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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter

Abbott's Illustrated New TestamentAbbott's NT

- 1 Peter

by John & Jacob Abbott


PETER was the first on the catalogue of the apostles. The circumstances of his call to follow the Savior, are related Matthew 4:18-20. He occupied a very prominent position among the disciples, during the life and ministry of our Savior, being honored, in a high degree, with marks of his Master's confidence and regard; and, although, by a combination of very peculiar circumstances, he was betrayed into a denial of him, on the night of his apprehension by the Roman soldiers, the offence was punished only by an upbraiding look; and, immediately after the ascension of Jesus, we find Peter again assuming the foremost, position among his brethren, in counsel and action, just as before. See Acts 1:15,Acts 2:14, and generally the Acts 3:1-42.

Peter was made the instrument through whom the preaching of the gospel was first extended to the Gentiles, though, so far as we can judge from the narrative contained in the Acts, Paul seems to have taken a more active part in carrying this extension of the offer of salvation into effect. Indeed, after Paul enters upon his career, Peter disappears from the sacred history. The Roman church maintains that Christ constituted Peter the official head of the universal church, (Matthew 16:18,Matthew 16:19;) and, as they suppose that Peter afterwards became bishop of Rome, according to an early tradition, they claim for his successors in that bishopric,--called in modern times the popes,--the same general jurisdiction. But the passage referred to (Matthew 16:18,Matthew 16:19) seems to be but a very imperfect title-deed to authenticate the grant of such a power. Even if the power was granted, however, there seems to be no, evidence, not even that of an incidental allusion, in the historical or epistolary writings of the New Testament, that Peter ever had charge of the church of Rome, nor, if he did, that Jesus intended that the supposed power conferred on him, should be hereditary in his successors in that office. If, therefore, the existence and power of the Roman Catholic church rested upon the logical continuity and force of the argument from the Scriptures, it would have but a very slender foundation. It really rests on a far different, and, as it has thus far proved, and will probably still continue to prove, a very sufficient foundation,--namely, that strong and universal principle of human nature, which causes men, in all ages and in all times, to run together, as it were, by a sort of cohesion, into vast masses and conglomerations. It is the principle which holds together nations, sects, tribes, and parties. At is stronger than the logic of an argument, or than veneration ration for the word of God,--or even than the iron chains of superstition; and so long as ecclesiastics find that they can wield a wider influence, and a greater power over mankind, as parts of a vast system, than they can in independence and isolation, so long the great ecclesiastical organizations will not be in want of ground to stand upon. It is indeed convenient, in such cases, to have some show of scriptural authority; and the elements of the argument, in respect to St. Peter, slender as they are, are abundantly sufficient to construct all that is necessary for such a purpose.

These Epistles of Peter consist of general instructions addressed to Christian converts, on a variety of subjects. Perhaps they have no more striking characteristic than the absence of every appearance of claim, on the part of the writer, to any peculiar ecclesiastical jurisdiction over those whom he addresses. If Peter had really then held such a sway over the church, as his supposed successors claim, his letters, like theirs, would have promulgated his edicts.

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