As Peter is writing to the churches throughout the area that is modern-day Turkey, he finishes his letter with an appeal. He says that he is making his appeal to fellow elders, those that are leading the churches, to watch over their flocks, caring for them, leading and guiding them.
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.1 Peter 5
But at the end, Peter says something interesting. He says that there is a Chief Shepherd who is yet to appear. Who is Peter speaking of? He is, of course, speaking of Jesus.
But wait a minute… Isn’t the entire Catholic church built on the idea that Christ will build his church upon the rock, who is Peter? The papal legacy has been passed down from Peter to the rest of the popes, and have even been considered to have authority to speak and set the direction of the church here on the earth, on par with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, based on the idea that Christ gave this authority to Peter. The pope, as the head of the Catholic church, is God’s representative on the earth, according to the Catholics, as a result of Jesus’s declaration that he would build his church upon that rock.
But it seems that Peter has a different understanding. He calls himself a “fellow elder”. Fellow, as in, on the same level. Those that Peter is writing to are leading their flocks, just as Peter is leading his. Peter is overseeing the flock that he has been given. The elders to whom he is writing will oversee theirs.
Peter is writing to instruct and encourage, not because he is in authority over them, but because he has simply gone before them. He has Apostolic status and authority, that much is true. But so do several others, including Paul who was the first through the areas that Peter is writing to.
Instead, the authority that we see here comes from One and only One, and that is from the Chief Shepherd. The Chief elder is the one that they are all waiting to see. Jesus is the one that is over all. He is the head of the universal church. And only him. No other. No mere man can lead Christ’s church, regardless of his Apostolic authority. Only Christ can and will lead His church.