For many, other than Catholic, Peter is nothing more that an important figure in Christianity. And even then, perhaps, not as important as others such as Paul or John for example.
However, as this passage was being read in Mass yesterday (the first verse of the first reading of Acts 15:7-21) it became abundantly clear what Peter was saying in his opening statement.
Before I get into that let me lay out some context. What is occurring is what we Catholics affectionately call the First Council at Jerusalem. The item up for discussion was whether Gentiles were required to follow the Mosaic Law prior to becoming “full” Christians. This of course already shows us a couple of things:
- Christianity is the fulfillment/perfection of Judaism
- Many of the Laws of Moses actually prefigure some of the sacraments, again, perfected in Christ
This is no different. Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to put to rest the issue the Gentiles in Mosaic Law and the binding of said law upon Christians therein. Obviously, the Council’s infallible ruling, thanks to Peter, was that Christians are not bound to Mosaic Law – most especially Gentile converts for we are “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11).
Now, how does that figure into Peter being the “Prince of the Apostles” or what we Catholics would term as the “First Pope?” The answer is simple and clear. From verse 7:
“And when there had been much questioning, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.” [My emphasis]
Two things in this verse demonstrate the primacy of Peter:
- Peter is the first to speak. Couple this with how the others address him and the fact that he is the first of every list of apostles/disciples in the Gospels plus Mt 16:18 for good measure and we see that Peter is indeed the first among them and his office is that of stewardto the King (Is 22:22).
- Next, Peter himself makes reference to the events of Mt 16:18 when he speaks of the God’s choice concerning his role.
Interestingly, this very passage also demonstrates that Jesus is God and that Peter’s revelation came by way of the Father, Who is the same God, through the Holy Spirit (Who is also the very same God) – thus God revealing Himself as a Trinity: One Divine Nature, three distinct persons.
Cross-post from YouVersion: Peter, Prince of the Apostles: A Reflection on Acts 15:7
First Reading: Acts 15:7-21
Psalm: Psalm 96:1-3, 10
Gospel: John 15:9-11