Once upon a time, in the first century A.D., there were Christians who assembled to worship the Lord in a pagan and idolatrous place called Rome. The congregations of these early Christians were trying to follow what they had been taught by others who knew of Christ, and appear to have been meeting in the homes of a few families. So, the early Christians in Rome had small house-church assemblies. But, then something happened along the way to consolidate and empower a single church in Rome. Centralization is always a bad move.
The Catholic church teaches that they are a continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus on the day of Pentecost, and that Peter was the first bishop of the church at Rome. The Catholic church claims that the Pope is the sole successor to “Saint Peter”, who they claim was the head of the church which he ministered in Rome, and that the Pope is thus the head of The Church on earth and is the Vicar of Christ. They claim that their bishops are successors to the Apostles of Jesus Christ, and stand in place of the Pope and thus for Christ for each of their parishes.
Ahhh… dreams of power. All of these claims by the Roman Catholic church for apostolic authority are false! There is no relation between the Roman Catholic Church and the first century Christians who congregated in Rome.
There were Jewish communities in Rome during the first century A.D., as some had been taken captive in earlier times. Though they obtained Roman citizenship when they were freed, they maintained separate lives from the Romans and were still adhering to their laws of Judaism. The Roman historian Suetonius tells that a certain Caesar named Claudius banished all the Jews from Rome around 49 A.D. because they were constantly rioting over someone named “Chrestus.” Luke’s record of the arrival of the converts Aquila and Priscilla at Corinth from Rome in Acts 18:2 supports Suetonius’ account.
We do not really know who preached the gospel first to the Jews living in Rome. It may be that many of those converted on the day of Pentecost had traveled from Rome, and took the message of the gospel back home. Others who may have heard one of the Apostles in another area may have written to those in Rome. But a certain Jew, named Paul, a tentmaker by trade, and an Apostle of Christ, wrote a letter to the those Christians meeting in Rome while he was working in Corinth, most probably during the winter of 56-57 A.D.
During Paul’s third missionary journey he decides that he must “see Rome“. (Acts, 19:21.) He is concerned over the Christians who are living and congregating there. In his letter to the Romans, those Christians meeting in Rome, he tells them of his desire to come to them to be able to impart some spiritual gift that they may be established (Rom 1:11) and that he had wanted to come to them many times before so that he could have some fruit among them as he had with other Gentiles, but was prevented from doing so. (Rom. 1:13)
The Apostle Paul does not go to Rome until after he is imprisoned, and appeals to Caesar, sometime around 59 or 60 A.D. By that time, he had spent two years in prison in Caesarea in Judea under Gov. Felix’s reign. After arriving in Rome, being held under guard three days, he calls together the chief of the Jews that are in Rome. The Jews tell Paul (Acts 28:21-22) that they had no report concerning him but wanted to know more of “this sect” which was everywhere spoken against. The statements of the Jews to Paul at Rome recorded in Acts 28 are proof that Peter never preached in Rome before Paul arrived under guard in A.D. 60 and thus could not have established nor ministered to the congregations at Rome.
Jesus instructed Paul to go to the Gentiles. (Acts 9:15; and Acts 18:6). In Matt. 10:5-23, Jesus told the twelve disciples (Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee; Phillip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus; and Thaddaues; Simon, the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him….) to go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
That means that Peter was preaching the coming of the kingdom to the Israelites. 1 Pet. 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,“ (ASV) or, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the choice sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,´ (Young’s) and, “ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,“ (KJV).
These twelve disciples were commissioned by Christ for the lost sheep of Israel. They were not to go to the Gentiles, nor to any city of the Samaritans; only to the cities throughout Israel. And, as the Jews in Rome told Paul that they wanted to learn about this sect spoken against by everyone, they had not heard of Christ from Peter!
Neither would Peter have gone to the Gentiles to establish a church in Rome. Paul’s writings show that several congregations of the brethren of Christ were already meeting in Rome by the time he arrived in 59 – 60 A.D.
Paul was held under house arrest for two years in Rome, during which time he wrote many of the letters to the churches. (Acts 28:30) In 63 A.D. Paul was freed for a little while and he traveled to other towns as he relates in the various epistles including Corinth, Miletus, Troas, Colosse, and Nicopolis.
So, Paul could not have been instrumental in establishing the first century church of those Christians who were meeting in Rome. This is confirmed by his statement in Romans 15:20, “…yea, making it my aim so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation;“ (ASV)
We must also consider the use of the word “Israel” in Matt. 10:6, & 23 … not Judah, but Israel. The question is then, did the Lord’s reference to “Israel” include the dispersed 10 northern tribes which were taken into captivity initially by the Assyrians in 734 BC? While a remnant of 50,000 Judeans (Jews) were allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem in 538 B.C. after the Babylonian captivity, the 10 northern tribes were still dispersed. Those of the northern 10 tribes taken into captivity in the Assyrian empire eventually spread throughout the Medo-Persian empire across modern day Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, parts of Egypt and the Arabian peninsula.
If the Jews who were living in Rome maintained separate communities from their captors, then most probably the dispersed northern tribes living throughout Asia did the same. These communities were probably known to the Council in Jerusalem, and thus to the twelve Apostles sent to the house of Israel.
As Jesus told the twelve disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, that probably included the lost tribes spread throughout the various parts of Asia. Is this possibly why the Holy Spirit hindered and constrained Paul not to go into the northern parts of Asia, because the twelve Apostles were already working there?
Acts 16:6-7, “ 6Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.”
Peter’s letter is addressed to the brethren in Asia and Bithynia, among others in that area. So, Paul’s journeys were held to the southern parts of Asia and the Mediterranean.
Therefore, neither Peter nor Paul established THE church at Rome. The Roman Catholic Church has no similarity, and no relation to the early Christians who were meeting in Rome in the first century A.D., nor have had for centuries. As those house churches in the first century A.D. were surrounded by Roman paganism and idolatry, odds are good they fell into apostasy early on. And, we can see from Irenaeus’ writings that they had help.
It was Irenaeus who, in the second century A.D. in his book Against Heresies proposed and taught that Peter and Paul had established the church at Rome. Irenaeus was jealous for the church at Rome, and wanted it to be the epicenter and authority of Christianity. His desires for the preeminence of the Roman congregation above all others led him to state in his Book III, Chapter 1 that, “Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, laying the foundations of the Church.” Irenaeus then adds to his imaginings when he stated in Book III, Chapter 3 that “of the very great, the very ancient, and universally [catholic] known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul;” and, “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority.”
The lust for power and authority overcame the desire to follow after God. There is now no relation between the Roman Catholic Church and the teachings of the apostles as recorded in the Bible, as the Catholic church has twisted the word of the Lord beyond recognition. They, in fact, teach that the Pope’s pronouncements come before God’s word, as the Bible is last in their consideration, and is not on the same level of authority as that of the Pope, an earthly man. Many Catholics will tell you that they have been taught that the Bible is not reliable, and many do not read it at all. They do not know what it says.
The Catholic church has published a fairy tale to persuade many lost souls that they have Apostolic authority where none exists! They have made false claims, and have lied. As all liars are children of Satan (John 8:44), and as God considers all liars the same as murderers (John 8:44, as explained in my post Liars and Murderers …..), the Roman Catholic church is an apostate organization, and thus a synagogue of Satan! For this, and for many other lies they teach that lead people away from God, the Roman Catholic Church has no authority from God. It is imperative that all who are in caught in that synagogue of Satan come out from it and be separate.
Part II of this series will examine in detail why Peter is not the Rock upon which the church and the body of Christ was built.
Bible: King James Version, American Standard Version, Young’s Literal Translation.