At the end of a recent posting, I noted that Irenaeus wrote that “the church at Rome was ‘founded and set up by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul.’ (Against Heresies, 3.3.2).” It is clear from 1 Corinthians that Peter and Paul crossed paths from time to time, and they did so, among other places, in Rome.
If anyone knew of Peter’s “primacy,” it would be Paul. If anyone knew that Rome was to be the seat of the Petrine primacy going forward, it would be Paul. As Irenaeus said, “The Apostles were clad with power from on high by the coming of the Holy Spirit, THEY WERE FILLED CONCERNING EVERYTHING AND HAD PERFECT KNOWLEDGE.” (Caps for you lovers of Newman’s theory of Development). According to Irenaeus, Paul had “perfect knowledge.”
So if Paul knew of some kind of “Petrine primacy” which later “developed” (and it wasn’t fully developed until the fifth century), it was clearly not important to him. But in 1 Corinthians, Paul makes clear what he thinks about “who’s in charge,” even in the context of talking about Peter:
One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” … Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (from 1 Cor 1, 3)
It is clear from this that “only God, who makes things grow,” is the unifying principle. Paul was nothing, Apollos was nothing. By clear implication, Peter was nothing. Only a servant through whom you came to believe. Contrast this with the model that the Catholic church tries to portray now to uphold its own authority, that Peter and the apostles formed a “college,” with Peter sort of in charge. In the words of “Lumen Gentium”: “which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth” – Paul recognized none of that. That was not the model that Paul understood. There was not a principle of unity in Peter. “Only God, who makes things grow” is anything.
What was the “organizing” feature of Paul’s churches? What was the “principle of unity”? “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
That’s all there is. And that is sufficient.