WHO OR WHAT IS THE VICAR OF CHRIST ?
His Eminence, Pope Paul VI - Sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1963 until 1978.
The term 'Vicar of Christ' appears nowhere in scripture. It is said to have been first adopted by Pope Gelasius I (492 - 496 AD).
The Roman Catholic Catechism states:
The Pope, Bishop of Rome, and Peter’s successor “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops, and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” - The Catechism, Article 9, para. 4, #882
We open this study with the question, “What does the Bible say about the 'Vicar of Christ'?” In fact, the Bible says nothing about any individual acting as the 'Vicar of Christ'. The phrase, or concept, does not appear anywhere in scripture. Neither the apostle Peter nor any other apostle was ever appointed as such, or ever became, the Vicar of Christ. That is, while the apostles functioned as pastors (shepherds) over the developing Christian community, none of them had singular authority over the other apostles, or the entire congregation of Yeshua's flock. None of the apostles, including Peter, stood in the place of Christ as His specially appointed temporal representative here on earth. An apostle is a messenger, an envoy, or a missionary, not a vicar who sits in place of the Messiah, chosen to hold the authority of the Lord.
This title has been the Pope's absolute claim to spiritual and temporal supremacy. The taste of divine power, with which the title resonates, has proven to be inarguably seductive. The attraction of possessing the ultimate power to control the lives of so many lesser people, the peasants so to speak, is a lure so strong it would seem irresistible. The 'Vicar of Christ' need not recognize any authority higher than his own. He believes himself to be a corporeal, physical, stand-in for Yeshua. A chosen place holder. He looks upon himself as Master of all, and boldly proclaims, “Judge of all, the pope cannot be judged by anyone."
For some inexplicable reason, all the other bishops, of all the other congregations of the church, stepped aside on command, and granted the bishop of Rome the supremacy he claimed, even though there is absolutely no scriptural foundation for this assertion beyond the twisting and turning of Yeshua's words. Read on, and see.
THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD
COULD IT BE THE APOSTLE PETER AND HIS SO-CALLED UNBROKEN LINE OF SUCCESSORS
The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth.” - The Catechism, Article 10, para. 2, #936
The New Testament records Yeshua’s own words that He is with us always. Yes, He ascended up to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father (Col. 3:1) and yet, even today, He is still with us.
. . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. - Matthew 28:20
That is to say, Yeshua is still with us and ministers to us through the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God the Father is the primary means by which Yeshua continues to minister to His people. Jesus Himself told us that the Holy Spirit came to convict us of sin and to guide and teach us truth. This theme is repeated throughout the New Testament (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:11-14; 1 John 2:27). Jesus is actively ministering among us by way of the Holy Spirit, the power of which proceeds from the Father.
"These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." - John 14:25,26
'"But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me." - John 15:26
“vicar” - in the broadest sense means someone who is authorized to act as a substitute or agent for a superior / serving in the place of someone else; assuming the authority, position, place, or office of another person.
THE TRUE VICAR OF YESHUA THE MESSIAH
As Christ Jesus had been the Teacher, Counselor and Guide to believers, He promised to send the Holy Spirit as His substitute so that He might abide with them for ever (John 14:16). In believers' lives, the Holy Spirit has full, immediate, and universal influence, as we are taught through the Holy Scriptures. To teach otherwise is a dangerous blasphemy.
The Pope claims to possess “infallible" teaching authority. By this claim the Earthly Vicar teaches that crucifixes, rosaries, scapulars, as well as the veneration of images of saints and assorted relics will all help to fortify men and women against the assaults of the Evil One. He also maintains that indulgences can shorten the sufferings of souls in a place he calls purgatory (a word, or concept not found in scripture). While presiding over substantially one of the richest financial institutions in the world, he maintains and advocates vows of poverty. He blesses numerous gimmicks for enriching the church at the expense of the unwitting. And we mustn't forget to mention, even as thousands of souls are corrupted, and severely injured by unbridled sexual misconduct, he defends the vows of celibacy for his priests.
This Earthly Vicar has likewise failed to confront the fact that in the aftermath of the Vatican II Council of the 1960's the Roman Catholic priesthood was a cup that runneth over with an influx of homosexuals. They were attracted to the priestly vocation because with the collar, they would never have to explain why they weren't married (they were making a noble sacrifice), and could still command respect, trust, and esteem wherever they went. They now constitute something of an intractable self-protected infestation within the priesthood. One that political correctness dictates will not, or cannot be weeded out.
None of these teachings, none of these developments, none of these self-aggrandizing claims help glorify Jesus the Christ, Yeshua the Messiah. In reality, the most insidious enemy of Yeshua and His Gospel isn't greed or materialism, nor is it the lust of the flesh, but rather the spiritual pride and the apostasy of the very one who pretends to be His "Vicar." Living the first lie of Satan, "ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5) reaches its fullest fruition in the Papal claim to be the "Vicar of Christ," Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God).
Your Greek may be as rusty as ours, but let's look a little deeper into the texts from which they draw the original erroneous misstep. The Gospels accounts were, of course, originally written in Greek, and reveal that Peter’s name comes from the Greek word Petros. Petros means "rock, a piece of rock, or a stone" and it is in the masculine form. It's a personal name. But the word translated as “rock” is translated from the Greek word petra. It is in the feminine form and means "bedrock or rock." The two words have important distinctions of connotation. Jesus was simply stating that His church would be built upon a solid foundation, the testimony that Peter stated in verse 16, and not on Peter himself. Otherwise, Jesus would have said, "I will build My church upon you, Peter." But He didn't say that. The reference of “bedrock” was a reference to Jesus Himself. Jesus is the foundation stone, the bedrock, or the chief corner stone as Acts 4:11 and other passages clearly point out. It is founded on the words of the Divine Shepherd to St. Peter: "Feed my lambs. . . Feed my sheep" (John 21:16-17)
It's the Greek, and the transliteration of Peter's name that seems to be tripping people up, unless of course, the scholars are letting it slide for ulterior motives. The transliteration of his name into other languages such as Latin, English or German is an invitation to confusion.
THE APOSTLE PETER, AND THE LATIN TRICK OF SMOKE AND MIRRORS
This may well have something to do with why the Greek Eastern church did not follow along with the Western Latin church when they claimed that Peter had been designated the "rock," and the Roman bishops were the supreme head of the church on earth. The Greek church, with a better understanding of the original texts, chose a different path, appointing a council of five elders to lead the church, rather than a single individual, nor recognizing a special appointment of Peter.
It seems clear from the passage that Jesus was giving Peter authority. Jesus uses “you” in the singular referring to Peter. Whatever Peter binds and looses will be bound and loosed in heaven. However, these terms are also used in Matthew 18 where He was speaking to a group of disciples;
If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." - Matthew 18:17,18
The binding and loosing is used in the context of church discipline and doesn't necessarily refer to ecclesiastical authority over the other disciples. While it is important to note that Yeshua used all of the apostles to establish His church, but we must ask, “Did Yeshua use Peter in some special way to establish His church?” “Did Jesus give Peter authority over the other apostles?” The answer can be found in the rest of the New Testament.
Who Is Head of The Church? When we look at Acts 21:15-18 and Gal. 1:19 and 2:12, we discover that the head of the Jerusalem church was not Peter but James, an apostle (Gal. 1:19) and one of Jesus’ brothers. Acts 21:15-18 singles out James as a leader in the Jerusalem church and Galatians 2:9 states that James, Peter, and John were “reputed to be pillars” in the church. Why was Peter excluded in Acts 21:18? Galatians 2:12 indicates that “certain men” were sent by James.” Why didn’t Peter send them? If Peter was the lead apostle, wouldn’t Paul have indicated that in some way? Why group James, Peter, and John together as equals if Peter had the ecclesiastical authority?
Why did Peter sin if he was the Vicar of Christ? Why was James the head of the church in Jerusalem and not Peter if Peter was the Vicar of Christ? Why did Paul write most of the New Testament and not Peter? Shouldn’t the “Holy See” have done that? Through the Apostle Paul, the claim is made that the Holy Spirit established the doctrine of the church as outlined in Acts, 1 Timothy, and Titus. Paul even defined the order of church government and the qualifications and responsibilities of church leaders (Acts 6:1-6; Acts 20:1-32; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). The New Testament tells us that Paul, not Peter, selected and established the early churches and their spiritual leadership (Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2; Titus 1:5). The apostle Paul is considered the 'father' of Christianity, as author of most of the New Testament, not Peter.
Peter was not the Vicar of Christ, he was not the lead apostle, and he was not the bishop of Rome. He was one of the Apostles to the Jews and Paul was one of the Apostles to the Gentiles. The keys of heaven were not just given to Peter, but to all of the apostles. Christ is the chief cornerstone, and the prophets and apostles make up the foundation of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
The Catholic teaching is that Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ) is the title of the pope, implying his supreme and universal primacy, both of honor and of jurisdiction over the entire church founded by the Lord. This authority is founded on the words of the Divine Shepherd to St. Peter: "Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my sheep" (John 21:16-17), by which He appointed the Prince of the Apostles guardian of His entire flock in His own place, thus making him His Vicar and fulfilling the promise He made, recorded in Matthew;
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.". . . "Follow me." - John 21:15-17,19
The Roman Catholic Vulgate Bible only perpetuated the myth. It wasn't until the time of Erasmus of Rotterdam, who began translating scripture using original texts of Greek and Hebrew, and from there, other Protestant translators followed suit, that finally the errors began to be exposed to the Western church.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus stated that he would build his church upon the solid foundation, whereby, it is understood that He, Yeshua, is the Chief Cornerstone. Yet how can He perform this building project if he rose and ascended into heaven before the church was even born at Pentecost. That was the event when the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 in the upper room (see - Acts 2). From that beginning, Yeshua proceed to build His congregation using the help of the Holy Spirit. So the Congregation takes shape through the Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel. The answer to the question, how does Jesus build his church if he is absent bodily? Simple, through the Holy Spirit of God. He is still at work today.
The counterfeit nature of the Pope's claim to be “the Vicar of Christ” is shown by his doctrine and deeds, which happen to stray well off the path of Yeshua's Gospel message. Can you imagine the Lord venerating a stone image? The sending of the Spirit at Pentecost was an unmistakable sign from God that glorified Yeshua. God the Father glorifies the Messiah Yeshua in heaven, and the Spirit, sent by the Father, glorifies Him on Earth. Jesus Christ, Yeshua the Messiah, has no need of an earthly vicar. He is already present with us through the Holy Spirit who is guiding and teaching each one of us, even to the end of the age.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” - Matthew 16:13-19