I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
This promise, emphatically delivered to Peter here, was also the property of the Twelve and not Peter's exclusively (see under Matthew 18:18). Origen, under the sub-title, "The promise given to Peter, not restricted to him, but applicable to all disciples like him," asked,
But if you suppose that upon one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the apostles?
"Bind" and "loose" refer to the power of deciding what was lawful or unlawful to be done in the church or what was orthodox or unorthodox to be believed. That power was (and is) exercised by all the apostles, and the New Testament is the instrument by which that binding and loosing are effected.
The objection may be raised that if all the apostles exercised that authority, the words lose their meaning as applied by Christ to Peter in the instance before us. This is not the case. A certain preeminence DID pertain to Peter: (1) He preached the first gospel sermon (Acts 2:14ff). (2) He unlocked the secret of the Davidic kingdom (Acts 2:31). (3) He unlocked the secret of HOW people enter the kingdom (Acts 2:38). (4) He unlocked the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1ff). (5) He unlocked the door of return for backsliders (Acts 8:13,22). (6) He unlocked the mystery of the new name (1 Peter 4:16). (7) He expounded the mystery of the new birth (1 Peter 3:21). (8) He revealed the ultimate fate of the earth (2 Peter 3:11-13). These remarkable options exercised by Peter might be said to be his use of the keys, solving, unlocking, and revealing great mysteries of the kingdom of heaven in those important aspects. Surely such does constitute great honor and dignity conferred upon Peter by our Lord by reason of his having been the first to ascertain the holy truth of God in Christ, and then confess it; and the distinctions noted herewith are far more than enough to fulfill Jesus' words without resort to the monstrous notion that Peter was to be made, in any sense, the head of the church, which by its very nature can have only one head - CHRIST.
THE PRE-EMINENCE OF PETER
The Scriptures make it clear that, whatever preeminence was enjoyed by Peter, it was well within the framework of his stature as a fellow apostle, and not, as some affirm, as a president over the apostles. Thus: (1) There is not one throne in Christ's kingdom, but twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28). (2) The Holy City that comes down out of heaven does not have merely one foundation, engraved with Peter's name, but twelve foundations, engraved with the names of the Twelve (Revelation 21:14). (3) Peter himself included the rest of the apostles when he admonished men to heed the commandment of Christ, "through your apostles" (2 Peter 3:2). (4) Even when Peter opened the gates of the kingdom of heaven on the day of Pentecost, he did so, not alone, but "standing up with the eleven" (Acts 2:14). (5) When the Jewish high priest moved against the church, he moved not against Peter only, but against the Twelve (Acts 5:17-19). (6) Peter's authority was actually equaled by that of Paul (Galatians 2:7,8). (7) Peter's dignity was, on occasion, made secondary to that of the Twelve, as when, for instance, he was "sent" by the Twelve as a messenger (Acts 8:14). (8) Peter's dignity was no greater than that of James (Galatians 2:9); and, in fact, James is mentioned first. All of the plain words and necessary inferences of the New Testament are at variance with any supposition that Peter's preeminence contained the slightest vestiges of any authority not conferred upon the other apostles also.
A SUCCESSOR TO PETER IS NOT SCRIPTURAL
Here is an appropriate place to view the doctrine of a successor to Peter. Note the following:
(1) Peter knew that he would have no legitimate successor and indicated it in 2 Peter 1:13-15 where he WROTE the word of God in order for it to be available, as he said, "after my decease"! If a successor had been contemplated, that would have been unnecessary.
(2) No mention whatever of a successor to Peter may be found anywhere in the New Testament, although the successor to Judas Iscariot is named. And, if it is supposed that the difference was due only to the fact that Peter's death is not recorded in the New Testament, then let it be further recognized that James' death is recorded, and that no successor was chosen for him. Why did only Judas receive a successor? Death did not and could not remove an apostle from office. It did not remove Judas, whose removal was not due to death, but to TRANSGRESSION (Acts 1:25,; 1:25, ). All of the apostles (except the one removed by transgression) are still reigning with Christ and discharging the office of their apostleship (Matthew 19:28).
(3) If there had been a successor to Peter, why was God's Revelation given through the apostle John and not through the successor, especially since the Revelation was written at a time long after the death of the apostle Peter?
(4) What could a successor to Peter do which has not already been done? The Lord guided the apostles into "all truth" (John 16:13). Peter himself said "all things that pertain to life and godliness" had already been given (2 Peter 1:3).
(5) Christ taught that no earthly head of his spiritual body (the church) was possible, even though that earthly head was Christ himself "in the flesh." He said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you" (John 16:7). If it was expedient for the true head not to remain on earth in the flesh, and if the presence of the Christ himself, in the flesh, would thwart the residence of the Holy Spirit in his spiritual body, how could any successor fulfill a need impossible to be met even by Christ "in the flesh?"
(6) No person in subsequent ages could meet the qualifications of a true apostle. Apostles were primarily "witnesses"; and witnesses, by the very nature of things, cannot have successors (Acts 1:22). Moreover, that prime qualification was not waived, even for Judas' successor.
(7) Basic requirements of the apostolic office disqualify any claimant of Peter's office. For example, the apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be able to "remember" and faithfully report the words of Christ. See John 16:13-15; 14:26. What successor could possibly "remember" anything that Jesus said? As to the heresy that the Spirit would operate independently of the word of Christ, it was struck down by Jesus himself who said of the Holy Spirit, "He shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13). The English Revised Version (1885) has "He shall not speak FROM himself."
(8) Delegated authority is not transferrable. In the very nature of plenary authority, it must originate in each new holder of it with the conveying authority. No ambassador ever named his successor. Overwhelming evidence to the effect that this principle was recognized as valid, even in the apostolic age, appears in the attempt of Simon the sorcerer to purchase the gift of God, not from Philip (who had it and was personally and more intimately known to Simon), but from Peter, one of the apostles who had conferred the gift on Philip.
(9) Historically, the whole idea of a successor to Peter is fantastic in its long progression through the ages, exhibiting two popes on the throne at once, another refusing the office, and with Italians holding a virtual monopoly, and providing practically the whole list upon whom this distinction was said to be conferred by God (!). What have we here, another chosen people?
Many other Scriptural refutations to the great heresy of Peter's successor might be pointed out, but these are sufficient to allow the truth to appear in honest hearts.