The Ring of the Fisherman

Today, (February 28, 2013) is a significant day for Roman Catholics worldwide as the current Pope steps aside, the first time a Pope has done so in almost 600 years. A number of symbolic ceremonies will mark the occasion including the breaking of the Papal ring, called the Ring of the Fisherman, also known as the Piscatory Ring, Annulus Piscatoris (in Latin) and the Anello Piscatorio (in Italian). This is an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church. As I am sure we are all aware, Rome claims that the Pope is the successor of the Apostle Peter, who by trade was a fisherman. The design of the ring features a bas-relief of Peter fishing from a boat. The Fisherman’s Ring was used until 1842 to seal official documents signed by the Pope.

Wikipedia says, “A new ring is cast in gold for each Pope. Around the relief image is the reigning Pope’s Latin name in raised lettering. During the ceremony of a Papal coronation or Papal inauguration, the Dean of the College of Cardinals slips the ring on the third finger of the new Pope’s right hand. Upon a papal death, the ring is ceremonially broken in the presence of other Cardinals by the Camerlengo, in order to prevent the sealing of backdated, forged documents during the interregnum, or sede vacante. This custom is also planned to be followed after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.”

With today’s events in mind, what follows is a question and answer repost of a blog article here regarding the question of Peter and the keys:

Question: The Roman Catholic Church claims that the Apostle Peter was the first Pope. Much is made of Jesus giving Peter the keys of the kingdom. Do you have anything that would help me rightly understand this Matthew 16 passage?

Thank you for your question. It is a very important one. You are right to say that Roman Catholics make much of this passage claiming that it teaches Rome’s position on the Papacy in clear terms. In my opinion, the best treatment of the passage in question is found in Dr. James White’s book “The Roman Catholic Controversy.” The entire book is immensely helpful, and while written back in 1996, is just as relevant to the situation in our day. Roman Catholics, for all their claims, actually do not have history on their side in this debate. This article addresses this in summary form. However, regarding the Matthew 16 passage, rather than summarizing Dr. White’s words, let me quote directly from the book, from Chapter 8 “The Claims of the Papacy”, pages 115-118:

Few would argue that the foundational passage on which the entire Roman Catholic claim for the Papacy rests is found in Matthew 16:13-20, verses 18-19 in particular. We are told that their plain meaning supports the concept. It should be noted that Rome has infallibly interpreted these verses in the words of Vatican I. It is one of the few passages of Scripture that have in fact been infallibly interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church (John 21:25-27 being another). Let’s look at Matthew’s record.

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

No one will deny that this is a singularly important passage. Here the Lord Jesus leads His disciples to a confession of faith in himself; the Father from heaven reveals the true nature of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Yet we find these verses being used to support a concept seen nowhere else in Scripture. We are asked to believe that not only is the impetuous and frail Peter made the very foundation of the Church itself, but that this foundational position creates an office of Pope, and that this office involves successors who will sit in the seat of bishop in the city of Rome, 1,500 miles distant.
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Reviews of Twelve What Abouts

An author writes in hope of being read and that his readership would be helped by the things he has written. I just took a look at the reviews of my book on John Samson, is the pastor of King’s Church in Phoenix, Arizona.

The book was published in February 2012 by Solid Ground Publishers. It has endorsements by John Hendryx ( and James White ( Both men are well known in reformed Christian circles.

The first three chapters of the book explain the theological position of election. Then, the following chapters attempt to answer common objections to election. Topics covered include: God’s love, sovereignty, foreknowledge and explanations of common “gotcha” scriptures that attempt to refute the reformed doctrine of election (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Matt. 23:37; 1 Tim. 4:10 and John 12:32). Also included are chapters on reprobation, lost loved ones, prayer, evangelism, faith, doubt, spiritual blindness and church mission.

Book Evaluation

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. John Samson’s writing style is eminently readable. He writes with knowledge, passion and compassion. He understands the difficulty that election can pose for some and he is sensitive to the reader. John explains concepts well, and presents a strong case for the reformed position on election.

The book is brief, which is a plus. Readers will not find exhaustive treatment of all the relevant scriptures in this book. It’s brevity is a strength, but also a weakness. There is not much in the way of footnotes, however there are ample quotations of scripture to back up his points. Readers are given an extensive “for further reading” list to explore topics further.

Again, this book is introductory. It seems that the target audience is Christians who may be investigating the reformed doctrine of election. I believe, along with the author, that it is the biblical position. John exegetes the scripture both thoroughly, concisely and accurately.

At 165 pages, the book is a fairly quick read. Fast readers should be able to complete the book in 2-3 hours. The book flows well, and for a non-fiction title, in my opinion it is a page turner. I have found this to be somewhat unusual for books of this type.

Book Recommendation

I would recommend this book to all Christians. Those who will gain the most benefit are those Christians who may be new to a reformed understanding of election, and want to dig a little deeper. I would recommend approaching this book with an open mind. The author repeatedly warns about our traditions and how they can sometimes blind us to different perspectives. We need to maintain an openness so we can at least understand the perspective presented here.

A Message for Discouraged Ministers

Dr. Ligon Duncan writes about this message by Dr. John Piper:

Discouraged ministers and Christians, here is a sermon you need to hear. “The Sadness and Beauty of Paul’s Final Words” by John Piper, preached at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Piper gives seven riveting, biblical, pastorally comforting and encouraging truths about Christian ministry. And if you have ever been let down or betrayed by Christians, and have been tempted to leave Christ because you’ve been left or bruised or abused by Christians — Christians in your congregation, even close Christian friends — then Piper has some words that may just give you the hope you need.”

The Most Offensive Verse

The most offensive verse in the Bible by the Bible and You. In the second lesson of the series, I brought up the subject of secular talk shows and how they like to try to beat up on Christians of any size, shape, and significance about whatever topic they think is most embarrassing and controversial. Of course, at the moment it’s “gay” “marriage,” or the topic of homosexuality at all.

In the course of the lesson, I remarked that I think — from the comfortable quiet safety of my study — that I’d take a different approach.

When Piers or Larry or Tavis or Rosie or Ellen or The View or whoever tried probing me about homosexuality, or wifely submission, or any other area where God has spoken (to the world’s consternation), I think I’d decline the worm altogether. I think instead, I’d say something like,

“You know, TaPierRosEllRy, when you ask me about X, you’re obviously picking a topic that is deeply offensive to non-Christians — but it’s far from the most offensive thing I believe. You’re just nibbling at the edge of one of the relatively minor leaves on the Tree of Offense. Let me do you a favor, and just take you right down to the root. Let me take you to the most offensive thing I believe.

“The most offensive thing I believe is Genesis 1:1, and everything it implies. That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so He is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore derivative and dependent.

“Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in His Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning.

“Any time you bring up questions about any of these issues, you do so from one of two stances. You either do it as someone advocating and enabling rebellion against the Creator’s design, or as someone seeking submissive understanding of that design. You do it as servant or rebel. There is no third option.

“So yeah, insofar as I’m consistent with my core beliefs, everything I think about sexuality, relationships, morals, the whole nine yards, all of it is derived from what the Creator says. If I deviate from that, I’m wrong.

“To anyone involved in the doomed, damned you-shall-be-as-God project, that is the most offensive truth in the world, and it is the most offensive belief I hold.

“But if I can say one more thing, the first noun in that verse — beginning — immediately points us forward. It points to the end. And the end is all about Jesus Christ. That takes us to the topic of God’s world-tilting Gospel, and that’s what we really need to talk about.”

I mean, why quibble about minor offenses, when we know how to take them right to the mother lode of all offense — that God is God, and we are not?

Miscellaneous Quotes (68)

“When Satan tells me I am a sinner he comforts me immeasurably, since Christ died for sinners.” – Martin Luther

“Beware that you are not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.” – John Wesley

“If you think you can never honor Christ till you enter a pulpit, it may be just possible that you will afterwards honor him best by getting out of it as quickly as you can.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” – D.L. Moody

“A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible, which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.” – J.C. Ryle

Pornography Addiction

“It’s the number one topic for internet searches, but do we ever consider how pornography can have lasting neuroplastic effects? Discover the hard science behind the ‘porn epidemic’ – the internet’s drug of choice.”

“I’m glad to see this topic covered outside the Christian world!” – Tim Challies

Miscellaneous Quotes (67)

“I have been engaging the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church for a number of decades now. It would be easy to become ‘accustomed’ to the errors of the Roman system, but thankfully, I have not succumbed to that temptation. I remain as deeply moved by the blasphemy against the finished and perfect work of Jesus on Calvary that is the heart of the Roman Mass as I was when I first came to understand Rome’s teaching on the subject. My heart is still broken at the spiritual carnage Rome produces in the lives of millions, enslaving them to a system that has no finished sacrifice, no assurance, simply no gospel that brings peace. Despite the constant pressures to join in the ecumenical love-fest that is so popular in Western culture, I remain thoroughly convinced that as long as Galatians and Romans remain in the canon of Scripture, Rome will remain an opponent to biblical truth, and those who follow her teachings will need to hear the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Dr. James White (from a blog article at, 8/9/2010)

“I do not believe in an atonement which is admirably wide, but fatally ineffectual.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“Atheism is an exercise in intellectual contempt.” – Ravi Zacharias

“God’s own foolishness is stronger than men. Do we believe that?” – R. C. Sproul, Jr

“I only need a mirror to see a sinner.” – Alistair Begg

“The problem is not in the clarity of the revelation. The problem is in the darkness of the human mind.” – Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

The standard is not man’s best efforts, but God’s infinite holiness. Cal Thomas

“Look, I’ve read other books… this book reads me.” – Dr Steven Lawson, speaking on the Bible

“The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another — God alone.” – Martin Luther

“In the 1960s, Dr. Francis Schaeffer taught college students about Christianity at his L’Abri center in the mountains of Switzerland. Once during a discussion at a meal, someone asked Dr. Schaeffer, “What will happen to those who have never heard of Christ?” Everyone was eager to hear what this noted theologian would say in response to that important question. No answer came. In a moment everyone realized Schaeffer had bowed his head and was weeping silently.” – Michael Allen Rogers, What Happens After I Die? (Crossway, 2013), 103

“My faith rests not in what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is now doing for me.” – C. H. Spurgeon

“The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And …that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of Fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.” – A. W. Pink

“It is as impossible to understand the Scriptures without the Spirit’s help as it is to read a sundial without the sun.” – Derek Prime & Alistair Begg

“God, in mercy, will never allow children of his to be comfortable in sin.” – Will Metzger

“The human will is so divinely helped in the pursuit of righteousness, that he [the believer] receives the Holy Spirit, by whom there is formed in his mind a delight in, and a love of, that supreme and unchangeable good, which is God. By this gift to him of the down payment, as it were, of the free gift, he [the believer] conceives a burning desire to cleave to his Maker. A mans free will, indeed, does not help at all except to sin, if he does not know the way of truth. And even after he begins to know his duty and proper aim, unless he also takes delight in and feels a love for it, he neither does his duty, nor sets about it, nor lives rightly. Now, in order that such a course may engage our affections, Gods love is shed abroad in our hearts, not through the free will which arises from ourselves, but through the Holy Spirit, who is given to us [Rom 5: 5].” – Augustine

“In or towards whomsoever the Holy Spirit puts forth His power, or acts his grace for their regeneration, he removes all obstacles, overcomes all oppositions, and infallibly produces the intended effect.” – John Owen

“The Spirit’s work is to drive home to the heart and conscience what the mind understands.” – Alwyn York

“My dear pope, I will kiss your feet and acknowledge you as supreme bishop if you will worship my Christ and grant that through His death and resurrection, not through keeping your traditions, we have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.” – Martin Luther

“For God to explain a trial would be to destroy its purpose, calling forth simple faith and implicit obedience.” – Alfred Edersheim

“Keep sharing the good news; we have not yet exhausted the number of God’s elect.” – Kevin DeYoung

“Remember that according to the Bible, the heart is not primarily the emotions but rather the seat of our fundamental commitments and trusts, and therefore it is the control center of the whole life. So to preach to the heart means to go right for the commanding commitments of people’s lives that drive their desires, thinking, feeling, and action.” – Tim Keller

“So God never begins a work of salvation that he doesn’t finish. Now, people will take that and say, “Yes, of course. I mean, you know, he saves you and no matter what you do, he is going to take you on into glory.” No, that is not true because salvation is not just you being redeemed from hell and then one day you being placed into heaven. Salvation is, past tense, the moment you believed you were saved from condemnation and wrath and it is present tense. In the life of the believer you are being saved from the power of sin. And it is future tense, one day you will be totally delivered from a fallen world and flesh. And so when I say that he who began a good work in you will finish it doesn’t mean that Bubba is going to get saved, live like hell and one day go to heaven. But it means this. If Bubba truly gets saved, God is going to work in his life all the days of his life, transforming him, changing him, loving him, teaching him, directly him and disciplining him and then one day bringing him into glory. And God is going to do it and make sure it happens because his name is riding upon it.” – Paul Washer

“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.” – C. H. Spurgeon

What is the Bible?

Dr. J. I. Packer:

“Most people in churches nowadays have never read through the Bible even once; the older Christian habit of reading it from start to finish as a devotional discipline has virtually vanished. So in describing the Bible we start from scratch, assuming no prior knowledge.

The Bible consists of 66 separate pieces of writing, composed over something like a millennium and a half. The last 27 of them were written in a single generation: they comprise four narratives about Jesus called Gospels, an account of Christianity’s earliest days called the Acts of the Apostles, 21 pastoral letters from teachers with authority, and a final admonition to churches from the Lord Jesus himself, given partly by dictation and partly by vision. All these books speak of human life being supernaturally renovated through, in, with, under, from and for the once crucified, now glorified Son of God, who fills each writer’s horizon, receives his worship, and determines his mind-set at every point.

Through the books runs the claim that this Jesus fulfills promises, patterns and premonitions of blessings to come that are embodied in the 29 pre-Christian books. These are of three main types: history books, telling how God called and sought to educate the Jewish people, Abraham’s family, to worship, serve and enjoy him, and to be ready to welcome Jesus Christ when he appeared; prophetic books, recording oracular sermons from God conveyed by human messengers expressing threats, hopes and calls to faithfulness; and wisdom books which in response to God’s revelation show how to praise, pray, live, love, and cope with whatever may happen.

Christians name these two collections the Old and New Testament respectively. Testament means covenant commitment, and the Christian idea, learned from Paul, from the writer to the Hebrews, and from Jesus himself, is that God’s covenant commitment to his own people has had two editions. The first edition extended from Abraham to Christ; it was marked throughout by temporary features and many limitations, like a non-permanent shanty built of wood on massive concrete foundations. The second edition extends from Christ’s first coming to his return, and is the grand full-scale edifice for which the foundations were originally laid.

The writer to the Hebrews, following Jeremiah’s prophecy, calls this second superstructure the new covenant, and explains that through Christ, who is truly its heart, it provides a better priesthood, sacrifice, place of worship, range of promises and hope for the future than were known under its predecessor. Christians see Christ as the true center of reference in both Testaments, the Old always looking and pointing forward to him and the New proclaiming his past coming, his present life and ministry in and from heaven, and his future destiny at his return, and they hold that this is the key to true biblical interpretation.

Christians have maintained this since Christianity began.”

– Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know (Crossway, 2013), 21-22