passage that would suggest that Peter’s successors would be infallible or teach infallibly. The Catholic Church reads into this passage a special privilege for themselves that no one else can claim. After all, according to them, they are the true church of Jesus Christ. But every article on this blog is a testimony to the fact that the Catholic Church is NOT the church that Jesus Christ built.
The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail
Jesus promised the true church that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. There are several arguments over what exactly this means, but basically, we know that Jesus is saying that the true church will endure to the end and succeed in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross, and winning souls, keeping those souls from going to hell. This is how the gates of hell will not prevail. It has nothing to do with a particular group “never teaching error.”
Error in the Church
Again, the Catholic Church believes that this is a “can’t-teach-error” passage, and that it only applies to THEM. But if “hell prevailing” means that error was taught, then hell did indeed prevail, because there were all sorts of error in the early church. That’s the very reason why the great majority of the epistles in the New Testament were written in the first place. They were written to correct FALSE TEACHING within the church! Although the church did not experience a complete apostasy, error was present in different degrees and at different times, even in the early church. See these examples: Acts 20:17, 28-30; Galatians 3:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:3, 10-11; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 3-4; Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
Therefore, Matthew 16:18 must have a different meaning than what they think it means. It is not about an office of a “pope” with successors who could not possibly teach error. It is not about indefectibility or infallibility for a particular denomination. It is about the gospel, the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ, the True Messiah, Who is the head of the church, and Whose gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). THIS is the foundation on which the church is built, and it has nothing to do with Catholicism.
Yet, the Catholic Church continues to teach that this passage is about an infallible church. But they will “qualify” (limit or restrict) the scope of this “gift of infallibility” by saying things like, “But this ONLY applies to OFFICIAL teachings of the Church. For example, the Catholic Church’s gift of infallibility only applies when the pope is making an official pronouncement; and it’s got to be directed to the whole Church. It’s not just when a pope offers his opinion or some unofficial comments about a teaching, nor for ‘disciplinary decisions,’ but it has to be when he is formally declaring something. Furthermore, it is only a ‘negative protection’ for the Church. This means that although the pope doesn’t necessarily always teach what he needs to teach, this gift simply prevents him from teaching error as truth, so it’s only used in a negative sense.”
But this is all special pleading. The Catholic Church conveniently tailors this “gift” with ridiculous qualifiers to suit the needs (and ego) of the Church. There is so much read into these verses that the original meaning of the passage is unrecognizable! Their interpretation of the passage is a fantasy… and it is a perversion of the Scriptures.
And using “supporting” verses like 1 Timothy 3:15 (“the church is the pillar and foundation of truth”) doesn’t help, either. Here, Paul’s instruction to Timothy was basically, “You need to be a pillar,” not “You are guaranteed to be an infallible pillar.” See here:
And they also try to support their interpretation of Matthew 16 with verses like Luke 10:16 (“he that hears you hears Me”), but this was spoken by Jesus to the seventy, not to the apostles. So, when ANY believer shares the truth of the gospel, Jesus is saying to that believer, “He that hears you hears Me.” So, these verses do not at all support the Catholic Church’s twisting of Matthew 16 and their claim of an infallible papacy.
Two things we know for sure: 1) “The gates of hell have not prevailed against the church” is a true statement, but NOT for the same reason that the Catholic Church says. It is not because the church cannot teach error. It is because of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) of spreading the gospel, which is the power of Jesus Christ for every believer. And 2) The Catholic Church is NOT exempt from error, even in its official statements. There are far too many contradictions between what the Bible says and what they teach.
We will continue addressing Matthew 16 and the Catholic Church’s view of it in our next article.