The Romanists have always defended their position that Peter was bishop of Rome for many years. Eusebius wrote in his history that Peter was over the Roman church for 25 years. Gregory on the other hand said seven years. Based on other facts, Calvin thinks it was a very short time that Peter was in Rome. We know that the time between Jesus' death and the end of Nero's reign was about 37 years. Peter was killed while Nero was still in power. We also know that Peter was in Jerusalem for 20 years after Jesus' death. We also know that he went to Antioch for a period of time. That leaves little time for him to be in Rome, certainly not 25 years. Calvin also notes that Paul is silent about Peter being in Rome even though he names other Christians who are there in his epistle to the Romans. Why would he ignore the bishop of Rome, especially if it were Peter?
Paul went to rome as a prisoner. Luke records in Acts that he was received by the believers in Rome, but again there is no mention of Peter. From Rome Paul wrote to other churches, and even though he sent greetings from the believers in Rome, no mention of Peter being one of them. The Romanists also argue that there is a direct succession from Peter, even though there is not agreement on who the next is. Some say it was Clement and others claim that it was Linus. Calvin writes, "I do not quarrel with the notion that he (Peter) died there, but I cannot be persuaded that he was a bishop, especially for a long time." Calvin does mention here that Paul's ministry is somewhat more significant to us since he was sent to the Gentiles while Peter was sent to the Jews. There is no real evidence in Scripture that Peter was ever the bishop of the Roman church.
The Romanists claim that there must be one head of the church in order to maintain unity. We believe that this head is Christ alone and not a mortal man. Calvin observes three reasons why particular honor was given to the church in Rome. The first is because some maintain that Peter started the church there. The second is because it was a very modern city of the time where many educated people lived. These early believers would have been skilled in doctrine an other disciplines more than anywhere else. Finally, other churches had dissension among themselves, but Rome remained clamer and whole. These other churches would then appeal to Rome with their disputes.
Scripture teaches that the church should be unified, however no supreme church or universal bishop is ever mentioned. Cyprian wrote on the subject of the universal church, "The episcopate is one, a 'whole' of which a part is held by each bishop. And the church is one, which is spread abroad dar and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strong trunk grounded in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although a goodly number seem outpoured from their bounty and superabundance, still at the source unity abides undivided... So also the church, bathed in the light of the Lord, extends its rays over the whole earth: yet there is one light diffused everywhere. Nor is the unity of the body severed; it spreads its branches through the whole earth; it pours forth its overflowing streams; yet there is one head and one source." This one source is Christ alone, not any bishop (even Peter).
Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.1-4.7.6