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.
When I read this Scripture, I find comfort knowing God’s Church will outlast hell. Yet there are people who emphasize this Scripture as Peter being the first leader of the Catholic Church. Good for them. But what does history record?
Everyone agrees that the Christian faith began in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit made his public entrance into the known world. Even Peter stood up at the time and preached the first sermon where the Holy Spirit converted over three thousand people. Yet later during the first recorded church convention of the early Church, the Book of Acts highlights James as the local church administrator leading that first meeting.
Early church history records the five largest and most influential churches were based in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople, and Alexandria. Each church was led by their own bishop without accountability to a higher human authority. It wasn’t until around the 300-350 period when King Charlemagne based in Rome made the Christian religion the national faith. With his assistance, the church in Rome then took on a more political stance and grew from the experience.
Meanwhile, the churches in the other major cities continued with disagreements on certain faith issues. Though they all held similar basic fundamental beliefs which was outlined in the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D., they also had their differences. For example, the church in Jerusalem still had many people who observed the seventh day Sabbath and kept the Jewish holy days. The church in Alexandria eventually became the hub of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Antioch was where Believers were first called Christian and the influence of the Greek gentile culture challenged those from Jerusalem.
History and the Bible prove that Peter was the original leader of the twelve apostles. And each apostle traveled to major parts of the known world preaching the good news of Jesus Christ including Peter. The early Church didn’t have an institutional hierarchy in mind. Instead, it was a loosely organized movement inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The structure and political influence came later after the richer faith communities settled down and began integrating into the local city life. Like all movements, vested interest came together and people settled into daily routines.
Yet the Church after two thousand years still remains. Still active, still expounding the truth, and still showing the light of Jesus through the many souls who have tasted and feasted upon the love of God. And as the enemy has constantly attacked to destroy the Church and repeatedly failed, we have Jesus’ promise that the Church will survive to the end.
Thank you, Lord, for directing your Body of Believers for the work you have us do.
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