Saint Peter and His Keys

by Pastor J. C. O'Hair

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.

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Doubtless you have heard of Saint Peter; but you must not believe all that you have heard about him. He is not here to defend himself against all these false reports, so it seems unfair to take advantage of him during his absence. He is still living and he is coming back to earth some day. Now this is not a false report. This is the truth.

It is safe to estimate that 250 million people have heard something about Simon Peter during the last 100 years, and far more than one billion people have heard of him since that day about 1900 years ago when Andrew introduced him to Messiah the Christ. The story of his life is today printed in more than 900 languages.

Peter has been accused of being the first pope of Rome. He has been written up as the Fisherman Philosopher. By millions bearing the name of Christ he has been worshipped as a great saint who stands guard at the door of Heaven. Millions of jokes have been told by the ungodly concerning those who have gone up to Saint Peter for reward in Heaven or judgment in hell. To many of these he is in the class with Santa Claus. To the superstitious, religious multitudes it is very difficult to make the true Simon Peter known; for they do not want him stripped of his mythical ecclesiastical priestly garments. They will take no chance of losing their Romish fiction and superstition, which are so precious to them. They will not even read what Simon Peter writes about himself in their own Bible.

For any one who really desires to rid the story of Simon Peter of falsehood and fiction, there is first-hand information, and it will do your soul good to get acquainted with this intensely human character; not a myth, but a real-to-goodness natural man, just like the rest of us, who came in contact with a Supernatural Power that transformed his life.

You will not read the story of an intellectual star. Simon was not a leading scholar of his day. He was not a politician of influence. He was not an outstanding business man. He was in no way classed with the wise, mighty, noble or rich. On the contrary; he was just a plain ordinary, unlettered man of his day. By nature he may have been a bit unusual in some respects, but yet he was not what the world would call a strong character. He might have been described as a vacillating, impetuous blunderer, with plenty of zeal and self-confidence. There was in him the mixture of courage and fear. As already stated, he was intensely human; but withal an interesting personality.

As an old man, Peter, in writing of God, mentioned Him as the “God of all Grace.” I Peter 5:10. He needed just such a God. So do we. Peter had not forgotten that moment when, recognizing that God of all Grace in human form, he had cried out, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man.” But instead of complying with Simon’s demand, that Saviour said: “Come unto me and I will give you rest.”

This sinful man did become Saint Peter; for every sinner who obeys this gracious call immediately becomes a Saint. But when Peter wrote his last word, he called him self Simon Peter and addressed his epistle, “to them that have obtained like precious faith”. II Peter 1:1. Let us gather a few facts from the Bible concerning Simon, who was surnamed Peter.

Acts 10:5.

We have already learned that Simon was introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew. John 1:41 and 42. “And he brought him to Jesus.”

That was a big day’s work for Andrew. It was more than that for Simon. In addition to the Scriptures we have quoted above, quite often we find this expression; “Peter said”—Sometimes Peter said some very wise things. At other times it seems it was difficult for him to obey James 1:19, “Wherefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.”

But when we read his epistles we receive messages from a gentle, loving servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, faithful unto death. “Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.” II Peter 1:13 and 14.

As we read in the third and fourth Chapters of Acts, we learn that Peter and John remained partners—fishing together—for the Lord. They were pillars of the Jewish church. Galatians. 2:9.

Peter and John were Galilean Jews, who had the unique experience of living in two different dispensations. They lived under the Old Testament, or “Law” age: and then under the New Testament Dispensation of Grace, as well as during those several years of transition during the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Peter declared was a man, approved of God, in the midst of Israel. Acts 2:22 and 23.

Some years after Simon Peter had seen the Lord Jesus ascend through the clouds, he made this confession, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation.” Acts 10:28.

And at a later date, Paul said to Peter; “If thou being a Jew.” Galatians 2:14.

So Simon Bar-jona son of Jonas was a Jew. He was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, John 1:41. Andrew introduced Jesus as Israel’s long-looked-for Messiah. This Messiah was to bring national redemption to Israel, and take the throne of David as King of the Jews. But instead, He was put to death on a cross and went back to Heaven in a glorified body.

Peter was intimately associated with Christ during all of His public ministry, and just before the Saviour ascended to Heaven, Peter’s last question was, “Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6.

Simon Peter had more than a Jewish interest in the restoration of the Kingdom to his nation. He had a selfish interest, or perhaps we should say, a personal interest; for the Lord had plainly told him that in that Kingdom age, he would, be sitting with the other eleven apostles, on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28.

Most assuredly Simon Peter is still living and is coming back to this earth to share the earthly glory of Israel’s Messiah. He certainly should have been concerned as to when the Messiah was going to occupy David’s throne and establish his reign of righteousness, peace and glory.

When Peter asked the question, “Wilt thou at this time the Kingdom to Israel,” he had not the faintest conception of God’s program to postpone the establishment of that Kingdom until He spent nineteen centuries visiting the nations and electing a company to constitute the Body of Christ.

The revelation of this program came to the Apostles of Christ on the installment plan. It is true that Christ had said to Simon Peter—“Upon this Rock I will build my Church”. Matthew 16:18. But concerning the Body of Christ, into which both Jews and Gentiles were to be baptized by one Spirit, Peter was wholly ignorant; not only before he received Holy Spirit baptism, but for some years thereafter. The Church, or Body of Christ, was a mystery until the revelation was sent down from Heaven by the risen Christ to and through the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul.

After Peter received the Holy Spirit, who was to guide him into all truth, he preached to the Jews concerning the resurrection of Christ in this language: “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 5:29. We note two facts concerning this message; the first is, that Peter never proposed to forgive their sins; and the second, he had nothing to offer to the Gentiles. Several years before this the Prince and Saviour had said to Peter, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:5: Peter was still obeying this command, because the risen Lord was not yet ready to open the door to the Gentiles.

In this Chapter of Acts, we have the record of another message of Peter to Israel, the children of the prophets and the covenants—“Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his (your) iniquities. Acts 3:25 and 26

This was a message—for a nation—Israel. They were told in this message to repent and bring Christ back from Heaven. To establish His Messianic Kingdom. Acts 3:19 to 21. The Holy Spirit gave this message though a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led messenger.

This was the message of first importance, a message concerning the Kingdom of Heavens. Already individual Jews had been added to the church. Acts 2:47 And more were to be added to the Lord. Acts 5:14. But the nation was appealed to. There were at that time in Jerusalem devout Jews from every nation under Heaven; and associated with them were the Temple priests and officials of authority. Acts 2:5.

But still no offer of salvation is made to the Gentiles. Some day, in the future, Israel is going to repent and God is going to send Christ back to take the throne of David, restore the Kingdom to Israel, and bring about the restitution of all things. Following this national repentance, and the return of Israel’s Messiah to earth, salvation will be sent to the Gentile nations in the gospel of the Kingdom. Peter knew the Old Testament Scriptures as to this program; but he did not know that within a few years God would do a new thing and he himself would be preaching to a Gentile household; to begin that new thing. It was not lawful for Peter to come unto one of another nation, but after his experience with God on the housetop, as recorded in the tenth Chapter of Acts, he perceived that God was no longer a respecter of, persons and preached to Cornelius words whereby he and his house were to be saved. Acts 10:34, Acts 11:14 and 15.

At first Peter was condemned by the believing Jews for giving this message to the Gentiles seven years after the resurrection of Christ. Acts 11:1 to 17. But after his detailed explanation of God’s instructions from Heaven, “They held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:18.

This was certainly something new for Peter and the other Jewish Christians. Here is the beginning of a new program. “Also to the Gentiles” God was now beginning to visit the Gentiles to take out from them a people for His name before He would restore the Kingdom to Israel. Acts 15:14 to 18.

He was going now to send salvation to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. Romans 11:11.

God knew all this from the beginning of the world. Acts 15:18. It was hid in God. Ephesians 3:9. It was not made known unto the sons of men, in other ages. Ephesians 3:5. It was hid in God from men.

Christ did not make known to Peter the mystery among the Gentiles. This was Paul’s ministry. Peter preached to the first Gentile family. That was his task.

Peter was one of the twelve apostles, Paul was not. Peter and the eleven remained at Jerusalem. Acts 8:1.

The Book of Acts covered a period of thirty years from the resurrection of Christ until Paul pronounced God’s judgment of blindness upon Israel. Acts 28:25 to 27. To Paul, the Lord said; “Get thee out of Jerusalem.” Acts 22:18. He kept Peter in Jerusalem. He said to Paul: “I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles”. Acts 22:21.

The gospel of the circumcision (the Jew) was committed to Peter. Galatians 2:9. Peter agreed with Paul that Paul should go to the Gentiles and Peter would go to the Jews. Galatians 2:9.

In this early history—the Book of Acts—we have no record that Peter preached to any one outside of the land of the Jews. We have no record that he preached to any Gentiles other than the household of Cornelius. We do have the record that he was sent to the Jews. We have no record in Acts that any of the eleven apostles, associated with Peter, preached to a single Gentile. They all remained at Jerusalem until after “Body” truth was revealed to Paul.

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, there were present some visiting Jews from Rome. Acts 2:10. But Peter never went to Rome. It was Paul who wrote to the Romans, and later visited Rome; where he died. Paul, by no means, preached to the Gentiles at Rome what Peter preached twenty five years before at Jerusalem. The believing Gentiles at Rome were justified without a cause. They received what uncircumcised Abram received without the deeds of the law; the righteousness of God by faith. Romans 4:3 to 11.

The true Church of God at Rome in the first century believed in God’s truth in the Epistle to the Romans—but the Roman Catholic Church has drifted far away from the Gospel of grace contained in that Epistle.

Well, what has this to do with Simon Peter? He has been accused of having something to do with the establishment of the present Church of Rome. Their claim is, that the papal authority has been handed down from Peter and that the present pope is on St. Peter’s throne by the process of apostolic succession. The holy see is the seat of Peter, the first bishop of Rome. This brings us to the consideration of Simon Peter’s keys.

There is only one case of apostolic succession in the Bible; Matthias succeeded Judas. Acts 1:21 to 26.

Certainly Peter had no God-given authority over the Gentile churches. Therefore, it is not Scriptural to say that Paul succeeded Peter in authority. But it is Scriptural to say that, Paul received from Christ in Heaven, a commission, a message, a ministry that superseded the message and ministry committed unto Peter by Christ. Paul received his authority from Heaven without conferring with those who were apostles before him. Galatians 1:12 and 1:17. Both Peter and Paul had their Christ-given authority and ministry. Each of them faithfully performed his duty. Peter is not mentioned in the Book of Acts after the fifteenth Chapter. Paul is mentioned more than one hundred times. As Kingdom truth wanes and Church truth is gradually revealed, Peter is withdrawn from the prominent place and Paul becomes the outstanding servant of Christ.

In their clash at Antioch, Paul withstood Peter to the face because Peter was to be blamed. Galatians 2:11.

If we had to depend upon the messages of Peter for Church truth, our knowledge of that truth would be indeed limited. We may rest assured, therefore, if the Lord did not reveal Church truth through Peter, He certainly is not building His Church upon Peter. And we may also rest assured that when Peter shall occupy one of the twelve thrones, judging Israel in the coming Kingdom age, Paul will not be there. Paul was the Church Apostle. Peter was God’s Kingdom messenger to Israel. To Peter were committed the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. The mystery of the Body of Christ and the Keys of the Kingdom are by no means the same.

This brings us to consider these questions; just how or when did Peter and the eleven use the keys and what relation did the twelve apostles sustain to or in the Body of Christ. After His resurrection Christ appeared to His apostles and said “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” John 20:23.

This authority was not given to Peter alone but to all of the disciples. They constituted the Church in embryo. Christ is working through His Church today to remit sins and loose on earth. The disciples of Christ plant and water so that God will give the increase. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14.

It doesn’t say “without a priest”. A priest presents man to God. That is the work of Christ. A preacher presents God to man. Every Christian should preach. And the humblest uneducated untrained babe in Christ can forgive sins just like Peter and Paul did. This is the way Peter did it:

ACTS 10:43

“To Him (Jesus) all the prophets witness, that through His Name, whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.”

See how Peter forgave sins? He preached Christ as the sin-bearer. It was Peter who wrote concerning this sinbearer, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” I Peter 2:24.

“Whosoever believeth on Him”, said Peter, “shall receive remission of sins.” See how Peter remitted sins? Paul did it in the same way. Acts 13:39. A 12 year old Christian boy can do it in the same way. It is Christ who is to grant forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31.

Peter declares that Christ is the Stone upon which the Church is built. Acts 4:11, I Peter 2:7

To Simon Christ said: “Thou art Peter and upon this Petra I will build my Church” Matthew 16:17. The Church is not built upon Peter; but upon Christ. Whosoever will make Simon’s confession will immediately become a member of Christ’s Church. Without holy water or any other religious rite. The Church is not the door to Christ and salvation. Christ is the door. He who has Christ has salvation and not religion. He is in the true Church, the One Body, of which Christ in Heaven is the One and only Head.

In the first seven chapters of Acts Peter and the eleven are the representatives of the risen Lord with Divine authority. They are using the keys, the “Kingdom of the Heavens” keys. They are preaching concerning David’s throne, and the Messianic Kingdom, to Israel. They will have authority in connection with Israel when this Kingdom shall be established at the Coming of Christ. Matthew 19:28.

Some years later read what Paul had to say about them:


But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

Then Paul withstood Peter to the face, because he was to be blamed. Galatians 2:11 to 14.

But like Jacob, the clever, scheming, intensely human, selfish servant of God finally became the gentle, unselfish, righteous Israel, in his old age, so Peter came to the place of real victory, as the calm gentle, lovable, writer of two epistles. His last word was concerning his beloved brother Paul, whose epistles Peter read, II Peter 3:15 and 16. Surely Peter came to understand as you and I should in the reading of Paul’ epistles, that Paul was Christ’s apostle to the Church and final human authority by whom truth concerning the Body of Christ was given Paul never worked under Peter’s keys. Galatians 1:12, 17 to 23; Galatians 2:2.

And anyone who will carefully read the New Testament Scriptures will be assured that Peter was never a Roman Pope, that he never forgave sins, that he never prayed to Mary, that he never preached Purgatory, that he was never a Christian priest, that he never had a building called a cathedral, that he never wore ecclesiastical garments, that he never claimed that bread and wine could be turned into the body and blood of Christ; that he never prayed for the dead, that be never had silver and gold, that he was never called “Reverend Peter”, “Father Peter”.

Read his own words in I Peter 5:1 to 7.

For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.