I have always been told that Peter was the head of the entire Church at the time of Christ. However, James was apparently leader of the Church in Jerusalem, and Paul started a number of churches outside the Holy Land. Who is considered to be the first leader of the Church established by Jesus according to the various Protestant denominations?

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    Is this question "Who is the first leader of the Church established by Jesus?" or "Who teaches that Paul founded the Church not Peter?" because those are very different questions (and you already have a variety of answers because of that). Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 7:08
  • 1
    I think the Bible says that Christ founded the Church.
    – guest37
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


Protestants do not recognize the necessity of a single worldwide leader other than Christ. So it is not as if Peter is dethroned so that Paul can take his place. Both are recognized as important leaders, but not one over the other.

An example of this thinking can be found from John Calvin in the Institutes. In Book 4, Chapter 6, he writes:

And yet, in truth, none can solve this question better than Scripture, if we compare all the passages in which it shows what office and power Peter held among the apostles, how he acted among them, how he was received by them (Acts 15:7). Run over all these passages, and the utmost you will find is, that Peter was one of twelve, their equal and colleague, not their master. He indeed brings the matter before the council when anything is to be done, and advises as to what is necessary, but he, at the same time, listens to the others, not only conceding to them an opportunity of expressing their sentiments, but allowing them to decide; and when they have decided, he follows and obeys. [...]

After a number of scriptural examples, Calvin concludes:

All these things make it manifest, either that there was an equality between Paul and Peter, or, at least, that Peter had no more authority over the rest than they had over him. This point, as I have said, Paul handles professedly, in order that no one might give a preference over him, in respect of apostleship, to Peter or John, who were colleagues, not masters.

  • "...their equal and colleague, not their master. He indeed brings the matter before the council when anything is to be done, and advises as to what is necessary, but he, at the same time, listens to the others,"—I've never understood objections like this. Is the Pope supposed to NOT listen to his fellow bishops otherwise he isn't in authority? Commented May 17, 2018 at 10:06
  • That's not the objection. You need to read to the end of the sentence.
    – gladed
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 17:51

Mat 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Act 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

1Co 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

As I Protestant I can safely say yes some groups of Protestants reject the whole notation that Peter was the basis of the church. Instead they say that the revelation of Christ as the Son of the living God is the revelation for which the Church is founded upon. Making Christ Himself the basis and founder of Church not a man. Random pastors whose names we do not know did the primary amount of "leading" in the church. They were very troubled many died martyrs death and many were sadly drawn into error. (My group called Word of Faith and many other protestants say some of those in error wrote their errors down and it is still practiced today.) Paul provided most of the foundational doctrine along with the other apostles and special helpers. The person in the highest office leading the body of Christ is always the person who was the greatest servant so that will not be known until heaven.


Πέτρος, Petrus -- the Greek name of Peter -- means little pebble. But Jesus says that he will build his church on this rock (πέτρα, petra), so clearly this is not referencing Peter. Protestants have always considered the first (and only true) leader of the Church to be Christ.


Sorry for the late response. Your question, "Who is considered to be the first leader of the Church established by Jesus, according to the various Protestant religions?" I felt was more about finding secondary sources (non-scriptural) because you want to know how various Protestant denominations view scripture, rather than asking "Who does the scripture appoint as the leader?"

So I have found a few answers to your question:

According to Presbyterians (http://www.pcanet.org/beliefs/):

I. THE KING AND HEAD OF THE CHURCH Jesus Christ, upon whose shoulders the government rests, whose name is called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end; who sits upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom to order it and to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth, even forever (Isaiah 9:6-7); having all power given unto Him in heaven and in earth by the Father, who raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23); He, being ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things, received gifts for His Church, and gave all offices necessary for the edification of His Church and the perfecting of His saints (Ephesians 4:10-13). Jesus, the Mediator, the sole Priest, Prophet, King, Saviour, and Head of the Church, contains in Himself, by way of eminency, all the offices in His Church, and has many of their names attributed to Him in the Scriptures. He is Apostle, Teacher, Pastor, Minister, Bishop and the only Lawgiver in Zion. It belongs to His Majesty from His throne of glory to rule and teach the Church through His Word and Spirit by the ministry of men; thus mediately exercising His own authority and enforcing His own laws, unto the edification and establishment of His Kingdom. Christ, as King, has given to His Church officers, oracles and ordinances; and especially has He ordained therein His system of doctrine, government, discipline and worship, all of which are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary inference may be deduced therefrom; and to which things He commands that nothing be added, and that from them naught be taken away. Since the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven, He is present with the Church by His Word and Spirit, and the benefits of all His offices are effectually applied by the Holy Ghost.

I tried to find more sources that were as clear and this, but I was not successful. This is to say, while I know from experience that this is the opinion of all(most) Protestants, I could not find the wording as illuminating as it is in the excerpt from PCA's website.... Wow! Look the title of the section says everything!

Although, I'm tempted to believe that you are looking for some other type of answer; because you acknowledge that "the Church [was] established by Jesus", so you perhaps mean "were there any leaders of the various churches (not Churches)?" I make the distinction between "Church" and "church" because for Protestants the leader of the Church is Christ (as I said above), whereas the leader of "a church" we might say is an ordinary man. In the sense that, such a "leader" may have preached publicly and traveled, challenged the established norms of tradition and ultimately establish a new earthly church/denomination. For example, on the one hand many Lutherans may identify Martin Luther as the "earthly" leader/founder of the Lutheran church... on the other hand, these same Lutherans (and Luther himself) would say that Christ is the leader, of not only the Lutheran church but also the "Church" (that is all denominations). The same could be said about Presbyterians and John Calvin, they would look at him historically as the "leader" but only in so far as an earthy leader orders below Christ himself.

So I hope this answers your question, and that it is evident that the term "leader" perhaps takes on many interpretations.

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    Welcome! I like the answer, it could use some sources to back it up. Would you be opposed to expanding on this? We like long well sourced answers here when we can get them.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 23:58
  • What about after the resurrection? Who actually started the Church growing?
    – Waeshael
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 1:10
  • In that sense all Christian churches consider Christ to be the head of the Church, even the LDS Church, and The Roman Catholic Church. The twelve disciples were given their orders by Jesus, and each founded a Christian Church. From some of these churches descended the modern churches. I was interested in which man do you acknowledge as being chosen by Christ to carry on the good work in non-Catholic religions?
    – Waeshael
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 21:22
  • Yes... sorry for the late response. I haven't had time to give you a citation, simply because it has been a busy week at work for me. And I didn't want to rush to just write anything. I will definitely try to give a good update this weekend; by the way, I really like this question.
    – Squirtle
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 22:55
  • This response is presenting the view of PCA (Presbyterian Church of America), I know from experience (having lived in the UK) that this is also the view of the IPC (International Presbyterian Church).
    – Squirtle
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 23:14

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