Peter was given special rank above the other disciples. Even though Calvin does not mention it, there is some thought that he may of been older and that is why he was given this position. Just because Peter was put in this position among the apostles it does not make this position universal and for all perpetuity according to Calvin. He was chief among the disciples, but there were only a few of them. And this position did not give him power over the other disciples. Calvin compares his position to that of a consul in a senate or the chairman of a committee (which all presbyterians can relate). He writes, "in any assembly, even though all are equal in power, one should be the moderator, as it were, to whom the others look." The papists claim that hierarchical examples stem from nature as an example for the church. They point to cranes and bees who have leaders. Calvin argues that this is nonsense and not applicable to the church. Anyway, bees and cranes to not elect the heads of their groups like the church does. The papists also point to examples from literature, such as works by Homer. Once again, it makes no sense to pattern the church after literature instead of God's Word!
Christ alone is the sole head of the church. There is no other head according to Scripture. Ephesians 4:15-16 reads, "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." He is the head and the church is the body. The romanists consider this a non-issue because they claim that the pope is Christ's vicegerent on earth. Calvin responds to this by writing, "...since Scripture attests that Christ is Head and claims this honor for him alone, it ought not to be transferred to anyone else except whom Christ himself has appointed his own vicar." Supporting passages include Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18 and 2:10.
Scripture does not mention anywhere that after Christ there should be a human monarch over the church. Calvin writes, "By his ascension Christ took away from us his visible presence; yet he ascended to fill all things. Now, therefore, the church still has, and always will have, him present... The Lord (he [Paul] says) is in us all, according to the measure of grace which he has bestowed upon each member." We recently discussed Ephesians 4:11 where Paul writes that some are appointed as apostles, teachers, evangelists, etc. No where does Paul state that anyone is appointed by Christ to be supreme pontiff.
The idea of the supremacy of a location is counter to the teachings of Scripture. For Christ was in Jerusalem, and He did not claim power for that city. He writes, "...by this reasoning the Israelites of old ought to have established the primate's see in the desert, where Moses the supreme teacher and prince of prophets, had carried out his ministry and died." Tying the head of the church to a particular location is not Scriptural nor is it logical.
If the location does matter, then why isn't the head city Antioch instead of Rome? Peter was the leader of the church in Antioch before moving to Rome. Therefore, according to their own logic, the papists should have Antioch as their capital. Calvin brings up three legal arguments against transferring power to Rome from Antioch. First, if this power is personal, then it belongs to the person (Peter) and not to the place (Rome). Secondly, if it is real, then it cannot be removed by the departure of a person. If it is mixed, "then it will not be a simple consideration of place unless the person corresponds." It is apparent then that Rome cannot claim primacy for itself.
There is not logic in their ranking of other cities. Calvin claims that it would make the most logical sense if Rome is the capital city of the church, then Antioch should at least be in second place, but it does not. Peter may have held first place among the apostles, but James and John were up there with him. Since they were the leaders of the churches in Jerusalem and Ephesus, why are they not considered second and third? Calvin tells us that among the churches established by the patriarchs, Jerusalem holds last place. Alexandria, founded by Mark (who was a disciple and not an apostle), is second in the Roman church, and holds a higher rank than the other "apostolic" sees.
Tomorrow's reading: 4.6.14-4.6.17