A Laymen’s Commentary on the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope: Testimony of Scripture

7] In the first place, therefore, let us show from the [holy] Gospel that the Roman bishop is not by divine right above [cannot arrogate to himself any supremacy whatever over] other bishops and pastors.

8] I. Luke 22:25. Christ expressly prohibits lordship among the apostles [that no apostle should have any supremacy over the rest]. For this was the very question, namely, that when Christ spake of His passion, they were disputing who should be at the head, and as it were the vicar of the absent Christ. There Christ reproves this error of the apostles and teaches that there shall not be lordship or superiority among them, but that the apostles should be sent forth as equals to the common ministry of the Gospel. Accordingly, He says: The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors, but ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. The antithesis here shows [By holding these matters against one another, one sees] that lordship [among the apostles] is disapproved.

II. Matt. 18:2. The same is taught by the parable when Christ in the same dispute concerning the kingdom places a little child in the midst, signifying that among ministers there is not to be sovereignty, just as a child neither takes nor seeks sovereignty for himself.

9] III. John 20:21. Christ sends forth His disciples on an equality, without any distinction [so that no one of them was to have more or less power than any other], when He says: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. [These words are clear and plain:] He says that He sends them individually in the same manner as He Himself was sent; hence He grants to no one a prerogative or lordship above the rest.

10] IV. Gal. 2:7f St. Paul manifestly affirms that he was neither ordained nor confirmed [and endorsed] by Peter, nor does he acknowledge Peter to be one from whom confirmation should be sought. And he expressly contends concerning this point that his call does not depend upon the authority of Peter. But he ought to have acknowledged Peter as a superior if Peter was superior by divine right [if Peter, indeed, had received such supremacy from Christ]. Paul accordingly says that he had at once preached the Gospel [freely for a long time] without consulting Peter. Also: Of those who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth no man’s person). And: They who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me. Since Paul, then, clearly testifies that he did not even wish to seek for the confirmation of Peter [for permission to preach] even when he had come to him, he teaches that the authority of the ministry depends upon the Word of God, and that Peter was not superior to the other apostles, and that it was not from this one individual Peter that ordination or confirmation was to be sought [that the office of the ministry proceeds from the general call of the apostles, and that it is not necessary for all to have the call or confirmation of this one person, Peter, alone].

11] V. In 1 Cor. 3:6, Paul makes ministers equal, and teaches that the Church is above the ministers. Hence superiority or lordship over the Church or the rest of the ministers is not ascribed to Peter [in preference to other apostles]. For he says thus: All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, i.e., let neither the other ministers nor Peter assume for themselves lordship or superiority over the Church; let them not burden the Church with traditions; let not the authority of any avail more than the Word [of God]; let not the authority of Cephas be opposed to the authority of the other apostles, as they reasoned at that time: “Cephas, who is an apostle of higher rank, observes this; therefore, both Paul and the rest ought to observe this.” Paul removes this pretext from Peter, and denies [Not so, says Paul, and makes Peter doff his little hat, namely, the claim] that his authority is to be preferred to the rest or to the Church.

Melancthon starts with five portions of Scripture that show that the apostles were sent equally with equal power.  Thus the Pope cannot be above any other as even the apostles were not above each other. First, you have Christ banning lordship among the disciples (Luke 22:24-30). Next, a child is set up by Christ as even greater than all the apostles (Matthew 18:1-6). Third, you have the giving of the keys to all the apostles with out distinction (John 20:19-23). Fourth, we have St. Paul reprimanding St. Peter as well as stating that his apostolic authority is from Christ and did not need the approval of any of the apostles (Galatians 1-2). Finally we have St. Paul stating that all ministers are equal, and it matters not who you were baptized by or taught by (1 Corinthians 3).

From all of these passages it is abundantly clear that there is no intrinsic hierarchy in ministers of the church.  All pastors are equal in authority and call. The apostles are all equal in authority and call. All are subordinate to the authority of Scripture and to Christ. Pastors are called to be servants, as Christ is the servant of all. Any authority a pastor has is to be used for the sake of ministering to his flock, not self aggrandizement. Divine power politics has no place in the church.

It is clear that the Pope’s argument for divine authority in his office falls flat from the start.  The entire claim is contrary to clear Scripture. There is no divinely instituted office that is superior to all pastors other than Christ. In fact it is just the opposite: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Next we will see how the history of the Church contradicts the claims of the pope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.