Peter and Paul or Peter vs Paul

St Augustine writes (Sermon 295): ‘Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and, even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labours, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.’

The Church is founded on the apostles, especially on St. Peter, the first Pope, and on St. Paul, an apostle and the first Christian missionary. Therefore, today’s solemn feast day of Saints Peter and Paul is a celebration in which we thank the Lord for His great gift to us of the Church. Saints Peter and Paul each played a unique part in setting the foundations of the Church as we know it today. The all-too-human Peter ensured Christianity’s roots were anchored firmly in Jewish Old Testament tradition. Peter, as leader of the apostles, was chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him.  He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus’ death. Quite rightly, his name is first on every list of apostles. His choice as the rock, upon which Christ would build the Church, established a fresh tradition that has extended down through history to the present Pope.

We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: “It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father’s revelation. I, not you, build my Church.” Paul’s experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.


Paul’s experience of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus ensured that the Church would be extended to the Gentiles worldwide, as Christ had commanded. Paul’s central conviction was simple and absolute: only Christ can save humanity. No human effort, not even the most scrupulous observance of law, can create a state of human goodness, which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Christ.

Peter and Paul never taught the same gospel. When Peter taught the kingdom gospel at Pentecost Saul was rejecting the Messiah. When Paul preached the gospel of the grace of God Peter’s gospel of the kingdom to Israel was limited to the circumcision.

However, the main similarity between their messages exists in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10).

In comparison, let’s look at the differences in Peter’s and Paul’s ministries.

1. Peter was called by the Lord as he appeared in a human body on the earth; Paul was called by the ascended, glorified Lord from heaven.

2. Peter was given the “gospel of the kingdom“ (gospel of the circumcision, ref. Acts 2:38,39). While he did take it to one Gentile, he was told to go only to Israel with it (ref. Matt. 10:5,6); Paul was given the “gospel of Christ”(gospel of the uncircumcision) . While he did offer it to the Jews, he was told to take it “far hence unto the Gentiles.”3

3. Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, and with them the power to retain or remit sins; Paul, while he manifested all the signs of an apostle, received no such power.

4. Peter told Israel, at Jerusalem, to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins… and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.4 Paul told a group of Jews and Gentiles at Antioch ( through Christ’s death and resurrection) “that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”5 (Acts 13:38,39) This effectively removed the keeping of the law from the salvation equation. No such declaration was ever made by Peter, either in the Acts or his letters. In chapter one of his first letter to “the strangers” who had been “scattered throughout” the provinces of Asia Minor, Peter instructs them that “the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” would come at the end of a faithfully lived life, which matches the Lord’s requirement to Israel in the gospels of Matthew and Mark that they must “endure unto the end” to be saved.6 There is no such requirement of faithfulness/continuance7 in Paul’s gospel, but rather that one only trust (believe on) the Lord Jesus Christ (believing that he died for your sins), and thou shalt be saved,8 i.e., your sins are  atoned for now , not at the end of your life of faith.

5. Peter was told by the Lord in His earthly ministry, that his reward would be to sit on one of twelve thrones in an earthly kingdom, “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”10 Paul, because he was counted “a blasphemer”,11 could not be a part of this particular kingdom (ref. Matt. 12:31,32 to see why this was the case). He was told that his destiny was a heavenly kingdom (2 Tim 4:18)

6. Peter was the pattern for believing, repentant Israel. Paul was the pattern for the first of “them that should hereafter believe on him (Christ, that he died for their sins) to life everlasting.”12

7. While Peter claimed his gospel was prophesied of in the old testament (Acts 3:24); Paul said his gospel was a mystery, not made known until it was revealed through him (Romans 16:25,26; Eph. 3:5)

From all this we can readily see that it was the same Lord who gave Peter and Paul their marching orders, but in no way did he give them the same message to be delivered to their respective hearers.





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