Blog 182: 4.6.10 - 4.6.16

Phil Ryken

To demonstrate the unique headship of Jesus Christ over the church--a headship he does not share with the pope or any other earthly figure--Calvin makes an argument from biblical silence.

Ephesians 4 celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ, who is always and everywhere present with his church.  In ascending to heaven, Christ has left his church with apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists.  But why, asks Calvin, does the Scripture not also say that the ascended to Christ has left his church with one supreme pontiff?  Surely this would be the ideal place for the Bible to mandate the papacy!  Instead, Ephesians 4 presents a shared ministry of the church, under the solitary headship of Christ. 

Then Calvin turns from the Bible to history, in order to refute Catholic claims to the supremacy of Rome.  Even if Peter happened to be the earthly head of the visible church (a view Calvin has already refuted on biblical grounds), this would still fail to prove that the bishop of Rome had any right to preside as ruler over the worldwide church. 

According to the Catholics, Peter transferred ecclesiastical primacy from Antioch to the Church of Rome.  But Calvin finds Peter's connection with Rome to have been very minimal.  For example, in describing Paul's imprisonment in Rome, the book of Acts fails even to mention Peter's presence there.  Why, then, should the church grant perpetual supremacy to Rome as the seat of Peter's authority?